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Week 21, August 9-15, 2020, Psalm 23

Study guide by Pastor Deborah

Our live Praying the Scriptures Zoom meetings have concluded.  We hope you will continue to Pray the Scriptures on your own and with friends as we will  publish a new study guide on this webpage every Monday. View the newest Praying the Scriptures study guide here!

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus. Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture. 

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat as a symbol of God’s presence. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted. 

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading The Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through, then read it pausing at words that catch your attention or at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

Psalm 23 New King James Version

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion and Reflection

“I shall not want.“

This is David’s statement of contentment in the Good Shepherd. It is only the Lord who can give us a deep, quiet, settled peace. Only the Lord can bless us with assurance of faith. Only the Lord can satisfy our souls with the knowledge of daily gifts of forgiveness.  Only the Lord can make us rich in spirit, generous in heart, large of soul. How does the Good Shepherd bless you with deep contentment?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer. 

Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I praise you for your amazing love. I praise you for your wisdom. I praise you for a future in your presence. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear and celebrate the assurance your love and grace in my life, and then take faithful steps in your love to praise your wondrous name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

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Week 20, August 2-8, 2020, Psalm 147

Study guide by Pastor Rob

Our live Praying the Scriptures Zoom meetings have concluded.  We hope you will continue to Pray the Scriptures on your own and with friends as we will  publish a new study guide on this webpage every Monday.

Dear Brother or Sister, 

Thank you for taking time to read, meditate and pray using Psalm 147 and the guide below. Like last week’s text for Praying the Scriptures, I have selected this psalm, because it reminds me of experiences while hiking for several day in Shenandoah National Park in early July with my son, Michael. Psalm 147 especially reminds me of our hike one afternoon to Hawksbill Mountain, which at 4,050 feet, is the highest peak in the park.

While we were checking out the great views clouds began to streamed in and soon engulfed the peak. We could hear thunder in the distance, and when it started to sprinkle, we decided it was time to head out. This link Hawksbill Road Trail Map will take you to a trail map, if you would like to see one.  I will share more about that hike below. 

Blessings, 

Pastor Rob Robertson

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus. Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture. 

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat as a symbol of God’s presence. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted. 

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading The Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through, then read it pausing at words that catch your attention or at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

Psalm 147 New Revised Standard Version

1 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. 

2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 

3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. 

4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 

5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 

6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground. 

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. 

8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. 

9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. 

10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; 

11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. 

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! 

13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. 

14 He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat. 

15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. 

16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. 

17 He hurls down hail like crumbs— who can stand before his cold? 

18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow. 

19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. 

20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the Lord! 

Discussion and Reflection

Each of the last five psalms (Psalms 146-150, begins and ends with the words, “Praise the Lord!” (Hallelujah, in Hebrew). The psalmist’s words are both declaration and encouragement for us to give praise to God and to join with the psalmist in praising God, “For it is good to sing praises to our God” and “a song of praise is fitting” (v1). The psalmist next begins to share the specifics of God’s work that is worthy of our praise.  

The psalm is divided into three parts: verses 1 – 6, 7 – 11, and 12 – 20.  

In the first section of Psalm 147, verses 1 through 6, the psalmist describes the goodness and greatness of God. God provides comfort as the psalmist alludes to a time of difficulty or calamity: “he gathers the outcasts” (2). God is Savior of the nation but also of individuals: “He heals the brokenhearted” (3). God’s presence, power and wisdom justify your comforting trust in the God as both Creator and Lord of the universe. They rise above all obstacles and provide abundant grace and help. The same God who cares for the lowly also knows and names all the stars.  God’s majesty and care is for the span of the universe to the individual, and of course,  you!

The second part of this week’s psalm expands upon our need to be thankful, as we are called to “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre” (7). The psalmist desires you to know the care of the Lord and to find “hope in his steadfast love” (11). The psalmist describes God’s greatness, so you too will join in God’s praise and thanksgiving. We see God’s tenderness is demonstrated in God’s attentiveness to even “young ravens when they cry” (9). Why would the psalmist specify “young ravens? Because they were most detestable by the Jewish people as they were considered unclean and forbidden for food.   

In the third section, verses 12 – 20, the psalmist turns to Jerusalem, the city of God. For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is the center of where God’s word and will were worshiped, and the more we understand the power and care of God, the more we should praise God. In verse 13, the psalmist begins to highlight four great and compassionate acts God had done for God’s people. Each action is a reason for praise. Your praise and worship are not empty words. They are gratitude for the specifics of God’s goodness and care but also are given as we anticipate God’s future goodness. God gives security, a future, peace, and provision. 

More on the hike

After hiking to the summit of Hawksbill, via Lower Hawksbill Trail, Michael and I returned to our car via Salamander Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The light rain continued for only just a short time, but soon stopped. However, we could hear thunder growing louder in the distance and knew more rain was likely coming soon.

I had just taken the picture above of the tree (If you look closely you will see this large tree is clinging to a rocky cliff)  when the sprinkles began again. Then, it began to rain even harder, but because we were hiking under a dense canopy of green leaves, we hardly felt a drop…at first.

The rain continued to increase until it was streaming down and small hail was falling and bouncing all around us! We got absolutely soaked from head to toe as the trail filled with water, but it was a glorious and worshipful experience on the trail that afternoon! The rain felt like God’s grace washing over me: absolutely refreshing and joyful!

The rain felt like God’s grace washing over me: absolutely refreshing and joyful!

This video The  video shown here (only 40 seconds) might give you a sense what it was like on the trail as the hail began to fall but still before the heaviest rain came. 

The verses below particularly stand out to me from Psalm 147:

1 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. 

8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. 

15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. 

17 He hurls down hail like crumbs— who can stand before his cold? 

18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow. 

Further Reflection

You could work with the questions below on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. Writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

  1. What are some of the reasons why it is “good” for you to sing praises to God? Spend several minutes reflecting. Make a list. What does it mean when we are not thankful?  
  2. After making your list in question 1, examine verses 1 through 6 and determine what is the specific works of God that the psalmist praises? Make a list. What other ways are you being called today to praise the Lord? 
  3. In verses 7 – 11, how are we called to be expectant? What should we be expecting according to the text? What does it mean to live our lives expectant? 
  4. How would you describe to someone why “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” in verse 11? What are your hopes today?
  5. If God gives security, a future, peace, and provision, what are the specifics ways these occur beginning in verse 13? What ways are you experiencing these in your own life?
  6. What other important insights did your study reveal?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer. 

Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I praise you for your amazing love. I praise you for your wisdom. I praise you for a future in your presence. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear and celebrate the assurance your love and grace in my life, and then take faithful steps in your love to praise your wondrous name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

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Week 19, July 27-31, 2020, Psalm 121

Study guide by Pastor Rob

Our live Praying the Scriptures Zoom meetings have concluded.  We hope you will continue to Pray the Scriptures on your own and with friends as we will  publish a new study guide on this webpage every Monday.

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus.  Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture. 

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat as a symbol of God’s presence. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted. 

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading The Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through, then read it pausing at words that catch your attention or at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

Psalm 121 New Revised Standard Version

Song of ascents

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. 

Re-read the passage at least once more as if you are reciting the psalm on a pilgrim to the temple in Jerusalem. 

Discussion and Reflection

Fifteen of the psalms, Psalm 120 through 134, are marked as “song of ascents” but they also are called among other titles: “song of steps” or Pilgrim Songs. How these psalms were used is open to various interpretations. Some believe the psalms were sung by worshippers ascending the road to Jerusalem for one of the pilgrim festivals. Others believe the psalms were sung by the Levites priests as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister in the temple. Still others believe that the psalms were a collection of poems that were added together. While some of the songs of ascents are directly attributed to King David, Psalm 121 is not. 

Unlike other psalms that speak of a bold faith in the time of specific hardship or struggle, Psalm 121 speaks with a calm and comforting reassurance of the presence of God in response to the anxious question of verse 1: “From where will my help come?” Verses 2 through 8 are the confident response. The questions below concern this response and the what the psalm says about God. 

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. Writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

  1. How many voices are speaking in Psalm 121? 1? 2? More? How would you divide the dialogue into voices?
  2. How many different ways is the question in verse 1, “From where will my help come?” answered? Make a list. How many did your list? 
  3. Does your list in question 2 give you any insight into the struggles that prompt the question, “From where will my help come?” 
  4. Does the psalm answer any of the questions or struggles that you are current experiencing? Why or why not? 
  5. The “My” (“My help” instead of “Help”) at the beginning of verse 2 is considered by some to be an addition that is the result of an error by a transcriptionist. Does the verse having or not having “my” change anything? If no, why not? If yes, in what way? 
  6. How does God’s creative will and power as Creator in verse 2 demonstrate God’s ability and willingness to “help” you and others?  In the verses that follow verse 2, what are the specifics that the psalmist communicates that offer us the assurance that we can place our trust in a personal God?
  7. What other important insights did your study reveal?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer. 

Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear your call and hear it more clearly and then move in faithful steps of your love. Amen. 

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

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Week 18, July 20-24, Psalm 105

Study guide by Pastor Rob

Our live Praying the Scriptures Zoom meetings have concluded.  We hope you will continue to Pray the Scriptures on your own and with friends as we will  publish a new study guide on this webpage every Monday.

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus. Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture.

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat as a symbol of God’s presence.

You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading The Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through, then read it pausing at words that catch your attention or at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

Psalm 105 New Revised Standard Version

1 O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. 2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. 5 Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered, 6 O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones. 7 He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. 8 He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” 12 When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it, 13 wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, 14 he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, 15 saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” 16 When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread, 17 he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 18 His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron; 19 until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him. 20 The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free. 21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions, 22 to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom. 23 Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham. 24 And the Lord made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes, 25 whose hearts he then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. 26 He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron whom he had chosen.

27 They performed his signs among them, and miracles in the land of Ham. 28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark; they rebelled against his words. 29 He turned their waters into blood, and caused their fish to die. 30 Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings. 31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain, and lightning that flashed through their land. 33 He struck their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. 34 He spoke, and the locusts came, and young locusts without number; 35 they devoured all the vegetation in their land, and ate up the fruit of their ground. 36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first issue of all their strength. 37 Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold, and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled. 38 Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it. 39 He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night. 40 They asked, and he brought quails, and gave them food from heaven in abundance. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. 42 For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 43 So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 44 He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples, 45 that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord!

Re-read the passage at least once more as you continue to hear what your heart is saying to Jesus and Jesus is saying to you!

Discussion and Reflection

Our scripture for prayer this week, Psalm 105, is the first of the Hallelujah psalms:105, 106, 11-113, 115, 117, 135, 146-149. Hallelujah means “Praise the Lord” in Hebrew. Some scholars believe the order of the Hallelujah psalms reflects when these psalms were used in public worship, so Psalm 105 may have been used much like we use a call to worship or opening praise sentences in our worship services.

Psalm 105 is quoted in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22 as David returns the ark to a tent in Jerusalem. 1 Chronicles 16:7 tells us, “That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the LORD in this manner”, that is, using Psalm 105. To expand your study, look up 1 Chronicles 16 to determine which verses from Psalm 105 did David prescribe to be used to praise the Lord.

Psalm 105 might be divided into several parts:

1-6: Hymnic introduction
7-11: Introduction to God’s covenant
12-41 God Fulfilling God’s covenant promises

Psalm 105:16-38 covers the rise of Joseph in Egypt to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. These particular verses relate to this Sunday’s message, Exodus 5:1-2, 7:8-23.

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. Writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

  1. List as many different actions in Psalm 105:1-6 that the psalmist calls the reader/worshiper to ascribe to: How many did you list? How do you practice each of them? Which of them might need more of your attention? 
  2. How would you describe the nature of the covenant? What is the nature of its depth and breath? What are some of the ways that this impacts your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ? List as many as you can. 
  3. As you read and reflect on Psalm 105 once more, list the ways that God accomplishes God’s purposes contrary to human expectations. What does this reflection lead you to pray?
  4. How does the psalm help you understand God’s grace that gives first, even as it calls us to obedience and righteousness? 
  5. What else did you gleam from praying this scripture?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear your call and hear it more clearly and then move in faithful steps of your love. Amen. 

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

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Week 17, July 13-17, 2020

Psalm 23 Continued Study guide by Pastor Deborah

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

Our live Praying the Scriptures Zoom meetings have concluded.  We hope you will continue to Pray the Scriptures on your own and with friends as we will  publish a new study guide on this webpage every Monday.

Preparing to Pray

Find a quiet time when you are able to read a scripture and pray. Choose one place – a chair – where you can have silence and no interruption. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. Breath slowly and deeply, slowly inhaling and exhaling, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times, until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, incline your ear to me to hear my prayer and open my heart to you, so as you speak to me, I may hear your voice clearly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, begin by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. Imagine a room with two chairs, facing each other; Jesus in one, you in the other chair. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with him.

Over and over the scriptures attest to God’s unconditional love for you. From I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  As you pray today, pray in the knowledge that you are abundantly loved.

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion and Reflection

David is credited with writing this psalm. David was a shepherd, and he learned much about faith from being a shepherd. When he came up against Goliath the Philistine, David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (I Samuel 17:37)

It is noteworthy that St Stephens has many shepherds among its members. People who see themselves as servants of others, and are ready to sacrifice and lead and help and tend. In writing this psalm, David names not himself as the shepherd, but the almighty God of all creation. David is one of God’s sheep. His work in the field taught him that this was what his faith was about, first and foremost. He himself needed a Shepherd.

John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church, started out his life of faith not so much as a sheep but as a devoted shepherd. When he was studying at Oxford, he and his brother Charles established a Holy Club, where they not only prayed and read the Bible, but also cared for the poor.

At the age of 31, John Wesley embarked on a venture to the new colony of Georgia, where he was a chaplain to the settlers and the Native Americans. This experience of traveling the treacherous seas and encountering his own failures and fears eventually led him to seek God as his Shepherd. His Moravian friend Peter Bohler counseled him to seek an awareness of God’s love. Wesley was 34 when he felt his heart strangely warmed on Aldersgate Street in London. He said he knew his own sins were forgiven and he was filled with assurance and trust in God. The truth of the Gospel had moved from his mind and his fervent will to his heart.

Jonathan Edwards also experienced this movement from mind to heart. He said that formerly he had known with his mind the gospel’s honey sweetness, but now its sweetness had burst alive in his mouth.

In John 15, Jesus tells us, “Abide in me.” That’s how we allow our hearts to be trained to continually seek God. God the Shepherd wants to grow his love in us, displacing our love for ourselves. When we abide in the fields of the Good Shepherd, we become freed from the captivity of our human nature and our eyes are opened to see spiritual reality.

What does it mean to abide in Christ? The Greek word for abide is  “meno.” “Meno” means “to make our home in.” We make our home in God’s love and acceptance, allowing that love to have its way with us.

When I was growing up in Greensboro, N.C., my dad always held a Wednesday night vespers service in the church he was serving – Carraway Memorial UMC. The people sang at vespers with devotion. One of their favorite hymns was I Love to Tell the Story. How could it never get old to tell the same Story over and over? I remember grappling with this conundrum. I knew there was some dynamic I was not getting. Now I understand. It’s the power and mystery and goodness of God that David knew as he penned the 23rd psalm.

For discussion. Where in Psalm 23 do you find evidence of David abiding in God and forming a relationship with him?

Tell about the times in your life when the God the Shepherd has impacted your life with goodness and love.

How is God inviting you to abide in Christ?

Prayer. Lead us, Lord, lead us in your righteousness! Make thy ways plain before our face. 

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

Week 16, July 6-10, 2020

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Our live Praying the Scriptures Zoom meetings have concluded.  We hope you will continue to Pray the Scriptures on your own and with friends as we will  publish a new study guide on this webpage every Monday.

Preparing to Pray

Find a quiet time when you are able to read a scripture and pray. Choose one place – a chair – where you can have silence and no interruption. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. Breath slowly and deeply, slowly inhaling and exhaling, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times, until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, incline your ear to me to hear my prayer and open my heart to you, so as you speak to me, I may hear your voice clearly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, begin by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. Imagine a room with two chairs, facing each other; Jesus in one, you in the other chair. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with him.

Over and over the scriptures attest to God’s unconditional love for you. From I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  As you pray today, pray in the knowledge that you are abundantly loved.

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion and Reflection

The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd was central to the early church, up until the fourth century. We know this because the shepherd image was depicted over and over in the catacombs. The early Christians saw it as an image of Christ as Savior, showing Christ’s tender care, protection, provision, as well as gracious sacrifice and gift of his life. The image was shown in the catacombs with a childlike simplicity.

In our time, Christ as Good Shepherd is also a favorite among people of faith. Even though we do not have firsthand knowledge of shepherds, we are drawn to the powerful words of Psalm 23. May this psalm study deepen our knowledge and love of the Good Shepherd.

How has this psalm helped you to understand who God is?

Reflect on this question this week. Write down your thoughts.

Prayer:  Savior, like a Shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care. May we learn anew of your abiding love as we study the Scriptures and open our hearts to you in prayer. Teach us just as you taught the Christians in the early church. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

Week 15, June 29-July 3, 2020

Mark 9:17-25  New Revised Standard Version

Preparing to Pray

Today do not worry over finding the perfect spot to do your devotion. Sometimes we can over think and fall to the trap that if we aren’t in the exact right spot then we won’t hear from God or be close to God. Today if you can’t get into your usual space then challenge yourself to take aside time from one of your activities. Work, lunch, TV, etc and read through the bible verse twice, making sure to pray before and after each reading. Our faith is always with us, not just available at certain times, we must make room in our busy lives to be faithful.

Mark 9:17-25  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.[d] So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19 Jesus said to them,[e] “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”

Discussion and Reflection

Put yourself in the situation of the parent. How would you have responded to Jesus?

If faith the size of a mustard seed will move a mountain, what did it look like for this parent to have faith?

Our faith is important and should not be taken lightly. It saves our eternal life but it can also heal and help our own and others’ physical and spiritual lives. Because of the parent’s faith, his son was healed. 

Spiritual warfare is real and happens today. So taking our time to be connected to God and having the faith to recognize evil and stand up in our faith is essential. 

Prayer:  Gracious Lord, reveal within us today where you are missing in our lives. Let us have the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains and where we lack faith let you prevail. Help us in our unbelief, trusting out of faith that you surely do keep your promises and work for the good of your people. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

Praying the Scriptures, Week 14, June 22-26, 2020

Genesis 22:1-14 NRSV  

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Jiyeon and others, Thursday, June 25, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, June 25,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, June 25,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Preparing to Pray

Find a quiet time when you are able to read a scripture and pray. Choose one place – a chair – where you can have silence and no interruption. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. Breath slowly and deeply, slowly inhaling and exhaling, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times, until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, incline your ear to me to hear my prayer and open my heart to you, so as you speak to me, I may hear your voice clearly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, begin by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. Imagine a room with two chairs, facing each other; Jesus in one, you in the other chair. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with him.

The scriptures attest to God’s unconditional love for you. Read Genesis 22:1-14 and receive God’s love for you. Any words or phrases that caught your attention? Why? What messages does God tell you through the words or phrases?

Genesis 22:1-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Discussion and Reflection

1. Imagine having yourself in the role of Abraham and read the scripture one more time. Focus on your emotional changes during the journey in Genesis 22:1-14. 

2. At this time, imagine having yourself in the role of Isaac and read the scripture. Focus on your emotional changes during the journey.

3. “The LORD will provide” is traditionally transliterated Jehovah Jireh in Hebrew. Have you experienced Jehovah Jireh after a certain time of patience and challenges?

You can use the prayer below or your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer. 

Prayer: God of all people, I give you thanks for your universal love. Enable me to dwell in your caring and protecting arms as I’m going through time of doubt and pain.  Grant me strength and power to practice your love for all in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Want more Praying The Scriptures? View our archive of past study guides by clicking here. 

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Praying the Scriptures, Week Thirteen, June 15-19, 2020

Luke 17:11-19 NRSV  

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Deborah and others, Thursday, June 18, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, June 18,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, June 18,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Luke 17:11-19 NRSV

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus.  Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture.

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat. You may find it helpful to center your mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading the Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through or pause at words that catch your attention, and at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

Luke 17:11-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Discussion and Reflection

In this story Jesus is pointing us toward a deeper understanding of thankfulness and it’s place in our lives of faith. On the way to Jerusalem, near Samaria, Jesus and his disciples encounter ten men with leprosy. This was a highly contagious disease that carried a sentence of total isolation; people were banished from their homes and communities to live alone. These lepers call out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus sees them. He tells them to go show themselves to the priest, so he can pronounce them clean.” As the men walked on, their healing took place before their very eyes. One of them, a Samaritan, stops in his tracks, runs back to Jesus, falls on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanks him. Jesus asks about the other men, where are they? “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he speaks to the Samaritan, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Samaritans were religious outcasts in Jesus’ time. The man’s humility led him to seek Jesus out and thank him. This story reminds us of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Samaritan was profoundly thankful, but so were the other nine men. What Jesus did for them meant they all got their lives back. While the Samaritan was thanking Jesus, the other nine were running and embracing all their family members! They were telling everyone in the village what Jesus the Master had done for them. The question for us to consider is, How is it a problem that these nine did not go back and express their gratitude to Jesus? When they didn’t return, Jesus noticed. And he didn’t say, it’s no big deal. He said, where are they? Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude.

The truth is, all of us think of ourselves as grateful people. If you ask us what we’re thankful for, we can readily tell you. We feel grateful and therefore we think of ourselves as grateful people. But feeling gratitude and expressing it are two different things in this story. Why do we not think to go back and thank the giver? Perhaps because our lives are all about moving forward, not going back. When we get what we want, we move on to get more.

The ten lepers all got more than they asked for. When they cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on us,” they were begging for coins. What did Jesus do? He didn’t give them coins; he healed them.

Our human tendency is to move forward and think of our existence as “getting.” When our existence is about acquiring more and more, unexpressed gratitude can take us into the pitfall of greed. We start thinking we deserve what we get.

A nice meal is served for the whole family. If those at the table eat the food but never express their appreciation, the cook thinks the family has no gratitude. When people put forth their good work on their job and no one says thank you, the workers may begin to hate their job. Their pay check is not enough for job satisfaction. Wherever giving is offered in our lives, the dynamic of unexpressed gratitude has the same effect as rejection. We see this happen in verse 18. Jesus asks about the missing nine lepers, “Where are they?” “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Jesus is looking for the nine men so that he do more for them – heal their souls – but they never return. The Samaritan alone receives Jesus’ gift, “Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well.” Another translation, “your faith has rescued and preserved you.” Jesus’ healing and the Samaritan’s act of returning put this man into wholeness and right relationship with God and with others. Those nine others – they missed out.

Our hearts are acceptance magnets; we are drawn to those who express appreciation. We can drive people away from us if we fail to express our gratitude.

This story is showing us to focus on the Giver/giver, not the gift. The Samaritan thought only of Jesus when he fell at Jesus’ feet. Take time to express gratitude, both to God and to the people around you. If it is hard for you to say thank you, it may be because you do not like to express dependence. But the truth is none of us are independent. God created us to be dependent. When we form a daily practice of giving thanks to God, a whole new level of faith becomes alive in us.

You could work with the following questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. This writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

1. How does the story told by Jesus give you insight into your own readiness to express thankfulness?

2. Do you identify with the group of nine lepers who expressed their gratitude among the people of their community, or with the one leper who returned to thank Jesus?

3. How does the act of giving thanks to God each day grow our faith?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love. Continue to make your presence known to me so that I may give thanks. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

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Praying the Scriptures, Week Twelve, June 8-13, 2020

Romans 8:1-11 , NRSV Version

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Rob and others, Thursday, June 11, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, June 11,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, June 11,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Romans 8:1-11 NRSV

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus.  Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture.

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading the Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through or pause at words that catch your attention, and at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

Romans 8:1-11 NRSV

1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Re-read the passage at least once more as you continue to hear what your heart is saying to Jesus and Jesus is saying to you!

Discussion and Reflection

Our reading this week is from the apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans and a larger section of the letter that addresses God’s gracious gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ. In Romans 5, Paul reveals story of the redemption that is available through Jesus “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Paul preaches about comfort and peace that surpasses each and every earthly circumstance. In this week’s passage, Paul tells us about a hope that “does not disappoint us” (5:5). This hope is different than the way most people think of hope.

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. This writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

  1. How would you define “justified” and “faith”, as Paul uses these words in Romans 5:1? What benefits does the act of being justified bring to those with faith?
  2. How many times is “boast” used in the passage? Can a Christian “boast”? Why or why not?
  3. Paul’s hope is not a speculative thing. It is a joyful expectation. Why?
  4. How is Christian hope (Romans 5:2) different from the way most people think of hope?
  5. Why does Paul say that hope does not put us to shame ( 5:5)?
  6. What is the relationship between good character and good hope (Roman 5:4)?
  7. What is the significance of noting that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8)?
  8. What else did you gleam from praying this scripture?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear your call and hear it more clearly and then move in faithful steps of your love. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.[/column]

Praying the Scriptures, Week Eleven, June 1-5, 2020

Isaiah 49:8-16 , NRSV Version

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Jiyeon and others, Thursday, June 4, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, June 4,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, June 4,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Preparing to Pray

Find a quiet time when you are able to read a scripture and pray. Choose one place – a chair – where you can have silence and no interruption. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. Breath slowly and deeply, slowly inhaling and exhaling, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times, until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit.

Prayer:

Gracious and Loving God, incline your ear to me to hear my prayer and open my heart to you, so as you speak to me, I may hear your voice clearly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, begin by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. Imagine a room with two chairs, facing each other; Jesus in one, you in the other chair. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with him.

Reading the Text

The scriptures attest to God’s unconditional love for you. Read Isaiah 49:8-16 and receive God’s love for you. Any words or phrases that caught your attention? Why? What messages does God tell you through the words or phrases?

Isaiah 49:8-16 (NRSV)

8 Thus says the Lord:
In a time of favor I have answered you,
on a day of salvation I have helped you;
I have kept you and given you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages;
9 saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”
to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”
They shall feed along the ways,
on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;
10 they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
11 And I will turn all my mountains into a road,
and my highways shall be raised up.
12 Lo, these shall come from far away,
and lo, these from the north and from the west,
and these from the land of Syene.

13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
15 Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.

Discussion and Reflection

First Isaiah, the author of Isaiah 1-39, is a prophet of Judah in the 8th century BCE. The historical background is when the people scattered, holy places destroyed, the future dark, hopeless, and impossible under the Babylonian captivity.

The cry of Zion (Jerusalem) in verse 14 is not unfamiliar to us as we have lately witnessed social and systemic racial issues and resented its violence, which even murdered and/or humiliated innocent lives. The human mind often doubts God’s presence, divine power, and sovereignty, ‘God, have you forsaken us? Have you forgotten us?’ Zion’s situation in the 8th century BCE is not different from ours in the 21st century. Both are in unbearable pain and look for protection and comfort. Both want to hear the voice of God once again ‘You are in my hands.’

To those who were in despair, Isaiah showed the image of the mother and child (v. 15a). He also convinced them of God’s steadfastness and righteousness (v. 15b) that inscribed (tattooed, never-erased!) them on God’s hands and protected them inside of the walls.

We already know that the Israelites freed from the Egyptian captivity, entered the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, returned to Jerusalem, and rebuilt the Temple. We also know that the promise of the Messiah was fulfilled through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

However, we cannot simply say that it’s a happy ending without talking about the process leading to the end. Isaiah’s scripture and Jesus’ way to the cross teach us that history includes pain, cries, captivity, hopelessness, and desperation. It also teaches us that God’s promise was surely fulfilled although it might not be a time the believers hoped to be.

We live between pain and the fulfillment of God’s promise. For the love of God and the death of Jesus Christ were not just for a selected group of people; we believe that this time will certainly end, and God’s universal love will undoubtedly defeat the social evil and embrace everyone as they are. We dream the dream!

Reflection Questions.

  1. What impression and image do you think about a mother nursing a child (v. 15a)?
  2. Through the power of the Spirit, God reminds us of God’s on-going work for us, within us, and around us. The power leads us to overcome our time of pain and desperation. Have you ever doubted and questioned God’s presence and sovereignty? When or what situation were you going through?
  3. What insights or new understanding of the scripture are revealed to you? Any practical action plans can you apply to your life?

You can use the prayer below or your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: God of all people, I give you thanks for your universal love. Enable me to dwell in your caring and protecting arms as I’m going through time of doubt and pain.  Grant me strength and power to practice your love for all in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

Praying the Scriptures, Week Ten, May 25-31, 2020

Colossians 3:12-17, NRSV Version

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Forrest and others, Thursday, May 28th, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, May 28,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, May 28,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Preparing to Pray

Find something tactile to grasp and pray with, this will be your prayer item. It may be a necklace, your bible, a pen, anything that will occupy your hands but not loud enough to distract you. Our minds can race or wander when we try to be silent, especially when we pray. Using something in our hands can help keep out minds focused. For me it is tracing the engraved cross pattern on a small black bible I got as a graduating senior. This item will also be a reminder to stop and pray throughout the day and focus again on God.

Pray this prayer first out loud with your prayer item, then pray it once again slower in silence.

Prayer:

Lord use your word to teach us, discipline us, and provide us with wisdom only from you. Let us be dedicated to following your Holy Word with our actions and speech. Remind us of the reverence and praise you deserve as we come before you. Open us to the teaching of your will and empower us to live like Jesus and encourage others to follow. Amen

Reading the Text

Read through the scripture of Colossians 3:12-17 twice. Once out loud and the second time in your head but putting more emphasis (up to your discretion) on the odd verses (13, 15,17).

Colossians 3:12-17

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Discussion and Reflection

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians it was to remind them the Christ is supreme to all other philosophies and accomplishments. He was instructing them to shed their previous lifestyles and now live with Jesus’s commandments. Loving one another, encouraging others in faith, praising God, and living a new forgiven life with Christ Jesus. Importantly for the church in Colossae is the encouraging or admonishing one another to live like Christ in a city where false teaching we abundant.

This week verse 16 is our standout. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” When we think of dwelling places often you may imagine a house in which someone lives, or a cave in which an animal dwells. Paul is telling not just the church in Colossae but all people including us that we do not merely believe in Jesus; we live a new life with Jesus.

Reflections:

  • Read the first 11 verses of Colossians 3, if Christ is meant to dwell in our lives what is something we must let go of from our old life?
  • We are told in verse 16 to “admonish one another in all wisdom”. Where does this wisdom come from and how do we obtain it?
  • When we expect guests over many of us clean our houses frantically so they don’t judge us. Nowhere in this passage does it say we must first clean ourselves and then Christ will enter into our lives. So what does Jesus do once he enters our dirty dwelling place?

We as followers of Jesus Christ are called to a higher standard of living than others. God lives in us, enabling us to do incredible things by living incredibly changed lives. Take to heart what is said in Colossians 3. Examine your dwelling place with the Lord and if you need any encouraging or are missing out on encouraging others in faith. Do this all through prayer and reading the Word.

Let us now collect our prayer item again and together pray the prayer Jesus who now lives in us taught us…

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

Praying the Scriptures, Week Nine, May 18-24, 2020

I Corinthians 2:6-16, NRSV Version

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Rob and others, Thursday, May 21st, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, May 21,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, May 21,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Praying the Scriptures –  May 18-24, 2020, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus.  Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or examine various themes of scripture.

As you plan to pray the scriptures, find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a time and place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. You also could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. In you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of your Word; and give me grace that I may clearly understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus’ love is deeply personal. He is not only eager to sit with you, now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord and share your heart.

Reading the Text

Pray and read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through or pause at words that catch your attention, and at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 NRSV

6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Re-read the passage at least once more as you continue to hear what your heart is saying to Jesus and Jesus is saying to you!

Discussion and Reflection

Our reading this week continues from the scripture used for last week’s Praying the Scriptures. Last week, Pastor Deborah wrote, “Paul was a great thinker. He marveled how Jesus refused to exploit his status as the Son of God for his own benefit. Instead, in obedience to God’s plan, Jesus emptied himself, and humbly chose to give his life to die a cruel innocent death on the cross. The outcome of Jesus’ self-giving love and absolute weakness and vulnerability were the power of God and the wisdom of God, ushering in God’s new creation of life and forgiveness and healing.”

The focus of this week’s reading is the wisdom of God that Paul began to unpack in last week’s reading. Last week, we heard Paul compare Godly wisdom to worldly wisdom. Today’s reading continues this theme, but Paul focuses on the necessity of the Holy Spirit in understanding the mind of Christ. Paul wants us and the church to see that if we are seeking wisdom in the world, we will be missing the wisdom of God.

Spend time reflecting on the following questions.

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. This writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

  1. List the characteristics of the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom that are revealed in the passage.
  2. Compare verse 9 with Isaiah 64:4. Do you see similarities and / or differences?
  3. How do you understand verse 11a?  “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?”
  4. How do you understand verse 11b?  “So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.”
  5. What are the gifts of the Spirit from this passage?  From elsewhere in scripture?
  6. What does it mean to have “the mind of Christ” (v16)?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear your call and hear it more clearly and then move in faithful steps of your love. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

Praying the Scriptures, Week Eight, May 11-17, 2020

I Corinthians 1:18-2:5, NRSV Version

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Deborah and others on Thursday, May 14th, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, May 14,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, May 14,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus.  Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray the sacred words filled with the Holy Spirit.

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus. You may find it helpful to center your mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus.

You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading the Text

During this Easter season, we are celebrating the crucified and risen Jesus. Read these glorious words of the Apostle Paul, as he writes about the mystery of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. 

I Corinthians 1:18-2:5 New Revised Standard Version

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:[a] not many of you were wise by human standards,[b] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one[c] might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in[d] the Lord.”

Proclaiming Christ Crucified

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,[e] I did not come proclaiming the mystery[f] of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom,[g] but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Re-read the passage over again as you receive Paul’s age-old words of faith about “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Which verse really appeals to you, speaks to your heart?

Discussion and Reflection

What did first century people think of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? Many Jews believed in resurrection, but only at the end of time and on a massive scale. No Jews anticipated the raising up of one person in the middle of history. The Greeks were scandalized by it; they had no use for rotting flesh being restored. The Romans saw ultimate power only in death and killing. And yet, as Paul and others began to proclaim Jesus crucified and risen, people and their Jewish and Gentile communities received their witness and found themselves changed.

In I Corinthians, we see how Paul was swept away by the power of what the God of Israel had done through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He didn’t just wonder about it all; he found the words to preach it. “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.“ 

Paul was a great thinker. He marveled how Jesus refused to exploit his status as the Son of God for his own benefit. Instead, in obedience to God’s plan, Jesus emptied himself, and humbly chose to give his life to die a cruel innocent death on the cross. The outcome of Jesus’ self giving love and absolute weakness and vulnerability were the power of God and the wisdom of God, ushering in God’s new creation of life and forgiveness and healing. On the cross, evil and sin were drained of their power as Jesus let their poison do the worst to him. Such weakness! Such love! Such powerful new life in a new creation of forgiveness and peace!  God takes the activity of crucifixion, the very activity where we see the utter end of life and all meaning, and God makes it a marker for new life.

What do Paul’s words say to your own heart and faith? Paul wants to tell us that the God of Israel has been made known to us through Jesus and his utter self-giving love. There is a popular notion of God in our world – it existed at the time of Jesus and it still exists. People tend to think God is dull and distant and even dangerous at times, for this God might strike us. Jesus reveals to us who God in truth is: we see the one eternal God most clearly on the cross. Not dull or distant. Not One who would strike us. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me.”

Shall we grapple a bit with Paul’s words about weakness in I Corinthians? Indeed, we see weakness chosen by Jesus throughout his life. He was born in a lowly stable as a vulnerable baby. He entered history in the midst of violence and horrific injustices. Over and over Jesus aligned himself with the poor, the prostitutes, the people hated by society. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), he teaches that  the Kingdom of God is broken open and revealed to us through the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the peacemakers. Jesus also tells us we will see him through the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick and the prisoners (Matthew 25).

Spend time reflecting on the following questions.

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. This writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

1. Do you find yourself sometimes relating to God as dull and distant and fearsome, a God sitting up on a cloud waiting for people to enter heaven? If you do, spend some time thinking about how this God does not exist. Ponder Jesus’ crucifixion and his great love for you.

2. How do we approach the mysterious depths of meaning hidden in the shameful and cruel death of Jesus? Christians down through the ages say they go not to theory and logic about the cross, but instead to gratitude and answering love. How have you been changed by the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection and his abiding love for you on the cross?

3. When have you seen God and God’s truth and love in those who know weakness/humility/selflessness?

4. What are your thoughts about new life flowing out of the cross?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love on the cross. As we stand at the foot of the cross and marvel and wonder, fill us anew with faith and trust in you. Increase our faith day by day so that we may live in your new creation. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Rob and others on Thursday, May 7th, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, May 7,  meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, May 7,  meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Praying the Scriptures- Week Seven

May 3-9, 2020 : John 15:26-16:15 NRSV

Preparing to Pray

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus.  Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture.

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus.

You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.

Reading the Text

Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud, if you are able. Read it straight-through or pause at words that catch your attention, and at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

John 15:26-16:15 NRSV

15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. 16:1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Re-read the passage at least once more as you continue to hear what your heart is saying to Jesus and Jesus is saying to you!

Discussion and Reflection

Our reading this week is an extended section of the Gospel of John called “The Farewell Discourses.” This section is an extended teaching by Jesus to his disciples as he shares a final meal with them, his closest friends. “The Farewell Discourses” are from Chapter 13, verse 1 through Chapter 17, verse 26. Jesus begins by washing his disciples’ feet, and Jesus’ teaching includes the institution of Holy Communion and much more! We must remember that Jesus words are not just to his first disciples but for all disciples regardless of time and place, who are members of Jesus’ body. Jesus’ public ministry has come to a close and his passion awaits.

Spend time reflecting on the following questions.

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. This writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.

  1. What Names used in passage? List.
  2. The disciples were “filled with grief” (v6). Why? Was their grief misplaced? Have you ever experienced such a situation? What did you learn from it?
  3. Relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit according to the passage? List.
  4. What is the work of the Holy Spirit? List.
  5. What does the work of the Holy Spirit mean to your life of faith?
  6. What other insights did you hear as you listened and prayed?

As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for your amazing love. Continue to make your presence known so that I may hear your call and hear it more clearly and then move in faithful steps of your love. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.[/column]

Special Announcement : Starting Thursday, April 30, Praying the Scriptures will be held live  on Zoom twice on Thursdays, at 1:30 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m.

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Rob and others on Thursday, April 30th, either at 1:30p.m. or 7:30 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. The Zoom Meeting links are below:

To join the Thursday, April 30 meeting at 1:30 p.m., please  click 1:30 Praying the Scriptures.

To join the Thursday, April 30 meeting at 7:30 p.m., please  click 7:30 Praying the Scriptures

To find out more about Zoom visit our How to Connect Page. You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Praying the Scriptures at home.

This week’s reading is John 17:6:-19

Preparing to Pray the Scriptures

Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you will pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle. Breath slowly and deeply, slowly inhaling and exhaling, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit or return to the prayer if you become distracted.

Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence and ask you to hear my prayer and open my heart to you, so I might receive know you more and receive your wisdom. Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, is listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

After praying the short prayer, begin by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. Imagine a room with two chairs, facing each other; Jesus in one, you in the other chair. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with him.

The scriptures attest to God’s unconditional love for you. The Psalmist writes, “How precious is your unfailing love, O God!” (Ps 36:7), “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Ps 86:5), “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps 86:15). Psalm 118, assures God’s “steadfast love endures forever” (v. 1).

You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply.

Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.
When ready, slowly read John 17:6-19 NRSV below. It is a prayer that Jesus is praying for you and his disciples. A disciple is a “learner.” As you read, remember Jesus’ unconditional love (Greek: agape) and seek to understand what Jesus is asking for you. Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Read aloud, if you are able. Pause at words that catch your attention, and at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!

John 17:6-19 NRSV

6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all the facets of our lives come together in Jesus. Question: Ask yourself in what ways does the passage point to our lives being found in God (the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit). Write a list of what is revealed to you.

Finally, you may wish to re-read the John passage at least once more as you continue to hear what your heart is saying to Jesus!

Discussion and Reflection

Like last week’s reading for John Chapter 15, our reading also is an extended section of the Gospel of John called “The Farewell Discourses.” This section is an extended teaching by Jesus to his disciples as he shares a final meal with them, his closest friends. “The Farewell Discourses” are from Chapter 13, verse 1 through Chapter 17, verse 26. Jesus begins by washing his disciples’ feet, and Jesus’ teaching includes the institution of Holy Communion and much more! We must remember that Jesus words are not just to his first disciples but for all disciples regardless of time and place, who are members of Jesus’ body. Jesus’ public ministry has come to a close and his passion awaits. Our reading is from a section, Chapter 17 within “The Farewell Discourses” that the NRSV calls “Jesus Prays for His Disciples.”

Spend time reflecting on the following questions.

You could work with the questions on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. This writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.
How has Jesus revealed God? Make a list.

What is the relationship between Jesus and the Father? Jesus and you? The Father and you?
What are the reasons that the relationships in Question 2 are important? Make a list.
What does Jesus ask the Father to do for us? Make a list.
Does the passage say anything about knowledge and faith?
What are the similarity and difference between the disciples and the world?
How do you understand verse 17? How do you understand your need for sanctification?
What are the ways that this passage helps us today?

Consider memorizing some or all of this psalm as a way to live a life of praise.
As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer: I love you Lord, for you have heard my voice. Thank you, Lord, for your love and faithfulness, because you have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. Loosen my lips to sing your praise, O Lord, and to share the testimony you gave me with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :


1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial. To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

Praying the Scriptures, April 20-26th : John 15-1-11

You are invited to an optional opportunity to discuss this week’s scripture online with Pastor Forrest and others on Thursday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.  If you would like to participate please please click on Praying the Scriptures Thursday, April 23 a few minutes before 1:30 p.m. The meeting identification number is 975-8973-2062 To find out more about Zoom, please visit  How to Connect with St. Stephen’s Using Zoom. To take part in the meeting via your phone please call 1-301-715-8592. The meeting’s ID is.  975-8973-2062.

To download a PDF of this week’s study guide, please click here. 

Please note : This meeting will utilize Zoom’s Waiting Room feature, a virtual staging area that prevents people from joining a meeting until the host is ready. This is also serves as a security feature that helps the meeting’s moderator maintain a safe and polite meeting environment. To find out more about Zoom and about other ways you can keep in touch  with your church during the COVID-19 situation,  please visit Stay Connected with St. Stephen’s  You will also find some Zoom directions below today’s guide.

Before we enter God’s word, I encourage you to find a place where you can observe nature. Then take at least one minute or more of silence to center your mind before praying. This can be by admiring nature’s beauty, clearing your mind, or taking four concentrated deep breaths, to name a few ways. Now I encourage you to practice this time of centering as long or as many times as needed before moving on to the prayer below and our passage. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times, until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit.

PRAYER: Loving and Almighty God, let us be moved to truth by the promises in your Holy Word. Reveal deeper in ourselves how we are to follow in your commandments. Restore us and show us your will. In Jesus name, Amen.

John 15:1-11

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

We know love for God first loved us (1 John 4:19). To love God is to follow the commandments set out before us. It not only brings us joy in life but glorifies God. We are told we can do all things through God who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and we must remember our passage here. That we must follow Jesus, abiding in his love and commandments in order for us to grow and be nurtured. Take time to reflect on a particular word or phrase that stood out in your mind. Truly focus on this for a few minutes pondering it and praying over it before moving on.

Discussion and Reflection:

This passage comes in the middle of Jesus talking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit. The great Comforter and Advocate that will come and guide them while Jesus is gone from this world. Our passage today even though it may not say it aloud is all about the involvement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is not just a comforter but an integral part of the Holy Trinity that gives us power. Also in talking about the Holy Spirit Jesus says in John 14:22 when in talking with his disciples about his death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit to come, “Very truly I tell you the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and in fact will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” For our faith to grow we must be willing to be pruned or disciplined by God. A rebellious heart does not belong to the Lord. Jesus lays out here that we are made clean by him in verse 3, and that by following God’s commands we will grow in love and glorify God.

The hardest part of this passage for us can be the standard which we are held to in our relationship with God. We are called to bear fruit in the Lord by following God’s his commands and following Jesus who laid down his own life in our place to repair our broken relationship with God.
By abiding in Jesus and following his commandments we learn through the Bible that this path leads to joy. Realizing this we know that departing from God’s commandments brings pain and sadness which is the opposite of joy.

Following God’s commandments leads to joy and love, “if you keep my commandments you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (10). We do not know real love, Christ like love, without knowing his commandments. By studying the scriptures, praying over them, talking about them and then living them out with others, we understand love that is given to us and we are always to give to others.
So where are you feeling the tug of conviction or joy to serve the Lord in a new area in your life? Knowing that you are already made clean through Jesus’s sacrifice and can do all things through Jesus should be an encouraging force for change in our lives. Knowing that it is not all on our own will power, but it is about being filled with the Holy Spirit equips us. We are called to bear fruit in love by following God’s word, Jesus. So today and hereafter be filled with the powerful Holy Spirit that guides you to bear fruit and sustains you in times of God’s pruning.

Read the scripture one more time out loud. Take a moment to reflect on what Jesus is calling us to do.

Questions to ponder :

How are you abiding in God’s commandments and love?

What are areas God is trying to show you to grow in today? As uncomfortable and even painful that it may be, now can be the very time of pruning or cutting back that the Lord is leading you to that is necessary for your growth.

What emotions does this passage stir up? Whether good, bad, or in between? Enter into prayer to give God control to try and understand. This helps us to go to God in times of fruitfulness and times of barrenness, , then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Almighty God I ask you to continue to fill me with the Holy Spirit. Call me into more times of fruit even though it means I must be pruned. Guide me in the barren times to seek you further and open your word to reveal truth to me.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Tips on Using Zoom meetings :

1. You do not have to sign up for Zoom to use it.
You will receive email invitation from most Zoom online meetings organized by St. Stephen’s. When you receive an invitation all you need to do to take part is click on the meeting link at the scheduled time of the meeting.

2. You do not have be on video to take part in a Zoom meeting. Some folks are understandably camera shy.
When using Zoom, there is an option to share your voice and audio only.

3. To be able to easily access both the video and audio portion of a Zoom meeting, the best web browser to use is Chrome, a browser which is free and easy to download if you currently do not use. it.

4. Most Zoom meetings also have a phone in option, if you do not have internet access or do not wish to use your computer.
If you would like to set up an appointment with St. Stephen’s staff to get help on using Zoom, please call the church office at 703-978-8724.

To read instructions on how to use Zoom, you can view a video on how to join a Zoom meeting by clicking
Zoom Video Tutorial.   To learn more about St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, please visit our website at www.ststephensfairfax.org.

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