Category Archives: Faith

A Prayer of Preparation / Let Us All Be Filled

On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

–Acts 1:4-5

God the Father, Christ who died, and the Spirit who guides…thank you.

What a perfect and perfectly complete three-in-one God we should know. Jesus, even those who knew you best, those most eagerly equipped to scatter out into the world shouting your story of redemption and forgiveness and grace…you bid them wait. What a surprising thought.

Your own eyewitnesses, your innermost circle, you commanded their patience, their pause. The bearers of such profound truth, such life-breathing, life-giving capital-lettered TRUTH, meant for and given to the whole world that we may live…the men and women so fully acquainted with your extravagant, excessive love, the holders of these words poured out to heal the whole world…you said, “Wait.”

How helpless they must have felt, as if they had been told to sit on their hands while the world out there was drowning, a world to love like you love. How ready they must have known they were to go out and get to work.

And oh, don’t I know how significant the story is, Jesus, the story of God and creation and God’s intense love for creation. The story woven so deep in our marrow we oftentimes miss it. The story that haunts us, that shadows our every step, that skirts around the edges of our souls telling us we aren’t quite home yet.

I know this story well. I know the impact and the purpose and the hope you offer. I know the way your words sink into my skin and pump through my heart and pour from my fingertips, if I let it.

None of that has very much to do with me, if anything. None of it comes from my own eloquence or experience of you. And oh, thank God. I could not spill grace so willingly, so easily, though I am given it so freely and at such a high cost. Never could I on my own.

In your perfect knowing of the universe and through your intimate understanding of humanity and all of our weaknesses, you prepared us to finish the job. To heal the world. Jesus, you could have done it all; you could have fixed the earth once and forever and the job would have been done to perfection, completion. But what an invitation you give us to engage. Not for your lacking but for our own undeserved fulfillment. What an invitation to follow you. And what a direction you are leading us.

God, you breathed us to life. Jesus, you bled for our redemption. Spirit, you’ve moved in to help us muddle through it all.

This chapter in your holy word, Acts 1, in preparation of what the liturgy lovers call Pentecost…your followers had no idea what was coming. Would it have blown their minds to know what power had been readily promised, so eagerly gifted them? I know I have been arrogant and ignorant enough to think any good I do, any heart I touch, has anything to do with me. No one aches for me the way we all ache for you, God, whether or not we choose to call attention to it. And you knew, God creator and King, how we ache. You knew we needed your life, your death, and, now, your might.

And I still don’t know, not fully, what was coming. Holy Spirit, how little I consider the gift of you. How much I misunderstand you, forget you, as if you were little more than an inkling or a conscience whispering in my ear, pricking my heart, nudging me right instead of left. How wrong am I to misuse the eternal Spirit of God the Father who formed and adores the universe and every single thing in it.

How you came to move among and within us, the same Holy Spirit who swept over an unformed earth before time and space were set in motion. The same Spirit who fought battles for King David, who prophesied through Isaiah, who poured visions and faith and courage into the faithful who have gone before us. What power we have been given! What history — our history — living and breathing in the very center of our chests!

What would happen, I wonder, if I knew, really tried to know, the power with which you have anointed all of your followers? What would happen if I let you, Holy Spirit, lover and knower of every eternal soul, actually move me? What if I were to let God’s own Spirit lead my feet and use my hands and bleed from my heart?

Jesus, you commanded your followers to wait on the gift of the Holy Spirit. The weight of Heaven and Earth depended on it. And once given that Spirit? They shook the whole world. 

Move us and in us, Holy Spirit of Heaven, the way you moved unhindered through those first followers of Jesus Christ our souls’ redeemer. Awaken our hunger and our hearts. Plant our feet and point our hands.

Be our power, our sole power. Remind us that through you, and only you, can we shake the whole world.

This is a series of prayers for the church in hopes that we the beloved body of Christ will move and glow and pulse in this world for God’s great and wrecking glory.

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A Prayer of Introduction / Let Us All Be Hungry

God of the universe, creator and king, how funnily you work. To think the gospel, the good, the great news for the whole world would be entrusted to twelve fickle men from small, by-the-wayside towns. That you would spread out the news of your love and your interest and your attachment to us — all of us — through a handful of people whose lives were both perfectly ordinary yet drastically changed.

To say it is miraculous for something to spread so quickly and explosively like the early Christian church in a time when one had to walk dusty miles between towns and tell of healing and forgiveness and radical grace over broken bread and shared wine…is a little naive. I think I am quick to underestimate the hunger we all have for you, God, to discount the intentional creation in us to long for you.

And so I choose I see it. I choose an awareness of that poignant dissatisfaction I have gotten so good at ignoring or dressing up in shallow trappings.

We are hungry for you, God. May your Church wake up to that hunger.

This is a series of prayers for the church in hopes that we the beloved body of Christ will move and glow and pulse in this world for God’s great and wrecking glory.

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Prayers for the Church

I don’t think I could call myself a passionate person. And I use the word “passion” loosely. I use it the way we romantics use it: fervor, ardor, flushed cheeks and flashing eyes, pounding hearts and fists. There aren’t very many things that fill me with such passion, that boil my blood or move me enough to shake a man just to make him hear. Not politics, not religion, not science or art or civil rights. (I’m ashamed to admit that, truthfully.)

But — and this is a tentative “but” filled to the brim with disclaimers — lately I have felt an exhaustion when it comes to the topic of church. The Church and the church. On the surface, I seem to be falling into the precise opposite of “passion,” to be falling out of love almost. And let me be clear: I love the Church and my church and the several churches I’ve visited and have been a part of throughout my life. But I have grown complacent in how I love the Church. I love it, I appreciate it, I often forget to tell it thank you, or to stick up for it to the doubters and the scoffers. I am an appeaser of the highest order.

Complacency, as I am learning, is exhausting. It is exhausting to live with very little passion or purpose. That seems backwards; but it exhausts me in the most literal sense of the word. It drains me of the things that ought to fuel me. I am running low on the good stuff that moves this world, that makes this life and all that comes with it worth it.

So back to the Church and the doubters and scoffers and the passion that drives.

I don’t want to watch the Church grow weak, timid. I don’t want to see it placed on platforms just to be ripped apart from all sides. I don’t want to see it cower beneath political correctness, nor refuse to bend against things that might not matter much at all. And I cannot watch it grow arrogant and indignant, huffing at the naysayers beneath a banner of staunch righteousness, retreating into its own walls.

Neither do I feel needed or equipped to defend it. Neither do I feel the power to restore it in little, rebellious ways a girl like me could do. See, if God were most concerned about his image in this world, he never would have chosen yokels like us to bear it.

So all I have left to do for the Church is the pray for it, and to invite you to pray right along with me. We are the salt and the light of this world. We were formed apart from creation to make this world taste good, to make this world glow in the dark. Not for God’s neat and tidy public image, but for his great and wrecking glory, a glory that doesn’t need PR or marketing strategies or carefully sanitized statements, a glory that banishes fear and crashes into the brokenness. A glory that does not tread lightly but dares to overcome and redeem and reconcile even the ugliest of all.

I want to be a part of that. I want the Church to be a part of that.

So maybe we should begin.

Over the next few weeks (months, years, whatever, I am super at ambiguous timing), I’ll be posting prayers I have for the Church in hopes that you will read these words and be moved enough to fill in the cracks you see in the Church and your church. Not because I suspect I am eloquent enough to CHANGE THE WORLD. But because I am convinced prayer is ridiculously powerful.

I can’t exactly say, or even pretend, I really know the power of prayer. Most times I don’t even know what happens after I say “Amen,” if anything at all. I have never experienced a windfall, an immediate response to my prayers, even the ones that wrenched my gut.

But I am learning to love the act of prayer: the intentional, time-carved-out-for prayer. I’m not any good at it; I am only aware of it, of the gift of language to attach to my heart’s groanings.

I mutter reckless prayers often (though not often enough), but the richness of prayer — in my particular case — is most obvious when I sit down, breathe in deep, and write — actually write — the words I most carefully want to say to my King.

And that’s what these will be: letters to a king, words chosen for the formality and eloquence.

I admire those whose prayers are intimate conversations with a devoutly interested God. I am not there yet (or ever). So these will be my prayers to a sovereign God, the creator and artist of this broken world, prayers bold enough in my self-importance though hesitant to call too much attention to myself, to interrupt his majesty.

I hope you’ll find God here because I am certain he is listening.

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Easter Sunday; Oh, the Bliss!

It was still dark when the women rose that morning. But even if the sun had been up, their days would still feel black as night.

It was their new reality; after weeks or months or years at Jesus’ side, drinking in his goodness and his warmth so filling it spilled out onto the desert sand, they were suddenly parched. Drifting. Fearful and grief-stricken and hopeless.

At least today they can put their grief in motion.

So they go to the tomb where Jesus lay, both anxious to get there to anoint his body and fulfill their holy rituals, and dreading the brutal finality of his death.

How close did the women come, in the dusty pre-dawn light, before they realized someone had gotten there first? And who could possibly have beaten them there? They had left before anyone else had awoken, everyone who loved and mourned Jesus as thoroughly as they had and did had been left behind. These women were the first to go, the first to visit Jesus’ grave. Who could possibly have gone before them?

Those who followed Jesus during his ministry were no strangers to the supernatural. Though they witnessed countless miracles, had seen demons overthrown, nothing could have compared to walking beside Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, the unseen Yahweh with skin on, with calloused hands and dirty feet and flashing eyes and desperate conviction and untapped love.

But none of them could have known, not fully, who they followed, from whom they learned about God and man and God’s pursuit of man. Even as close as they stood, they couldn’t have known.

Not until the stone was rolled away. Not until they came face-to-face with Jesus the Resurrected, the payer of our debt, the conqueror of our penalty.

Their faith had been so shaken. The very foundation of their beliefs and their new, fragile knowledge of God had crumbled beneath them, settling into the cracks of the earth as it shook open. Their hearts had been broken; their hope had been lost.

But then they saw the tomb. They heard the angel sitting on the stone. They held the cast-aside burial linens, they searched the barren, empty walls, they felt the frailest breath of hope catch in their throats, and they ran to tell the others what strange things were happening.

They’re still happening.

We still come face-to-face with Jesus the Resurrected.

The tomb is still empty.

And hope, if we let it, still catches in our throats.

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Good Friday; It Is Finished

They suddenly find themselves untethered. The gravity that had pulled them in and held them there, that gave them purpose and hope and a name — is gone. 

Was it really just last night they celebrated the Passover together? Remembered God’s special favor for his chosen people together?

They were convinced — Jesus was sent from God. His own son, they were sure of it. Every miracle they witnessed, every quiet moment away from the crowds, every time Jesus reached his hands toward the untouchable, his evident, unquenchable love for humanity. 

They were convinced all right. Counted themselves blessed to walk beside this Jesus, this prophet, this rabbi who not only knew the holy scripture inside out but actually lived them, every impossible commandment, every challenging word. 

But now what? Their world is spinning. Nothing feels real. Were the last three years just a dream? How could they have seen the mysterious God so clearly through Jesus, how could a man so intimately acquainted with the almighty God be arrested like a common thief? How could a man so willing to heal and touch and teach be hated like a brutal murderer?

They mourn. They fear. Where is God now? Has he removed his favor from them, the chosen people? Did he fall silent yet again, angered by the way the world treated Jesus? Dismissal and disbelief, hatred and cruelty and glaring injustice. They watch as Jesus is taken in, arrested. Then ushered out and thrown to his knees as soldiers and guards attack him. They want to drown out the sound of the jeering crowd hurling insults and laughter, but if the crowds fall silent then they will hear the soldiers’ whips against bare flesh, tearing pieces of it as they pull up and away and swing for another lash. 

Their own cries of grief over the treatment of Jesus are swallowed by the hungry crowd; maybe that’s what’s saving them, keeping them from the same fate. To anyone listening, they seemed to be a part of it, united in the chants to crucify him. 

And even as they watch, Jesus, already covered and slick with his own blood, is forced to hoist that heavy cross onto his back, the rough rugged wood digging deep into his bones, his muscles weak and exposed and screaming in agony. Still, they hope. 

They have seen his miracles. They’ve seen him command demons and the sea. They’ve seen the sky and even death bow down to him, some of them even saw his earthliness fall away to reveal his Godhood in all its glory. 

They hope. Surely Jesus will put an end to this madness, this torture. Surely something huge is about to happen, and then everyone will see; then you’ll all believe. 

They follow Jesus yet again, the dirt behind him stained with rivers of his blood, the cross dragging deep, ominous gouges in the road, stirring up dust until their eyes sting with betrayal and disbelief. 

Anytime now, Jesus, they might have thought, hoped, prayed. Throw down that cross and rise, show them who you really are. Where is that power and might and authority they have seen firsthand? Show them, Jesus!

But they don’t know — that was never his plan. 

The sound of the hammer against rusted metal jars their very bones. They flinch with every swing, maybe even cover their ears and avert their eyes. It still isn’t over, they think, it can’t be. 

The soldiers raise the cross, Jesus now sufficiently nailed to the wooden planks. They drop the cross into the deep hole meant to steady it, and when it hits the earth, the momentum throws Jesus forward. But the nails do their job and his hands and feet are ripped further but not off. He is held there. 

They pray for it to be over soon. Their hope is gone, trickling down that hill with Jesus’ blood. So they pray the end comes quickly now, ending this anguish. 

They want to shake every single person in the crowd, grab their shoulders and shake until they are boneless. Do you realize what you’ve done? they want to shout. Why are you doing this? Get him down from there! Now!

But before they could muster up the courage, the earth shakes beneath their feet. First they think it’s their own bodies shivering in fear and grief. But the trembling grows stronger, and the shock in their neighbors’ eyes tells them it’s everywhere and underneath them all. Maybe this is it, Jesus’ big stand. Maybe the ground will open up and swallow whole the monsters who did this, who let this happen. An unearthly rumble splits the sky. 

But it isn’t the earthquake roaring but Jesus, his final dying breath rolling over them like thunder. 

“It is finished.”

Words everyone can’t help but hear, as if Jesus were right beside them all, speaking those words in their ear, their heart, their soul. 

The sun drops out of the sky, the world turns black, the earth shakes still, the son of God dies. 

Hope is lost. 

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Maundy Thursday; Passover Feast; Jesus’ Last Supper

If they knew what was coming, would they have changed their minds?

If they knew how seemingly out of control the next few hours — days — would spin, would they still have dropped their fishing nets to follow? 

With their bellies full from the Passover feast, purposefully prepared food that told the story of their lineage, their unique relationship to a living, mighty God, with their eyes heavy with wine…what a night! they might have thought. Fulfilled in ways that can only come from ancient traditions steeped in meaning, deep conversation between men who have traveled and slept and witnessed impossibilities beside one another for three years, intimate prayers and muscle-memory rituals rich with history. 

Did they notice the unusual hitch in Jesus’ voice or the slow and deliberate way he broke the bread and poured the wine, blessed the feast then washed their filthy feet? Half the time these simple men could barely keep up with Jesus, his mind and thoughts so far out of reach, his wisdom timeless and older than the sea. 

But did they notice that night, these men who knew Jesus more closely than anyone else, the strain in his words, the God within him warring with the man in him, the weak and so easily broken body he had worn these many years. God in disguise, a Lion in Lambskin. 

Could they understand, even as they heard those puzzling words, saw the telling flash in his eyes:

This is my body, broken for you. 
This is my blood, poured out for you. 

More riddles, they might have thought. Maybe Jesus speaks of that first Passover, the daring and dangerous night they are celebrating, the escape from slavery and into the unknown, leaving behind cruelty and injustice and a foreign land. Their ancestors crying out and being heard by God himself. Called out and freed by God himself. 

He is so wise, so well-spoken, so thoroughly taught. No one knows more than Jesus. Surely He speaks of their covenant with Yahweh. What else could Jesus mean, on this the day of Passover?

If those men had known what Jesus’ words truly meant, would they have drifted off to sleep in the garden while his body crumpled to his knees and blood-tears? 

Knowing the story, the full story, I still want to tell Jesus to stop. To get up. Leave the bread, the wine, just get out of here. Can we just forget the whole plan? It’s not worth it, Jesus; I’m not worth it. Let’s just call the whole thing off. 

I dread the next chapter. Every time I read it. I want to press my hands against my ears and squeeze my eyes shut tight and block out those heavy, life-changing words: “broken for you; poured out for you.” 

“Don’t do it, Jesus!” I want to yell at the whisper-thin pages of my Bible, trembling with grief and awe as I read on. 

But even so, he goes. The story continues. 

Jesus watches Judas slip out into the night, greed leading those washed feet; he implores one last time his men to understand, to listen and hear; he meets his fate in the garden just before dawn, in the deepest, darkest part of the night, the black sky weighing down on him like heavy oak. 

Doesn’t he know we’re going to blow it? Doesn’t he know how dangerous and small and fickle and mean we will be, even in the name of his life and death? Doesn’t he see the hurt and abuse we will inflict, the agenda we will push, the self-righteousness we will wear like silken robes? Don’t do it, Jesus! We aren’t worth it! Just call the whole thing off!

We are going to fail you, Jesus. Why do you still head toward that cross?

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A Prayer for Your Passion

“As the time drew near for Him to ascend to Heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
– Luke 9.51

My God, there are hardly the words for this little verse. “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” There is so much power packed into this single line of Scripture, so much purpose in less than 140 characters. I want to understand what Jesus was going through; I want to ask for help in feeling what He felt. But, oh, that feels like a dangerous prayer.

The intensity of His journey, the necessity of it borne from this overwhelming, overtaking love. I try to imagine how consuming Your love must be for this broken creation. I try to put words — any words, all the words, the most eloquent words I have — to this image of drowning in Your love, floundering, unable to even see the bottom, much less touch my toes to it. What a small way our small minds can quantify such love.

O God, I want to experience Your love in such a way that it fills my lungs and swells my heart and steals my breath. I want to be so full of You that Your love pours out of me, gushing from my fingertips and over this parched land.

These few words tucked quietly in the gospel of Luke moves me in such profound, unaired ways.

Your Word is already so full of Your deliberate plan to rescue us and redeem us, to turn Your creation back to You, to reconcile this world with what You envision it to be.

But these particular words draw so much hope from me, such gratitude and shame, all at the same time, honest emotions for once that twist in my gut. Something expands in my chest, leaving me breathless and doubled over, and I think, why haven’t I been hearing this? Why haven’t I been paying closer attention?

Jesus, there was nothing unknown to You. You knew the plan. You knew the cost. As the man You fully were, You fully became, how terrifying it must have been, the knowing. How You must have dreaded every dusty step closer to the cross, every sunset one more day spent. To weep blood from Your brow in desperation for what was to come, the burden pressing heavy and hard against Your back and driving You to Your knees. I can only pretend to imagine the tightness in Your chest, the knot in Your stomach, Your heart and pulse pounding out a desperate rhythm, “Take this cup; Thy will be done.”

But as the Christ, the Holy Son of God who was there from the beginning, whose hands shaped the formless void, You witnessed our downfall, You wept as we split wide the chasm between Heaven and Earth, all the while knowing the price of our redemption, all the while knowing You would willingly pay it.

How clearly this verse shows us Your passion, Your purpose. How real and how near is Your spirit, Your will and Your want for us. You offered Yourself up and into the greedy hands of the very ones You longed to draw back in. We didn’t understand; how could we? How could these dry and dying bones even recognize the life abundant You were pouring out over us, reviving us?

You set Your feet toward Jerusalem, Your eyes to the cross. You never once wavered but spilled as much of Yourself along the way — Your love, Your healing, Your mercy and grace and Your call for us to do the same — until all that was left was a final breath: “It is finished.”

What is left to say but a whisper, “My God, my God.”

What a journey, Jesus, the descent into Your darkest hour on this earth, all so we wouldn’t have to go too. You invite us along, to follow You, not into despair or dread or to our rightfully earned deaths, but to follow You back to the kingdom of Heaven, back to God Himself.

I would walk that journey to Jerusalem with you, if I could, if only to squeeze Your hand and promise I’ll do better, to be better, so can we just call the whole thing off?

But You died so we wouldn’t have to, not really, not fully.

Jesus, how passionately You died for my disobedience; help me to live as passionately for Your love.

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