Where Wisdom Is Found :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture: Job 28.20-21
Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.

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: Where Wisdom Is Found :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

In the last days of a short month, we pause to seek God’s wisdom beginning with the words of Job.

There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined…
But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?

Reflect briefly on some decisions you have made. Move chronologically backward. Spend no more than sixty seconds weighing each one as wise or unwise.
Reflect on one from yesterday.
Then one from the weekend.
Then one from last week.
Then one from two weeks or more.

Now return to the words of Job on wisdom’s value.

No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says, “It is not in me”;
the sea says, “It is not with me.”
It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver.

Reflect on some places you have looked for wisdom.
Articles? Advisors? Academic research?

Thank God for human wisdom! We must, however, confess to God that human wisdom can only take us as far as human understanding, which even the greatest of scientists would admit continually finds more questions than it answers.

Ask God to open to us the true and timeless wisdom that comes from one unlimited source.

God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
…he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom.

Thank God for his wisdom that is first of all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Ask God for his continual grace to grant you his wisdom in each moment of the remaining week, the remaining month, and the rest of this year.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 70.4

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 28 (Listen – 2:44)
1 Corinthians 14 (Listen – 5:40)

The Compelling Gospel of Billy Graham

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13.12-13
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I’m not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the Bible many times. I’m going just like the thief on the cross who said in that last moment, “Remember me.” — Billy Graham

Reflection: The Compelling Gospel of Billy Graham
By John Tillman

Billy Graham’s message was never especially unique. He never intended it to be.

It was simply and elegantly, in the language of his time and of a hymn oft-sung at his rallies “to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” (You may find the song at the 13 minute mark followed by a classic message on divine love.)

Graham’s gospel was compelling to hear, but more importantly, it compelled people to move and to act. They moved from their seats, yes, but they also moved compassionately into the world.

A few modern writers have been working very hard to try and write something negative about Graham. However, most of the negative things being said come from the man’s own confessions, both to the press and undoubtedly to God.

Methodologically he mourned when those saved at his events failed to enter the community of a church. Historically he confessed regret at being too involved with politics and not deeply enough involved in the civil rights movement. Although it strains the truth for some to assert that he spurned the Civil Rights movement or was on the wrong side.

The very gospel he preached compelled him to integrate his crusades and his staff in 1958. He held the first integrated public meeting in South Africa, by refusing to hold a crusade there unless it was integrated. He preached about integration, including tacit support for interracial marriage. And, although Martin Luther King publicly chided White ministers in general for not supporting his cause more directly, he publicly thanked Billy Graham saying Graham’s ministry aided his success.

Graham was also prophetic about today’s political reality. As the Moral Majority was formed in the 1980s, Graham warned that the far right has no interest in religion other than to manipulate it. Today his words are more true than ever.

There certainly exists a weakened, sickly form of the gospel promoted by progressive politicians and a similarly diseased and malfunctional aberration of the gospel pushed by conservatives. Though progressives and conservatives may manipulate many preachers and many Christian voters, the gospel itself, which Graham dedicated his life to, will not be manipulated.

The true gospel stands apart from political maneuvering and manipulation. We each may attempt to change it to suit ourselves, yet it is in fact working to change us.

We cannot stay the same once connected to the true gospel. As C.S. Lewis said, if we let him, Christ will change us, no matter the cost to us or to himself.

The gospel will kill every hatred in us and replace it with love. It will quench our lusts and replace it with an Agape kind of love. Our sole response to the gospel must be as ever it was at the end of a Graham Crusade—to surrender all.

As the gospel compelled Billy Graham, may we be compelled to act in our time. Like all before us, we will not act with perfect knowledge or perfect success. We will look back and see failures and we will wish we had done more. But we will never look back and wish we had done less for the gospel.

Hymn:Come to Jesus” — Chris Rice (Video by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen – 2:21)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

Finding God :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture: Job 23.3-4
If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.

Editor’s Note: Today we explore a new format for reflection.

Guided prayers and meditations are a common part of Christian spiritual practice. Today we will focus on some verses from today’s reading from Job and guide ourselves through a prayer through scripture and into our world. Like walking through a park on your way to work, let this guided prayer help you carry freshness and beauty with you through your day.

Return to this prayer through the day or over the weekend, as it will be a different experience based on your mood and surroundings…We begin with the words of Job…

Reflection: Finding God :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Even today my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.

Scripture often speaks of God’s hand being “heavy” in times of distress.

What complaint do you have to carry to God?
What weighs heavy on your heart in this moment from your personal life? From your city? From your nation or from world news?

Pursue God with your thoughts and prayer…If your surroundings allow, actually get up and walk for this portion of the prayer time…

But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

Pursuit of God often begins as a pursuit of our answers. Our solutions. To place our arguments before him. We are hunting our own concerns and God is merely a means to our ends.

Slow the pace of your walking. Notice your surroundings. Notice others. Notice your need, not of your answers, but of God’s presence.

But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

It doesn’t matter how wholeheartedly we seek the answer to a prayer, we will find God when our wholehearted search is for his presence, not for something else that we want.

Follow God’s footsteps through his Word, and pursue his presence over the weekend. He wants to speak to you. He wants to walk with you.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statues.
Hear my voice, O Lord, according to your loving-kindness; according to your judgments, give me life. — Psalm 119.145fff

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 23 (Listen – 1:43)
1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 24 (Listen – 2:56) 1 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:20)
Job 25-26 (Listen – 1:52) 1 Corinthians 12 (Listen – 4:25)

The Importance of Calling :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9.23
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Reflection: The Importance of Calling :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther

The call is not to be taken lightly.

For a person to possess knowledge is not enough. He must be sure that he is properly called. Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do no edify.

Many of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions. On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good deal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world.

This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine office to which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing it must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils one’s best work.

When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then realize the importance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because we were taught sophistry instead of certainty, and nobody understood spiritual boasting.

We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.

Editor’s Note: Luther here is referring to the call of ministers and preachers of the Gospel, but as we have written many times, the call of the Gospel extends to every believer, and through every believer into the vocation and daily activities of each member of Christ’s body.

You are called to share the Gospel. Your ministry may not be in a pulpit, but in a cubicle, or a break room, or a board room. Your sermon may not be with words, but with a hug of acceptance, or a welcoming gift of hospitality, or with a moral stance that sees value in more than simplistic profitability.

Own your calling. And walk with holy pride in it’s execution. — John

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life. — Psalm 54.4

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 22 (Listen – 2:54)
1 Corinthians 9 (Listen – 4:04)

Learning to Pray

Scripture: Job 21.4
Is my complaint directed to a human being?
Why should I not be impatient?

Reflection: Learning to Pray
The Park Forum

“This is a dangerous error,” warns Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “to imagine that it is natural for the heart to pray.” The great theologian, who lost his life in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945, was no stranger to unanswered prayer. He wrote:

It can become a great torment to want to speak with God and not to be able to do it—having to be speechless before God, sensing that every cry remains enclosed within one’s own self, that heart and mouth speak a perverse language which God does not want to hear.

This may have contributed to the reason Bonhoeffer did not believe it was possible to pray without the power of God:

We confuse wishing, hoping, sighing, lamenting, rejoicing—all of which the heart can certainly do on its own—with praying. But in doing so we confuse earth and heaven, human beings and God. Praying certainly does not mean simply pouring out one’s heart. It means, rather, finding the way to and speaking with God, whether the heart is full or empty. No one can do that on one’s own. For that one needs Jesus Christ.

Not wanting “needs Jesus Christ” to devolve into mere platitude, Bonhoeffer explains how to pray the words of God—Scripture—through the power of God—Spirit:

Jesus Christ has brought before God every need, every joy, every thanksgiving, and every hope of humankind. In Jesus’ mouth the human word becomes God’s Word. When we pray along with the prayer of Christ, God’s Word becomes again a human word.

If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible, and especially the Psalms, we must not, therefore, first ask what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and only then can we pray them with Jesus Christ. Thus it does not matter whether the Psalms express exactly what we feel in our heart at the moment we pray.

Perhaps it is precisely the case that we must pray against our own heart in order to pray rightly. It is not just that for which we ourselves want to pray that is important, but that for which God wants us to pray. If we were dependent on ourselves alone, we would probably often pray only the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. But God wants it otherwise. Not the poverty of our heart, but the richness of God’s word, ought to determine our prayer.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
O God of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.7

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 21 (Listen – 3:05)
1 Corinthians 8 (Listen – 1:54)

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