Pilgrim prayer

Introduction

Today’s blog is based on one of my favourite and most frequently-used prayers. I came across it many years ago in a book called “Pocket prayers for pilgrims” (Compiled by John Pritchard, Church House Publishing, 2011). For me, its anonymous author summarises the whole spirit of the Gospel in just a few words:

Lord God,
Whoever you bring into our path today,
May we see Christ in them,
And may they see Christ in us,
For your love’s sake.
Amen.

Development

Over the years, I have personalised this prayer and slowly come to understand the force and breadth of its intention more deeply. This, in turn, has strongly influenced the way I try to live each day. I’ll briefly set out what it has taught me.

Changes

A. At an early stage, I changed “our” to “my”, and “we” to “I”, making its message much more directly personal.

B. I have come to understand its challenge as going far beyond how I speak to, and behave towards, those I meet. Now, I see those God “brings into my path” as including:

  • All who are around me wherever I am (e.g. in the street, hospital, public transport, shops etc).
  •  People I hear about online or from others (whether or not I come into contact with them).
  •  Those I read about in the newspaper.
  •  People I see on television.

C. Even though I don’t know these people, and they don’t know me, I see my task as being to love and pray for them, because Christ is within them all, just as the Bible teaches:

  • Everyone, without exception, reflects God’s divine image (Genesis 1:27; TIB).
  • Everyone is the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV).
  • Christ lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).
  • Everyone is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; NLT).

Conclusion 

Using this little prayer daily for many years has brought about profound changes in how I express my faith, especially in terms of how I behave towards others, no matter how I encounter them along my pilgrim way through life.

Saint Luke expresses my approach perfectly when he describes how “Their eyes were opened, and they recognised him” (Luke 24:31; NIV; my emphasis). Thus, my task is to recognise Christ in all, loving and praying for them, and remembering that we are all one (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). In this way, I try to follow Jesus’ teaching: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

May you have a blessed day. I continue to pray for everyone who reads these blogs, those who reject them, those who never read, or say, a prayer, and those who don’t want anything to do with God.


References 

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:19; NLT). 

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him (Colossians 3:10; NLT). 

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24; NLT). 

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT). 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5; NIV).

My dear friends, now we are God’s children, but it has not been revealed what we are to become in the future. We know that when it comes to light we will be like God, for we will see God as God really is (1 John 3:2; TIB).

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; NLT).

Equality

Introduction 

Some Christians believe that women are, and should be, subordinate to men, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Having researched and reflected on this issue for many years, I want to examine it in some detail, beginning with a question:

Did Jesus ever teach, state, claim, suggest, imply, or show by his behaviour that he considered women to be subordinate to men?

Jesus’ attitude to women 

The Gospels illustrate how Jesus went out of his way to include and relate to women in ways which were revolutionary for a man in a highly patriarchal society. He talked with them, listened to them, taught them, touched them, healed them and ate with them. He had close women friends and cared about women’s spiritual development. He depended on his female followers’ financial backing, and received their emotional support to the very end of his life, when all his male disciples except John had fled. Women were also the first witnesses of his resurrection. 

Jesus’ male disciples were sometimes shocked  by how closely and equally he related to women, as seen when they found him talking to the woman at the well (John 4:26; NLT).

Perhaps most significantly of all, there is no suggestion in the Gospels that Jesus excluded women from becoming his disciples:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; NLT). 

Saint Paul’s attitude to women 

So, given Jesus’ egalitarian example, where did the belief that Christian women should be subservient to men originate? Here I turn to the letters of Saint Paul. A tough, educated and opinionated man, Paul did not question the culture of his day with regard to the sexes:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord (Colossians 3:18; NLT).

Going even further, he instructed churches to silence women members, regardless of their spiritual gifts:

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (1 Colossians 14:34-5; NLT). 

In saying this, Paul presumably felt he was adhering to the Gospel, even though Jesus said nothing of the kind. 

It’s interesting to note that in his letter to the Galatians, Paul once stated the exact opposite of what he wrote to the Colossians. Experiencing a moment of sublime insight into the essential equality and oneness not just of the sexes, but of all people, he was able to write:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). 

Historical context

I don’t know how Paul managed to square his contradictory views on women, but I take care to bear in mind how strongly his writing was influenced by his historical context. Although he was an extraordinary, sometimes inspired, speaker and writer, he was also a fallible man of his times, whose views were shaped by widely-held beliefs and prejudices, some of which unfortunately crept into his letters.

Unfortunately, these non-Gospel aspects of his teaching have continued to influence others ever since. Thus, when powerful men spent years arguing about which books should be included in the Biblical Canon, most of those by, for, and about women were ruthlessly excluded. The selections they made still influence Christian belief and practice over 2,000 years later.

Conclusion

It’s hard to understand why Paul’s conventionally patriarchal attitude to women came to be so thoroughly embraced throughout history, whilst Jesus’ consistently loving, egalitarian approach has been largely ignored. Even as I write, I’m shaking my head in disbelief that Paul’s first-century beliefs about the roles and status of women and men continue to influence so many individuals, families, congregations and denominations right up to the present day.

Heaven is now

Context: Just as I finished writing yesterday’s context, I saw how to express in writing the heaven I had experienced during prayer (https://wp.me/p45bCr-bwn), so I noted it down immediately, and began to work on it.

As I researched its references later in the day, it was fascinating to see, as always, the widely different ways in which individual Bible verses are translated. The relevant verse here is Luke 17:21, and I want to focus for a moment on just one word: ἐντὸς, which tells the reader where the kingdom of God is experienced. The multiple translations I consulted offered many different shades of meaning to express this single, original Greek preposition (some of these can be seen in the references below). NB: To my great surprise, today’s blog includes several of these different meanings, even though I didn’t write it with that aim.

Translation is such an important issue for me, because different translations can generate different beliefs. For example, here is the phrase from Luke 17:21, in which the word ἐντὸς is used, firstly in the KJV (the emphasis is mine):

The kingdom of God is within you.

Then here it is in the ABPI:

The Kingdom of God is within some of you.

Clearly, these two  translations have radically different meanings, with potentially major consequences for the thinking, speech and even behaviour of those whose Biblical access is usually limited to a single translation.

Finally, in the references for today’s prayer I use the terms kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God interchangeably. This follows the example of the gospels, where the term chosen by each writer depends on the target group for which each gospel was intended.

Anyway, after this rather long preamble, here is today’s blog:

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17; NLT). 

1. Heaven on earth,
And heaven in prayer;
Heaven in worship:
Heaven is near.

2. Heaven within,
And heaven without;
Heaven in service:
Heaven is here.

3. Heaven in all,
And heaven in Thou;
Heaven in oneness:
Heaven is now!

The Kingdom of God is already among you
(Luke 17:21; NLT).


References 

1. The Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 10:7; NLT).

2. The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

God’s kingdom is here with you (Luke 17:21; CEV). 

3. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT). 

Hearts of stone

Surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord, or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins (Jeremiah 4:4; NLT). 

Take away our hearts of stone,
Our foolishness and pride:
Please give us tender hearts of flesh –
Your teaching, Lord, our guide.

Take away our hearts of flint,
Our anger, hate and greed:
Then give us gentle, loving hearts –
Your pattern, Lord, our creed.

Take away our hearts of ice,
Our senseless use of force:
And give us warm, responsive hearts –
Your gospel, Lord, our source.

I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ezekiel 36:26-7; NLT).

Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plough up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12; NLT).


 

If I never lay my cross down


Come to me, all of you who are weary
and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28; NLT).

Father,

If I never lay my cross down,
If I never pause to rest,
If I never try to pray:
I’ll never bear each test.

If I never stop to listen,
If I never care to seek,
If I never wait on you:
I’ll never hear you speak. 

If I never ask forgiveness,
If I never feel remorse,
If I never start afresh:
I’ll never stay the course. 

If I never spread your Gospel,
If I never praise your grace,
If I never worship you:
I’ll never see your face.

If I never share your body,
If I never taste your blood,
If I never strive to follow Christ:
I’ll never know your love.

Those who wish to boast should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me
and understand that I am the Lord,
who demonstrates unfailing love
(Jeremiah 9:24; NLT).

Lord, I want to pray

Image: waldryano, Pixabay


✝️

1. Lord,
I want to pray, rejoice,
And thank you.

I want to serve,
Console, forgive,
And love.

2. Lord,
I want to plead
For your forgiveness,

Then follow
In your steps,
Saved by your blood.

3. Lord,
I want to spread
Your priceless gospel,

So others learn
To worship,
And adore.

4. Lord,
I want to bear
My cross to heaven,

Where I
Will lay it down
For evermore.

✝️


References

1. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all (Mark 9:35; NIV).

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT).

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4; NLT).

May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow (1 Thessalonians 3:12; NLT).

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (Romans 12:9; NLT; my emphasis).

2. Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late (Jeremiah 36:7; NLT).

Then [Jesus] said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Since we have now been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation (Romans 5:9; NLT).

3. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it (Matthew 13:45-6; CSB).

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16; NIV).

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19; NLT).

4. Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Then Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28; NLT).

Open all eyes

Image: Robert Cheaib, Pixabay


❤️

All nations will come to your light (Isaiah 60:3; NLT). 

Lord,

1. Open all eyes
To your presence,
And open all minds
To your Word.

2. Open all hearts
To your Spirit,
Until every soul
Has been stirred.

3. Then, all will welcome
Your Gospel;
Then, all will trust in
Your Son.

4. Then, all will welcome
Your Kingdom,
And your will, at last,
Shall be done.

❤️


References

1. Suddenly their eyes were opened, and they recognised him Luke 24:31; NLT).

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it! (Genesis 28:16; NLT).

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1; NLT).

2. To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12; NLT).

3. “As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God” (Romans 14:11; NLT).

Trust in God and trust also in me (John 14:1; NLT).

4. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10; NLT).

Jesus is my gospel

Image: John Woodman


Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”
(John 14:6; NLT).

1. Jesus is my gospel,
My way, and my good news;
Jesus is the Word of God:
My Lord, the One I choose.

2. Jesus is my shepherd,
My truth, my sword, my shield;
Jesus is my living bread:
In him, God is revealed.

3. Jesus is my spirit,
My mind, my heart, my soul;
Jesus is my life, and death:
Through him, God makes me whole.

 


References

1. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel (2 Timothy 2:8; NIV).

Jesus told him, “I am the way” (John 14:6; NLT).

This is the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Mark 1:1; NLT).

His name is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13; NIV).

Choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15; NLT).

2. I am the good shepherd (John 10:14; NLT).

Jesus told him, “I am […] the truth” (John 14:6; NLT).

He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword (Deuteronomy 33:29; NLT).

I am the living bread (John 6:51; NLT).

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; NLT).

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3; NIV).

3. We all share the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; NLT).

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5; NKJV).

I will give them one heart (Jeremiah 32:39; NLT).

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned to the Jordan River (Luke 4:1; NLT).

I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised (Luke 24:49; NLT).

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

If we die with him, we will also live with him (2 Timothy 2:11; NLT).

He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; RSV).

One star

Image: VisionPic.net, Pexels


And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was (Matthew 2:9; NLT).

1. One star, so bright;
One birth, one light.

2. One Son, so dear;
One truth, so clear.

3. One path, so short;
One gospel taught.

4. One Man, so brave;
One Lord, our slave.

5. One night, so dark;
One fear, so stark.

6. One hope, so small;
One cup of gall.

7. One life, so hard;
One flesh, so scarred.

8. One cross, so high;
One final cry.

9. One tomb, so cold;
One flash of gold!

10. One God, so good;
One path of love.

Image: Viola, Pixabay


References

1. While they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling-cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:6-7; RSV).

I am the light of the world (John 8:12; NLT).

2. This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him (Mark 9:7; NLT).

3. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me (John 14:6; NLT).

4. Whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else (Mark 10:44; NLT).

5. Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44; NIV).

6. If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

7. The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life (Matthew 7:14; RSV).

He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip (Mark 15:15; NLT).

8. Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross (Mark 15:24; NLT).

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; NIV).

And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last (Luke 23:46; NKJV).

9. He took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock (Luke 23:53; NLT).

Very early on the Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes (Luke 24:1-4; NLT).

10. The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4; NASB).

Only God is truly good (Luke 18:19; NLT).

Follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV).

Love is the fulfilment of the law (Romans 13:10; NIV).

Only one race

Image: Anja, Pixabay


1. There’s only one race:
God calls it humanity;

2. Only one path:
His Son’s way of love.

3. There’s only one truth:
The heart of the gospel;

4. Only one life:
Our chance to do good.

5. There’s only one gift:
The joy of forgiveness;

6. Only one faith,
One Spirit, one call.

7. There’s only one hope:
Our goal of salvation;

8. Only one God,
Who lives in us all.


References

1. All humanity will come to worship me (Isaiah 66:23; NLT).

2. Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:2; NIV).

3. We want to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you (Galatians 2:5; NLT).

4. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone (Galatians 6:10; NLT).

5. He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

6. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5; NLT).

There is one body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4; NLT).

He calls people (Romans 9:12; NLT).

7. Let us be sober, putting on […] the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8; NIV).

8. There is […] one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:6; NLT).