|New Book now Available|
Here is an anthology of over 1100 brief prayers and thought-starters, for each day of the year, with almost 400 original prayers by Bruce Prewer.
Included is both a subject index and an index of authors-- an ecumenical collection of about 300 different sources.
| Title: Brief Prayers for Busy People.|
Author: Bruce D Prewer
Available from Australian Church Resources,
web site www.acresources.com.au
or by order from your local book shop
or online on amazon.
James 2:1-10, 14-17....
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23....
ENTRY INTO WORSHIP
May an awareness of the compassion of God, the graciousness of Christ,
and the passion of the Spirit, be with you all.
And also with you
As the mountains surround the holy city of Jerusalem
so God encircles his people from here to eternity.
God has chosen those whom the world poor
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that is promised to those who love the Lord.
Blessed are you, Lord God of hosts,
for you have vistaed and redeemed your people.
Those who have a generous eye will be blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor.
Blessed are you, Lord Jesus,
those who trust your grace cannot be moved,
they live in you forever!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
All days are your good gifts, loving God,
but this and every Lord’s Day is a special bonus.
Wonderful is your day of resurrection!
Where you are present, all places are sacred, Holy Friend,
but time spent in this sanctuary is extra precious.
Wonderful is an hour your house, O God!
At all tables we enjoy the fruits of the earth, generous God,
but this Table gives us cause for the greatest thanksgiving.
Wonderful is the Bread of life and the Cup of salvation!
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful are you, most holy Friend!
Praise and wonder belong to you, God of grace and glory! Amen!
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE
Forgiveness is a most precious gift.
Let us pray.
We don’t all come to confession, loving God, with identical feelings and thoughts. Some of us may be feeling ashamed because of things recently done or said. Some may be feeling frustrated by our ignorance and ineffectiveness. Some may be uneasy about our inertia as a church. Some among us may be discouraged by our well-intentioned, yet hurtful, blundering. Some of us may be feeling judgemental of others yet full of self-justifications.
Merciful Saviour, no matter what we feel or think, please deal with us according to our true need as you see it. Bring us to an appropriate repentance, that we may humbly seek your grace, accept your absolution, and from this moment make a clean start in this new week. This we ask in the name of Christ Jesus our redeemer.
Sisters and brothers of Jesus, we are not called wear hair shirts and live in apologetic misery. In Christ we are called to embrace truth, repentance, trust, forgiveness, healing, love, peace and joy. When God forgives you, you are irrevocably forgiven on earth and in heaven!
Thanks be to God!
Praise God from whom our life has come,
praise Christ, who is the pilgrim’s friend,
praise Counsellor, who guides us home,
praise God whose love shall never end.
Believers are like the God’s holy mountain:
they cannot be moved but stand forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so God encircles us from here to eternity.
The rod of evil shall not rule this earth forever,
for it was created for loving people.
So do not even think about giving in
and getting your hands mixed up with evil.
Increase goodness to those who do good,
and to those who remain true in heart.
As for crooks who are as twisted as their deeds,
God will send off to the lost tribe of evil souls.
Shalom be with Israel!
Peace with all God’s people!
© B.D. Prewer 2002
WHEN WE ARE WEARY
It is human to sometimes
step back and take time out
and seek some quiet retreat.
For those who live lovingly
and often intensely,
anonymity can be sweet.
With a good friend at your side
it is a pleasure to visit a foreign land,
where you can go unclassified,
unburdened by the expectations
of those who put you in a box
and are keen to keep you there
to satisfy their own prejudices
or suit their selfish welfare.
Jesus knew our human need.
Worn out by intense expectation
day after day in busy Galilee,
he left to find some recreation
by seeking anonymity
in foreign townships by the sea.
But even there one urgent soul
broke in upon his evening meal
to beg for her sick daughter.
Enabled by that woman’s faith
he made the diseased child whole.
Lord show us light beyond our own,
that even when we feel graceless
and weary to the very bone,
we may find faith in alien places
and know that we are not alone.
© B.D. Prewer 1997
God of outsiders, and of those whose ears are slow to hear and whose tongues are hesitant to sing, please make us the agents of your joy.
Help us to hear your word more clearly, to serve you more gladly, and to sing your praises more eagerly.
Then will our daily lives be in tune with your love, our deeds become channels of Christ’s grace, and our souls revel in the fellowship of your Spirit. For your love’s sake.
SERMON 1: EPH’PHATHA!
Mark 7: 32-35
Eph’phatha ! A strange word. Sounds a bit like a theme for a tuba solo? It’s not. It is the Aramaic word for “open up” Jesus addressed the command to a man who was deaf and
speech impaired. Jesus placed his finger in the man’s ears and touched his tongue, and said: Eph’phatha! “Open up!” The fellow began to hear and to speak plainly.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEARING AND SPEAKING
When I was a little child, weekly in church and Sunday School, I heard this kind of story often. It was some years before I realised the direct connection between deaf and dumb. It was like a revelation when my childish mind realised that some people cannot speak because they have never heard anyone speak. Deaf and dumb were not isolated handicaps. One was the consequence of the other.
Do you think I was a particularly stupid kid? Before your nod your heads and ruin day, think about this: Many people today bemoan the church’s apparent failure to speak clearly and relevantly to our era and community. Could that fact be related to our unwillingness to really hear both what God is saying to us and what society is saying? Are we really listening? Is there a direct connection between our dull hearing and speaking? Could it even be that we prefer to remain hearing impaired, and therefore speech impaired, when it comes to handling the Gospel?
THE OPPONENTS OF JESUS
For me it is disconcerting that the people who gave Jesus grief, the trouble makers who dogged his steps wherever he went, were not the common, rough-n-ready, uneducated crowd.
They were not the kind of mob we see salivating at Hungry Jacks, shop lifting at K Mart, leaving their litter behind them at the beach, or keeping you awake on Saturday night with a rowdy drinking party. Nor were they the really tough and rough people like tax collectors and their enforcers, soldiers prone to extortion and bashing, or prostitutes and their nasty pimps.
The people who gave Jesus trouble were the well educated, cultured, decent, church-going folk, and their ministers and priests. O yes! As uncomfortable as it is for me to admit, it was the clergy who gave Jesus most grief. These were the people who reckoned they already had all the answers. They saw themselves as the defenders of the faith and the guardians of the people’s morals. They had the closed minds. They were deaf to the things that Jesus was saying. Jesus could open the ears of the physically deaf, but he could not penetrate the closed minds of the outwardly “nice” people.
In Mark’s Gospel there is mounting excitement among the crowds of commoners. They knew Jesus was special. They heard his teaching and parables revelled in them. Even foreigners like the woman in the pagan region of Tyre and Sidon, had somehow heard the good news and was open to it when Jesus came there on holiday. Also the folk who were mentally disturbed recognised who Jesus was, long before the disciples did. The ears of the common people, and the disturbed, were open. They heard the gospel and sang Christ’s praises.
But midst all this excitement among the crowds, were those respectable people lumped together under the titles of Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. These looked at Jesus suspiciously, refused to hear God speaking to them through him, and were dumb except in their old, proud words of condemnation. Their ears would not listen to what Jesus really said, and therefore their lips could neither speak the language of his graciousness, nor utter words of wonder and praise. There was a direct connection between their poor hearing and their ability to speak.
Most disconcerting! As a minister, I do not really want to hear what I am saying this morning. Perhaps as a congregation of nice, respectable people, maybe you don’t wish to hear it either.
ARE WE REALLY DEAF AND DUMB?
Could that be the reason why so many Christians appear to have no good news to speak in the face of our country’s rampant consumerism, facile cynicism, widespread anxiety, and insipient aggression? Do we listen enough to Christ to have something to say and do?
Why is it when a colleague at work, or a neighbour, breaks down and tells us about their lack of purpose in life, or the mess they have made of personal relationships, that many of us remain silent about the resources of faith in Jesus Christ? Why do we allow Christian witness to be monopolised by the loud-mouthed, aggressive sects, or self righteous, self promoting pastors? Do we hear Jesus? What is it that Christ says to each of us that we need to pass on to others with sensitivity and love?
Also, why is it that Aussie Christians have had so little to say about the growing, fear-ridden militarism of the West, following September 11th 2001 and the Bali bombings of October 12th 2002? And what about the flagrant denial of human rights in our paranoia about any one who might remotely be a prospective terrorist? What did Jesus have to say about fear, hatred, forgiveness and peacemakers? Isn’t that a word that we and our world needs to hear?
Yet again, why do we acquiesce in the growing accumulation of wealth within our nation at the expense of a growing level of poverty, and the similar distortion of assets among rich and poor nations? What did Jesus, and his predecessors the OT prophets, tell us about the injustice of greed and the futility of wealth?
Moreover, why are the bulk of Christians remarkably silent our nation’s present treatment of asylum seekers? We lock them up in detention places in the desert; put them in the hands of private companies that run prisons, and take years to decide their fate? And that includes their children! We don’t have to travel for long with Jesus before hearing him saying “Inasmuch as you do it unto one of the least of these, my sisters and brothers, you do it unto me.”
Another thing; why do so many Christians give a blind loyalty to a particular political party, irrespective of current policies or evidence of bias or even corruption? Why is it that for some of our members anything the Prime Minister says is immediately rubbished, and for others anything the Leader of the Opposition says is idiotic or vile, even before he says it?
In our approach to politics, have we heard anything that Jesus taught us about respect and love?
What is causing the speech impediment of the church? Have we stopped really listening to Jesus, and therefore have become the dumbest among the dumb? What hinders me as an ordained minister of the Word? In what state is my hearing?
A COUPLE OF SIMPLE TESTS
Here are a couple of tests to see how well we authentically listen, or how badly our inner hearing has deteriorated.
Test 1. When we read “letters to the editor” in the newspaper, or listen to callers on talk-back radio, or hear and watch debates on TV, how often do we really listen to the views that challenge ours? Is it possible that we consistently scorn views contrary to ours and applaud those who agree with us? How long since we listened carefully enough to actually change our minds; even a little?
Test 2. What constitutes a “good sermon?” Could it be that your favourite sermons are those that either echo your religious biases, or put into words the things you would like to say? Is a good sermon one that makes you contented or one that shakes you up, and maybe makes you discontented? Do we ever listen to anything that does not fit us like the proverbial glove?
Ep’phatha! One up! Jesus healed a man who was physically deaf and dumb. He also healed many who were spiritually in the same plight. The physical is a parable of the spiritual realities. Jesus came to open closed ears and loosen inhibited tongues. The Gospel still exists for that. Eph’phatha!
To open up to the word of God is so important that the early Christians went on treasuring the original Aramaic speech of Jesus. Even though the universal language for the trade and business was Greek (much like English is today) and though Christianity spread across the whole Roman Empire, they still treasured that actual word from the common tongue spoken around Galilee. By the fourth century A.D. the exact “Eph’phatha” was still being used in many baptisms. In time however, the Aramaic was dropped. Yet the same understanding has come down to us in our baptismal rituals: We Touch the baptised person’s ears and their lips and announce: “May the Lord open your ears to hear his word and your mouth to proclaim his praise“
It is lack of hearing that creates the inability to speak. If the church does not hear, we will not be able to speak. If we refuse to listen, we will have nothing worthwhile to say. Should we replace the liberating Word of Christ with all kinds of religious prattle, or pseudo-psychology, or new age mysticism, or denominational mantras, or fundamentalist bellowing, we will still have nothing to say of any relevance to this twenty first century.
The Word confronts us today in its simplicity: Eph’phatha! Open up!
SERMON 2: A JUGGLING ACT
James 2: 1-17
Do you know what I find obscene?
(Well, actually there are a number of things but this one has my focus at the moment)
It is this: religious obscenity. I find it obscene when some Christian come together in a church, sing their favourite hymns, recite their creeds, read the Scriptures, say lofty prayers, and after worship is ended, and following bright chatter with friends,
they return to their homes to spend the rest of the week without a thought for the hungry, homeless, lost, unemployed, lonely, homeless, abused and exploited people of the world.
I find any religion that leads to nothing except self satisfaction, a flagrant obscenity. It reminds me of a cutting “two-liner” from an observant poet:
Their worship over, God returns to heaven,
And stays there till next Sunday at eleven.
Obscenity. It is a grievous obscenity to separate religion from the real world and its responsibilities, when Christ devoted his lief to bringing them together.
Now here a second thing which upsets me: Do you know what I find really pathetic?
(Well there are many things that are pathetic, but this one is in my sights today)
It is this: Religious people who are perpetually anxious. I find it deeply pathetic when I encounter earnest souls who are desperately trying the please God with good works, yet are always anxious because they fall short of their high standards. It is pathetic when church folk
try to win God’s favour, try to be good enough for God to love them, and try to put things right by their zeal in religious devotion and by helping their neighbours.
It is pathetic that such energetic toilers carry a large burden of fear in service to their church or their community, yet find no lasting peace of heart and mind. They go to bed each day worrying about the things they have not done, and they wake up each morning to slavishly face a another day of exacting rectitude.
It I find it pathetic when I observe the fearful devotion of Christians whose thoughts, feelings and act ions are driven by desperation to get credit entries written in God’s “Book of Life.”
It is so pathetic when church members vainly attempt to earn the favour of God, when all the time it is absolutely free and unlimited, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
A JUGGLING ACT?
What do we do with these two things?
The obscenity of a self-centred religion separated from the injustices and hungers of other people.
The sheer pathos of those whose religion is heavy load to carry up the steep path of anxious self-justification.
Do we have to be like a juggler, to balance the two things?
We should take heart that the issue it not a new one, that any of us have invented. We find it in the New Testament.
GOOD WORKS AND ST JAMES
James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, in his brief letter confronts what I have called an obscenity:
Where is your credibility, my friends, if you say you have faith but do no good works for others? Can that kind of faith ever save you?
If a brother or sister have clothes that are thread bare, or are without any food to eat, and one of you says” “Good luck to you. I hope you find some warm clothing and get yourself a good meal.” but you do nothing practical to help them, where is your Christian credibility?
So I tell you this: faith by itself without good deeds is dead.”
Nothing could be blunter than these words from James. They leave us in no doubt. Not to love our needy neighbours, as Jesus taught us, is to make a mockery of faith in him. If we have it within our capability to be able to help some struggling, fellow human being, yet all we do is to say to them : “You poor thing; I’ll be praying for you.” Then we have betrayed the faith.
FAITH AND ST PAUL
But there is the other side to this issue. Good works do not buy faith, nor can kindly deeds prove we have faith.
Paul is the one who makes this message of faith primary. But of course it stems from Christ Jesus.
With Jesus, the prior love of God, God’s belief is us, is prior to all else. God’s free grace is the secret of happiness. The father runs to meet the prodigal son long before he knows whether that son is repentant or not. The good shepherd goes in search of the lost sheep. The late-comers among the workers in the vineyard get paid for a full days work. Jesus lays down his life that we might live. We do not have to purchase our salvation. Out of God’s full, store we have received grace heaped upon grace.
Paul echoes this theme: Much of Paul’s early letter to the Galatians, and his later one to the Romans, devoted to this message salvation by faith in the prior grace of God.
By the grace of God you are saved, through faith. Nor is faith is your doing, it si a free gift of God.
Paul delights in those words “grace” “free gift” and “faith”. He had tried anxiety religion before his conversion; he knew it did not give peace to the human spirit. In Christ this devout Jew had been granted a liberty from religion of fear.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, leading you back into a life of fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship, When we cry “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit who is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
EPISTLE OF STRAW?
So there we have it, James and Paul, faith and good works. Which takes me back to what I expressed earlier:
The obscenity of a faith calling itself Christian which does not result in active love
for the needy folk in the world around us.
The pathetic state of earnest church people who try to justify themselves through
their devout religious practices and good deeds for other people.
Valid Christian faith and practice must be held in balance.
Martin Luther, that feisty, down-t o-earth reformer, thought St James had lost his balance and fallen into error. He called this letter “An epistle of straw.”
For my part, I believe Luther was harsh in this judgment. To designate the letter of James an “Epistle of straw” reflect his own struggle to find peace of soul (which only came through simple trust in the free grace of God) more than it reflected what James was on about.
For years, Luther the monk had lived by the religion of fear
and anxiety in the presence of a holy God. He had toiled hard at trying to put
things right by his religious efforts.
But Christ rescued him from that bondage. It was when he was working on some lectures on the book of Romans, that one passage stood out and smacked him right between the eyes:
The just shall live by faith.
Before long Luthier was transformed from slave to freeman, from a fear ridden worshipper to bold child of God.
He lashed out at the letter of James because it appeared to him to edge out the primacy of faith in God’s grace. That primacy had become the very centre of his existence. Martin Luther was ready confront as many demons as there were tiles on the rooftops rather than surrender this faith which had liberated him.
Looking on as distant observers, we can see how he feared the emphasis James placed on works far too much. But seeing it in the context of the reformation struggle, his “straw epistle” comment is understandable.
But that does not mean that we should evade the challenge given by James. Faith without works is dead.
HERE WE STAND
Without hesitation we should stand with Paul and Luther on the primacy of faith in God’s free grace.
That is the source of love, joy and peace. It is accepting the unconditional love of God who cherishes each one of us. We are precious to God, not when we wash off the grime and tidy ourselves up, but “just as I am without one plea.” Trusting God’s love, that love so uniquely poured out in the grace of the crucified Christ, is the only beginning, the only foundation for a healthy Christian life.
At the same time we must stand beside James.
We must not forget that this unconditional love of God is for others outside the church also. God loves each of them just as much as God loves you and me. Accepting his love for us should free us to love others, not in pious words but in actual deeds. Practical religion, such as James valued, flows from authentic faith. They who trust the love of God, are committed to God’s love for all people. It commits us to a world family where those who have much share with those who have not.
My fear is that the pendulum may have swung too far the other way. in Protestant circles. We have fostered generations of church goers who have prided themselves on their faith yet many have neglected what Jesus once called:
the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith.
I have been offended many times by the obscenity of some churchy people who wilfully ignore issues of justice and mercy, peace and goodwill.
On the other hand, as a pastor I have seen the anguish of anxiety ridden soul; I have prayed and tried to guide folk who have been long trapped in religious slavery. Pathetic souls who toil at good works, yet still tremble often. I long for them to embrace the liberty of faith in the free, unlimited grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
A HEALTHY TENSION
Big question: How do we keep a healthy balance? A balance between anxiety and smug religion? Between pathetic and obscenity?
Frankly I am not sure. I know that we as individuals, and we as a church community, cannot tackle all the world’s problems. But we can each do our bit.
I also know that the first essential is our continuing faith in God’s love, a love where our love of others is inseparable from trusting Christ Jesus.
Dose this mean some tension?
Tension does not imply a necessary anxiety. I believe that we should live in some degree of tension; what I would call healthy tension. Never abject fear about our achievements, yet a keen awareness of what needs to be done, what can be done, and what is being done, and what should rightly be left for others to do.
We won’t always get it right. We of all people should be able fail gracefully.
When we have done our very best, or even done moderately well, we can place all things in God’s hands. For in those holy hands, even the fumbling efforts of the faithful yield a surprising harvest, and by the sheer alchemy of grace, even failed attempts can bear some good fruits.
Thank you James. Thank you Paul.
Thank you immensely more,
God our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Companion.
Your grace is sufficient for us.
So be it, now and forever. Amen!
We believe that by belief we ground our ephemeral lives in the Source of all things seen and unseen.
We place our trust in the Source who weaves a majestic purpose and destiny through all history yet has time for each individual person.
We place our trust in the Source who became uniquely embodied in a loving man from Nazareth who went about doing good.
We place our trust in the Source incarnate who bore our griefs, carried our sorrows and was wounded for our transgressions.
We place our trust in the Source who in that man embraced death that he might draw its fatal sting and rise again with eternal life free to all.
We place our trust in the Source whose own Presence is active among us and within us, regenerating those who are decayed and inspiring failures to become winners.
We believe that in believing we ground our ephemeral lives in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
AN INTERCESSION: SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY
On environmental issues, politics of justice, medical care, space exploration, internet, genetic engineering, church mission.
See “Jesus Our Future: Prayers for the Twenty-first Century” page 90
© Open Book Publishers
A PASTORAL PRAYER
God of grand purposes and minute providence, hear our prayers for our brothers and sisters in the human family who this day are enduring hard times.
Bless those near us or far away whose very being is torn by grief. Come to them through the arms and words of others, that they may be embraced with your comfort.
Bless those near to us or far away who suffering from injury or disease. Let them receive both the outside medical care and the inner resources to fight back to health.
Bless those near or far away whose relationships have soured, and marriages that have become covert or overt feuds. Help them to recognise and take the best way ahead.
Bless those near or far away who are unjustly treated; socially or politically, at work or at home, free or captive. Bring justice and rehabilitation, we pray.
Bless those near or far away who feel wronged by their own church. May they and those who may have misused them, be brought to the grace of interpersonal healing.
Bless our family members, near or far away, that we may uphold each person in prayer, support each in times of crisis, and forgive one another for our many sins.
God of grand purpose and minute providence, please assist us to turn our good intentions into deeds and to carry our prayers over into all the coming and going of this busy week ahead of us. Through Christ our model and our enabler.
My friends, Eph’phatha! As we prepare to go, let us open our ears to the words of the James, the brother of Jesus:
“Where’s the value, my sisters and brothers, if one of you claims to have lots faith yet has no deeds to show for it? Can such a ‘faith’ save him? If there is a member of the church family whose clothes are threadbare and who has no food, and one of you says to them: “Have a nice day. Keep yourself warm and enjoy a good dinner.” yet does nothing to meet their bodily needs, where is there value in that? Faith without deeds is dead.”
Eph’phatha! Also open your ears to the blessing as we declare it to each other:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and evermore. Amen!
My Best Mate, (first edition 2013)
ISBN 978-1-937763-78-7: AUSTRALIA:
ISBN : 978-1-937763-79- 4: USA
Third edition May 2014
ISBN 978-1-62880-033-3 Australia
Jesus Our Future
Prayers for the Twenty First Century
Second Edition May 2014
|Although this book was written with young people in mind, it has proved to be popular with Christians or seekers of all ages. Through the eyes and ears of a youth named Chip, big questions are raised and wrestled with; faith and doubt, unanswered prayers, refugees, death and grief, racism and bullying, are just a few of the varied topics confronted in these pages. Suitable as a gift to the young, and proven to be helpful when it has been used as a study book for adults.||
Australian Prayers has been a valuable prayer resource for over thirty years. These prayers are suitable for both private and public use and continue to be as fresh and relevant today as ever. Also, the author encourages users to adapt geographical or historical images to suit local, current situations.
This collection of original, contemporary prayers is anchored firmly in the belief that no matter what the immediate future may hold for us, ultimately Jesus is himself both the goal and the shape of our future. He is the key certainty towards which the Spirit of God is inexorably leading us in this scientific and high-tech era. Although the first pages of this book were created for the turn of the millennium, the resources in this volume reflect the interests, concerns and needs of our post-modern world.