Father in Heaven, on this Christmas morning, we thank you for Jesus, your only, and beloved, son. The busy period leading up to Christmas is now over. The decorating of our homes, the gift buying and wrapping, the sending of cards, the parties with friends, special programs at church, etc. The sound of Christmas music has been filling the air, sharing the gospel in music with some who would not normally hear it.
We’ve been looking forward with joyful anticipation during Advent to celebrating Jesus’ birth, His first coming. This is indeed good news of great joy.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
We hear many in our culture talk about the “true meaning of Christmas”. Some say the true meaning of Christmas is peace, and indeed we are told that the angels praised God saying that there will be peace on earth among those with whom He is pleased (Luke 2:14). Tim Keller tells us that Christmas means the increase of peace, both with God and between people. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus that He would be the Prince of Peace:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Others say that Christmas is about light and hope. Father, we know that there would be no Christmas at all without Jesus, who came to earth as a sacrifice for us. He is our only hope and The Light of the World.
For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
We know that the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is You, O God, substituting yourself for man. We are so glad to read in 2 Corinthians 5: 19 where Paul says “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them”. Mark 10:45 tells us that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
He took the punishment we deserve and gave us His perfect life in its place so we can be reconciled with You. Love came down at Christmas. That’s the meaning of Christmas.
Father, be with us today. Help those who will be with family and friends to enjoy the wonderful time together. For those who will be alone today, and perhaps missing loved ones, please help them to feel the presence of your Holy Spirit. May we share this good news of great joy with everyone. May we live this day and every day for your glory.
In Jesus precious name,
Heavenly Father, we thank you for this beautiful morning, and the good night of sleep you have given us. Use that sleep to refresh our bodies for this day so that we can serve you in our vocations and callings today.
We pray for our commute into the office, that we leave in plenty of time so that we don’t get upset when someone sits too long at a light that turns green. Help us to show your love on the roads we travel, giving other drivers the benefit of the doubt, even if it “wasn’t their turn” to go. As we travel, prepare our hearts for the day ahead of us, and we lift up those we will meet with and come in contact with. You are sovereign and we are not. We don’t know what will happen today, but you do.
We pray for your guidance in the workplace today, no matter what our particular job is. Help us to treat others with kindness, so that they will see you through us. We want to shine your light in a dark world and point others to you, people who might never even consider going to a church on Sunday to worship you. Help us to use our words wisely. Perhaps those words will be used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Perhaps our words will be needed as we lead others, perhaps providing constructive feedback. If so, let us do so with kindness. Help us to serve others in the workplace. Help us to truly get to know our co-workers, finding out what it is that they value in their lives. Use us for your glory.
Help us to make eye contact with those we pass by, offering them a smile, instead of ignoring them, or having our face in our phones. Give us patience to treat interruptions with grace, putting others needs in front of ours.
Help us to handle difficult people and situations that may come our way today with integrity. Help us to be honest, trustworthy and people of good character, admitting our faults, even when they could easily be covered up.
You are a worker too, and we are made in your image. So, help us to do our work well, with excellence and a positive attitude and approach, not to make ourselves look good, but for Your glory, because we are doing our work for You. We don’t want the credit for a job well done. No, all glory goes to You, who created us and equipped us to do our work.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. Each year, Advent begins four Sundays before December 25. This year it will be December 2 to December 24. Advent means the coming of Christ. It is the celebration of the first advent of Jesus, and the anxious awaiting of His second. During the next four weeks we will be preparing our hearts to remember the first coming of Jesus through reading, music, teaching, etc., while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to His promised second coming. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting, and a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises.
How are you going to prepare your hearts this Advent season when there is so much pressure – shopping, Christmas events (parties, concerts, etc.), sending Christmas cards or writing family Christmas letters, gifts buying, travel, family gatherings, house decorating – and on and on. We can get exhausted and defeated even thinking about it. Without a doubt, there are many things that can distract us from what most matters during this season.
My wife Tammy and I love the Christmas season. Over the past few years we’ve made it a practice to choose a book of Advent devotional readings each year. In year’s past we have read John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent and his Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, Nancy Guthrie’s Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent, and last year we chose Paul Tripp’s Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. This year, we will read Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent. We also both love to listen to Christmas music, both Christian and traditional holiday favorites. My favorite Christmas song is “O Holy Night”. Songs such as that truly draw our hearts to the Lord.
Father in Heaven, we pause this morning as we begin the Advent season. We are so thankful for the sacrifice of your only Son, Jesus Christ. He willingly came to earth to humble himself by becoming a man and pay the price for our sins.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
We are thankful for the price being paid once and for all.
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
Help us to focus on Christ this Advent season when there are so many things, even good things, that can distract us from Him and why He came to this earth. He came once to save us from our sins and He will come again to gather His people into His Kingdom.
We pray that many – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – will be drawn to Jesus this season. Prepare our hearts to remember His first coming as we anxiously wait for His promised final return.
In Jesus name,
I’ve read a lot of books about prayer, including a few about “The Lord’s Prayer”. Probably the best book I’ve read on prayer is Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller. In that book Keller states that there are many different ways to organize our prayers. I often use the ACTS method for my prayers. In ACTS, the “A” stands for adoration, “C” stands for confession, “T” stands for thanksgiving and “S” stands for supplication, or request. Many times I’ve found that our prayers jump right to supplication. I like the ACTS model because it starts with adoration.
I want to address the “T” in ACTS – thanksgiving. The Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I think being thankful is an aspect of prayer that we (or at least I) tend to overlook. I think thankfulness and contentment tend to go together, when we are thankful we are also content. What would it look like if we lived a life of thankfulness? Here are five great verses from the Bible about being thankful:
- Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! 1 Chronicles 16:34
- And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
- 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. Colossians 3:17
- Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
I recently enjoyed spending some time thinking about what I am thankful for, the blessings in my life. Here are a few of them:
- Being saved through Christ (salvation).
- My immediate family – wife, parents, brother, sister, and my extended family.
- State Farm for a nearly 38-year career and all of the wonderful people I worked with.
- Our dog Molly, an Alaskan Malamute.
- Our church, pastors, elders and deacons.
- Covenant Seminary.
- Our home.
- The Bible and other good books to read.
- Music to listen to.
- Watching movies.
- Good health.
- St. Louis Cardinal baseball.
- Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul.
- God’s creation.
Take some time and reflect on what you are thankful for in your life and click on ‘Leave a comment’ to let us know.
Over the years I’ve read a number of good books on the subject of prayer. Each come from a slightly different approach. I’m always glad I’ve read the book, but also come away thinking my prayer life is not nearly what it should be. Is that the way you tend to feel after reading a book on prayer?
Here are 10 books on prayer that I’ve read and would commend to you:
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller
My wife Tammy and I read and discussed this book over a period of months. You can see the passages from the book we highlighted as we went through this helpful book here.
Prayer: A Biblical Perspective by Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander was a wonderful preacher who I was blessed to see at a few theology conferences several years ago. His chief concern in this short book is to remind Christians that prayer is fundamental and not supplemental, both in the individual and in the corporate lives of God’s people. This book has the feel of individual sermons that were delivered on prayer put into book form.
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
I’ve read this book twice (thus far). I first read the book a few years ago after our church hosted one of the author’s A Praying Life seminars, and again last year after we had a providential encounter with the author and his wife Jill in a cable car high above Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. Reading this book gives you the feel of sitting down with the author to talk about prayer as he shares many interesting and helpful stories – biblical and about his family, particularly about his special needs daughter Kim – to illustrate his teaching on prayer.
Does Prayer Change Things by R.C. Sproul
This booklet is part of R.C. Sproul’s excellent Crucial Questions series (which are free in the Kindle edition). I recommend all of the booklets in this series. In this booklet on prayer, Sproul asks: Does prayer make any difference? Does it really change anything? He looks at the place, purpose, pattern, practice, prohibitions and power of prayer.
The Chief Exercise of Faith: John Calvin on Prayer
This small book is an excerpt of Henry Beveridge’s 1845 translation of John Calvin’s classic work Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 20. The book is broken down into 52 individual sections. As an example, Section 2 is on prayer defined, its necessity and use. There is much wisdom from Calvin about the subject of prayer in these pages.
A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer by Dr. Archie Parrish
R.C. Sproul has written “No book has done more to revolutionize my personal prayer life than this little book by Martin Luther. I would recommend it for every Christian’s library.” The description of the book from Ligonier states:
“Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s barber asked him for advice on how to pray. Luther responded with a 34 page booklet showing a simple but effective way to structure a life of devotion. In it, he illustrates prayers through the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed.
This book, edited by Dr. Archie Parrish, contains Luther’s booklet and offers other helps for structuring your personal prayer life. Dr. R.C. Sproul, who wrote the foreword, considers this to be among the top fifteen Christian works that have most shaped his life and ministry.”
The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R.C. Sproul
This is a children’s book by R.C. Sproul which is related to Archie Parrish’s book above. Ligonier’s description of the book is:
“This imaginative tale from R.C. Sproul, based on a true story, begins one evening with Mr. McFarland leading family devotions. When his daughter asks him how she should pray, Mr. McFarland shares a 500-year-old story about a barber and his famous customer. Master Peter is a barber well-known to all in his village. One day, when Martin Luther the Reformer walks into his shop, the barber musters up the courage to ask the outlawed monk how to pray. Luther responds by writing a letter to the barber. The barber’s life and many others’ are changed as they encounter a model for prayer by using the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed.
Sproul’s beautifully illustrated story will delight children and help them learn to pray according to the Bible. The full text of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed will make this a treasured book to be returned to time after time.”
This resource is also available as a short audiobook read by the author.
Augustine on Prayer – Thomas A. Hand
Several years ago, a friend and I read and discussed this book, which is a compilation of the thoughts, words and prayers of Saint Augustine. The author collected more than 500 of Augustine’s texts about prayer for this book, which addresses questions such as: What is prayer? Why should we prayer? For what and from whom should we pray? How should we pray? I don’t recall where I heard about the book originally, but I do recall that reading and discussing it with my friend was a wonderful experience.
The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul
In this short book by R.C. Sproul, he notes that Jesus’ own disciples deemed their prayer lives inadequate, so they turned to their Teacher for help. It was on that occasion that Jesus gave them what we know as “the Lord’s Prayer.” Sproul writes “Jesus’ intent was to give His disciples a model prayer, an example to follow, one that would teach them transferrable principles for conversation with God.”
Lord, Teach Me to Pray – John MacArthur
In this short book, John MacArthur provides us with a short primer on prayer, hoping that the book will awaken a renewed passion in us for prayer. He looks at the basics of prayer and when and how often we should pray. He then examines what the content of prayer should be. Finally he looks at some of the sins that will hinder our prayers and how to overcome those sins.
These are 10 books on prayer that I’ve read and can recommend to you. Have you read any of these? What books on prayer have you read and can recommend?