Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Author: Circle of Hope (page 1 of 345)

November 12, 2019 — On Prayer and Fasting

Today’s Bible reading

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. — Matthew 6:5-8

“When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:16-18

More thoughts for meditation

Despite being a mostly “post-Christian” world, the US is making that transition slower than it’s Western siblings. Jonny Rashid talks about what it’s like to be planting the church in that kind of culture: here.

Our “spiritual capital” looks different than in Jesus’ time and place in 1st-century Palestine, even different than our parents’ time. What we glean from Jesus’ teaching in this section, therefore, may not be as connected to our issues with prayer or fasting as it was to the people he noted — for instance, people will likely think less of you than be impressed by you if you are praying on the street corner.

What about “woke-ness,” though? Do we feel like we want to shout how woke we are from the rooftops? Or do we think we’ll gain increased social capital if we partner with the canceling call-out culture? What do we gain from that kind of recognition? Apparently, not much from God. Our reward from God is not quantified by the amount of likes our post gets.

Suggestions for action

“Calling out” is not inherently wrong, either. Please, prophets, speak up! We need to continue to speak truth to power and call our brothers and sisters to action.

Jesus wants us to discern within a community how we can speak truth to power and mobilize for change. That process usually doesn’t start in the public squares, or Facebook. This is a tough teaching. It is relates to anyone who interacts “publically” (online). What could it look like to put into practice a type of “closet prayer” or “face washing” Jesus speaks of?

Pray: “Jesus, help me discern how the Father sees my “secret” prayer, fasting, posting and acting. What are you teaching for us, today?”

Share this question with a friend and bring to your cell, if you are inspired to.

November 11, 2019 — The Lord’s Prayer

Today’s Bible reading

Read Matthew 6:8-15

“So pray this way:
Our father in heaven, may your name be honored,
may your kingdom come,
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
‘For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.’

More thoughts for meditation

This week, we are mostly staying in Matthew 6. This first entry is a selection of verses that comprise the exact center of this chapter, even counting by the verse numbers.  As we pray through Matthew 6, keep this prayer close and return to it often. 

Much of what Jesus teaches in Matthew 6 is currency — how we find and asses what is worthy in the areas of life where we exchange things of value. He’s teaching about currency in relation to finances, social status, politics and religion.  Like a seasoned seafarer instructing a crew in all types of conditions, Jesus is teaching us about God’s intention in the places we exchange what we value. 

This prayer is like a cornerstone, upon which everything else is leaning. When we think about how we utilize our different currencies and receive them (and even how we go about receiving them) we should remember the heart of Jesus’ teaching is a worldview of total dependence on the Creator as revealed in Jesus. We are totally dependent, like young children in our father’s home. But we are not children who have no experience: our humility comes from the revelation of God forgiving us and welcoming us into communion. Jesus makes the invitation for us to join in God’s life, now and forever. It will be helpful to remember this as we talk about our resources, money especially. 

Suggestions for action 

It is important to remember that Jesus is inviting us into what he calls the New Covenant, which is only new because it is beginning with Jesus. Jesus is not asking us to sign a contract and giving us the terms of an agreement here. God, through Jeremiah, said “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Covenants are not really like contracts because they are so relational. Are there any relationships that feel more contractual when you want them to be covenantal? Ask for help in making that shift.

 Prayer suggestion: Try praying this prayer, which our Lord gave us, three times in a row. Breathe deeply as you pray, too. Let the words sink into your heart as feet might sink slowly in the sand.

Today is Lucretia Mott Day! Honor this great abolitionist and women’s rights advocate from Philly at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

November 10, 2019 — Though you die, you will live.

See thoughts on “The Book of Signs” in the November 4 entry.

Image result for the raising of lazarus fine art

by Paul Oman

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

2 Kings 4:8-37 — Elisha raises the Shunammite woman’s son

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

More thoughts for meditation

The last and greatest of the seven signs in the Book of Signs within the Gospel of John is the raising of Lazarus. It constitutes the high point of Jesus’ work in the world. It also foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection as well as triggers his opposition’s resolve to take official action to kill him.

Jesus plans in advance to use the death of Lazarus as an opportunity to provide a sign of God’s glory and his own resurrection (v.4).  When he tells the disciples that their friend Lazarus has “fallen asleep” the disciples try to convince him that sleeping will be good for his health. The last time they’d been in Judea, they met with some dangerous hostility. So Jesus re-iterates that Lazarus is dead. So the disciples ramp up their faith and get ready to die with him. Jesus lays down his life for his friends. His disciples are learning.

When he gets to Bethany both Martha and Mary can’t help but say, perhaps with some reproach, “If you had been here this would not have happened.” We also have a lot of variations on the complaint, “How could you let this happen, God?” People lose their faith over that question. Jesus tenderly meets each of these sisters, who are so different, as they handle their many hard feelings. He meets Martha with words of life and meets Mary with wordless acceptance. Likewise, He meets each of us, where we are with our needs and with what little faith we have.

At the tomb, people could not help saying, “If you open that tomb, it is really going to stink!“ The stone was supposed to stay put for a year until all the flesh decomposed and the family could return to put the bones in a box. The common thought was after three days a person’s soul was no longer hovering about. So when Jesus called Lazarus out it was truly a sign of God’s glory to everyone who saw it – the completely impossible happened before their eyes.

Suggestions for action

Pray: I believe you are the resurrection and the life. Your glory is beyond me. Help me trust you.

As soon as Lazarus comes out, Jesus gets practical. He calls on the onlookers to unwrap the poor man and let him go! Jesus raises the dead, we unwrap them. Consider how often you come up against something that is “dead” and feel afraid, discouraged or resentful. Maybe you need unwrapped. Or maybe you just need to get ready to unwrap. In any event, you may need a Jesus lens to deal with death.

Again, this scene is full of people to whom Jesus is relating. Maybe you could put yourself in a few of their shoes. There are probably parts of yourself that relate to most of them.  What is Jesus trying to tell you as you pray this way?

November 9, 2019 — The light of the world

See thoughts on “The Book of Signs” in the November 4 entry.

Image result for jesus and the man born blind

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

See 2 Kings 6:18-20 Elisha blinds people then gives them sight

Today’s reading bears out this thought:

Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim. —  Gregory the Great’s commentary on Job

People often attribute a similar saying about the Gospel of John to Augustine, but you’d never find it in his writings if you went looking: John’s Gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim and shallow enough for a child not to drown. — NOT Augustine (354-430) (Thanks internet!). It is still true, even if someone famous did not say it.

You’ll see, if you read John 9:1-41

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” …

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

More thoughts for meditation

The lame man at the pool waited 38 years to be healed. Yet, when he was made well, he went to the officials and essentially betrayed Jesus. By contrast in today’s reading, the man born blind, after persecution by the same officials, comes to believe in Jesus and “worships him,” in the process flummoxing the officials with his rebellion.

The sixth sign, this physical cure, calls attention to spiritual blindness — from birth. Jesus calls us to wash in the pool of the “Sent One.”

The sense of the story is that Jesus was not shaken or disturbed by the almost deadly confrontation with the religious leaders that just happened — He was often reviled, but never ruffled.  He came upon a blind man begging, possibly saying he had been born blind. Thus the disciples ask their theological question, “Who sinned?” The man is an unsolved riddle to them, since it was commonly held a great malady must have been caused by a great sin.

Jesus demonstrates an answer that fits all situations: “The whole world is in darkness so I may bring it light.” Everyone can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. He overrules the disasters of sin and death. People are not theology problems or moral dilemmas, they are possibilities of grace.

Jesus uses an unpredictable and unrepeatable method of healing to which the man must respond in faith by washing in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam is the “sent” pool, since the water came through Hezekiah’s remarkable tunnel, and so was sent into the city.  The man was sent to the sent pool by the Sent One. He came back with sight, the first person born blind known to have been healed by God (a sure sign of the Messiah — Isaiah 35:5).

Some Pharisees think only a sinner would heal on the Sabbath. Others think no sinner could perform such a miracle. They interrogate the man — and his parents! The beggar confronts the elite with one of the funniest and profound lines in the Bible: “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They throw him out of the temple.

Jesus finds the formerly blind man and essentially says, “”The religious leaders say ‘You can’t worship with us in the temple.’ But I will receive your worship.”

Suggestions for action

Wade like a lamb or swim like an elephant.

Pray: I would like to see. Show me glory, Light of the World.

Some people might read this and still go back to a question like the disciples had, only ask it as they look at themselves, “Am I blind? Have I done something wrong so I can’t see better? Did I not go wash when I was sent so I’m scarred with spiritual blindness?” The disciples look a bit ignorant until we see how often we see ourselves as intellectual problems rather than objects of the Lord’s mercy and power. Call out to Jesus, who is nearby listening for you.

It might help to feel yourself in the story somewhere. Maybe you are watching the whole thing. Maybe you relate to the man’s parents, facing the authorities. Maybe you can see the situation like Jesus. There is probably a similar situation in your own experience on which you could meditate with a similar, instructive lens. Read the whole story again prayerfully and see if a character or instance resonates.


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