January 2, 2015

Are you looking forward to 2015? According to a recent USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll many Americans are not. A report in USA Today titled, “This year was bad, Next year? Maybe worse” reads:

Our long national funk isn’t over.

The stock market has been booming and jobs growing, but Americans are facing the new year with them most downcast expectations in nearly a quarter century – a disconnect that reflects prosperity’s limited reach and assessments that Washington’s dysfunction isn’t going to get better anytime soon.

An end-of-the-year USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll finds an overwhelming 715 of those surveyed are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today. Just 49% predict 2015 will be better – the first time since 1990 that optimism for the year ahead has dipped below 50%.

Those attitudes have fueled developments as disparate as the rise of the Tea Party movement and coast-to-coast protests over the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., says Matthew Dowd, a strategist for George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. “There’s a general sense of anger and frustration that nothing seems to change,” he says. “They don’t trust that anybody has their back.”

I don’t know the extent to which you identify with the feelings described above. I do know that if the poll overstates our ambivalence about the year ahead, it does not vastly overstate it.

This state of affairs is one of the reasons that in the first month of 2015 I plan on preaching a series of sermons on four of the prayers of the Bible. In times of uncertainty we do well to turn to God in prayer. Almost innately, we sense that this is a helpful thing to do. Yet, when we turn to God, how are we to pray? Certainly, the Lord’s Prayer offers timeless instruction. There are, however, other prayers in the Bible, which model for us how we may turn to God in healthy ways.

The four prayers I want to lift up are:

  1. The Prayer of Manoah (Samson’s father) in Judges 13:8-10. Upon learning that Samson was to be born Manoah prays, “Teach us what we are to do.”
  2. The Prayer of Rebekah (the mother of Jacob and Esau) in Genesis 25:22. Pregnant with the feuding twins and aware that even in the womb they were contending with one another she prays, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?”
  3. The Prayer of Moses in Deuteronomy 3:25. The people have been in the wilderness a long time, sensing that the moment to enter the Promised Land will soon be upon them Moses prays, “Let me cross over to see the good land.”
  4. The Prayer of Daniel in Daniel 9:18. In the face of a great national crisis, Daniel prays, “We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your tender mercies.”

I look forward to this study of prayer with you. If nothing else may it encourage us to be a praying people in 2015, a people continually welcoming God into the center of our lives.

Peace,

Jim H.

(I may be difficult to reach in early January as I have jury duty in U.S. District Court.)