Screaming for a Prayer

When I’m reading the Bible (be it for a sermon, Bible class, or my own devotional reading), prayer is usually a part of the picture. God speaks to me in his Word, and this often leads to  me speaking to him in prayer. It’s a great privilege that I have only because Jesus has given me this access to my heavenly Father! (Eph. 2:18)

Sometimes, though, I find that one specific passage is just screaming for a prayer. When I read one of these passages, I almost can’t help but pray about it. Since one of the reasons I have this blog is to allow myself to practice expressing my thoughts (and my prayers), I thought I’d share one of these particular verses here, along with a prayer to go with it.

A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work! ~ Jeremiah 48:10

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have called me into the faith in my baptism. You have called me to serve you as a pastor. You have given me the privilege of doing your work for your people. But, Father, I have often been lax in this work. I have not lived up to your standards. I have let my frustrations, my ideas, and my laziness get in the way of the work you would have me do. I know that this sin brings a curse. I know that not only do I not deserve the position and blessings you have given me, but I also do deserve your punishment, both now and forever.

As I look to you for mercy, Lord, I give thanks that it is already mine! You sent your Son Jesus to bear this curse in my place. My curse was given to your Son in his suffering, his blood, and his death. Jesus’ reward of life, which he proved was his by rising again, you have given me by faith. You have covered me with your Son’s righteousness by faith. You have removed my sins far from. I can never thank you enough!

Yet I do thank you! I thank you by serving you! Fill me, Lord, with the strength to do this! Give me insight through your Holy Spirit when I study your Word. Give me energy and strength to perform your work that you have placed before me. Destroy in me the temptation to turn from your work to do my own thing. Create in me a new heart to serve you willingly and fully.

I pray this and ask you this not because I deserve your help and blessings, but because Jesus Christ has given this privilege to me. I pray knowing you hear me and will bless me for your Son’s sake. I pray this in his name. Amen.

This prayer won’t apply to everyone, of course, especially if you’re not a pastor, but I hope some of the thoughts might spark your own thinking when God’s Word is screaming for a prayer from you, too.

 

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The Sign of the Holy Cross

In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day about the practice of “crossing yourself.”  This is the practice of using your right hand to “draw” a cross on your chest, usually the vertical line followed by the horizontal. The person I was talking to replied in what I think is the most common way for Lutherans to talk about this issue: “I always thought that was a Catholic thing.”

I used to have the same thought, too. It certainly seemed like a Roman Catholic thing; that seemed to be the group of people who did it. Actually, most of my memories as a child of someone crossing himself was Minnesota Twins baseball great Kirby Puckett, who used to cross himself before every at-bat. Other than that, it’s not a practice to which I gave much thought.

That’s why it was neat for me to read the words that I quoted at the top of this post. Those words are not found in some Roman Catholic prayerbook, but in Luther’s Small Catechism. Martin Luther, the great Reformer, did not discourage the use of crossing oneself, he encouraged it enough to put it right in his Catechism.

And the more I think about it, the more I see how neat this little practice is. The idea of putting Jesus’ cross on your heart as you are praying…what a way of focusing our thoughts on him who died for us! What a way of reminding myself that because of Christ’s cross and his sacrifice on it, I am a holy child of God. How neat that this practice hearkens back to the sign of the cross made in the Rite of Baptism, to “mark you as a redeemed child of Christ.” It’s a beautiful symbol, and one we shouldn’t be afraid of.

Do I think that those who practice this are somehow better Christians? Of course not. Does not making this sign or forgetting to do so mean you have just sinned? Not in the least. Nor do I think that this practice should be seen as some sort of magical incantation that makes your prayers extra powerful. No, it is just a beautiful way of reminding yourself of Christ’s cross and putting yourself in the mindset of focusing on his cross in your prayers.

Martin Luther didn’t throw out the baby of tradition with the bathwater of false teaching with regard to this practice. Maybe it’s worth rethinking our stance on it, too.