Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Prayer of Confession
Jesus, friend of sinners, your resurrected life is not a private experience or a soothing metaphor but a stubborn public reality.
May your well-attested resurrection impel me to openly announce the outrageously good news—
that sins are forgiven through what you have done when the gospel promise is received in truth faith. Amen!
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: “The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. Paul’s two letters to the Christians in Thessalonica, among much else, correct such debilitating misconceptions about the future and our present, prodding us to continue to live forward in taut and joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus. Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “The book of Deuteronomy is organized as a series of addresses given by Moses to the people of Israel in the land of Moab, where they had stopped at the end of the long wilderness journey and were about to enter and occupy Canaan…The great theme of the book is that God has saved and blessed his chosen people, whom he loves; so his people are to remember this, and love and obey him, so that they may have life and continued blessing. The key verses of the book are 6:4–6, and contain the words that Jesus called the greatest of all commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Read: Matthew 6:9-13 + Psalm 1
I’ll be honest. I’ve run short on time and our worship topic today, prayer, is so expansive that I cannot do it justice, so I think it will be best to leave you in the capable hands of Frederick Buechner and Eugene Peterson, and I will summarize what they are saying throughout and at the end.
Eugene Peterson says that,
“Prayers are tools, but with this clarification: prayers are not tools for doing or getting, but for being and becoming…” He suggests that the Psalms are the best place to start in learning to pray because “these prayers don’t seek God, they respond to the God who seeks us…God comes and speaks—his word catches us in sin, finds us in despair, invades us by grace. The Psalms are our answers. We don’t always like what God speaks to us, and we don’t always understand it. Left to ourselves we will pray to the same god who speaks what we like hearing, or to the part of God that we manage to understand. But what is critical is that we speak to the God who speaks to us, and to everything that he speaks to us, and in our speaking mature in the great art of conversation with God that is prayer. The Psalms—all of which listen in order to answer—train us in the conversation.” (Peterson, Answering God).
Imagine for a moment, though, that you are entirely new to prayer, or you are not even sure you believe in Christ, or perhaps you are not sure you still believe. How then should you pray? Buechner suggests this,
“According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images he uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again (Luke 11:5-8). Or God is like a crooked judge who refuses to hear the case of a certain poor widow, presumably because he knows there’s nothing much in it for him. But she keeps on hounding him until finally he hears her case just to get her out of his hair (Luke 18:1-8). Even a stinker, Jesus says, won’t give his own child a black eye when the child asks for peanut butter and jelly, so how all the more will God when his children… (Matthew 7:9-11)?….
[Pray] even if you don’t believe anybody’s listening, at least you’ll be listening.
Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29).
What about when the boy is not healed? When, listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God’s door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that, down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer, the God you call upon will finally come” (Buechner, Wishful Thinking)
Reflect: Prayer is worship of God through communion with God. We pray but often we struggle to know what to pray, and even wonder whether Anyone is listening. Buechner says keep it up and Peterson says to not only keep it up but to pick up the other side of the conversation that God has already started through his Word. Try it out. Read Psalm 1 and talk to God about what you see there. Don’t worry about using lofty words. Speak it plain.
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)