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

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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


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.

A Prayer Story From Diana Farrell

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20 ESV)
Praying with others has been one of the greatest blessings that God has given me. With each new person I pray with, I am able to find something that helps me to deepen my own prayer life.
I have one friend who begins each prayer by painting a picture of God’s throne room. She talks about kneeling in front of the throne. Every time I think of this image I am reminded of the sovereignty of our God. Another friend approaches prayer with joy and celebration, and I am reminded of how wonderful it is to spend time in the presence of our God and how amazing his works are. Another friend uses Psalms and other Bible verses in her prayers which makes me feel connected to the Saints of old and the promises of God, and yet another taught me to pray in the Jewish tradition, which roots me to God’s chosen people.
What an amazing thing to be able to learn from these wonderful prayer warriors; however, not only do we have the ability to learn how to pray from one another, but we also are granted the opportunity to build relationships with the people with whom we pray. Sincere prayer always shows the heart. It shows what we love, what we need, and what we fear. Therefore, by its very nature, praying with another is an act of intimacy. What an amazing gift and responsibility. We not only are now able to pray more effectively for that person, but they are now able to pray more effectively for us, and through this process a bond grows, and we become true sisters and brothers in Christ.
For those who are anxious about praying with another, may I just take a moment to encourage you to try it? God isn’t looking for the most eloquent of speakers; he is looking for the sincere heart. I love how children pray. They say what they mean, and they say it plainly. Are we not children, too? Trust God; he gave you this gift of praying with one another, and he will help you through the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God for encouraging us to pray with one another, and a sincere thank you to all of the wonderful people with whom I have had the privilege of praying.

A Prayer Story From Morf Morford

CS Lewis used to describe the Gospel as “a good contagion.” I would describe the continuing emergence or out-working of the Gospel as the equivalent of good weeds.
No matter how much solid legalism, suffocating dogma, or toxic confusion and distortion we pour or build on the living spirit of God, it will pop up—pure and alive—somewhere else, and like some particularly hardy weeds, the true Gospel will never be fully eradicated. Even the deadest church holds some smoldering spark or latent, hibernating seed waiting maybe decades or possibly even centuries, for the right mix of nutrients, receptivity, and opportunity.
“Can these bones live?,” was the question in Ezekiel. “Only God knows” is the eternal answer. We like to imagine that we know with our bi-polar yes or no, but our hope is too shallow, and we give up too easily. Some trees takes centuries to reach maturity; some movements takes generations just to take root.
Many of these “good weeds” are constant irritations that annoy us and take our time. Our private projects are disturbed, and then when we didn’t even notice, our precious projects are over-shadowed by an immense monument of beauty and strength we had done our best to ignore or even stamp out.
God’s grace is like that. It emerges without our permission, beyond our will, and most of the time, in defiance of our expectations. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as being like the wind. We never know where it came from, what it will do, where it will go, or where it went. This is how I see the Holy Spirit in my life; it catches me by surprise when I do see it, but mostly I only see its effects or its absence. There’s the lingering sense that something holy was here, and perhaps the spores still remain, but they’ve scattered, and we step on them and capture, isolate, and fossilize the few we do find. Like children, we expect them to be our pets, do our bidding, wear our cute little costumes, and take part in our eager charades. How little we realize that we have taken in a whirlwind—a loving storm that will turn us upside down and inside out.
We will be, if we allow it, far more, far deeper, and more real than we were in the past We will be more uniquely ourselves than we could have ever imagined. No matter how old we are, our story is just beginning.

Tuesday, February 28—For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.

“[Jesus] must have been either the prince of impostors or what He really was, the lord of lords, the king of kings, the savior of mankind,” claims William Booth.
Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus, the most powerful man in the world. Augustus’ kingdom was enormous, and he was able to enforce a strict peace (the Pax Romana) within its borders. In many ways, Augustus was the best the world could offer as far as power and glory were concerned. Against this imposing king we see the familiar setting of the nativity—a poor couple away from home and a young woman giving birth in a room occupied by animals. It does not seem very impressive at all; yet the nativity is very much about the competition between two rival kingdoms, one represented by Caesar and the other by a little, wailing baby called Jesus. Where did the real power and glory exist?
Augustus caused the known world to be counted in his census; the birth of Jesus caused the angels to sing in the heavens. Augustus altered the course of a young couple’s lives, making them journey to Bethlehem for the birth of their son; the birth of that son altered the course of world history forever. Augustus used the threat of his armies to force a temporary peace amongst men; Jesus used obedience, humility, and suffering to bring about an eternal peace between God and humanity. It was under the authority of another Caesar that Jesus was put to death; that death and His subsequent resurrection made salvation possible for all who call Jesus lord. Augustus and Rome reflected all the glory of the world; Jesus reflected all the glory of the God who made the world.
The kingdom that Jesus introduced was and is the dangerous, radical alternative to the powers of this world. By praying this last part of the “Lord’s Prayer,” we are declaring that we pledge our allegiance to the kingdom of God. We also are declaring that we will dedicate our lives to seeing this alternative kingdom become a reality here on earth. It is thus a prayer of mission, a subversive prayer, and a commitment to not simply accepting the kingdoms of this world or their values.
It is also a prayer of empowerment. Jesus spoke and acted the way He did because He was the rightful king of kings. We are His children and, therefore, are rightful heirs to the kingdom. We have within us the very Spirit of Jesus, and that is a Spirit of true power, authority, and glory.
Finally, this is a prayer of confidence. It is only because God is king that we can pray the rest of the “Lord’s Prayer” with conviction. We pray with boldness because we are praying in the name of the king, the victor over evil, the true light of heaven who outshone the glory of this world with the glory of the cross.
Jesus showed us that the world’s understanding of power and glory is flawed. Real power and glory is found in obedience, humility, grace, justice, love, forgiveness, and all the things that characterized His life. This is the power and glory that exists in the kingdom of God.

Study and Prayer Suggestions

  • Write a list of things that count for power and glory in this world. Then write the things that count for power and glory in the kingdom of God. Pray that your life and the life of your family, friends, and other Christians will find its identity in the kingdom of God.
  • Read Revelations 5:1-14. Jesus is described here as both a lion and a slain lamb. What images do both of these descriptions bring to your mind? In a small group, discuss what these images tell you about the power and glory of Jesus, and how they can help you in your prayer life.
  • Take some time to reflect on what you have learned about the “Lord’s Prayer.” Give all the praise and the glory for the week of study you have had to God, including your prayers that will be answered in the future.

Monday, February 27—Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

“To cry out to the God of life in the midst of darkness, to hold on to joy while walking in a valley of tears, to keep speaking of peace when sounds of war fill the air—that is what prayer is about. It is indeed clinging to the Lord when all is being torn apart by greed, hatred, violence, and war,” says Henri Nouwen.
There is a recurring theme in Jewish thought that says salvation will come out of pain and suffering. An image that often was used for this was childbirth; the pains of giving birth are great, but out of those pains comes new life and new hope. Jesus truly lived out this theme, as His life was characterized by temptation, trials, and suffering. Perhaps the moment of Jesus’ life that best symbolizes all of these things is in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prays that He might be spared from the cross. Jesus shrinks momentarily from His duty but does not yield to temptation. He resolves to give Himself over fully to the will of the father. This is obedience staring evil in the face and defying it. It was out of this trial, this temptation, and pain that eternal salvation was brought to the world.
So why, if we are trying to imitate Jesus, are we taught to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’?” When Jesus prayed this prayer, the father refused His request. Jesus was delivered into the hands of the evil one, but that is precisely why we can pray this prayer with confidence; Jesus defeated evil on the cross so that we could be delivered.
This does not mean that evil no longer exists or that temptation and times of trial will not occur in our lives. There are generally three wrong ideas we have about evil. The first is to believe that evil does not exist or does not matter. The second is to see only evil in everything and to forget about the good of creation. The third is to become self-righteous and to believe that deliverance will come as a result of our own virtue. The reality is that to pray this prayer is to recognize our own weakness and the danger of sin, but at the same time to know that we have a savior who is strong enough to deliver us. The evil one is powerful and active in this world, and he is opposed to God’s good creation and perfect will, but the victory of Jesus is more powerful and more active. This prayer asks that we would not be tempted more than we could bear and that with the strength of Jesus we would be able to resist evil and pass safely through the testing of our faith.
We do have some responsibilities when it comes to this part of the prayer. We need to be disciplined in our attitude toward sin. We should not be seeking out temptation nor should we allow sin to go unchecked in our lives. This is also a prayer for the world. We are asking for the forces of evil to be bound and for the light of God to shine into the darkest places. This is not a request that can be made from a safe distance. Christians need to live and pray right in the place where the world is in deepest pain. In a way, we need to allow the kingdom of God to be birthed in and through us into the sin and brokenness of the world. This requires sacrifice and pain on our parts, but we have the promise that through our trials and because of the victory of Jesus, new hope and new life will be birthed into the world.

Study and Prayer Suggestions

  • Read 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 with a partner. Discuss what temptations exist in your life and pray for your partner, family, friends, and others that God would reveal the way out. Discuss some practical ways of avoiding or dealing with temptation and commit to praying for each other and holding each other accountable.
  • Take a walk around your community and look for the strongholds of sin that need prayer. Make a list of them and pray that God’s deliverance would break into them.
  • Reflect on the cross. Praise God for the victory He won over evil through the death of Jesus.

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