A prayer for the struggling soul

Each week as we begin our ministry staff meeting, Senior Pastor Valarie Englert asks us, “How’s your soul?”

I missed this week’s meeting because I was helping move my 86-year-old mother into an assisted living facility.

But if I had been there to respond, my answer would have been – and still is – that my soul is struggling.

Struggling with guilt over not being able to adequately care for my mom.

Struggling with finding any semblance of a safe, normal work and personal life in the middle of a pandemic now at 10 months and counting.

Struggling to recognize and understand a country torn asunder by continuing, systemic racial strife.

Struggling to comprehend what I’m watching as a mob carrying American and “Jesus” flags storms and vandalizes the very seat of our democracy, with several people losing their lives in the process.

Struggling with what to do, knowing full well the answer – pray.

But what should I pray?

Throughout my church and spiritual life, I’ve known some very powerful prayer warriors. Living saints who knew exactly what words to pray and when to pray them.

And even though I know God listens regardless, I’ve always been jealous of their ability to pray so eloquently.

With that in mind, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to pray.

I may have found them this morning.

In “A Prayer for the Struggling Soul,” Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer Jolene Underwood offers comforting words for seeking God’s blessings in times of struggle, and scriptures assuring us of God’s grace.

I share them here with the knowledge that I’m not the only one struggling, and with the hope that you might find them comforting as well.

God bless …

Goodbye, farewell and amen

Ring a bell?

If not, two things are certain: 

  • you’re young 
  • you need to find and watch the final episode of the TV series M*A*S*H

First aired on February 28, 1983, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” chronicles the final days of the fictitious 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital as the Korean War comes to an end.

It remains one of the most-watched series episodes in TV history. 

As my wife Marcy and I enjoyed watching it again a few nights ago on MeTV, I was struck by the significance of the title.

Not just to an all-time great TV show, but also to the troubled times in which we live. 

Goodbye, farewell and amen. 

More than eight months into a global pandemic with no end in sight, it’s time to say goodbye to our lives, indeed our world, as we know them. 

There will be a new normal. We are becoming a new church

“Behold, I am doing a new thing …” – Isaiah 43:19 (ESV) 

We will, for example, worship in our Sanctuary again. 

But we will also continue to worship and study and teach in cyberspace. 

Answering God’s call beyond our walls in a manner we never previously imagined.

Goodbye, farewell and amen.

It’s time to bid farewell to partisan politics and racial divisiveness. 

To set aside our differences and love one another as brothers and sisters. 

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.– 1 John 4:7 (NRSV) 

Republicans and Democrats.

Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists.

Doesn’t matter. We’re all human.

We’re all children of God. Loved by God.

Worthy of God’s love, are we not also worthy of love from one another?

Regardless of our differences? 

Goodbye, farewell and amen.

Last but certainly not least, it’s time to say amen.

To assert our faith. To pray. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.– 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRSV) 

 Pray for our church.

Pray for our families.

Pray for our brothers and sisters.

Pray for our world.

Pray. 

Goodbye, farewell and amen.

A prayer for those who have become hashtags

Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

O God, Almighty and merciful,
Who heals the broken-hearted,
and turns the sadness of the sorrowful to joy:

Let your goodness be upon all that you have made.

Remember with compassion those who are this day
Destitute, homeless, or forgotten by humanity.

Bless the poor and down-trodden.

Uplift those who are cast down.

Mightily befriend innocent sufferers,
And lift them from their sorrows,
Sanctifying and preserving them.

Cheer with hope all discouraged people,
And by your grace renew them.

Though trouble comes from every side,
Let them not fall into distress.

Though injustice runs amok,
Let them not be dismayed.

For you are the One who lifts the poor from the dust,
And who tramples the power of the mighty.

Grant this prayer, O Lord,
Through Him who became poor and cast down,
And Who rose and calls the downtrodden to rise with him:

Our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

May Breonna Taylor’s memory be more than a hashtag,
And may we die to injustice, and rise to new life.
 
Based on a collect from the Book of Common Prayer, 1952

Why pray?

Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries

Working in Youth Ministry I often get asked this question:

“Why do I need to pray?”

Have you ever asked this question? I don’t believe there’s a perfect answer for everyone, but I do believe there are some universal truths about prayer. 

I pray because it makes me feel closer to God…

When we are intentional about our time in prayer, we begin to open a line of communication between ourselves and God.

Prayer is a perfect opportunity to explore our hearts, share everything with God, and begin relieving ourselves of things that may be weighing us down.

When we allow ourselves time to reflect and to deal with those things causing us stress, anxiety and emotional distress, we allow God to work from the inside out.

Leaving things unresolved can make it difficult for us to be honest, let down and vulnerable, sometimes causing our prayers to be distracted.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
   and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him,
   and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
   the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
   he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
   because he has not rejected my prayer
   or removed his steadfast love from me.

– Psalm 66:16-20

“Prayer lets me focus on someone other than me,
but I feel like I am being blessed too…”

Do we focus on God every day? I know this is a struggle for me.

In times like now, I struggle to focus on just about everything. This includes focusing on God.

I realize our routines are no longer … well, routine.

We can find ourselves filling our days with worry and anxiety about things yet to come, whose results are unknown.

When we allow ourselves to be weighed down and burdened with the unknown, we can find ourselves forgetting to set aside time to focus on God.

When we pray, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to center our soul and find that small still voice that says, “You are mine, and I am here with you.”

Prayer can unlock us. Prayer refocuses us on God and not on ourselves.

When we pray, we stop believing we’re the only ones capable of solving our problems. We can be honest with the one who loves us regardless of what we have done.

“I believe in the power of prayer and that it can transform…”

Have you ever had someone tell you they are praying for you?

Have you ever told someone else you are praying for them?

When I was a child, I remember my grandmother telling me every time she saw me, “I am praying for you every day that God will hold you.”

It gave me a sense of peace, even though I really didn’t understand why at the time.

In the darkest of times we, as the body of Christ, gather together to pray. Each of us praying in our own words and in our own way.

Praying that God will change the situation, or praying that those affected will know peace and love.

We pray for transformation. But we ourselves are transformed by prayer.

When we are praying for peace or strength for those we love, we often feel strengthened or at peace ourselves.

This is truly part of the magnificence of prayer.

Prayer is personal. Prayer is powerful.

I pray that each of you are blessed in some way today because each of you are a blessing.

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