Prayer to hear God’s whisper
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Almighty God, I have no trouble hearing You speak in the fire, the storm, and the earthquake, but sometimes I miss Your still, small voice. Gently nudge me by Your Spirit to step out of my cave of self-focus and hear Your quiet voice. Help me to draw so close to You, that I can hear Your whisper and I can even feel the warmth of Your breath. In the Name of the Word made flesh I pray. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer, Revisited
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
After this manner therefore pray – Matthew 6:9, KJV. Jesus did not command us to pray the Lord’s Prayer literally, as He worded it. Rather, He said to pray “after this manner,” or “like this.” In other words, He gave it as a model prayer for us to pray in our own words. Inspired by that thought, I revisited the prayer to write my own prayer “after this manner,” seeking to express His words in my own words. Here is my attempt. May it nudge you to be fresh and sincere as you pray the Model Prayer.
God, You are our intimate Father
Yet You are the transcendent Holy One.
Since You are King in heaven,
May we submit to your Lordship on earth.
We need your physical gift of food,
We need your spiritual gift of forgiveness,
And we need your social gift of grace to forgive others.
Take us by the hand, and lead us away
Far from the devil, that we may not stray.
We crown You, we submit to You, we honor You forever.
A prayer to experience God’s presence
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
O God of the universe, I want to experience Your presence. You spoke to Moses in a burning bush, and spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice. You called Samuel from his bed during the night, and You called Paul in broad daylight on the road to Damascus. Teach me to look for You in things great and small, day and night. I want to hear from You when I read Your word, and when I hear a child share a simple truth. I want to see You in the lightning across the sky, and in the smile of a new friend. I want to feel You when I sing in the sanctuary and when I hug someone in pain. May I experience Your presence, and pass on that experience to those I meet this day. In the name of the One who walked on water, yet needed someone to wash his dirty feet, Jesus Christ my Lord.
Prayer of Worship to the Crucified and Risen Christ
O crucified Son of Man, I worship You. You were arrested that I might be set free. You were falsely accused that I might be acquitted. You paid the price on the cross that I might be redeemed. When Easter morning dawned, and You walked out of that grave, I was given life!
Therefore, even as You walked out of the darkness, Jesus, may I walk in the light. You took the nails in Your hands and feet, may I use my hands and feet to bless others in Your name. You were silent before Your accusers; may I confess my sin as I proclaim Your name, the name of the Risen Son of God, Jesus Christ my Lord!
Prayer to hear God’s voice
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Then the LORD came and stood, and called as at the other times: “Samuel! Samuel! And Samuel said, “Speak for Your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10, NASB
Lord, Your servant is listeniing. Speak to me.
Speak to me through Your scriptures. Uplift me when I feel downcast, correct me when I wander from Your way.
Speak to me when I am quiet, alone in prayer and speak to me when I loudly sing Your praises with Your people.
Speak to me in the gentle voice of wind blowing the grass, the majestic voice of a tall pine tree, the thundering voice of a rainstorm.
Speak to me through the advice of a friend, complaint of a co-worker, and rebuke of an enemy.
Attune my ear to hear quickly and lull my lips to speak slowly, that I may be more like You.
Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.
How to get ready for Easter
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
When I served as a Baptist pastor in Rincon, Georgia, I had the unique experience of putting on a white wig and an old robe borrowed from a Methodist, to give a dramatic presentation of the founding pastor of the oldest Lutheran Church in North America. The historic pastor’s name was Johann Boltzius, and his church was Jerusalem Lutheran Church, founded in 1734 in the Ebenezer Community in Effingham County, Georgia, some 30 miles north of Savannah.
School children came from all over Georgia to the retreat center at Ebenezer to learn Georgia history. They visited Savannah, and they also came to the old Jerusalem Lutheran Church, whose sanctuary was built in 1769, to hear me tell the story, in costume, of Boltzius who served a congregation that fled to the New World from Salzburg, Austria, in search of religious freedom.
After the presentation, students were given an opportunity to ask “Pastor Boltzius” questions. One day in March, a student asked me why it was so dark in the church. With a gleam in my eye, I explained that it was Lent, a season in which members of that church remembered Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Members of the church fasted, prayed, and thought of other ways to make sacrifices in memory of Jesus, and during this time, they kept the window shutters closed. In fact, on Good Friday, they came into the church and sang songs about Jesus’ death, and then blew out all of the candles and went home in total darkness. The students reflected on that quietly, and I paused. Then I waved my hand at the shutters and shouted, “But on Easter Sunday morning, they threw open the shutters, let the light in, and celebrated, because Jesus is alive!”
Whether or not your church observes the tradition of Lent, it is an important reminder of how any Christian can get ready for Easter, by first reflecting on the suffering of Christ. I encourage you to read the story of the crucifixion from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Spend time alone, silent, reflecting on it. Fast and pray. Think about your own sin, your own struggles, your own sorrows, and how the suffering of Christ forgives, redeems and renews you. Meditate on the dark, and the light will brighten you more when it comes. Like that church in Georgia that threw open their shutters, if we will remember how dark it was when Christ died, we will appreciate all the more how glorious it was that He arose!
Top 10 signs you’re in a bad church
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
I’ll admit it, some people have bad experiences with a church. Here are the top ten signs you’re in a bad church:
10. The church bus has gun racks.
9. Church staff: senior pastor, associate pator, socio-pastor.
8. The town gossip is the prayer coordinator.
7. Church sign says, “Do you know what Hell is? Come hear our preacher.”
6. Choir wears leather robes.
5. During greeting time, people take turns staring at you.
4. Karaoke worship time.
3. Ushers ask, “Smoking or non-smoking?”
2. Only song the organist knows: “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
- The pastor doesn’t want to come, but his wife makes him attend.
If your church is that bad, you might want to look for another church. But the fact is, that there is no perfect church, because the church is made up of imperfect people. The phrase the Bible uses to describe us is “sinners saved by grace.” So before you give up completely on the church, remember this: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV). If Jesus considered the church worth dying for, then we ought to consider the church worth living for.
An unknown poet put it well:
“If you should find the perfect church, without fault or smear
For goodness sake, don’t join that church, you’d spoil the atmosphere.
But since no perfect church exists, made of perfect men,
Let’s cease on looking for that church, and love the one we’re in.”
(This article will be part of my upcoming book about taking a humorous yet serious look at the Christian life, called, Standing by the Wrong Graveside.)
Good Friday, Day of Sacrifice
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was crucified for our sins. The crowd cried “Crucify Him!” and so Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did exactly that. They flogged Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is so important to our faith, that all four gospels describe it in great detail.
Mark records six times that Jesus was mocked: once by the Sanhedrin (14:65), twice by the Roman soldiers (15:18, 20), by those who passed by (15:29), by the religious leaders (15:31), and by the criminals crucified with Him (15:32). Six is the number of evil in the Bible. But Jesus overcame evil by his sacrifice on the cross.
Luke records that Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, and one of the criminals was apparently so moved by Christ’s forgiveness that he became repentant (Luke 23:39-43).
John records that as He died, Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Jesus paid the price for sin and won the victory over evil.
Matthew records that when the Roman centurion saw how Jesus died, the soldier declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
We call it “Good Friday,” because it was good for us, not good for Jesus. By sacrificing Himself for our sin, Jesus did what none of us can do for ourselves, and no religion can do for us. We can’t pay for our sins; we must trust in the payment already made by Jesus upon the cross.
British preacher Dick Lucas recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their rituals?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 45-46)
Because of Good Friday, it’s no longer about religion; it’s about a relationship based on faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.
Good Friday, the day of sacrifice, teaches us to believe in the Christ who died on the cross, to find forgiveness and eternal life.
Wednesday, Day of Rest
Article copyright by Bob Rogers
At first glance, it seems that nothing is recorded between Jesus’ day of confrontation on Tuesday, and Jesus’ celebration of the Passover on Thursday night.
While it is possible that Jesus did nothing much on Wednesday, a closer look at the text indicates that a couple of things did happen that day. Mark 14:1 says it was “two days” before the Passover. Passover would begin at sundown on Thursday night, so this means the events in Mark 14:1-11 were between sundown Tuesday and sundown Wednesday. Perhaps these things took place on Tuesday night, and Jesus really did do nothing on Wednesday. Or perhaps the events took place on Wednesday. Either way, what happened next foreshadowed the ominous death of Christ on the cross. Mark 14:1-2 says that the Jewish religious leaders were looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus, and then verses 10-11 say that one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, went to the religious leaders and agreed to betray Jesus. What happened in between shows that Jesus knew exactly what was coming, and that it was all in God’s purpose.
Mark 14:3-9 tells the touching story of how a woman (often thought to be Mary Magdalene), anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. To show how expensive it was, it was worth 300 denarii, and Mark 6:37 said that just 200 denarii would be enough to feed 5,000 people. Some of the people there expressed indignation that the perfume was “wasted,” but Jesus said to leave her alone. It was after this that Judas went to betray Jesus. But Jesus knew exactly what was coming. That’s why Jesus said, “She has anointed My body in advance for burial.”
This should remind us that nothing spent on Jesus is ever wasted. We can never give to Jesus more than He has given to us. Isaac Watts said it well in his hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
As I mentioned earlier, it is very likely that the anointing happened on Tuesday night after sundown, not on Wednesday. If so, this would would remind us that something else is not a waste– a day of rest! It would mean that on the most important week of His life, Jesus took a day off! Jesus knew the importance of getting rest. In Mark 6:31, Jesus says, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Do you have a regular time when you turn off the TV, cell phone and computer, and just spend time resting, praying, reading God’s Word, and listening to God? The Ten Commandments include a command to take a day of Sabbath rest. It is never a waste to take that day to reflect, pray, and worship.
Nothing spent on Jesus is a waste.
Palm Sunday, Day of Worship
Article copyright by Bob Rogers
In ancient times, a victorious king would ride into a city on horseback. But Jesus was a different kind of king; He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The horse was a symbol of war. The donkey was a symbol of peace.
Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him, and waved branches. John’s gospel says they were palm branches (John 12:13). Mark 11:9-10 records their words of praise and worship as Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us.” They were quoting Psalm 118 as they called on Jesus as Savior. They were worshiping with their whole hearts.
Unfortunately, a lot of people come to worship at church and act as if it is a Mardi Gras parade. In New Orleans, people line the streets during Mardi Gras, with bags open and umbrellas turned upside down to catch the trinkets and candy thrown from each float. They shout, “Throw me something, mister!” Do we come to worship for what we can get out of it, or do we come to give our whole hearts to a worthy God? Isn’t our God worthy of our worship, even if we receive absolutely nothing in return? As Jesus paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, the crowds didn’t cry “Throw me something,” they shouted “Hosanna.” Do we come to worship with the same attitude?
Palm Sunday, the day of triumph, teaches us to worship.
Five things Christians cannot do without the church
Article copyright by Bob Rogers
As a hospital chaplain, I often meet people who believe in God but don’t believe in the church. Some are angry with the church, and many just don’t have any motivation to be connected to a church. They are fed up with the hypocrites. I get that– I have been one of those hypocrites, and perhaps you have, too. They are tired of church fights. I get that, too. One guy told me, “I can catch hell at home; I don’t need it at church.”
Yet I submit that we need the church. (I’m talking about the people, not a building. The early church met in houses, and many churches meet in homes today.) In fact, there are at least five spiritual practices that a Christian cannot appropriately do without the church.
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. Romans 12:5-6 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ as we have different gifts. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ. Prophesying, teaching, serving, giving, leading, showing mercy, and so many other spiritual gifts are either done among members of the church or together with members of the church.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are told to serve each other, teach each other, feed each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:25 commands believers not to forsake gathering ourselves together, but instead to encourage each other.
3. We can’t experience God’s greatest presence without the church. Matthew 18:19-20 tells Christians to agree together in prayer, and where two or three are gathered that way, God is there. God is real in private prayer, but this is a clear scriptural promise that God is present in a greater way when we pray together. No wonder the Psalmist proclaimed, “Better a day in Your courts, than a thousand anywhere else!” (Psalm 84:10).
4. We cannot appropriately pray the Lord’s Prayer without the church. Jesus gave us this beloved prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-6, as a model on how Christians should pray. The repetition of the words “our” and “us” throughout the prayer is constant reminder that Jesus taught us to pray with other believers and for other believers. While a Christian may certainly pray this prayer alone, we cannot continue to pray this prayer with sincerity and remain alone.
5. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:17 observes that by sharing the bread of communion, Christians are expressing their unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ died for the church.
Christ is the builder of the church.
Christ is the head of the church.
Christ is the shepherd of the church.
Christ is the groom for His bride, the church.
Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!
A Christmas Prayer
God the Father, who gave us Your Son,
What shall I render You for the gift of gifts?
Here is wonder of wonders:
He came down below to raise me above,
was born, like me that I might become like Him.
Here is love:
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.
Here is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated with the created.
Here is wisdom:
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him, and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God in flesh, to save me completely,
as man to die my death.
O God, as the watchful shepherds enlarge my mind,
to hear good news of great joy, and hearing to praise You,
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith.
In Him You have given me so much that heaven can give no more.
Adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.