Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Prayer

Volume 2 No. 106 November 1, 2012

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Isaiah 40-2
Table of Contents
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Editor's Note

Bible Readings for This Sunday (Nov 4)

Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification) Sunday

Sermons for This Sunday (Nov 4)

Sermons for the Koodhosh Eetho Sunday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Koodosh-eatho.htm

Inspiration for Today: Ask God Directly

Once king Akbar was sitting in prayers at a sacred place. A person was waiting for kind King Akbar. In the middle of prayers the emperor Akbar noticed that the person, waiting for him, stood up to leave. Akbar signaled him, to stay. ...

What the Bible Says About Storms

Big storms are ominous. They arrest our attention. They remind us how small and powerless we are. In the Bible the storm is a symbol of many different things. ...

Featured: Daniel's Prayer: Longing for Rescue

Daniel understood that prayer is an expression of faith in the promises of God. It also helps us align our hearts to God's will and purpose in the world. ...

Remember Past Blessings In Your Prayer

God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us. ...

When God says 'No' to Our Prayers

Scripture does give some answers as to God's delay and to his "No." And while these explanations may not always satisfy us emotionally, they do provide a teaching which can ultimately assist us in not allowing our sorrow, anger or disappointment to interact with our pride and lead us away from faith. Let's look at a few of these explanations as to God's "No" and his delay. ...

Prayer of Daniel

Daniel 9:3-19: We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments. ...

Pray Without Ceasing - The Sin of Prayerlessness

We must never forget that prayer is not only for petition, but also for protection and for preparation. Prayer not only gives us what we want; it prepares us for and protects us from what we don't want. ...

Intercessional Prayers to Saints

There seems to be a great deal of confusion among non-Catholics/Orthodox concerning the Church's teaching on praying to the saints in heaven. It is alleged that by praying to them we equate them with God. This is false. But why pray to them, when we can pray to God? ...

Family Devotions and Prayer

The Scripture is pretty clear on the fact that we have a responsibility to be training our children in the truth. Christian fathers in particular have a responsibility to be leading and training their families in the Revelation of God. ...

Health: Health and Politics

Left untreated, MRSA can eat into flesh, and once it enters the bloodstream it is deadly. Rampant in hospitals, superbugs such as MRSA presently account for 100,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. Superbugs may be passed on at the pool, beach, gym, or yoga class. ...

Dare to Do the Daniel Diet

The problem with the moralizing interpretations familiar to us is not only that they focus the story on us rather than on God and his work in history, centering on Christ; it's that precisely in making it about us, we trivialize the greatest story ever told. No wonder so many people assume that the Bible is simply a collection of tips for life. ...

A Tranquil Moment (Poem)

A poem written while visiting a bird sanctuary in Mysore.

Humor: Mommy Test

About Malankara World

Editor's Note
This Sunday is the beginning of the church calendar year. This Sunday is called Koodosh Eetho. It is the day of sanctification. The next Sunday is the dedication day for the church. Then we will start counting down the days for the arrival of the Baby Jesus and the Christmas. So, this is also a good time for us to cleanse ourselves as we cleanse the church.

This week is also noted for the news from all over the world. It seems that most of the world had seen some kind of natural disaster. It started with an earthquake in the Western part of Canada. The weather service was concerned that this can create a Tsunami and can create a havoc in Hawaii. Fortunately, the Tsunami didn't materialize and the Canadians escaped with minor inconvenience.

But the people in Easter US and Caribbean were not so lucky. A hurricane named Sandy created havoc. It hit the Eastern US and then combined with another cold front to create a "perfect storm" according to meteorologists. As I write this, many in New York area are still in shelters without any power, transportation etc. Over 2000 flights were cancelled. Damages in the range of billions of dollars are predicted. The storm created damage in our area too although I was spared.

I understand that the Western and Eastern part of India is also suffering from major storms at this time. So, this is a misery shared by many of our faithful. Let us all pray for those who are suffering in the wake of these storms. As Jesus has shown in Mark 4:37-41, God has control over these natural elements. Please read What the Bible Says About Storms.

Let us pray for everyone who are in harms way - everyone affected by forces outside of our hands, be it Mother Nature, circumstances, finances or health.

Hold on to your family and neighbors tightly and with love.

Life is precious and can change in an instant.

Life would feel safer, if we knew that we were there to help one another and work together.

Be safe and live in the NOW this week and next. What happens to us in future depends on God.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Nov 4)

Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification) Sunday

The Sunday that comes on or after October 30th is called Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar.

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

 Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Koodosh-eetho-to-Kothne-SOC.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (Nov 4)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Ask God Directly
Once king Akbar was sitting in prayers at a sacred place. A person was waiting for kind King Akbar.

In the middle of prayers the emperor Akbar noticed that the person, waiting for him, stood up to leave. Akbar signaled him, to stay.

After the prayers Akbar asked him why did he want to leave. Could not he stay for few minutes until the prayer was over?

To, this the person replied. "I had come to ask for wealth and money and respectable status from you. I noticed that in prayers, you were asking for similar things from God. So I thought, 'why beg from a beggar? I can straight away beg from the One who gives!'"

We beg love from beggars, when God is anxiously waiting to give it to us in abundance on asking. If we are seeking love for us and our loved ones, ask God. God answers prayers, whether we are aware of it or not!

What the Bible Says About Storms

by Mel Lawrenz

I was just with two friends from Cuba who waited anxiously to hear from their families whose towns were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Big storms are ominous. They arrest our attention. They remind us how small and powerless we are.

In the Bible the storm is a symbol of many different things.

Non-destructive wind is an apt picture of the presence of God because God is powerful, yet unseen (John 3:8; 4:24). When God's Spirit came at Pentecost the accompanying sign was the sound of "a mighty rushing wind" (Acts 2:2).

The peoples surrounding the Israelites in the Old Testament typically worshipped storm gods. These fertility religions tried to coax rain out of the local god. In contrast, the Israelites believed God to be the personal sovereign over all things.

One day God revealed himself to Elijah the prophet in an unusual way:

"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" (1 Kings 19:11-13).

God is not a storm, but storms do remind us that there are forces so much stronger than us. A strong storm is a reminder that we need a God who is stronger than the storm:

"The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea-the LORD on high is mighty" (Psalm 93:3-4).

And when we see someone rescued from a storm, it reminds us of the salvation of God:

"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me" (Psalm 18:16-17).

Certainly the most memorable storm in the Bible was the day Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee:

"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?' He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!' (Mark 4:37-41).

This is a good time to pray for the protection of all who are in the path of storms and other natural disasters.

About The Author:

Mel Lawrenz is a pastor and author. His latest book is Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership

Source: The Brook Network

Featured: Daniel's Prayer: Longing for Rescue

by Kelly Givens, Editor at Salem Web Network

"We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."
- Daniel 9:17-19

If you're ever trying to find something to study in the Word, one neat thing you might try is reading the great prayers of the Bible. Think Abraham's prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah, Hannah's anguished prayer for a child, Jonah's prayer in the belly of the great fish, and of course, The Lord's Prayer, which Jesus himself taught his disciples. I've found these teach us more than just how to pray. Through these prayers we learn what it means to be people of faith. We also see God's character revealed to us and learn why prayer is important to God.

Chapter nine in the book of Daniel contains one of these great prayers: Daniel's prayer to God on behalf of the Israelites. In the first few verses, Daniel tells us that after reading the writings of the prophet Jeremiah he understood that the exile-- which he had been apart of for most of his life-- was nearing an end. We might expect Daniel to celebrate, but instead he says, "I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting and in sackcloth and ashes" (v. 3).

What in the world is going on here? If Daniel truly believed God's promise to end the exile, why is he praying as if he didn't? When I thought through this, I realized Daniel didn't doubt God would deliver on his promise. Rather, he understood that prayer is an expression of faith in the promises of God. It also helps us align our hearts to God's will and purpose in the world. Daniel was essentially saying, "God, this is awesome news. I want this so badly. Don't let our sinfulness keep you from acting on this great plan. Don't delay, rescue us soon!"

We too have been promised an end to our own exile of sorts- Jesus promises to return and bring his Kingdom with him when he comes. He promises the end of our captivity to sin and to bring us into ever-lasting life in the New Jerusalem, in his presence forever!

This is an incredible promise. But are we praying for it the way Daniel was praying for Israel's return from exile? We pray "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done," but do we really mean it? I know I often don't. I'm usually content in this broken world, in captivity. I'm comfortable here; I'm used to it. I don't often long for the Jesus to come back.

But God desires us to be like Daniel, to remember our sinfulness, confess and to pray that Jesus would indeed come back soon. God's promises are intended to encourage us to pray, not to make us shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Oh well, it'll happen one day, regardless of if I pray or not."

We need to pray as Daniel did, not because God needs our prayers to accomplish his purposes, but because we need to submit ourselves to his plans. We need to long for what he longs for, and for Christians today, the number one thing on our prayer list, our number one longing, should be the return of Jesus.

Intersecting Faith and Life:

God has promised us that he is coming back to claim this world as his own and to rescue all those who have placed their faith in him. Are you living in light of this promise? If not, meditate on scripture that affirms Jesus' return, and pray your heart would desire this as much as God does.

Further Reading:

John 14: 1-4
Revelation 21: 1-5
Revelation 22: 7

Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional

Remember Past Blessings In Your Prayer

by Dr. Michael Youssef

Do you have people in your life who only talk to you when they want something? Conversations that revolve around the other person's needs or demands make it hard to develop true fellowship. These one-sided relationships can lead to us feeling used and manipulated. Yet that is exactly what many of us do to God when we only approach Him in prayer with a need or desire. We give Him our laundry lists of prayer requests without seeking a relationship with Him, spending time praising Him, or thanking Him for our many blessings. We pray for future events without acknowledging His help in the past. Our forgetfulness is an indication of our ingratitude toward God and it renders our prayers ineffective.

Yet none of this shocks God. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we are a forgetful people. He knows our capacity for ingratitude. He knows our capacity for reinventing the truth. He knows our capacity for taking credit for His provision. Throughout the Scriptures we see God reminding His people of His blessings. He often urged them to set up visible memorials of His past provision so they would be filled with prayer and praise. Without these reminders, the people would forget God's faithfulness.

When God miraculously brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, they quickly succumbed to ingratitude towards God. They grumbled and complained and murmured every time they faced a new challenge, instead of thanking God for His ever-present hand. Their attitude prevented them from entering the Promised Land for 40 years until that grumbling generation had died out in the wilderness.

After God's people finally reached the Promised Land, God told them to create a monument as a reminder of His supernatural aid in crossing the Jordan River. "When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight'" (Joshua 4:1-3). Joshua carried out the Lord's commands and explained to the men that this would "serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.… These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever" (Joshua 4:6,7).

God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us.

God does not want to be taken for granted. He does not want to be given our lists of wants without any true desire to know Him. We dishonor God when we relegate Him to the role of magic genie. God answers our prayers to strengthen our faith in Him, to help us trust in His Word, to glorify Himself, and to express His love for us. Imagine how He feels when we respond to His grace and love and mercy with indifference and forgetfulness and presumption.

When we face difficult times, we often become blinded by our problems and forget how God has always provided the solutions to our past troubles. God wants to see that His past aid did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. He wants us to come to Him confidently in prayer, gratefully acknowledging His past mercies. After we have spent time in praise and thanksgiving, we can then ask Him to again help us so that our blessings can glorify Him.

As you join with us in praying for America, spend time building a relationship with God. Praise Him for who He is and thank Him for the many blessings He has given and continues to give to this country today.

"I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1,2

Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine
from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef. 

When God says 'No' to Our Prayers

by Msgr. Charles Pope

It is common for all of us to have to struggle as to the great mystery of God's providence and will. If it is not our own struggle then we must often commiserate with others who are in distress. One person is losing her young daughter to cancer, a friend is struggling to find work, still another has a husband who is drinking. Some will say to me, "I've been praying, Father. Nothing seems to happen." I am not always sure what to say and God doesn't often explain why we must suffer, or why he delays, or why he says, "No."

Just think of how he answered Job. Job wanted answers as to why he was suffering. And God spoke from the whirlwind and upbraided Job with provocative questions meant to humble him. But in the end he gave him no real answer. He DID restore Job though. And somehow in the midst of God's mysterious ways we DO have to remember that if we are faithful God is going to more than restore us one day. But in the midst of trials, future restoration seems pretty theoretical.

So, often in the midst of trials, the best we can do is to be still. To breathe, to sigh and yearn, and to weep with those who weep. Scripture says, The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD (Lam 3:25).

Scripture does give some answers as to God's delay and to his "No." And while these explanations may not always satisfy us emotionally, they do provide a teaching which can ultimately assist us in not allowing our sorrow, anger or disappointment to interact with our pride and lead us away from faith. Let's look at a few of these explanations as to God's "No" and his delay. Some of these explanations pertain to God and some to us. I place the word "sometimes" before most of these since they do not all apply to all of us, all the time.

1. Sometimes, "No" is the Best Answer

We often think we know what is best for us. We want to have this job, or we want that person to fall in love and marry us. We want to be delivered from a certain illness or receive a financial blessing. We see these as good outcomes and are sure that God must also see them this way. But God may not, in fact, agree with our assessment as to what is best for us. And thus his "No" is really the best answer to our prayers.

For example we may always prefer that God answer our prayer that none of our children be born with any disabilities. But God may see that the experience of disability may be just the thing that we or the child may need in order to be saved ultimately. St. Paul prayed for deliverance from some sort of physical affliction: Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:7-10).

The fact is, we really don't know what is best for us or for someone else. We may think we know, but we do not. God's "No" to Paul helped to save him for it helped him better understand the power of the cross in his life and how we must learn to depend on God. So too for us. We may prefer certain outcomes, but God alone really knows if our preference is truly good for us or just apparently good.

2. God is love

Many confuse love with kindness. Kindness is a common attribute of love but it is not the same as love. Any parent knows that they must often times discipline their children, and that it is the loving thing to do. A parent who is always kind and never punishes, spoils that child and does not exhibit true love. Parents will sometimes inflict pain on a child by limiting their freedom and insisting that they do what is right. They will bring an unwilling child to the doctor for shots, they will insist that they finish their homework before play. They may give a firm "no" to certain requests that they know are harmful or interfere with greater duties. Kindness always wants to say yes, but love sometimes says no and even inflicts hardships where necessary.

God is a Father. Kindness has its place but love is more essential for us than mere kindness which is but an attribute of love.

Scripture says, My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son….God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:5-6, 11). And Again: Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus….Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this (2 Tim 2:3,7)

3. Sometimes our request cannot be affirmed without violating another's freedom

It is a common thing that we may pray for the conversion of another person. Or we may pray that they make some decision that we prefer. God is all powerful and could force outcomes, but this would violate the freedom of others to truly decide. If freedom is contingent upon God's whim then it is not really freedom. God can exhort through his Church and the Scriptures. He can send special graces to be of influence, but in the end, we are free and he will not generally force an individual to choose what we want or ask in prayer. The Scriptures affirm our freedom. For example: There are set before you fire and water; to which ever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, which ever he chooses shall be given him (Sirach 15:16-17).

4. Sometimes our request cannot be granted due to the harm it might cause to others

We can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that we are the most important thing on God's agenda. We want a sunny day for our picnic but the farmers are in desperate need of rain. Whose need is more important? It would seem that the farmers might be a bit higher on God's list than my picnic, however, even this, I leave up to God.

The prophet Jonah went reluctantly to the Ninevites to preach. And he didn't want them to be converted. He wanted them to refuse repentance and be destroyed within 40 days. He had, in his own mind, good reasons to want this. The Ninevites (Assyrians) were amassing an army that was a great threat to Israel, and if they were destroyed Israel would be spared any further threat. But the Ninevites DID repent. And Jonah was sullen and bitter. God rebuked him for wanting the Ninevites destroyed with these words: Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city? (Jonah 4:9) We may not be praying for another's harm but it may sometimes be the case that what we ask for would adversely affect others.

5. Sometimes our faith is not strong enough

Jesus said: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22) And the Book of James says, But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; (James 1:6-7) There is also the sad fact of Nazareth where the Lord could work few miracles so much did their lack of faith disturb him (Matt 13:58)

6. Sometimes we ask for improper things or with wrong motives

The Book of James says : "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures"

7. Sometimes un-repented sin sets up a barrier between us and God so that our prayer is blocked

"Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities (sins) have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).

8. Sometimes we have not been generous with the requests and needs of others

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13)

9. Sometimes God cannot trust us with blessings for we are not conformed to his word or trustworthy with lesser things

If you remain in me and my word remains in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you" (John 15:7) and Again: So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? (Lk 16:11-12). Thus we must prove trustworthy in smaller matters to be trusted with greater blessings.

Again, please remember the "explanations" above may or may not apply to you personally. Some, others may not. In the end we have to accept the mystery of prayer and come to accept that not everything is fully explainable. We see so very little of the whole picture God sees. Humility must be our constant disposition.

Prayer of Daniel
Scripture: Daniel 9:3-19 (KJV)

3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

4 And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.

13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

14 Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake.

18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.

Pray Without Ceasing - The Sin of Prayerlessness

by Greg Laurie

Pray without ceasing - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

We must never forget that prayer is not only for petition, but also for protection and for preparation. Prayer not only gives us what we want; it prepares us for and protects us from what we don't want.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was in anguish as He contemplated the horrors of the cross. All He wanted the disciples to do was to be present and praying. Being God, He knew what was ahead. He knew every detail. And so He prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39).

All Jesus asked for was some companionship. He didn't need a sermon; He needed some friends. But His friends were sleeping. And this was a direct result of the sin of self-confidence.

The same can be true of us. We pray when we think we need to pray. When a crisis hits, when we get bad news from the doctor, when we are laid off, when we are having problems with our marriage or problems with our children, what do we do? We pray. And that is good. It's what we should do.

But what about when things are going well? When the bills are paid, when the job is looking good, when there is no bad news from any front, do you pray then? Is it because you think you don't need to? Is it because of self-confidence?

Failure to pray actually can be a sin. Sin isn't just breaking a commandment, though it includes that. There is also the sin of omission. James 4:17 tells us, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Copyright ©2012 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

Intercessional Prayers to Saints

by Sebastian R. Fama

There seems to be a great deal of confusion among non-Catholics/Orthodox concerning the Church's teaching on praying to the saints in heaven. It is alleged that by praying to them we equate them with God. This is false. But why pray to them, when we can pray to God? Don't the Scriptures tell us that we have but one mediator, and that is "Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5)? It is true that intercessory prayer is a type of mediation but not the type exclusively performed by Jesus. Hebrews 9:15 tells us that Jesus "is the Mediator of a new covenant." When the saints in heaven pray for us they are no more mediating a new covenant than we are when we pray for each other.

To pray means to ask, not to worship. We do not pray to the saints instead of God. We pray to God and ask that the saints pray for and with us. Are we not to "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), and to "pray for one another" (James 5:16)? Were we not "all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13)? Are not the saints in heaven still members of that body?

We know that "the prayer of a righteous person has great power" (James 5:16). Who could be more righteous or pray more fervently than those already perfected and in the Lord's presence? We know that they care for us, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:7). And finally we see that they present our prayers along with their own to Jesus: "The four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Revelation 5:8). Also, "And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God" (Revelation 8:3-4). Note that incense represents our prayers, and that the angels and elders in heaven present our prayers to God.

In Matthew 18:10 we find, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." What do you suppose that the little ones' angels would be doing on their behalf before God? Praying for them is the only logical answer.

Demonstrating early Christian belief, Origen wrote in the year 233, "But not the High Priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels…as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep" (On Prayer 11).

Mary receives special honor because she, who once cared for the physical body of Christ, now cares, through her intercession, for the mystical body of Christ (the Church). Devotion to Mary differs, just as devotion to family differs, from devotion to God. In no way does it imply equality with God. Even the Protestant reformers saw this as being consistent with Scripture. Martin Luther wrote in a prologue to the Magnificat, "May the tender mother of God herself procure for me the Spirit of wisdom profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers." John Calvin, working on his "Institutes of the Christian Religion," wrote, "We cannot celebrate the blessings given us in Christ without commemorating at the same time how high an honor God has granted to Mary when he chose to make her the mother of his only Son." Ulrich Zwingli stated, "The more honor and love for Christ, the more also the esteem and honor for Mary."

As for the title of Co-Redemptrix, it must be noted that the Church did not give her this title but agrees with the theology behind it. The title comes from tenth century theologians who explain that redemption was accomplished in three steps:

(1) The Incarnation, when the Word was made flesh,
(2) The performance, Christ's death and resurrection (the essential sacrifice which redeemed man), and
(3) The application, whereby redemption is communicated to believers.

Jesus alone accomplished the second step. Mary cooperated in the first and third steps. Indeed we are all commanded to participate in the third step: "Make disciples of all nations" (Mark 28:19). In 1 Corinthians 3:9 we are referred to as "God's co-workers." Does that make us equal to God? Does our work have the same value as His? Of course not! We merely work with God for the furtherance of His kingdom. It is only in this sense that we can be co-workers or co-redeemers with Christ.

Copyright © 2001 StayCatholic.com

Family Devotions and Prayer

by Erik Raymond

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:4

The Scripture is pretty clear on the fact that we have a responsibility to be training our children in the truth. Christian fathers in particular have a responsibility to be leading and training their families in the Revelation of God.

Many men struggle in the area of family devotions. It is kind of like evangelism, we know we have to do it but it is the doing it that is the problem.

Because I have echoed the Scriptures command for you and me to act like men and because some folks have requested that I talk about it, this is a quick guide to doing family devotions.

What follows is not an exhaustive how-to manual but rather some things that we do in trying to "teach them diligently" (Duet. 6.4) as God has commanded. Most of these things are things that we do, I am not saying that everyone has to do them, but rather supply suggestions in effort to be helpful.

1 Be in the Word yourself

If you are going to teach your family to love the Word of God you better love the Word of God yourself. God’s design in commanding men to lead their families in the truth is to be preserving faithfulness throughout generations not modeling self-dependence and hypocrisy.

If you have not gone to the well of truth to draw fresh water from heaven than do not pretend to have something to say to your family. Instead, retire to a place where you can open up the Bible and drink from the fountain of grace that you might be fueled to speak of how impressed you are with Christ. You must know the Jesus you speak of, and not just know him but love him; this love is birthed by divine grace through the word of God and sustained by the same means.

2 Choosing a Topic

In our family we usually go through books or sections of books of the Bible. We have been most recently going through Mark’s gospel, but I felt the need to work on teaching my family to pray more biblically, so we have been working on the Lord’s prayer in Matt. 6.

I have found that narratives are great for our family due to their ages. This also forces me to continually explain the context and themes of the book. I am learning too!!

You may have something that needs to be dealt with in your family. Family devotions are a great place to do this. Study as the leader and communicate what the Bible says and apply it to specific circumstances.

3 Open the Bible

This is always a good thing! When you as the leader open the Bible you show your submission to what God says and you are modeling faithfulness to the Word. You may have the text memorized, it doesn’t matter, open the book and read it. Show your family you love the Bible.

Your own handling of the Scriptures expresses your view of the Scripture. Is it authoritative? Then you must open it up, interact with it and submit to it as you endeavor to apply it.

4 Have a set time

It is good to set a routine for when you will read together. We like to read in the evening after dinner or before bed. I have brought the Bible out to eat with us to read and talk while we wait for the food. This encourages your family not to fear man and shows them that their Dad/husband loves the Bible.

5 Talk about the Word all the time

As a family we may not sit down every single night and do a devotion, however, there is not a day that goes by that I do not speak to my kids about God. I want to make sure that the climate in my home is Christ centered therefore everything is a sign to point to Jesus. With little children their discipline is within the context of the gospel, for we are not trying to teach morality but Christianity! Their framework for obedience must be a holy and righteous creator and an accountable humanity. The only way to have this work right is within the context of the gospel.

My wife is a great help here. She talks about the Bible all the time with our kids during the day and we talk about it at night. It is important to create a climate that supports the sufficiency of Scripture and our dependence upon God.

6 Make it fun

Family devotions should not be like doing chores. We don’t want to be all cantankerous and mean hitting our kids with a 45 minute running commentary on the book. Instead I have found it helpful to use a lot of illustrations that apply to my children’s lives. I have used action figures to explain a narrative, made up rhymes about "Elijah who likes to play with fy-ahh!" And "Ehud was a tough dude" …kids remember stuff like this.

I have also found it helpful to pause a lot and ask question of individuals. My 11 year old son could sit and listen to a sermon but my 4 year old girl will listen for 4 minutes and then start day-dreaming about a pink Pegasus. I have to reel here in frequently and ask her a question. Sometimes it is as simple as, "What did Jesus say to the woman?" Other times I’ll make a statement like, "Jesus heals people to show that he is the King, he is God, and he has power" then I’ll ask Alaynah (4), "why does Jesus heal people?" It is good to keep asking questions.

7 Make application

After teaching the passage to your own heart make specific applications to your family’s. You may ask them questions like, "What can we do tonight, tomorrow or this week to live this scripture out?" and then being sure to follow up on that.

The time you spend in the word will serve to be a great resource for instruction in the days and years ahead.

8 Addressing your wife

Your wife is your helpmate but she is also your responsibility as the husband. You are to lead her and teach her as well (Eph. 5.25-29). Sometimes the tendency is to spend so much time on the kids that you forget about your wife. It is good to involve your wife by asking her questions. The kids get to see that Mom knows and loves the Word too.

One thing to consider is that simply being a leader is a huge edifying factor for your wife. During devotions your wife gets to see first hand that her husband is a man! It shows that you love God and your family.

Something else to consider: more than likely, your wife rarely gets to sit down during the day. So, to sit with the kids and rub their hair or scratch their back while you do a devotion has several effects: your wife gets to hear God’s word, to learn something, to get time to be with the kids, to rest and to see you lead. How edifying is that?

9 Teaching Prayer

Devotions are a great time to teach prayer. You as the leader can model biblical prayer. However, this is not the only time. I try to pray whenever I feel compelled to. This may be driving or some odd time during the day. It is good to teach your kids dependence upon God throughout the day not just during "quiet time".

This is also a great opportunity to teach. Sometimes one of our kids will get loose with an unbiblical prayer and I often stop them and instruct them biblically and help them to think and pray in a way that God has prescribed. What do you do if your 5 year old prays for Satan to be saved? This is a great time to make personal application based upon what God has prescribed. Our recent study in Matt. 6 has really helped this.

10 Gospelize your family

Remember that the whole point in doing this is to point your family to Jesus. Therefore, it is right to continue to explain and apply the gospel. Talk about the gospel all the time. Remember that your kids are young, they have not been dwelling upon the gospel for years, they probably don’t understand it like you do and they need to hear it! For we learn in Romans that "faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of Christ" (Rom. 10.17). So since the gospel "is the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1.15) and we want our kids to be saved, then what should we be telling them?

11 Remember that this is a command

God does not ask us to lead and teach our families, he commands it. This is a regal decree from the King of heaven to us as his followers and leaders of our families. Therefore we must be good stewards of our time, pouring into our kid’s hearts and lives the unsearchable riches of Christ.

If you are struggling with this discipline then resolve today to get started; and the best way to get started is to get started. Open up your Bible read it and apply it to your life. Go home tonight and tell your family that you want to read the Word of God to them. And then do it again tomorrow, praying that God would water his word.

© 2012 Ordinary Pastor http://www.ordinarypastor.com Featured: Daniel's Prayer: Longing for Rescue

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Health Tip: Health and Politics

By: Letha Hadady, D.Ac.

Politicians arguing on the campaign trail carve up crucial issues of health and well-being by reducing them, especially Medicare and Medicaid, to numbers. They forget that everybody suffers from reduced health care. Germs and their attendant illnesses don’t care about the numbers: If I am sick, you are likely next in line. A hospital that must cut its cleaning staff will spread illness not only to its own patients but to the public. When it comes to health care, we are all in this together—which is why we must individually do more to protect ourselves, our families, and everybody else.

Last winter I retreated to my favorite hotel in the Florida Keys to finalize my most recent book, Naturally Pain Free (Sourcebooks, July 2012). While sunning at the pool I noticed a strange bite on my arm — from a flying insect or a spider? The bug bite was not warm or itchy, but I began to feel slightly feverish. After two decades running an alternative health practice based on traditional Asian medicines, I know trouble when I feel it. I quickly consulted a local physician who, even before the test proved positive, assured me I had contracted MRSA, the most dangerous of antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

Left untreated, MRSA can eat into flesh, and once it enters the bloodstream it is deadly. Rampant in hospitals, superbugs such as MRSA presently account for 100,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. Superbugs may be passed on at the pool, beach, gym, or yoga class. Pets can catch MRSA and pass it on to their owners. The Infectious Diseases Society of America warns, “because bacteria are constantly evolving and outsmarting the drugs used against them ... we are losing the ability to fight lethal infections.”

I passed on my infection to my lifelong partner (with a kiss and by sharing bed sheets,) but I learned not only how MRSA is treated but how to avoid it, which I incorporated into Naturally Pain Free. Personalized prevention (at home and in public) is the first defense for any illness and there are many natural therapies you can try that don’t require a prescription.

How’s your blood pressure? A little on the high side? You have lots of company. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 67 million Americans have hypertension but less than half are being treated. The condition can and does lead to discomfort, strokes, and heart attacks, the No. 1 killer of men and women.

Fortunately, you can lower your blood pressure by making a few dietary changes, doing simple, non-challenging exercises, and adding a few time-tested herbal remedies to your daily routine.

Whether on my website, Facebook, or call-in radio shows, I am often asked for advice about curing or ameliorating pain -- backache, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, toothache. The best answer is to take measures to ensure the body does not need to generate pain to call your attention to an underlying illness. However, an almost universal treatment to mitigate pain is centuries-old: acupuncture.

Many people suffer migraines. The most effective remedy addresses the source of head and neck pain, including tension, digestive problems or muscle spasm. But a tea made with Chinese chrysanthemum flowers will also help. For eyestrain headaches I often recommend a tea made with nourishing Tibetan goji berries.

This season, notices for flu shots seem to be in every pharmacy and even supermarkets. Here is a simple preventive for colds and flu: Gargle twice a day with a couple drops of Australian tea tree oil in a half-glass of warm water, and swab the inside of the nose with a Q-tip and tea tree oil.

There is talk of politicians waging a war on women. I say it is a war on men and women — on you and me. While personal prevention is the first shield against illness, we also must have easy access to affordable medical care in order to treat illnesses and avoid spreading them.

Tell the politicians by voting in November. But first, vote for yourself by practicing the art of self-defense.

About Letha Hadady

Letha Hadady is globally renowned for her expertise in traditional Asian and alternative health. The author of five books, including her latest “Naturally Pain Free,” Letha has made extensive appearances on TV, talk radio and the internet. Letha is an adjunct faculty member for New York Open Center, and The Renfield Center for Nursing Education, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Her website is http://www.asianhealthsecrets.com.

Dare to Do the Daniel Diet

by Michael Horton

The "Daniel Diet" launched by Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church has a lot of people talking. About a month ago, a national paper asked me to comment on this latest plan from a passionately creative Christian leader. It was the health editor. Never talked to a health editor before, ever. I rarely talk to a health provider. So besides unwillingness to criticize a brother in public over a totally unimportant issue, about which I knew nothing except for what the editor told me, I declined in short order.

Yet now here TIME magazine spotlights the "Daniel Diet" - and does such a good job with it, I thought, that something larger is worth bringing to the table (no pun intended). In a land where almost anything with the word "diet" in it sells, "spirituality" isn't far down the list either. Together, the world's their oyster. Now, if we can get sex, spirituality, and diet in the same program, I'm guessing we'd see that one at the airport.

What intrigued me about the TIME article was the author's keen exegetical skills. I'll explain in a minute.

When I was growing up, the Old Testament was a quarry from which to sculpt heroic examples to emulate. "Dare to Be a Daniel" meant something like "Man up-don't be afraid of lions." You do your part, and God will watch your back.

Still in that genre, the "Daniel Diet" focuses predictably on what obsesses most Americans today: obesity. Understandably. To badly paraphrase Isaiah, I am out of shape and dwell among an out-of-shape people. I have lost a few pounds, am back in the gym, but my wife keeps telling me that it's not about fad diets but about daily decisions. "Just think about what you're doing," she tells me. The point is, I don't need Daniel-or the Bible-to tell me I need to get fit. And a diet of seeds and water that Daniel and his Jewish compadres endured may not even be healthy.

It all goes back to the human-centered way of reading the Bible, as if God were a supporting actor in our drama, rather our being cast as beneficiaries of his bounty in Christ. We appeal to statistics to convince people that prayer makes us happier, healthier, and more fulfilled than non-prayers. Leviticus is relevant only if we can explain how the dietary laws somehow reveal secret principles of universal health, when that wasn't the point of these laws at all. Their purpose was to separate Israel from the nations: the "clean/unclean" separation, keeping a pure line leading to the Messiah. That distinction was dissolved with Christ's advent, as Peter was told by God in the dream in Acts 10:9-19. Pork is as acceptable as chicken now, just as in Christ believing Gentiles are co-heirs with Jews.

The problem with the moralizing interpretations familiar to us is not only that they focus the story on us rather than on God and his work in history, centering on Christ; it's that precisely in making it about us, we trivialize the greatest story ever told. No wonder so many people assume that the Bible is simply a collection of tips for life.

Elizabeth Dias, the author of the TIME article puts his finger on the right issue: "But the historical context of the Book of Daniel suggests that the text in fact has very little to do with diet or health."

Appealing to Choon-Leong Seow, an Old Testament professor at Princeton Seminary, Dias notes, that "Daniel is less a story of resisting rich food than a story of resisting a foreign king." "Daniel and his friends resisted the king's table, Seow says, as a tangible expression of their reliance on God's power instead of the king's." "If the text were actually about diet, Seow argues, there would be evidence that the king's table violated Jewish food laws. A Jewish diet would have meant no pork, Seow notes, but most other meats, slaughtered properly, are O.K. Wine too is permissible. Nor does the text give any indication that the king's food had been offered to idols, which is another thing that would have made it off-limits to the young Jews."

Dias, who studied with Seow, points out, "It's no surprise many people don't realize this, since English translations sometimes miss the original emphasis the Bible places on contrasting what the king could give Daniel (earthly pleasures) and what God could give him (something much greater). 'The point is not the triumph of vegetarianism or even the triumph of piety or the triumph of wisdom,' Seow concludes, 'but the triumph of God.'"

Wow! Talk about getting the point! Just then, though, Dias drifts toward another form of moralizing the story. Daniel's actions were mainly about solidarity with his oppressed fellow-Jews. "There's a lesson or two here for a modern culture in which the income and opportunity gap grows wider every day." The Book of Daniel may not be about a diet plan. "Still, it's the call for restraint, for choosing not to get drunk on excess, that may be the Book of Daniel's most powerful message. Not only does this benefit the privileged, but also the needy, who may then have a chance to enjoy the choicest portions too, as opposed just society's leftovers. That's a message Daniel himself would probably celebrate and support."

Predictably, evangelicals often use Daniel for personal well-being and moral uplift, while mainliners go for the social justice angle. In both cases, the story is about us and what we can use from it for our self-crafting and world-crafting projects.

Yet something more wonderful is lying there in Daniel waiting to be discovered! Even in exile, God is faithful to his covenant people. The most powerful king in the region of that day is not Lord, as it turns out. Yahweh is. (That's what the actions of Daniel and his friends, the fiery furnace, and the visions are all about.) With the vision of the four beasts (or kingdoms) in chapter 7, the message becomes crystal-clear: The Ancient of Days takes his throne in the courtroom and the "Son of Man" appears. All of the empires are shaken, but this kingdom that will arise has no end.

"But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever'" (Dan 7:18).

The prophecies go on to relate in apocalyptic imagery the triumph of the Son of Man over the earthly empires. God has the last word in the book: "'But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of days'" (Dan 12:13).

It's this prophecy that Hebrews announces as having been fulfilled with Christ's coming: Everything that can be shaken will be, "in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain." "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe" (Heb 12:26-28). In this version, God has the starring role. He is building his kingdom, installing his Messiah on his holy hill, and we're recipients of the victory he has won-for us and for the whole world. Now that's a headline story!

Source: Out of the Horse's Mouth

A Tranquil Moment

by Dr Mercy Abraham

Sunset in a bird santuary

My Soul soars to worlds unknown
Like a skylark that soars across the lake
What heights of Joy and depths of deep Love
It can go and find its treasures.

Peace fills my mind at this moment solemn
As I gaze across the green placid lake
Where else can I
find such a place except
In my own country -
"Gods own Country"
Where birds come to nest from eons abroad.

It is just pleasant to spend some moments
In this Tranquil time - when
Time seems to be standstill
And Peace soaks in my heart.

The vision seem very clear, which
Does not fade in memory, when
You look across the years, what
Nostalgia will fill your mind, when
You be old and want to go back
To your cherished moments in your Memory Lane ...

I can see these now as I sit and jot down these lines
Beside the tranquil lake and look at the white birds across
The marshes some of them fly in pairs and dance in the air,
And go back to their nests where their birdlings hatch.

I love these moments where every thing is quiet
And at a slow pace, when I go back
To my restless and monotonous pace, and
I would be glad if my words bring cheer to you,
Across the oceans, and you are far away...

Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Mercy Abraham

Editor's Note:

Dr. Mercy Abraham wrote this poem on Dec 29, 2011 while visiting a bird sanctuary in Mysore. Mercy is a graduate of 1973 batch of Kottayam Medical College and currently resides in UAE. On a personal note, Mercy is a classmate of my wife, Dr. Shila Mathew MD, at KMC and is a neighbor of us in my ancestral home in Kerala. As you can see, Mercy is a gifted writer. Enjoy.

Humor: Mommy Test
As a mother was walking with her 4-year-old daughter, the girl picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth, and Mom told her not to do that.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because it's been lying outside and is dirty and probably has germs."

At this point, she looked at her mother with total admiration and asked, "How do you know all this stuff?"

Thinking quickly, she replied, "It's on the mommy test. You have to know it, or they don't let you be a mommy."

"Oh." She said seemingly satisfied. They walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but the daughter was evidently pondering this new information.

"I get it!" she beamed. "Then if you flunk, you have to be the daddy."

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