Proverbs Prayers (Proverbs 3:1-4)

14 12 2010

Proverbs 3:1-4

Prayer: Lord, we’re listening. Teach us until we get it, because we need it to live life like we want to and You desire us to. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.





The Glorious Gospels (The Advent Addition)

13 12 2010

Luke 1:26-45

I’m a member of a small predominantly white Presbyterian church in North Durham where people of African-descent make up approximately one-third of the congregation. I’ll be forthcoming with you, I am in this church, a church unlike any church I have ever been in, because I am interested in seeing something major happen: I want to see racial reconciliation wrestled with and I want it to overpower us leaving us limping but re-named, disabled to do what we used to do, but able to move gingerly and with more care. With younger graduate and college students becoming more and more regular the percentage of African-Americans may very well decrease sharply which can be disheartening, but this potential is not as disheartening as another statistic within my church.

As an American African young woman, I’ve already been limping throughout this difficult ecclesial shifting process. I’ve lost a number of things, all for the sake of walking with the Lord more faithfully. And it hurts severely every single step of the way; and some sort of ecclesial hip-replacement is not an option. I journey on though, because I do not believe I am called to join a young, vibrant African-American church where worship music and preaching style are what I am most accustomed to, or go to a Nigerian church where I could appreciate a few cultural nuances, but I feel called to a church opposite myself. And I believe with my whole heart that right now I am supposed to be a part of it. But many times I literally feel that I can’t be this church, not because if my race, my ethnicity or my gender, but because of my age.

Cultural differences aside as they are an entirely separate conversation, age-difference is unfortunately and currently too big to overcome. The age of Ageism is alive and well in my church and in the church in general today. I see it all over the place– young all black and all white non-denominational churches are springing up as old white and black mainline churches are dying or barely surviving. Young adults go elsewhere to worship; they create the space for worship that consults their age and time because there is no room for their being amongst the heavy older traditions in many mainline churches. Even young mainline churches are a falsity—they seem to be more like a non-denominational body dressed up in mainline clothing, exercising the appearance of tradition but operating differently.

There is an apparent divide that both young and old church see, but neither know how to nor want to suture back together, because frankly, both groups, young and old, don’t need each other. They have their space for and way of worship and the other group has theirs. Everyone is happy, fine, thriving in their own way; there is no need to continue naming a “problem” that many see as the other’s fault anyway. If the other would just do it their way then all would be well. There is no need for correction or inclusion; division rules the day!

And I do not understand why. I see a problem, a huge problem– the body of Christ, the church, has missed something vastly commented on throughout scripture; we have completely missed how scripture guides and addresses age-discrepancy. We have mastered ignoring the potential for solution. It is problematic not only that both groups do not care for the other enough to sit down and realize church together, but also that they must create pseudo-churches to live church guilt-free “having it their way” projecting their desires onto how the church is supposed to function.

Something is amiss, and a joyous moment of connect between two Jewish women carrying children shows us this in a gentle way.  

Elizabeth and Mary, relatives old and young are both pregnant, Elizabeth two-thirds of the way further along than Mary is too old to have a child. Mary, a young teenager engaged to be married is too unmarried to have a child. Both women are excited because they have the honor of visits from Gabriel to relay a message that the children they carry will do great things: one will point to the other who is making a way for the world to be saved.

But they are both different ages and both bearers for future and important ministries. And they don’t ignore the other to brag that their child will be better than the other’s. No, they both rejoice that the other has a minister within them and they gloat not only over their own pregnancies but the life inside the other woman. They are giggly and excited because the other is also bringing something into this world that the world needs to be saved.

Mary doesn’t gloat that as the young mother-to-be she bears the “best baby” and that the older Elizabeth’s contribution isn’t important; Elizabeth doesn’t gloat that since she will be a mother first that her experience cancels out the voice of the younger Mary. Both babies are prophetic witnesses to the loving and saving power of God. One isn’t God but baptizes God. Both live sacrificial lives that ultimately lead to their grotesque demises. But both mothers, old and young rejoice with each other.

Luke 1:39-45 says it all.

The ministry of the eldest leaps with joy when the younger comes bearing a ministry too. What is most awesome is that the older gets the Holy Spirit in the presence of the younger mother. Her baby gives the greeting, paves the way for the ministry of the younger and she catches the Holy Spirit. She is overcome by a Spirit of joy and wisdom and power. The eldest does not receive the Spirit because of the younger per se, but because she is happy to be with the younger, to see the younger, to welcome the younger into her home and into her spirit, she feels within in her joy for the younger’s ministry. Their ministries connect in that moment bound by the wondrous power of the Holy Spirit; and it overtook Elizabeth (Mary has her own moment later, see Luke 1:46-55). The Holy Spirit repeats Gabrielle’s words through Elizabeth. The older blesses the younger, she doesn’t discourage. The younger is blessed because she accepted God’s will for the ministry that would be birthed through her.  The older encouraged the younger. The older was humbled by the presence of the younger because she had something special in her.
 
And Mary sings directly after this overwhelmed by her joy and the joy of her older relative Elizabeth. This moment doesn’t become a moment of comparing ministerial efficacy but a moment to praise God. John praises. Elizabeth praises. Mary praises. The Son of God, God in the flesh, is coming.

 

The ministry of the old doesn’t scold or judge the young, the ministry of the young doesn’t ignore or gloat in the face of the older claiming to carry something better. But both praise God. Both honor one another. Mary first greets Elizabeth, then Elizabeth overwhelmed with joy and God’s Spirit, blesses Mary. Ironically in giving this blessing, Elizabeth wears the prophetic cloak that her son will soon enough wear. Her role is just as important as her son’s role.
 
The women, the ministries complement one another. They don’t compete. They don’t call each other irrelevant or to blame the other for the state of the church, but they come together, love the other’s presence, and worship God together, still in their own voices, but together. At the end of the day, all the glory went to God, not the bodies who carried the ministries, but to the Creator of the bodies, the Creator of the church, to Jesus the Savior of the world. The Holy Spirit dwelled within them and they allowed Her to move them towards words of praise and song. Old and young disintegrated into praise and worship. And reconciliation reached its peak.
 
Prayer: Holy Spirit bring blessings to our lips for the other and a song to our heart for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.




Proverbs Prayers (Proverbs 2:20-22)

12 12 2010

Proverbs 2:20-22

Prayer: Lord, if I can be honest, no human on earth deserves for people to follow them, imitate them or act like them on our own accord. Lord, we only know goodness because of You, justice and innocence because of Your Son, uprightness because of the presence of Your Holy Spirit. Lord, I pray that these qualities take root in us as we apply our hands and give our service to the land. Lord, maybe the land is riches and wealth, comfort and financial stability, but maybe it is a community of believers that love each other well because we learned love from Jesus and through Your Holy Spirit. Lord, help us reject wicked and treacherous behavior and qualities and work towards being pleasing to You and fulfilling within our own lives. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.





Proverbs Prayers (Proverbs 2:16-19)

11 12 2010

Proverbs 2:16-19

Prayer: Lord move us, move humankind, away from blaming things on gender or race or sexuality or denomination or things that have nothing to do with You but everything to do with our devil worship though our hard-heartedness. Lord, yes, I’m being honest: a lot of what we think is You is not You. Help us take responsibility where we need to. Take the blinders that we’ve put on over our own eyes towards people: remove hate towards the church, other races, ethnicities, people who hold different faiths. Lord, I know I’m tip-toeing along the edge but our faith in You shouldn’t encompass the hate You came to the earth to warn us against. Lord, our faith shouldn’t look like the devil’s work. Lord, we need prophets to speak to us. We need Your truth to make our ears bleed, our hearts ache, our bodies tremble because of the sin we have called Your Son. God, shifting shortcoming isn’t of You, letting love die towards one another because our misunderstanding of what You were and are saying isn’t of You, giving up on what is hard isn’t of You, giving up on people because relationship with them is hard isn’t of You. God, You never give up on us. We have no right to do so on our brothers and sisters. We have no right not to accept forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed against others because we think we were right all along. God, kill our pride.

Lord, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m wrong a lot. We all are. It is only be the power and grace of Your Holy Spirit that we truly begin to know something in our hearts. God, I know that hate in Your name isn’t always right. I know what Proverbs 6 says; I know the seven abominations. Could our judgmental eyes, proof-texting and gossiping tongues, demon-transferring hands meant to release Your love in their laying onto others, “spiritually wicked” and hard hearts, “Gospel-of-peaceless-run-to-the-altar-for-so-and-so’s-deliverance-first-and-ours-last-or-never” feet, “un-finished-but-self-diagnosed-testimony-of-our-own-righteousness”, and church-splitting spiritual beliefs be the six things you hate the seven things that are an abomination?

With the inefficacy of the church today, I think so. God, I say this not to be mean or put down the church, but to ask You to help us wake up, for real. We’re not doing much. We’re not affecting many people in the way that Jesus did. We’re not Jesus, but we believe in Jesus and that should mean something about the way we live and attempt to minister. Lord, we’ve added so many midrashes to the Bible, that we have no pure perspective from which to approach it anymore, and this is sad. This hurts my heart so much, because I know I have been formed in and affected by this, but I haven’t changed much about myself.

Lord, help us to critically approach and question doctrine that doesn’t settle with us. God, if we doubt it’s from You, help us explore it. It’s the least we can do. Too many people are being preached a demonic word that has nothing to do with You. God, Luke 4 demonstrates that the devil can preach; he can throw scripture and his interpretation on it together and even pitch it to You. The devil is not afraid of Your word. We must not be either, so help us ask questions and get real answers from each other and from You. Books and conferences, sermons and services give us what others think, time with You gives us what we think. Help us combine that and put You first.

Lord, I know this reflection is strange, but it’s what was on my heart. We, the church, need to desperately realize where the devil has creeped into our life and language claiming to be You. God, shatter, destroy, kill off that in us which prevents us from hearing and knowing Your voice. If that means that our church doctrine, our small group platform, our para-church practice and/or ministry, our friendships, our relationships with our pastors and minister friends must die, then kill it. It’s too impossible to live for You when we have no intention to when living and preaching instruction You never gave us. Lord, I feel that a lot of us are caught in traps; Lord, these traps feel like homes. God, if You need to, foreclose our homes and move us into the wilderness until we get where we need to go. Remove us from slavery that we mistake for provision and longevity. Lord, we don’t want to get it wrong anymore. Show us the way. God, how else can You live in us unless we move out, allow You to correct our faulty foundation and the move back into a stable spiritual understanding? We can’t without You. Overwhelm us with Your presence and wisdom to follow Your wisdom. It’s in Jesus’ perfect and holy name I pray, Amen.





Proverbs Prayers (Proverbs 2:14-15)

10 12 2010

Proverbs 2:14-15

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I never pray to You as I never know if it is politically correct, but I do not want correctness, just something real, just real prayer. Rest on and in us Holy Spirit. Move us, guide us, help us move past our sins into a shelter of grace and gratefulness. Out of our understanding of how big God is, how loving Jesus is, and how patient You are, guide us into perfect understanding of You. Help us understand each other and then give nothing but love, patience, honesty, confession, peace, and joyous hearts over to one another to hold, have, care for, emulate, share. Holy Spirit, teach us You. It’s in Jesus’ precious name I pray, Amen.





Proverbs Prayers (Proverbs 2:12-13)

10 12 2010

Proverbs 2:12-13

Prayer: Lord, lead us in Your path of righteousness. Lord I pray that You should each of us one way today to get onto that path of righteousness whether it’s in how we treat, talk to, love on others or how we treat, talk to and love on ourselves. Show us Your path and help us avoid justifying turning the other way and take a step of faith into a path that will make us not only whole but happy. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.





Proverbs Prayers (Proverbs 2:9-11)

4 12 2010

Proverbs 2:9-11

Prayer: Lord, our salvation is in You. I pray the words of Psalm 27 to You in humble reverence and eternal gratitude:

 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
         Whom shall I fear?
         The LORD is the strength of my life;
         Of whom shall I be afraid?
 2 When the wicked came against me
         To eat up my flesh,
         My enemies and foes,
         They stumbled and fell.
 3 Though an army may encamp against me,
         My heart shall not fear;
         Though war may rise against me,
         In this I will be confident.
         
 4 One thing I have desired of the LORD,
         That will I seek:
         That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
         All the days of my life,
         To behold the beauty of the LORD,
         And to inquire in His temple.
 5 For in the time of trouble
         He shall hide me in His pavilion;
         In the secret place of His tabernacle
         He shall hide me;
         He shall set me high upon a rock.
         
 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
         Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
         I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
         
 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
         Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
 8 When You said, “Seek My face,”
         My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
 9 Do not hide Your face from me;
         Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
         You have been my help;
         Do not leave me nor forsake me,
         O God of my salvation.
 10 When my father and my mother forsake me,
         Then the LORD will take care of me.
         
 11 Teach me Your way, O LORD,
         And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
 12 Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
         For false witnesses have risen against me,
         And such as breathe out violence.
 13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
         That I would see the goodness of the LORD
         In the land of the living.
         
 14 Wait on the LORD;
         Be of good courage,
         And He shall strengthen your heart;
         Wait, I say, on the LORD!








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