five people to pray for this Christmas

I have an aunt who religiously (pardon the pun) opens her grace-before-meals by thanking God for the gift of life.  It's so notable that we cousins (you know, the grown adults) reduce to poorly hidden giggles every time.

Our immaturity aside, few things are more noble than showing gratitude for our lives, and I enjoy that it is the most consistent staple of our extended family meals.

As I'm sure you are, we are already knee-deep into the Christmas gatherings, with the big ones in clear view.  We are going to bless the food, give thanks for the year, lift up the homeless and lonely, and lots of other amazing things that working with God can do.  This year, I intend to step a little outside of my regular holiday prayer repertoire and pray for a few other people not usually on my radar, and invite you to join in.

The people who made our outfits - I'm in my last month of my no-new-clothes year and since we are two days away from Christmas Eve, I'll be shopping in my own existing wardrobe for what to wear.  But these items were still made by someone, just like all the sweaters, skirts, dresses, slacks (okay nobody says slacks anymore but it's more fun than 'pants'), and jewelry we are giving, getting and wearing in the next ten days.  Someones's daughter, mother, husband, breadwinner, last hope, and inspiration created these things, and these people deserve my attention far more than the discount and free shipping I scored buying them.

The most annoying person at work - Maybe there's a Scrooge in accounting, or a Susie-does-Christmas-better-than-everyone-and-won't-shut-up-about-it, or management is dragging you through h-e-double-hockey-sticks in what should be a quiet time of the fiscal year.  Whoever it is, bite down hard, take a gracious breath and pray good things, like, really good things, over his or her life.  And mean it.

The catalyst in the family - Come on now, people, let's get real.  I have been to sucky family Christmases and so have you.  There are deeply-rooted pains in many families that even the best gravy ever can't hide (mmmm gravy though).  There is someone in the wreckage who serves as the cornerstone of the whole thing - check your ego at the door - who needs our intercession to nudge/shove them into the place of mercy or repentance or humility or rebuilding. Or all of the above.  Without judgement, I am lifting these people to the only One who knows how to fix these messes.

The non-believer on the cusp, within reach of my influence - You might already know who it is because of past conversations, or you may have no idea.  But there is someone that God has placed within earshot who He has been inviting to the party and I want their hearts softened and receptive to the possibilities of that something they're thirsting for but can't put their finger on it.

Me - Sometimes I feel selfish taking up airtime to pray for myself, but in cases like the one above, part of their story hinges on my obedience to how God is asking me live. I am (forever) praying for the courage to live the follower's life outrageously and contagiously, beyond intentionally greeting everyone Merry Christmas at Starbucks and posting classic nativity verses in all caps on social media. I want to be brave enough to do the counter-cultural things and love the haters and be a proper steward and say no when I don't want to and not care who's watching or if anyone is watching. Well gosh, Baby Jesus, I guess that's my Christmas life wish then, Amen.

 

Given my track record since the 31 days series, I doubt I'll be posting anything new before Christmas.  My sweet friends, I wish for you all a God-breathed week that fills your soul with life, fills your tummy with nourishment and fills the rooms with belly laughter on Christmas Eve and Christmas and Boxing Day and every moment before and after!

how i am learning to pray better

How would your prayers change if someone in your household was diagnosed with stage-whatever-something? If you were facing financial poverty? If a family close to you was breaking down? 

How would your tone change? Your choice of words? The frequency? Your posture? Their duration?

An incredible young family (here for Dad and here for Mom) is opening my eyes about how I pray. We are wading through things right now but we are not in a season of crisis. Not by a long shot. But within my arm's reach are many who are. And people ask me to pray for them or I offer to, all the time. It's what good Christians do for each other, right? I am discovering the need for deep, well-prayed prayers. Ones that stick. Ones that are worthy to be offered to a Guy who created the entire universe.

Don't mistake this for religion. This is not about tight form, but I do recognize holes and shallowness in my end of the dialogue.

I bounced around Nehemiah this week (next prayer: Jesus, please help me, I suck at the Old Testament) and am smitten by the prayers in chapters 1 and 9. The Jews are in distress, as the book's opening lines understatedly describe. I see two major components of these prayers. First, they are saturated with truths about who God is and what He does. 

And I said: “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, (‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1‬:‭5‬)

Next, there is confession of our sinful nature.

They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them. (‭Nehemiah‬ ‭9‬:‭17)

Sometimes I misinterpret my relationship with God, treating Him like a holy ATM with my mindless button-pressing kind of prayers. I still have so much to learn, but so far I know this: moving away from recited prayer can lean towards conversation, but it must still come from a place of humility and a desire to worship. If I am going to ask God for things for myself or for others who ask for my intercession, I need to declare that I know what He is capable of (and I find that all in Scripture, so I gotta get in there more), with the desperation of knowing that I can't do it in my own power.