Prayer for this National Day of Prayer

This is the prayer I will pray at Indian Trail’s National Day of Prayer service held at my church, Indian Trail UMC.

National Day of Prayer: 
Let us pray, creator God, you imbedded into humanity in your image and it is because that divine spark that each one of us strives to know you.  Long ago people came to this country because they desired religious freedom.  They were striving to find a new place to live their faith openly and properly.  We give you thanks that our country, the United States of America, still allows us to worship freely, openly and without fear of punishment or persecution.  Lord God, you have blessed America, and for that we give you thanks….Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.
God of love, today as a nation, we have set aside a time for prayer and we give you thanks for this gift.  Prayer is a time we can connect with you, our God.  It is a time that we empty our soul into you but also a time when we are quiet and listen to you speak into us.  As we come together to pray today, may we talk and lift up our concerns and dreams but may we also listen to how you are directing us and speaking to us this morning… Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.
Prayer is also a time of confession and we would not use this time justly if we did not confess our sins to you, forgiving Father.  We are a nation who’s history, both past and recent, is soaked in blood and turmoil.  We ask your forgiveness for how we as a nation have not lived up to the ways that you have taught us to live.  We pray for the native people who lived hear before the explorers claim to discover them.  We pray for the settlers who came to find freedom but found indentured servitude instead.  We pray for the slaves that were brought over and whose backs broke building and farming our nation.  We pray for the immigrant who arrived on Elis Island with big dreams and hopes but only found corruption and starvation.  Lord we pray for the current crisis in our country now as communities and cities work through the injustice, fear and hate between residents and police.  Lord, we ask for your forgiveness and your peace today…Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.
Gracious God, we have come so far as a nation.  We are one of the richest countries in the world and you have blessed America.  Yet, we also have children who are homeless and hungry.  We have people who are struggling even thought they work two jobs.  We have cities and towns that are thriving and others that are dying.  Now the divide between rich and poor is growing ever wider and how wide that gulf gets is unknown.  So Lord, we pray to you, we reach out to you, to show us the way and teach us how to live and treat each other with dignity and respect.  Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.
We give you thanks for this beautiful land we call our home.  We thank you for the wonderful gift of the resources and splendor that is our country.  May we always recognize it’s beauty.  As we gaze upon blue hued mountains or emerald seas; as we hear the rush of traffic or trains and yet can still smell the sweet scent of fresh cut grass; may we never take this gift for granted.  May we strive to be stewards of this land like you have commanded and leave it in good standings for generations to come.  Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.
Lord, we lift up the leaders of our country.  We pray for our Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government.  We pray for our President and Vice-President and their families.  We pray for the leaders of our state, our governor and his family.  We pray for those who lead this town, our mayor and council members and their families.  Lord, we pray for wisdom and guidance in their lives.  As all of these people, who truly are simply people, guide, direct and lead our country, state and town, we pray that their hearts be open to your will.  May our leaders never be far from our prayers…Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.
Look graciously, O Lord, upon this land.  Where it is in pride, subdue it.  Where it is in need, supply it.  Where it is in error, rectify it.  Where it is in default, restore it.  And where it holds to that which is just and compassionate, support it.  Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer. 

For it is in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

9/11 Worship

Here was a prayer service I did on the 1st anniversary of 9/11

         Introduction
         Time Table of Days Events
§  8:45 am Eastern Standard Time
·        American Airlines Fight 11 out of Boston hits the north tower of the World Trade Center, 92 people were on the plane.
·        Silent prayer for 92 seconds
§  9:03 am Eastern Standard Time
·        United Airlines Flight 175, also from Boston explodes against the south tower of the World Trade Center, 56 people were on board.
·        Silent prayer for 56 seconds
§  9:43 am Eastern Standard Time
·        American Airlines Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, 64 people were on board.
·        Silent prayer for 64 seconds.
§  10:05 am Eastern Standard Time
·        The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses, total number of people in building is unknown.
§  10:10 am Eastern Standard Time
·        A section of the Pentagon collapses killing a total of 125 people.
·        Silent prayer for 125 seconds.
§  10:10 am Eastern Standard Time
·        United Airlines Fight 93 crashes southeast of Pittsburgh, 45 people were on board.
·        Silent Prayer for 45 seconds
§  Prayer for our enemies, although it can be seen as an absurd task, Jesus commands us to love our enemies. 
·        Silent Prayer for the unknown number of people responsible for these events for 30 seconds.
§  10:28 am Eastern Standard Time
·        North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.  Total number of people listed as killed in the World Trade Centers, whether rescue workers, business people or volunteers is 2,650.
·        Due to time constraints we will silently pray for 5 minutes for these people.
         Holy Communion – for this service we will have a silent communion.  
         Benediction 

A Prayer in time of Natural Disaster

O God, you divided the waters of chaos at creation.

In Christ you stilled storms, raised the dead,

and vanquished demonic powers.

Tame the earthquake, wind, and fire,

and all the forces that defy control or shock us by their fury.

Keep us from calling disaster your justice.

Help us, in good times and in distress,

to trust your mercy and yield to your power, this day and for ever.

United Methodist Book of Worship, 509, Andy Langford, USA, 20th Century.


Please pray for the people of Haiti, their suffering continues and is about to become worse with Tropical Storm Tomas on the way. Lord, protect them. (picture from Big Picture, and as the caption said, “Misthaki Pierre cries after the burial of his mother, Serette Pierre, who died of cholera October 29, 2010 in Back D’ Aguin, Haiti. Her death has left Misthaki without a mother or father.”)

I could have done without this God!

God I would like to complain. I would like you to hear me for a minute because I have a problem with being your follower right now. I know it has been years, over a decade and a half, since I asked you to take my life and do with me what you want but this is pushing it.

God, I cannot stop looking at the news and having my heart break over and over again. I cannot stop looking at pictures (like this one) and not have my heart weep. God, this is all your fault.

Before taking you seriously, I would have heard the news, seen the pictures, and the videos and thought to myself, “well that is sad.” But then I would have moved on with my life. I would have continued on to live in my little world and I would have been fine. I would have concentrated on other things, like the NFL Playoffs. But NO, instead I have spent time praying and wondering how I can help these people all the way up here in Thomasville, NC. I have tried to rally my congregation and to have them reach out through giving of their money and making health kits. I have seen images that are in my brain constantly because your children, my fellow brothers and sisters, are in pain and I cannot shake it.

So thank you God, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for making me care and love people I have never met. Thank you for making my life recently full of prayer and sorrow. Thank you for making Haiti and the people doing ministries and missions down there be constantly on the forefront of my mind. I have never been there and really had no desire to but it is because of YOUR love and YOUR Holy Spirit that now I am being moved to figure out how and when I or a team from my church can go. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.

Thank you God. Thank you for making me worry and grieve. Thank you for the pain and the ache. Thank you for making me realize what it would be like to be YOU. I know you made this clear and you have told us that as we become closer to you we will become closer to your children. But this may be taking it too far.

I’m going on with my day now. But I thought I should tell you thank you for ruining my self-absorbed life and making me think of, pray for, and love people I’ll never meet. I blame you for this and I thought you should know!

(picture from The Big Picture)

Atomic Bomb 64 years later

The Big Picture has a wonderful and dreadful set of photos out today marking the 64 year anniversary of the US dropping the atomic bomb. I think we as a country forget the pain and suffering we have caused others by dropping the only two nuclear weapons. 64 years ago tomorrow we killed a lot of innocent people, A LOT! Lord forgive us, for we knew what we were doing.

Here is how the photo essay begins:
Tomorrow, August 6th, marks 64 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan by the United States at the end of World War II. Targeted for military reasons and for its terrain (flat for easier assessment of the aftermath), Hiroshima was home to approximately 250,000 people at the time of the bombing. The U.S. B-29 Superfortress bomber “Enola Gay” took off from Tinian Island very early on the morning of August 6th, carrying a single 4,000 kg (8,900 lb) uranium bomb codenamed “Little Boy”. At 8:15 am, Little Boy was dropped from 9,400 m (31,000 ft) above the city, freefalling for 57 seconds while a complicated series of fuse triggers looked for a target height of 600 m (2,000 ft) above the ground. At the moment of detonation, a small explosive initiated a super-critical mass in 64 kg (141 lbs) of uranium. Of that 64 kg, only .7 kg (1.5 lbs) underwent fission, and of that mass, only 600 milligrams was converted into energy – an explosive energy that seared everything within a few miles, flattened the city below with a massive shockwave, set off a raging firestorm and bathed every living thing in deadly radiation. Nearly 70,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 70,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950. Today, Hiroshima houses a Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum near ground zero, promoting a hope to end the existence of all nuclear weapons.

Here is what Hiroshima looked like before the bomb.

Here is what it looked like after.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery’s Benediction

Here is a fellow United Methodist Clergy’s benediction at the Presidential Inauguration. I enjoyed his benediction more than Warren’s invocation. I love the ending, brilliant!!!

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Matthew 6:5-15 – Sermon – Our Prayers

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Matthew 6:5-18

Our Prayers

09-07-08

Dear Lord; Tomorrow is my birthday. Could you please put a rainbow in the sky? Dear God; I am saying my prayers for me and my brother, Billy, because Billy is six months old and he can’t do anything but sleep and wet his diapers. Dear God: This is my prayer. Could you please give my brother some brains. So far he doesn’t have any. Dear God: Please send a new baby for Mommy. The new baby you sent last week cries too much. Dear God: How many angels are there in heaven? I would like to be the first kid in my class to know the answer.

We laugh because we see the sincerity of these children’s prayers and we giggle at their simplicity. They are honest, raw and direct. There is no fluff or rhetoric in the way of their true desires or conversation with God. They are simple prayers of children and God would love to hear more of them from us adults.

This next month I will be doing a sermon series on what it means to be a member of a United Methodist congregation. Each time a person joins our church we ask them to be faithful by the giving of “their prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service.” Each week I will be looking at one of these promises that each one of you made and why it is important for the life of this church.

Today we will be talking about prayer. Many people wonder what prayer is. Prayer, at its simplest definition, is communication with God. It is talking to God and listening for a response. Like any type of healthy communication, prayer is talking and listening to God talk back.

Before we get to how to listen to God let’s talk about how we should talk to God. Many people have this notion that a prayer is suppose to be a certain way. That there is a formula that has to be followed every time you talk to God or God won’t listen. Sure there are some helpful tools to get someone use to prayer. There is the acronym ACTS. If you remember ACTS you have a basic premise for a prayer. Start with adoration, “God, you are so good.” Then move to confession, “God, I am not that good.” Then moving into thanksgiving, “God, thank you for being good,” and finally end with supplication, “God, please make me good.” Actually if you followed ACTS every night before you went to bed or when you wake up in the morning, you would have a good start into a positive prayer life.

But God doesn’t make us follow any type of script. God works best when things come from our heart. Dear God; I am saying my prayers for me and my brother, Billy, because Billy is six months old and he can’t do anything but sleep and wet his diapers. That is a real prayer which comes from the heart. When is the last time you lifted up to God the prayer that is held deep in your heart? When is the last time that you simply talked openly and honestly with God about your thoughts, desires, and feelings? That is what prayer really is.

One of my favorite movies is Bruce Almighty. I have been a fan of Jim Carrey ever since his skit, Fire Marshal Bill, on In Living Color. But when I saw this movie I was struck with the amount of deep theology that was in, actually good theology too. In one of the last scenes of the movie Bruce is at his wits end after his girlfriend Grace broke up with him. In this moving scene he is crying and walking down a road in the pouring rain. He finally falls to his knees and tells God that God’s will be done in his life, whatever God wants, he wants. Then he is hit by a truck and taken up to heaven to talk with God again. During their discussion they talk about how you cannot kneel down in a road and live to talk about it, but also prayer. It is my one of my favorite moments of the movie. Bruce looks at God and asks, “What do you want me to do?” God replies, “I want you to pray, son, go ahead use them [hands Bruce the prayer beads].” Bruce holds the beads and says, “Lord, feed the hungry and bring peace to all mankind. How was that?” God replies, “Great, if you want to be Miss America. Now come on, what do you really care about?” That changes everything. Bruce realizes what he cares about most is his girlfriend Grace and that he doesn’t want her back and then he prays this prayer, “I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone, who will see her always as I do now, through your eyes.” God looks at him and says, “Now that’s a prayer.”

A prayer to God doesn’t have to pass a certain criteria to get to God and the best prayers are the ones that come from deep in your heart. God can see your motivation. God knows why you are asking for what you are asking for. In the scripture today Jesus tells us how to pray. He tells us “not to be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by everyone. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen…And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Jesus tells us to talk to God about what is on our heart and don’t fluff it up to impress God, because God isn’t impressed by that.

The other key thing we learn about prayer from Jesus is that he tells us to go to a quiet place. This is something Jesus did all the time. When he needed prayer after feeding the five thousand and before he walked on water, where did he go? He went to a mountain and was alone with his Father. When he knew the time had come for him to die on the cross, where did he go? He went to a quiet garden call Gethsemane to pray. Setting the scene is essential for productive time with God. Yes, we should always be praying but for those times where you need to have deep conversations with God you need to find special space. For those times when a big decision is coming and you need guidance, you need special space. Carving out time and a space for God frees you up to do the second most important part, if not THE most important part of prayer, listening.

Prayer is a conversation and part of having a conversation is to listen to the other person talking. There is a story told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Confused, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

God answers our prayers but we have to be in tune to him to hear them. If we do not carve out space in our lives to be quiet, to be still and to know that God is talking to us, we will never hear a word God is saying. Also if think that God will answer the way we want God to answer we will miss out on the true answer. God answers all prayers, God just says no sometimes and we don’t like that. We think that God will do what we say and what we want. Yet, that is not true and that is not how prayer works. God is not Santa Clause.

There is an old joke of a man who fell off a cliff but did not fall to his death. Instead he was able to grab a root on his way down and he hung there like Willey Coyote. While he clung to that root he prayed to God, “Lord, I have always followed you, please come and save me.” Just then a man leaned over the cliff and called out, “are you okay? I’m going to throw you a rope, grab it and I’ll pull you up.” “No”, replied the man, “my God will save me.” Then a Boy Scout Troop showed up and wanted to form a human chain to pull the man up to safety and once again he replied, “No, my God will save me.” Finally a helicopter showed up and a rope ladder was lowered towards him. Once again he said, “No, my God will save me.” Moments after the helicopter flew away the man fell to his death. When he arrived up in heaven he asked God, “why didn’t you save me?” God said, “What did you expect? I sent you a man with a rope, a Boy Scout Troop and a helicopter!” God answers prayers, they just aren’t always what we are expecting.

In the sequel to Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty there is another great scene that is theologically wonderful. God is talking to Evan’s wife who is mad that things are not going well for her and God starts to talk to her about prayer. God looks at her and says, “If someone prays for patience, do you think God give them patience. Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does God give him courage or does he give him opportunity to be courageous? If someone prays for their family to be closer does he zap them with warm fuzzies, or does he give them opportunities to love one another?” What did you pray to God for and how could God be answering your prayer? Have you spent time recently away from the noise of life, away from distractions and in a place where you can listen?

Why is prayer so important to the life of the church? You are asked to be faithful in your prayers because prayer is essential to life. Prayer, communication with the God we worship, is essential to the life of the church. When we lift up our prayers of intercession or our prayers for other people, we are asking God to be God. We are getting in touch with our source of hope and healing. When we lift up prayers for people around the world who are hungry, sick, broken, or at war, we are lifting up the mission of the church to go out into the world and be the hands, feet, and heart of God. When we come here to this place each week, and as a community say the simple prayer that God himself taught us to pray, we are lifting up the essential requests of our hearts. We are following the perfect example and trying to learn from it.

Prayer is essential because it holds us together as community. Starting Tuesday at 7:00, we will start a spiritual journey about different spiritual disciplines in the Jackie Boles Bible study. Prayer is one of the most important spiritual disciplines. All are invited and I have a feeling it will be a very moving and important study in the life of this church. I hope you will come and journey with us. Prayer brings us together, unites us, builds us up, provides us with strength and courage, and gives us the proper focus to live out our lives. What is your prayer life like? How often do you pray? Are you carving out time to talk with God daily? Do you hold the hand of your spouse and pray together? Are you teaching your children, your grandchildren, how to pray? You have made a promise this congregation and God to be faithful in your prayers now you must life up to that promise. To do so let us go now to a time of prayer, let’s talk to God today…

[Prayer with music being played in the background]

And all of God’s people said…Amen!

Where are Bloggers?

I have noticed that two very consitant bloggers have gone silent. Come to the Waters, John M.’s, blog has now been deleted…where did he go. Before that happened he sent out a post telling us that one of the best bloggers, LOcusts & Honey’s Johnathan, was going through something but didn’t reveal it. That blog has been silent for almost a month now, very unusual.

My prayers are with these bloggers and I miss their posts. If anyone knows where they have gone to or circumstances that lead to their silence, please let me know.

John and Johnathan, you all are in my prayers, Peace of Christ be with you.