First Presbyterian Church Prayer Ministry

The goal of the Prayer Ministry at First Presbyterian Church is a church filled with people who listen to God, who are growing in faith, love, and obedience, and who pray continually about everything with confidence that God is hearing their prayers and answering them. The Prayer Ministry organizes seminars on prayer, encourages people to pray, coordinates First Presbyterian Church participation in the National Day of Prayer, and has opened a prayer room in the South Chapel.
For more information, contact Prayer Ministry coordinator:
Sonja West

Submit a Prayer Request

You can use our easy submission form to submit a prayer request.

Thoughts on Prayer

“These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” —Isaiah 56:7
“Prayer is our side of the friendship we experience in our relationship with Almighty God.” —Earl Palmer
“What if God does not demand prayer as much as gives prayer?  What if God wants prayer in order to satisfy us?  What if prayer is a means of God nourishing, restoring, healing, converting us?  Suppose prayer is primarily allowing ourselves to be loved, addressed and claimed by God.  What if praying means opening ourselves to the gift of God’s own self and presence?  What if our part in prayer is primarily letting God be giver?  Suppose prayer is not a duty but the opportunity to experience healing and transforming love?” —Martin Smith

Prayer Updates


Saturday, April 15—The Time of Waiting

Holy Saturday also is called the Easter Vigil, the Paschal Vigil, or the Great Vigil of Easter. It is a time of transition and waiting. We shift our attention from Christ’s death on the cross toward Easter and the glory of His resurrection.
Luke 23:50-56 provides one account of what occurred originally. “Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathe′a. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid Him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how His body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Revised Standard Version)
The fact that Christ did not rise on Saturday is a topic for theological scholars, but one idea seems worth mentioning here. Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath and represented very specific things regarding the relationship between God and humans. Even the people who took Christ’s body, prepared it, and placed it in the tomb, rested on that day in accordance with the Sabbath laws. Christ’s death was a new beginning, however, and new practices were warranted. Because Christ rose on Sunday, Christians worship on the day of His resurrection, not according to the historical Jewish Sabbath.
This does not mean, however, that Holy Saturday is just another day in Holy week. It is far more than that. First, today marks the 40th day of the traditional Lenten fast. The number 40 has deep significance throughout the Bible, and it seems entirely reasonable to dedicate a 40-day period each year to preparing for Christ’s resurrection. When Lent was established, it intentionally included Holy Saturday, rather than concluding on Good Friday.
Furthermore, by having a day between Christ’s death and resurrection, we have time to wait at the Lord’s tomb, as His followers did originally. We can medicate on His life and death. We can use prayer, meditation, fasting, and other approaches to await the arrival of Easter. We wait, as Christ’s Mother Mary did, for His victorious triumph. In the Catholic Church, “this faithful and prayerful symbolic waiting has been called the Ora della Madre or Hour of the Mother,” according to Scripture specifically points out that we should await the resurrection the way a grieving Mother who had complete faith in God’s redemptive powers and plan to bring us to His side after death would do—with reverence and anticipation.
Finally, as we know for the “Apostles’ Creed,” “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Clearly, God’s plan called for Christ to face Satan directly proving that God had triumphed over evil permanently. So one day of waiting that permitted such an important accomplishment certainly is worthwhile.
“Apostles’ Creed,” Christian Reformed Church,
References: “Holy Saturday: Holy Saturday History, Information, Prayers, Images, Traditions, and More,”

Prayer Suggestion

The following information comes from the Common Book of Worship, and it describes the traditional service for the Great Easter Vigil in detail. Note that the process has very specific components that relate to God’s plan for His children, Christ’s purpose and life, and the future of God’s relationship with mankind. After reviewing this information, take a moment to pray that God will make this time of transition particularly meaningful to you this year.

First Service of Easter

“The Great Vigil of Easter is the brightest jewel of Christian liturgy traced to early Christian times. It proclaims the universal significance of God’s saving acts in history through four related services held on the same occasion, and consists of:

Service of Light

The service begins in the darkness of night. In kindling new fire and lighting the paschal candle, we are reminded that Christ came as a light shining in darkness (John 1:5). Through the use of fire, candles, words, movement, and music, the worshiping community becomes the pilgrim people of God following the ‘pillar of fire’ given to us in Jesus Christ, the light of the world. The paschal candle is used throughout the service as a symbol for Jesus Christ. This candle is carried, leading every procession during the vigil. Christ, the light of the world, thus provides the unifying thread to the service.

Service of Readings

The second part of the vigil consists of a series of readings from the Old and New Testaments. These lessons provide a panoramic view of what God has done for humanity. Beginning with creation, we are reminded of our delivery from bondage in the exodus, of God’s calling us to faithfulness through the cry of the prophets, of God dwelling among us in Jesus Christ, and of Christ’s rising in victory from the tomb. The readings thus retell our ‘holy history’ as God’s children, summarizing the faith into which we are baptized.

Service of Baptism

In the earliest years of the Christian church, baptisms commonly took place at the vigil. So this vigil includes baptism and/or the renewal of the baptismal covenant. As with the natural symbol of light, water plays a critical role in the vigil. The image of water giving life-nurturing crops, sustaining life, and cleansing our bodies—cannot be missed in this part of the vigil. Nor is the ability of water to inflict death in drowning overlooked. Water brings both life and death. So also there is death and life in Baptism, for in Baptism we die to sin and are raised to life. Baptism unites believers to Christ’s death and resurrection.

Service of the Eucharist

The vigil climaxes in a joyous celebration of the feast of the people of God. The risen Lord invites all to participate in the new life He brings by sharing the feast which He has prepared. We thus look forward to the great Messianic feast of the kingdom of God when the redeemed from every time and place ‘will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 13:29). The vigil thus celebrates what God has done, is doing, and will do.”
     Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), pp. 294-295.

Friday, April 14—It is Finished

Today is Good Friday, but it’s very difficult to remember this day as being good when we annually take the time to remind ourselves of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. Fortunately, we understand that this day is named not to represent Christ’s death but the beginning of the three-day transformation that led to His resurrection, which surely is the most “good” event in the history of mankind.
Let’s start today’s study by considering how cataclysmic Christ’s death on the cross was—how it was evidenced not only by the onsite witnesses who watched Him accept the burden of mankind’s sins from the beginning to the end of time, but also as described in the passage below, Christ’s passing affected all aspects of God’s creation.
“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with Him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27: 51-54, Revised Standard Version)
If Christ had walked with us just as a teacher, His death would have been tragic and such dramatic reactions to it would have been completely reasonable. We would probably not be commemorating Good Friday today, though. Instead, we would be honoring the life and death of the only sin-free man to ever live—a man who taught us so much about God’s expectations for our lives. So we probably would call today Black Friday as a sign of our loss.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t the end; it was a beginning—a beginning to an entirely new approach to having a relationship with God. The good news is that because Christ died, He now provides the connection we need with God, Christ’s death pays the debt for our sins over and over again. His death was the ultimate atonement, and it is effective across all generations.
Justin Holcomb describes the importance of Good Friday quite well. “The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness.”
So what should we think and feel today? Sadness and grief are reasonable responses to Christ’s death. After all, the sins of mankind caused God to make a choice. Either we would each be faced with the impossible requirement to atone for our own sins, or God would have to offer us an alternative path to redemption. God chose to be merciful and to send His son to pay our price. Nevertheless, we should feel responsible that Christ’s death became necessary because we fell so short of God’s expectations for us.
At the same time, however, we should start to look ahead to Easter now. We recognize that this heartrending event actually opens a door to new life for all of us who are willing to step through it.
“We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Romans 6: 4-5, Revised Standard Version)
Reference: “What’s So Good about Good Friday?,” Justin Holcomb,

Prayer Suggestion

Consider this prayer that summarizes the reality of Good Friday and express your thoughts and thanks to God in your follow-up prayer.
“Merciful God, you gave your Son to suffer the shame of the cross. Save us from hardness of heart, that, seeing Him who died for us, we may repent, confess our sin, and receive your overflowing love, in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
     Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 282.

Thursday, April 13—Transitioning From the Old to the New Testament Perspectives

Let’s take a moment to compare the words used for atonement in the Old and New Testaments. The original Hebrew word was kaphar, which means “to cover.” In the New Testament, however, the word changes to hilasterion, which means “propitiation.” Originally, the blood of sacrificial animals was used to cover peoples’ sins and restore their relationships with God. So these animals served as interim substitutes for human sinners, but ultimately a sin-free human had to take the punishment that we so rightly deserved, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 describes what will come in the prophecy that often is called “The Suffering Servant.” Verses 4 to 6 in chapter 53 summarize this passage very well.
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Revised Standard Version)
Now that we are in the midst of Holy Week and Maundy Thursday is here, we are particularly reminded of the connection between the Old and New Testaments and the theological foundations of atonement, In Exodus 12, God provided very detailed instructions to the Israelites regarding preparation for, carrying out of, and ongoing observance of the Passover Supper. Once again, a sacrificial animal—a lamb “without blemish, a male a year old”—would be served for dinner, and its blood would be put on the two doorposts and the lintel as a sign. At midnight the Lord smote the first born of both men and animals of every household that had not been marked appropriately.
“And when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for He passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when He slew the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” (Exodus 12:25-27 Revised Standard Version)
The parallels between that first Passover Supper and the one Jesus ate with His disciples are not a matter of happenstance but of divine design. They were God’s plan from the beginning of creation, and they were fulfilled according to His plan.
As John 1:1-5 reminds us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (New Revised Standard Version)
Reference: An essay by Dr. Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, found on The Exchange: A Blog by Ed Stetzer,

Prayer Suggestion

Prayerfully recite the words of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 that were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ on the night of His betrayal as He shared the Passover Supper with His disciples. These words still are used today as we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion in remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Then take a few minutes to pray silently, praising God for sending His son to take away the sins of the world.
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (Revised Standard Version)

Wednesday, April 12—God Deals With Sin and Reconciliation in the Old Testament

The need for atonement is made clear in the earliest chapters of scripture. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree, they damaged their relationship with Him, bringing sin into the world. He had warned them that sinning would cause the relationship they had with Him to die, but they chose sin over remaining close to God. They immediately knew the error of their ways, but God did not just turn His back and walk away from them.
“And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die…’ And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden… And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3: 2-3, 8, and 21, Revised Standard Version)
As we know so well, the first sin led almost immediately to a second one and so on. Sin became a dominant force in human life. Even in this first case, however, God offered man a form of atonement that involved the sacrifice of an innocent being for our sins—the death of animals that had not eaten from the tree provided the garments Adam and Eve were given to wear.
These early verses from the Bible establish the foundation for all of mankind’s existence and the way God has reached out to save us over and over again. It’s interesting to note that few Christians actually even realize the connection between the way God handled Adam and Eve’s transgressions and His ultimate plan for our atonement—the life, death, and resurrection of His son.
The pattern is easy to spot, however, when we truly begin to grasp that God loves us so much that He does not ask us to personally atone for our sins but provides a substitute to carry our burdens. It’s easy to forget that the animals and vegetation, as well as every other aspect of the world around us, were God’s creations and were important to Him. So even this initial example of how God reaches out to us validates that His love for us. Furthermore, we can see that His desire to maintain a deep and abiding relationship with us is profound and beyond our understanding. He is willing to sacrifice the works of His creation in order to restore us. God’s commitment to us and His approach to our atonement are stated unequivocally in John 2: 16.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Revised Standard Version)
Reference: An essay by Dr. Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, found on The Exchange: A Blog by Ed Stetzer,

Prayer Suggestion

Once again, you can use this standard prayer of confession to begin your time of repentance and then add your own personal confessions.
“Almighty God, you poured your Spirit upon gathered disciples creating bold tongues, open ears, and a new community of faith. We confess that we hold back the force of your Spirit among us. We do not listen for your word of grace, speak the good news of your love, or live as a people made one in Christ. Have mercy on us, O God. Transform our timid lives by the power of your Spirit, and fill us with a flaming desire to be your faithful people, doing your will for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
     Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 343.

Tuesday, April 11—The Need for Atonement

Atonement—it’s a word we don’t use in everyday language that represents the recompense that is given to make amends for a wrong-doing or injury. Conceptually, atonement is a form of rebalancing after the disruption of a relationship; a payment of equal value is given to the person who has been negatively impacted by a wrongful action in order to settle the score.
We learn at a young age that we need to apologize when we do something that hurts another person. Apologies represent the simplest form of atonement, and they are socially acceptable ways to offset relatively minor infractions; however, apologies generally are believed to be insufficient in situations were more serious damage is done.
Mankind has developed complex laws to systematize atonement in society. These regulations define the degree of “wrongness” and assign seemingly appropriate levels of reparation. Of course, views regarding the effectiveness of these legal approaches vary widely and are influenced by many situational factors. In countless real-life cases, the injured person firmly believes that no amount or form of payment ever could provide sufficient penance for the offense that had been committed.
So now, stop and consider the theological implications of atonement. The offended party is God—our creator, who is sovereign over all of mankind and the world around us. He sees all and knows all. He is love incarnate, but He also is the law-giver and judge. He is so holy that every minor misstep we make must seem enormous to Him, generating huge rifts in our relationship with Him. Furthermore, our day-in and day-out repetition of sinful acts causes the wall between God and us to grow progressively thicker and higher—ultimately becoming insurmountable.
As the Bible tells us in Isaiah 59:1-2. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Revised Standard Version)
Clearly, there is no payment we could make that would satisfy the wrongs we have done to God—no way that we ever could atone for our sins and rebalance our relationship with the almighty. If we accept this reality, we are faced with the message that the Bible tells us in so many ways. Fortunately, as we begin to remember Christ’s walk to the cross and His resurrection, we already know how this horrifying truth was converted into a new beginning for each of us—not through our own efforts but through the sacrificial atonement God granted to us through the death of His son, Jesus Christ.
Paul said it so well in Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Revised Standard Version)

Prayer Suggestion

Use this standard prayer of confession to open your hearts and minds in order to obtain a deeper understanding of your need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then, add your own personal confessions.
“Eternal God, our judge and redeemer, we confess that we have tried to hide from you, for we have done wrong. We have lived for ourselves, and apart from you. We have turned from our neighbors, and refused to bear the burdens of others. We have ignored the pain of the world, and passed by the hungry, the poor, and the oppressed. In your great mercy forgive our sins and free us from selfishness, that we may choose your will and obey your commandments; through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 54.

Prayer Banner Widget