A Prayer for Perceiving God’s Work in Our Pain

     For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hopeJer. 29:11

Dear heavenly Father, there’s simply no other god as merciful, gracious, and engaged as you. Your forbearance is immeasurable; your kindness is inexhaustible; your plans are irrepressible.

When your people received this letter of encouragement from Jeremiah, they were in exile, hurting, not in the temple, rejoicing. How could they not feel bereft, bewildered, even betrayed by you? It seemed to them like the rulers of Babylon had more power than you.

Yet these words of hope remind us that when you lead us into difficult seasons, it’s not to shame us, but to change us. When you send hardships, it’s not to bring us harm but to give us hope. When you discipline us, it’s not to send us into the “doghouse” of your displeasure, but to guarantee our good future.

It’s comforting to remember that you always know exactly what you are doing with your people, and everything else in the world. You know the plans you have for us—individually and corporately. There’s no happenstance in heaven. You don’t make up things as you go along. You’re not a God who reacts out of irritation, but one who always acts out of great affection. There are no coincidences, just providences. “Stuff” doesn’t just happen; sovereignty is always happening.

Father, this way of thinking would be utter madness if you never sent Jesus—a big-time spitting …

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A Prayer When Facing Uncertain Outcomes

     Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Hab. 3:17-18

     Dear heavenly Father, I approach the throne of grace today on behalf of those of us who are living in difficult stories, like Habakkuk, with unsettling circumstances and uncertain outcomes. I’m so thankful you always welcome us in our brokenness, never despise us in our anxiousness, and thoroughly understand our weariness. You, alone, are grace-full—bidding us cast our cares on you, even as you are prepared to catch everyone of them.

I pray for those of us facing difficult health issues—in our own bodies and minds, or in the lives of those we deeply love. Father, the promise and hope of our resurrection bodies never looked so good (2 Cor. 5:1-5).

We know that Jesus’ finished work has secured our ultimate healing (Isa. 53:5); but as our “outer man” further deteriorates, we trust you for wisdom, grace and the supernatural work of your Holy Spirit. It’s not a matter of “claiming healing,” but loving and trusting the Healer. Bring great glory to yourself, and peace to our hearts, no matter what you write in the next chapter of our stories.

I pray for those of us living in difficult relationships—marriage and family, church and vocation, neighborhood …

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A Prayer of Thanksgiving for “Thornbushes”

I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.Hosea 2:6-7

Dear Lord Jesus, I’ve praised you for the fall foliage of western North Carolina; the panoramic wonder of Cape Town, South Africa; everything topographical about Switzerland; the Eden-like echoes reverberating in Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island; and the azure blue waters, kissing the sugar-white beaches of Destin, Florida. But today, I praise you for the gift of thornbushes—prickly, painful providences of great mercy.

Jesus, you love us so much that, when we love you less, you come after us with tenacity and uncomfortable providences. You are unrelenting in your commitment to rescue our hearts from illusions, mirages, broken cisterns, idols, and wannabe lovers. I wish you didn’t have to be, but I am grateful you are so doggedly committed to keeping us from self-destructing.

O blessed and beloved thornbushes, ever block my path when I begin chasing after lesser gods and other lovers. Hedge me in like a formidable fortress—an indefatigable defense against my wandering heart. When I set my GPS for an affair of any kind, cause me to lose my bearings and my way. Frustrate my every attempt to look for more, or settle for less, than Jesus.

Jesus, that you …

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A Prayer of Gratitude for Well-placed Thornbushes

     I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.” Hosea 2:6-7 

     Dear Lord Jesus, I’ve praised you for the fall foliage of western North Carolina, the panoramic wonder of Cape Town, South Africa, everything about Switzerland, the Eden-like echoes in Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, and the azure blue waters kissing the sugar white beaches of Destin, Florida. But today, I praise you for the gift of thornbushes.
     Jesus, you love us so much that when we love you less, you come after us with tenacity and uncomfortable providences. You are unrelenting in your commitment to rescue our hearts from illusions, mirages, broken cisterns, idols, and wannabe lovers. I wish you didn’t have to be, but I am grateful you are so doggedly committed to us.
     O blessed and beloved thornbushes, ever block my path when I begin chasing after lesser gods and other lovers. Hedge me in like a formidable fortress. When I set my GPS for an affair of any kind, cause me to lose my bearings and my way. Frustrate my every attempt to look for more, or settle for less, than Jesus.
     Lord Jesus, that you are jealous for …

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A Prayer for Reflecting on Our Motivation for Loving God

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11

Heavenly Father, I sometimes wonder if Satan watches American religious television, or spends his time thumbing through many popular Christian books, because he’d certainly find a bunch of material to work with. There’s a lot there he could use to substantiate his charge that the only reason we love you is because of the goodies you give us, the comforts you bring us and the riches you loan us. But instead of being cynical, please show me to what extent I’d have to say, “guilty as charged.” What affects the ebb and flow of my affection for you, Father?

On this Thanksgiving Day Eve, my list of “creature comforts” is long, even longer than I realize.  I don’t have anything especially whine-worthy going on. There’s nothing moving me to question your goodness or leading me to cry, “Where are you, Lord?, What are you thinking?” I’ve got good health; there’s more check left over at the end of the month; none of my family members are in crisis. Nothing beyond the normal fallen-ness and brokenness of life is happening around me or within me.

I presume on …

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