Day 48 – Be Careful with Your Prayers

Exodus 33:18-23 – Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’

Devotion:  Be careful with your petitions unto the Lord, servants of God, for you may get what you do not understand or expect.  The Lawgiver asked the Lord, “Show me your glory, I pray.’’  Did Moses fully understand the request he was making of the Almighty One?  God had already promised the continued Divine presence with Israel.  Was the Word of the Lord not enough for their salvation?  Did the People of God, or their leaders, need to see the magnificent glory of the Lord to be assurance of God’s presence?

Was Moses prepared to see the kābôd, the glory, or literally, the “weight” of God?  No, for God answered his servant, “no one shall see me and live”?[1]  Although we long to be like Job, to see God with our own eyes,[2] we must remember that people who encounter the glory of God without divine protection are in danger of eradication.[3]  The marvelous splendor of God’s glory cannot be fully experienced or comprehended by sinful humanity apart from Jesus Christ.[4] Encountering the glory of the Lord is a dignified desire, and yet, a disastrous deed.  This did not deter Moses’ bold prayer for the impossible: let me endure your weight, God.

Instead of compromising Moses’ life, the Lord granted Moses’ petition in a different way: “You shall see my back” (v. 15).  Moses was placed in the safety of the cleft of the rock, protected by the hand of God, as the Lord passed by (v. 22).  Since God’s splendor was too great for humanity, we were allowed to experience God in past acts and deeds.  We see God’s passing glory, the revelation of the Divine self in history, and glimpse the glory of God.

But now, in Jesus Christ, our Rock of Salvation,[5] we do not need to pray the words of Moses, like the Apostle Philip, when he asked Jesus a similar petition, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”[6]  In Jesus, the fullness of God is pleased to dwell[7] and the glory of God shines upon humanity.   Therefore, in Christ, we confidentially enter into the presence of the Lord.[8]  Yet, let us be cautious not to enter God’s presence arrogantly.  For we must always be ready to encounter the fullness of God’s radical, reforming righteousness, which does not leave us unchanged, but humbles, convicts, and makes us grateful for God’s gracious presence.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for not destroying humanity by your glorious presences, but showing yourself to be compassionate and kind in Christ Jesus.  Invite us into your glorious presence where we can be transformed into the image of your Son, by the work of your Spirit.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Praying with Mandala,” page 293, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  


[1] Exodus 33:20

[2] Job 19:27

[3] Leviticus 10:2

[4] John 14:9

[5] 1 Corinthians 10:4

[6]  John 14:8

[7] Colossians 1:19, 2:9

[8] Hebrews 10:19-25

Posted in Bible, Devotion, Prayer, The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Day 47 – I Thank My God for You

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3: “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Devotion:  If prayer is primarily petition (“God, please…”), then worship is primarily praise (“Thank you!”).  Christians are accustomed to asking their Heavenly Father to draw near, counteract concerns, provide daily needs, heal others, etc.  This is exactly what Jesus Christ taught his followers.[1]   Do we also recall that “prayer is quite simply the first act of thanksgiving toward God”?[2]  Karl Barth wrote, “Every one of us who knows God must return thanks to him.”[3] The Lord is the only One who answers, blesses, and grants our petitions.  Therefore, the Lord is worthy of our thanks (praise, gratitude, expressions of appreciation, devotion, and love).

The Apostle Paul used two powerful words in his pastoral letter to the Christians in Thessalonica: “thank you.”  He repeated these words to God – not to the Christians in the church – constantly remember before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul knew the gifts of faith, love and hope were from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[4] Therefore, Paul expressed his praise to the Lord in written prayer.[5]

Are we in the habit of praising the Triune One like the Apostle Paul? Do we praise God for the work of faith church members perform for God on our behalf (e.g., serving in the nursery, teaching Sunday school, filling our bowls of soup, etc.?  Do we worship God for the labor of love fellow believers offer to God while serving us (e.g., gathering the offering, serving as ushers, cleaning the dishes, etc.)?  Do we adore the Spirit for the perseverance of the Saints who have shown us the way?  In this season of thanksgiving, let us begin our prayers with praise for the things we have already received, before we move on to the next need!

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for all you have given me in Christ Jesus by the work of your Spirit.  Give me words and music to express my gratitude!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Adoration Prayer,” page 161, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  


[1] Matthew 7:7-11, Matthew 18:19, John 14:13-14,  John 15:7-8, John 15:16, John 16:23

[2] Barth, Karl, Prayer (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 15-16.

[3] Ibid, 16.

[4] James 1:17

[5] 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5, 2:13-16, and 3:9-10

Posted in Bible, Devotion, Prayer, The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Devotional Day 46 – Jesus Prays for You

Acts 7:56: “Look,’ Stephen said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’”

Devotion:  “Listen to this, dad,” my daughter requested from the piano bench.  “I’m learning a new song.”  I recognized the tune within the first measure.  “That is, Good King Wenceslas,” I exclaimed.  “You’re right,” she belted back with her face aglow.  “Sing it with me.”  We like to wake our household the morning after Christmas with this song.

The Feast of Stephen is December 26. It commemorates the martyrdom of the first Deacon of the Christian Church.[1]  The Bible tells us that persecution erupted upon the fledgling followers of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, shortly after Pentecost, just as Jesus predicted.[2] Stephen was arrested, placed on trial before the Jewish Supreme Court (the Sanhedrin), and sentenced to the ultimate punishment: death.  As he was stoned, God revealed the great mystery of the Trinity: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (v. 55).  The Three appear in one glorious sight, witnessing the martyrdom of God’s beloved saint.

What was Jesus doing standing at God’s right hand?  Scholars tell us he was welcoming Stephen’s spirit home, like the father welcomed the prodigal son home. Others tell us he was standing in judgment against this inhuman act.  I think Jesus was standing at the right hand of God praying for Stephen.[3]

What were Jesus’ words in prayer?  One could only image what Jesus was speaking at that moment.  Was Jesus praying again his high priestly prayer of John 17:6-26?  I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours (v. 9).  Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one (v. 11).  While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by the name you gave me (v. 12).  I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them (v. 13). My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (v. 15). Whatever Jesus said in intercession, it helped Stephen witness in death the truth of God’s redeeming love (v. 59-60).

Saintly soul, remember in your times of trial and temptation, Jesus intercedes for you.  Jesus prayed for you, is now at the right hand of the Father praying for you, and will continue to pray for you.  Let us not be like the courtly page who almost gave up following Good King Wenceslas through the snow, deep and crisp and even. Let us look to heaven like Stephen, filled with the Spirit, where we will see Christ at the right hand of God praying for us!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus Christ into the world to redeem all of creation.  He came to us as the babe of Bethlehem.  He served you faithfully, persevering all the way to the cross of Calvary.  By the power of your Spirit, you raised Jesus Christ from the dead, giving all of your saints the glorious image of the Heavenly Trinity.  Now, full of the Spirit, help your children persevere through life’s trials until we join you in heaven.  In Jesus’ mighty name.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Tongsung Kido,” page 204, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  


[1] Acts 6:8-8:1

[2] John 15:18-16:4

[3] Romans 8:34

Posted in Bible, Devotion, Prayer, The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Devotional Day 45 – Give Thanks!

Ephesians 5: Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Devotion:  My son, David, drew two charming pictures at Kids Bible Club.  The teacher asked the kindergartener class to draw a picture of something they thank God for this year.  The art is elementary with a little, orange boy with long arms, big eyes, and disproportionate feet. The picture shows, “Macy is sleeping,” and David is, “sneaking in to get my sister.”  This is a bedtime game they enjoy.

The second picture is better!  David is a little, green boy with spiked hair.  He drew me with a big red head, a tie (I am always wearing a tie in his drawings), spiked hair, and a “winking eye.”  He is thankful for our morning grooming habits of spiking his hair with gel.  These pictures remind me to give thanks for small moments in my day that give others a big heart!

The Apostle Paul instructed the Ephesians Christians to be thankful for every day moments!  In a society that expected alcohol to be part of “fun,” Paul said: be filled with Spirit.  This was a counter-cultural principle to the Roman philosophy of all things in moderation.  Paul taught that alcoholic spirits can lead to debauchery (a come occurrence in pagan festivities): excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures and crude behavior that robbed party goers of joyful memories.  How many people do we know who wake up with regrets because of things they said or did while intoxicated?  Worldly spirits do not give the same lasting joy as the Spirit of the Lord – who is eternal with the Father and Son. 

Paul suggested that we turn to the eternal virtue of worship to find pleasure in life, by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Temperance and simplicity, instead of moderation, enable us to giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything n the name of our Lord Jesus Christ with sober minds.  As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, let us recall our nation’s Puritan roots which inaugurated this annual festival of thanks!

Prayer: Father, we join with the heavenly hosts in the eternal thanksgiving which honors your name with sober minds and simple hearts.  We are truly grateful for all your wonderful gifts in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Adoration Prayer,” page 161, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

Posted in Bible, Devotion, Prayer, The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Devotional Day 44 – Talk to Me!

John 16:24 – Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Devotion:  David did not speak until he was almost four years old.  We worried as parents that he was deaf, mute, or had vocal cord problems.  The doctors assured us that David was a typical little boy – he preferred to grunt and use sign language to get want he wanted, instead of speaking to us.  Our family physician encouraged us to stop giving him things until he used words to communicate his wants and needs. 

It was difficult at first!  He threw a torrent of tantrums when he pointed and grunted, but did not get want he wanted, right away.  “Use words,” we would say to him.  He still refused.

His older sisters did not help.  “Mom, he wants a drink,” they’d say.  “I know dear,” my wife would reply.  “He needs to learn to use words.”  “Just give him what he wants,” they’d counter.  “No,” she replied, “he needs to learn to use words.”  Eventually he started using single words: milk, water, juice, now!  Later, he learned to use multiple words, phrases, and sentences, too.

How often do we act like toddlers when it comes to prayer petitions?   We treat God the same way our son treated us!  We want something but we don’t ask.  We think God understands our wants, needs, and desires because we point, grunt, and say, “I want that, now.”  Would we receive more answers to our prayers if we learned to ask in a spiritually mature way (I’m not suggesting there is a right mechanistic way)? 

Jesus’ disciples wanted to know things about his death and future kingdom, but they were afraid to ask him.  He told them repeatedly, ask God for anything in his name and the Father would do it (John 14:13, 14:14, and 15:16). Fear and indecision kept them from asking, and therefore, it kept from receiving the most basic needs.  The Apostle James told the Church of this truth when he wrote: “You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”[1]

What should be on our list of things to ask the Father?  There are countless petitions in the New Testament alone!  I made a list of all the requests the Apostle Paul asked of his churches (e.g., Colossians 1:9, 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, etc.).  This list kept me on my knees in prayer for several days simply praying for Paul’s requests that are still valid today!  Make a list of things you need God to grant to you, your family, and the Church.  Then, hear God’s invitation, “Talk to me!”

Prayer: God, I praise you for your patience and loving-kindness.  I confess that I am more likely to try things on my own, rather than turn to you in prayer.  I ask for you to hear my prayers and petitions.  Give us the Spirit of Jesus, in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Prayer Beads,” page 266, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  


[1] James 4:1-3.

Posted in Bible, Devotion, Prayer, The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Devotional Day 43 – Life is a Masterpiece

Psalm 139:13-18 – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Devotion:  The graduate students straggled into the lecture hall carrying their cups of coffee, laptop computers, books, and a host of muffins for breakfast.  None of them seemed awake.  It was too early for another day of lectures.  They had stayed up too late the previous night reading until midnight, preparing for presentations, laughing in the lounge, and calling home. Now, it was time to focus, again. 

The students set up their work area around the table – plugging in cords, turning on computers, arranging note pads and books, reminding one another when the next assignment was due; all except Sue.  She pulled out of her bag an old fashion note pad, pen, and her knitting needles. Hidden deep in her tweed bag was a well-wound ball of yarn and a small knitting project.

As the professor began to lecture and students started frantically taking notes, Sue’s fingers began their meticulous work.  Tug. Spin. Loop.  She was able to twirl the yarn around each needle without looking at it, like a modern industrial knitting machine.  Sue did not need to count the stitches under her breath, which is more common from a beginning piano student. Periodically she would pause from her handiwork to scribble a few notes on her pad, and then she would return to her systematic pattern of knitting, like the English World War II lady who was knitting for Victory.  At the end of the week-long lectures, the students had intricate notes which they probably would never read again, but Sue had a new pair of warm, wool winter socks for her children.

We need to remember in a world overwhelmed with low-cost made mechanical socks that human life is priceless.  Each person is a masterpiece! The Christmas sweater Aunt Jenny made, with one longer arm than another, is wonderful because it was fearfully handmade.  You are precious become you are God-made. Let us pause daily to ponder – with hands and hearts – the intentionality of our Triune God who knits each person together in the secret place.  God made us unique, special, and more precious than the alpaca Argyle socks with Spandex lining.

Prayer: Loving God, you created me in Christ, inside-out and outside-in, so your Spirit knows me more intimately than I know myself.  Help me become the person you envisioned when you knit me together in my mother’s womb, for the glory of your name and good of the your kingdom.  In Christ, I pray.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Body Prayer,” page  238, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

Posted in The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Devotional Day 42 – Always Being Reformed

Revelation 14:6-7 – “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Devotion:  Reformation Sunday is coming.  It is the annual day Protestants commemorate the audacity of a local believer to question – and even challenge – the church’s religious practices. The day before, All Saints Day, the Rev. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis (objections) on the chapel door in Wittenberg 494 years ago.  Scholars agree that Luther did not intend to start a new church (and thereby succumb to the heresy of schism; fracturing the Body of Christ) but desired to start a dialogue among Christians about returning the faithful to the Word of God.

Luther was inspired by Revelation 14, where the Word acted as God’s reforming agent through three angels.  The angels, each representing the triune God-head, were commissioned to: first, announce the Gospel proclaimed to all who live on the earth; second, announce the fall of Babylon (and all counterfeit gods); and, third, to call for the patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.[1] The people of God knew dark times would come when persons would question the presence of the Lord on earth.  However, the faithful heard the Word of the Lord spoken through the Prophet Isaiah: “my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”[2]  No person or power prevents God from accomplishing the Divine will of world-wide-evangelism and the restoration of all of creation. 

The slogan, ecclesia semper reformanda (“the church always being reformed”), became the rally cry of the Reformers to remain faithful to the Holy Spirit’s renewing work.  This reforming of the church was not aimed at cultural accommodation to the latest fades and fancies, or musical preference.  Instead, as Karl Barth accurately noted, the phrase, “always reforming,” was connected to the rest of the slogan, “according to the Word of God.”  The Word of God was the standard for measuring and motivating reformation, not the changing sea of societies. 

The Reformation rejects the assumptions of other movements (i.e., the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement) that deny the providential work of the Holy Spirit throughout the centuries. How can the church be restored to the first century without passing through the reforming work of God in every succeeding century? The historical revelation of God proves the Lord was not making something new (i.e., distinct) but reforming the old into something anew.

As we prepare to celebrate Reformation Sunday, let us lay ourselves before the reforming Word and Spirit, again.  What thesis would God nail to the door of the contemporary church?  What 95 objections would God nail to the door of our hearts?  Let us hear anew the Word of the Lord!

Prayer: God our Father, you have spoken through prophets, priests and saints, but most assuredly through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Reforming Spirit, speak to us again.  Make your church anew! Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Tongsung Kido,” page 204, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  


[1] Revelation 14:12

[2] Isaiah 55:11

Posted in The Bible, The Trinity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,