Monday, January 31, 2011

A Prayer for Monday, January 31, 2010

“Do You Come to Me?”

John the Baptist appropriately recognized when Jesus came to him for baptism that, in light of who he was and in light of who Jesus was, he really needed to be baptized by Jesus; Jesus, though, wanted John to recognize that the submission of Jesus to God’s will for him and his willing identification with sinful humanity necessarily preceded the submission of sinners to him and the identification of sinners with him.

Before John or anyone else could and can submit to and identify with Jesus, they had and have to accept the fact that Jesus had first submitted himself to God and had first identified himself with them.

We have to receive who Jesus is and what he has done before we can give ourselves to him. We have to see that he has come to us before we can come to him.

Help us, O Lord, willingly to receive the grace that compels Jesus to come to us.

Help us, O Lord, willingly to respond to that grace with our lives.


“John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented” (Matthew 3:14-15).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Prayer for Sunday, January 30, 2011

“Jesus…Came to be Baptized”

It was another step in the series of humble—even humiliating—steps that Jesus made; the series began with the Incarnation and ended with the Crucifixion and along the way there were many other similar, if not quite as dramatic or extreme, steps.

And so he who knew no sin, he who had no need to repent, came to John at the Jordan River so that he could get in line with all the other people who had come, so he could get wet with all the other people who had come, so he could submit to what God was doing through John with all the other people who had come—so he could be baptized with all the other people who had come.

Thank you, God, that Jesus humbled himself through baptism and in so many other ways.

Thank you, God, that Jesus joined himself to our condition and identified himself with our sinful state through his baptism and in so many other ways—especially through his death on the Cross.

Help us, O God, to live baptized lives that show our identification with Jesus in his humility.


“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3:13).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Prayer for Saturday, January 29, 2011

“The Holy Spirit and Fire”

We thank you, O God, for the assurance that evaluation, judgment, and justice are in the hands of the Son of God and not in the hands of beings who are as frail and fallible as we are, even ones as spectacularly in touch with you as people like John the Baptist were and are. We trust that the separation of the wheat from the chaff is and will be conducted according to your absolute justice, love, mercy, and grace.

And yet—we are all of mixed character and quality, aren’t we? We all need our chaff to be separated from our wheat, don’t we?

So we thank you for the Spirit, O God, with which Jesus touches us and through which he shows us how to be his disciples and through which he affirms us when we are heading in the right direction and convicts us when we are not.

So we thank you for the fire, O God, with which Jesus touches us and through which he takes away and destroys that which hinders our discipleship to him and our relationship with you.

Make us bold to embrace the work of the Spirit and the fire in our lives.


“’I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’” (Matthew 3:11-12).

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Prayer for Friday, January 28, 2011

“Bear Good Fruit”

It is not enough to come from good stock, to have a good pedigree, or to have an impressive family tree; guard us, O Lord, from the presumption or the carelessness that would let us think so.

Help us rather to repent; help us to find the way that we should go by intentionally turning away from our doomed-to-fail efforts at self-determination and turning instead toward a bound-to-succeed commitment to your direction.

Then we will bear the fruit that is worthy of repentance, fruit that will bear such labels as “humble” and “grateful” and “receptive” and “trusting.” Such fruit remains fresh and survives; not so with the rotting fruit that bears such labels as “proud” and “entitled” and “self-reliant” and “self-centered.”

Help us to bear good fruit, O Lord.


“Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:8-10).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Prayer for Thursday, January 27, 2011

“You Brood of Vipers”

What did John sense about or know about or suspect about those people who were so very serious about their religion that he would say such a thing to them as they were coming to him for baptism?

Was it that they were insincere? Was it that they were doing it for show? Was it that they were caught up in the emotion of the moment? Was it that they had a sense of entitlement? What it that they saw no need to change and had no intention of changing?

Was it that they were so very serious about their religion?

Whatever it was about them that caused John to say that terrible thing about them, O God, protect us from it; whatever it was, O God, drive it from us; whatever it was, O God, if it is in us, enable us by your grace to turn away from it and to you.

If such words apply to us, O God, help us to hear them.

Then give us honest, aware, humble, and repentant hearts, O God.


“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Matthew 3:7).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Prayer for Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The two things look to be so closely related that we can see them as being of one piece: the people were baptized which meant they were confessing their sins; they confessed their sins which meant they were baptized.

Lord, some of us have not been baptized but we will be; when we are, give us the grace to confess our sins and give us the grace to know that in confessing them and in being swept by the water into your kingdom we find forgiveness and well-being.

Lord, some of us have been baptized but we need to recall and to relive the experience; when we do, give us the grace to remember that we in our baptism confessed our sins and found forgiveness and well-being and give us the grace to know that we still have ways that we need to turn toward you in confession and for forgiveness and well-being.

Baptism is confession; confession is baptism. May the honest confession and the humble admission that accompanies baptism always characterize our living.


“Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Prayer for Tuesday, January 25, 2011

“Now John Wore…”

Matthew is doing more here than telling us that John the Baptist was an interesting looking and interesting character, although John certainly was that; Matthew is through his physical description of John communicating to us that John followed in the tradition of the great biblical prophets who had come before him, especially the prophet Elijah.

It is good for all of us to remember the long line at the end of which we stand—there have been many people who have gone before us who have done a lot of faithful thinking, praying, talking, and living; our faith and practice are but the latest word in a very long book that God has been writing through God’s people for countless generations now.

John could not have been aware of every person, every belief and every word that had preceded him and neither can we; we can, though, be as aware as is humanly possible of who has and what has come before us and we can exercise appropriate humility and gratitude for those who passed along a framework within which we can express our faith.

Lord, thank you for those who have gone before us. Forgive us for the arrogance we sometimes exhibit in the ways that we claim ownership of our faith as if it somehow started with us. Forgive us as well for the carelessness we sometimes exhibit in the ways that we fail to rethink and reframe our inherited traditions for our own time and context.

Help us to be enough like those who have gone before us to be legitimate and enough unlike them to be authentic.


“Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Prayer for Monday, January 24, 2011

“The Wilderness”

When the prophet of the Babylonian Exile whose words are found in Isaiah 40 spoke the words cited here by Matthew, he was calling the people in exile to herald the impending advent of the Lord who would cross the wilderness between Israel and Babylon in order to take the Lord’s people home. “Make things ready, make your lives ready,” the prophet said, “because the Lord is coming to take you home!”

John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness; it was the wilderness of Judea in which he preached but he was still heralding the coming of the Lord, he was still imploring people to make their lives ready for the Lord who would come to make the Lord’s home with them.

O God, we praise you that in Jesus Christ your Son you came to make your home with us; we praise you that in Jesus Christ your Son you came to enable us to make our home with you.

O God, forgive us for our sometime willingness to live as if we are still on the far side of the wilderness, to live as if you have not crossed that wilderness to enable us to live in communion with you.

O God, help us in the ways that we act, talk, think, and feel always to be aware of and to respond to your grace so that in, with, and through you we always keep the way prepared and the paths straight.


“This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Matthew 3:3).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Prayer for Sunday, January 23, 2011


John the Baptist, whose preaching was meant to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah, told people that the best way to prepare was to repent, which means to turn around and go the other way. They should do so, he told them, because the kingdom of heaven had come near, by which he meant that the rule of God was about to break into the world in a unique way.

O God, help us to listen to John, to your other messengers, to your Holy Spirit, and to your Book, all of which continue to call us to turn from our self-centered and self-defeating ways and to turn toward you so that we can spend the rest of our lives going to you until finally, one day, we get there.

Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to perceive, and spirits to believe that in Jesus the reign of God did in fact come and does in fact continue; may our turning lead us to follow him ever more closely as we walk on the road down which you lead us.


“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (Matthew 3:1-2).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Prayer for Saturday, January 22, 2011

“In Place of his Father Herod”

On the one hand, it was safe for Joseph to take his family back to Israel; on the other hand, it wasn’t.

It is the way of the world and it is the way of faithful pilgrimage that when one danger is eliminated or lessened another one rises or increases in its place.

Jesus was always safe but he was never safe and Jesus was never safe but he was always safe; it was that way all through his life—it was even that way as he hung on the cross. Even as he suffered and died, he was safe in the love and will of the Father; even as he was safe in the love and will of the Father, he suffered and died.

O God, help us to rest safe in your love and will even as we live boldly in the dangers and threats that confront us; help us to live boldly in the dangers and threats that confront us even as we rest safe in your love and will.

That was your way for your Son who is our Teacher and Lord; it is right that your way for him be your way for us, his apprentices and followers, as well.

Help us to submit to it.


“When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there” (Matthew 2:19-22a).

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Prayer for Friday, January 21, 2011

“Rachel Weeping for her Children”

When the prophet Jeremiah spoke these words some six centuries before Matthew’s Gospel was produced, he was talking about something that had happened in the not too distant past, namely, the carrying off of Israelite exiles by the Assyrians in the late eighth century BCE, a deportation for which Ramah was a departure point; “Rachel” in that case wept because her children—the Joseph tribes—had experienced the deaths or deportations of most of their members.

Matthew picked Jeremiah’s words up and used them to try to bring some meaning to what has come to be known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents” by Herod’s armies in his simultaneously crazed and calculated effort to kill the infant Jesus; perhaps Matthew was attracted to the text by the tradition that Rachel’s burial place was near Bethlehem.

Regardless, Matthew’s use of Jeremiah’s words, even though he took them out of their historical context, is entirely appropriate, since the Bethlehem tragedy certainly elicited the same kind of grief as the one referenced by Jeremiah because it was the same kind of tragedy, namely, the destruction of people and of family and tribal and national bonds by people whose cruelty was fueled by their quest to preserve and extend their power.

It is a terrible sadness that the destruction of children and other innocent people and the destruction of family and tribal and national bonds still happens in this “civilized” world of ours because of the crazed and cruel and calculated actions of people who are intent on preserving and expanding their power—and because of the apathy of good people who let them get away with it.

We still hear Rachel weeping.

Forgive us, Lord—and lead us to do something about it.


“Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:18).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Prayer for Thursday, January 20, 2011

“According to the Time He Had Learned”

Knowledge is value neutral; how we choose to use knowledge is not.

The wise men and Herod had the same knowledge concerning the general time frame within which Jesus was to be born, although the wise men had it first and then shared it with Herod.

The wise men used their knowledge to find Jesus and worship him; Herod used that same knowledge to try to find Jesus and kill him.

Some use their knowledge about germs to wage war against disease; others use their knowledge about germs to develop germ-based weapons for people to use in waging war against each other.

Some use their knowledge of nuclear physics to make advances in the production of energy; others use their knowledge of nuclear physics to make advances in the production of bombs.

Some use their knowledge of information technology to enhance the flow of information; others use their knowledge of information technology to increase the flow of disinformation.

O God, inspire us to use our knowledge for good and not for evil, for help and not for harm, for building up and not for tearing down, and for love and not for hate.

May we apply our knowledge graciously and ethically; may we always be thinking about how you would have us use it and about how we can do the most good with it.


“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Prayer for Wednesday, January 19, 2011

“Out of Egypt”

Biblically speaking, God calling God’s son out of Egypt is a big deal.

First it was God’s child Israel that God called out of Egypt where they had gone due to the leadership of a man named Joseph.

Then it was God’s child Jesus that God called out of Egypt where he had gone due to the leadership of another man named Joseph.

In both cases it was an exodus out of a strange land that had offered temporary sanctuary during threatening times and into a land where the kingdom of God would be announced and established. Frankly, the land to which they were going turned out to be more hazardous than the one they left but it was in the long run worth it because it was, after all, the kingdom of God that they were about.

Help us, Lord, to come out of Egypt, to forsake the seeming shelter and security of locations and situations outside the risky and hazardous kingdom of God, that realm where we are called—expected, even—to lose our lives and to give ourselves away for the sake of that kingdom.

Remind us that it is in the long run worth it because it is, after all, the kingdom of God that we are about.


“Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Matthew 2:14-15).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Prayer for Tuesday, January 18, 2011

“Flee to Egypt”

It is strange and sad but nonetheless true: whereas home should be the place where you find safety, sometimes you have to flee to another place—even a strange and foreign place—to find it.

It is strange and sad but nonetheless true: sometimes our own family or our own community family or our own faith family can prove dangerous or manipulative or even abusive and when that happens we have to flee, we have to find shelter and protection where we can.

O Lord, help us to be the kind of families at home or in our communities or in our churches that provide affirmation, nurture, growth, protection, and safety to all our family members; help us to foster an atmosphere and a reality in which the members of our family can live, love, thrive, and be safe.

O Lord, forgive us when we by our actions or our inactions or by our feelings or our lack of feelings make our home feel unsafe, insecure, or unhealthy for anyone.

And, O Lord, when it is best that we flee, help us to do so with great faith and boldness, ready to find safety and protection in the most surprising places and in the most surprising people.


“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13).

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Prayer for Monday, January 17, 2011

“By Another Road”

We’re all heading somewhere—and maybe there is more than one somewhere that would be appropriate for each individual—in these lives of ours and, truth be told, there are probably many different roads that will get us there.

The thing is that we have no way of knowing what lies down a particular road; it stands to reason that, life being what life is, no road is without its dangers and rewards and promises and disappointments.

That doesn’t mean, though, that we should be careless about which road we choose; indeed, we should follow the best light we have and choose the best road that we can. After all, not all roads are equal; after all, some roads are better than others.

Lord, help us to follow the guidance that you make available to us, be it through thoughts, through dreams, through Scripture, through your Spirit, through friends, or through other means.

May the roads that we choose be ones that will lead us to do no harm to others but that will lead us rather to do good to others. May the roads we choose not only get us to where we are headed but get us there along the path that will enable us to be the most productive—to do the most good for you and for others—that we can be.


“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road” (Matthew 2:12).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Prayer for Sunday, January 16, 2011

“They Offered Him Gifts

How can we not want to give the best we have to the One that we regard as King, Lord, and Savior?

How can we not want to respond to his love and sacrifice with our love and sacrifice?

O God, we know so much more about the kind of king that Jesus really is than did those wise men who brought him their gifts when he was so small, when he was so far away from his cross and his empty tomb. We know that he was a king who would reign through love, grace, service, and sacrifice; that he was a king who would ascend to his throne only after he had given himself completely away.

Help us, O God, through the power of your grace and through the strength of your Holy Spirit, to love, to give, to serve, and to sacrifice in ways that befit the servants of such a King.


“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Prayer for Saturday, January 15, 2011

“Overwhelmed with Joy”

We are all on pilgrimage; we are all on a journey. Whether we know it or not and whether we acknowledge it or not, the goal of the pilgrimage and the journey is Jesus Christ.

There will come a day—thank you, God—when we will know Jesus Christ fully and freely; we look forward to reaching that ultimate goal and we anticipate the great joy that will accompany it.

It is the case, though, that we know Jesus and are known by him and that we love Jesus and are loved by him in every moment all along the way—help us to acknowledge and to appreciate the joy that is ours in the experience of such knowledge and love in the routine and in the ordinary.

Forgive us for our sometimes immaturity that causes us to hold out for the joy that accompanies the spectacular.

On the other hand, forgive our sometimes inattention that causes to miss the spectacular and the joy that accompanies it.

Cause us to be, both when our encounters with Jesus are in the realm of the routine and in the realm of the spectacular, overwhelmed with joy.


“When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:9-10).

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Prayer for Friday, January 14, 2011

Second Hand News & False Pretenses

There were at least two things wrong with Herod’s request of the wise men.

In the first place, Herod was willing to accept the expertise, witness, and testimony of the wise men rather than going to find out about Jesus for himself.

In the second place, Herod’s quest by proxy was based on false pretenses; he wanted Jesus found but not so he could worship him but rather so he could contain Jesus and even eliminate Jesus from his life.

God, we all are, whether we know it or not and whether we acknowledge it or not, seeking Jesus; may our quest be a willing one that is pursued with integrity and with the best motives we can muster.

While we admit our need for and humbly accept the guidance of those who have gone before us, do not let us accept the testimony of others about Jesus; compel us rather to seek him, to find him, to experience him, and to know him for ourselves.

Inspire us to seek Jesus not with false pretenses. Help us not to try to fit Jesus into our little world rather than seeking life in his huge world; help us not to try to find out just enough about Jesus to let ourselves think we can manage or manipulate him rather than submitting ourselves to the wonder and grace of all that he really is.

Help us, God, to seek Jesus for ourselves and to do so with honesty and openness.


“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage’” (Matthew 2:7-8).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Prayer for Thursday, January 13, 2011

“By No Means Least”

Sometimes we underestimate ourselves; sometimes we might be surprised at just what can come out of us.

God, help us to look for what you want to accomplish in and through us.

Cause us to see that, regardless of how insignificant we think we are, you might have plans to do something very significant through us.

Enable us also to see that, if something appears insignificant to the world and even to us, it is significant if you are behind it and in it.

May we want nothing more or less than to be useful in what you are up to in bringing your grace to bear on the world.


“They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel”’” (Matthew 2:5-6).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Prayer for Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“He Was Frightened…He Inquired”

Herod was motivated by fear to inquire into the birthplace of the Messiah; he was looking for information that he could use to protect his place and his standing—to protect himself. Herod wanted to learn about Jesus so that he could manage and control Jesus, which for him meant to eliminate Jesus from his life.

O God, help our inquiries into Jesus not to be motivated by fear.

While we would never think of using what we can find out about Jesus to try to eliminate him from our lives, the truth is that if we are driven by fear to learn of him we will be looking only for those aspects of him that we think either eliminate or confirm our fear. Either way, we will then be through with him in the sense that we will delude ourselves into thinking that we have managed and controlled him, that we have used him for what we need and that we have no further need for him. We will thereby not have eliminated him from our lives but we will have tried to relegate him to only those areas of our lives where we think we need him.

O God, help our inquiries into Jesus to be motivated by a desire to know his grace and love in every aspect and area of our lives and by a desire to submit ourselves to him in every aspect and area of our lives.

Herod saw Jesus as a problem to be confirmed and eliminated; help us not to see him only as a way to confirm or to eliminate our problems but rather to see him as what he is: Messiah and Savior who would be and should be Lord of our lives in their totality.


“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born” (Matthew 2:4).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Prayer for Tuesday, January 11, 2011

“We Observed”

It’s safe to say that, whether or not the wise men were professional astronomers, they observed the star that signaled Jesus’ birth because they were looking for…something.

It’s also safe to say that those who were looking for nothing saw that, too.

Give us, O God, a great curiosity that wonders what you might be up to in this universe, in this world, in this neighborhood, and in these lives, that causes us always to be on the lookout for what you are up to, and that then compels us to follow up on what we see you being up to…just so we can see what you will be up to next.


“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Matthew 2:2).

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Prayer for Monday, January 10, 2011

“Wise Men…Came”

The wise men really were wise to go all that way and to all that trouble to see Jesus, weren’t they?

If you want to see him in this time and in this place, all you have to do is to turn your eyes and your heart a little bit and he’s right there. Odd as it seems, though, doing that seems to be harder than what the wise men had to do.

God, give us

the desire to see Jesus,
the drive to see Jesus, and
the desperation to see Jesus

that will turn our eyes and our hearts—that will turn our lives—to him.


“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem…” (Matthew 2:1).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Prayer for Sunday, January 9, 2011

“He Did as…Commanded”

We tend to read or to look right past those places in the Bible or in history or in literature or in the lives of people around us where somebody does as the Lord commands them.

We should not because there are important lessons to be learned from such amazing acts.

Help us, O Lord, to pay closer attention so that we can learn appropriately of obedience.

Give us the courage to do what you command or lead us to do regardless of how it might run against the grain of our own preferences or of the expectations of our culture…which it almost certainly will do.

Give us the grace to accept adjustments to the ways we act and even to the ways we think, feel, and desire if such adjustments are necessary to our obedience…which they almost certainly will be.

Give us the humility to understand that our obedience, while it will do us good, is not finally for our personal good but the good of your purposes and your kingdom, regardless of how hard such humility is to achieve…which it almost certainly will be.

Help us to want to do what you command us and help us to do it.


“When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Prayer for Saturday, January 8, 2011

“God Is With Us”

We have difficulty comprehending the fact that the spiritual is as real as the physical; it is part of the price we pay for being human, for experiencing and knowing nothing apart from these bodies of ours.

And so, O God, in Jesus Christ, in the baby born to the Virgin Mary, you came to us in and as a physical human being in order to concretize and to enflesh for a little while the perpetual spiritual reality that is so hard for us to get our minds around, namely, that you are with us.

Thank you, God, for going so far to enable us to be able better to comprehend the truth of your grace: God is with us.

Enable us to live in perpetual awareness of and in perpetual celebration of that perpetual reality.


“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23).

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Prayer for Friday, January 7, 2011

“He Will Save His People”

Lord, help us to admit that we are lost and that left on our own we will remain lost; help us to admit that even after we are saved from our lostness we tend to wander off on our own and thereby get ourselves in trouble.

Help us to acknowledge our sins, particularly the primary sin that causes us to try to be our own god and to try to find our own say, attempts that lead us to the secondary sins that are symptomatic of the primary one.

Show us the basic and simple wisdom of trusting you and depending on you and following you for the sake of our life here and for the sake of our life in the hereafter.

Thank you for your Son Jesus, whose name means “Salvation” and in whom you graciously provide a way to trust in you daringly, to depend on you fully, and to follow you recklessly.


“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Prayer for Thursday, January 6, 2011

“Don’t Be Afraid”

O God, when you communicate your will and way to us—whether it be through the living of our lives, through the thinking of our thoughts, through the dreaming of our dreams, or through the praying of our prayers—help us not to be afraid.

When you communicate your will and way to us through your messenger—whether it be through your Spirit, through your proclaimers, through your Book, or through your creation—help us not to be afraid.

After all, why should we be afraid? Should we be afraid of your communication to us of your will and way just because you turn our world upside down, just because you reverse our preconceived notions, just because you challenge our sense of right and wrong, and just because you call us to sacrifice our pride?

O God, even as we ask you to communicate your will and way to us and to empower us to be open to them, we beg you…help us not to be afraid.


“But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Prayer for Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Lord, protect us from the posturing and preening and publicity-seeking that accompany the “righteousness” that we bestow upon ourselves. Indeed, protect us from any thinking or acting that would attempt to correlate righteousness with personal goodness or with personal gain.

Instead, Lord, give us real righteousness—the righteousness that causes us to want to do right by you by doing right by other people. May our righteousness—our right relationship with you, which is a gift of your grace—show itself in the ways that we treat people who are in trouble or who are in pain or who are in shame or who are in a predicament.

Help us, Lord, to care about how it is and how it looks for other people more than we care about how it is and how it looks for us.


“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Prayer for Tuesday, January 4, 2011

“Found to Be with Child”

Perhaps we should not be surprised when God chooses to come to us; perhaps we should expect for Christ to come to make his home in us.

Perhaps, though, we should be ready to be surprised at the ways God chooses to come to us; perhaps we should expect to be shocked and overwhelmed at the ways in which Christ comes to make his home in us.

Forgive us, Lord, for our failure to expect your coming to us; lead us always to be on the lookout for your coming.

Forgive us, Lord, for our arrogant assumptions about how you will or even must come to us; lead us always to be open to your surprising and even shocking ways of approach and entry into our lives.

If we look, we will find you; if we look from a different angle, we may find you in a different way.

Amaze us, O God—and make us ready to be amazed.


“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18).

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Prayer for Monday, January 3, 2011

“God’s Purposes”

Sometimes we err in not making the effort to consider the ways in which it all fits together, in which case we are not attentive enough to your purposes.

Sometimes we err in making too much of an effort to make it all fit together, in which case we reduce your purposes to what we can comprehend.

Perhaps the best thing we can do, O God, is to trust that you are working your purposes out and to live humbly with the best understanding—an understanding that grows all the time—of them that we can achieve.

Help us so to trust, O God, and to base our understanding on the truth that Jesus Christ is the centerpiece and thus is the heart and soul of what your purposes are all about.


“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Prayer for Sunday, January 2, 2011

“By Grace through Faith”

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is remarkable in that it includes the names of some of the women who were in Jesus’ family tree and in that all the women it names became branches on that tree in rather interesting ways; indeed, those women were people over whom some—maybe many—people in their day would have and some—maybe many—people in our day would stand in judgment.

One could of course say the same thing about many—if not most or even all—of the men in the tree as well.

And one could of course say the same thing about all of us who have been grafted on to Jesus’ family tree.

Thank you, God, for your grace; thank you, God, for our faith.

Thank you that while sanctification is our goal perfection is not required.

Thank you for the remarkable ways in which you include even us in your story of salvation.

Help us not to stand in judgment over others or over ourselves but help us rather to celebrate the working of your amazing grace in us all.


“And Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth…and David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah…” (Matthew 1:3, 5-6).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Prayer for Saturday, January 1, 2011


Everybody has a heritage; everybody has the facts and legends and histories and experiences and reflections and DNA that have been handed down to us by the generations that preceded us.

There are aspects of our heritage for which we praise you always; there are aspects of our heritage for which we praise you anyhow.

Lord, help us to embrace our heritage that we might live up to it and that we might live beyond it.

We thank you for those who came before us to pave the way for us; we thank you for your grace that enabled them to be and that empowered them to be part of your purpose.

Jesus had a heritage and so do we; lead us to learn from both his and ours of the power of your grace.


“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

© 2011 Michael L. Ruffin