Prayers

Advent prayer guide: Living a life of influence

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The season of Advent can be an invitation to prepare your heart and reflect on your faith journey. Through this Advent prayer guide, learn from the faith of the women in the story of Jesus’ birth and how they were called by God to live lives of influence.

Week 1: A life of faith

READ: Luke 1:5-45, 57-65

REFLECT
Elizabeth was a “descendant of Aaron.” When it came down to heritage for the mother of the prophet who would precede and introduce the Messiah, she had the right stuff. A closer look shows she’s not only genetically right. Her faith is right.

God first spoke to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, as he once did to Abraham about fathering a son in his and his wife’s old age. Unlike Abraham, Zechariah’s doubts and fears overcame his faith. So the angel placed him on a nine-month timeout from speaking — a time for refining his faith.

Elizabeth’s faith is quiet and unassuming. No giants are slain. Or blind eyes opened. But with her fertility clock timed out, she accepts that her physical body can bear a child — and ushers a miracle into the world.

Once their son is born, Elizabeth proclaims his name as “John” to a crowd of family and friends. With Zechariah’s confirmation of the name in writing, his voice is restored, and he begins praising God, too.

PRAY

Lord, as I enter Advent, give me Elizabeth’s faith and strength to believe. Like her, help me pattern my life in a way that pleases You. Let me serve You. Amen.

Week 2: A life of humility

READ: Luke 1:26-56

REFLECT
Mary, Elizabeth’s cousin, lived in Nazareth. Her simple reply to the angel’s astonishing explanation about how her coming child will be conceived gives the key to her life: “I am the Lord’s servant.” Here is a person who does what God asks: no ifs, ands, or buts.

She clearly had another future in mind, specifically a marriage to her fiancé Joseph. That he was a descendant of David would have made Mary the envy of her friends. Yet, she’s willing to have her life plan and reputation shredded to do what God asks, despite the implications of carrying a child who would not be Joseph’s biological son. She had surrendered her heart and her future to God, trusting his plan for her.

In her song, Mary identifies with humble people, those who are poor and hungry. She isn’t among her nation’s ruling classes or someone the religious society would consider qualified to bring the Messiah into the world. But God’s choice here, like many of his others, is someone who shows us how humility makes us prime candidates for God’s eternal work.

PRAY

Most High, like Mary, I want to be Your servant. Teach me how to better follow Your commands and do what You ask of me. Let humility guide my footsteps as I follow You. Amen.

Week 3: A life of mourning

READ: Matthew 2:13-18

REFLECT
“Rachel weeping for her children” isn’t a picture we like to think about at Christmas — or any other time. It’s too heartbreaking.

Herod’s plan for ridding himself of a political threat is the slaughter of innocent children. Rachel’s tomb is in Bethlehem. So, this metaphor of her weeping speaks about the women in Bethlehem who mourn the butchering of their babies by this malicious king. Our world still swallows millions of young lives to greed, violence, and political expediency. Anyone who’s ever lost a child never stops mourning.

Like the bereft mothers in Bethlehem, there are many who won’t be comforted — those mourning the babes lost to the atrocities of war, hunger, preventable diseases, trafficking, and other evils. Our grief can slowly become God’s call to action to care for others in times of pain or loss.

PRAY

God of Israel, I mourn with You over lost lives and wasted potential because of the evil in this world against our children. Help me answer Your call to do what I can, large or small, to alleviate their suffering and make Your love and care known to the most vulnerable. Amen.

Week 4: A life of devotion

READ: Luke 2:22-38

REFLECT
Likely married as a teen around age 15, Anna’s husband died seven years later. Some scholars think she was over 100 at the time she greets the Holy Family when they bring Jesus for circumcision and Mary’s purification ritual post-childbirth.

What did Anna do in the intervening years of her protracted widowhood? Scripture says this prophet from Galilee had moved to Jerusalem to be near the Temple. Every time its doors were open for prayer, multiple times a day, she was there worshipping God. She decided to let her tragedy be shaped by God’s love as she sought to know him more, every day.

In our reading, Anna becomes an evangelist, proclaiming to others the redemption of Jerusalem through the Christ child. She had spent enough time with God to know his voice and recognize the significance of the child in front of her.

PRAYER

Lord, I admire the prophet Anna for her decades of devotion to You. Help me to follow her example, allowing prayer and worship to become ingrained in my being. I want to hear Your voice and be one who can tell others about Your gracious love and salvation. Amen.


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