January 25 – Prayers of Jesus – Forgiveness

Read Luke 23:34

Forgiveness is a tough topic.

Sure, it’s easy to forgive your 5-year-old when they apologize for accidentally hitting you when roughhousing or don’t listen the first time they are told to do something. However, it can feel next to impossible the more serious the “injustice” becomes.

It’s very much a process.

We all have those “tough to forgive” moments in our lives. Believe me, I know just how hard it can be.

Our reading today takes forgiveness to a whole new level.

Sure, it’s easy to forgive your 5-year-old or maybe a family member but how about the people who are in the process of killing you?

Jesus was beaten and was nailed to a tree. His wounds were open and, because of his position, was suffocating due to not being able to lift himself up to breathe. It’s in the midst of this that He offers a prayer to God that almost seems hard to fathom:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Yes, you read that right. Jesus asked God to forgive the very people who had brought him so much pain. When you really think about it, what excuse do we all have for allowing unforgiveness to fester?

As we consider our reading today, I pray that we would take a good and hard look at our lives and identify anywhere in our life where we have held onto unforgiveness. As hard as it may be, I pray that we would take steps towards forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a tough topic.

It may not be instantaneous for you but, I pray that you would take steps toward forgiveness. Talk to a friend, pastor or counselor in order to take a step toward forgiveness.

The Bible is very clear, we are called to forgive. While, it’s a tough thing to do, given who Jesus forgave, we really don’t have any excuse.

Jake Lawson

January 24 – Prayers of Jesus – Dealing with Difficult People

Read Matthew 11:25-26, Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 and Hebrews 12:14-15

Oh no, Uncle Joe is coming to dinner?  You know what I am talking about. Every family has one. A grouchy old uncle who doesn’t seem to like anyone or anything. He just makes everyone in the family on edge until he doses off in the lazy boy chair in the living room. Maybe in your life it isn’t an uncle.  Perhaps it is a neighbor, a child, a parent or a fellow employee. You know who I am talking about, people when you see them heading your way, you just know the rest of the encounter will not be good!  We all know at least one or two people who would fit that category. Your first thought is to run the other way.  However, God tells us to persevere with them! Jesus tells us, to make every effort to live in peace! But surly He never had to spend some time with my “Uncle Joe!”  And maybe that is exactly why “Uncle Joe” is the way he is!  It just might be up to you to introduce “Uncle Joe” to Jesus and help him learn how to live in peace.

Jesus may not have had to spend time with “Uncle Joe” but he did have to deal with irritating people including the Devil himself!  The Sadducees and Pharisees were constantly buzzing around Him like annoying gnats trying to catch Him in a lie.  Jesus stayed calm, then let the word of God lead the way and get to the heart of the problem. I know being on a road trip without my GPS or a good map can make me very irritated.  Can you imagine going through life without God’s road map to guide your way? You don’t need to only read the Bible but LIVE it.  Show God’s love, confident in His guidance and direction!

Listen more, talk less. We need to really listen to others, not just their words but the meaning behind their words.  What are they really trying to tell you? Or better yet, what AREN’T they telling you? Do they just want to be listened to? Are they feeling left out, ignored? Remember God gave you two ears and only one mouth.  

Listen more, talk less.

Calmly listening to “Uncle Joe” might be all that is needed. What makes him tick? Sometimes people just want to be heard, included, valued. 

Persevering takes time, not just writing someone off because they are difficult to deal with.  Our verses today tell us to be patient, not respond in haste. Remember- nothing is more important than you being “Christ” to someone.  

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord!

Pat Arnold

January 23 – Prayers of Jesus – To Start the Morning

Read Mark 1:35-36 and Matthew 5:21-42

Since I have a pride problem that I am working to solve, I often don’t need anybody to give me directions. After all, I am in a hurry. I really don’t need your directions or advice.

With that pathetic attitude, Birdie and I recently set out for a 25-minute walk to visit a venue in a big American city. I didn’t need directions because we made the same city walk 5 years ago. Why would we need directions? I knew the way through the city! We started walking and, after about half an hour, Birdie says, “Let’s check our GPS.” Then the GPS took us away from our destination because of similar names. So, then I started asking people (3 total) on the street for directions. By the time we got there and then walked back, I had walked 7 miles.

If you follow God’s directions for life, you can enjoy His blessings and be a blessing to others. And when you are beginning a journey, the best time to get good directions is before you begin.

Start each day waiting and seeking directions from God. This involves patience, time and prayer. Set the tone for your day and how you will live, act and how you will speak. Your words are a big key in how your day is going to go.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this…shine.”Matthew 5:14-16

Shine. Be different. Start your day with God by reading the Bible for direction and talking with God. That is how to shine and be different in a dark and selfish world.

Begin your day with gratitude and by laying your requests before God. Listen to Him. Follow Jesus’ directions for life by reading the Bible every day. To follow the straight path that God has designed for us in the Bible is efficient and it keeps us from wasting our time and energy. The Bible is sacred! It is an anthology – a compilation of texts – that include instructions, stories, poetry, and prophecies. It is different than our world.

“While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed.”Mark 1:35

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6

Tom Weckesser

January 22 – Prayers of Jesus – For the Faith of Others

Read John 11:1-46

Do you ever take the time to think of your family dynamic? Sure, there are some obvious common trends throughout all of you, but aren’t there some differences as well? It’s funny how people who spend so much time around each other can be so different in some ways.

The same is true with the Lawson household. My dad (Pastor Dave) is an intellectual. To this day, he’s the smartest guy I know. My older sister inherited Dad’s smarts. She always did well in school and enjoyed learning so much so that she is now a teacher to 6th grade students in Indiana. My younger brother and I, however, could take or leave school. We got good grades but weren’t over the moon about learning.

It showed when we solicited educational help from Dad. There were many times where he was explaining something to me but I just wasn’t getting it. Sure, it was black and white for Dr. Dave but for me, I wasn’t able to connect the dots. No matter how hard I tried, there were some things that just didn’t make sense.

As I read John 11, I can’t help but see that the village of Bethany was struggling to connect the dots that Jesus was laying out for them.

A friend of Jesus’ brother was sick and close to death. When this was brought to Jesus’ attention, He simply responds with:

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Seems simple and straightforward, doesn’t it?

Jesus responds to the news by staying in the town He was in for two more days.

Doesn’t seem like He’s in too much of a rush does it?

As they’re about to head out for Bethany, Jesus says:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

After these last two quotes from Jesus, you would think that Jesus is up to something and that Lazarus, even if he is, in fact, dead, won’t be for long, right?

For us, the dots are connected, but for Jesus’ disciples and the people of Bethany, they are confused.

When Jesus finally arrives to Lazarus’ tomb, the shortest verse in the Bible states that:

“Jesus wept.”

Now, there is some speculation as to the reasoning behind Jesus’ display of emotion. Obviously, there is the very real possibility that Jesus is weeping over the loss of His friend. However, others think the reason is the lack of faith of those around Him.

Jesus is trying to proclaim who He is (Son of God, promised Messiah, etc.) and people just aren’t getting it. Eventually, you read that people end up believing in Jesus as a result of Him coming back to life.

We need to care about the faith of others just as Jesus did. Do you see people struggling to connect the dots of faith in their life? Do you see the connections while they are missing the picture? In what way can you help them?

People need to see Jesus for who He is and make Him the leader of their life. May we pray for others with the same heart of Jesus!

Jake Lawson

January 21 – Prayers of Jesus – Blessing Children

Read Matthew 19:13-15

I love little kids! Having worked in various Sunday School, Bible School and elementary schools for over 50 years, I had better!  I feel it has been one of the greatest honors God has given to me!

There is just something about children that is missing in the rest of the world…

Is it their acceptance of everyone, no matter what skin color, body size or abilities?

Many times, I have seen children volunteering to help special needs classmates in the classroom and on the playground to the dismay of others around them.      

Or could it be their sense of awe of God’s handiwork?  They see the beauty in butterflies, the humor in a donkey’s bray, and the fascination of how water drips from the end of a faucet.   

Or could it be their genuine trust in people?  Or is it their forgiveness of people who have wronged them, unlike some adults who will hold a grudge for years?

As followers of Jesus, we need to look at how He viewed children.  Did He think they should be seen and not heard like several leaders in His times or something different?  Several times Jesus used little children as examples to His followers. 

What was it that Jesus saw in them that the people around Him couldn’t see? 

In Matthew 18, the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in Heaven.  Jesus called a child over to Him and said, “Unless you humble yourself as a little child, you will not be in heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the low position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” He saw humbleness.

In Matthew 19:14, He said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He welcomed them and delighted in them and they in Him and therefore they had direct access to the kingdom of God!

Then He said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me!” They showed all the traits that followers of Jesus should have and so He saw Himself in them!  

However, He also saw innocence and vulnerability.  In Matthew 18:6, He warned, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea!”   

Do you have a childlike faith? Not a naïve faith that will fall for anything and is shifting in the wind but a trusting faith that is constantly maturing to make you into a strong faithful follower of Christ? Are you trusting, hungry for the truth, in awe of God’s wonders, humble, and a reflection of Christ Himself to everyone around you?

As Jesus warned, “I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What do you need to change today?

Pat Arnold          

January 20 – Prayers of Jesus – Trusting for Provision

Read John 6:11

When I was 22 years old, I was in my last semester of undergrad and had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. I toyed with the idea of moving to Tennessee to go to graduate school or staying in my hometown and working hard to build my business management profession while attending the church I was plugged into and continuing to learn more. However, my heart’s desire was to go to the Great Commission Bible Institute (A 10-month rigorous Bible study program that my hometown church had). I knew many who attended and I was surrounding myself with people that were like-minded and wanted the same for me.

My only problem was, I couldn’t afford it.

The tuition of the school was free; however, with my mom relocating for work and not having anyone to live with, the only logical answer, if I were to attend, was to live in the dorms, which cost money. I couldn’t swing it and had no idea what I was going to do.

One day, I met with my mentor at the time and discussed all of the possibilities and worries that were ahead of me. She looked at me and quite plainly said, “Those who are faithful with little will also be faithful with much,” (Luke 16:10) and began to show me that I just needed to surrender the control of making a decision and allow the Lord to work in and through me. To be faithful with the path He already had me on and the rest will come with His peace.

About a year later, I was graduating college and was looking for a place to live. My mentor approached me while we were serving at church, handed me $50.00, and told me to apply for GCBI and see what God does.

I went through the application process and got in. Once I told her, she said, “Your room and board is covered.”

I can relate to every side of our reading today:

Doubtful Perspective: The disciples were not sure how to feed so many people with the little they had. They couldn’t see a way.

Faithful in Waiting:  The crowd waited for Jesus to show up. They knew of His wonder and power and wanted to hear and see more. Their faith in Him, led them there and He provided their needs, even when they didn’t ask. They came not expecting anything and the Lord fed them with truth and food.

Surrender it all: The boy surrendered all that he had. He surrendered his good for God’s best.

Just like the crowd, the disciple and the boy, I’ve walked through all of it, time and time again, in striving to trust God’s provision will come.

Where would you say you are in your life? Are you doubtful, faithful, surrendered? How can you take steps toward full surrender today?

Kelly Lawson

January 19 – Prayers of Jesus – Thy Will Be Done

Read Matthew 26:36-46

“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’”Matthew 26:38

Hillary Scott is an American singer, who, in 2015, miscarried her second child, which inspired her to write the powerful song, “Thy Will”:

“I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear,
So, I followed through
Somehow, I ended up here.
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand,
That my broken heart
Is a part of Your plan?
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt
And these four words:
Thy will be done.”

Scott’s and Tyrell’s twin daughters, Betsy and Emory, were born in 2018.

It appears that, after their miscarriage, Hillary and Tyrell felt a little like Jesus did right before He was arrested. They were crushed with grief, something that all of us experience at times in our lives.

Here is part of a comment from YouTube, after hearing the song “Thy Will”,

“I said thy will be done when my mom died, when my two brothers died, when my music teacher died, when my father died, when I lost my job. I said thy will be done when I married my husband, my best friend. I said thy will be done when my friend became sober from alcoholism after 15 years, when we got a new house, when we opened a business. Thy will be done through it all…”

In his book “Hope for the Hurting”, Dr Tony Evans writes about how:

“God has a greater plan for the pain in your life.”

Pray to God. Talk to Him. Take time to listen.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”Proverbs 3:5

Ask God for direction so you can do His will.

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”Proverbs 3:6

These verses in Matthew 26: 36-46 show the depth of Jesus‘ awareness of the suffering that awaited Him on the cross, as well as h

His complete commitment to God‘s will (v.25).

“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Growth happens in the middle of grit and grind.

Is there pain in your life that you’re struggling to see the purpose of? Are you, in the midst of healing from pain, still searching for the purpose of this season? Do you face an important decision and are struggling with the weight of it all?

“Dear God, let thy will be done.”  

Tom Weckesser

January 18 – Prayers of Jesus – Before Important Decisions

Read Luke 6:12-13

As you read today’s Scripture, it’s clear that Jesus really values prayer.

We can learn a lot from His approach: He went to a place with few distractions where He could focus and spent the night praying.

The night!

We aren’t told what He was praying about but, based on verse 13, I have to assume that there was a great deal of focus on who was to make up the group of apostles.

Talk about an important decision, He was deciding who He would entrust with the future of the Church!

Even with the future on the line, He still chose Judas who He knew would betray Him and Peter who He knew would deny Him. I have to believe He was first and foremost seeking what God the Father wanted Him to do.

We have great evidence of Him putting the will of the Father first when we look at Jesus’ prayer the night before He died a horrible death on the cross.

He knew what was going to happen to Him and, yet, look at His prayer in Luke 22:42:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

He is saying, “Father I really don’t want to have to go through this BUT, if it’s really what you want me to do, I’ll be obedient and do it.” As we know, He did go ahead and die an agonizing death on the cross which He could have stopped at any time. Instead, He chose the Father’s will.

So, as we come to important decision points in our lives, whose will wins – ours or our Heavenly Father’s?

Will we truly be looking for what God wants us to do or will we be asking Him to bless what we have already decided? Will we be laying out our timeline or will we accept God’s timing if He says wait or what about if He says no?

I’ve often thought about who is better equipped to make the decisions in my life:

Me, a finite, flawed human being who can only see a tiny part of the big picture OR a loving God who knows everything, past, present and future; who is all powerful and who died for us so we can have a relationship with Him?

I choose God!

Please take the time to pray before making decisions; God is listening and wants to help.

Mike Molter

January 17 – Prayers of Jesus – When Life Gets Tough

Read Luke 22:44

I LOVE taking pictures!  I take pictures of nature, babies, animals and, even sometimes, pictures of people taking pictures!  My favorite shots are the ones I take at my grandkids’ sporting events.  I am constantly amazed at some of the action that I catch!

The difference between a good and a great shot often depends on my perspective.  Up close a play can look like a mess but, from a different angle or further up in the stands, I can get a clearer view of what really is going on. Zooming in can reveal a whole new set of actions.

That is the way it is with life too.  When you are in the heat of the “battle” dealing with a spouse, rebellious child, a back-stabbing friend, or even a life-threatening medical condition, you might not be able to see any way out. You may feel like Jesus in the garden crying out to God to take it away from you! But stepping back and looking at everything from a different perspective, seeing everything through God’s camera lens, you get a totally different look at what is really going on.   The storms of life are there, not to make us bitter but to make us stronger. A favorite saying that has been posted lately says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

We are encouraged in Joshua 1:9  to “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!”

The lyrics to Through It All by Andre Crouch say it all:

I’ve had many tears and sorrows
I’ve had questions for tomorrow
There’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong
But in every situation
God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong

I’ve been to lots of places
I’ve seen a lot of faces
There’s been times I felt so all alone
But in my lonely hours
Yes, those precious lonely hours
Jesus let me know that I was His own

I thank God for the mountains
And I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
For if I’d never had a problem
I wouldn’t know God could solve them
I’d never know what faith in God could do

Are you ready to get a different perspective on your life?  In this world you are going to have trouble.  God is waiting to help you by not taking away the storm but teaching you how to dance in the rain!

Pat Arnold

January 16 – Prayers of Jesus

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17

One thing that not a lot of people may not know about me is that I am very much an introvert. Sure, part of my job is being around people but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally to me. This past fall, Kelly, the kids and I went into the fair, as is customary for Wayne County residents. We weren’t more than 20 yards past the gate and I could feel my chest getting tight with anxiety.

It’s even worse when I have to talk in front of a lot of people.

One time, I led a portion of our Communion services here at Grace. I had written out what I was going to say and had rehearsed it over and over again. As I was sitting at the table getting ready to take the stage, I couldn’t help but think about the lights turning on and everyone turning from their tables to look at me. I was uneasy and sweating. It must have been obvious because Kelly leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.”

As I walked on stage, I began to pray. As a pastor, your main goal, in communicating, is for people to see Jesus through you. You don’t want people to say, “Good job” but, instead, how God worked in their lives through your words.

I was trying to re-center my thinking as I went to the middle of the stage and, with trembling hands, set my notes on the table. I reached to my hip to turn on my mic and prayed the very simple words:

“Your words not mine, God”

Prayer is a very common practice for believers but it’s easily overlooked. In its simplest form, prayer is a conversation with God. However, rather than it being a common practice, we tend to only utilize it when we need something from God, as though He is a magic genie that is going to grant only a select number of wishes.

Rather, prayer should be used to help change our perspective. God has a holy perspective on life and prayer is you asking Him to realign your thinking.

It’s one thing to talk about our praying, but did you know that, throughout His time on earth, Jesus practiced the future words of Paul to continually pray?

Over the next several days, we are going to be studying some prayers of Jesus. Before we do, I want to challenge you to think of your own prayer life.

In what spirit do you pray? Is it to get something or to change your perspective to a holy one?

What do you most often find yourself praying for?

How often do you pray? Would you say that you are anywhere close to praying without ceasing?

Jake Lawson