After people watched in suspense the smoke from the Vatican finally turned white signaling the emergence of a newly appointed pope to lead the Roman Catholic Church. Over one hundred cardinals (ecclesiastical dignitaries and papal appointees who advise the pope) selected 76-year old Argentine Archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to assume the papacy. Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, recently assumed his new title in uncharacteristic fashion, washing the feet of a woman as a modeling of Christ’s servant spirit. There is much hope and anticipation surrounding Pope Francis’ potential as a humble, transformational leader, and we need to be praying for him. Here are ten reasons why you and I should pray for the pope.
- More than 1.2 billion people claim Catholicism as their embraced expression of faith, and God fiercely loves each individual one.
- The Catholic Church has been a consistent voice advocating the sanctity of life.
- The Catholic Church remains a leader in providing quality health care and education.
- The Catholic Church has been a constant advocate for ministry to the poor and underprivileged.
- The globalization of our modern world has placed the pope’s actions on a world stage.
- The pope’s influence on Protestant Christianity is at one of its greatest points in church history. Brian Stiller, a global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, recently blogged about Catholic-Protestant relations stating that: “Not in 500 years have the two sides been so close and friendly.”
- Tragically, the Catholic Church is still awash in both sexual and monetary scandal and controversy.
- The task of cleansing and reforming the Catholic Church is beyond the ability of an individual man.
- The task of leading such a monumental movement is beyond the ability of an individual man—Pope Francis needs the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
- Finally, the Apostle Paul told us to pray. “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and those in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
 Taken from Christianity Today, April 2013, 57.
A parenting coach once remarked about curfews: “Nothing good happens after midnight.”
It’s probably good advice since most deviant behavior occurs in the late night hours when shops are closed, streets are empty, and everything is cast in shadow. However, what do you do when it isn’t a curfew you’re discussing but your life? What do you do when you’re in a midnight season of life and no matter how much you look for it you can’t find any evidence of a sunrise?
That’s the state of many people in our country today. From economic woes to generational concerns to general feelings of instability, a bleak outlook on the future seems to be the norm.
It’s hard to see a lot of good after midnight…unless it’s something like this.
In Acts 16 Paul and Silas found themselves locked in the inner cell of a prison with their feet painfully chained up in the stocks, and in verse 25 it says: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”
That’s a powerful sentence: “About midnight they were praying and singing to God.”
The safest, most powerful place to be at midnight is in the place of worship and prayer. It’s in this place that locked doors burst open, inhibiting chains fall apart, and the darkness of midnight gives way to the morning sun.
Midnight prayer and worship sessions always end with a sunrise.
Four years ago in his televised interviews with then presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, Pastor Rick Warren aptly stated: “We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics.”
One of the beautiful freedoms in our American heritage is our right to worship without the intrusion of the state. We don’t want the state imposing sanctions on our (or anyone else’s) worship expressions. However, we adamantly believe that our faith should influence our politics. Indeed, for the Christian, it is impossible to separate the two since our faith is not a compartmentalized practice but an indispensable part of our very identity.
Here are some simple ways to practice the merging of our faith and politics.
- Pray for all those in authority…regardless of their side of the aisle. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
- Ask God to give us righteous leaders since it is righteousness that truly “exalts a nation.” (Proverbs 14:34)
- Vote for candidates that best conform to a Biblical world-view. (2 Samuel 23:3, Matthew 6:33)
- Remember that although our natural citizenship may be in the USA, we ultimately belong to a higher Kingdom. (Hebrews 12:23)
- Live Christ-centered lives that transcend the values of the world around us. (John 15:19)
- Remain ever ready to give an answer in defense of our faith. (1 Peter 3:15)
Well, unfortunately another little woodland creature decided to die inside the wall of our church office and reek out the building. Last year Pastor Jerry’s office was their favorite dying site but this week it’s been mine. Luckily, Jessica recently bought me a cupcake-scented candle and it’s been helping me cope.
These experiences with contending smells have reminded me that sometimes the only answer for a bad smell is a sweeter one.
One of the purposes of prayer is releasing that sweeter fragrance.
In Psalm 141:2 David compared prayer to incense when he said, “May my prayer be set before you as incense.” In Acts 10:4 an angel said to Cornelius, “Your prayers and your gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before the Lord.” And in Revelation 5:8 John saw “golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.”
In addition to being a means of communicating with God, our prayers are like incense offerings that transform the atmosphere around us.
How much of that incense permeates your life? Is the air of your life suffocating and stale or is it scented with the fragrance of prayer? Sometimes we need to pray, not for miracles or answers from heaven, but to release the pleasing power of incense that’s locked inside our prayers.
I accidentally fasted on Tuesday, and I think God still counted it.
Last Sunday at Grace our church family committed to a week of collective prayer and fasting. We were each going to choose a customized fasting plan that ranged from fasting from one meal or activity to an entire week. The emphasis was not on how long we fasted or what we fasted from, but on whom we were fasting to and why we were fasting.
According to the Scriptures, we fast:
- When Jesus seems absent…
- When situations seem hopeless…
- When injustice rules the land…
- And when we want to engage in a deeper level of prayer and worship…
My plan was to fast on Wednesday. However, when I arrived at my office early Tuesday morning, I realized that I had left my well-packed Los Angeles Lakers lunch bag in the refrigerator at home, and I was facing the prospect of a day without instant oatmeal, bananas, and lentils. My first impulse was to run to Vons and stock up on protein, but then I thought, “Maybe I’ll just fast today instead of tomorrow.” So I reallocated my eating time in to a time of focused prayer…and I received one of the strongest downloads of insight and revelation from the Scriptures that I have received in months.
And I wasn’t even planning on fasting that day.
This silly little story is a reminder of the “accidentalness” of the Gospel. Sometimes even the random, unplanned details of our day can have a divine breath in them. As followers of Jesus, we should always have eyes to see and ears to hear because sometimes heaven is beckoning us…even in our accidents.