Expect Christ: Day 1

Welcome to the Christian season of Advent! Advent always begins on a Sunday, and those of you who went through the daily September series on establishing a pattern to prayer will remember that Sundays were different from the rest of the week. Rather than the morning/noon/evening pattern of the other days of the week, we instead are encouraged to treat Sunday as a true Sabbath, attending worship, where we have many opportunities to pray, and disconnecting from the patterns of the week as much as possible. Ideally, the patterns established over six days of the week lead you to a Sabbath of constant spiritual communion with God.

Here’s the text I plan to preach this first Sunday of Advent. During this series, I will be using the Common English Bible translation, which should be accessible for most people. No translation is perfect for every person and circumstance, but some of my respected seminary professors were involved in the CEB’s development, and I trust it.


1 Peter 1:13-21

Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy. Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land. Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. Instead, you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb. Christ was chosen before the creation of the world, but was only revealed at the end of time. This was done for you, who through Christ are faithful to the God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. So now, your faith and hope should rest in God.


Here are some questions I would suggest as you dwell on these words:

Spiritually, is my mind ready for action and my thinking clear? What might I do to achieve this state?

Do I feel I live in a strange land, or does it seem familiar and even comfortable? What does your answer tell you about your relationship with Christ?

During this season of Advent, how would it feel to deepen my faith and increase my hope?

Have a blessed Sabbath day, one leading you into a holy and joy-filled week.

Sunday, Sept. 25

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Sunday, Sept. 25.

As we have done each Sunday, we will deviate from our structured day of prayer. Focus today on worshiping with others! If you engage earnestly in worship, you will experience all the elements of prayer we have explored so far.

I am hoping the last couple of days have inspired some of you who are not participating in church life regularly to return. You need that direct contact with God; your church needs you. Every member has a role to play.

As you head to worship, engage early. Start preparing yourself to encounter God in worship as you leave the house. Approach the place of worship prayerfully and joyfully, rejoicing in the sight of your fellow believers. Ask the Lord to reveal new truths to you in the music, in the reading of the Scripture, during the prayer time, and in the sermon. And as you worship, remember throughout who your audience is:

God.

Sunday, Sept. 18

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Sunday, Sept. 18.

Today being Sunday, we will deviate from our structured day of prayer. Focus today on worshiping with others! If you engage earnestly in worship, you will experience all the elements of prayer we have explored so far.

As you head to worship, engage early. Start preparing yourself to encounter God in worship as you leave the house. Approach the place of worship prayerfully and joyfully, rejoicing in the sight of your fellow believers. Ask the Lord to reveal new truths to you in the music, in the reading of the Scripture, during the prayer time, and in the sermon. And as you worship, remember throughout who your audience is:

God.

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.

Sunday, Sept. 11

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Sunday, Sept. 11.

Today being Sunday, we will deviate from our pattern. Focus today on worshiping with others! If you engage earnestly in worship, you will experience all the elements of prayer we have explored so far.

In our minds, our hearts, and certainly in our prayers, we have to acknowledge what this date means to us. We are now 21 years from what for many of us was the most traumatic national event we can remember. At some point today, remember the 2,997 who died, some as they heroically tried to save others. Remember those who died later from the exposure and trauma. And certainly take time to lift up words of thanks for those who died or were injured in the ensuing wars, and their families.

As you head to worship, engage early. Start preparing yourself to encounter God in worship as you leave the house. Approach the place of worship prayerfully and joyfully, rejoicing in the sight of your fellow believers. And as you worship, remember throughout who your audience is:

God.

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.