The saints who came before

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles ‘feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. ~Acts 4:32-37 (CEB)

“The way early disciples lived mystified people around them because the disciples seemed to live in another world, the principles that guided them clearly differed from those that guided others. They practiced a way of life both beautiful and mysterious. Their lives made sense only if one knew that they were living by the power and guidance of God. Their lives were governed by the reign of God and not by the press of politics of the call of culture. They were different because they chose to live their lives in obedience to and in the presence of God. Their radical love for God and neighbor resulted in dramatic actions that perplexed all who observed them.

When we move securely into the reign and presence of God, our lives also take on a beautiful and mysterious quality because God’s presence and principles are being expressed in all that we are and in all that we do. Our actions prompt sometimes gratitude and sometimes perplexity in others. They prompt sometimes joy and gratitude within our lives and sometimes weariness when our radical actions are misunderstood.

But we are not alone. The first-generation Christians lived this radical faith every day. Their actions caught the world’s attention both positively and negatively, but their actions- like ours- were not calculated to bring a response; rather, their actions and ours are a response. A response to God’s amazing grace that accepts us, assures us, sustains us, and always holds us close in the embrace of divine love. Such radical grace prompts a radical response.” From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

O God, prepare me, through the active presence of Your Spirit, to come before You worthily and to ask of You rightly; enlighten my understanding; purify my every desire; quicken my will to instant obedience to Your Word; strengthen every right purpose; direct me in Your way; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. ~adapted from The Book of Worship

The depths of my heart

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also.

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” ~ 2 Cor. 8:1-15 (CEB)

“It takes practice to learn not to censor our prayer. But trying to keep secrets from God is like the three-year-old who covers her eyes and declare, ‘You can’t see me.’ God sees into our hearts more clearly than we do. Indeed, God is the one who prompts us to look at what we have swept under the rug of our repressions and rationalizations. The Spirit awakens us to what lies hidden within- sometimes gently, sometimes with a jolt, but always so God can work with our conscious consent to free us for growth.” ~From Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson

Heavenly Father, You know my heart, You know my thoughts, You even know those things I hid from myself. Help me to be true to You that I may serve You more fully. Give me the courage to awaken the depths of me heart. Amen.

To speak from my heart

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. ~2 Cor. 1:3-11 (CEB)

“Many of us have absorbed tacit or explicit taboos about what we are permitted to bring into prayer. We may have learned, for instance, that doubt, anger, hatred, or despair were inappropriate to express to God. Yet we know what happens to human relationships when negative feelings are suppressed. Communication becomes artificial or breaks down; the two parties become emotionally estranged; intimacy becomes impossible. Why should we imagine it is different with God? In prayer, we need to speak whatever truth is in us: pain and grief, fear and disappointment, yearning and desire, questions and doubt, hope and faith, failure and weakness, praise and thanks, despair and sorrow, anger and yes, even hatred.” ~From Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson

Help me O Lord to speak from my heart. Help me to remember that feelings just are, they are not right or wrong. Help me to be real in this time of prayer so that there will not be a wall between You and me. Amen.

 

Larger than me

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.  And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. ~Acts 13:48-42 (CEB)

“Prayer is larger than any of us. It is less a question of bringing prayer into our hearts than of bring our hearts into prayer; not drawing water from the sea to fill a bath, but being immersed in an immense ocean and becoming one with it.” ~From Toward God by Micheal Casey

Almighty God, this day may I feel that my heart is connected to Yours. Fill me with Your presence. Empower me this day and guide me along the path I am to go. Amen.

Carried beyond

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” ~Acts 12:6-11 (CEB)

“Prayer is not controlled. We are the ones controlled, called upon to submit to a mysterious inward process, to be carried beyond ourselves without ever knowing clearly what carries us or where we are going” ~From Toward God by Micheal Casey

May I be guided by the Holy Spirit this day, O Lord. May I be sensitive to It’s promptings to go this way or to go that way. Help me ever to submit to Your will. Amen.

To live daringly

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. ~2 Thes 3:1-5 (CEB)

“What the world longs for from the Christian religion is the witness of men and women daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burned in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how unreal they are. Jesus, son of the living God, anoint us with fire this day. Let your Word not shine in our hearts, but let it burn. Let there be no division, compromise, or holding back. Separate the mystics from the romantics, and goad us to that daredevil leap into the abyss of your love.” ~ From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

Almighty God, help me to daring enough to take chances for You. Help me to be more real in all I do and say this day. May my heart reflect Your love through my actions this day. Amen.

Possibilities

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. ~Acts 12:5-7 (CEB)

“It is an answered prayer which brings praying out of the realm of dry, dead things, and makes praying a thing of life and power. It is the answer to prayer which brings things to pass, changes the natural trend which brings things to pass, changes the natural trend of things, and orders all things according to the will of God. It is the answer to prayer which takes praying out of the regions of fanaticism, and saves it from being Utopian, or from being merely fanciful. It is the answer to prayer which makes praying real and divine.” ~From The possibilities of Prayer by Edward M. Bounds

Almighty God, I thank You for the power of prayer. I thank You for this sacred moment where I find myself in Your presence. May I take this moment with me and cherish throughout this day. May it help equip me to do Your work. May it help me to see with Your eyes and to love with Your heart. Amen.

The church

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles ‘feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. ~Acts 4:32-37 (CEB)

“Remarkable things happened when the early church prayed. The fourth chapter of the book of Acts records just one of those audacious prayers and the nearly unbelievable events that followed a time of very bold prayer. The threat of opposition was real; the disciples knew they faced the same dangers that had taken the life of Jesus. So they prayed for boldness to speak the gospel truth and for the active healing presence of God to be evident in their midst and in their ministry.

The scripture says that signs and wonders gave evidence of God’s activity in the midst of this new community of followers of Jesus Christ. One of those dramatic signs was the incredible community that forms around Jesus Christ. ‘Not a needy person among them’ (Acts 4:34) is a sign and wonder that we long for in every community. Many sold land and goods then brought the proceeds and laid it at the disciples’ feet. The disciples ‘distributed to each as any had need’ (Acts 4:35). Such love and generosity were certainly additional remarkable signs of God’s activity in the midst of the early church.

The miraculous healings brought about as the apostles declared the gospel also revealed God’s presence and action in the church community. The willingness to relinquish property and wealth for the good of all was even more compelling than the healing received by the sick who were brought to the apostles. The results of the apostles’ prayer was evident to those within the church and astounded observers from afar, who were then drawn to this contagious and joyful community. May our prayers to be as audacious and God’s response in our midst as dramatic and transforming.” ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Lord Jesus Christ, pour out Your spirit upon your church so that she may faithfully and constantly serve you and your children. In the name of Christ. Amen.

Confidence

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. ~1 John 5:14-15 (CEB)

“God is active in the world and in our lives in many ways. We may feel the mystery of God as we view storm clouds brewing over a blue ocean. We may experience the love of God when we are comforted by a friend. We may be filled with the compassion of God as we attend a conference on the plight of the homeless. We may be blessed by the peace of God as we study the Bible. God comes to us in both our conscious and our unconscious experiences for God is in all of life.” ~From Journaling by Anne Broyles

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give me that peace which the world cannot give; that my heart may be set to obey all Your commandments, and also by Your power, I am defended from the fear of my struggles, able to rest in quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ my Savior. Amen.

Courage

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. ~Luke 9:51 (CEB)

“Biblical spirituality inspires acts of courage born of commitment to God. Such courage does not call persons to do the impossible but faithfully and selflessly to do what they can when they could have chosen otherwise. Lent recalls the courage of Jesus who ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51), in of understanding what awaited him there. Jesus’ example invokes courage today as you and I translate words of commitment to God into freely chosen actions that place others above self- and God above all, for trust of God opens the door to courage.” ~From Neglected Voices by John Indermark

Almighty God, through the power of your Holy Spirit you enable me to do and be more than I can think or imagine. Come now, dwell within me and give me strength to do your work and will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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