On the Threshold of a New 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)

Saturday Psalm #80

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead your people in green pastures.
O God, enthroned above the heavenly beings,
display your radiant glory
to me, and to those I love.
Show us your mighty power.
Come to rescue us!
Turn us again
and ever more completely
to yourself, O God.

Smile on us.

Only then will we be delivered,
only then can we prosper.

O Lord God of Heaven’s battalions,

hold off no longer in routing our Enemy,
utterly defeating him.
We are muddy from the battlefield
and shell-shocked in the fight.
Lift our heads, Conquering Hero.
Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s battalions.

Smile on us.

Only then will we be delivered,
only then can we prosper.

You have brought us into a good
and spacious place.
You cleared the ground for us,

and we have persevered through many trials.

Now, Lord, O God of Heaven’s battalions,
if you choose, you can refresh us with victory,
with one victory after another.

Look down from heaven,
look favorably on us,
and rally your weary troops.
Strengthen the people you love,

the children you adore.

By your grace, we will never abandon you again.

Revive us so we can call on your name
and declare your glory to a watchful world once more.
Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s battalions.

Smile on us.

Only then will we be delivered,
only then can we prosper.

(based on Psalm 80; photo via pixabay.com)


(adapted from a hymn by Fanny Crosby; photo via pixabay.com)


Breath of Heaven,
hold me together;
Be forever near me,
Breath of Heaven.

Breath of Heaven,
lighten my darkness;
Pour over me Your holiness,
for You are holy,
Breath of Heaven.

(excerpt from "Mary's Song," a prayer by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton)

For Early Rain Covenant Church in China

Almighty God, I pray today for the brothers and sisters of Early Rain Covenant Church who are being targeted and persecuted by the Chinese government authorities.

Grant that in the midst of hatred, arrest, threats, and imprisonment they may still pray with great joy, that their faith may survive the trial and stand the test and be found genuine, more precious than gold, that it may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Give strength, patience, health, and stamina to those in prison. Give grace to those who are being watched, threatened, and restricted, that they may find the fellowship, worship, and support they need. Give hope to any whose faith is weak. Give courage to those who are afraid.

Let neither personal failures in this time of trial nor individual victories cause division between the brothers and sisters. Let both weakness and strength be covered by the shed blood of Jesus, to the praise of your glorious grace. Please grant abundant love, joy, peace, and faith to every soul enduring this moment of tribulation, in Jesus' name, amen.

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.

Ancient Cradle Song

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep;
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle song.

Glory to God in highest Heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.

(a prayer of Martin Luther, from the book We Hear the Angels, by JoAnn Streeter Shade)

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).

To Turn Our Hope to Your Coming

We welcome you, small child of Bethlehem, whose coming we await with quiet attention. Shield us from the shouts, the screams, the empty promises of the season, and encourage us to turn our hope to your coming. We know that the promise is hidden in the stable in Bethlehem and rooted in the offspring of Jesse; let us look for our salvation there. Amen.

(from Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers together with Nouwen's Own Words)

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 Lord

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 #79

O God, the world is too much with us.
The ways of the world defile your people,
and weaken your church.
We are prey for our enemies,
and we cooperate in our own destruction!
We turn on each other
and devour each other with our words,
our attitudes,
our sin.
We make our Enemy’s job easy!

How long, O LORD, will you let this continue?
How can you let your children,
your chosen ones,
live so deceitfully, so unfruitfully?

It would be different if it came from people who do not acknowledge you or call on your name;
but it is your own who devour and destroy your house.

Deliver us from the sins of the fathers;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,

for we are in desperate need.
Help us, O God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
for your name's sake.

Save us from making a mockery of you,
of your Gospel,
of all you have taught and commanded and done for us.

May the groans of the wounded come before you;
by the strength of your arm
preserve those who have been hurt by friendly fire.
Throw our Enemy’s attacks into his teeth,
even seven times over.
Then we your people,
the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will recount your praise.

(based on Psalm 79; photo via pixabay.com)

This Day Is Past

My Lord God Adonai:
God of earth and sea and sky,
I lift my voice, I speak my prayer,
And cast on you my every care.

This day, Lord, now is past,
And I am much in need of rest.
I need your peace, I need your calm,
I beg your Spirit's healing balm.

(by Bob Hostetler; photo via pixabay.com)

Incline My Heart

O Thou whose eternal presence is hid behind the veil of nature, informs the mind of man, and was made flesh in Jesus Christ our Lord, I thank Thee that He has left me an example that I should follow in His steps.

Jesus Christ said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Do good and lend, hoping for nothing again. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Love your enemies. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Fear not, only believe. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Except ye turn again and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.

Jesus Christ said, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. O God, incline my heart to follow in this way.


(a prayer of John Baillie in A Diary of Private Prayer; photo via pixabay.com)


Today's prayer from the "31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids" app for iPhone and iPad...and my prayer today for my kids and my grandkids.

In the Process of Your Coming

I’ve begun to understand something I have known for a long time: You are still in the process of your coming. Your appearance in the form of a slave was only the beginning of your coming, a beginning in which you chose to redeem men by embracing the very slavery from which you were freeing them. And you can really achieve your purpose in this paradoxical way, because the paths that you tread have a real ending, the narrow passes which you enter soon open out into broad liberty, the cross that you carry inevitably becomes a brilliant banner of triumph.

It is said that you will come again, and this is true. But the word again is misleading. It won’t really be “another” coming, because you have never really gone away. In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity, you have never left us.

But still you will come again, because the fact that you have already come must continue to be revealed ever more clearly. It will become progressively more manifest to the world that the heart of all things is already transformed, because you have taken them all to your heart.

Behold, you come. And your coming is neither past nor future, but the present, which has only to reach its fulfillment. Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come.

O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in you forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.

(from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas)

Saturday Psalm #78

O Lord, bless my teaching
in speaking and in writing;
grant me words worth listening to.
In parable,
in mystery,
new insights or old,
let me give a testimony that will make you glad.

Let my words be accessible to young and old;
let everyone grasp
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
your power, and the wonders you have done,
the statutes decreed to your people,
the law you established in Israel,
which you commanded them
to teach their children,
so the next generation would know,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.

Let everyone put their trust in you
and not forget your deeds.

Let us not be like our predecessors,
and like so many these days,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts are not loyal to you,
whose spirits are not faithful to you.

Let us not
turn back on the day of battle;

Let us not
forsake our covenant with you
and refuse your guidance.

Let us not
forget what you have done,
the wonders you have shown us.

Let us not
forget your miracles,
both in ancient times
and the ones we have seen with our own eyes:

Seas divided,
walls of water,
a cloud by day
and fire by night.
Water from rocks in the desert
and manna every morning,
but they continued to sin against you,
rebelling against the Most High;
they willfully put you to the test
by demanding the food they craved;
they spoke against you, saying,
"Can God spread a table in the desert?

When water gushed from a rock,
and streams flowed abundantly,
they kept complaining,
demanding meat from your hand.

Save us from such complaining and faithlessness, Lord God.
Save us from your anger.

Bread of heaven, feed us till we want no more!

Let us never forget that you are our Rock,
that God Most High is our Redeemer.

Let our hearts remain loyal to you,
whatever our outward circumstances.
Teach us to measure our success
by your mercy,
your forgiveness,
your constant forbearance and goodness to us.

What you have done before,
do again, Adonai!

Lead us like sheep through a desert.
Guide us safely, and teach us to be unafraid.
Drive out our enemies before us,
and give us the fulfillment of your every good promise.

You are a sanctuary for your people,
like Zion, which you established long ago.

Make your people today like Israel of old,
and our leaders like David the shepherd king. Amen.

With Quiet Attention

We welcome you, small child of Bethlehem, whose coming we await with quiet attention. Shield us from the shouts, the screams, the empty promises of the season, and encourage us to turn our hope to your coming. We know that the promise is hidden in the stable in Bethlehem and rooted in the offspring of Jesse; let us look for our salvation there. Amen.

(from Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers together with Nouwen's Own Words)

For a Tongue Fluent Only in Praise

Lord, I thank you for oysters and porpoises,
praise you for birdsong and sheet lightning,
see you reflected in pools of creekwater
and the eyes of stray cats.
Let me talk to yard dogs
as if they are my friends and fellow travelers
along the sun-tortured highways
intoxicated with the love of God.
Let me see the whole world
with eyes incapable of anything but wonder,
and a tongue fluent only in praise, amen.

(based on a passage from Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides, pp. 277-278).

Saturday Psalm #77

I cried out to you for help, Lord;
My heart cried out for your attention.
I was in distress, I sought you; 

I reached out for you all day and night,
even waking from sleep to cry for your mercy,
and comfort would not come.
I called to you, O God, as you tell me to;
I asked,
I sought,
I knocked.

But no respite came,
the burden never lifted.
I sank lower and lower.
I longed for the old days,
that now seem so long ago,
when I felt your presence,
and slept in your warm embrace.

My heart asked, my spirit sought:
“Is this what it’s going to be like now?
Will you let the Enemy have the victory?
Has your unfailing love failed?
Have your promises expired?
Will you forget to be merciful?
Will you leave me this way?”

Then something happened.
I felt the cloud lift.
I know I didn’t cause it,
but at some point, a gentle wind
blew through my spirit.
I remembered your ways with me,
I gave up doubting and complaining,
and once again turned to focus on you
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.

Your ways, O God, are holy.
They are past finding out, far beyond my ken.
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
You have done it before,
and you will do it again.

The storm clouds saw you, O God,
the thunderheads heard you coming
and fled before you.
You trod the crashing waves
and came to my side.

Lead me now
as you led Moses and your people.
Lead me.
Lead your people.

(based on Psalm 77; photo via pixabay.com)