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A prayer of hope for the New Year

The Apostle Paul pronounced this blessing on the Church at Rome: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope” (Rom. 15:13).

LORD God, give followers of Jesus such a full measure of joy and peace that our hope overflows to those around us who are without hope in the world.

hope-in-the-lordYou have put us here to touch others with a message of profound hope — the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the power of your Holy Spirit, give us success in that fulfilling that mission.

Cause our joy and peace to attract the attention of people who don’t yet know Jesus.

When they ask about the reason for the hope we have, may we be prepared to give an answer that points to Jesus the Righteous One — the One who lived and died and lives again.


Spiritual growth resources for 2013
Reading the Bible in 2013 | Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition
Yearly Bible-reading schedule (PDF)
A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader, edited by Bishop Rueben P. Job (Abingdon, 1998) (preview here)
Renew My Heart: Classic Insights from John Wesley (Barbour, 2011) (also available for Kindle)
A quiet-times calendar (a tool for keeping track of your consistency in maintaining a daily devotional time — PDF)

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A Christmas prayer

Father, we stand in awe of what we celebrate. How can it be that the all-sufficient God of the universe became a helpless child resting in a feed trough?

mary_joseph_jesus_mangerHow can it be that the divine Word reduced Himself to unintelligible sounds?

How can it be that the hands that once sculpted mountain ranges, now made flesh, reach to grab hold of a loving mother’s finger?

We don’t know. Yet it happened. Jesus came, the visible expression of the invisible God, to bring God to us and us to God.

The darkness of this world at times seems overwhelming, but in midst of the darkness we again see the Light of Christmas — the Light that cannot be overcome.

Before Him, we bow down and worship.

The prayer above is adapted from the first chapter of Ken Gire’s 1989 book, Intimate Moments with the Savior (Zondervan).

Editor’s note: In 1996, I had the privilege of recording a portion of Ken Gire’s retelling of the nativity story for a nationally syndicated radio program. The piece was produced by Duane Harms, now of i5810 Media. To listen, use the audio player below (4 minutes). — jms

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A Thanksgiving prayer

This classic prayer of thanksgiving is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you’ve done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

thanksgiving_prayerWe thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for our successes, which satisfy and delight us — but also for the disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ — for the truth of his Word and the example of his life.

We thank you for his dying, through which he overcame death — and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your Kingdom.

Father, may we — at all times and in all places — give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

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A Labor Day prayer

A prayer appropriate for Labor Day, from the pen of 16th-century church reformer John Calvin:

My God, Father and Savior, since you have commanded us to work in order to meet our needs, sanctify our labor that it may bring nourishment to our souls as well as to our bodies.

John Calvin

John Calvin

Make us constantly aware that our efforts are worthless unless guided by your light and by your hand.

Make us faithful to the particular tasks for which you have bestowed upon us the necessary gifts, taking from us any envy or jealousy at the vocations of others.

Give us a good heart to supply the needs of the poor, saving us from any desire to exalt ourselves over those who receive our bounty.

And if you should call us into greater poverty than we humanly desire, save us from any spirit of defiance or resentment, but rather let us graciously and humbly receive the bounty of others.

Above all, may every temporal grace be matched by spiritual grace, that in both body and soul we may live to your glory.

(From a collection of everyday prayers Calvin wrote for the people of Geneva, Switzerland. )

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A Monday afternoon tweet by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received sharply negative responses from several United Methodist tweeters.

Dr. Albert Mohler

At 4:19 p.m. Eastern Time, Mohler tweeted: “Join me in praying that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will hold firm for biblical standards of sexuality.”

Mohler apparently was referring to the sexual standards detailed in the United Methodist Book of Discipline in paragraphs 161F and 304.3. Petitions that would alter those paragraphs will be debated and voted on later this week.

The Discipline language upholds human sexuality as “God’s good gift” but teaches that not all forms of sexual expression are within the boundaries of holy and appropriate Christian conduct.

“Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage,” paragraph 161F states.

Paragraph 304.3 requires clergy members of the UMC “to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world,” further noting that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as [clergy] candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

A few UM tweeters thanked Mohler for his comment about praying for the upcoming vote on sexual standards, but most responses directed to him (via the @albertmohler designation) were decidedly negative and in some cases even derisive:

Although a Southern Baptist, Albert Mohler served two Methodist churches while pursuing his seminary education. He has been president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., since 1993.

Mohler is the author of Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah, 2008), Desire & Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah, 2008), and He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody, 2008).


Related posts
Astonishing preaching
A conversation with Mark Tooley on General Conference 2012
Rob Renfroe of Good News on General Conference 2012
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Steve Hawthorne, director of the prayer ministry Waymakers, offers interesting insights about the event we call Palm Sunday, which this year is celebrated on April 1.

He notes that in the days leading up to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had “instigated a movement of hope throughout the towns and villages of the entire region” as He performed miracles and answered prayers.

triumphal-entry-jesusofnazarethBy the time He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of praise, “the whole city was stirred and [people] asked ‘Who is this?'” (Matt. 21:20).

For several days after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus taught at the temple, and “all the people hung on his words” (Luke 19:48).

By the end of the week, of course, the Lord’s adversaries had him arrested and crucified. But Scripture says the arrest occurred during the dark of the night, “because [Jesus' enemies] were afraid of the people” (Luke 22:2).

In his Lenten-season prayer guide, Seek God for the City, Hawthorne notes:

1) “Palm Sunday shines as prophetic picture of the spiritual awakening Christ desires to bring [in communities everywhere]”; and

2) “Whenever there has been revival, it has been a partial fulfillment of the promise of Palm Sunday.”

To help pastors, Sunday School teachers, and small-group leaders explain the significance of Palm Sunday, Waymakers has posted background information here, along with three sermon suggestions.

Use the audio player below to listen to a 12-minute excerpt of Steve Hawthorne teaching about Palm Sunday and Holy Week. He was recorded in 2008 at Christ Church in Austin, Texas, a congregation associated with the Anglican Church in North America. (Player won’t work? Click here.)

Steve Hawthorne holds a Masters degree from the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. With Graham Kendrick, he is the co-author of Prayerwalking: Praying On-Site with Insight.

A Palm Sunday prayer: “Father, we pray for spiritual awakening and shouts of praise here, as Jesus enters our city with His presence and power. Stir people to ask, ‘Who is this?’ — that we might proclaim to them the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.”


Related resources
Background information about Palm Sunday, plus three Palm Sunday sermon suggestions | Waymakers
A Service of Prayer, Scripture and Song for Holy Week | United Methodist General Board of Discipleship

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The following commentary is by Terry Teykl, author of The Presence-Based Church, My Most Wanted: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost, and Pray the Price: United Methodists United in Prayer.

Dr. Terry Teykl

An elder in the Texas Annual Conference, Dr. Teykl is a “prayer evangelist,” traveling across the U.S. and around the world encouraging churches to develop and maintain prayer ministries.

He also serves as the “prayer pastor” at Faithbridge UMC in Spring, Texas.

Terry Teykl holds a Master of Theology from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree with honors from Oral Roberts University.

He is the founder of Renewal Ministries and Prayer Point Press.

I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
(Jesus in Matthew 16:18)

As the Church of Jesus Christ, are we overcoming — or are we being overcome?

I have to ask myself that question as I read about the events going on in our world today and the struggles our denomination is facing. Hemorrhaging and weak, we hardly seem like the prevailing church that started in the Upper Room and spread throughout an entire continent within a year-and-a-half.

I believe one reasons for our dysfunction is that we have become a church sold out to people. We have bought into consumerism and all the tenets thereof. The consumer-driven marketplace feeds on such factors as ingenuity, entertainment location, and image. The mottos are, “Make the customer happy. Give ‘em what they want and they will come back for more. Make a profit at all cost.” The individual consumer is the prize.

While consumerism has its place in the marketplace, it is not difficult to see why it becomes a toxic virus when it is allowed to bleed over into the church.

When, as a church, we buy into the consumerism model, we begin to forfeit our birthrights as part of Jesus’ earthly bride. Driven by marketing, image control, and entertainment value, we allow ourselves to be shaped by the needs and desires of the church-shopping masses.

The whole thing becomes a people-to-people affair based on research and statistics. We do religious things based on careful assessment of human behavior in the “church industry.” Like Martha in the kitchen, we get so busy serving people that we neglect Jesus in the living room!

Being “culturally relevant” is fine — please hear me — but the church exists for God’s pleasure, not the pleasure of humankind. We are His bride, His love, created to represent Him and worship Him to His glory and honor.

We are not to be a consumer-based church, but a Presence-based church, sold out to inviting and welcoming the Presence of God.

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Becoming Presence-based

The Presence-based church isn’t defined by procedures or specific worship styles. A Presence-based church doesn’t surface by following a prescribed formula, such as singing certain songs or ministering to people in a certain way.

Most importantly, a church is not Presence-based because of what it does or doesn’t do on Sunday morning. A church service is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is simply a weekly expression of all that is going on under the surface.

Any church can become more Presence-based than it currently is. Any congregation, regardless of size or affiliation, can desire more of God and hunger for His manifest Presence. The issue is not so much about how we worship, but why we worship, and the heart attitude that we embody.

The Presence-based church isn’t interested in the question, “Are we attracting people?” but rather, “Are we attracting the Presence of God,” and, “Is He welcome and honored above all else?”

To be Presence-based, we must, like the Israelites in the desert, put the new Ark, which is Jesus, in the very center of our camp and be led, governed, taught, and sustained by Him alone. He is to be our identity.

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The ‘Mary’ heart

Though there are several characteristics of a Presence-based church, the most distinguishing mark is a passion and hunger to know God as expressed through worship and prayer. Presence-based churches have the heart of Mary, who loved nothing more than sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Like the Levites who waited in the temple, lured by an intense fascination with the Ark of the Covenant, the people of the Presence-based church have tasted the incomparable sweetness of God’s nearness and bear His divine imprint. They worship because they are drawn to the Presence of God, and because being created by God for that purpose, they feel more alive and fulfilled during worship than at any other time. It is their passion and purpose.

In the Presence-based church, worship isn’t confined to a one hour service on Sunday morning. It is an ongoing dance that engages all that we are in loving all that He is. Presence-based worship is a response to a God who is so terrifyingly magnificent, yet so intimately known, that praise and adoration burst forth naturally and without effort. It cannot be contained.

Small groups worship at the feet of Jesus. The worship leaders usher the congregation to the feet of Jesus Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Even board meetings engage the business of the church at the feet of Jesus.

The Presence-based church lives on the cutting edge of worship because its people are constantly looking for ways to press past any barriers that would hinder their expression of love and adoration.

Worship leaders in Presence-based churches may ask people to bow or kneel or worship in a prolonged period of silence and listening. They may introduce His people to worship music from different cultures. Occasionally, they may even dismiss the visitors at the end of the service and invite the regular members to stay and continue worshiping past noon.

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Outside the camp

The prayer life of the Presence-based church follows a similar pattern. Hungry to know God’s ways, His glory, His heart, His voice, His rest and His thoughts, the people push past prayer that meets human agendas to seek God just for Himself. They pray to see His face, not just move His hand.

This is a realm of prayer that few ever experience. It is the purist form of prayer that teeters close to the edge of worship — that of praying to know God for no other reason except that He is worthy to be known.

It is the prayer of healthy desperation, a yearning prayer without crisis. It longs to press against the veil of the spiritual realm with such humility and endurance that the breath of God can be felt.

The Presence-based church goes beyond the familiar to seek God. Just as Moses went “outside the camp” to be with God in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:7), the Presence-based church is always pushing past the successes of yesterday and going beyond the normal routine of church life to pray and experience God in new ways.

Seeking God, romancing with Him, deepens our spiritual understanding and faith. It greatly enhances God’s ability to transform lives and impact communities through us. That is why we need to go outside the camp to seek God for all that He is.

Vast knowledge and profound experience awaits the body of believers that can shake free from the familiar long enough to gaze at the heavens and listen for the heartbeat of God.

Many of our churches today are experiencing “Presence starvation,” and the deficiency is crippling. They have fasted the Presence for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to feast. All the while, Jesus is in the living room, beckoning anyone who will to come and sit at His feet.

Those who do will have “chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from [them]” (Luke 10:42).

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Used by permission of Terry Teykl and Prayer Point Press: www.PrayerPoint Press.com


Related post
Podcast — Terry Teykl: ‘Praying for the Lost’

Related articles and information
Prayer and Presence: Not prominent in the Call to Action | Good News magazine (March/April 2011)
Excerpt from My Most Wanted Devotional: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost (PDF)
Biography of Terry Teykl (Microsoft Word file)
Why you should start a prayer room in your church | Terry Teykl, ForMinistry.com
30 Scripture-based prayers to pray for your pastor (PDF) | Terry Teykl, Church Prayer Leaders Network
Interview with Terry Teykl about the Houston area’s ‘Pray Down at High Noon’ prayer focus | KSBJ (several audio clips)
Terry Teykl — chapel address at the Wilmore, Ky., campus of Asbury Theological Seminary (Sept. 9, 2008)

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