Prayer: an ongoing conversation

This illustration pretty much captures my life!

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The morning of August 1, I was running. It was sunny. In the upper 60s. Low humidity. I was in the third mile, not yet halfway to my 6.33 total, when I put it all together.

I was feeling great. Appreciating my surroundings. Our safe neighborhood. My good health. The desire to work my body hard and the ability to do so.

I said a prayer of thanks to the Lord.

I noticed that I had already said a bunch of prayers as I ran, as I do on every run. As I do throughout every day. As comes naturally after a lifetime of practice.

And I wondered how many times a day I pray.

So I started counting.

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Before I get out of bed. I awoke at 5:15. Before moving, I say “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” then “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” and finish with Martin Luther’s morning prayer. 1.

Podcast devotion. Making the coffee, I listened to a podcast devotion. I pray with the closing prayer. 2.

Bible reading. I read the daily lectionary, concluding my reading with a prayer of thanks. 3.

Daily devotions. I read two booklets each morning. 4 & 5.

When Julie leaves for work. I try not to pray the same way every day, but my prayer generally asks for her safety on the road and that she has a good day of work. Then, I pray for all who are on the road and giving their labors for the good of the community. 6.

Breakfast. I pray before and after my meal. 7 & 8.

School buses. A bus passed our house. The first time I see one in a day, I pray, “Lord, please bless our school buses and keep safe all of their occupants.” 9.

Ready to run. Before I leave the house, I pray, “Lord, please keep me safe, strong, and smart.” 10.

Beginning my run. I again say the name of the Trinity. I say the Lord’s Prayer, pray for my family and a list of others, pray a refashioned version of Luther’s morning prayer, and conclude with either the common doxology or the “Create in Me,” or both. 11.

Roofers. I saw two men shingling a house. I prayed for them, then prayed for all who labor for us for the good of our homes. 12.

House for sale. The first yard sign I saw, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, bless all those selling their homes and those buying, that things go well for them.” 13.

Public buses. Seeing an IndyGo bus, I prayed the same as I pray for school buses. 14.

Lawn mowers. As I saw a woman mowing, I prayed, “Lord, bless her and keep her safe, and all who are laboring for their homes and families. 15.

The run. Appreciating everything about the morning, I thanked the Lord for the weather, our neighborhood, my good heath and desire to work my body, and for everything He provides for my body and soul, now and forever. 16.

Sirens. Every time I hear a siren, I pray, “Lord, bless those in their need, and those serving them.” 17.

While running. Every five minutes, my app calls out the time, my distance, and my pace. With each call, I say a prayer of thanks. When the call includes having reached the next mile, I add, “Keep me safe and strong and smart all the way, dear Lord Jesus.” 18–32.

Busy roads. Most of my running is on side streets and sidewalks. I have to cross two or three busy roads every run. This day, I had to cross Emerson and 46th twice each. I prayed for safe crossing. Twice, I had to run along 46th, in the bike lane. I run toward the traffic and keep my eyes peeled. Still, I pray for safety. 33–38.

Arriving home. I always say a prayer of thanks. 39.

Lunch. My usual prayers before and after eating. 40 & 41.

More sirens. Wherever I am, whenever I hear them, I pray. 42.

Safe son. Our youngest lives with us. He went on an errand. I prayed for his safekeeping. 43.

Garden. I checked our green beans, but they weren’t ready to pick. I noted our first two watermelons are growing. I toured the entire garden, taking pictures of tomato and green pepper plants that are heavy with fruit. I said a prayer of thanks. 44.

Julie heading home. She always texts me when she leaves work. I pray for her safety, and for all who are on the roads that they might have safe homecomings. 45.

The garage door. When I hear it move, I know someone has arrived home. I said my usual prayers of thanks when my son and Julie got home safe. 46 & 47.

Supper. The usual two prayers. At the dining room table, we pray together. 48 & 49.

And more sirens. The evening is usually busy for our ambulances and firefighters. 50–52.

Bed. I conclude my day with Luther’s evening prayer and anything specific to the day. 53.

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Our mom taught us kids to pray. The prayer I say for my family is an adaptation of the family prayer we said together before bed. As we kids grew, our parents were zealous in their faithfulness to the Lord, brought us up in it, and it grew in me. By the time I was in my twenties, I had an active prayer life.

Prayer is simply the believer speaking praises, thanks, needs, and wants to the Lord. For me, it’s an ongoing conversation—as natural to turn and talk with my Lord Jesus as turning and talking with Julie.

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When God says “No”

The setting is all too familiar: a loved one falls ill, or is injured, or is otherwise in immediate risk of dying. The family turns to prayer. Other loved ones and friends join in petitioning God. It is hoped that “storming heaven” will cause the Lord to intervene and turn around the dire circumstances.

We pray because we trust the Lord to hear and answer our prayers. We pray because the Lord has taught us to pray. We pray because we trust Him, because we know He loves us and has the power and desire to do good things for us. We pray because we are mere creatures and He is the Creator; we the children and He our Father.

In several places and parables, the Lord Jesus teaches us about prayer, beginning with the Lord’s Prayer. He told us about the widow who pestered the unjust judge until he caved in and gave her justice. He told us about the friend, who went to another friend at night for some bread to feed a traveling friend who arrived late at his house, and the guy got his bread because he persisted. And He told us about the father who would not trick his son, say with a snake instead of a fish, and if an earthly father will do right by his child then, of course, God will do right by us.

The Lord Jesus told us to ask, to seek, to knock: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).”

Finally, Christ promises: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).”

We trust these promises as we pray. We count on these promises to result in prayers answered with “yes.”

And God says “no.” And the person dies.

What in heaven happened? Is God not to be trusted? Are we a bunch of fools for placing our faith in Him, for wasting our time in prayer?

What happened is that the person paid the price every human pays, because we come into the world under the curse of the first sinner, Adam. We all die.

God is to be trusted. We are not fools for placing our faith in Him, and we did not waste our time in prayer.

To show this, first we must cover a few things that folks often erroneously believe.

  • “God punished him for a sin,” or, “This is a punishment to his family.” Wrong. God punished His Son on the cross and we have His promise: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).”
  • “God needed her in heaven.” Wrong. One often hears parents telling their young children that grandma died because God needed another good cook in heaven. No, God needs nothing from us, including grandmas to cook for Him.
  • “God saw that he would one day lose his faith, so He took him now so that would not happen.” Wrong. The Lord Jesus vows: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).”

That’s a good start, but this question fills the air: “Why does God let bad things happen?” When I had to bury a young mother of four who had been murdered, I needed to answer this as clearly as ever. I came up with this.

When our children hit the teenage years, because we love them and we don’t want anything bad to happen to them, and we don’t want them to do anything wrong, we lock them in the basement. That’s what love does, right? It protects at all costs.

Wrong.

While we long to protect our loved ones, taking away freedom is not love. We rear our children well, then we send them into the world. We hope for good things. We pray for them. But they are free, and the world is filled with accidents and evildoers and temptation and you-name-it, all of which might bring us down.

As it is with us, so it is with God. He loves us so thoroughly that He gives us lives in which we get to exercise freedom. Indeed, His love is so profound that if we don’t return His love, He still lets us live and enjoy life.

But He does not remove every obstacle, every possible bad thing from our path. If He did—if this were His job, to stop every last thing which is not good—He also would zap us when we gossip, and slap our hand when we put it where it does not belong, and on and on to where He would constantly be on our case, to where we would have no freedom at all.

He might as well lock us in a basement.

Freedom comes at great cost. This takes us directly to the Father’s gift of His Son, whom He did not keep locked up in heaven but sent Him to earth, into our very flesh, so that He could give up His life, so that not only might we take ours up again on the Last Day but also know the depths of the Father’s love now, every day, so that when things go horribly wrong we can remember that Christ has made all things perfectly right.

Recall this promise of Christ already quoted: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).” When God says “no” to our prayer, how can this promise be true?

When we pray, it is not our goal to get God’s will to line up with ours, but to get our will to be in agreement with His.

It is easy to glorify God when things go right. The player gets the winning hit and he points to heaven. The parents welcome the beautiful child and praise God for this gift. The farmer brings in the plentiful harvest and pauses to thank the Lord for the bounty.

It is challenging to glorify God when things go wrong. When the ball does not drop in. When the child miscarries. When drought chokes puny plants.

Yet, as children of the heavenly Father through faith in Christ, we are to glorify Him in bad times equal to the good ones. Why? Because we know that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into heaven means that He is King over this creation, that He is Lord of the living and the dead, that He has the power to fulfill His final task, that of returning in glory.

When Jesus Christ will do this: “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:39-40).”

Eternally living in the resurrection, we look forward to this wonderful life: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:1-4).”

When God says “no” to our prayers, He has the best “yes” in mind. Whether we live a day, or eighteen years, or one hundred, for the Christian this lovely promise is always true: “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).”

By grace through faith in Christ, we belong to the Lord. Not even death can snatch away the gift of eternal life, for Jesus Christ beat death with His resurrection from the grave.

May you be comforted and strengthened by these precious promises from the Word of God, all which are rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord be with you!

When God said NO to me

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It’s one thing to talk about hard things; it’s quite another to live them.

When, last week, I wrote in the wake of my cousin’s eighteen-year-old son’s death, about how God could answer NO to our family’s fervent prayers for healing and we could still love Him and consider Him faithful to His promises to us, there were a number of challenging things to accept.

This being a Christian is not easy business. Let no one ever tell you that once you are a Christian your life is a cakewalk. No, the life of the Christian in this world is filled with every hardship, every challenge, ever malady, every tragedy, which any person on earth might experience, and the Christian works to see the Lord’s goodness to her or him come what may.

When it comes to talking about God saying NO to fervent prayer, I have walked the walk. Here are the three major times that God did not answer my prayers as I requested. In each one, after I got over His NO, He dazzled me with what He had in store for me.

The death of my son

I have written about Johnathan’s birth and death here and thus will not cover those details.
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/11481/

Naturally, my first wife and I prayed like crazy after Johnathan took ill. Our pastor was quick to come to the hospital, and he prayed with us. As word spread, I am confident that relatives and friends were with us in our petitions to the Lord to spare Johnathan’s little life and us the heartbreak of possibly losing our newborn, firstborn child.

God said NO.

We were, of course, devastated. More than leaving the hospital with empty arms, we returned home with empty hearts.

A funny thing happened on the way to what could have been hard hearts toward God. The Lord healed us. We lost neither heart nor faith. Soon, Kim was longing to carry another child. Ten months and ten days after the birth of Johnathan we welcomed Erin. Two years later came Jackie. Almost three more years till Addison greeted us, and another nearly three years until we wrapped up our child-having years with Alex, in 1989.

Over the eight years since Johnathan, the Lord had worked great growth of faith in me. I had gotten very involved at church. I began reading the Bible on my own. My prayer life was vibrant. I was in Bible study and loved it.

Bitterness over Johnathan never entered my heart. Quite the opposite, I have been able to say that it’s all good. I know that Johnathan belongs to the Lord, that his soul is before the throne of the Lamb of God in heaven, and that on the Last Day he will be raised from the dead in a perfected, eternal, adult body to live forever.

When one argues the joys of earthly life with the bliss of eternal life, there is no comparison. It’s not even a fair fight, whether a person lived one hundred years or one day.

When God said NO to our prayers for healing Johnathan, He both kept Johnathan safe for eternity and blessed me in my earthly walk, increasing my trust to the point where I was able, at age thirty-five, with a wife and four young children, to quit my excellent job, uproot my family, and head off to seminary to study for the ministry. The Lord prepared me for the work, I loved it, and He used me to do well ministering to His people.

Truly, the Lord’s NO had YES written all over it.

The death of my marriage

But didn’t my becoming a pastor result in the undoing of my marriage? While I cannot know how our lives would have gone had we stayed in Montague, I know the things that fell into place which resulted in the divorce, and key things were related to my becoming a minister.

I really should have been out of the ministry before I hit the five-year mark. My church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, takes very seriously the divorce of a pastor. I had only been at Port Hope two months—this was April, 2001—so the congregation barely knew me. I offered to resign from the ministry. When it came to a vote by the congregation, they rallied to me, and for all of my thirteen years with them they were wonderful to me.

The death of my marriage almost destroyed me. Guilt and shame and rejection sent me into deep depression. I was glad that I was still in the ministry—if I had resigned, I had no idea what I would have done, where I would have gone, how I would have supported my kids—but I was one lost, sorry soul.

Though the prayers for my marriage came up NO, I kept praying. I turned the final verse of Psalm 27 into my ardent plea. The verse is this, “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” I prayed it this way, “You are the only strength I have, Lord. I take heart in all of your promises. But I am hurting so badly. Please don’t make me wait long to feel better.”

I suppose I began praying that in May. In mid-August, I told my boys, who lived with me full-time, that I would not date, that I would not even look at women, until I got them graduated from high school. Six more years.

I have previously written about how Julie and I met, and how we both were going through divorces and were emailing each other. Find the full story here.
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/wow-um-wow/

Wow, did I not have to wait long to begin feeling better!

Not even a week after my vow to my boys, I found myself falling for Julie. When I admitted it to her, she reciprocated. Living 950 miles apart, we couldn’t date. We saw each other precisely four times before I retrieved her from Iowa the beginning of December. We were married on December 30.

Not only did the Lord turn His NO to my prayers for my first marriage into the most dazzling YES in Julie, so many other good things surrounded it. Kim and her husband, and Julie and I, would come to have an excellent relationship, which was especially important for the sake of our kids. We had them for family gatherings at the parsonage, even staying with us for holiday weekends. They reciprocated at their place.

As for Julie, she had the ability to accept my gender issues and, in 2013, when I had to tell her that I finally had been crushed by self-hatred at being a male, informing her that I might not survive if I don’t transition, she responded this way: “Then we will figure it out.” And we did.

Clearly, the Lord’s NO to my first marriage had His own YES written all over it.

The death of me

The title is an overstatement, but in many ways it hits the mark.

Ever since my gender identity issues took root when I was in sixth grade, I prayed to be rid of this. I spent my life believing I was the most despicable sinner. I was a freak. Nothing but weak.

For about a year, when I was in my mid-teens, I lay in bed every night as I waited for sleep to come pondering what damnation in hell would be like. I was sure I was going there, because how could God love someone like me? I tried to ponder eternity in torment. I would think, “But then there will be one more day. Then one more day. Then one more day.” I was scared stiff.

I tried everything to get rid of my desire. As with so many like me, I hoped love would cure me. Then, I hoped becoming a minister would cure me. Both were naive notions.

I constantly repented. When I owned some women’s clothes, after awhile I would throw them out. I would dig in and try to put this thing to death. I confessed to God what I could only reckon was sinful behavior and tried to live in a manner which He would approve.

I prayed and prayed and prayed and, as far as I am concerned, God kept saying NO: “Nope, Greg, I’m not taking this away. You’re going to deal with it.”

What I did not know until 2013 was that the cause of my disorder was a real, physical malady. I have written plenty about that, so I won’t cite a specific blog post.

In short, I hated being a male because my endocrine system—the body’s hormones—had been disrupted and there was no fix for it to get me to feel like a male. For over two years, I went back and forth—I will transition, I will not—and getting worse along the way.

I prayed more than ever. God continued to say NO, I will not remove this. More than the NO, the answer He had in mind grew in real events and in my faith in Him.  Yet, how on earth could it be my Lord’s good and gracious will that I be transgender, that I leave the ministry, that I risk offending so many family and friends and fellow Christians?  It made no sense for a long time.

He has indeed answered YES to a huge aspect of my prayers: “Lord, if I have to transition, then please use me to glorify Christ and proclaim the Gospel.” This, I have been able to do, even as I also have educated regarding gender dysphoria and what it means to be transgender. The Holy Spirit has clung to me, always directing me to the Father’s mercy for me in His Son, Jesus Christ.

I want to do so much more educating, especially of my fellow Christians. The Lord continues to open doors. I cannot imagine what the future holds. I know that I cannot imagine it, because I could never have imagined the life the Lord carved out for me.

As with my son’s death and the end of my first marriage, the Lord has dazzled me with how His ways are not my ways, nor His thoughts mine, but as the heavens are higher than the earth so are His ways and thoughts higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). I could only view the finite film of my life—with my son in it, and my marriage not becoming my “first” one, and my remaining a male and a pastor—where my Lord always sees the big picture and the good things He intends to do with the bad things in my life.

It takes faith to hold on. He gives the faith. He sustains the faith.

I hope that looking at the NO answers I received from the Lord when YES seemed the only possibility, and what the Lord did to turn those traumatic, tragic, terrible situations from bad to good, gives you hope if you are in a tough spot right now, or whenever you might be.

We know that tough spots will come. My prayer for you is that you are able to lean on the Lord Jesus Christ with your entire life so that, whatever the immediate result, you might be able to trust Him to have in store for you a healed heart, a full life, and a hopeful future, both in this world and in eternity.

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When God says NO

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Yesterday, my cousin’s son died. Nathan was her youngest child. He was eighteen. He had everything in life ahead of him. And now it is all gone. And now a mother’s heart has been torn open.

As an extended family, we had been praying for Nathan the past few days, after he surprisingly fell gravely ill when having what should have been a routine surgical procedure. This is my mother’s side of the family, most of whom remain the practicing Roman Catholics in which we were reared, and virtually all of whom trust in the Lord Jesus Christ no matter how they practice their faith.

We had been praying fervently because we trust the Lord to hear and answer our prayers. We pray because the Lord has taught us to pray. We pray because we trust Him, because we know He loves us and has the power and desire to do good things for us. We pray because we are mere creatures and He is the Creator; we the children and He our Father.

In several places and parables, the Lord Jesus teaches us about prayer, beginning with the Lord’s Prayer. He told us about the widow who pestered the unjust judge until he caved in and gave her justice. He told us about the friend, who went to another friend at night for some bread to feed a traveling friend who arrived late at his house, and the guy got his bread because he persisted. And He told us about the father who would not trick his son, say with a snake instead of a fish, and if an earthly father will do right by his child then, of course, God will do right by us.

The Lord Jesus told us to ask, to seek, to knock: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).”

Finally, Christ promises: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).”

We trusted these promises as we prayed. We were counting on these promises to be answered in YES, Nathan will be healed.

God said NO.

What on earth happened? Is God not to be trusted? Are we a bunch of fools for placing our faith in Him, for wasting our time in prayer?

What happened is that Nathan died, paying the price that every human pays because we come into the world under the curse of the first sinner, Adam. We all die.

God IS to be trusted. We are not fools for placing our faith in Him, and we did not waste our time in prayer.

First, to cover a few things that folks often erroneously believe.

  • “God punished him for a sin, or this is a punishment to his family.” Wrong. God punished His Son on the cross and we have His promise: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).”
  • “God needed him in heaven.” Wrong. One often hears parents telling their young children that grandma died because God needed another good cook in heaven. No, God needs nothing from us. He doesn’t need grandmas to cook for him. He doesn’t need young, strong men to do any heavy lifting.
  • “God saw that he would one day lose his faith, so He took him now so that would not happen.” Wrong. The Lord Jesus vows: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).”

That’s a good start, but this question fills the air: “Why does God let bad things happen?” When I had to bury a young mother of four who had been murdered, I needed to answer this as clearly as ever. I came up with this.

When our children hit the teenage years, because we love them and we don’t want anything bad to happen to them, and we don’t want them to do anything wrong, we lock them in the basement. That’s what love does, right? It protects at all costs.

Wrong.

While we long to protect our loved ones, taking away freedom is not love. We rear our children well, then we send them into the world. We hope for good things. We pray for them. But they are free, and the world is filled with accidents and evildoers and temptation and you-name-it, all of which might bring us down.

As it is with us, so it is with God. He loves us so thoroughly that He gives us lives in which we get to exercise freedom. Indeed, His love is so profound that if we don’t return His love, He still lets us live and enjoy life.

But He does not remove every obstacle, every possible bad thing from our path. If He did—if this were His job, to stop every last thing which is not good—then not only would He keep young men from falling ill during routine surgery but He also would zap us when we gossip, and slap our hand when we put it where it does not belong, and on and on to where He would constantly be on our case, to where we would have no freedom at all.

Freedom comes at great cost. This takes us directly to the Father’s gift of His Son, whom He did not keep locked up in heaven but sent Him to earth, into our very flesh, so that He could give up His life, so that not only might we take ours up again on the Last Day but also know the depths of the Father’s love now, every day, so that when things go horribly wrong we can remember that Christ has made all things perfectly right.

Recall this promise of Christ I quoted earlier: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).” When God says NO to our prayer, how can this promise be true?

When we pray, it is not our goal to get God’s will to line up with ours, but to get our will to be in agreement with His.

It is easy to glorify God when things go right. The player gets the winning hit and he points to heaven. The parents welcome the beautiful child and praise God for this gift. The farmer brings in the plentiful harvest and pauses to thank the Lord for the bounty.

It is challenging to glorify God when things go wrong. When the ball does not drop in. When the child miscarries. When drought chokes puny plants.

Yet, as children of the heavenly Father through faith in Christ, we are to glorify Him in bad times equal to the good ones. Why? Because we know that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into heaven means that He is King over this creation, that He is Lord of the living and the dead, that He has the power to fulfill His final task, that of returning in glory.

When Jesus Christ will do this: “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:39-40).”

Eternally living in the resurrection, we look forward to this wonderful life: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:1-4).”

When God says NO to our prayers, He has the best YES in mind. Whether we live a day, or eighteen years, or one hundred, for the Christian this lovely promise is always true: “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).”

Young Nathan belongs to the Lord. Not even death can snatch away the gift of eternal life, for Jesus Christ beat death with His resurrection from the grave.

May you be comforted and strengthened by these precious promises from the Word of God. The Lord be with you!

The first thing I do

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The first thing I do when I awaken each day is to pray, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

The first thing I do after I arise and get the coffee started is to listen to a podcast of a daily devotion, then read the lessons from the daily lectionary, which includes a psalm and readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and one of the Gospels.

The first thing I do as I head out to go jogging is to pray, “Lord, please keep me safe and strong and smart.”

The first thing I do after my run is underway is to recall my baptism by speaking the invocation—In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—then pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then pray my family prayer and whatever other things in my life, or the lives of others, which need addressing.

The first thing I do when I am eating by myself is to pray, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blessed.”  When with family, including when we are at a restaurant, the prayer might vary—especially if a grandchild is leading!—but we always begin by remembering who and whose we are.

The first thing I do when I finish my meal is to pray, “Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”

The first thing I do when I am struggling with something—especially the many and various troubles that have come both from within and from without with my personal situation the past three years—is to pray. When it is a really tough matter, I lie on my bed and talk out loud to the Lord. He has taught me to ask, to seek, and to knock. I remind Him what He taught me and that I intend to knock down the door. He also has taught me that He hears and answers every prayer I make in His name, and I remind Him of that promise. He also taught some important parables about prayer—like the persistent widow before the unjust judge, and the friend who comes at night for bread, and the father who would not trick his child—and I love to remind Him about those, too. I know that He loves for me to remind Him of all of His promises to me because I prove to myself that I believe Him, that I love and trust Him with my life and for my eternal life through the work of Jesus Christ, because if I did not believe in Him, if I did not think He only has my best interests in mind, if I did not trust that He has the ability and the desire to answer my prayers, then I would not bother praying to Him. In fact, I would not bother being a Christian. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit informs my spirit that His Word is true, and through this gift of faith I find the Lord faithful to me, that He has been faithful to His every promise to me every single day of my life, and so it is my joy to love Him, and my joy to seek Him, and my joy to glorify Him with my life.

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The first thing I do when I don’t know what to pray is to say one or both of these: “Dear Lord Jesus, show me your good and gracious will, then help me to follow it,” and this, which is Psalm 25:5: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.”

The first thing I do when I drive by a farmer who is working in a field, or a lineman on a utility pole, or anyone who is working to serve the community, is to pray, “Lord, bless them in their work and keep them safe.”

The first thing I do when I see a car broken down and sitting on the road’s shoulder is to pray that the owner is safe and getting the needed help.

The first thing I do when I get into my car is to pray for safe travel and, if whatever I am heading to do requires it, to add a prayer regarding that.

The first thing I do when I ponder any family member on the road—as when Julie is heading home from work—is to pray for safe travel, and then also pray for all who are on the road.

The first thing I do when I hear the arriving car of a family member is to say a prayer of thanks for safe arrival. Because of the prayer formation of my life, prayers of thanks come automatically when I recognize a good thing—as when I gaze over my growing garden, or make it home safely from a run, or enjoy a sweet moment with my grandchildren.  I know that every good thing I have, including my very life, is from the Lord, and therefore I want Him to know how grateful I am.

The first thing I do when I hear sirens is to pray, “Lord, help all those who are in need, and those who are serving them.”

The first thing I do when a friend asks me to pray for her or him is to stop everything and pray that very moment. I often type out the prayer and message it to them so they know what I am praying.

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Finally, the first thing I do as the final thing I do for the day is to pray, to thank the Lord for the gifts of the day, to sorrow over my failings of the day, to recall that my Lord Jesus has borne my sin and taken it away, and to seek His strength that I might correct my sins of commission and omission, and then to commend myself and my family into His hands for a good night’s rest.

And every prayer gets an Amen, for Amen means “it shall be so.”  In Christ, everything “shall be so” to the glory of God the Father, for the good of all who call upon His Holy Name.

Amen!

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