If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:8-10
Dear God, I have sin. I admit it. I am petty. I am selfish. I don’t worship and love you with all my heart, mind, and strength. I don’t love others as myself. Thank you, thank you, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that my repentant voice is heard through all of this. Thank you that you cleared a path for me to be in relationship with you through Jesus. Thank you that you are slowly molding me into something better. Thank you that you love me.
Holy Spirit, please be the Father’s presence with me today. Counsel me. Bring your love into the world through me. In each conversation, each interaction with someone, help me to channel you so that your kingdom will come into the world. So that your will will be done.
I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:13-15
Dear God, I’ve gotten to the point in my life we’re I try to be careful about what I ask of you. I know that my requests can be foolish. I might pray for an outcome that is out of your plan. I might want something for myself or my children that will get in the way of what you are trying to do. The same goes for my work, my community, my country and even the world. I don’t know what you’re doing or how it all works out. There are things in my life that, to the human eye, look like complete failure. But I have prayed to you about them incessantly. My wife has prayed about them. So now I am just trusting that this is the path you need us to walk to accomplish what you have to accomplish. After all, Jesus taught us to pray, “YOUR kingdom come and YOUR will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
I have a big event tonight for the nonprofit where I work. It’s a fundraising event and my temptation is to go into it wanting to hit our revenue goal and impress the board of directors. I want to be able to point to how “good” I am at my job and use it to make me feel good about myself. The truth, however, is that you might have completely different goals for tonight, and none of them might pertain to money or my reputation. There might be one person in the audience who needs to see you and what you can do in their life. There might be one person who is inspired to work with us or some other nonprofit in town. There might be someone who decides they have missed you and wants to repent before you.
Father, my request of you for this dinner is that you will do with it what you want. We are spending $25,000 to put this thing on. Be glorified in all of it. Use it. Use it to help us raise money for our work and help us to be good stewards of that money. Use it to touch lives. Use it to bless our staff. Use it to let your will be done and your kingdom to come on earth and in our town as it is in heaven. Give us the daily bread that we need as an organization to do the work you have for us to do, and give us a vision for what that work is.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.
1 John 4:9
Dear God, I don’t want to talk as much about the words of this passage as much as I want to talk about the journey John took after he met Jesus. He went from being one of the sons of thunder to always talking about love. Some of his highlights (lowlights?) were asking to be elevated above the other disciples and wanting to cast down fire on the Samaritans for denying Jesus a place to stay on their way to Jerusalem. Yet, he was there at the foot of the cross in everyone’s darkest hour. He was there at Pentecost. He wrote the story of Jesus’s life on earth and humbly told negative stories about himself. And he implored us (including me 2,000 years later) to love as you love.
I think about my own journey and how you are growing and stretching me. I think about my wife and children in the same way. The journey never looks like I dreamed or hoped it would look–especially for my children. But I’m sure mine hasn’t looked like my parents hoped it would. But the journey is what you use to grow us. Amy Grant had a song from the early 80s called “In a Little While.” There’s a line in there that says, “We’re just here to learn to love Him.” The good news is, I think I am learning and growing. I’m different than I was even six months ago. But I am also aware enough to know I have a long, long way to go.
Father, get me to the destination to which you took John. Get me to an extreme level of knowing and understanding your love and then extending it to others. Let that love motivate me. Let it drive my love and actions for my family. Let it drive me in my work and friendships. Let it drive me in my worship of you.
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:17
Dear God, I think I’ll be scared on the day of judgment regardless. My wife and I were praying together last night. It was her turn and afterwards she apologized for not having a better, more focused prayer. I replied that, on a scale of 1-10, our best prayers are probably a 2, so a 1.8 prayer is just about as good. Taking that logic, if on my best, most faithful, worshipful day, my love is a 2 or 3… well, let’s just say it will be all about your mercy that day and not about how great my love was.
With that being said, certainly, the better I love here the more peaceful my life is. I was talking to someone yesterday about the current problems in the world. I spoke to her the words I once heard Rich Mullins say in concert: “The world’s going to go the way the world’s going to go. So keep yourself pure and love everyone you can.” I can’t make an idol out of everything having to be the way I want it to be. I just have to submit to you and love. That’s all I really have anyway.
Father, all of this is fleeting. Our lives are like a vapor and I will eventually die and the memory of me and my life will fade. That’s okay. It will happen to all of us. On that day, all I ask is another question Rich Mullins asked in one of his songs: “Can I be with you? Can I be with you?”
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:7-8
Dear God, when I was young and going to our local Baptist church, I learned this little Bible song:
Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another. First John four, seven and eight.
This reminds me of going back to my old standard from Galatians 5–the fruits of the Spirit. It starts with “love.” I usually focus on “peace” as an important litmus test as to how I am doing with you, but I suppose it does all, truly, start with “love.”
The biggest revelation of your love for me came when I had children. The following passage from Matthew 7 took on a whole new meaning for me:
9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
What I found fascinating about parenthood was how ready I was to forgive mistakes they would make. It was super easy. I loved them so much. Even now, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for either of them if I thought it was good for them and what they needed. I am totally there even though they are grown and there has been hurt experienced on both sides.
So if you love me that much more than I love my own children, how much, then, am I supposed to love and care about others? How much more am I supposed to do for the world on your behalf? And how do I keep from getting outside of your will, but pursuing only those avenues that are ordained and blessed by you?
Father, fill me with your love. Let it start with my wife, then my children and their significant others, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. Let it go to my friends and community. Help me to hear your still, small voice when I am in need of direction, correction, encouragement, and love. Help me to completely experience your love so that I can channel it into your world.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 1 John 2:15-16
Dear God, I’ve noticed something in me lately that’s disturbing and goes along these lines. I’ve found that I’ve been wanting credit for accomplishments. A few weeks ago, I saw a story in our local paper that I was actually the person who drove it behind the scenes. It was my idea and I got it going. But my name wasn’t attached to it at all. That must have bothered me a little because I was sure to point it out to my wife and tell her, in short, “I did that.”
I was talking to a coworker yesterday about my accomplishments in another organization and I was doing it very pridefully. There is obviously something in my spirit right now that is needing stroked. I’m reverting to the sinful cravings John references here.
Father, I’m grateful for this passage this morning. Thank you for speaking to me and gently reminding me that there is no satisfaction or peace at the end of this trail. If I follow it, I will not find what I’m looking for. I will only find it through worshiping you and experiencing your love and acceptance. I’m sorry for the glory I try to grab for myself that belongs only to you.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.
1 John 2:1
Dear God, oh, how I need an advocate. I need your mercy. I can pursue “morality” and a philosophy of living by your code, but your can seem like nonsense to me sometimes. What do I mean by that? Well, it would be nice if I could just line up the 10 Commandments and do what I can to follow them, but I heard someone say something interesting recently: Only one of those commandments is against the law (5. killing and 7. stealing). Everything else, from worshipping you alone to not coveting is a moral guideline from our society’s perspective.
No, what my advocate told me is the most important thing to do is worship you with everything I have and then love my neighbor as myself. If I do these two things then everything else will flow from this (Matthew 22:37-40). And I can’t get them out of order. I can’t love others as myself without first worshipping you and receiving your forgiveness because I won’t be able to get myself out of my head as I try to love others as long as I am trying to justify myself as opposed to having Jesus advocate for me and justify me. It is the freedom you offer through him that gives me the ability to truly love others, even at my own expense.
Father, make me the man you need me to be today. I say this a lot, but I really, really need it today. Make me exactly who I need to be today. Help me to be patient. Help me to hear the Holy Spirit. Help me to love well and selflessly. Holy Spirit, speak to me and flow through me. Do your work today.
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death. We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. 1 John 5:12-19
Dear God, this is one of those passages that seems to say whatever I want it to say. Sin and lose your salvation: I can get that from this. Once saved, always saved: I can see that too. What am I to think?
I suppose, when it comes down to it, for myself, as long as I am humbly pursuing you, I don’t need to worry about my “fire insurance.” Of the three possible outcomes for my soul after death—heaven, hell, nothingness—I only need to worry about hell and of the life I’m living isn’t good enough to avoid hell them o don’t think there’s much I could do to avoid it. Even if I believe in the wrong religion and you are the God of Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, etc. I have to believe there is room in your heart for someone who worships you, even in ignorance.
No, when I wake up in the morning and pray to you, the afterlife is not any part of my calculus or motivation. The truth is, I need you today. I need your love. I need your wisdom. I need your grace. I need your peace. I need your Holy Spirit to guide me. I need my daily bread from you. I have felt life as part of you and I have felt life apart from you. Even now, if I ever drift too far away from you and start living on my own, I miss you. I can feel the distance from your Spirit. There’s a part of me that thinks that’s the life to which John is referring that I can lose. Not necessarily eternity with you, but the life you give me while my physical body still functions.
Father, Jesus came to give me life abundantly. Help me to feel that life today as I draw near to you and your Spirit.
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
1 John 3:16-17
Dear God, I cannot remember if I mentioned this in a prayer the other day, but I know I was talking with a friend about it yesterday. I heard a podcast where two men and a woman were talking about having been to seminary and how they think the examples held up to pastors as those you should emulate are the wrong ones. Even as a society, we often point to those who have accomplished the most with broad influence and power and valued them more than we value the faithful volunteer whose work we never see. One person in the discussion joked that instead of holding up pictures of national leaders who are influential they should hold up a picture of one of the pastors in the conversation who was serving with a seemingly smaller sphere of influence. To the pastor’s credit, he said, “No, we need to hold up a picture of Jesus on the cross. That’s the example we need to be prepared to follow.”
This passage from 1 John 3 made me think of that this morning when I read it. You are my example. You didn’t care about government power or building the kind of power structure the world builds. That was another part of their discussion. One man described the Jesus movement of the 70s and how you had these radical Christians like Larry Norman and Keith Green who went counter-culture. Keith Green made his record label angry because he gave away his records. He bought a piece of property and started a commune for homeless people. But conventional wisdom (what I’m calling the wisdom of man) takes over and says, “Hey, we need to grow our influence and reach. We need to get this out and grow.” Then we start to focus more on strategy and infrastructure and building a kingdom.
I fall into this trap at work. I work at a nonprofit that serves people. It requires staff and money. It requires a facility. And then we meet as leadership and the question we ask ourselves is, what do we need to do to grow? What’s next? And we are certain there must be an answer. There must be something that is next to grow our numbers. But it’s likely we are asking the wrong question. Is the question, how do we add more clients, or is the answer how can we be more effective with the clients we have? How can we make a meaningful impact on a few lives as opposed to a cursory impact on thousands?
Father, I am sorry I do so many things for the wrong reasons. I’m sorry for relying so much on conventional wisdom. I’m sorry for not trying to see each and every situation with your eyes. Let my biblical hero be the widow who left her two coins in the offering. She lived a small life, but it still reverberates through history 2,000 years later.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.
1 John 2:15-16
Dear God, so if the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything I see, and pride in my achievements and possessions, 1.) what is the downside to that and 2.) what is it that you offer?
Of course, the answer to #1 is the emptiness that comes from those pursuits. What they lead to is the fruit of the flesh from Galatians 5:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
It doesn’t look like there is much joy at the end of that rainbow.
So what do you offer? Well, thankfully, Paul gives us a pretty good list right after this:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Father, life is fleeting. We are all a vapor. Help me to make my time here be about pursuing you and not my own selfish cravings. Purify my heart, oh God, and create a new spirit within me.