Prayer Changes Us

Readings for this week July 2 – 6

Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – The Temptation of Power

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4:8-9

The third and final temptation that Jesus was confronted with was the temptation to be powerful. Satan appeared and offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world. Part of the irony is that Satan was actually offering Jesus something that wasn’t even his (Satan’s) to offer. Likewise for us, the power we often think we want to grasp hold of and exercise isn’t really ours anyway. But we still try and reach out and grab it for ourselves, and exercise it nevertheless.

The temptation of giving in to the lure of power is a strong one. We all want power of some magnitude; we all want to exercise power of some description, at some level in our lives. We are told that power is a good thing, but only (and also especially) if we are using it in the service of God. We are told that power in such circumstances is good power, just power, Godly power, and that it is okay to seek it, grab it and use it. But this is not what the one we claim to follow did. He did not live a life of power, of cosseted strength and authority. He walked the way of the poor and the powerless. When offered dominion over the kingdoms of the world, Jesus said no.

When we speak in the name of Jesus, when we walk in his ways and follow his path, we are walking in the way of humility, the way of self-effacement and servanthood. This is our calling. It needs to be our prayer.

Question to Consider

How have you been tempted to take hold of power in your life? How can you resist this when it happens?

Prayer

Lord God, help me follow your path of powerlessness and humility. Use my weakness as your strength in the service of others, so that your way of love may triumph in every heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Love Over Power

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4:10-11

Perhaps one of the reasons we strive for power is that power seems to make things easier. As Henri Nouwen says, “It seems easier to be God than to love God.” When we have power, we can make things happen by command, by an application of the will, by forcefully making it just so. It requires no real effort, it costs us nothing. The purpose of possessing power is so that the power can do the work for us.

But there is a hidden trap in this situation. Power becomes a substitute for loving people. Power is an easy fix compared to the hard, strenuous, unpredictable, but above all vulnerable activity of loving people, of offering them part of ourselves in relationship. Power reaches out and grasps hold, does not let go, strives for control, revealing someone to answer to and obey. Love reaches out and offers hope, release from pain, and offers someone to journey with.

The entire life and ministry of Jesus was a refutation of the temptation to choose power over love. When power and control and force were possibilities, rather than reach out for them, Jesus instead chose to offer weakness, humility and love. And the quintessential sign of this, and also the ultimate sign of the triumph of love over power, was the cross. The site of the cross was the place where all possibility of control was given up and where love flowered to its maximum bloom.

Question to Consider

How have you experienced the battle between choosing love or power in your life? What resulted? What did you learn?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me more strength to love, especially when it is hard, especially because it is hard. Give me courage never to take the easy way out, but to love deeper and harder. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Downward Journey

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 21:15-19

We constantly hear that life is an upward journey – everything is a stepping stone to the next level of success, popularity or status. We are told that life is a movement from dependence as children, when we are not in control, and are led and directed by others, to independence, when we are in charge of ourselves and in control of our own destiny. As Jesus gives instructions to Peter for his future, it is clear that following Jesus is quite different. When we follow Jesus we will not be going after status, power or control. Our future may be uncertain and we may be fearful of what lies ahead, but we know we can trust God’s love for us and his desire to transform our lives. In the upside down kingdom our cultural compass can no longer guide us, only Jesus can.

Usually when we talk about growing we mean becoming more mature, more in control of life’s choices and more independent. But following Jesus often means choosing not to climb the ladder of control or success. Instead, he is guiding us in the way of being willing to be led where we do not want to go. He calls us to see our brothers and sisters, not as competition, or as people to be dominated, but as people we are to walk alongside and give our lives to serve. The servant leader is one who is being led to testing, undesirable, uncomfortable places – one who is being transformed into the likeness of the crucified Christ.

Question to Consider

How does this downward journey match up with your idea of success, and the hopes and dreams you have? What areas are you most reluctant to let God have control of as you follow Christ on his downward journey?

Prayer

Loving Father, I need to let go. I need to give you more control – even more than that, total control. I need to follow closer, I need to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – With Outstretched Hands

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 15:33-37

The type of discipleship that we are being called to is a discipleship with outstretched hands. This is the model that Jesus gave us. As he walked the earth he stretched out his hands to all he encountered, offering love, forgiveness and grace, choosing to bring not condemnation, but reconciliation with God and with our fellow human beings. On a hill outside Jerusalem, taken where he did not wish to go but obediently going anyway, with his arms wrenched and outstretched by others, in giving his life he showed us the complete, unsurpassable depths of God’s love for us, the very love that we are called to embody just as Jesus embodied it. Our hands are to imitate his hands, just as our love mirrors his. The hands we reach out to others with, the hands that touch, that heal, that comfort, that carry, that clench, that hold, that console – these hands, our hands, skin and bone, wrinkles and flaws, these are the hands God uses, the hands outstretched to others.

We are to be followers who prayerfully seek God, who travel the path of downward mobility, resisting the temptation to be relevant, popular and powerful, embracing instead the way of the crucified one who served in humility and weakness. We are to be vulnerable, with God and with each other. We are to be open, and we are to love transparently, wholeheartedly and sacrificially. Only in this way can the love of God, expressed through Jesus, be shared with the world.

Question to Consider

How do we stretch out our hands to those around us?

Prayer

Almighty Father, take my love, grow it, strengthen it and make it truly and wholeheartedly sacrificial. Teach me the discipleship of the outstretched hands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes) 


Day 5 – God With Us Always

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 139:23-24

God is interested in speaking to us throughout our entire day. He is present to us and deeply involved in every aspect of our day, every moment that makes up our lives. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. It doesn’t matter where we are, or what we are engaged in doing, or who we are with, or what our plans are. There is no part of our time, and no place we can be, in which he cannot speak to us, in which he is not present, in which he is not involved. So why don’t we notice him more? Why don’t we hear from him more often? Perhaps the question should be: are we listening? Are we paying attention? Are we giving God the proper opportunities to say something? Do we actually believe in his presence with us every moment of every day?

A little over a month ago there was a reading about the prayer of Examen, a prayer that looks for the presence of God in each moment of each day: 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.

Question to Consider

How could the prayer of Examen bring you closer to God and make you more aware of his presence in your life?

Prayer

Lord God, help me look for you each minute of each day, and to take the day you have given me and seek your presence in it with me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)