Prayer Changes Us – Each Other

Readings for this week May 7 – 11
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Prayer of Examen

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 139:23-24

The end of the day can sometimes be a time of great relief, a time of letting go and unwinding. But it can also be the time when we suddenly realise an entire day has just gone by and we missed it through busyness and distraction; when we dwell over the regrets and failures of the day, the moments when we messed up or fell short; when we realise we had great cause to celebrate and rejoice but simply never found an appropriate moment to do so.

The prayer of Examen is a practice designed to attune us more to the presence of God throughout our life, in each minute and hour of our day. There are two parts to this type of prayer. First, we take a few moments to look back over our day, examining those moments when we most felt God’s presence with us, reviewing how we responded to him in those moments; as well as reminding ourselves of those times when we felt separated from him and his presence. The second part of the prayer is an examination of our conscience, when we uncover the things we need forgiveness for, the things in our life that require cleansing or healing.

God desires to forgive us; by remembering daily that this is so, we more powerfully release the transforming power of his love into our lives. We become more aware of his presence and more grateful for his love and for the lives he gives us. He is Almighty God, yes, but he is also God With Us. The prayer of Examen allows us time to realise this more deeply.

Questions to Consider
Have you prayed the prayer of Examen before? How has it brought you closer to God and made you more aware of his presence in your life?

Prayer
Lord God, help me take the time each day to stop and remember the day you have given me and to see your presence in it with me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – We Do Not “Examen” Alone

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 8:31-32

As it stands, the prayer of Examen might sound like introspective navel-gazing. Take a few moments to look back over your day and catalogue what happened. Pour over it all once again. It seems as if it could just as easily be done without reference to God. But we do not – and should not – do it alone. God is inviting us to take the time to be aware of where we are, of our surroundings, and so also aware of his presence with us.

When it comes to examining our conscience, if we do so alone, we risk the temptation of justification: we will come up with a thousand excuses for our sins and failures, a thousand sane, logical, perfectly acceptable reasons why we did what we did. But with God with us, in his presence we will listen rather than justify, we will take responsibility rather than evade. He will reveal to us what we need to see and how we need to see it. He will guide, reveal, prompt and heal. He is our reality check.

Likewise, we may err in the other direction. A solo examination may see us at the other end of the spectrum, mercilessly dwelling on our every imperfection, flagellating ourselves again and again for our failures, dominated by our broken, distorted self-image so much that we may see ourselves as unreachable, unlovable and unredeemable. But with God beside us, we are protected from this mistaken view and we are comforted by the presence of the one who loves us and knows us more intimately than we know ourselves – and who loves us all the more.

Question to Consider
How does God help you maintain an accurate picture of yourself and your relationship with him?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me see myself and my relationship with you as you do. Thank you for loving me enough to always be with me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Interceding for Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:6-9

We are not called to pray only for ourselves. We know this, but so often unconsciously slip into the habit of only – or primarily – seeking God for our own needs. But the Psalmist shows us a different way. He prays for peace and prosperity, not just for himself, but also for the people of the city of Jerusalem. Such prayer on behalf of others is intercessory prayer.

Intercessory prayer is not optional. The name often makes some people think of it as a super-spiritual type of prayer for people who are “spiritual giants” – much more experienced in the faith than others. And while it is true (and necessary) that there are people whose experience and faith have gifted them with the ability to be “intercessors” in this way for others, all of us are called to regularly and faithfully intercede for others –to pray for them and place their concerns and needs before God.

But we do not intercede for others alone. In fact we cannot do it alone. Our prayers are backed up by the One who intercedes on our behalf, the “one who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34) – Jesus. We can only continue to intercede for others because Jesus intercedes for us. Jesus is our intermediary, our go-between, the bridge between earth and the throne room. “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5). Intercession is both an individual and corporate activity. Jesus said his house was a house of prayer and that whenever two or three gather in his name, the one who intercedes for us is there.

Questions to Consider
Why is praying for others so important? What is lost if we fail to do this?

Prayer
Almighty Father, give me your heart for your world, so that I may always intercede for others, putting their needs before my own. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Praying Together

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Esther 4:15-17

A scheming official of King Xerxes of Persia had issued, with the King’s uninformed blessing, a decree that all Jews throughout the empire were to be massacred in the near future. Esther, Xerxes’ Jewish queen, had been informed of the plot and was determined to break all the rules and enter the king’s presence unbidden and challenge him over this decree – at great personal danger to herself. This was a time of great fear and anguish for the Jewish people as a whole, and for individuals like Esther and her cousin Mordecai who were in precarious positions of influence, aware of what was planned and possibly able to do something about it, but at considerable possible cost to themselves. Esther called for the Jews to fast and pray for God’s help as she faced the dangerous task of speaking to the king. She called for the community to pray together, for strength and courage for her, and for God to deliver them all from danger.

As a community of followers of Jesus, one of the most important things we can do is support each other in times of difficulty or need. And mutually encouraging prayer is a key component of this support. When times are difficult, and we’re experiencing pain or hardship or uncertainty – anything at all – we need to turn to each other for support, and then – together – turn to God, interceding for and with each other, through the bonds that unite us together as a community. Ask for others to pray for you. And when others need your support, pray for them also.

Questions to Consider
Why was Esther’s call to pray and fast so important? Why does praying together have such power? Who do you pray with?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, thank you for creating a community of prayer, a community to pray for, a community to pray with. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Wider Sense of “Each Other”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:9-14

Although he sent a letter to the Colossians, Paul himself had never been to Colossae, a city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) about 150 km from Ephesus. The church in Colossae had been founded by Epaphras, a convert of Paul’s. Paul knew about the church there and was aware of what was going on. But he was not writing a letter to a community that he knew personally; he had never been there and had never met them.

But reading this passage of his letter, if you ignored the explicit reference at the beginning of verse nine, you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on this fact. This passage is a wonderful example of praying for people you do not know and have only heard about. Sometimes we wonder how we can effectively pray for those we’ve never met or for situations and events we have not experienced or witnessed. Sometimes we find it hard to extend our prayers for “each other” when that “each other” is not known to us. We might feel our prayers are wasted, less effective, or we might find our motivation and discipline lacking in such circumstances. Paul had never met the Colossians but he faithfully prayed for them. He shows how we can pray for others, even providing a sort of “checklist” of things we can pray for. We can pray that God’s wisdom will help them to discern his will, that they will be filled with God’s strength , that all the fruits of the Spirit will be evident their lives. The content of these six verses is a great pattern of prayer for others, when we want to pray deeply, effectively and wholeheartedly in the power of the Spirit for the benefit of others.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians? How is it a model of prayer for us?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, guide and prompt me in the way I should pray for others. Reveal their needs and show me how to pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)