Did You Know Charles Wesley Wrote Prayers to Sing? A Prayerful Look at Intercession Hymn #1 “For All Mankind”

In 1758, Charles Wesley published his collection of 40 Intercession Hymns.

These hymns are examples of intercessory prayers set to music. Music is a good way to remember words, and singing helps people have words of prayer and scripture on their hearts and tongues throughout the day.

Although Wesley’s collection of Intercession Hymns represents an era different from our own, many parts of these intercessory prayers are timeless, especially given their biblical foundations. All of Wesley’s hymns are steeped in scripture, and his Intercession Hymns are no exception. Even portions of hymns that are specific to Wesley’s day can be adapted for current situations.

Continue reading “Did You Know Charles Wesley Wrote Prayers to Sing? A Prayerful Look at Intercession Hymn #1 “For All Mankind””

The Writer’s Prayer Life

Prayer is a key part of the writing process. We should seek God regularly for what He would have us write. We need to begin and end our writing time and writing projects with prayer. We should remain prayerful as we write. Ideally every word we write should be bathed in prayer. But that’s just part of the prayer life of the writer.

Here are five ways that will enrich our writer’s prayer life:

1. Daily conversation with God – As we spend time each day growing in relationship with God, we will experience a daily process of transformation. That process is about our life, not our writing, but it will shape our writing and give us a new excitement for the things God calls us to write.

2. Seeking God for inner healing – Again, this is part of our transformation, and we should do this whether or not we are writers. But the benefits will be clear to us and our readers. Imagine how different our writing will sound when we have found peace or forgiveness in an area where we have struggled with bitterness. Imagine the testimony through which the Holy Spirit can impart peace to those who read our words of God’s healing.

3. Lectio divina – This meditation on scripture that has been practiced for centuries in the monasteries can benefit the prayer life of the writer. We just need to be sure we are engaging the process as God’s kids, not as writers. While we can (and should) engage in lectio divina as part of our preparation to write about scripture, we also need to take time for ourselves to immerse in scripture with no writing agenda. A time to just be with God in His Word. As the Word of God comes alive in us, He will shape our writing.

4. Centering prayer – This spiritual discipline, also practiced in monasteries, is devoted to simply sitting quietly in God’s presence. Just being with Him. During this time with God, we are not aware of anything God is doing. We are simply present with Him, focused on Him, and filled with His presence. Not talking, not listening, just being. This time spent with God will shape our whole day. And the next time we sit down to write, we will see that God has been (and is) with us.

5. Soaking in God’s presence – God is always with us. But the world is also very distracting. It is life-sustaining to take time and intentionally soak in God’s presence. Just breathe Him in and revel in who He is. This may look different for each of us on any given day. It might be taking a walk and enjoying nature, listening to music, playing with animals, reading an uplifting book, or enjoying a meal with friends. If we ask the Lord, He will prompt us for what He knows we need that day. Our writing will reflect what we have soaked in.

Those are just five (of many!) ways to engage a life of prayer as a writer. We need to remember that we are not simply practicing these ways for the sake of our writing. The life of prayer is vital to our spiritual growth and well-being as God’s kids. But a healthy prayer life will also affect our writing and will impart God’s peace to our readers.

Are You Abiding?

I heard someone share recently that she was reading John 15 about abiding in Christ (John 15:1-8). She had become worried when she read the part of branches not producing and being cut off (verses 2 and 6). She is being called into a season of rest and recalibration right now (as many of us are). She was worried about not producing in rest, and thus being cut off.

While I understood her concern – a common concern that many of us are probably asking – I reminded her to go back to the part about abiding. If we are truly abiding in Christ, we are where we need to be in any season.

John 15 reminds us that we ourselves are not producing (verse 4). Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who is producing in us.

Sometimes we may see this visibly. It may be a season where we are discipling or serving, and we can see the fruit. In other seasons, the fruit may be less visible – but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. We have to discern by the Spirit and not with our human eyes.

If we are genuinely abiding in Christ, we can trust that God is producing His fruit in us, no matter what season we are in.

Jesus often taught using examples that His first disciples were used to seeing in daily life. In John 15, He gives an example from nature – vines and branches. It might help us also to watch God at work in nature.

Fields lie fallow for a season. During that time, it looks like nothing is growing. What we don’t see is God at work, replenishing the soil. Trees are barren in winter. The landscape looks bleak. What we don’t see is God feeding nutrients and energy into the roots deep underground, which leads to those blossoms and baby green leaves we love in spring.

Or think about how God works in us physically. Have you ever had a deep cut, or a bad cold, and you wonder how you will ever feel better? Time goes by, and you become well – as if you’d never been hurt or sick in the first place. What you don’t see during that time is God working inside the cells of your body, setting the healing process in motion.

In the same way, it is God who produces His spiritual fruit in us. We don’t “make” the fruit happen. He does.

Sometimes we can see the process. More often, we don’t see it. We have to discern it. Sometimes we can’t even discern it. We just have to know that we are abiding and trust that He is working in us, especially in seasons of rest.

It helps to remember the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If we are truly abiding in Christ, we can count on the Holy Spirit to be producing these fruits in us. And people will “feel” them coming from us, even if they can’t point to a specific “action.”

Have you ever known someone who brings peace into a room, simply by walking through the door? That is a fruit of the Spirit being produced in that person – even if that individual is in a season of rest.

Have you ever known someone who brings joy to your heart, even on difficult days, even without smiling or laughing? That’s because the fruit of joy is being produced in that person – and it speaks deeply to your spirit, even if that person is weeping with you in a time of grieving. Even as your heart grieves, your spirit is reminded that a time of joy will come again for you, like the promise of Isaiah 55:10-13.

The body of Christ needs to learn how to abide. As a church, we don’t teach or practice it as well as we need to. We often miss our season of rest and replenishing. This is one area where that warning verse (verse 6) really comes in. So often, we get this backwards.

We also need to get away from a “works” mentality and learn to discern the genuine fruits of the Spirit. If we are truly abiding in Christ, God will grow the right fruit in the right season.

This is what James 2:14-26 means by evidence of faith. This passage is often misinterpreted through a modern cultural lens of “work mentality.”

Remember that the fruits of the Spirit are produced by God, not by our own efforts. If we are truly abiding, His works will come through us in the right season. And the fruits of the Spirit in us are tangible evidence of our faith.

However, if we aren’t abiding in Christ, our works will bear the stamp of our own wounded, striving, and burned out flesh. Nobody needs to drink from that bitter fountain (James 3:11; John 7:37-39).

Today I encourage all of us to spend time meditating on John 15, asking God to help us discern the genuine fruits of the Spirit in every season, and most importantly, to help us learn to abide in Christ in every moment of life.

John 15: Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8 NKJV)

Thanksgiving Prayers

Thanksgiving Day is a beautiful time to reflect on God’s goodness in our lives. We are reminded to really focus our hearts on who God is and how much He loves us. It’s an opportunity to ask God to align our hearts with His, so we can see through His eyes, and love with His love.

As we give our thanks to God, we become aware of the many ways – large and small – He is involved in our daily lives. Thanksgiving is a time to recommit, through our prayers, to live in gratitude each day. Our Thanksgiving prayers can open our hearts to be more thankful, and to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives daily – even (and especially) on difficult days.

As I began to prepare for my Thanksgiving prayer time, I wondered what kinds of prayers people are praying. I found this beautiful website that shares prayers for Thanksgiving, along with prayers for many other moments of our lives. It’s a resource I have bookmarked and will revisit often. I hope you will enjoy their collection of Thanksgiving prayers as much as I did:

12 Thanksgiving Prayers for Family, Children & Dinner Times

May God bless you and  your family on this Thanksgiving Day.

Words and Spiritual Energy

I love object lessons that help me reflect about my prayer life. I’ve been reading a book about energy technology, electric power delivery, and smart homes (Seyi Fabode, Advancing Technologies & The Utility Industry, Amazon Digital Services, LLC, 2017). Three items really stood out in connection with prayer and the spiritual power of our words, good and bad.

The author talks about an augmented reality device that allows a person to “see” the effects of energy use (Loc 914-920). For example, if I’m watching a movie at home, this device would allow me to visually see the energy resources that make this activity possible. The idea is that this visual understanding might help me become more aware of the need for conservation.

This made me wonder what it would be like if we had an augmented reality device that allowed us to “see” the effects of our words, thoughts, and prayers. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that our words can bless or harm. What if we could see that with our eyes? In fact, we can ask God to give us His eyes to see this. And by staying in His presence throughout the day, we can cultivate an awareness of how our words and even our thoughts affect those around us.

The author also describes sensors in the home that can capture and store energy from movement, such as the closing of a door (Loc 807). Later, this stored-up energy becomes available for use in the home. This made me wonder how much energy the slamming of a door in anger or frustration would create. Even more importantly, how much spiritual energy is absorbed into the atmosphere when we slam a door out of anger? How much of that do we create and absorb – and leave where others can absorb, like our kids and any other child that visits our home?

We all get upset at times. I hairline-fractured my wrist knocking my hand against a wall in frustration. We’re human and God understands. But after we settle down and find our balance again, it might be a good idea to repent and ask God to cleanse the atmosphere. We have a bigger impact on our atmosphere than we think – which is good news when we carry God’s peace.

In this book, the author also discusses the increasing use of robots for customer support centers. He comments on how a bigger customer support role for robots would spare human customer service reps from being yelled at all day long (Loc 953).

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when we get upset with a customer service rep (it happens), that this anger is not being heaped on a real person who will take all that angst home at the end of the day? Better yet, even when we are talking to a robot, we can become more mindful of our rising anger, take a step back, and reorient ourselves to God’s presence – maybe not so much for the robot’s sake, but at least for our sake and for those around us.

Meanwhile, let’s keep customer service reps in our prayers. They have a hard job. Not all of them know to put the cross between themselves and others at the beginning of the day, or to pray cleansing at the day’s end. Pray for God to protect and heal them of harsh words spoken and to help them stay in peace.

It’s also good for us to pray that God will guard our hearts and tongues the next time any of us makes a customer service call. By the way, I usually try and ask God ahead of time to get me to the right person (which, believe it or not, often involves disconnections and dropped calls). Not only does that put the conversation in His hands but it also allows a cooling off time as this prayer is spoken.

How about you? What are the practices or habits that help you stay in God’s peace throughout the day? How do you remember to take your thoughts captive to Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Grow Your Family’s Prayer Life with Prayer Stations

Prayer is a journey. It’s an amazing daily adventure with God. You never know where He will take you, but you know it will be good. He is good. Time spent with Him daily in prayer will make your whole life an amazing adventure.

Prayer is largely invisible. Sometimes it helps to find symbolic ways to make visible what is happening in the spiritual realm. Prayer stations are a great way to do this.

You might have seen or participated in a prayer station. It’s a space that is set up to visually represent and prompt a time of prayer. The station might depict a scene from the Bible. It might suggest a prayer for a particular situation, with pictures or items to represent that prayer. It’s just something that makes prayer tangible.

A more elaborate form of prayer stations are the well-known Stations of the Cross that are often set up during Holy Week. We did this at our church one time with live actors, and it was a very moving experience. At one of our stations, we invited people to write out their prayer requests. The bowl was overflowing with their heartfelt requests, just like the incense of Revelation 5:8.

At a local monastery, they have a beautiful outdoor path that moves you through the various Stations of the Cross. It invites you to walk where Jesus walked as He carried His cross to the outskirts of Jerusalem. If you go to Israel, you can find these moments marked with signs.

One year during the Lenten season, our church set up small prayer stations in the sanctuary. We left these up in the window sills for the entire season. They weren’t Stations of the Cross, but simply prayer stations, each one focusing us on a biblical theme of prayer. It was a great reminder to pray, and it was a way to interact with God in prayer each time we entered the sanctuary. Our sanctuary was open during the week, so people could stop by anytime and pray through the stations, or just find one station to focus on.

Those are some of the ways churches can offer prayer stations for their church families. But how about your own family? Have you considered creating prayer stations at home?

There are many ways you can do this. If you enjoy decorating seasonally along with your children, it might be fun to set up seasonal prayer stations – for Advent, Lent, the four seasons, or even school exam time. Let your children have the biggest part in putting the stations together, which might include drawing pictures or collecting natural items from outdoors. Then spend time each week as a family at those prayer stations. Don’t be surprised if the children or grownups enjoy additional time stopping to pray on their own.

Another way is to set up smaller prayer stations that stay there year round. This could be as simple as putting a post-it note in a corner of the hallway that says, “What are you thankful for?” or “What do you love best about talking with God?” These could serve as daily reminders and prompts for prayer.

One of your family prayer stations might include a cork board with pieces of paper, pens, and pushpins, where family members can write and pin up prayer requests. Encourage your kids to write prayer requests for themselves and for friends they are concerned about. During your regular family prayer times, you can talk about and pray for these requests. The prayer station offers a way to keep those requests in front of the family all week.

Prayer stations are a great way for your family to grow in prayer. They will help you keep prayer as a major focus of your family’s day.

Have you tried prayer stations at home? How about in your church? What are some of the ways you have done this? What do you like best about prayer stations? What results have you seen in your family?

I would love to hear about your experiences. Please consider sharing in the Comments below so that others can benefit too. God bless  you! Have a prayerfully adventurous day with God.

Talking to the King

Have you seen the movie, Anna and the King? There is a great scene that reminds me of the authority we have in intercessory prayer. Because of Jesus, we have access to the throne room of God:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)

What follows contains a spoiler from one scene of Anna and the King. If you haven’t watched it, you might want to see the movie first and then read this. In fact, now that you have this hint, if you watch the movie you might see exactly which scene I’m referring to without reading this article. If you’re curious, read on.

In the movie, the king has many children. But he has one little daughter who could melt his heart like butter. She has his utmost attention because his heart is for her. Sounds not unlike the way our heavenly Father’s heart beats for each one of us!

There is a scene in which some school kids start fighting, and this includes the king’s eldest son and heir to the throne. This little girl takes it upon herself to run to the palace to get her father’s help.

Her father is the king of Siam. The court has a strict protocol regarding visitors. A group of guards with sharp blades line the walkway leading to the throne. If someone approaches in the wrong way, that person’s head could be chopped off in an instant. As the little girl runs into the palace, we can see people approaching the king, bent low before him, awaiting his response.

None of this stops the little girl, his precious daughter. She runs deftly down the walkway, weaving between the guards and the people who seek an audience with the king. She runs straight up the steps, right to the throne, climbs into his lap, and whispers in his ear. Immediately, he responds to her plea. He leaves the palace with her to go where his help is needed.

If you aren’t covered with Holy Spirit chill bumps at this point, stop for a moment and consider: This is exactly the access we have to the throne room of God. We too can run straight to the throne and climb up to whisper in the King’s ear. We are not hindered by court protocol because Jesus has torn that veil for us (Matthew 27:51). God’s heart beats for us and He is ready to respond to our prayers.

The next time you go before the throne of God in prayer, remember that because of Jesus, you have the same access to the King as that little child. Talk to the King. Give Him your heart. He loves you so much!

God, Please Help Me Find It

I have a friend whose family lives a rich prayer life every day. They pray over their children and grandchildren each morning … pray for safety when one of their kids is out driving in the rain … sit quietly with God and let Him plan their day … ask God to remind them of important tasks … and ask Him for what they need. This includes asking for help in finding lost items, like car keys and wallets.

Recently, my friend told me her son-in-law had lost his keys. He was in a panic and she calmly said, “We’re going to stop and ask God to show us where the keys are.”

He seemed to wonder whether God would really help retrieving lost items. He had already looked everywhere and the keys were nowhere to be found.

She shared with him a story I had experienced several years before. I was setting up a PowerPoint presentation for a guest speaker who came to teach a healing seminar at our church. She had handed me her thumb drive and I took great care to place it in the computer and test it in advance.

I was called to the front of the building to help with an issue. When I returned only a few minutes before the class was to start, the thumb drive was gone.

I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing. Quietly, without wanting to alarm the guest teacher, I alerted a few of my associates and asked that they help me search for the missing thumb drive. I ran upstairs, downstairs, retracing my steps from the entire day. I looked in every crevice, drawer, under chair cushions, in the restroom. The tiny electronic device was nowhere.

We double-checked the area around the computer. Several of my friends agreed with me: It is not anywhere in this room, let alone in the computer where I left it.

The teacher arrived to form a prayer circle. I was just about to break the horrifying news to her when I glanced back at the computer.

The thumb drive was right where I had left it.

It had not been there only a few minutes before, as my friends had confirmed.

I signaled to them and we all sighed quiet prayers of thanksgiving. I don’t know where the thumb drive had gone but I have no doubt an angel brought it back. That healing seminar was life-changing for many people, including me, in ways I had not expected. I know the enemy wanted to shut it down. But we asked and God answered. He retrieved our missing thumb drive.

After my friend had shared this story with her son-in-law, he went back to the place where he had last seen his keys. They were there! God had retrieved them.

There is so much God will do for us if we will just ask Him and trust Him. He wants to be intimately involved in every detail of our lives. Why? Because He loves us. He is interested in us. He wants to spend every hour of every day with us.

“’Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.'” – Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)

 

Will You Take the Journey?

You don’t have to read very far into the book of Acts to learn how treacherous were the journeys taken by the early Christians, especially the Apostle Paul. Travel in the ancient Mediterranean was challenging in ways we can’t even grasp today. When they weren’t traveling by boat, they were on foot, with the danger of robbers at every pass.

Would we be willing today to take such physical journeys for the sake of the gospel?

As I pondered this question, it led to another. What about emotional journeys?

I’m talking about journeys of the heart: forgiveness, repentance, honoring others, loving our enemies, confronting someone with truth.

These journeys of the heart are perhaps more treacherous than the physical landscape traversed in the book of Acts.

Discomfort? Inconvenience? Pain?

Possibly all of these await us around every bend in the road of our hearts.

Yet as followers of Christ, we are asked to take those journeys, regardless of how uncomfortable we might feel along the way.

I would encourage you today to spend some time reading in Acts. Follow Paul on his travels, as he carries the gospel to the Gentiles through hostile territory. Read about the persecution of the early church in Jerusalem. Perhaps listen in, as Paul’s friends warn him not to go to Jerusalem, where he will be arrested.

Then ask yourself, prayerfully: Are you willing to journey, in the same way as Paul, through the deepest roads of your heart? No matter where God takes you?

Dear God, please help us today to trust in You. When You call us to search the deepest parts of our hearts, to live out Your love in ways that might be uncomfortable for us, remind us You travel right by our side. When we pass through the deepest waters, You will be there. We can trust You. In Jesus’ name. Amen

The Chill of Autumn and the Warmth of God

It’s starting to get chilly in north Georgia. I’m glad. This was a long, hot summer and I am looking forward to some cooler weather. I love the fall season. It’s my favorite time of year. It was my favorite when I was young, although the intervening years brought some hardships with the fall season. It took some time for me to be reconciled with this beautiful season, but now I am, and I’m excited. I look forward to wonderful things happening this fall, and for God to show us His glory in a whole new way in this bright season of hope.

However, there is one problem with chilly weather, and that is the need for heat to stay warm. My heater is broken and is in the process of being repaired, with the completion date estimated at next week. So I wondered how I would stay warm until then. Although I love the cooler weather, I’m still a wimp when it comes to needing warmth.

So I asked God to please keep me warm during the upcoming week and a half. He responded. My wonderful landlord showed up at my doorstep this morning with a powerful portable heater! I am now toasty warm. I thank God every day for the wonderful family that has allowed me to live on their property and has constantly shown such kindness and thoughtfulness for my comfort and well being. They are a blessing and a gift. Thank You, God.