For Iran

Lord God, the Almighty Father, Son and Holy Spirit, please be merciful to the people of Iran. Break the bonds of the oppressed. Save the people there from the brutality of their leaders, and let the eyes and prayers and actions of the world's leaders be focused on the hopes and aspirations of that nation's longsuffering people. Give western news media courage and insight to report on the people's efforts and aspirations, without dissembling. Let freedom arise. Let justice flow like a river, righteousness like a constant stream through the streets of Iran, through the halls of the government. Grant your mercy and grace to the Iranian people. Strengthen and protect your remnant church in Iran and open the hearts of the people to discover the freedom, beauty, justice, mercy, and grace that is in Jesus Christ, who only is Lord and Savior, in whose name I pray, Amen.

On the Last Day of the Old Year

Good Lord,
it's the last day of 2017...

Only a few hours left in this old year
which seemed so new
oh, not-so-long ago...

Where has the old year gone, Lord?
And how did it go?

And how did I go with you,
make my way with you, Lord,
these past twelve months?

I remember the times
we walked and talked together,
side by side,
you and I...

And I remember the times
when I forgot, somehow,
that you were right there by my side,
and the times I tried to pretend
that you weren't there,
always within arm's reach...

I remember the times when you took delight
in my words and my work
and I remember the times I ignored and forgot you
- but still you loved me
and in your mercy, you forgave me...

Nothing I've done, Lord,
merits what you've given me:
all your love is grace,
an unearned gift
from your heart to mine...

In return I offer so little
and I have so little to offer...

But there comes now a new year, Lord,
and with it my prayer
to live a life more worthy
of all you so freely give me...

In this new year, Lord,
make strong my resolve to be faithful,
make deep my trust in your presence
and make sure my hope in your promise,
for without your help
I will fail...

Lord, you offer me only
what is true and pure,
good and just, strong and graced...

In this new year, help me recognize
what is false, cheap and sham...

Help me to settle for nothing less
than what comes from your heart and hand...

Nourish me, Lord:
give me a hunger for what is genuine,
a thirst for what is holy,
a wisdom for discerning your gifts...

It's the last day of the old year, Lord...

Shake from my heart what has no place there
and wake my heart
to the gift of your grace
and the dawn of a new beginning...

(from my online friend Austin Fleming's A Concord Pastor Comments blog, and updated to 2017)

As We Come to the Close of Another Year

Our great and Gracious God,

As we come to the close of another year, we would indeed make it the prayer of our hearts that you would abide with us.

We thank you that you have been with us through the days of this past year.

Perhaps many a day we have not felt you near,
Perhaps at times we have even felt that you have
forsaken us and forgotten us but we thank you
that it has never been so.
We thank you that you are constantly with your people, and that you have enabled us to persevere in grace,

You have comforted our hearts,
You have heard our prayers,
You have come so often to our aid.
We pray that you will go with us into this new year.

There is none of us who knows what the new year will hold, but we thank you that every moment of that year is in your hands, and you will be with your people.
We thank you that with that promise girding us, we can go forward with confidence and in your peace. We pray that you will help us to walk with you in this new year better than we have ever done before. Forgive us, Lord, for our sins and our backslidings of this past year.

Grant to us, as the days of the new year unfold, an ever closer walk with you.
Help us to put sin to death,
Help us gladly yield our lives unreservedly to Jesus Christ, our Savior, and God that we may regard ourselves entirely at his disposal to be, to go, to do, as he would wish
We pray that it may be our privilege to serve him,
to bring glory to him, to help others to know him better, and to help some, indeed, to come to know him for the first time.
Have mercy, we pray, upon those connected with us who come to the end of this year and their hearts are still closed against you, still hardening their hearts against you.

Spare them, O God, we pray; spare them! Grant that this new year would mark the beginning of new life in Jesus Christ. We are so thankful for the almighty Holy Sprit, for his limitless power
to bring conviction of sin,
to give new birth,
and to draw those who are away from you
to faith and to repentance.
We pray, Lord, that you would do that in the hearts and lives of all who are upon our hearts.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

(from Heart Cries to Heaven by David Campbell)


My Lord Jesus,
you have turned my water to wine,
whenever I lift my cup to you.

But the water jars in Cana were no cups,
but great stone cisterns
of twenty or more gallons in capacity--each.
And there were six of them.
A hundred gallons.
Maybe close to two hundred.

So I pray a Cana prayer today, Lord,
a hundred-gallon-prayer,
for you to pour into me and mine
a surfeit of Spirit,
of sweetness,
of wine,
for the manifestation of your glory, amen.

Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgive us our debts. Literally.
Forgive the things I've charged or financed
to assuage my desires
instead of waiting,
instead of saving,
instead of giving.
Forgive the money I've wasted
on impulse purchases,
interest payments,
and fees and penalties.
Forgive the consumer mentality
that makes me buy now,
pay later,
pay more in the long run.
Teach me to wait,
to save,
to resist temptation,
in Jesus' name, amen.

(photo by Chance Agrella via

O Holy Child

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to me I pray,
Cast out my sin and enter in,
Be born in me today.
I hear the Christmas tidings
The great glad story tell,
O come to me, abide with me,
My Lord, Immanuel!

(slightly modified from O Little Town of Bethlehem, by Phillips Brooks)

On This Feast of Stephen

Father, on this feast of Stephen,
the first martyr of your church,
I pray for all those
among my brothers and sisters
who today face persecution, even martyrdom.
Give them strength, Lord,
and stamina.
Lift their eyes to their Lord,
as you did for Stephen,
and give them love for their persecutors
and hope for themselves and their families,
in Jesus' name, amen.

You Who Were Rich Beyond All Splendor

Cone and Christmas Tree

You who were rich beyond all splendor,
Who for love's sake became poor;
Your throne for a manger surrendered,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
You who were rich beyond all splendor,
All for love's sake became poor.

You who are God beyond all praising,
Who for love's sake became man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by your eternal plan.
You who are God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake became man.

You who are love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, I worship you.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Cause us to do what you would do.
You who are love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, I worship you.

(a hymn by Frank Houghton, updated)

Come, Come, Jesus, I Await You

Night has fallen; the clear, bright stars are sparkling in the cold air; noisy, strident voices rise to my ear from the city, voices of the revelers of this world who celebrate with merrymaking the poverty of their Saviour. Around me in their rooms my companions are asleep, and I am still wakeful, thinking of the mystery of Bethlehem.

Come, come, Jesus, I await you. . . .

I am a poor shepherd; I have only a wretched stable, a small manger, some wisps of straw. I offer all these to you, be pleased to come into my poor hovel. I offer you my heart; my soul is poor and bare of virtues, the straws of so many imperfections will prick you and make you weep--but oh, my Lord, what can you expect? This little is all I have. . . . I have nothing better to offer you, Jesus, honour my soul with your presence, adorn it with your graces. Burn this straw and change it into a soft couch for your most holy body.

Jesus, I am here waiting for your coming. Wicked men have driven you out, and the wind is like ice. I am a poor man, but I will warm you as well as I can. At least be pleased that I wish to welcome you warmly, to love you and sacrifice myself for you.


(This prayer, written by a young Italian seminarian named Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in 1902 who would later become Pope John XXIII, has become a Christmas Eve tradition for me, and for this blog).

The O Antiphons: O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The O Antiphons: O King of the Gentiles

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One,
the cornerstone that makes both one:
Come, and deliver man,
whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

The O Antiphons: O Rising Sun

O Rising Sun,
splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

The O Antiphons: O Key of David

O Key of David,
O royal power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

The O Antiphons: O Root of Jesse

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up
as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

The O Antiphons: O Adonai

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Amen.

The O Antiphons: O Wisdom

O Wisdom,
coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Saturday Psalm #39

O Lord, you know me.
Better than I know myself.
You know all there is to know about me.

You know what I will do
before I do it.
And you know why, too.
You know what I'm thinking
before I think it.

You see me when I'm alone,
and you see me in a crowd.

You know what I am going to say
before I say it.
You precede me.
You follow me.
You hold my hand.

Wow. Just wow, Lord.
It's too wonderful to grasp.
Yet I know it's true.

I can go nowhere that you are not.
I can try to flee from you,
and you will still be there before I arrive.
You are never absent.
Never unaware.
Never surprised.
Never inattentive.

Wherever I go, you are there to guide me,
and your strength will be there to support me.

Even the deepest darkness won't separate me from you,
for you are light,
and you enlighten all things.

You even see into the most delicate, inner parts of my body--
my nerves,
my cells,
my capillaries and corpuscles.

From my mother’s womb,
you have seen me.

Thank you for making me so complex
and for knowing me so intimately!
Your workmanship is incredible, absolutely incredible.
You watched every moment as I was formed,
and monitored my every move in the seclusion of the womb.
You knew me then.
You know me now.
You've known me every moment in between.
Every day of my life up to now was recorded in your book.
Every moment of my future is laid out with precision.

I am amazed that you think about me, O God.
I am finite, but your thoughts toward me
are infinite.
How is that possible?
How can that be?

I don't understand you, God,
but I know you understand me.

I cannot grasp the "why" or "when" of your ways.
But you chart all my ways.

Open me like a book, O God,
examine my heart and mind.
Point to anything that displeases you
and lead me where you want me to go.

For Every Day's Miracles

Lord God, thank you for so many blessings my forebears would have considered unimaginable, even miraculous: My fresh-ground coffee was ready when I got out of bed. I'll have cold and hot water any time I want it today. I won’t have to leave this warm house to use the toilet, pay my bills, or do my work. I can get ice at the touch of a button. I can choose from a wide variety of things to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can keep abreast of the news without buying or picking up a newspaper, will have ample light in every room this evening, and a nearly unlimited choice of books to read.

(photo via

Let Us Run

Come, Lord,
stir us up
and call us back.
Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire
and our sweetness.
Let us love.
Let us run.

(a prayer from the Confessions of St. Augustine; photo via

Strong and Courageous

My prayer today for my kids and my grandkids, from the "31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids" app for iPhone and iPad:

Let Us Adore

(from the annual Christmas extravaganza, Awaited, created and hosted by Crossroads Community Church)

Saturday Psalm #38

O Adonai, please don’t rebuke me; go easy on me.
Don’t I have enough people taking shots at me? Aren’t there enough knives sticking out of my back?
How will I bear it if you turn your face from me, or punish me for my sins?
I acknowledge my sins; they add up like a college student’s credit card balance.
They threaten to destroy me like a skyscraper being demolished.
I can’t stand my own smell; I’m sick of my own foolishness and stubbornness.
I hate my sin; I bow in repentance and press my face to the ground in mourning.
I am corrupt from the inside out, and there is nothing good in me.
I am weak and pathetic; I cry out because of my filthiness.

But Lord, you know my heart’s longing; you hear my soul’s cry.
Bend your ear to my cries; look upon my trembling form.
My loved ones don’t even know how I’m feeling;
my family all have their own things going, they can’t identify with what I’m going through.
My enemies lay snares for me; my detractors continue to accuse me,
and use their imaginations to suspect me of all sorts of things.

Even if I heard their suspicions, I have nothing to say to them.
As innocent as I am of their accusations, I’m guilty of a lot worse.
But I put my hope in you, Lord; I will let you answer for me.
Save me from making my enemies into prophets;
deliver me from fulfilling their evil expectations.
Apart from you, I am desolate.

I confess my sin and my sinfulness; I repent of all my wrongdoing.
My enemies—natural and supernatural—go on multiplying.
I can’t make everyone like me, much less agree with me.
I can only try, by your grace, to make sure they oppose me wrongfully, because I do what is good.
So please don’t abandon me, Lord.
Don’t be distant.
Come quickly to help me, my Savior, Adonai.

Make Them Merciful

My prayer today for my kids and my grandkids, from the "31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids" app for iPhone and iPad:


May I have the things I pray for?  
God, you know best;  
You are wiser than your children,  
Therefore, I can rest.  

(photo via

On Tiptoe

Lord Jesus,
the day of your nativity approaches,
the day on which we commemorate
your birth,
your condescension,
your humble incarnation.

Please help me and mine
to approach that day
on tiptoe,
with reverence and awe,
mindful of your holiness and beauty,
and grateful for the privilege
of finding
and approaching
and kneeling at
your manger, amen.

The Perfect Icon of God

Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you.
You are the incarnation of Divine Love,
you are the expression of God's infinite compassion,
you are the visible manifestation of the Father's holiness.
You are beauty, goodness, gentleness,
forgiveness, and mercy.
In you all can be found.
Outside of you nothing can be found.

Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere?
You have the words of eternal life,
you are food and drink,
you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
You are the light that shines in the darkness,
the lamp on the lamp stand,
the house on the hilltop.
You are the perfect Icon of God.
In and through you I can see the Heavenly Father,
and with you I can find my way to him.

O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One,
be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide,
my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace.
To you I want to give all that I am.
Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant.
Let me give you all--
all I have, think, do and feel.
It is yours, O Lord.
Please accept it and make it fully your own.

(a prayer of Henri Nouwen, from A Cry for Mercy)

Saturday Psalm #37

Adonai, help me not to be bothered by the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
I know they come and go like grass,
like the fickle flowers of the field.

I put my trust in you, Lord God;
grant me the grace to do right,
to live a quiet and secure life.
You are my delight;
grant me my heart's desires:
fresh energy,
stable finances,
effective ministry,
and to see my wife and children be happy.

I commit my future to you,
I am confident that you will act when I most need you,
defend me against my Enemy
and lift up my efforts like the sun at noonday.

I quiet myself before you, and wait with longing for you.
Save me from being sidetracked by critics
or spending my mental and spiritual energy on the stubborn and clueless.

Save me from anger and bitterness.
Help me keep my cool, knowing it can do no good
to cater to those who will never be satisfied.
My hope is in you, Lord, not in the approval of man.

Soon the wicked will be no more,
and searching will do no good;
but the humble will be blessed
and live in peace.

I know my Enemy plots against me
and lately has landed more than a few blows,
but you are not surprised by his attacks,
and I know that.

Let him draw his sword
and bend his bow;
let everything he tries
turn back on himself;
let his every weapon be shattered.

Though my reserves run low,
I have more wealth than the wicked;
for you are my strength and my supply.

My life is in Yahweh's care,
and you yourself guard my birthright for ever;
I will not be put to shame when bad times come;
even in famine I will be filled.

Your enemies, Lord, will be destroyed;
they will vanish like fog at noon
and a match flame in a strong wind.

The wicked takes and never gives,
but you, Lord, make me generous in giving;
you have blessed me with land of my own
and granted me victory in battle.

You are even now guiding my steps and keeping them firm;
you take pleasure in me.
I may trip, but you will catch me before I’m sent sprawling,
and lift me up again on your strong arm.

I am getting old, but from my youth
I have seen your faithfulness and generosity to the righteous,
and your kindness to their children.
Let me see your compassion and generosity be multiplied
in my own children’s lives.

I turn my back on evil again today; I pledge to do good.
Be my home for ever,
and shower me with blessing.

Save those who do evil,
or if they will not be saved, annihilate them.
But give me a permanent place
where I can live for ever in your presence.

Let wisdom flow from my lips.
Let my tongue speak what is right;
Place your law in my heart,
and keep my foot from slipping.

Let those who watch me
with a critical eye
be frustrated and disappointed.
You will not abandon me to the clutches of the wicked,
nor let me be condemned if I am tried.

I put my hope in you, Yahweh;
I keep to your path.
Raise me up.
Please lift me up from my weariness and struggle.

I have seen the wicked riding high
towering like a cedar of Lebanon.
But I would not trade my fleeting trials
for their passing prosperity.

I want to be like the innocent, the honest,
the serene, the plentiful,
instead of the wicked who will all be destroyed together,
and their children pay the price.

I know I often feel like giving up,
like cashing in;
it would be so much easier
not to care so much,
not to work so much,
not to give so much.
But I have you for my Savior;
you are my refuge in times of trouble;
You help me and rescue me,
and you will rescue me again
and save me because I take refuge in you. Amen.

(photo via