Sabbath Rest—A Prayer for You
Lent is a 40-day journey that takes us to the cross of Good Friday. But did you know Sundays are not counted in the 40 days? That’s because Sunday represents a “mini-Easter,” reminding us that we worship on Sunday because it was the first day of the week in which the Risen Lord appeared to the women at the tomb. Thus, early in our worshipping history Sunday was often referred to as Resurrection Day.
And so on our Little White Church Lenten Journey, I want to use these Sundays in Lent as a time to break from the traditional reflections and share with you prayers that I have found meaningful. The one featured today is extra special to me for it is a prayer written by a dear saint I met at the little white church I served.
This prayer came to me one especially trying day in ministry. At first when I saw the email, in which it was sent, I misread it. I read it as if this email was asking for prayer. That’s how my minister brain works—always assuming I’m being called on to pray for others. But as I read it more closely I realized that wasn’t the case. Rather, someone was offering a prayer for me. What made the prayer even more meaningful was this woman, who was new to our family of faith, took the time to write it herself.
And so on an especially trying day in ministry I was reminded I don’t carry the burdens alone—I had a family of faith who were there to carry the burden, lighten the load and share the glorious work of building God’s kingdom together.
Through my tears I read the prayer staring at me on the computer screen, which was lighting up the darkened living room in which I sat. But it was more than just the glow of the computer screen lighting up the room. It was the light of Christ shining from her words that were lighting the darkness on my path.
This prayer was—and still is to me—a powerful testimony to how God’s Spirit was awakening the men and woman of the little white church to new possibilities of being Christ to one another.
And so I share “A Prayer for You,” named after what was in the subject line of the email I opened one night in which I stood in the need of prayer. May this be your prayer as well.
Pastor Donna aka The Accidental Country Pastor
Dear Lord, I thank You for this day. I thank You for my being able to wake once again, to see and to hear this morning. I’m blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me
and You continue to bless me. Please forgive me every day for anything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to you, and I ask now for Your forgiveness.
Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each and every day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Please broaden my mind that I can accept all things. Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over.
Let me continue to see sin through God’s eyes and acknowledge it as evil. And when I sin, let me repent, and confess with my mouth my wrongdoing, and receive Your forgiveness. And when this world closes in on me, let me remember Jesus’ example -to slip away and find a quiet place to pray. It’s the best response when I’m pushed beyond my limits. Continue to use me to do Your will. Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others.
Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those that are lost and can’t find their way. I pray for those that are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don’t know You intimately. I pray for those that don’t believe. But I thank you are in my heart and that I do believe. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
A Little White Church Lenten Journey
When the cold of winter turns into the bleakness of mud season, hope is hard to find. Yet beneath the hard ground and in the midst of life’s muddiness, there is always new life waiting to bloom. Join Pastor Donna as she reflects on the transforming power of Lent and takes you on a 40-day journey of discovering God’s message of hope and renewal that she discovered in a little white church and in the hearts of the people who called that church “home.”
Day 3: Go Now in Peace
There’s a song the little white church would sing every week at the very end of worship. It was called “Go Now in Peace.” I had never heard of this song before nor have I ever worshipped or worked in a church in which a choral benediction was sung. So the first time I experienced this choral benediction it was indeed quite memorable.
It was the Sunday I preached for the congregation as their prospective new minister. Boy was I nervous. Would they like me? Would they be pleased with my sermon? I knew it really wasn’t about me but about God’s Spirit at work leading us both to the right partnership, but still, you can’t stop that tape playing in your head that they are looking at you and not beyond to what God is leading them to. Anyway, I gave the blessing and as the music began to play for the choral benediction, I walked to the back of the sanctuary. That’s when it happened. A divine moment. I stood there the soon-to-be next minister of the little white church and I looked out at people that God was bringing into my life to lead and to learn from. I stood and listened to their voices sing a song I was not familiar with.
Go now in peace. Never be afraid. God will be with you each hour of every day. Reach out to others…
I watched and listened to them sing this song that many knew by heart. And I wondered. How many really believed the words they were singing? Were they afraid? Did they know God was there each hour of every day? Were they reaching out to others?
I wondered about these people I had yet come to know, had yet to be there in their griefs, had yet to be their in their joys, had yet to journey with them in faith.
But as I listened I felt something there in the sanctuary. I felt a strange movement of the Spirit I had never felt before. It was as soft as breeze, but I realized then the Spirit was just beginning to move and among these people something powerful was going to emerge. Voices that were singing hesitantly were on the verge of singing boldly.
The vote to become the next pastor of the little white was unanimous and I walked back to the front of the sanctuary that God knew I—an avid lover of 18th architecture—would appreciate. I looked out at those gathered in the colonial era white wooden pews still with the doors attached and lifted my hands to give the blessing. As I did I felt that gentle breeze of the Spirit pick up a bit more.
“Go now in peace. Know He will guide you in all you do,” I said, borrowing from the choral benediction that was a little white church tradition.
Our ministry had began and as days turned into weeks that turned into months that turned into years, the Spirit’s breeze kept blowing and leading and waking hearts up. And then it happened.
One Sunday in Lent as the little white church sang their traditional choral benediction, I had yet another divine moment—a moment that almost brought tears to my eyes.
I heard their voices sing as I never heard before. This time I clearly heard voices that were stronger in aith and voices that were singing the words, “Reach out to others…” with conviction and passion. The words weren’t just words sung by rote. The words were being sung out of the experiences that we had together, experiences of growing in our faith together and experiences of really reaching out beyond our own doors and into the community. The words had come to life.
I stopped singing at one point and just stared at the cross on the communion table, listening to the strength and conviction that was coming out of the voices of the many men and women and children gathered for worship.
“God,” I said, “Can you hear them? Can you hear the belief in their voice? Can you hear the strength? Can you hear the love? Can you hear the determination to really reach out to others so all the world can see? God can you hear your children coming alive by your Spirit moving among them?”
I then lifted my eyes from the cross and looked over at all who were singing and noticed not only were their voices strong, but their faces were transformed. They were shining. Some people had their eyes closed, some had their eyes lifted up towards heaven and one man in my congregation did what he has done since the first day I came to the little white church. At the moment in the song when we sang, “God will be there, watching from above…” this man, in true devotion to God, always lifted his hands up towards heaven.
I carry this memory close to my heart because whenever I find myself wondering where God is or questioning the movement of the Spirit in my life because I haven’t felt any gentle breeze against my skin, I can close my eyes and go back to the little white church and hear the voices of God’s children sing.
I can remember how I was priviledged to see God’s Spirit breathing new life into tired bones and how words once sang by rote became words of transformation and new life.
God will be with you each hour of every day…
In this season of Lent, as we are invited to enter into the wilderness, let us not be afaid. Rather as we walk let us become aware of how closely God watches over us and how wonderfully God leads us. And may the song you sing along the way be sung with newfound strength, love and conviction.
Go now in peace. Never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know He will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.
This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Is your walk with God drudgery? Are you tired? Are you wondering where is this power of the Spirit you hear about? Whatever you do, don’t stop walking. Don’t stop singing. Challenge yourself this day to take one more step in faith and take it without any fear, trusting God all the way. For God does go with you each hour of every day.