Prayers of Woe and Weeping :: Guided Prayer

Scripture: Jeremiah 9.17-18
This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come;
send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly
and wail over us
till our eyes overflow with tears
and water streams from our eyelids.

Guided prayers and meditations are a common part of Christian spiritual practice. Return to this prayer through the day or over the weekend, as it will be a different experience based on your mood and surroundings. — John

Reflection: Prayers of Woe and Weeping :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

If prayer is relationship then when God weeps, we should join. What friend would weep, whom we would not join in weeping? Weeping for our own hurts and harms is one thing. Weeping for what grieves God is a prophetic task and a work of faith.

Weep in prayer with the weeping prophet. Jeremiah’s tears, just like his words, are not his own. They are as much a part of the revelation of God as the words he writes.

Oh, that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
for the slain of my people. — Jeremiah 9.1

Jeremiah expresses our desire to escape evil—fleeing to the desert to be away from wrongdoers.

Oh, that I had in the desert
a lodging place for travelers,
so that I might leave my people
and go away from them;
for they are all adulterers,
a crowd of unfaithful people. — Jeremiah 9.2

We confess we are part of a culture that seeks out its own version of truth.
We confess that we live in echo-chambers of the lies we prefer rather than the truth. Any lie or obfuscation is acceptable as long as it can be weaponized to help us win.

“They make ready their tongue
like a bow, to shoot lies;
it is not by truth
that they triumph in the land.
They go from one sin to another;
they do not acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord. — Jeremiah 9.3

Weep with Christ prophetically. He weeps that our hypocrisy not only harms us, but blocks the path of redemption for others.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. — Matthew 23.13

“And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.” — Matthew 23.35-36

More specifically, judgment would fall within the next week. And more personally, it would fall on Christ himself.

Christ can weep with us and wipe away our tears because he took the just payment for their cause.

Prayer: The Greeting
For your Name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great. — Psalm 50.3

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 9 (Listen – 4:38)
Matthew 23 (Listen – 4:53)

Additional Reading
Read More about Purpose
If only men and women viewed their call to suffer as Christ suffered, to live as Christ lived, and to serve as Christ served.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made want to share?

 

A New Life, Not an Afterlife

Scripture: Matthew 22.30-32
“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

 Reflection: A New Life, Not an Afterlife
By John Tillman

A key error that we often make regarding Heaven is thinking it will be the same as our lives now, but without without the worries and problems caused by sin.

We misinterpret Christ’s statement that we will be “like the angels” and imagine getting a halo and an angelic job to do—working under fussy supervisors and trying to earn our “angel wings” promotions.

The art we make confesses that our culture believes this misconception very strongly. Hollywood’s visions of afterlife trend toward squeaky clean neighborhoods and office buildings from idealistic 1950s television shows.

These kinds of ideas about afterlife as an extension or continuance of this life come more from Greek and Roman myth and other pagan religions than Judeo-Christian ideas.

Perhaps the Sadducees had these types of myth in mind when they challenged Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. The point of their hyperbolic, hypothetical story was to prove that resurrection was a foolish (and perhaps in this case, scandalous) concept.

But Jesus responded that the only foolish concept was that Heaven would be just like Earth.

When God says that He is bringing a new Heaven and and new Earth and that the old will pass away, he means both parts of that statement. The part we often forget is that the old will pass away. The new Heaven and the new Earth will be new—not recycled.

Christians don’t believe in an afterlife as most imagine it. We believe in a new life.

The new Heaven and Earth will be created for us by the same creator who made the beauty we see in the best of the earth we live in now, and the same creator who we see reflected in the best of the relationships that we have now.

Jesus is clear that even the “best things” of this life (like marriage relationships) aren’t the same in the new Heaven and Earth. They pass away and are replaced, reinvented, and changed. We, and everyone we know and love there, will be made new.

Thank God that Heaven won’t be more of the same! It will be new!

What earthly things might you have been, consciously or unconsciously, counting on being in Heaven?

Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul thirsts for the strong, living God and all that is within me cries out to him.

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 8 (Listen – 3:52)
Matthew 22 (Listen – 4:56)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Eighth Day
The day of the Lord will be like the scraping of an old canvas to repaint a new landscape, or the burning and tilling under of a harvested field so a new kind of crop can be planted.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made want to share?

 

Prayers God Hates

Scripture: Jeremiah 7.9-11
“Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,…and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?”

 Reflection: Prayers God Hates
By John Tillman

We read two passages today about what makes our prayers worthless and detestable to God.

The first passage is Jesus, in anger, clearing out the temple. The second passage is the portion of Jeremiah which Jesus is referencing when he says “My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

So what makes the temple a den of robbers? What makes prayers pointless—detested by God? (It’s not book shops in the foyer.)

God sends Jeremiah to the temple with a list of sins from which Israel must repent. The sin at the top of the list is, perhaps, surprising. It isn’t adultery or any sexual sin. It isn’t idolatry—not in a traditional sense. It isn’t related to religious practices.

The sin at the top of God’s list is systemic oppression of the most vulnerable members of society through economic and violent means. Specifically, top of the list is oppression and mistreatment of foreigners. Second is oppression of the fatherless. Third is oppression of widows.

So what about Jesus? He was mad about the merchants, wasn’t he?

The merchants were taking up space in the temple that was intended by God for foreigners. The rest of God’s temple was segregated by race and this was the only place foreigners could approach God to pray. Jesus was reclaiming what was stolen from foreigners.

Jesus, like Jeremiah, was concerned about oppression. We see this not only by who is driven out, but by who Christ calls in their place. The blind. The lame. The children. Christ makes room for the marginalized and the oppressed, and in they come.

The primary sins of those condemned by Jeremiah were financial. Even the pagan worship of idols (and the sexual sins committed as part of the ceremonies) were the result of Israel seeking financial blessing from false gods of prosperity and fertility—greed in religious guise.

The primary sin of those condemned by Christ was exclusion and oppression. They refused to make room for the foreigners in the land and to allow all people to approach God in the Temple as he designed.

What makes our prayers detestable is our actions outside of worship.

If we would be heard by God, we must welcome those he welcomes.
If we would worship God, we must do so alongside all of those whom he has called.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word… — Psalm 103.20

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 7 (Listen – 5:18)
Matthew 21 (Listen – 7:10)

Additional Reading
Read More about Radical Outreach to Outcasts
The characters Jesus holds up as examples of the types of people who would experience “the year of the Lord’s favor” represented everything his audience feared as “other.”

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made you think?

 

Prayer as Vocation

Scripture: Matthew 20.25-26
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”

 Reflection: Prayer as Vocation
By John Tillman

In his book, Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis complains that he finds it ironically unhelpful to turn into a church for midday prayers.

There always seems to be someone practicing the organ or noisily going about cleaning and mopping. “Of course, blessings on her,” Lewis says. “‘Work is prayer,’ and her enacted oratio is probably worth ten times my spoken one.”

We have not held tightly to the concept of work as prayer. We see work as occupation—something that takes time we would spend elsewhere. Christians have the unique opportunity to see work as vocation—choosing to give to others on behalf of Christ.

To some, it might be a surprise that one of the primary definitions of the word “vocation” is a divine calling. One does not have to be a staff member of a church or an employee of a Christian ministry (or even a volunteer, noisily cleaning up the sanctuary and disturbing an Oxford don’s prayers) to turn grudging occupation into prayerful vocation.

One prominent example of prayerful, secular work is Fred Rogers. Despite the lack of overt religious expression on his show, Mister Rogers was an ordained minister whose specific assignment was to serve children and families through mass media. And serve them he did.

Paying tribute to Rogers’ on NBC Nightly News, reporter Bob Faw said, “The real Mister Rogers never preached…he never had to.” Following his spiritual calling in no way interfered with Rogers becoming one of the most successful and respected television professionals of all time.

For every believer, the gospel is our vocation. We learn to express it through our occupations.

Rogers’ spiritual discipline and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit made his show a vehicle for the gospel without explicit language of faith. Many of our readers work in faith-negative environments where faith is unwelcome, but that doesn’t mean each action can’t communicate a gospel-filled love to others.

In our careers we have a choice between the drudgery of meaningless tasks and the honor of serving others around us in Christ’s name. If we need a picture of what that looks like, it may be helpful to us to turn on an episode of the neighborhood.

May we make our work our prayer.
By every action may we pray for our co-workers, for our customers, for our city, and for our world.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Yours are the heavens, the earth is also yours; you laid the foundations of the world and all that is in it. — Psalm 89.11

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 6 (Listen – 5:10)
Matthew 20 (Listen – 4:22)

Additional Reading
Read More about Praying Through the Stress of Work
In his journals Jonathan Edwards reveals the way his spiritual life is burdened by stresses of his vocation.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post helped you connect faith to your work?

 

Prayer as Relationship

Scripture: Matthew 19.13-14
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

 Reflection: Prayer as Relationship
By John Tillman

Many have faithfully lived out Christ’s command to let the little children come to him. But perhaps no one in history has lived it out affecting as many children as Fred Rogers.

In her book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth gives an up-close look at the foundational Christian faith that made Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood a sacrament carried on secular airwaves.

The show had an intangible quality that captivated children and defied expectations. In the recently released documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, one of the show’s producers, Margy Whitmire, said, “If you take all of the elements that make good television, and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

One possible reason for the show’s intangible and unlikely success is the simple spiritual discipline of its founder. According to Amy Hollingsworth:

Everything Fred Rogers did was a prelude to—or an outcome of—prayer….the essence of prayer is relationship, and Fred understood that.

One of the greatest things Mister Rogers may have modeled for children about God, is that he listens to and accepts their concerns, their emotions, and them as their true selves. Hollingsworth relates his answer to a child about not getting what she prayed for.

“Now, you know prayer is asking for something, and sometimes you get a yes answer and sometimes you get a no answer,” he carefully explained. “And just like anything else you might get angry when you get a no answer. But God respects your feelings, and God can take your anger as well as your happiness. So whatever you have to offer God through prayer—it seems to me—is a great gift. Because the thing God wants most of all is a relationship with you, yeah, even as a child—especially as a child. Look how Jesus loved the children who came around Him,” he told her.

Prayer was the purpose of the children coming to Jesus. Jesus didn’t merely greet the children. When the Bible says he “placed his hands on them” it isn’t referring to casual pat on the back, but a purposeful, prayerful blessing. That kind of welcoming and blessing is something we can receive from God, and give to others.

As we pray, about personal problems or about weighty national issues, we would do well to keep in mind the simple teaching of Mister Rogers, that also is the teaching of Jesus—prayer is about relationship.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
 “Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 5 (Listen – 5:04)
Matthew 19 (Listen – 4:04)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayer Beyond Petitions
It is more important that we know God through prayer than petition him. God answers Hezekiah’s unasked prayer through relationship.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post refreshed your relationship with God?

 

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