Expect Christ: Day 6

Today is Friday, Dec. 2, the sixth day in the Advent season.

Morning

Praise and Thanksgiving. Today, we begin by prayerfully reading Psalm 16.

Let’s also praise God, simply acknowledging who God is:

“Father! Son! Holy Spirit! Creator! Redeemer! Sustainer! These words describe you, yet as powerful as they are, no single word describes you in full, Lord of Our Lives. We go left or right, and you are there. We go forward or backward, and you are there. We look in or out, and you are there. This is a good and joyous truth because we realize holiness is offered to us everywhere, through the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We bless you now, as a prelude to eternal blessings. Amen.”

Confession. We easily identify where we have violated God’s will, assuming we take time to stop and consider our actions. As we find those moments, let’s surrender them to God, knowing he will cleanse us while also exhorting us, “Go and sin no more.

Petitions. We usually are encouraged to focus our prayers outward, but let’s take time today to pray very intentionally for our own needs, knowing that changes in our lives will benefit those around us greatly.

Scripture. Acts 13:32-46. When did we last hunger for the word so greatly that we clamored for it, asking for more?

Silence.

Noon

Let’s continue to pray this prayer together daily:

“Lord, we have entered a season of expectation. We remember the Israelites’ past desire for a savior to arrive, and we mirror what they felt as we long now for the return of Jesus Christ. Come Lord Jesus, come! We pray this with some trepidation, knowing we never feel completely ready for such a day, and that loved ones around us may not be ready. And yet we continue to pray, Come Lord Jesus, come! We trust that your grace at your return will so overwhelm sin and death that all will be set right. As we pray for your full arrival, teach us how to make ourselves ready, living as watchful people. Amen.”

Night

At a minimum, let’s spend some significant time in a quiet, reflective state before retiring for the night. Embrace the day’s spiritual victories and release the failures.

If it has been a while since you tried the meditation techniques offered earlier, might this be a good night to try again?

And as you sleep, may resurrection promises guide your dreams.

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.

Friday, Sept. 30

Welcome to the final daily prayer guide for this month of September! Today is Friday, Sept. 30.

Morning

As we conclude this month-long exercise, I hope you feel better-equipped to pray in a consistent way, using patterns that should deepen you spiritually for the rest of your life. Pray alone; pray in community; know that as you pray, you are making a real difference for yourself and the world around you.

Regarding that “pray in community” recommendation: If you find yourself isolated in such a way that community prayer seems difficult, please contact me. My email address is cwgriffiniii@gmail.com. I will do whatever I can to help you find such a community.

I’ve simply tried to offer you a beginning pattern and some time to practice it until it feels like your own. I always am curious to know what patterns of prayer people adopt for themselves over time. Let me know as interesting things happen in your prayer life.

Again, here’s our basic prayer pattern for the morning:

Praise and Thanksgiving. Again, some useful psalms to consider as part of your time of praise: 18, 19, 21, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 66, 106, 113, 116, 135, 136, 138, 145, 149, 150. Perhaps over several days you can simply work through the list. Once you’re done, you’ll have a good sense of how to spot and pray psalms of praise.

Confession. And remember the Good News: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Petitions. Remember global concerns, then move to praying for your nation, and then from there for your community (including work or school), your church, your family and yourself.

Scripture. After selecting a reading, focus on a verse or verses that really seem to speak to you. Pray around those words.

Silence.

Noon

The Lord’s Prayer, and some silent time.

Night

Meditative prayer and reflection on the day. Sometimes people find this a good time to keep a few private notes in a diary or notebook.

May your days and nights be filled with the comforting joy of the Holy Spirit. Be blessed.

Thursday, Sept. 29

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Thursday, Sept. 29.

Morning

Let me take a moment to tell you about two “pilgrim” books that have meant a lot to me, and that tie in well with times of prayer and meditation. The first one is pretty widely known among Christians, John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” It is an allegorical tale reflecting the Christian journey into salvation and beyond. (Watch out for those fiery darts!) One of my great joys when my children were small was reading them “Little Pilgrim’s Progress,” a child-oriented version of the story by Helen L. Taylor.

Some may find this a more difficult read, but I also recommend working through “The Way of a Pilgrim,” a classic Eastern Orthodox story. The unknown author imagines a 19th-century peasant who is determined to fully comprehend and live out the Apostle Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Again, here’s our basic prayer pattern for the morning:

Praise and Thanksgiving. Again, some useful psalms to consider as part of your time of praise: 18, 19, 21, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 66, 106, 113, 116, 135, 136, 138, 145, 149, 150. Perhaps over several days you can simply work through the list. Once you’re done, you’ll have a good sense of how to spot and pray psalms of praise.

Confession. And remember the Good News: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Petitions. Remember global concerns, then move to praying for your nation, and then from there for your community (including work or school), your church, your family and yourself.

Scripture. After selecting a reading, focus on a verse or verses that really seem to speak to you. Pray around those words.

Silence.

Noon

The Lord’s Prayer, and some silent time.

Night

Meditative prayer and reflection on the day. Sometimes people find this a good time to keep a few private notes in a diary or notebook.

May you sleep well and arise with a joyous heart.

Wednesday, Sept. 28

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Morning

As you move toward a time when you begin to guide yourself in daily prayer, I want to encourage you to consider devotionals that might help. By some measures, one of the most widely used is Thomas a’ Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ,” which I have found fruitful to read during times of meditative quiet. If you don’t mind reading antiquated English, you can get a translation for nearly nothing, particularly if you have an e-reader. More modern translations are worth the price.

Again, here’s our basic prayer pattern for the morning:

Praise and Thanksgiving. Again, some useful psalms to consider as part of your time of praise: 18, 19, 21, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 66, 106, 113, 116, 135, 136, 138, 145, 149, 150. Perhaps over several days you can simply work through the list. Once you’re done, you’ll have a good sense of how to spot and pray psalms of praise.

Confession. And remember the Good News: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Petitions. Remember global concerns, then move to praying for your nation, and then from there for your community (including work or school), your church, your family and yourself.

Scripture. After selecting a reading, focus on a verse or verses that really seem to speak to you. Pray around those words.

Silence.

Noon

The Lord’s Prayer, and some silent time.

Night

Meditative prayer and reflection on the day. Sometimes people find this a good time to keep a few private notes in a diary or notebook.

May your dreams be untroubled.

Tuesday, Sept. 27

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Morning

This morning as you prepare to pray, I will ask you to consider something specific. What is your community of prayer? I am asking where it is that you go in order to pray in a serious way with a group of people, rather than simply praying alone. Do you pray with others in a very real way in the sanctuary on Sunday? Are you part of a Sunday school or small group that prays in such a way?

If anything about what I’ve just asked concerns you, know that you can contact me via email at cwgriffiniii@gmail.com.

Again, here’s our basic prayer pattern for the morning:

Praise and Thanksgiving. Again, some useful psalms to consider as part of your time of praise: 18, 19, 21, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 66, 106, 113, 116, 135, 136, 138, 145, 149, 150. Perhaps over several days you can simply work through the list.

Confession. And remember the Good News: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Petitions. Remember global concerns, then move to praying for your nation, and then from there for your community (including work), your church, your family and yourself.

Scripture. After selecting a reading (see yesterday’s guide), focus on a verse or verses that really seem to speak to you. Pray around those words.

Silence.

Noon

The Lord’s Prayer, and some silent time.

Night

Meditative prayer and reflection on the day. Sometimes people find this a good time to keep a few private notes in a diary or notebook.

And may you always have blessed sleep.

Monday, Sept. 26

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Monday, Sept. 26.

Morning

We are entering the final five days of our 30-day introduction to a committed prayer life, one where we truly hear from God. These last days will be designed to help you continue a patterned, deep prayer life on your own. By now, you probably have a good sense of what to do.

Today, I am going to give you a basic pattern based on what we’ve been doing and let you fill in the blanks. As we move through the week, I also will offer you additional resources you can use to enhance your ongoing prayer life. These largely will be resources that have inspired me through the years. At a minimum, I hope they will cause you to search online or in bookstores for what similarly might suit you.

First, lift up praise and thanksgiving to God. Declare God’s greatness, and then thank God for what he has recently done in your life. Remember, as part of your praise time, you might want to leaf through the psalms, seeking one that helps you praise God more effectively. Here are some suggestions: Psalms 18, 19, 21, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 66, 106, 113, 116, 135, 136, 138, 145, 149, 150.

Next, enter a time of sincere confession. And remember the Good News: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven! Go and sin no more.

You should now feel ready to lift petitions to God, praying for the dawning of the kingdom of God in this world and in your heart. For structure, you might want to start with global concerns, then move to praying for your nation, and then from there for your community (including work), your church, your family and yourself.

To close out the morning, spend some time in God’s word. You may choose to follow the daily lectionary readings, which help us to read Scripture thoroughly during a three-year cycle. (We are currently in Year C.) If so, you can check the daily readings by going here.

Or you instead might choose to start working your way through the Bible in about a year, reading three chapters a day or investing in a “year through the Bible” book or program.

Starting out, it’s also fine to simply think about Bible stories you’ve heard of but not explored thoroughly as an adult, and read them prayerfully and thoughtfully. If you don’t know where the story is, a quick search on some key words, including “Bible,” likely will give you the reference.

And don’t forget to have some silent time before launching into your day.

Noon

I think the use of the Lord’s Prayer in the middle of the day is something we can do until the day we die. Many prayer books will offer you additional midday prayers, too. I will repeat this one for you, written for this 30-day guide:

Lord, how am I doing?
Has your will been done?
Help me to walk with you 
     through the remainder of the day.

As I hear your voice at the center of my soul,
let me move according to your will. Amen.

Again, some time in silence can be most helpful before resuming your day.

Night

By now, you probably have a clear sense of how meditative prayer works for you. At a minimum, take time in the evening to still yourself, focus on your breathing, and clear your mind, listening for God.

Search the day’s events. Search for where your heart has been during the day. If necessary, once again confess what needs to be turned over to God.

There are few gifts greater than a peaceful, holy night of sleep, and I pray we all have this tonight and as many nights as possible.

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.

Saturday, Sept. 24

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Saturday, Sept. 24. Once again, I have to acknowledge that Saturdays can be different for people with traditional work schedules.

Morning

Much can distract us from life with God on a Saturday. I know there’s at least one football game I am eager to watch. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Rest and recreation are a part of God’s plan. God simply wants us to recognize the divine presence in the midst of all that activity.

Yesterday, we focused on praying for our churches. Today, let’s be sure that whatever we do, those activities don’t interfere with our ability to worship well tomorrow.

Here’s a simple morning prayer for you:

“Lord, be with me in all I do today. Give me glimpses of you throughout. May I find myself restored so that I serve you well in coming days.”

Remember to make your personal confessions, and lift up your requests for yourself and others.

Turn to your Bible today for an image of holy worship: Revelation 4. Pray that you will glimpse an earthly version of this tomorrow.

Noon

Remember the Lord’s Prayer, and I offer you this prayer to raise, too:

Lord, how am I doing?
Has your will been done?
Help me to walk with you 
     through the remainder of the day.

As I hear your voice at the center of my soul,
let me move according to your will. Amen.

Night

We continue with meditative prayer. Again, it may be useful to write down or record in some way the impressions you receive.

Here’s a prayer you can speak out loud, too:

“Give me rest from worldly excitement, Lord, and give me deep sleep as I experience your peace. Amen.”

Sleep well.

Friday, Sept. 23

Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Friday, Sept. 23.

Morning

Yesterday, as I prayed the morning prayer from Daniel, I was struck by one line in particular: “Show your favor to your desolate sanctuary for the Lord’s sake.” Daniel was praying this in a particular situation. The Chosen People of God had been scattered or captured by invaders, an event we are to understand as punishment for their unfaithfulness.

Most of our churches are not desolate, but as we watch decline in church participation happening in so many places, we can become fearful about future desolation. Fear not; let’s pray. If you don’t participate in a local church, pray for the people who await your spiritual gifts to be in their midst.

“Lord, I pray for the churches today, and in particular, I pray for my local congregation. Forgive us for the many ways we have failed you. Return us to our core mission, helping us to tell others of the joy of walking with Jesus Christ. Make us deeper disciples, Lord; give us a desire for your holy word and draw us toward prayer so we may know your will in every circumstance. Amen.”

Remember to make your personal confessions, and lift up your requests for yourself and others.

Turn to your Bible today for images of the early church full of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:41-47; Acts 4:32-37. Prayerfully ask God, “How much of this can we recover?”

Noon

Remember the Lord’s Prayer, and I offer you this prayer to raise, too:

Lord, how am I doing?
Has your will been done?
Help me to walk with you 
     through the remainder of the day.

As I hear your voice at the center of my soul,
let me move according to your will. Amen.

Night

We continue with meditative prayer. Again, it may be useful to write down or record in some way the impressions you receive.

Here’s a prayer you can speak out loud, too:

“Lord, help me search the day that is ending, enabling me to better spot the grace you have offered me throughout. Forgive me for the moments I turned away or even ran away. May my rest tonight prepare me for a glorious day with you tomorrow. Amen.”

Sleep deeply, dreaming of the church to come.