Mustard Seed Prayers—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason from Texas
Prayer can take many forms and is not limited to a specific time and place. Our technology has taught us to abhor any downtime, fill any silence, and avoid every moment of solitude. It is these brief moments on the train, in the line, and on the couch when we can freely connect with an ever-present God.

Originally published, April 1, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 19 & Colossians 2.

Scripture Focus: Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Ephesians 6.18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Reflection: Mustard Seed Prayers—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman (Prayer by Melissa Tillman)

There are some things which electronics cannot improve—some systems in which analog beats digital. Our previous car had no power-anything. Locks, windows, and seats all had to be moved manually. When it comes to the seats, my wife and I miss the manual adjustment. One swift movement— kachunk—was all it took for us to switch drivers. With the powered seat, we have to wait, listening to the electronic motor whirr. For me, this also involves cramming myself uncomfortably into the tiny space and waiting as it slowly expands. Even though it is only for a few seconds, we are accustomed to instantly moving from one to the other, and that makes it an annoying inconvenience. Power seats are an annoying waste of time.

Into this new crack of “waiting,” my wife injected the tiny seed of a prayer, similar to a breath prayer. At first, it was just to keep herself from being cranky about the powered seat—something similar to, “Keep me safe.” But it grew. It became a prayer that supported us through great difficulty and motivated us in tough decisions. We prayed the prayer at funerals, at weddings, when donating to causes, and when beginning difficult experiences. Soon it became a living prayer for our family. Many families have a “life verse,” but this became a “life prayer.”

“Lord, please keep us safe, keep us sane, help us focus.
Let our time, money, and energy 
Cover all that we need to do 
And all those we want to bless.”

Into any uncomfortable time of waiting, such as the one we are all in now, inject prayer. It is okay if it is not fancily worded. It is okay if it is selfish. It is okay if it is just a request. But don’t let it be just a stale repetition. Let it be like a seed that can grow. 

As God speaks to you, adjust your prayer. As new needs arise, adjust your prayer. As better wording occurs to you, adjust your prayer. Allow your prayer to be shaped and rewritten by your relationship with God and all that you learn and experience in God’s Word.

A prayer of a few words, thrown into an inconvenient crack in your life, can grow like a mustard seed into a towering tree that can provide spiritual shelter and sustenance for you and others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies. — Psalm 28.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 46 (Listen – 4:59)
Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers.

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Examine the Examen

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 21.1.2
In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
    that he channels toward all who please him.
A person may think their own ways are right,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.

Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Reflection: Examine the Examen
By John Tillman

The Examen is not a prayer to change your prayer life but to change the rest of your life. The Prayer of Examen, first recorded by St. Ignatius, is a prayer that has been used throughout the Church since the 16th century. The Examen, like a good tutor, schools us in practicing the presence of God.

In this prayer, we reflect on our day, find God in the midst of everyday life, assess our motives, desires, struggles, and opportunities, and move forward into the future with repentance, faith, thankfulness, and joy.

There are many versions of the Examen. We have, over the years, published and used different versions of the prayer ourselves, including the version at this link. I have studied and used versions of the prayer from different writers and my own church pastors and find each iteration to be helpful. The Examen can be customized to fit the way you communicate with God, the time you give to it, and how you implement it and get it in your memory. The simplest, shortest way to summarize the Examen may be the following five words: 
Awareness
Analysis
Admission
Acceptance
Anticipation

Below, let us follow a version of the Examen specifically adapted to the realities of life in a time of quarantine and social distancing.

Awareness:
Take a few moments to relax and release your mind from any concerns that you are holding on to. Just pause. Realize you are in God’s presence and have been continually. Even alone in your home (or surrounded and crowded by your sequestered family…), he is in our midst.

Once settled peacefully, thank God for his presence and ask for his grace to be more aware of him, especially in the next few minutes.

Analysis:
Review the past day and God’s presence with you. We may be socially distant from our friends and community, but God is not distant. When did you sense him? What opportunities did you take to interact with or act on behalf of Jesus? 

Celebrate moments in which Christ’s grace, love, and righteousness shone through you. Humbly acknowledge that these moments were empowered by the Holy Spirit and not yourself. 

Admission:
You will also recall shortcomings and failures. Confess sins with the knowledge that Jesus has forgiven you. Confess not just actions of sin, but motivations behind them. (Not just that you shouted in anger but that you have an unhealthy desire for dominance and control rooted in a failure to trust God…)

Acceptance:
Celebrate your forgiveness, reinstatement, and acceptance through Jesus. The good news, the gospel, is that although we fail consistently, in Christ, we are loved, accepted, and forgiven continually and that Christ is at work in and through us for our sanctification and perfection.

Anticipate:
Look forward to tomorrow, with faith and anticipation of the presence of Christ going before you and being with you.

Ask for grace to be more aware of his presence with you going forward, and close with the Lord’s prayer or another prayer chosen from scripture.

Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name.
Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness,… make your way straight before me. — Psalm 5.8

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

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 21 (Listen 3:12) 
Colossians 4 (Listen -2:21)

Read more about Presence is Precious
The presence of God is a precious thing…Moses tells God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us…”

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/presence-is-precious/

Read more about Recalling the Failures
Christ sees more failure in us than even we know, yet he re-calls us—he calls us to himself again, and again, and again. Christ re-calls the failures.

Mustard Seed Prayers

Scripture Focus: Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Ephesians 6.18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Reflection: Mustard Seed Prayer
By John Tillman (Prayer by Melissa Tillman)

There are some things which electronics cannot improve—some systems in which analog beats digital. Our previous car had no power-anything. Locks, windows, and seats all had to be moved manually. When it comes to the seats, my wife and I miss the manual adjustment. One swift movement— kachunk—was all it took for us to switch drivers. With the powered seat, we have to wait, listening to the electronic motor whirr. For me, this also involves cramming myself uncomfortably into the tiny space and waiting as it slowly expands. Even though it is only for a few seconds, we are accustomed to instantly moving from one to the other, and that makes it an annoying inconvenience. Power seats are an annoying waste of time.

Into this new crack of “waiting,” my wife injected the tiny seed of a prayer, similar to a breath prayer. At first, it was just to keep herself from being cranky about the powered seat—something similar to, “Keep me safe.” But it grew. It became a prayer that supported us through great difficulty and motivated us in tough decisions. We prayed the prayer at funerals, at weddings, when donating to causes, and when beginning difficult experiences. Soon it became a living prayer for our family. Many families have a “life verse,” but this became a “life prayer.”

“Lord, please keep us safe, keep us sane, help us focus.
Let our time, money, and energy 
Cover all that we need to do 
And all those we want to bless.”

Into any uncomfortable time of waiting, such as the one we are all in now, inject prayer. It is okay if it is not fancily worded. It is okay if it is selfish. It is okay if it is just a request. But don’t let it be just a stale repetition. Let it be like a seed that can grow. 

As God speaks to you, adjust your prayer. As new needs arise, adjust your prayer. As better wording occurs to you, adjust your prayer. Allow your prayer to be shaped and rewritten by your relationship with God and all that you learn and experience in God’s Word.

A prayer of a few words, thrown into an inconvenient crack in your life, can grow like a mustard seed into a towering tree that can provide spiritual shelter and sustenance for you and others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save his life from those who would condemn him. — Psalm 109.29-30

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

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 19 (Listen 3:09) 
Colossians 2 (Listen -3:45)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/breathing-prayers/

20200331

Read more about Prayer for Purpose, Community, and Freedom :: Guided Prayer
As we face a lengthening road through this crisis, we focus on prayer.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/breathing-prayers/

Christ the Enemy of Death

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 17.18
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Colossians 4.3
Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15.26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Reflection: Christ the Enemy of Death
By John Tillman

God’s plan may refer to the unchanging will of God that cannot, due to God’s sovereignty and purpose, be overturned. This is true of God’s eternal purpose for humanity to live eternally in peace with God. Eden was an expression of this plan, and the new earth to come, will be the completion of this unchangeable and inevitable sovereign plan of God. 

God’s plan can also refer to God’s direction for a specific situation. God’s direction to Elijah to stay with the Sidonian widow is an example of this. This granular and finite definition of “God’s plan” is not equivalent to God’s eternal, sovereign purposes.

Elijah assumes, and we often do as well, that God dictates every death as part of his plan. However, God consistently shows through scripture that he is death’s enemy, not death’s co-conspirator. 

God makes it clear—throughout scripture but most directly through the actions of Christ—that death itself is not part of his “plan.” 

Death is used in God’s plans in the same way God uses many evil and wicked things, diverting evil purposes for righteous purposes. God uses the death of wicked individuals in his working of justice. God uses suffering caused by death to conform us to the image of Christ. God tenderly cares for his people during the suffering of death, as a part of his loving-kindness. In many situations in the Old Testament and the New, God reverses death, resuscitating death’s victims in miraculous ways.

We can be comforted knowing God hates death. He hates the long, slow death of old age. He hates the crippling, painful death of cancer and other wasting diseases. He hates the sudden and tragic deaths of the young. He hates death that rides on the heels of war, conflict, violence, injustice, and abuses of power.  

Death is God’s enemy because it harms and hurts his children. Death is an evil attempt by Satan to violate God’s eternal plans and purposes. God is, from chapter three of Genesis, working his will against death, advancing his purpose to destroy death, and preparing his people to overcome death.  

Part of the mystery of Christ that Paul refers to is he confronts, on our behalf, our greatest enemies—sin and death. He has defeated them both on the cross and the Holy Spirit, our comforter today, is our guarantee that victory over sin and death will ultimately be ours.

Christ is the deadly enemy of death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave. — Psalm 30.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

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Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
The Anastasis—the Uprising—is…a visualization of Christ’s resurrection gleaned less from gospel accounts than from multiple sources throughout scripture.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

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