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Praying for Our Hearts

Parachute Prayer“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”Ezekiel 36:26

Though most Parachute Prayers are meant to remind us to pray for other people, sometimes we need to pray for ourselves. And if we’re trying to follow Jesus who told us to love God above all others and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:29-31), I think praying about the condition of our hearts is one of the most important prayers we can pray for ourselves. This world is designed to harden our hearts, to turn them to stone, to keep us from loving anyone well. This is something we must guard against (Proverbs 4:23).

Keeping this in mind, when we see stones, whether pebbles in a stream, rocks used as decorations outside a store or home, or boulders built into monuments, let’s pause and ask God to soften our hearts. Then, when time allows, let’s use that time to examine our hearts more thoroughly, giving God the time He needs to fully answer that prayer. Heart surgery can’t be done in a moment, but the Parachute Prayer can initiate the process, so God’s Spirit can begin to work, to let us know what attitudes need to change, so He can soften our hearts.

Father, thank You for designing us with a great capacity to love. Help us to protect our hearts, so we can continue to love You and others well. Please reveal any hardness in our hearts. Then show us how to cooperate with Your Spirit, so You can bring healing. Teach us to love as You do. Amen.

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Praying about Angry Words

Parachute PrayerNot too long ago, my youngest son brought a blog post to my attention. It was written by a Christian entertainer who wanted to encourage Christians to do as Augustine and Wesley and others have encouraged: to be united in the essentials of our faith, but to show love in all else. This young artist simply wanted to see Christians love each other and get along in spite of different points of view.

Sadly, in offering examples of controversy among Christians, he made some vague statements that led some of his readers to question his personal beliefs. He didn’t actually come right out and say what he, personally, believed or didn’t believe about such things. But some of his readers, misunderstanding or misreading his intent chose to fill in the blanks themselves. Next thing he knew, this artist who had simply asked for peace found himself under attack. It was a great big, ugly mess.

It broke my heart.

This artist wrote one response to defend himself which only brought more painful comments from readers. Since then he has been quiet.

This breaks my heart, too. I fear he’s facing the temptation to build a wall, to hide his gift, to protect himself when he has so much to share with the world. This would be a tragedy.

How amazing could the situation have turned out if those who questioned this young man’s words would have taken the time, first, to try to see his heart, then, if necessary after gentle questioning, to prayerfully respond as Priscilla and Aquila did when Apollos didn’t quite have all of his facts straight? (See Acts 18:24-28.)

Today’s Parachute Prayer comes from this unfortunate situation. Knowing that behind every blog post, tweet, FaceBook update, news headline, and book is a flesh and blood human being created in the image of God, let’s pray fervently for those who come under attack for the words they write—especially for those who come under such attack for simply trying to say something helpful, encouraging, or good. When we see negative comments or hear verbal criticism about something we’ve seen in print or published on the internet, let’s pray both for the heart of the one receiving the criticism and of the one who delivers it. Let’s pray that God will give wisdom to both, that He’ll help the one who receives the negative words to hear anything necessary and to disregard the rest and that He’ll guide anyone tempted to deliver a painful blow to take a step back to prayerfully consider the most Christ-like response. If they’ve already delivered the painful blow, let’s ask God to open their eyes to the wounds they’ve inflicted and lead them to set things right, if possible, and learn a better way for the next time.

People are imperfect, and their words can be messy, jumbled up, and completely misunderstood. Let’s take the time to see the intent behind the words, to clarify what confuses, to show grace and compassion before jumping to judgment, and to correct (when it’s called for) only as Christ would. And when we see angry words appearing in the comments about what we’re reading on our computer screens, let’s always remember to pray.

Father, please help people remember that there are people behind words they see and to respond to those people with love instead of to words indiscriminately. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Praying as Things Change

Parachute PrayerAlways with Autumn comes an abundance of seasonal shopping displays: back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . One of our local stores got so carried away with this last year that they actually started putting out Valentines before the New Year! I guess they just couldn’t wait to start promoting the next big thing.

Personally, I love the Autumn displays. Except for when I’ve lived in climates where I knew Autumn leaves meant I was about to be buried in snow for months on end, I’ve always appreciated all signs of the end of Summer—including store displays.

When we notice these, let’s let them remind us to pray. Changing displays signal other changes, too: changes in season, changes in activities, changes in temperature, changes in clothing styles, changes in décor. So let’s pray for people we know who are going through some kind of life change. This list could include people who are moving or going to college for the first time, people who are changing jobs or struggling through divorce, and people who are adapting to changes brought on by illness or injury.

As we recognize changes in familiar store displays, let’s remember that lives all around us are ever-changing, too. Let’s ask God to help the people we love to adjust.

Father, change is inevitable. Some changes are welcome, but others bring pain. When we notice the subtle changes all around us, please remind us to pray for those who are struggling. Thank You, Lord, for caring. Please make us aware, so we’ll learn to be caring, too. Amen.

Note: If you struggle to find contentment whenever life begins to change, my book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway, is full of devotionals I wrote to encourage you. I wrote most specifically about the change that comes with a move, but I’ve discovered that these lessons are relevant to other life changes, too. Click here to purchase your own copy at Amazon.

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Praying for People of Other Places

 photo 0390df65-96c3-4084-9efa-e09fd1ddaa87.jpgToday’s Parachute Prayer is simple: when you see pictures of famous landmarks, pray for the people of the city or country the landmark is located in. This includes seeing the picture on-line, on television, or used as décor in an office or home. It could also include seeing the landmark in person, if you are traveling. If you live near such a landmark, it can remind you to pray for your hometown. If you see a picture of the Eiffel Tower, pray for people who live in Paris or maybe all of France. If you see a picture of the Gateway Arch, pray for the people of St. Louis, Missouri.

This Parachute Prayer might tie in with the prayer for headlines. If you see the landmark in the news because of something happening in that city, you’ll know exactly what to pray about. But we know there are needs in every city, every country, whether they make the news or not. And God knows what these needs are. When we recognize a famous landmark, let’s take a moment to pray.

Father, help us to remember that people all over the world have problems and cares. Remind us to pray about these, and inspire our prayers that we’ll cover even unknown needs. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Praying for Healthy Growth

Parachute Prayer

 

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”Luke 2:52

I’ve been praying Luke 2:52 for my children since they were born. I continue to pray it for them even now, though they’ve most likely reached their full stature by now. I want my children to grow like Jesus, and I know this is something God desires for them, too. Luke 2:52 covers every aspect of human growth:

In wisdom = mental growth
In stature = physical growth
In favor with God = spiritual growth
In favor with man = social growth

People who grow steadily in all four areas are well-rounded and healthy human beings indeed.

So let’s turn this verse into a Parachute Prayer!

First, if you haven’t done so already, commit the verse to memory. You’ll need to keep it in your brain for use whenever you’re reminded to pray this prayer. It’s an easy verse to memorize because it’s short and it’s a list. All you have to remember is that Jesus grew and that He grew in four ways: in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Now here’s the trigger. Whenever we see a ruler or a measuring device of any kind, let’s let it remind us to pray. We can pray for our kids and/or grandkids, for our neighbors’ kids, for kids who go to our churches, for nieces and nephews, and for our kids’ friends.

We can also pray for grown-ups who are striving to grow in any of these areas. (When I do this, stature represents health in my prayer.) Until we reach Heaven, we all must strive to grow, prayerfully allowing God’s Spirit to make us more like Christ. So from now on, whenever we stop to measure something, let’s also pause to pray.

Father, thank You for making people able to grow, and thank You for Jesus’ example to follow. Please turn the measuring tools we use so often into reminders to pray about this process so crucial to all-around good health. Amen.

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Praying for Churches in Headline Areas

Parachute PrayerI stumbled upon a new Parachute Prayer last week that I am so excited to share with you today. We were visiting a church in our community that we are blessed to attend from time to time. When the associate pastor stood up to pray, after a great time of worship through song, he took some time to pray for churches located near significant headlines of the previous week. For example, if he were to do that this week, he’d pray for churches in Northern California where the earthquake hit, churches in Iraq and Syria where all is in turmoil right now,  churches in Ukraine, Russia, Liberia, Iceland . . . you get the idea.

In previous Parachute Prayers, I’ve encouraged you to pray the headlines for those impacted by them and for rescue workers and decision makers involved in crises, but praying for nearby churches is a great idea, too! We may not be able to go to those places to help, comfort, and encourage, but the people of churches there can and are. And in some cases, they must risk their lives to do so.

When news headlines catch our attention, let’s whisper prayers for churches located nearby as we pray for victims, about conflicts, and for all people involved in trying to set things right again.

Father, when headlines break our hearts, please call us to pray. We aren’t there, but others are. Please use their hands, feet, voices, minds, and hearts to comfort, encourage, and mend as only You can. Amen.

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Praying for Our Circles

In his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster says, “We are responsible before God to pray for those God brings into our circle of nearness.” This pretty much means that we are to pray for the people God brings into our lives. Parachute PrayerWe’re to pray for the people we come into contact with daily, the people we communicate with often over distance, the people we hear about who need to be remembered in prayer.

And don’t we all need to be remembered in prayer?

That thought aside, my imagination went to work when I read Richard Foster’s words. I pictured myself sitting on a park bench in the center of a circle that only I could see, quietly praying for each person who just happened to be located within that circle.

I’m not sure that that’s what Richard Foster had in mind when he said we’re responsible to pray for everyone God brings into our circle of nearness, but I do know it’s how some of my Parachute Prayers work: praying for everyone in the doctor’s office or grocery check-out line as we wait, praying for children we see walking to or from school, praying for people who happen to come to our door or call on the phone. Our circles of nearness can be defined in many ways.

To remember this concept and our responsibility, let’s use circles as our cue. Whenever we see circles, let’s pause to pray for the people who are in our circles, whether we’re praying for our family circle, our circle of friends, a Google+ circle we belong to, or everyone who happens to be standing in an imaginary circle we draw with our minds wherever we happen to be.

Father, remind us often of our responsibility to pray for the people You bring into our lives. And please find us faithful for their good, for Your glory, and for our growth. Amen.

Note: I’m sharing this post with the A Little R & R linky party.

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The Biggest of All Blanket Prayers

Parachute Prayer“O God, creator of all humankind, I bring to you the cares and concerns of all your creatures. Look now to those who cry for help from every corner of the earth, for you alone are able to satisfy our deepest desires. Amen.” –from A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck

My first thought when I read this prayer was, “Am I allowed to pray for such a thing?! That’s huge!”

Think about it: the cares and concerns of ALL God’s creatures—every person, every giraffe, every amoeba, every big and little, created thing! This has to be the biggest of all blanket prayers ever prayed.

But God knows the cares and concerns of every person, every giraffe, every amoeba—if amoebas are able to have cares and concerns. He even knows the cares and concerns of His creatures we haven’t discovered yet! And God, alone, is able to satisfy.

      • So when I pray that God will comfort, touch, encourage, and heal and family member with cancer, I pray He’ll do the same for all people who are suffering from the ravages of that disease and its treatment.
      • When I ask Him to protect my adult child who is traveling, I pray for all travelers everywhere.
      • When I pray for the homeless man holding a sign at the end of the freeway exit ramp, asking for work, food, or money, I pray for others like him, for anyone who is unemployed, hungry, or otherwise in need.
      • And when I ask God to help me follow Him carefully, discovering His purpose for my life each day, I ask Him to do this for my siblings in faith, too.

When we see a specific need, we can stop and pray for it right away. (In fact, we don’t even have to stop. We can pray as we go about our business.) Then we can follow that targeted prayer with general petition, knowing that God knows all the needs of all His creatures. He alone is able to provide.

Lord, thank You for hearing our prayers, big and small. Call us to pray often, to be in constant communication with You. We love You, and we know You love us, too. In confidence we bring our cares and concerns, along with the cares and concerns of all your creatures before You. Please satisfy those deep desires as only You can. Amen.

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Revelation 21:4 on My Mind

NewOMM“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:4, ESV

We’re memorizing this verse this week simply because of the hope it gives us. Someday the circumstances that cause us to grieve, cry, or suffer pain, whether physical or emotional, will cease to exist. And God Himself will wipe the last tears from our eyes. We need to remember this because in this world, we do have troubles and, sometimes, they cause us to mourn, cry, and feel pain.

Parachute PrayerICFor this reason, I’d like to use today’s verse as a trigger for Parachute Prayer. When tears come to our eyes, whether through our own hurts, out of compassion for someone else’s, or even because of a moving story in a book or movie, let’s pause to consider Revelation 21:4 and to thank God for what He promises to do someday. As we place our hope in Him, He’ll comfort us even now. That’s a truth worth remembering.

Father, thank You for the promise of Heaven. I look forward to seeing You face to face someday. I wonder if those last tears You wipe from our eyes will be tears of immense joy at finding hope fulfilled forever at last!

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Watching and Walking with Prayer

Parachute PrayerI have two, closely-related Parachute Prayers for you today. The first comes from a long-time habit of mine. Whenever a family member leaves the house, I watch from the window until he drives from sight. Knowing where this person is going, I can pray for him and about the planned activity, whatever it is. (I can also pray for his safety.) That’s today’s Parachute Prayer #1: When family members leave the house, we can watch them go and pray.

The second is for ourselves. When we go to events such as Bible study, meetings, coffees, and such, we can pray for ourselves and the event, whatever it is, as we walk from our cars to the building. We can pray for friends who will be there, about topics we’ll be studying or discussing, for teachers, speakers, leaders, and participants. We can thank God for His Presence and ask for His blessing. Parachute Prayer #2: When we attend events, we can walk in and pray.