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When we met in person, we talked about our joys and concerns. Think over your past week, and what joys and concerns you have. When you are ready, work through the prayer below. It should allow you to include your prayers woven through a Psalm. (It is a little long!)
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Pray for increasing faith
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Pray for those things in your life for which you need help
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Pray for guidance and discernment
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
Pray for all those who are seeking refuge
6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the Lord.
Pray for help in letting go of your own worthless idols
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
Pray to see and respond to the afflictions of others
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Pray for the deliverance of all those who are persecuted
9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
Pray for those who are grieving. Pray for those dealing with mental illness.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Pray for those who are sick. Pray for those who are in pain.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends--
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
Pray for those who feel like a burden, and for those who feel forgotten.
13 For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
Pray for those who are in danger.
14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Pray for justice in the world.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
Pray for the truth to prevail.
19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
Pray for the world to notice the good things.
21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Pray for mercy on all people.
23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
This week’s lesson is on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Corinth was a major city in ancient Greece. Paul spent 18 months in the city on his second missionary journey, despite much opposition there (Acts 18:1-17). Writing I Corinthians from Ephesus in about AD 56 while on his third missionary journey, Paul addressed a variety of issues and problems that had arisen in the Corinthian church in his absence.
That church’s many problems seemed to have been rotted in pride, which went hand in hand with airs of spiritual superiority. Some thought themselves to be superior because they identified with a particular leader (1 Corinthians 1-4). Some thought themselves to be exempt from moral expectations (1 Corinthians 5-7). Some thought themselves to be superior because of the foods they ate or refused to eat (1 Corinthians 8-10). Some thought that they were so superior to other Christians that they could neglect the needs of others (1 Corinthians 11). The issue of spiritual gifts was also a problem at Corinth in this context.
Many individuals in the early church were empowered by the spirit to accomplish important tasks, including miraculous manifestations such as prophecy (example: Acts 21:8-9) and speaking in tongues (example: Acts 10:44-46). First Corinthians 12 begins a long section on the pride and arrogance that had entered the church through, ironically, the use of spiritual gifts. That discussion continues in chapter 14, but in the midst of it Paul pauses to offer a single, simple, concise answer to all the Corinthians’ questions: love each other.
Love, properly understood, will put everything else into perspective, unifying the church and empowering believers to glorify Christ together.
Questions to think about
From the perspective of the world, love is not an essential ingredient in the use of gifts. A large financial donation still helps the needy even if the donor gives the money simply to save on income taxes. A gifted teacher can lead a powerful lesson that changes lives, even if the teacher only wishes to draw attention to himself or herself.
From God’s perspective, these efforts are of no value to the individual who exercises the gift because their exercise is not done with the right motive. Central to the Christian understanding of God is that he is loving. This becomes “real” for us when we have a relationship with him.
God is not a dispassionate Creator. The Lord God as revealed by Jesus is one who loves us in a personal way. God’s love is not based on our deservedness. Love is the guiding force in everything that God does and must be the guiding force in the life of anyone who wishes truly to serve him. It’s not optional.
Father, take away our pride and envy, and help us to be truly loving and forgiving people. Give us the wisdom to use the gifts you have given us in humility and for your glory and honor. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
This week's benediction is from the Contemporary English Version.
Next week's lesson will be on John 13:1-15, 34-35.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.