As we move into September, it's safe to say that we've all experienced life-changing circumstances we never expected or even imagined would transpire (and that's an understatement, indeed!). Since March our nation's been dealing with COVID-19 and its impacts on communities all over our states, cities, homes, businesses and places of gathering. We've witnessed overt prejudice and racism while hearing the cries for justice from our African-American siblings and we've faced abrupt, economic hardships and many have been forced to make tough, financial decisions. We've even weathered a 5.2 Richter scale earthquake (Sparta, NC) and a Carolina coastal hurricane. Though these significant changes continue to impact our day-to-day lives and compel us to make vital choices that affect our families and those with whom we work, play and worship, these unprecedented circumstances haven't come close to altering or stealing one of the most valuable tools God's given us as Christians:
What a relief! Nothing can hinder the power of prayer of a Christ-follower. Nothing. Prayer moves mountains. Prayer changes circumstances. Prayer heals wounds. Prayer saves lives. And prayer pleases Almighty God.
Last November, an article was written by the Editor and Chief of connectusfund.org entitled, "20 Most Famous Prayers of All-Time". Here are three of those famous prayers (and beautiful prayers at that!) which have ministered to peoples' hearts for many, many years and will bring peace to you throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond: "The Serenity Prayer" by Reinhold Niebuhr, "Instrument of Your Peace" by St. Francis of Assisi, and "Christ Be With Me" by St. Patrick. Please read and recite these prayers to God!
The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Instrument of Your Peace – St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
Christ Be With Me – St. Patrick
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.
Niebuhr's prayer for serenity calls to mind Ps. 118:24 where the Psalmist tells to rejoice and be glad because of God's gift of today, living one day at a time and enjoying one moment at a time, accepting circumstances as they come and recognizing that there are situations beyond our control but never beyond the compassionate reach of our God and King, Jesus Christ. What wisdom and peace can you derive from Niebuhr's prayer in the midst of so many changes going on around us? How is God glorified in this particular prayer?
St. Francis desires for God to make him an instrument of peace: "Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith, Where there is despair, hope, Where there is darkness, light, Where there is sadness, joy." This prayer is lovingly proactive! He wants God to shape him into a vessel of reconciliation in order that mutual understanding and forgiveness might happen in every interaction he experiences. More than ever before, as we witness so much division and polarity in our culture, may we pray to be instruments of peace. What wisdom and peace can you derive from Francis' prayer in the midst of so many changes going on around us? How is God glorified in this particular prayer?
I personally love the prayer of St. Patrick! His overuse of "Christ" illustrates that the one praying can never have enough Jesus in each and every facet of human life. There is a sense that wherever Patrick is, whatever he is saying, whatever he is doing he pleads for Jesus to be embodied and incarnated in those activities. In all things, he prays Christ. As we face the unknown in September and throughout the autumn and winter months, can we pray anything less but the prayer of St. Patrick? We need the protection of Christ around us, above us, inside us and below us. We must also desire that same grace of Christ to be with neighbor, too. What wisdom and peace can you derive from Patrick's prayer in the midst of so many changes going on around us? How is God glorified in this particular prayer?
Before Jesus goes to the cross, our Savior shares the following in a section of John known as "The Farewell Discourse": "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). Even in this farewell section of John's Gospel, Jesus concludes this section by praying for the disciples and the entire world. Jesus lived his entire life as prayer and often escaped privately to pray and commune with his Father. Jesus knew that his strength, his resolve, his faith and his compassionate love came from God and prayer was Jesus' lifeline during his earthly life and ministry. Even on the cross Jesus prays, seeking forgiveness for a thief on a neighboring cross as well as for others mocking and scorning him on the ground below. The point is, suffering and struggle and terrible circumstances will happen in our lives; it's guaranteed. Yet, no one, or nothing, can block or destroy the prayers of God's people.
2020 brought us some difficult challenges. But the Christian knows to expect difficulties, hardships, persecutions, insults and weaknesses, for when Christ's children are weak, we are strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). 2020 can't take away our prayer communication with the LORD! Therefore, let us pray with all we've got, not just for God to heal our land, our nation and our world, but for God to heal our own anxious hearts in order that we might be the serene, instruments of the peace of Christ--in all circumstances and among all people--to the glory and praise of God the Father! Amen and amen!
Hoping we all embody the prayers of Niebuhr, Francis and Patrick,
><> Pastor Will <><