The Southern Episcopal Church
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How to Spend an Hour in Prayer
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26: 40 & 41
"An hour? How could I pray for an hour? I'd run out of things to say!"
Praying for an hour is like sitting down in a restaurant with a friend, rather than ordering a cheeseburger and chocolate shake at the drive-up window. Somehow, as you sip coffee together, you find a lot of things to say. And, it's a whole lot more satisfying than a wave and a "Hi-how-are-you?"
But if talking to God for that long seems intimidating, it's probably because we're still learning just to share ourselves with Him as we would with a friend.
The following suggestions are designed to help you take courage to try spending an hour with the Lord. After the hour, probably after the first 15 minutes, you won't need this outline. You'll find there's plenty to talk about without prompting.
Start by bringing along some things to discuss with Him: your Bible, a hymnal, a world map or globe, perhaps a church directory and yours or your church's current prayer list. Then find a place where the two of you won't be disturbed.
1 min. Beginning Prayer. Ask God to help you spend this time profitably with Him. Ask His guidance. Give yourself to Him for this hour.
4 Min. Confession. Spend a couple of minutes going over with Him recent sins which weigh on you. But don't dredge up old ones. Read 1 John 1:9. Ask His cleansing, then accept it by faith and thank Him for it. He is far more willing to forgive than you are to ask.
Praise And Thanksgiving
9 Min. Adoration. Sing to the Lord using a hymnal or some choruses you know. Come on, lift up your voice in praise; there are just the two of you. Now start to thank Him for His goodness to you and your friends. There is a special sense in which God "inhabits" (KJV) and is "enthroned upon" (NIV) the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). As your heart begins to adore Him, you'll sense His presence more deeply.
9 Min. Pray About Life's Difficulties. Use this time to talk over with the Lord your own personal struggles. Discuss with Him your relationship with your special loved one or spouse, your family, your hang-ups, your financial needs, your studies or job. But don't stop here. Be sure you go on to praying for the needs of others.
9 Min. Pray For Friends, Relatives, Neighbors, Fellow Workers. Don't just read a list of names to God, but talk to Him about their lives and needs. You can boldly ask Him for their salvation because Jesus died for them. Ask God to bring Christians into their lives, to alter circumstances, and to give you opportunities for witness and sharing in depth.
12 Min.Pray For Your Church and its needs. Call on Him for a deep renewal of love for God. Pray for your pastor and church leaders. Intercede for the Sunday school children and the youth, the families, the singles and the widows, the sick and shut-ins. Call on God for an increase in giving so the church doesn't have to struggle so much. Pray for the Christian organizations working with the college students, the children, the homeless in your community, with servicemen, and on college campuses. Then intercede for those you know in special need.
8 Min. Pray For Our Nation, that God will guide our president and legislators, our justices and judges, our governors and mayors, our police and firemen. Pray for righteousness in government and a public policy sensitive to the needs of the oppressed here and abroad.
8 Min. Pray For Other Nations, for the work of Christ throughout the world. Intercede for unreached peoples, call on God to send laborers into His harvest. Pray for missionaries, for third- world pastors and churches, for the people of God who are suffering persecution. Pray for peace. Ask God to give food, shelter and hope to the hungry.
Total = 60 min.
Sixty minutes already? I've just got started!
A Few Suggestions
Here are some ideas that'll help you pray more freely. First, be yourself. Why wouldest thou pray like Brother So-and-So? Talk to God like you'd talk to your best friend.
Get comfortable. The stiffer you feel, the more formal your relationship will be. Sitting is fine. If kneeling helps, do it. You might want to take an hour's walk as you talk with your Friend.
Next, try praying out loud, though not loud enough to disturb others. Being able to hear yourself pray really helps. You'll find that your mind doesn't wander as easily and that you can pray more fervently.
But don't feel you have to do all the talking. Discuss something with the Lord, then be silent for a time. Sometimes God uses these times of listening to implant His answers in our minds. Gradually you'll find that prayer can be a conversation.
Finally, don't worry about keeping to the times suggested here. It's only to get you started, to help you believe you actually can spend sixty minutes in prayer. You'll find God will guide you in your prayer time. Its not a program, it's a growing relationship.
Now, go for it. Before you put this down, set a time when you will spend an hour with Him. You can't learn to pray from reading any more than you can learn to swim from a textbook. It's time to get into the water.
News from Around The Church
Remember all those who are in recovery in your prayers.
Everyone who was in the hospital or ill has returned home and is in better health. I pray that God will continue his healing and we praise Him for his care.
We will have guest at the Church the 6th and 7th of August. We will need help to feed and work with all of these folk. If you can help please let us know.
Matthew 24:36-44-36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
We are at the beginning of the season of Advent, a time of preparation, a time of going toward the coming again of the Messiah, a time of great expectation and great anticipation. But exactly what is it that we anticipate? What are we getting ready for? What do we expect to happen? Do we anticipate the end of the world, as some religious cults always do at this time of the year? Are we preparing our hearts and spirits to receive again the coming, the coming of the Christ child into the world? Or are we preparing for yet another month-long shopping spree that some have called "economic first-degree murder" - willfully and with malice aforethought murdering our bank accounts? Or maybe we're getting ready for the seven to ten pounds the average American will gain during the season (Lord, please let me be an underachiever this year!)? Or are we preparing for the suicidal traffic jams at the mall, or the general atmosphere of surliness and desperation? (A couple of years back I remember hearing on the local news in West Tennessee that shoppers were actually coming to blows for the right to buy a Holiday Barbie doll!)
Are we getting ready for the depression, the anxiety, and even the rage that accompanies the secular holiday season? If we allow ourselves to get caught up in the consumer Christmas - and I firmly believe that we in America celebrate two separate events on December 25 - we can easily find that instead of preparing to sing "O Holy Night" we will find ourselves living out one holy nightmare.
For the many who faithfully observe the consumer Christmas, Advent is the inevitable prelude to disappointment. For the majority of these folks, Christmas somehow hardly ever measures up to their fantasies. Even for those who manage to have some of their Christmas wishes fulfilled, the season is over so quickly that the need to make New Year's resolutions to lose those added pounds, bears down on them even before the decorations come down. But the Advent we celebrate in the church - the one that has nothing at all to do with the number of shopping days left until Xmas - is altogether different. The hanging of the greens, the placement of the poinsettias, the lighting of the first Advent candle - all these invite us to dream dreams of a better world, to allow expectant visions that have nothing to do with sugar-plum fairies to dance in our heads. Advent invites us to fill the cup of today with a full measure of tomorrow. Both the passage from Isaiah and the words from the Gospel of Matthew express the Christian hope for a different, brighter future.
When the prophet Isaiah thought about the advent of God, he envisioned.... Isaiah 53
1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
5 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Jesus truly is coming again, as he did the first time and the world wasn’t ready for Him then just as it is not ready now. We need to remember that only we can commit ourselves to Him. It is a personal thing, He did his part all we must do is believe and know that He is coming back to claim His own. Are you ready? Do you love your brothers and sisters? Do you enjoy spending time with them? It is not a matter of pick and choose which ones to love and which ones not to love. We are to love one another because that is what Jesus Christ told us to do. Join us for all the Advent services and the Christmas-eve service that you may grow closer to Him who gave His all for you.
The Warning and Promise of Advent
William Willimon tells the story of a funeral he attended when he was serving a small congregation in rural Georgia. One of his members' relatives died, so Willimon and his wife attended the funeral held in an off-brand, country Baptist church. He writes: "I had never seen anything like it. The preacher began to preach. He shouted; he flailed his arms. 'It's too late for Joe. He's dead. But it ain't too late for you. People drop dead every day. Why wait? Now is the day for decision. Give your life to Jesus.' "
Willimon goes on to suggest that this was the worst thing he had ever seen. He fumed and fussed at his wife Patsy, complaining that the preacher had done the worst thing possible for a grieving family - manipulating them with guilt and shame. Patsy agreed. But then she said: "Of course the worst part of it all is that what he said is true."
My friends, each one of us lives in the shadow of the apocalypse - the dark reality of the end of our time and the end of the world's time. That is the warning of Advent. But there is also good news. There is also the promise of Advent - the promise that in the darkness, in the shadows, in the unpredictable anxiety of our unfinished lives, God is present. God is in control, and God will come again. With each candle we light, the shadows recede a bit, and the promise comes closer. With each candle we light, we are proclaiming that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. The promise is that wherever there is darkness and dread in our lives, wherever there is darkness and dread in the world around us, God is present to help us endure. God is in charge, and hope is alive. And as long and as interminable as the night seems, morning will come - in God's good time and God's good way.
Christ May be Closer than you Know
Martin, the Cobbler, is Leo Tolstoy's story about a lonely shoemaker who is promised in a dream that Christ will come to visit his shop. The next day Martin rises early, gets his shop ready, prepares a meal and waits. The only one who showed up in the morning was an old beggar who came by and asked for rest. Martin gave him a room he had prepared for his divine guest. The only one to show up in the afternoon was an old lady with a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asks for food. He gave her the food he had prepared for his divine guest. As evening came, a lost boy wandered by. Martin took him home, afraid all the while he would miss the Christ. That night in his prayers he asks the Lord, "Where were You? I waited all day for You."
The Lord said to Martin:
"Three times I came to your friendly door,
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was a beggar with bruised feet.
I was the woman you gave to eat.
I was the homeless child on the street."
Watch out! Christ may be closer than you can imagine.
Christian Hope Had Changed His Life
Some years ago a military airplane crashed at Sonderstrom Air Force Base in Greenland. Twenty-two people were killed. The runway and the nearby fields were strewn with bodies. It was a tragic and horrible moment. There was only one chaplain on the base at the time… and the entire burden was laid on him to bring comfort and the Word of Christ to a shocked community staggered by the horrendous accident. But there was little time to mourn that day. The grisly task of gathering up and identifying the bodies needed to be done.
And so, the chaplain, along with a young lieutenant who had been assigned the duties of a mortuary officer and a group of volunteers went about the awful business of picking up the mutilated bodies and trying to identify the dead, so that their families and loved ones back home could be notified. It was a heart-breaking and exhausting task, but it had to be done. The people worked in shocked silence well into the night until they almost dropped from fatigue. When every last remnant of death had been picked up, they each went silently to their individual rooms.
That night, after midnight, there was a knock on the chaplain’s door. Outside stood the young lieutenant, the Mortuary Officer. He said nothing. He just stood there and wept. After some moments, the young lieutenant spoke through his tears and he said to the chaplain, “As we were picking up the bodies today, I realized something. I realized that the only other people out there with us were the people who go to church here. I have always been an unbeliever, and I used to ridicule these same people who were out there with us. Yet they are the only persons who would, or perhaps could, do what we had to do today. It must have been their Christian spirit that could help them see beyond the horror to the hope.”
That tragic day turned around the life of that young lieutenant. As he had admitted, he had never been religious, had seldom gone to church except for weddings and funerals, but from that time on he was a new man. Christ was born in his heart. From that time forward, he took an active part in the Christian ministry of that base. Then he did an unheard thing – he extended his tour of duty in Greenland for an extra year. He was the first person in the history of that base to do that. He did it because he wanted to be able to tell others the story of how the power of the Christian Hope had changed his life. If you want to give your loved ones a great Christmas present this year, give them the gift of Christian Hope. On page after page of the New Testament we find it: the Good News that God will win, that nothing can defeat Him; that ultimately God and goodness will have the victory and that when we put our hope in Him, nothing, not even death, can separate us from His watch care and His love and His triumph. Once each year, Christmas comes along to renew our hope and to remind us that the darkness of this world cannot overcome the light of the world.
By: Catherine Manning
July 4, 2003
I dreamed that you were watching me across the sea so blue.
I dreamed that you were watching me across a
I dreamed that you were watching me while I was
but we never met eye to eye
I dreamed that you were watching me high up in a tree.
I dreamed you held my fate in the palm of you hand.
I dreamed that you were the only one I could see.
I dreamed about things only you could understand.
Some morals are absolute, but they are not ultimate.
A Man and the Birds
The man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn't make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
"I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite. That he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound...Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud...At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them...He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms...Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me...That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
"If only I could be a bird," he thought to himself, "and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm...to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand." At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fidelis, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I understand.” he said.
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take him at his word.
Just in simple faith to trust him,
Just to know thus saith the Lord.
THE SOUTHERN EPISCOPAL CHURCH
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