Picture of my BFF Avery and myself on our first day of Senior year I can’t believe it, but I’m about to start my 3rd year of college in a couple weeks, and most of my friends’ siblings are starting next week, so with a new school year quickly approaching, it’s time to get in […]5 Encouraging Prayers for Teachers Starting the New School Year
The World—Everything Is Different, but Nothing Has Changed
And the times are changing quickly. No one has any idea what the world will look like in ten years, let alone twenty or thirty. The rapid development of technology is more than we can take in. Those of us over the age of forty were born before the digital revolution really started. We’ve learned to use laptops, cameras, the Internet, and our personal electronic products, but it’s like learning a foreign language. But those under the age of forty have grown up with the digital revolution, and to them it’s their mother tongue. This has created the biggest generational gap since rock and roll.
Even greater is the moral generational gap. Those over forty in the western world grew up in a culture that still retained a semblance of its historic Judeo-Christian heritage. Our worldview contained some remaining vestiges of biblical truth. But our children are growing in an increasingly secular society.
But don’t despair. The things that matter most haven’t changed one iota. The little Book in my suit pocket is as unchanging as Him who is from everlasting to everlasting. That strengthens us whatever change may come.
Many at Galatia had been influenced by the “Judaizers, ” Jewish Christians, or at least Christians in name, who sought to be justified through keeping the Law of Moses. But Paul tells them that the true function of the Law was not to save but to be a “schoolmaster” or “teacher” to bring them to Christ. Once they saw the impossibility of keeping the Law and the great culpability of breaking it, they would see their need to be saved by faith alone.
Lord, that schoolmaster (your Law) that revealed our need of a Savior is still revealing to us our shortcomings. As love is the fulfilling of the Law, and to love God and neighbor is the sum of it, we see the Law is a helpful guide for Christian conduct. Use it to test us and show us our flaws, then turn us by grace to the keeping of it through love. Amen.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
To remove the curse of God for breaking his Law from us, Jesus took our guilt upon himself and suffered that curse in our place. God cannot demand “double payment” for sin, so that he cannot justly condemn those whose sins were paid for in full on the cross. That is why there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
O Lamb of God, it is your blood that takes away the sin-debt of the world, even of every one who believes on your name. We could not bear the punishment of our sin, nor endure the day of God’s wrath against sin. We praise you for your work of love on the cross, where you redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Amen.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
It is in God’s design of things that children should grow up and leave the home. It is normal that they should go out and begin their own home. For our families to be strong and healthy, unlike the “fractured” if not broken families the world is so full of, husband and wife must remain in close, intimate union. And this union is a picture of the union between Christ and His Church.
God, help us to work at our relationships with others so that they will be all you intend them to be. Let my relationship with you be the foundation for a good relationship with spouse, children, parents, all family and friends, and every acquaintance. Amen.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; )
Perhaps the two sweetest words in the whole Bible are found here, “But God. ” In the verse just preceding, it is stated that believers were “children of wrath even as others” before their conversion. But God had a great love for them, which led him to “quicken, ” that is “raise to life, ” those who were dead spiritually. Paul then adds emphatically, “by grace you are saved. “
May we say with conviction, O Lord, that old Christian saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I. ” May we recognize that it was your saving love that made the difference with us. We were dead to God, unable to respond properly to him. But your love laid hold on us, Lord, and you imparted to us life. And we know that yours is a love that “will not let us go.” Amen.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
The Holy Spirit is here called the Spirit of Wisdom, using a grammatical construction that in the Greek indicates the Spirit is the “source of” or “giver of” wisdom. In 2 Timothy 3:15, we learn that the Scriptures are “able to make you wise unto salvation. ” When God opens our understanding to see the truth of the Gospel, he enlightens us and imparts to us wisdom to know and act on the truth. He then gives us hope of future glory and assures us of that hope by “the working of his mighty power” in us. That is the very power that raised up Jesus from the dead.
Open our minds more and more, we pray, to understand your truths. Let the “resurrection power” of God that raised Jesus Christ’s body from the grave raise up our spirits to live more and more a “resurrection life” of obedience to you. Amen.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Faith is a gift from God, but it is also a thing that we are called to diligently work at and improve. In fact, these verses on diligence are further informed by verse 10 of the same chapter where our diligence is said to be the means of making “our calling and election sure. ” That is, when faith, virtue (moral fortitude), knowledge (gained through experience), self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love abound in our lives, it is fruit of righteousness that helps assure our hearts that indeed we are God’s children and will enter his everlasting kingdom (verse 11).
Lord, we take seriously your command to strive diligently after godliness and all Christian virtues in our daily walk. We know that you do not desire our faith to remain “alone, ” but that it should be accompanied by all Christian graces. We are encouraged to know that you will help us and guide us as we grow in all of these areas, step by step. Amen.
But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
There will be days when you are tempted and days when you need protection, but you are a child of God. God will never leave you or forsake you – you will never have to walk through these challenging times alone. He is always faithful. He offers his protection and will help you stay away from evil. He has given you his Holy Spirit as a guide. Trust the Spirit to alert you when you have stumbled into trouble and call on him for protection.
Dear God, when I am fearful and need courage, I know you will strengthen me. You are always faithful and you will never leave me – thank you! Help me to trust you to guide me through difficult situations and protect me from any evil the evil one tries to use against me. O Lord, make my faith stronger so that I do not have a spirit of fear. Thank you for rescuing me time and time again. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Isaiah was dirty and full of sin. He was unworthy to see God’s holiness. Then the heavenly being took a hot coal from God’s alter. He put it on Isaiah lips and his sins were taken away and cleansed. Similarly, Jesus cleanses us who have faith in Him. He cleanses us and He makes us pure. Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation from our wickedness. He is the only way to the Father and to heaven. Do you have faith in Jesus to remove your sins? If you cannot confidently answer, think and pray about it. It is always better to be sure. It is okay to not be sure; there is no shame in that. Get on your knees and ask God to reveal Himself to You. Proclaim your faith in Him and give Him your life. This is the way to salvation from your wickedness, sin, and the punishment you deserve – that we all deserve, but Jesus bore.
Moses had brought the Israelites out of Egypt and now they were wondering if they were any better off! They had reached the Red Sea, and couldn’t see any way around this barrier that had been placed before them. But God knew what he was doing and Moses followed his instructions and the sea parted so that the Israelites could pass through on dry ground. A question sometimes asked at a job interview is, “What do you do when you face an obstacle?” How would you answer? Would you try to go around it, through it, or perhaps over it? Moses could not go around his obstacle and knew that without help, he could never bring all the people, animals and supplies through it. So, he asked God for help. Was that the first thing you thought of? There is a saying, “If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it.” The key here is to ask God to bring us through it.
We often face challenges in our lives, especially when we are trying to live as Jesus wants us to live. Have you ever been asked why you believe? If not you probably will be. It can be hard to find the right words at times, but God will give us the words if we ask. Just as he promised Samuel, Isaiah and the other prophets, he will not leave us on our own and will give us the words we need when we need them. The next time you meet an obstacle, let God lead you over, under, around or through it. He will guide us in the right way to go.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, He was prophesied about. That He would restore and bring life not break and ruin. That he would bring forth judgment on the Earth, and people everywhere across the oceans would listen to what He had to say. Now thousands of years later, people all over the Earth still listen to what Jesus has to say. Jesus is glorified through all history. People on every continent and in every country listen for His voice and read His Word.
Jesus, thank You for bearing the burden and punishment of my sins and wrongdoings. You are the only way to come to the Father and to everlasting life. I place my faith in You and You only. I believe that You, Jesus, are the Son of God. I believe in the Father and Holy Spirit also. I believe in the trinity and that the Trinity is one. I put no one else before You in my priorities. If You are not at my center, remove idols from my life. I place my life, faith, and trust in You. I repent from my wrongdoing, and I come before You in faith. My life is in Your hands. I come to You because You are gracious and let me call on Your name. Amen.
The first thing Andrew did when He found out Jesus was the Christ was to go tell his brother. Andrew went and got Peter and brought him to Jesus. Andrew could have been scoffed at or rejected by Peter if Peter did not believe Jesus was the Christ; yet, Andrew took him to Jesus anyways, and I’m sure he was glad he did. You have Jesus, and you love Him. Have you tried to bring your family to Him? Knowing Jesus is the only way to eternal life, wouldn’t you want to try your best to introduce Him to your grandparents, mother, father, brothers, sisters, and cousins?
Heavenly Father, give me strength and courage to introduce You to my family. They need You. I want to speak to them about You. Help me to tell them about You well. Help me to answer questions they have and to try to find them the answers I don’t know. Soften their hearts. Only You can bring them to You, so please do so. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Sometimes we grow weary as believers. Walking the road of faith gets hard. Other times it gets mundane. Sometimes doubt creeps in. We may even allow sin to fester in our lives and lead us to complacency and ceasing to listen to the Holy Spirit. But as believers, we can encourage our brothers and sisters to continue in the faith. Sometimes all someone needs is a reminder, encouragement, and support.
Heavenly Father, help my brothers and sisters. Give them strength and endurance to continue in the faith You called them to. Place people in their lives to encourage them. Bring them to a deeper love for You. Make them to feel Your presence this week. Let them remember why they first loved You. You are our great love. You are the worthiest of our love. You are worthy of more than we can give. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Father God, You sent Your son to the world to save us. He was with you in the beginning. People everywhere listen to His words. Jesus is amazing and true. Thank You for Your goodness, and that You build up and care for the weak. Help Your Church that is scattered all over the Earth. Unite us, Your Bride. Help us to glorify you and to proclaim Your gospel to the nations. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When we reach a point of contentment, we are not moved by what another person does or does not have. Contentment prevents us from defining ourselves according to the world’s values. We become content through God, in whom we know we have everything we need. Eternal life, being the most important of it all.
Dear God, I thank you that I can be totally content in you. You have filled all the gaps and voids in my life. I know that I will never find contentment in this world; only in you and you alone. I pray that more and more of your children will come to realize this too, Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Sometimes people tend to take God’s love and everlasting mercy as a way for them to continue living irresponsibly. When they are confronted about their actions, their response is “God loves me for who I am. ” Yes, he does, but our love for Him should compel us to be convicted of our sins and confess them to him. God won’t hold our sins against us; he is quick to forgive and swift to restore.
Dear God, once again I would like to thank you for your endless love and everlasting mercy. Father, I am sorry for any time I have taken you or your love for granted. If there has ever been a time where I tried to use the grace you have given so freely as an excuse to live irresponsibly, I humbly confess where I have erred, and I receive your forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Dear God, I pray for those who have chosen to turn from you. Lord, I pray that something in their hearts will make them change their minds about you. May they experience your love, Lord, in all its fullness and may they be compelled by this to know you more. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Someone once said that there are no u-hauls behind hearses. The implication is that you can’t take it with you when you die. There’s a story of a man who tried. When the doctors told him he had a short time to live, he converts some of this cash into gold bricks, puts them in a suitcase and instructs that this suitcase should be buried with him. When he approaches the pearly gates carrying the suitcase, St. Peter stops him and asks to look inside the suitcase. The angel Gabriel asks, “What’s in the suitcase?” “Pavement,” replies St. Peter. The story illustrates that in heaven what we consider to be wealth on this earth is really nothing. Heaven’s streets are paved with gold. That would be the equivalent of us finding some kind of value in asphalt or concrete chunks here on earth. We spent a lot of time trying to get things on this earth. We spend a lot of time working to get more and more and more stuff that we just don’t need. If you don’t believe it, take a look at what happens when a person dies without an heir. A lawyer has to come in, open up the house, and sell off all the belongs to settle the estate. Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of stuff–sometimes still in boxes–is sold for pennies on the dollar. An entire lifetime of obtaining things and the only thing that happens is that strangers come in to pick over the possessions a giant yard sale. This passage tells us that we are to be content with what we have. We should be content with food and clothing. As long as our needs are met on a daily basis, that’s really all we should ask for. Everything else is just bonus stuff and if we are spending time away from our families, if we’re spending time focusing on getting rather than focusing on living, then we’re being very foolish because we can’t take it with us. When the end comes, all the stuff that we bought stay right here our closets or our garages. While we’re on this earth we need to make the right choices and be sure that we are able to be content with what we have. Then we may end up with few things that we want.
Childbirth can be a painful experience. Even with the best pain killers available, the stress and trauma of childbirth cannot be lessened greatly. A mother giving birth may travail in labor for hours. Her contractions may be painful and the birth process may be grueling. In that period of labor, she suffers greatly. But as soon as she sees the face of that newborn child, all of that passes away. The suffering, the pain, disappears and is replaced by joy. Here Paul gives us a similar situation. Paul explains here that the Gospel has great power to sustain us in times of trouble. He was not talking only about the trials that Christians in his time had to endure, but the sickness, pain, and trouble that all Christians, throughout time would have to endure. He says that no matter how difficult the suffering in this world is, it does not even compare to the glory that awaits us in heaven. The glory that will be revealed to us is so great in comparison to the suffering that preceded it. We will forget our former trials when we get a glimpse of that glory.
We are children of God. Think about that for a minute. The God of the universe sent his son to be born of a woman on earth living under the law – a woman like us. He sent his son so that we might be free from this law – the law of sin and death. We are free because of his sacrifice, and we have been made sons and daughters of God through him. How amazing!
Paul cries out here in anguish over indwelling sin that remained in him. He longs for the day when he will be free fully from the power of sin. While we live, a conflict is in us between the old and the new natures. It is a daily battle. It does not end until we leave this world, but God can help us subdue the flesh and live increasingly out of the new nature.
Father, I thank You for being with me in my trials. I know that I will have to suffer some in this world and I know I will have to go through trials. I also know, however, that what will be revealed to me when I finally see You face to face will make it all worthwhile. My suffering will fade to nothing as I see the glory of Your face. Amen.
If we hate that which is evil, we will love that which is good. The two go together hand in hand. You cannot love God and love Satan; you cannot love God’s Law and also love the paths of unrighteousness. At least, your heart of hearts and your new nature from the new birth will seek what is truly good; the old nature will seek sin, but the Christian must subdue and overcome it. The age old question of who’s right! There’s a commercial for an automobile company that uses the slogan of “either/or, or both/and” that I kind of like. Not that I’m supporting the company, but because I believe we sometimes think in an either/or way when it’s really important to be a both/and kind of person. In today’s gospel, Martha is busy about hospitality and Mary extends hospitality in a quieter manner. We need both, and we need to be both. There are times when we need to be about doing what Jesus tells us to do, but if all we do is “do” and we don’t take the time to listen, we just might get it wrong. Mary sits and listens to Jesus while Martha feels overwhelmed with her tasks. When Martha complains, Jesus tells her not to be anxious and worried, and I think that here is the key. When we take the time to sit and listen to Jesus and then move on to follow the will of God, we don’t have to be anxious and worried; we can relax in the knowledge that we are doing our best, and that is what is required of us. Jesus doesn’t say that what Martha is doing is unimportant; he just seems to imply that she shouldn’t be so focused on her work, that she neglects her need for being present and listening. We, too, can be so busy doing that we forget to take the time to pray, to reflect on Scripture, to sit and listen to Jesus. During the sometimes lazy days of summer, let us take advantage of the laziness and just sit in God’s presence and reflect on who we are and who we are called to be, so that when the time comes to be busy again, we’ll be ready.
Micah is a prophet at around the same time as Isaiah and has come to prophesy punishment to those who are behaving in an unjust manner. Just because a person has the power or authority to act unjustly, doesn’t mean that he should. One might think that harassment or schemes to defraud people of their property or their inheritance, are something new, but Micah lets us know that these things have been going on since antiquity. God isn’t any happier today about these practices than he was then. Micah made known God’s displeasure to the kings and leaders of the day. He warns that their unjust practices need to stop and that the people need to repent or else they are leaving themselves open to attack by armies greater than theirs.
As we know, Assyria and Babylon both decimated Judah and Israel. Think about the Roman Empire, they too had fallen into such a moral decay that they were open to being overcome by Constantine. What about today? We have become lax in our time as well. Corporate takeovers that have little respect for the rights of the workers have become common. Even companies that have not been taken over have been known to change their policies and limit the benefits that their employees enjoy. Communities can take property away from individuals for schools, highways, shopping centers, by eminent domain and those who live on the properties are forced to move. Although owners are reimbursed, renters need to fend for themselves. Looking out for number one, whether personally, communally or nationally can lead to ignoring the essentials and there is nothing to stop others from overcoming us. As Micah says, we need to work for justice if we want peace. And so still today, the Jewish people celebrate Passover and one of the traditions is for someone to ask why we celebrate this feast, and the youngest child answers with the story of the Passover. Jesus was celebrating Passover with his friends on the night before he died. I know this reading comes up during the summer, so it’s not the time for Passover, or the Passion of Jesus, but I have a question. What are our traditions surrounding the passion and death and resurrection of Jesus? Do we celebrate the end of Lent on Holy Thursday? Do we spend time with Jesus on Good Friday remembering his sacrifice? Is Easter all about candy and the Easter bunny? Today, many of our churches are practically empty on Easter Sunday and the children think more about an Easter egg hunt than God. Would the youngest member of the family be able to tell the story of why we celebrate? God brought the Israelites from slavery to freedom at the original Passover, but Jesus brought us from the slavery of sin and the freedom to celebrate eternity with him in heaven. One was temporary, the other is permanent. Why is it that we take this celebration so lightly? Even though it’s summer, let’s take a moment to think about how the story of our faith is being passed on to our youth.
God’s name as it is written in Scripture is either Jehovah or Yahweh, or just YHWH. All are translations of He is Who He is. Because the Jewish people did not call God by the name he gave Moses. It is for this reason that the Jewish people were so angry when Jesus said that before Abraham came to be I AM. To say God’s name was to blaspheme. For the people of Moses’ time, names had power. They felt that to use the name of God was to say that they had power over God, and so the name was sacred. I can remember an uncle of mine who would often take not just the Lord’s name in vain when he was angry, but would also use it to curse whoever he was angry with. I’m sure you know many people who do the same without even blinking an eye.
Good Christians, all, who would be horrified if they were called on it. We are offended when people use foul language, why are we not offended when the Lord’s name is taken in vain? A friend of mine used to work in the office of a major manufacturing company and the man who sat behind her was continually cursing the company and its managers. One day she had had enough and turned to him and said, “No wonder the company is going to pot, you keep asking God to damn it.” He had never considered that he was both swearing and cursing, but he stopped. What about us? Do we need to clean up our speech, or ask other to do so? How do I praise God? God doesn’t want an animal sacrifice he wants a sacrifice of the heart. He wants a joyous heart, a heart that bursts into song because it can’t help itself. A heart so full of gratitude that song is the only way a body can express it. I love music; I love to sing the songs of praise in church. I might not have the best voice but it’s the one God gave me so he must think it’s good enough. There is something about music that lifts the soul. It’s no wonder that the psalms are music. In fact, this psalm even tells us which piece of music to sing it to – “Lilies!” When we think about it, some of the most glorious music was written for religious reasons: Handel’s Messiah is but one example. When we listen to the anthems of many nations, we see how they give thanks and praise to God. Whether we raise our voices in song or not, what is important is that we raise our voices in thanks and praise to God. Our prayers acknowledge that we know who is in charge, to whom we owe everything and who deserves our praise.
Lord, I pray for the older people who do not know You. I pray they will find Your love and joy. Let them lean on You for strength and understanding. Help them to smile and live out the remainder of their days for You. Get them the word if they don’t have access to it. Bring Christians into their lives to speak life into them. You are the God who cares for the young and old, weak and strong, rich and poor. Bless our elderly and help us honor them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The writer of this Psalm desperately wanted God to show His strength through him, an old man. He wanted everyone to know God’s power. As we grow old, we can still show God’s strength. As we become weaker, we can proclaim how strong He is. Do not lose heart as you grow old. The retired missionary now goes door to door to preach even though he’s walking slowly. The woman who started doing jail ministry long ago is often decades later faithfully visiting the jail. Whatever God is calling you to, God is greater than your age.
Lord, as I grow old, let me still serve You faithfully. When I’m weak, help me to show others Your strength. Through wrinkles, let others see the joy on my face that comes only from You. Even if I’m moving slowly, let me still move for You. I will gladly do Your will until my last breath. If I’m on this earth, You have me here for a reason. I will continue to live for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We were all introduced to our savior, Jesus Christ, through someone else. When we truly understand salvation, it is not enough for us to simply receive it. In our excitement, we will gladly go tell others about this miraculous savior. The prophet describes how when a city came to know the Lord, they rushed to pray and seek God so that they could go to another city to share this good news. The Word tells us we are commissioned to tell others the good news – let us go quickly!
When we try to rush ahead of God’s timing and His guidance, we will end up making a lot of mistakes. We need to humble ourselves under God’s guidance, realizing that He truly knows best. When we do so, we will reach the right points in our life at the right time. It’s all about trusting Him.
Doubt is normal. It was there in Paul’s time and it exists today. Maybe it is more prevalent today than it was in Paul’s time because there are so many people trying to discourage people from belief in God. The pagans of Paul’s time believed in gods, they just didn’t all know God. Today many claim that there is no God. They believe that scientists will soon be able to explain everything about how the world was created and answer any other question we might have. See, no need for God! And if there is no God then no heaven and no resurrection. If this is true then why bother depriving ourselves of all the pleasures we can get just because Christianity says love of God and of others should come first. But, there were too many people who witnessed Jesus after his resurrection. Too many people who were willing to die for the sake of Jesus and his teaching. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t die for a lie. And I doubt that they would either. So, as Paul says, since Jesus rose from the dead, we need to pay attention to what he said and to the promise that one day we too would rise if only we remain faithful. Doubt? Okay, but in the end, trust and belief.
According to Lionel Swain, of St. Edmund’s College, Ware, St. Paul believed intercession to be one of the most important aspects of faith and praying life, as praying for others is a recurring theme in his works. Prayer acts as a way for St. Paul to acknowledge God’s power. Intercessory prayer also acts as a way for the Apostle to “share in … the Father’s redemptive love”. Paul believed that prayer transformed the person doing the praying, as much as the one being prayed for, which creates a stronger bond between him and God.
Prof. Dr Johannes van Oort, Professor Extraordinarius in the Department of Church History and Church Polity of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, adds that, in addition to praying for wisdom, the early church was very much involved with different charismas, one of which being healing. Praying for other people’s illnesses was another way that intercessory prayer was important in the early church, as healing was a sign of “the power of God’s Kingdom”. This gift of healing is specifically mentioned, among the other charismata, as a sign of being a true Christian by Irenaeus of Lyons in his text, Against Heresies.
Intercession of the saints is a doctrine held by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches that saints may be asked to intercede (or pray) for others. The doctrine of requesting intercession from saints can be found in Christian writings from the 3rd century AD, such as from Origen and Clement of Alexandria.
Main article: Prayer for the dead
In addition to praying for each other in life, early Christians would pray for those who had died. There is no unequivocal evidence that Christians began to pray for the dead before the third century AD. G. F. Hamilton argues that the earliest example of Church prayer on behalf of dead Christians are found in the Sacramentary of Serapion of Thmuis (350 AD). Rather than pray for the departed in regular church services on Sunday, these early Christians would hold special commemorative occasions during the week. There was a sharp distinction drawn between remembering and praying on behalf of the dead, and those who were the “‘faithfully’ departed”, where Christians would only pray for those who had died as believers. The First Epistle of Clement (95 AD) contains a prayer which, while mainly for protection for the living, also includes the dead. Even quite early, a distinction was drawn between those who had died as Christians, and those who had died as unbelievers. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp (155 AD), Polycarp is killed and his bones are taken by fellow Christians and a shrine is set up to him, where they may remember his martyrdom. In contrast, the “Apology of Aristides” shows how those who were not Christians were grieved for, while the dead faithful were rejoiced over.
Theological perspective: In an article in Theological Studies, Catholic theologian Patricia A. Sullivan warns that saints should not be built up in a way that brings down God. Saint Augustine had famously said that we pray not to instruct God but to get our will in line with God’s. Sullivan warns away from the dictionary meanings of “intercession” as “intervention, mediation, arbitration, negotiation”, all of which sound like we are dealing with a hostile or unfriendly God, whom we need to manipulate to get what we need. Such is not the meaning of the hapax legomenon in the New Testament of the word for intercession. Sullivan goes on:
When we ask a saint to intercede for us, what is happening at a deeper level is that we are taking refuge in the all-enfolding community of the redeemed, approaching God thru saintly symbols of Christ’s victory and of our hope. Saints want always what God wants, what is best for us whether we pray for it or not. They are in a perpetual attitude of praise for God’s love and care, to which we join ourselves, praying, more precisely, with them rather than to them. The value of our petitions is that they turn us in confidence toward the God who loves us, allowing God’s work to be more effective in us, and thru us in others.
It would be anathema to ask God to try any harder to do good. By invocation of a saint “we take refuge in faith in the all-enfolding community of all the redeemed,” where “each is responsible for all”. They are “creative models of holiness”.
Although the idea of intercession or mediation (Arabic: s̲h̲afāʿa) has historically played a very prominent role in Islamic thought, it is not universally accepted by all Muslims in the present day.
The Quran says that the pre-Islamic Arab pagan gods will not be able to intercede with God on behalf of humankind, and that “the guilty” (al-mujrimīn,) will not benefit from any intercession on the Day of Judgment. Other passages that deny the efficacy intercession include. Still others say that God is the only intercessor.
However, “intercession is mentioned in the Qurʾān with respect to angels praying for the believers and the Prophet praying for erring but repentant Muslims.” Furthermore, it became an orthodox Islamic doctrine or “cardinal belief” that “Muḥammad will intercede for all Muslims on the Day of Resurrection.” While this particular tenet practically remained unchallenged throughout Islamic history, the widespread Sunni and Shia practice of asking deceased prophets and saints for intercession by praying at their tombs have become contentious issues in the modern Islamic world, with all these different types of intercession often being labelled by Salafi/Wahhabi Muslims as a type of polytheism, in a manner akin to the attitude of many Protestants towards the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practice of saint-intercession. In prophetic sayings there is intercession of martyrs for “seventy relatives” in the Hereafter.
Some religions claim that praying for somebody who is sick can have positive effects on the health of the person being prayed for.
Meta-studies of the literature in the field have been performed showing evidence only for no effect or a potentially small effect. For instance, a 2006 meta analysis on 14 studies concluded that there is “no discernible effect” while a 2007 systemic review of intercessory prayer reported inconclusive results, noting that 7 of 17 studies had “small, but significant, effect sizes” but the review noted that the most methodologically rigorous studies failed to produce significant findings.
Does Jesus really want us to believe that our enemies are our parents, children, family or friends? Somehow, I don’t think so! It is really about priorities. Have you ever chosen to watch a sports program when your child wanted to talk to you? What about not sitting at the table for meals because a special game is on? We are called on to make choices all the time. We can choose God, or we can choose other. Is that late night party worth missing church? We can talk all we want about being too busy, but the truth is that we find the time for what we want to do. I love to read, knit, spend time with my friends and I hate doing the laundry, dishes, vacuuming, but it all needs to be done. I would rather pick up a good book than exercise. I can say that I am “too busy” to do the things I don’t enjoy doing, but the truth is, I choose to spend my time in other ways. The same is true about putting God first. A friend that is always put last doesn’t remain a friend for long. When it comes to God, we know he will never desert us, but what about our turning our backs on him? We know what we must do – put God first and then everything else falls into place. Even carrying the crosses each of us must bear in life is easier because we know we don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes we may have to disappoint a child or friend because we choose to do the right thing, but that is the price of being a disciple of Jesus.
Do Catholics worship Mary?
No, Catholics only worship the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It would, in fact, be sinful to worship Mary. Theologians call divine worship latria, or the adoration due only to God.
However, in English the word worship is equivocal. In Britain it is often used of high personages, with the meaning of revering or honoring them due to the dignity of their office. David gave such honor to Saul, for example, because God had placed him as king over Israel. Such “worship” is derivative, sourced in the Father, as St. Paul taught (Eph. 3:14-15), analogous to that which the Decalogue commanded for parents (Ex. 12:20; Dt. 5:16).
Unfortunately, the English word “worship” doesn’t convey the subtlety of the Latin used by the Church, and in the United States is reserved for God. The Church’s theological term is dulia, from the Latin word for service. It is the reverence and respect owed to all the faithful servants of God (Mt. 24:21-23), the angels and saints whom God Himself honors with crowns of glory (Prov. 16:31; 1 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 4:4). We honor them and, in turn, join with them in honoring God, the source of all holiness (Rev. 4:9-11).
Yet, Mary is not just any other saint. She is the Theotokos, the God-bearer, or Mother of God (Luke 1:43; Council of Ephesus, “Against Nestorius”). She is the true Ark of the Covenant who carried the Word Himself, the Bread of Heaven, and the Good Shepherd (Heb. 9:3-5; Rev. 11:19-12:1). The Archangel told her that she was “full of grace” (Luke 1:28), and Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit, called her “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42).
For all these reasons and more, the Church renders to Mary an honor that is greater than is given to all the saints and angels, termed hyperdulia, or the greatest honor. Yet, it is not still that adoration, latria, which we give to God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
JOHN, by the greace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and court of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.
KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Bublin, William Marshal bishop of Bath and Glastonbury,
Will Freedom Survive?
by James Robison
Several recent decisions by the Supreme Court have helped restore the foundational freedoms that made the United States, though far from perfect, the greatest nation on earth. Yet we must realize that there is no real freedom apart from God and the acceptance of personal responsibility. There can be no effective government without responsible citizens living under moral order. If we do not live under control with the freedom Jesus offered to all captives, we can never hope for our society to support and maintain the principles that enable freedom.
With an understanding of the importance of personal freedom, we may rightly ask the question, “What about national freedom?” It is my firm opinion we are in danger of losing it, along with the opportunity it offers. It is my prayer that all believers will learn that we must live to protect what others died to provide.
We are in the process of forfeiting the freedom our founders established – a freedom built on moral absolutes and a strong, but limited, government. Enemies of faith and true freedom don’t even want to acknowledge the supernatural power that influenced America’s birth or the importance of God, faith, family, and the principles necessary for freedom. They stand hell-bent in opposition to undeniable, absolute, transforming truth.
It’s time for people who understand the value of faith and freedom and its foundation to stand together like a mighty army – an undeniable spiritual force. We must reclaim the land of promise birthed through faith, prayer, and personal sacrifice to bless the American people and the nations of the world. Our freedom can only be preserved with the same determination, diligence, and supernatural unity Jesus prayed for and freedom’s champions understand.
The framers of the Constitution knew that the true liberty they offered demanded responsible citizens. Benjamin Franklin was asked if the meeting in Philadelphia had created a monarchy or a republic. Franklin answered, “A republic – if you can keep it.” Franklin, along with the other founders, knew that in order for liberty to be maintained, it would have to be supported by principled statesmen who were actively engaged in the task of governing themselves, encouraging all citizens to hold fast to truths espoused in the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams, our second president, said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
We are on the verge of losing freedom’s blessings as morality is under assault. Sadly, the church has not fully understood the importance of living under the control of God with the powerful spirit of God providing the strength for us to not only enjoy the privileges and possibilities of freedom, but also to protect them.
Jesus commissioned His followers to share the truth that sets people free and keeps them free. He said, “When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”
Ronald Reagan observed, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on to them to do the same or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”
I do not want to be found among those who will be asked what we were doing when freedom died. By the grace of God, with His help and the help of those who share common concerns and with Christians of conviction, I will not be indifferent and allow freedom to die on my watch. I will continue to pray, preach, and openly call for a return to God-given principles.
America’s founders believed they were on a journey similar to that of Israel’s exodus from Egypt to God’s Promised Land. Moses was their hero. His farewell address delivered on Mount Nebo references the choices God offers those desiring true freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked these words the night before he was assassinated in 1968, and Ronald Reagan repeated them while standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty celebrating our nation’s birthday in 1986:
“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and adversity. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to keep his commandments. But if you turn away, you will certainly perish. You shall not long endure on the soil that you are crossing the Jordan to enter. I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse, choose life that you and your offspring shall live.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)
The life being offered was a life of freedom, fullness and fruitfulness. God has granted us both the privilege and responsibility of being overseers, good stewards of all that He had entrusted to our care. You can be the guardians, the gate keepers, the restorers of the foundation and the wall builders maintaining our precious liberty. Let not your hearts be troubled. Keep the faith. Fight the fight as a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ with the whole armor of God and the sword of the Spirit, don’t bend and don’t bow before the godless influences of this world and you will not be crushed and enslaved by the powers in this present world!
When God rules in individual lives, sound principles will prevail in our land. Leaders will no longer be chosen because of personality, party affiliation, or skillful communication. They will be chosen because of their commitment to God-given principles necessary for the survival of true freedom.
I am praying to God and appealing to caring people to help restore America and freedom. It will not be easy, but together, and with God’s help, it can be done. This is the greatest hour for people of faith to become a guiding light.
It is amazing how selfish we can be sometimes. A line of traffic on a busy street. We’ve been waiting for what seems like forever at a traffic light. Out of the corner of our eye, we see a car trying to pull out of a parking lot, the driver desperately looking for an opening. We avert our eyes and grip the steering wheel, determined not to give an inch. Someone else can make that sacrifice. Selfish, our selfish nature makes it very difficult to understand the great sacrifice Christ made for us. When we were useless sinners, when we were absolutely powerless, He chose to die for us. Sinners….who hated God, who delighted in the very things God hates. He died for us. It’s hard to get our selfish brains wrapped around that notion. We were on the verge of perishing and He gave Himself away to save us. Who does that? What a great friend Christ is to us! That He would lay down His life to save such selfish, sinful beings.That is what is most amazing about His sacrifice. If we had all been good, righteous people–then perhaps it is understandable that He would be willing to die for us. But we were ungodly. And He STILL died for us. The depth of His love was such that, even in our sin, He loved us and died for us. He took our sin upon Himself. He knew about everything we ever did or ever would do. It didn’t matter. He did it anyway. His unwavering love for us sent him to the cross.
In this scripture, Jesus explains to His disciples (including us), that He chose us. Traditionally, in Jewish culture, a person would choose his own Teacher. In this case, Jesus makes it clear that these disciples were chosen by the Teacher, instead. This applies to us today as well. Christ has chosen us; we didn’t choose Him first. Not only has He chosen us, He has ordained us to be fruitful, meaning that we are to be productive and successful in spreading the Gospel. We were set apart for this purpose by Christ. Christ expects this fruit to “remain” or be permanent. Whatever good work we do for the Kingdom should be lasting and eternal. When we bear good fruit in this way, the consequences are that our prayers will be answered by God. Christ tells us that whatever we ask in His name will be done. This is an encouraging promise, that both gives us validation and shows us our purpose in this life.
Lord, I thank You for choosing me and ordaining me. Help me to spread the Gospel far and wide in such a way that it makes an eternal impact on people’s lives. I thank You that You will hear and answer my prayers as I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
God’s miraculous deliverance of Daniel from the lions in the lions’ den where he had been cast for worshipping the true God opened Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes to whose God was God. And he even issued a decree that all men in his vast kingdom give homage to the God of Daniel. Daniel’s faith and refusal to cease his regular daily devotions had resulted in the knowledge of God being spread throughout the land.
This verse tells us that “all things work together for the good of those who love God.” If we love God, then we live in obedience. The “all things” refers to the providence of God and all the things that relate to Him: His Holy Spirit, His love and mercy, His truths, etc. All of these things come together for our good if we love God and show that we do by our behavior. But it’s not only required that we love God, but that we are called according to His purpose. This refers to the purpose that God has set before us. He calls us to a specific purpose in this life. As long as we are obedient to this purpose, to His call, then all of His resources come together for our good. This is a very encouraging scripture to let us know that, if we follow the will of God, everything will be okay with us. More than okay, actually. They will be “good,” because God is on our side.
Jesus tells us that the golden rule sums up the law and the prophets. Jesus is also telling us that we shouldn’t try to take the easy way out. From the time a two or three year old figures out that disobeying mom or dad brings punishment, he also figures out ways of trying to get away with it. The child will lie or hide or blame a sibling or the family pet! Unless this behavior is caught and the children learn that they can’t get away with it, they will continue this pattern. It can be very tempting to take the easy way out. This is not what we are called to do. We are called to take the narrow path, doing the right thing. We all get upset when we hear about hit and run accidents, but it’s hard to own up to something if you think you won’t be caught, especially when it could be expensive We choose the easy or the narrow path just about every day. Some decisions are easy, some are not. Do you waste time on the phone or on a computer searching websites or playing games when you should be working? See, what I mean? Students today are told they need computers for research that will enhance their learning, but some take advantage and their research trying to find papers that they can claim as their own. Jesus knew us well, and has given us fair warning. We should listen.
We need to be on the lookout for those who would lead people away from God by pretending that they are leading them to God. We have seen this happen several times in very public and tragic ways, but it can happen in less public ways as well. The world was horrified when they learned of the mass murder/suicide of over 900 people, one third of them minors in Guyana in 1978, and again of the destruction of the compound in Waco, Texas where over 70 people died. Both of these tragedies occurred because the leaders of the cult claimed to either be a god or be God’s messenger or Messiah. There have been many other cults operating with less destructive results. Preying on loners or immigrants, the leaders promise security here and eternal life if only you follow them. They don’t say that you are following God, but you are following them because they are the only ones who know the way! By their fruits you will know them. These people ask blind obedience, work to separate people from their families and friends, and often demand a certain percentage of income. This doesn’t sound like Jesus to me. Paul never demanded obedience to himself, in fact, he said just the opposite to the Corinthians. John the Baptist said that he wasn’t the one and pointed to Jesus. We have been warned by Jesus to look at those who claim to be prophets carefully and judge by their fruits. If they are more interested in leading us to themselves instead of to Jesus, we must beware.
Again we have a prophet spreading God’s message of love, begging the people to admit their wrongdoing, and sincerely repent and turn back to him. When you read the Old Testament, you start to wonder if they will ever learn. I wonder what historians one hundred years from now will say about us and our behavior. Will they read the New Testament and find remnants of Christian groups and compare their behavior with the Bible, and find us worthy of the name? I’m not so sure. Not only is there a lot of what I consider very un-Christian behavior by individuals but also by Christian groups towards one another. Perhaps we should reread Joel and the messages given by some of the other prophets and take these messages to heart. God wants us to turn to him. He wants us to take responsibility for our actions, and ask forgiveness so that he can forgive and renew us. God isn’t looking for grandiose exhibitions of repentance, but a sincerity of heart. It’s how much we are willing to change our behavior. It’s how welcoming we will be to the stranger, how much we are willing to help others to grow in their faith as well as how willing we are to grow in our own.
Let us not, O Lord, underestimate what you can do in us and through us. We do not know all of your purposes for us, but we know that nothing is too hard for you to do. We pray for the steadfastness of soul to continue to pursue knowing you even in the face of resistance and the faith to believe that your Word planted deep in us can strengthen us for even the most difficult tasks. Amen.