Tuesday, Sept. 13

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Morning

Let’s use another psalm, Psalm 40, to open our prayer time with praise. Slowly continue with the pattern of surrender and confession we have been learning; simply talk to God as you do so. Are you finding that regular confession brings you healing? That realization should be a cause for thanksgiving.

“Lord, your grace is abundant and astonishing. Thank you for the freedom I have from sin, a freedom I realize more and more as I pray and confess to you! Amen.”

As we lift up our petitions, let’s again sit quietly and pray for people in need as they come to mind. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Take time to read these Bible verses in a contemplative and meaningful way: Jonah 3:1-10; 2 Peter 3:8-13. In the Jonah text, pay particular attention to the great lengths the people of Nineveh go to repent of sin. If you have time, you might want to read the whole story of Jonah. It’s best appreciated as a full story.

Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Noon

Pray the Lord’s Prayer. And let’s again offer the following prayer written for the middle of the day:

“Where I have raced away from you this day, Lord, I pray that I may pause now and return to your path. Greet me, guide me, and keep me filled with a sense of your love as I encounter others. Amen.”

Again, give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Night

I hope you continue with the meditative prayer techniques taught earlier. As you close out your daily prayer journey, you might want to record some of your impressions on paper, or perhaps with a voice recorder. These impressions may be images, feelings or words that came to you. What you record may begin to guide you at other times as you connect the prayer experience to daily life.

And of course, sleep well.

Monday, Sept. 12

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Monday, Sept. 12.

Morning

For our opening time of praise, read Psalm 73 as a prayer. I have no doubt many of you will feel a connection. This psalm expresses frustration, confession and an expression of reliance on God. These are ancient words, but speak them from your heart, as your individual prayer.

You also may have some specific sins you want to turn over to God, in the process turning over a new leaf. (I like that phrase. It’s actually a reference to turning the page of a book. Certainly, as we flip through a Bible, we find new ways of living.) Hear the good news: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Having praised God and confessed sin, move to any petitions you may have. This morning, try sitting quietly and pray for people in need as they come to mind. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Take time to read these Bible verses in a contemplative and meaningful way: Jeremiah 5:1-17; 1 Timothy 1:18-20.

Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Noon

Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Let me also offer you a prayer specifically for the middle of the day:

“Where I have raced away from you this day, Lord, I pray that I may pause now and return to your path. Greet me, guide me, and keep me filled with a sense of your love as I encounter others. Amen.”

Again, give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Night

I hope you continue with the meditative prayer, a time for immersion in God’s Spirit. Remember to let distractions float away for a little while as you breathe. Once settled in, I would suggest you add something. Ask that God speak to you in words and images as you sink into silence. Dare we call these visions? Dare we let them shape our lives?

Sleep well; perhaps visions can become dreams tonight.

Saturday, Sept. 10

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Saturday, Sept. 10.

Morning

Once again, it’s Saturday, and if you have a traditional work schedule with weekends off, you treasure a day like today. Begin by enjoying it with God, remaining aware of God’s presence throughout the day. We will keep it simple this morning. Take a few minutes to consider what it means to call God Father, Son or Holy Spirit. In what ways have you best experienced God? Thank God for those experiences.

Take time for confession. Then move to any petitions you may have.

Here’s the Scripture for today: Psalm 14; Jeremiah 4:13-21, 29-31; John 10:11-21.

Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Noon

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Night

As you review your day, pay attention to how conscious you were of God’s presence.

Continue the meditative prayer time in the evening. At a minimum, practice symbolically inhaling grace and exhaling sin.

Sleep well; remember, tomorrow is a holy day of worship.

Friday, Sept. 9

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Friday, Sept. 9.

Morning

For our time of praise, pause to consider the many names ascribed to God, and why we use those names. Here are some examples from Scripture: I Am; Lord Over All; The Lord My Shepherd; The Lord Our Healer; The Lord Our Banner; The Most High God; God Everlasting; God Almighty; The Ancient of Days; Lion of Judah; Horn of Salvation; The Vine; The Word.

We’ve been reminded the past few days that confession is an important part of prayer. Take time to release to God what needs to be removed from your life, and allow the Holy Spirit to rush into the void created. Again, you may want to use Psalm 51:1-10 as your guide. Hear the good news: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Having praised God and confessed sin, move to any petitions you may have. Try moving from broad global concerns to very personal requests, along these lines: from global, to national, to local, to church, to family and finally, to petitions for yourself.

Take time to read these Bible verses in a contemplative and meaningful way: Genesis 7:6-10, 8:1-5; 2 Peter 2:1-10.

Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Noon

Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Let me also offer you a prayer specifically for the middle of the day:

“Lord of All Our Days, keep me connected to your desires for the world around me as I proceed with the tasks before me. I feel I have much to accomplish, but do not let my plans interfere with yours. If I feel sidetracked by what otherwise seems holy, help me to understand that I have found the true path. Amen.”

Again, give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Night

As you review your day, pay attention to how conscious you were of God’s presence.

Continue the meditative prayer time in the evening. At a minimum, practice symbolically inhaling grace and exhaling sin.

Sleep well; dream of full union with God and the reunions that will accompany that glorious day.

Thursday, Sept. 8

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Thursday, Sept. 8.

Morning

For our time of praise, let’s consider words from another hymn: “All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all. Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, ye ransomed from the fall, hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown him Lord of all. Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball, to him all majesty ascribe, and crown him Lord of all.” (Edward Perronet, 1779.)

Like yesterday, take time to consider where you have failed God, and make confession, which of course includes repentance, a commitment to turn away from sin. As part of this act of confession, you can read or recite Psalm 51:1-10. Then hear the good news: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Having praised God and confessed sin, move to any petitions you may have. Try moving from broad global concerns to very personal requests, along these lines: from global (the war in Ukraine, for example), to national, to local, to church, to family and finally, to petitions for yourself. You may find that when you start with broader petitions, your personal petitions will be affected.

Take time to read these Bible verses in a contemplative and meaningful way: Genesis 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 1:1-11.

Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Noon

Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Let me also offer you these words from “A Celtic Primer,” a compilation by Brendan O’Malley:

The Holy Spirit

“When the true shepherd speaks, and man hears him, the heart burns within, the flesh trembles, the mind lights like a candle, the conscience ferments like wine in a crock, and the will bows to the truth, and that small, powerful, heavenly voice raises up the dead from his own grave to live, to don the crown, and wonderfully changes the whole of life to live like the Lamb of God.”

Again, give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Night

As you review your day, pay attention to how conscious you were of God’s presence.

Continue the meditative prayer time in the evening. If you’re struggling with meditative prayer as described in previous days, instead focus more deeply on your reflection about the day. A pad and pen might help; you could list “pros” and “cons” about earlier events, seeking God’s guidance regarding what you might have changed. As you exhale, release sin, and as you inhale, accept grace.

Sleep well.

Wednesday, Sept. 7

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Morning

As we try to focus on God’s glorious and eternal nature, it might help to borrow words from a hymn, words penned by Joachim Neander in 1680. Try lifting them as the opening part of your prayer time: “All my hope is firmly grounded in the great and living Lord; who, whenever I most need him, never fails to keep his word. God I must wholly trust, God the ever good and just. Thank, O thank, our great Creator, thru God’s only Son this day, God alone, the heavenly potter, made us out of earth and clay. Quick to heed, strong in deed, God shall all the people feed.”

Now consider an aspect of prayer we have not yet raised in this series: confession. Think about your sins, your actions not aligned with God’s plan, and confess them in prayer, asking God for forgiveness.

Having praised God and confessed sin, move to any petitions you may have. Again, remember your family members, asking that the truth of Jesus Christ be firmly implanted in their hearts. Continue to remember the sick, the lonely, the anxious, the needy and the spiritually lost. Pray for them by name.

Pray for your church and its role in the world, seeking spiritual strength for its leaders.

Before moving to the Bible verses for the day, let me say something about the experience of reading Scripture during prayer time. Some of what we read can shock us. Yesterday’s readings were a good example. In Psalm 101, David went from a very righteous-sounding disdain for sin to a declaration that he would destroy the wicked under the control of his kingly hand. It is an assertion that stings the ears of people raised on democracy and due process. Jeremiah foretold terrible destruction for sinners, evoking images that are hard for us to bear.

For modern people, these verses create a problem when we fail to allow for context. Holiness sometimes had to be learned in hard ways by pre-Christian people living in cultures very different from our own. Don’t shrink back from such readings, though. Meditate on them thoroughly, keeping in mind that prayer time, just like Scripture, can be challenging.

As the monk-writer Thomas Merton wrote, “It is of the very nature of the Bible to affront, perplex and astonish the human mind. Hence the reader who opens the Bible must be prepared for disorientation, confusion, incomprehension, perhaps outrage.” (Opening the Bible, 1970, page 11.)

With all that in mind, take time to read these Bible verses in a contemplative and meaningful way: Jeremiah 20:1-18; Luke 18:18-30.

Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Noon

Pray the Lord’s Prayer. At this point, I am going to assume you know it by heart. I also offer you an eighth-century Irish prayer for the middle of the day:

“Dear, chaste Christ, who can see into every heart and read every mind, take hold of my thoughts. Bring my thoughts back to me and clasp me to yourself.”

Again, give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.

Night

As you review your day, pay attention to how conscious you were of God’s presence.

I hope you are continuing the meditative prayer time in the evening. Don’t be surprised if you have a breakthrough in this area this week. If you are just beginning to try meditative prayer, you can review “Life and Breath” and “Under Water.

If you’re struggling with meditative prayer, instead focus more deeply on your reflection about the day. A pad and pen might help; you could list “pros” and “cons” about earlier events, seeking God’s guidance regarding what you might have changed. As you exhale, release sin, and as you inhale, accept grace.

Have a blessed evening and good sleep.

Unneeded Silence

Psalm 32 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

I did it again.  I kept my sin to myself.   Well, at least I thought I did.  Did people notice how short I was with them?  How much did my losing battle with sin show up in my life?

The psalmist is blessed, even happy, that the Lord has not charged him with iniquity.  Why is this state possible for the psalmist?  The psalmist has not tried to be deceitful regarding the wrong actions and words the psalmist has performed.  The psalmist is honest with God.

I, too, have noticed this phenomenon in my life.  Telling God my transgressions has been a freeing experience.  Otherwise, I keep my wrongdoing bottled up.   When that happens, the “woe is me” attitude is one of the ways my body wastes away.  The bottled-up truth of my sin will come out eventually, for my strength has limits.

After I have told God my sin and transgressions, he teaches me how I can live.  His steadfast love, his love that knows no bounds, is around me.  He gives me the ability to shout for joy because his forgiveness has allowed me to be upright in heart.  It is when I have unneeded silence in my life, because of bottling up my sins, that I fail to know and experience the steadfast love of God.

God, during these forty days I grow closer to you by being honest with you.  I have sinned.  I have gone against you and hurt myself, and others.  Hear my confession.  It is you who forgives my sins against you.  May I have the time and space to tell others how you have forgiven me.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, I ask that I may know the ways your steadfast love surrounds me. Amen.

At the Funeral

Psalm 130
A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

By John Grimm

When attending a United Methodist Church member’s funeral, we most likely have heard this psalm read during the “Entrance” of the Service of Death and Resurrection.  This service is found in the United Methodist Hymnal, 870, and the Book of Worship.  After acknowledging our grief, this psalm is read.  It is both a confession of sin and an expression of hope.

As we are all created equal by God, hearing this psalm read at numerous funerals is appropriate.  To humbly ask the Lord for something can be hard.  It is at funerals of our loved ones and friends that we seem to be begging for hope for our life without the departed.  As this psalm moves toward hope, it sets the tone for the rest of the service as Old and New Testament Lessons, Psalm 23, and a Gospel reading are read during a funeral.  It is these lessons that draw out what hope in Jesus Christ looks like.

We know our sins.  Our iniquities are ever before us.  Our transgressions weigh us down.  By going to God in prayer, we confess our wrongs.  This psalm reminds us of the Lord who redeems and forgives.  That is where hope comes, knowing that the Lord redeems and forgives us, and our departed loved ones.

Almighty God, thank you that when we cry out to you, you hear our confessions.  It is by your steadfast love that we have hope.  We thank you for forgiving and redeeming us.  Our hope in you is what carries us through times of grief.  Thank you that Jesus is our hope.  It is in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

What Must Be Done

Ezra 9:5-9 (NRSV)

At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,

“O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.”


By Chuck Griffin

Ezra dropped to his knees to do what must be done from time to time, to do what the people as a whole had failed to do. He repented and sought forgiveness.

Because of their sins, God’s chosen people found themselves enslaved, their way of life decimated. But a glimmer of hope had appeared, the potential to rebuild what had been a glorious temple. And yet, Ezra observed, the people of Israel continued to defy God.

The specific sin causing Ezra grief sounds strange to us today. The Israelites were to be a people set apart, a lesson in holiness to all the world. But instead they had begun to intermarry with the people around them, in the process adopting other gods and unholy practices. The real problem was that they had moved away from God and toward idolatry.

The principle remains the same for us. We are to search for what pleases God and what displeases God, practicing the former and avoiding the latter. Our Holy Bible gives us our baseline for understanding sin, something our broken minds cannot sort out on their own. In our New Testament, we receive refined guidance about sin from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit working within the early Christian church.

Ignoring this guidance brings grave danger. Our best response is to search our actions and even our thoughts to see where we may deviate from what God desires. We truly practice a religion of the heart.

Such an examination of ourselves should lead us where Ezra went—on our knees, in a state of repentance. Living much later than Ezra in God’s grand story of redemption, we know that because of the work of Jesus Christ, forgiveness, change and hope lie ahead.

A call to such piety is not popular, I know. Sadly, there are people among us who have established themselves as preachers while preaching the opposite.

Their opinions do not change the word of God, however, and they do not remove the need for thoughtful searching of our souls and serious repentance.

Lord, reveal to us through your holy word and directly in prayer where we displease you, and then show us a better way. Amen.

Dark Nights

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 90:13-17 (NLT)

O Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.
And may the Lord our God show us his approval
    and make our efforts successful.
    Yes, make our efforts successful!

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by doubt or abandoned by God, take heart. The best of Christ’s followers have such experiences.

The Israelites, including today’s psalmist, regularly expressed the sense that God was no longer with them. And God did sometimes abandon them for periods of time in response to their forgetting who is Creator and Rescuer.

Just before Moses’ death, God explained to Moses and his replacement, Joshua, the pattern the Israelites would find themselves experiencing over the centuries.

“After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will blaze forth against them,” God told the two. “I will abandon them, hiding my face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ At that time I will hide my face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.” (Deuteronomy 31:16b-18)

God did give Moses and Joshua a song to teach the people for such times. While lengthy, its elements are obvious: Declare who God is, confess the sins of idolatry and forgetfulness, and recognize God’s goodness and desire to restore his people.

Sin obviously separates us from God, taking us to the dangerous point where we might question God’s love or even his existence. Christian mystics have also recognized through the centuries that Christ’s closest followers can experience similar feelings, what a 16th-century poet called St. John of the Cross described as the “dark night,” sometimes now referred to as “the dark night of the soul.”

The mystics see these moments as a time of spiritual purging. This includes a simultaneous acknowledgment that God is unknowable in full but also worth pursuing.

Regardless of the cause of why we may feel abandoned by God or filled with doubt, the appropriate response remains the same. Never stop acknowledging who God is. Root out sins, confess them to God, and take the necessary time to grow in understanding of what God is doing in the world through Christ’s sacrifice.

Fear not, the morning does come.

Dear Lord, pour out new grace on those who struggle with their dark nights. Return them to a sense of assurance and keep within them a deep desire to serve your kingdom. Amen.