Prayer Warrior

September Prayer Warrior Newsletter 2014

September 2014

Dear Prayer Warriors,

I love to sing in church! Don't you?  I love the familiar old hymns and the new contemporary songs on the radio. Some of the words move one to tears of emotion. Singing in church is a major part of worship and praise in a service.

Congregational singing has gone through drastic changes over the last 50 years. The history of congregational singing goes back even further to the days of the early church, when liturgical texts were chanted. Before the Reformation, congregational singing was not allowed by Catholic laypersons, but instead was performed in Latin by the clergy.

I thought it was interesting when I was told the other day, that originally years ago, the architectural design specifically built balconies for the choir in the back of the church to prevent distractions to the congregation. The idea being to focus our attention for all praise and worship from our hearts to God.

A blog post by David Morrow titled "Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church", he observed "that the overwhelming amount of worship songs we feed our congregations may have a negative effect, and that our congregations are over-saturated by way too much.  We went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.” In answer to this dilemma Morrow states, "…men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering".

A little harsh, but he makes a point. Our focus should be on glorifying God. Col. 3:16 says: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. How easy it is to honor God with our lips while our hearts are far from him.  Is. 29:13 says: And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips,  while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men. Matt. 15:8 says: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

So pray privately and publicly against thoughtless and hypocritical singing. Let's avoid the performance oriented and put our efforts back into congregational singing in "spirit and in truth". Let's keep the emotion in our voices and prayers to our Lord, and Savior, Who in His mercy has saved us from all our sins. That is something amazing to sing about! Everyone is called to participate in the “performance” before an “audience” of one—God.

Yours in Christ,

Stephen Ministry

 

Prayer Requests

Those Serving in the Military: Greg Kassel; Mike Leonas
Health Concerns: Caroline Soeken, James Standridge,  Garry Lefevers, Doyle Davis,  Ron Gray, Bill Milborn, Deb Williamson, Jan Canaday, Dana Troxel
Recovering from Surgery: Jack Volz, Dawn Larson, Wilma Alpaugh, Gary Gordey, Doris Cochran, Debbie Breitenstein, Mark Kettner
Having Surgery: Sylvia Hunnewell, Don Kassel, James Standridge
Cancer: Sharon Young, Rev. Scott Lemmermann, Joyce Buckner, Cathy Bondy, Dale Newland, Paul Gregg, Vickie Wisner, Peggy Clay, Kiers Rowley
Hospice: Marie Dieckman, Donna Wagner, Dorothy Senzee, Joan Simpson, Justine Rein, Liz Miller, Barbara Brown
Those in Care Centers: Elnora Dammerman, Willa Davis

For those suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and mental illness.

For all expecting mothers and their children; Rachel Micheel, Betsy Cochran.

For all who grieve, including Jordyne Vanselow and family at the death of her grandfather, David Vanselow.

For the unemployed and underemployed; the hungry; the poor; the homeless

For our nation, and for all the nations on the earth.

For all who are travelling.

For all those celebrating anniversaries

For those having marital problems and/or are facing divorce

Thanksgiving at the births of Adah and Abigail Pijanowski, born to Brian and Heather.  Thanksgiving also for their improving health.

For the Board of Elders and the Call Committee, that God would give them wisdom and guidance, and bless their work.

For BSLC during the vacancy and on into the future, that God would grant us to remain the truth, be faithful stewards, effective witnesses, and united in the work of the Gospel.

That God would bless all our efforts to reach out and encourage visitors and inactive members

Thanksgiving for recent baptisms and confirmations.

For the children and youth in this congregation, that they would learn and grow in the faith, and have the protection of God.

For Abounding Love Preschool, for God’s blessings upon the teachers and students.

That God would bless Our Redeemer Lutheran Church with success as they rebuild, and their pastors (Zerkel and Sanchez) with strength and wisdom for the ministry.

That God would richly bless our local and international partnerships in mission:

Rev. Bob Malone at Peace Lutheran in Kansas City, MO – especially during their vacancy
Rev. Bob Roegner at Peace Lutheran in O’Fallon, MO
Rev. Ted Krey and the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission

Will You Lead Us In Prayer?

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Family members had come from across the country when they heard that Floyd was dying. It came so suddenly. He had enjoyed good health in spite of his advancing years, and then a stroke. As Floyd, who as father and grandfather and brother, lay in a coma with little hope of recovery, I watched as one of his sons, a strong Christian, had the family join hands together around the hospital bed, and led in a simple prayer. It was as if heaven came down into that circle.

Fear of death, grief at seeing a loved one slipping away, were all brought before a loving heavenly Father. Floyd was brought before Him, too, and released to Him. Afterwards we sang "Amazing Grace" together. Tears flowed freely, but now tears touched by God and mixed with love and faith.

Floyd passed away within the week, but that prayer had changed the family and brought them nearer to God. It's a moment few of them will forget.

Christians sometimes take prayer so much for granted that we forget those who don't know how to pray, who don't really know this God that we know, and who so desperately need and appreciate spiritual leadership in times of crisis and stress.

Leading others in prayer can be a dry exercise in formal holiness, or it can be a doorway into the presence of God. This sort of prayer does better without "thee's" and "thou's" which keep God at a distance. It's better prayed informally with "Our Father" or "Dear Lord" rather than to some distant Deity. Much better are honest expressions of our feelings and needs expressed from the heart than the carefully crafted petitions from a prayer book. People so much need to know they can talk to God themselves.

My dad was over six feet tall, a giant to me as a boy. When I was five or six and couldn't see over the heads of a crowd, I would extend my arms to him, and he would lift me up, holding me so I could see everything from the same level as his eyes.

While we can't substitute our faith for someone else's, we can lift them up through our prayers so they can see God as we see Him, so that in our prayer they can talk to Him as we have learned to talk to Him. The experience of seeing God from our eye-level can be transforming.

We need to learn to lead in prayer. How many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are bereft of their special significance for lack of a Christian who offers to lead out in a holiday prayer? One person leading the family can lift hearts and minds to God. Without prayer leadership, family members are left to fend for themselves spiritually on these special days. Sadly, they seldom know how to turn to God, though their emptiness has often created a spiritual hunger which responds warmly to an opportunity for intimacy with God.

Recently, I was invited to Tel Aviv to speak at a business conference sponsored by the Israel Export Board. The night I arrived, my host and his wife took me out to dinner to a wonderful restaurant along the waterfront of the ancient port of Joppa. After ordering we talked about our families and got acquainted.

Then, as the entree was served, I began to bow in silent prayer, as is my custom around others who don't share my faith. But instead, on impulse, I found myself speaking to my hosts, "Let's pray together and thank God for the food." What could they say? So I led in prayer, a simple prayer thanking God for a safe flight, and for my new friends, for the food, and for the safety of their son in the army. After the prayer was over, I could see the glint of moisture filling their eyes. The next day, when we took a flight in a private plane, my host asked if I was afraid. I said "No." He said to the others, "Ralph is praying for us."

For the next several days, I found it easy to ask various Jewish business associates to join me in prayer before meals; they didn't seem offended but appreciative. One evening I had dinner with a brilliant agnostic physician-turned-businessman. As was my new custom on this trip, I said, "Let's pray together" and prayed a simple prayer, offering up to God some of the needs and struggles which had been shared in the conversation up to that point. The agnostic was visibly moved by the prayer, and initiated a conversation about religion. I could never have started at so deep a level of sharing with anything I could have said. Leading in simple prayer had broken through the barriers and stimulated a response several stories below the surface.

You don't have to be a pastor to lead in prayer. If you aren't, so much the better, since your prayer will be that much more real and unexpected. You don't have to be eloquent. The simpler the better, since the people with whom you are praying need to be able to place themselves within your prayer.

The more complex your prayer, the more they feel they could never come to God like that. Your family at home, too, needs someone to model prayer for them day by day, to learn how to lift their concerns before the throne of God. While we shouldn't be pushy, we need to be lovingly bold like our Master. Respectful, sensitive, but unwilling to be intimidated by the profanity and lack of faith which surround us.

We need to be willing to lead. Leading others in prayer is a way of taking their hand — if only for just a moment — and placing it into the hand of God. Who knows? They may like the feel of that strong hand, and reach for it again themselves some day soon.

 

"A Prayer of Appreciation for Godly Music"

Father, for Your creation which reaches back to the beginning of time and for that which is created this very moment we recognize You as our sovereign Lord. All that we have and all that we are is an act of Your generous and benevolent mercy extended to all generations, past, present and future. God of this morning, we thank You for the opportunities this day provides for us to sing to You a new song and to bring glory to Your name. God of tomorrow, we trust You for that which will bring about rejoicing and that which will bring forth sorrow, gain or loss. Blessed be the name of the One who gives and takes away. God of past ages, You are the same yesterday, today and forever. We trust in You – forever faithful, changing never God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in One. Amen.

When Suicide Strikes in the Body of Christ

Neither life nor death, not even suicide, can separate us from the love of God.

(I decided to share this article because of the lingering thoughts about a dear friend  who lost their sister to suicide at the same time of hearing the news of Robin Williams)

As the suicide of Rick Warren's son Matthew brings renewed attention to mental health, depression, and suicide, we see that his case is not uncommon. Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States takes his or her own life. That's 35,000 suicides every year in this country—and likely more, since many suicides are disguised as accidents. Sadly, suicide occurs among Christians at essentially the same rate as non-Christians.

Suicide kills a disproportionate number of young people and the elderly, and it has become increasingly prevalent among returning veterans. More active duty soldiers now die from suicide than from combat. A 2012 Dept. of Veterans Affairs study found that 22 veterans on average kill themselves each day, totaling more than 8,000 a year.

Each suicide leaves behind on average six to ten survivors – husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, other close friends or family members. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people, including many of our church members, will grieve the loss of a loved one to suicide.

I am one of those people. Some years ago, my father had a stroke that left him partially debilitated. Though he began rehabilitation, one of the side effects of the stroke was clinical depression. He lost all hope and eventually sank into despair. He couldn't see any reason to go on. Three months after the stroke, at age 58, he killed himself.

Though all deaths are tragic, suicide affects us differently than when someone dies in car accident or from a terminal illness. Counselors call death by suicide a "complicated grief" or "complicated bereavement," like death by murder or terrorist attack. Not only do family members grieve the loss of the loved one, they must also face the trauma of the suicide.

In grieving a suicide, loved ones feel so many emotions that they don't know what to feel. Besides the normal sorrow and grief, survivors also experience trauma, denial, abandonment, anger, guilt, and shame. Survivors need to know that these reactions are normal. They're ways that God helps us process the shock and grief. Friends, pastors, and counselors can help survivors by validating the emotions and giving grievers permission to mourn, feel, lament, and heal.

The Lingering Questions

More than other deaths, suicides raise the question of Why? Why did he do it? Why didn't we see this coming? In other situations, we can often clearly identify the cause, a drunk driver or a disease, for example. But with a suicide, the victim is responsible for the death, not some outside force. That person is gone now. He can't tell us why he did it or the reasons he had for leaving us.

Asking why is not so much a search for answers as it is a search for comfort. We assume that having these answers will ease our grief and pain. But the questions are often unanswerable, and we must come to grips with the possibility—the likelihood—that we will never know why it happened. Even without knowing why someone chose to take his own life, survivors can experience God's comfort and healing.

We also ask, Could I have done anything to prevent it? After a suicide, survivors replay the scenarios in our heads over and over again, wondering if it wouldn't have happened if we had done something differently. If only we had come home in time. If only we had talked to him that evening. In doing so, we blame ourselves. This is called survivor's guilt, and it's tremendously common. Eventually survivors come to accept that their loved one chose to die, and they couldn't do anything about it. We are not at fault.

While grieving, another question comes up, particularly among people of faith: Why didn't God prevent this? There aren't any easy answers to this. In short, God honors our human choices, even if they're bad ones. If we choose to smoke, we might get lung cancer. And if someone we love chooses to kill himself, God honors that choice as well.

But this doesn't mean that God doesn't care about us or our loved one. The Bible tells us that God grieves with us in our loss. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and he stands with us and weeps over our loved one's death. Throughout Scripture, God comforts the grieving and brokenhearted, and he understands the suffering of grief and loss. He experienced ultimate pain, suffering, and grief on the cross. Where is God when it hurts? He stands with us, grieving beside us.

Is Suicide the Unforgivable Sin?

Christians often take opposing views on suicide. Some consider suicide the unforgivable sin, believing that people who kill themselves go straight to hell. Others claim suicide isn't a sin at all, minimizing the act. The truth probably lies in between.

Taking one's own life may well be a sin, but it does not automatically separate someone from eternal life with God just because one can't ask for forgiveness afterward. After all, many of us die without having asked for forgiveness for each and every sin we've committed. Suicide falls into the moral and literary category of tragedy, a person undone by a fatal flaw.

Those ministering to the grieving should not offer certainty that a loved one who died by suicide is in heaven, but they shouldn't definitively state that he's bound for eternal condemnation, either. The simple truth is that only God knows his fate. To say otherwise is beyond our knowledge.

Still, Scripture hints that there may be hope. Romans 8:38-39 promises that neither life nor death – not even death by suicide – can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, Samson died at his own hand, and yet he is included in the list of the faithful in Hebrews 11. We have some biblical grounds for hope (not certainty, but hope) that salvation is available to those who die by suicide.

God is just. If someone dies of cancer, God doesn't hold the cancer against him. In the case of suicide, depression or other mental disturbances may have clouded a person's judgment and caused him to do something he never would have done otherwise. Most people who kill themselves do not intend to sin against God; rather, they look in the mirror and hate what they see, or they are trying to end unimaginable pain. Many good Christians with a life of faithful discipleship may end it all in an act of desperation. God can be trusted to do what is right. He is good and perfect and compassionate. While we ultimately don't know a loved one's fate, we know that our loving God will judge appropriately.

Pastors preaching at funerals for suicides often do not know what to say. One way of framing the death is to describe the loved one as having fought a civil war with himself and lost, and to see him like a soldier who has fallen in battle. Mental health professionals and suicide survivor groups now advise against using the phrase "committed suicide" in describing suicide deaths. It is better to use more neutral language like "she died by suicide" or "he took his own life" or "they lost a loved one to suicide." Novelist Willa Cather, in her book My Ántonia, offered this prayer at the funeral of a suicide: "Oh, great and just God, no man among us knows what the sleeper knows, nor is it for us to judge what lies between him and Thee."

His Eye is on the Sparrow

"His Eye Is on the Sparrow" is a Gospel hymn. Although today it is a staple of African-American worship services, the song was originally written in 1905 by two white songwriters, lyricist Civilla D. Martin and composer Charles H. Gabriel. The song is most associated with actress-singer Ethel Waters who used the title for her autobiography.

The theme of the song is inspired by the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible: "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26) and "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29–31).

Civilla Martin, who wrote the lyrics, said this about her inspiration to write the song based in the scriptures outlined above,

Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle's reply was simple: "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" was the outcome of that experience.

—Civilla Martin

 


Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

 

   
 

Beautiful Savior
Lutheran Church
615 SE Todd George Road
Lee's Summit, MO  64063
Phone:   (816)  524-7288 
Fax:  (816) 524-6506
 
 

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