Grow Deep: Praying With Jesus Edition, Week 4

Praying for Those Who Serve

“Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

When I was 17, life was good! I was “going steady,” visiting colleges, and shopping for prom wear. When my Dad was 17, he joined the military and served as a medic in the Pacific during World War II. During those years, God graciously protected him and kept him from death or serious physical injury. Still, the experience of WWII had a profound effect on him. He did not talk much about the war, even when asked. I think it was too painful or maybe he just thought some things were better left unsaid or “forgotten.” I do know he NEVER watched movies that brought to mind real-life images of the mangled bodies, intense suffering and death that he witnessed as a young man on the battlefield. Like many others, my Dad sacrificed much and served his country and his fellow servicemen well.

He was not a strong Christian then, so I don’t know how engaged in spiritual disciplines my Dad was at that time in his life. He was baptized, though, and I believe he prayed. Crisis and war seem to drive people to their knees—perhaps out of raw fear or the realization of the frailty of life. Following 9/11, people flocked to churches and prayed. Before Desert Storm and the War with Iraq, it is documented that servicemen by the dozens were baptized, and their families became engaged in prayer and Bible studies!

This is Memorial Day weekend—time set aside to remember those who have given their lives in sacrifice and service to our nation. This week, we pray for those who serve: in the military, in government, in vocations of all sorts that we may carry one another's burdens and fulfill Christ's command and purpose in each of us.

As you read and reflect this week, you may notice that something has changed! Instead of specific reflection questions, there are suggested daily prayers and additional detail about each Scripture reading. Each reading and prayer is designed to help you reflect on your own vocation AND how you support those who serve. Sunday,

Sunday, May 27
Read: John 3:1-8
For many years I was one of the most famous Bible scholars and teachers in Israel. Maybe you have read my name, Nicodemus, in the Gospel of John. As a scribe, it was my vocation to help God’s people in understanding the writings of the Law and the Prophets. But there was something that I myself did not understand – how to enter the Kingdom of God? That’s why I went one night to see Jesus and to become His pupil. I, the teacher, had to learn that I needed a new birth through baptism and faith in the Son of Man who was lifted upon the cross for my salvation. With great patience and love, Jesus taught this old teacher that I couldn’t construct the Kingdom by myself or obtain it by my piety and acts of charity. I could not, through my meditations, ascend in spirit to the seventh heaven and enter into God’s presence. It is the Kingdom that has to come down to me in the person of the Son of Man, who died for me, so that I might have eternal life.

We pray: Thank you for opening the eyes of Nicodemus and leading him to be a pupil in the school of faith. Our prayer today is for all educators, professors, instructors, Sunday School teachers, mentors, scribes, rabbis and parents who homeschool their children. We pray that all whose vocation it is to teach might at the same time be students in the school of faith. We pray that all teachers might receive the new birth of water and the Spirit. May they be led by that Spirit to make the Son of Man the center of their being and their vocation. Pour out upon them the gift of true wisdom in the name of Him who is true Wisdom in person.

Monday, May 28
Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-10
It is easy to criticize or complain about the authorities, whether they be the president of our country or the peace officer on his or her beat on the street on which we live. A few weeks ago, a peace officer was condemned by all for not confronting a shooter at a high school in Florida. A week later, a French policeman offered to die in place of a hostage taken by terrorist. His sacrifice reminds us of Jesus, who gave His life as a ransom for many. Being a person in authority is no easy job; the more authority one is given, the greater are the dangers, the temptations and the responsibility. St. Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that rather than praise or condemn those who are in authority, what they really need are our prayers.

We pray: Dear Lord, in family, school, government and Church, there are many authorities that in many ways impact our lives. Help each one of them recognize that he or she is a steward serving under Your authority, responsible to You and dependent upon Your help, Your power, Your love and Your forgiveness. As Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and give His love to all, we pray that His love and sacrifice for others motivate all in authority to follow His footsteps.

Tuesday, May 29
Read: Psalm 25
Psalm 25 is one of the seven acrostic songs in the Book of Psalms. Every verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In so doing, the psalm offers us the basis for prayer from A to Z. At the same time, the frequent use of the words “path”, “ways” and “waywardness” in Psalm 25 remind us that we are a transient people whose vocations are realized in the midst of pilgrimage. The psalmist realizes that the fulfillment of a believer’s vocation is more than just choosing the right road. We all need strength to walk in God’s way. We need the Spirit to remind us of our weaknesses, our tendency toward waywardness and our penchant for growing weary in well-doing. For this reason, we pray that we will never forget His promise to pardon our sins and failures and to be with us in the midst of discouragement, criticism, aloneness and constraint.

We pray: The prayer of the psalmist assumes that both physical and spiritual enemies will attack us as we carry out our vocations. False prophets and teachers will try to confuse us and carry us off with false doctrines. We will be slandered and betrayed by false friends who seek to lay a snare for us and make us fall. The enemy will try to sidetrack us and afflict us with the remembrance of past sins. We pray that the Spirit will keep the eyes of his children focused on the Lord, for only He will release our feet from every snare.

Wednesday, May 30
Read: Proverbs 16:1-9
The word “plans”, with which this chapter opens, is a military metaphor that conjures up the vision of a king or military leader drawing up his ranks and battle lines before he goes to war. In Proverbs 16:3, we are told the Lord detests the proud of heart. In the context of the first verse, the proud of heart are those who put their trust in their own wisdom and their capabilities. For this reason, they do not commit their plans to the Lord; they do not take everything to the Lord in prayer. In Luke 14:31, Jesus compares a king drawing up his plans for going to war to that of a prospective follower of Jesus counting the cost of discipleship. For both the king and the disciple, counting the cost should drive all to kneel down in prayer and commit their ways unto the Lord.

We pray: We include in our prayer all those who are drawing up plans for the future—prospective brides and grooms, those who are trying to decide on which school to attend, which job offer to take, or the community in which to live. Most of all we pray for the Spirit’s guidance in choosing a vocation in which we can serve our Lord and our neighbor.

Thursday, May 31
Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-14
Two things that immediately catch our attention as we read the third chapter of this writing is the great variety of activities or vocations described by the author and the 28 occurrences of the word “time” in the first eight verses of this chapter. Many of the proverbs and wise sayings in the book of Ecclesiastes were written to give sound practical advice to manual workers, farmers, servants, slaves, administrators and rulers in order to help them act with wisdom in the accomplishment of their God-given vocations. Our vocation may also be considered a divine calling when it is carried out to honor our marvelous Creator and to serve our neighbors, helping them carry their burdens.

One of the challenges we face is that in our busyness, our businesses and our vocations, we are tempted to forget our Creator and to believe that we alone are in charge of the times in which we live, work and play. Ecclesiastes makes it clear that God, in His providence, controls the times. The times are opportunities we are given to cooperate with our Maker in carrying out His divine purpose for all of creation.

We pray: Dear Father, help us never to forget that each of us has a divine calling. We realize we are unable to fulfill that calling through our own wisdom, ability or power. Help us, therefore, to depend upon Your guidance in the fulfilling of our vocations. Help us to stand in awe of Your majesty in all we do and to act with the wisdom necessary to recognize the times or opportunities You have given to us in which to accomplish Your will here on earth as it is in heaven.

Friday, June 1
Read: Galatians 6:1-10
One of the most debated questions by historians of the early church is: How was it possible for the Christian movement to grow so quickly in the first centuries in spite of so much ill will, condemnation, opposition, persecution and even torture. We find part of the answer in Galatians 6:1-10: Christians not only bore their own burdens, they carried the burdens of others. Unwanted newborns left in the forest or at a crossroad to die or be claimed by another were adopted and educated, as were the children of slaves whose parents had been sold off by their owners. Food was prepared and taken to those in prison. Money was gathered to buy and set free the enslaved. When the plague struck, dying men and women abandoned by their relatives were fed, taken care of, comforted and buried by Christians. Debts were forgiven; foreigners were welcomed; enemies reconciled. The Christian house churches became homes for the homeless, hospitals for the sick, schools for the unlettered and families for those who had never experienced the love of a family. Christians not only carried the burdens of others; they did not grow weary in well-doing.

We Pray: Holy Spirit, You are the comforter, the advocate and care giver of all who are in need. You accomplish Your ministry through all of us in the different vocations in which we are active. We pray, not only for others who are caregivers, first responders and good Samaritans, we pray that You would help us see that we all are caregivers needing Your love, Your patience and Your power to be our brother’s keeper and to not grow weary in well-doing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, June 2
Read: John 3:16-21
The term vocation comes from a Latin word that means “calling”. When we talk about our vocations, we are discussing a divine calling. Jesus had such a divine calling. In his baptism, Jesus was called to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. When Jesus accepted that calling that would lead Him to the Cross, the Father declared: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Although severely tempted to abandon His vocation and save Himself, Jesus was faithful to His calling. On the cross, He was able to declare: “It is finished.”

We, too, received a divine call in our baptism. It was not a call to be the Lamb of God; only Jesus could be that, for only He was without sin. We are not called to be the Light of the World; only Jesus could be that. However, in our calling, we can reflect His light, His love and His mercy. Our vocation is not to condemn the world, but rather to point the world to Christ crucified, that all might believe in Him and have eternal life.

We pray: Dear heavenly Father, in my baptism, You adopted me as Your dear child. On that day, You washed away my sin and gave me Your Holy Spirit. You also gave me a divine calling, a mission to carry out. You gave me Your promise that You would be with me always. Deliver me from the evil one who would have me be untrue to my calling. Help me remember to be faithful to my vocation as Jesus was faithful to His mission to rescue me. We pray that His love for us gives us the power to love the lost, the hurting ones and even our enemies. We pray in the name of Him who did not come to condemn the world but to save all that believe. Amen.