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Posts Tagged ‘Daily Prayer’

At Christmas time,I like to say tongue in cheek that, “I just want to be whipped into a Yuletide frenzy”, but that type of emotional high seems to be the modus operandi of many a Christian congregation and their worship services:  get the faithful into some sort of emotional high. In the central act of inculcating emotional highs, generally speaking happy highs, the very act of doing so precludes, disallows and disavows other emotions:  sorrow, sadness, anger to be expressed or confessed.

In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in the fourth letter, Screwtape writes to his nephew Wormwood that Wormwood’s “patient” can be tempted, and so succumb, if the patient does not pray. One of the methods that Screwtape  explains to Wormwood to have his patient’s prayer neutralized is the following:

Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment. (italics original)

Prayer as in worship is directed outward not inward. I think Lewis was on to something here.  Ministers and churches which practice this prayer just might be doing the devil’s own work. Prayer does not come from our feelings, but on account of God’s Word, even when we don’t feel it. This is why prayer is from the heart,that is,  the heart of God to our hearts, souls and minds through His Word is His grace and guidance to us:  see The Lord’s Prayer, see the longest book in the Bible, the Psalms!  It is that prayer that is prayer to the Lord.  

So many pastors and ministers can get folks feeling brave, charitable, forgiven.  Back in college, when the Jesus movement, later called “born-again”, was starting, a football player had a poster: “I used to get high on drugs, but now I get high on the Jesus”.  I did not think Jesus was like a joint, a drug.  Still don’t.  Too many ministers and their followers hook them with those emotions, like junkies, and when many ask for money, like a junky pay the price.  Am I against emotions?  No.  As a pastor I have seen people kneeling to receive the Sacrament of the Altar, with smiles or with tears.  They heard the Word which causes joy. Feelings will follow but they do not lead and must not: only the Lord leads as He went into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I am glad my classmate was not on drugs and the Lord turned him around, but getting ‘high’ on Jesus would too wear off.

Prayer, as faith, Baptism, Communion depends upon His Word to us.  So many avoid Good Friday services for Easter.  Good Friday and Easter does not depend upon us but on His suffering, bleeding, dying Word for us and our salvation, thirsting for your salvation. He alone turns us to Himself.

This is the Screwtape Letter quoted above, the fourth one, as read by John Cleese:

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Prayer of the Day

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Intro:  The following meditation is for this day, 22 January and is cited from the excellent A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditation for Each Day of the Church Year (Pastor Scott Murray).  The lessons for this day are:  Psalmody: Psalm 69:19-23,32-33;  Old Testament Reading: Joel 2:1-17 New Testament Reading: Romans 11:1-24.  For those unfamiliar, there is a daily lectionary of readings with the Lutheran Service Book.  I do not think it necessary to go farther afield than these resources for daily devotions and prayer by going hither and yon looking for such.  The Treasury of Daily Prayer is another  closely related resource.  We need this because the Lord is explicit in His Word that, “…we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26) but the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness even in our sighs with God’s Word.  The disciples were constrained to ask Jesus to teach them to pray,see Luke 11:1.  The Lord has so taught us to pray and prayer in His Word:  see the Psalms!  If you sense that you do not pray as you ought, then you are in agreement with Scripture and seek out the mentioned sources in order to help your  praying.  If you think you do pray well and that  you are spiritually rich, then thank the Lord and this meditation below by Pr. Murray, who then cites St. Augustine, is for you, as it is for us all!

Meditation

Sometimes we suffer from a spiritually swollen head. If that happens, the crown of righteousness will no longer fit. If we get spiritually puffed up or proud, then we defeat the very gift of grace that comes to those who are in need of it. If our heads swell on account of the crown of righteousness, the crown will slip off our pates and be lost. The nature of the Christian faith is counterintuitive in that just when we think we can reach out and grasp it, that is exactly when we can be sure the faith has slipped from our grasp. When we are feeling most unworthy of the divine gift of forgiveness in Christ, that is when are most likely to have it.

What we think of as our own merits are really Christ’s gifts. Who shows pride of accomplishment in a gift? Only the deluded. Watch out for your head size.

“After redemption from all corruption, what remains but the crown of righteousness? This at least remains, but even in it or under it, do not let your head be swollen, so that it may receive the crown. Hear and mark well the psalm: that crown will not fit a swollen head. After he says, `Who redeems your life from the pit,’ he says, `who crowns you’ (Psalm 103:4). Here you were ready at once to say, -‘Crowns you” is an acknowledgment of my merits. My own excellence has done it. It is the payment of a debt, not a gift.’ Give ear rather to the psalm. It is to you again that it says, ‘All mankind are liars’ (Psalm 116:11). Hear what God says: `Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’ Out of His steadfast love He crowns you. Out of His mercy He crowns you. You had no worthiness that He should call you; being called, that He should justify you; being justified, that He should glorify you. `There is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace’ (Romans 11:5-6). `Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due’ (Romans 4:4). The apostle says, ‘Not counted as a gift but as his due.’ But you He crowns with steadfast love and mercy. And if you think your own merits have preceded this, God says to you, `Examine well your merits, and you will see that they are My gifts”‘ (Augustine, Sermons on Selected Lessons, 81.8).

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.(Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

Two Selections from The Small Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Morning Prayer

 1] In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, +Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

2] Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

3] Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

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