Pastoral prayer

NEHIn Nehemiah 9, there is an account of a huge corporate prayer as the faithful people of Israel have been returned to the land by God’s mercy. They gather, and pray together.

Let’s do the same, today, using Nehemiah 9 as a model.

96 You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land . . . .

And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

9 And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea. . . . 11 And you divided the sea before them, . . . .

You led them, you instructed them, you provided for them. (from vv. 11b-15)

But they did not submit to your leading, they did not obey your instruction and they rejected your provision. (from vv. 16-17a)

17b [Nevertheless] you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

Through many years and many rebellions, you patiently worked in the nation to bring about your purposes, and because of this we will serve you. (from vv. 18-38)

And Lord, like Israel in Nehemiah’s time, we have seen rebellion — our own rebellion — and tragedy and hardships, and we have seen your work to restore your creation and to save us.

Unlike Israel, we have also seen the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Messiah.

As we come before you today, we too desire to serve you.

[Y]ou are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and [you do] not forsake [us].

We ask that you would be as real to us as you were to the people of Nehemiah’s day, that you would be as present in our lives, that you would be our only strength.

We ask that you would increase our devotion to you,

that you would lead us to repentance,

that you would strengthen our marriages,

that you would release our anxieties,

that you would heal our sicknesses,

that you would hear our fervent prayers.

For we are indeed your people, and we desire to worship you in Spirit and in truth.

Amen.

If the salt has lost its savor . . .

current reading 2An interesting take on the expected reconstruction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris:

small quotes blueYou can’t understand the current rebuilding project without understanding the crowning of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III, in St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Day of the year 800; and Pope Gregory VII’s role [in] the Investiture Controversy, with its culmination in the humiliation of Henry IV in the snow at Canossa; and the emergence of the Cuius regio, eius religio principle in the Reformation era; and the violent dechristianizing of France during the Revolution; and the vain struggle of Pio Nono against the unification of Italy, ending in the elimination of the Papal States and the loss of all secular power for the Papacy; and the emergence of the Deutsche Christen in the Nazi era, when German pastors competed with one another to defend the celebrate the subservience of (especially but not only) the Lutherans to Hitler.

Alan Jacobs, “The building on the Île de la Cité,” Snakes and Ladders (April 17, 2019) [link].


A convert reflects on how the emptiness of secularism . . . and Christian practice:

small quotes blueI had plenty of opportunities to engage with orthodox Christians, and I sincerely wanted Christianity to be true. It was clear to me that what the authorities in my world celebrated—the collapse of family life, the slaughter of the unborn, the deterioration of high culture—were, in truth, social evils that followed from the decline of the Church. Christianity seemed the natural alternative to secularity.

Jacob Williams, “Why I became Muslim,” First Things (May 2019) [link]. Rod Dreher comments on the First Things piece in The American Conservative: “Why convert to Islam?” (April 15, 2019) [link].

Living with sin, living with others

current reading 2Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans 130 (W. Pauck, trans.) (Westminster John Knox Press 1961):

small quotes blue[T]his life is a life of cure from sin; it is not a life of sinlessness, as if the cure were finished and health had been recovered. The church is an inn and an infirmary for the sick and for convalescents. Heaven, however, is the palace where the whole and the righteous live.


Justin Lee, “In The Age Of #MeToo, Men Must Read More Literary Fiction,” ARC (Nov. 6, 2018) [link]. Lee argues that fiction reading impacts the reader’s ability to place themselves in another’s shoes:

small quotes blueReading fiction requires a sustained act of imagination: you inhabit a world of others, identify with their joys and travails, even learn the texture of their minds. Serious readers know that reading great fiction enhances their ability to empathize. And habitual reading helps sustain that empathy, makes it reflexive.

This (not surprisingly) makes me think of a well-known quotation from another Lee:

small quotes blue“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) (Atticus speaking to his daughter, Scout).

I believe both Lees are correct.