Dear brothers and sisters,
Here is the basic text for the preparation of the Week of Prayer 2013 offered to the National Evangelical Alliances represented in European Evangelical Alliance.
This text is prepared by representatives of the German speaking EA’s and translated into English.
This proposal can be translated, changed or adapted according to the insight of your national or local preparation team. You can make this as applicable as possible for your national/local situation. Day themes can be changed or deleted and replaced by others, if you feel that is necessary.
Several national EA’s prefer to use the same (or a comparable) theme as is used by the national Council of Churches. Other EA’s do not prefer that. The leading text of course is very known within Evangelical Alliances because of the initiatives around Micah challenge. So the preparing committee and I recommend this leading text and theme, which is roughly the same as has been chosen for the ecumenical week of prayer and unity in 2013 (that is organized usually in the 3rd week of January).
I present this to you with a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to our brothers and sisters from Germany, Austria and Switzerland (German speaking) and to Axel Nehlsen in particular for his coordinating work. I present it also with the prayer that this material may be used to stir up prayer for the church and the nation abundantly and that it contributes greatly to the glorification of the name of our Lord.
With warm greetings, in Him
General Secretary of EEA
Central Focus Theme: ‘Walking with God in humility and joy’
Leading Text: Micah 6: 8
‘He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’
The path of Christian discipleship involves walking the path of humility and joy, justice and mercy. The metaphor of ‘walking’ has been chosen to link together the 8 days of prayer because, as an active, intentional and ongoing act, ‘walking’ characterizes the dynamism of Christian discipleship.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Walking with God – because He humbled Himself
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own ad-vantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death —even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Additional Bible Text: Micah 6:6-8
"You will be like God!" the serpent promised the people in paradise. The seed of mistrust sprouted, and man chose – self-determination instead of obedience, ruling instead of serving, honour and recognition for the ego instead of for God. In other words: arrogance instead of humility. That was the worst-case scenario of human history – we are lost. Instead of living at home, we live in foreign lands. And the worst thing is – we can’t go back. Not on our own power.
Then we look to Jesus. He was God before time began. He is the creator and Lord of the cosmos, revered and worshiped by the angels, the king on the throne. Nevertheless, His heart was moved by the cries of His creatures. And He came down. He left radiance and splendour and came down to the filth of the earth. He set aside everything that belonged to Him, including His divine position – and became man. Instead of ruling, He obeyed His Father and served. Instead of self-preservation, He chose total surrender.
Was the world grateful? He came to save mankind and was an unwanted child – Herod wanted to kill Him. He endured scorn, mockery, and abuse. He relinquished His well-being and His health and was tortured. Tens of thousands of angels were standing prepared to save Him. But He let Himself be stripped of both His clothes and His power. He was abandoned by everyone when He was on the cross, including His beloved Father. He laid down His life and was murdered – for us!
What did He gain? His heart bled for the lost and the wretched. He does not want to be in heaven without us. Because He emptied Himself to the utmost, He is the way for us to go back home, back to the world we were made for - from foreign lands to the Father’s house, from the cold into warmth, from lack to abundance. Finally home!
Let us be shaped by His attitude and surrender! Let us look at Him and let Him move our hearts! Let our thoughts, our hands, and our feet be moved by Him to those who need Him and us in their spiritual, emotional, or physical needs. Thus we will “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”, in accordance and fellowship with him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot begin to measure what you have done for us. You gave yourself completely. For our well-being and salvation, you set aside everything that be-longed to you. You became poor so that we could become rich. We praise you.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Walking with God – because He calls us
1 Samuel 3:8-10
A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel! ”
John 10: 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
For days, he can’t get the thought out of his head. He keeps looking at the poster on the ad-vertising column, and now he sees the same ad in the newspaper. “Maybe I should just go to that evangelistic meeting this evening in the town hall,” he thinks. When the neighbour from the second floor also personally invites him to go, he understands the call and actually goes to the meeting. It will be a evening that changes his life, an evening on which he meets God.
God never stops calling. He calls at the beginning of our Christian lives, but also continues to call us our whole lives. It all depends on hearing and understanding His voice.
But what about the other voices in our lives? Can we differentiate the really important ones from the loud, dominant, pushy voices of our times? Or are the ears of our hearts stopped up through our own thoughts and ideas? Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice calling him until the third time, and then only with Eli’s help. How often must God call us and help us to recognize His voice?
Anne called me several times with some sort of small excuse, and each time I gave her just a short answer. Then I finally realized that I needed to take time for a longer conversation with her. I had simply not recognized God’s voice immediately.
From the first page to the last, the Bible records that God calls people, and He is still calling people today to follow Him. It’s our job to recognize His voice and follow.
When my friend Heike calls and just says, „Hello“, I recognize her voice immediately. In the same way, it is my desire that when God calls me, I will recognize His voice and follow Him.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, when we read your word, help us to recognize your will and to be obedient. Please help our churches to recognize and use opportunities to share about you and make your love visible in our city. Give us creative ideas, courage and joy, which richly blesses both us and others.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Walking with God – because He loves us
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify him-self, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Additional Bible Text: Jeremiah 31:2-7
What will happen if ….. – I go by and just let him lie there? Perhaps the man from Samaria asked himself that question when he saw the man who had been injured during an armed robbery attack lying there on the street. But it bothered him. He saw that the man needed help, and so he changed his plans and goals for the day and took care of the injured man. It cost him effort, time, strength, and money.
When we go through our day today, we also meet people who are in critical, needy situa-tions. What will happen if …. – I refuse to help and simply go by a person who needs me to be his brother today? The person who feels misunderstood, slandered, despised, hurt, unac-cepted, unloved?
Let us remember that Jesus Christ came to people with divine love to assist them, to help them, to heal them, and to call them to follow Him. In the midst of a crowd, He frequently saw the very one who needed Him at that moment. Let us remember that He is sending us today in His place. Do we remember that He has poured out His divine love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit? Will we let this love move us to action? Do we let it change our own goals and plans? Does love help us overcome hindrances and barriers? Does love move us to treat others with high esteem and respect?
What a great blessing it would be if today we could be someone’s brother and he could expe-rience God’s love through us, bringing healing for spirit, soul and body!
The Samaritan and the injured person became brothers. Where is my brother today? Or to whom can I be a brother today? What does he need? Let us not apathetically pass people by, but rather see each one with the loving eyes of our Lord. That will be an extremely interesting walk with Jesus through the day. And the best thing is that He goes before us and prepares the way for us to be someone’s brother.
Let’s try viewing our “brother” like the boy in the story of the starfish. An old man walked along the beach one morning and saw a boy who was gathering up all the starfish and throwing them back into the sea. He asked him why he was doing that. “Because the starfish will die when the sun gets to them, “the boy replied. “But the beach is long and there are thou-sands of starfish on it, “the old man said. “What difference does it make if you throw some of them back into the sea?” The boy looked at the starfish in his hand, threw it back into the sea, and said, “For this one it means the difference between life and death.” (Marie Hüsing)
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you are sending me today. Thank you that you love me and have filled me with your divine love. Please let me recognize and see whom I can be a “brother” to today, encountering him with your love – for your glory.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Walking with God – because He sets us free
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And be-cause the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Additional Bible Text: John 4:4-26
Israel’s exodus from Egypt has become the embodiment of walking with God. The journeys of the people of Israel shows for all time that a life with God is not static, but rather full of movement, and that God does not lead us into narrowness, but rather frees us from slavery. At the very beginning of the departure to freedom, there is a rather inconspicuous episode of civil disobedience on the part of two midwives. They obeyed God more than man, thus re-maining true to their pledge as midwives to “help into life rather than hinder life”. And they find a clever answer to justify their actions.
Big happenings most often have small beginnings. Ripe fruit grows from an unimpressive seed which has to be put into soil. This comparison, which is used to describe the essence and the mystery of the kingdom of God, is one of the central themes of the entire Bible.
Deliverance begins with an individual. That’s why Jesus approaches people personally. Jesus met the woman at Jacob’s well in the middle of her everyday life with its difficulties and burdens and enters into a conversation with her. He doesn’t ignore her weaknesses and guilt. But He wants to give her a new perspective on life beyond her stress, compulsions, constraints, and injustices. He wants to give her a free, inexhaustible life within the wide-open spaces of the kingdom of God.
Jesus Himself is the key to that freedom. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free in-deed.” (John 8:36) In the book of Galatians, Paul pleads for this freedom, which he himself experienced during the encounter with the risen Jesus. Christ has freed us from the compul-sive search for self-fulfilment and self-deliverance. He has freed us to serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:1,6,13).
Prayer: God, our Father, you raise up the oppressed and free those in bondage. Your son Jesus walks beside us and shows us the way to true freedom. Send us your Spirit, so that the truth can set us free. Let us recognize and appreciate what you have given us. Let us be strong enough to conquer all that holds us in bondage. Give all those who are working for freedom and dignity in the world endurance and strength. God of live, lead us to justice and peace.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Walking with God – because He binds us together
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Additional Bible Text: Psalm 133
Both the German and English word "in", and the Greek “en” are very short and mean the same thing. In Jesus Christ, en Christ, are very important words for Paul, because he himself experienced what it can mean. Everything becomes different; everything becomes new through the power of reconciliation through the blood of Jesus, through the Spirit of sanctifi-cation. For Paul, “Walking with God” might have meant choosing a license plate number EN-JC (in Jesus Christ. Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians together at the Lord’s table? That was difficult, but possible: EN-JC. If brothers and sisters in the faith within the Evangelical Alliance make boundaries between each other because of wrongly perceived freedom, these boundaries can be overcome only through EN-JC. Protectors of tradition and progressive thinkers at peace with one another in prayer? Difficult, but possible: EN-JC.
It would have been difficult for Paul to build a house of stone for himself, because it wouldn’t have fit his lifestyle as highly flexible tentmaker. But he was sure of his home with God with all the power of attractiveness found only in a holy home. On the one hand, there is the Cor-nerstone Jesus. He stands for storm-proof stability and for precise alignment of walls on two sides (in the text the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians) within a common floor plan. On the other hand, there is God, the Father, as Lord of the house. Out of enemies, those far away, and foreigners, He made peaceful friends. And the third: the Holy Spirit knows His way around the house and always welcomes us all.
Ask God for forgiveness
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you have been the foundation stone of the church from all eterni-ty. You are the one who carries us all in eternal power and holy love. You alone are the stone of salvation, Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, foundation stone of the church, we want to build only on you. Whatever is built on you, the stone, will remain forever. Storms might pass over, but it will endure. (Verses 1 + 3 from a German hymn from Karl Eisele 1939)
Friday, January 18, 2013
Walking with God – because He overcomes boundaries
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron…“:
Additional Bible Text: Matthew 15:21-28
The Aliens Department would speak of the „Ruth case“ as a woman having a high motivation for integration. “Where you go I will go….your people will be my people...” (Ruth 1:16) Our generation is currently experiencing a nearly unlimited openness, yet also polarising opinions on the topic of immigration and integration.
Let’s read the story of Ruth in this light. She is on her way back to Israel with her mother-in-law Naomi, a woman from Bethlehem. Both of them are widows with no sons – a very difficult social situation, and also politically explosive! The Jews refused to accept the Moabites because they are not Jews. Will they be able to solve these problems? You need to read all four chapters of the book of Ruth in order to understand this text and God’s reaction. Humbly and persistently, Ruth decides to accompany her mother-in-law: “Your God will be my God..where you die, I will die.” (1:16) After arriving in Bethlehem, they both experience re-jection. Naomi becomes bitter as a result of the rejection of her own. (1:19-21)
The fact that the tide turns after Ruth follows the advice of her mother-in-law and gets to know Boas is the first boundary crossing. Boas upholds the rights and laws of Israel (4:7-12). He becomes a problem-solver. God works in and through Ruth, the foreigner. Interestingly, “the Lord enabled her to conceive”. Thus, God crosses another boundary – Ruth becomes the great grandmother of David, and thus the ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1).
Those who walk humbly and persistently with God experience miracles today, back then and also today. God overcomes our barriers and prejudices. He who lives according to the Bible will discover the Saviour Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom is global. His word applies to everyone. How welcome are people from other nationalities and continents in our churches? Do we listen to the individual stories of these believers, the things they have experienced since they have been walking with God? Are we working for solutions to their often burdensome social questions?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have children in all nations. You do not accept bribes, nor are you prejudiced. You are just and desire that we live together as brothers and sisters. We are walking together with you. Thank you that we all live because of salvation through your son Jesus Christ. Give us love and understanding for living together in Europe, on all continents, and especially right where we live.
Saturday, January 18, 2013
Walking with God – because He desires justice
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take ad-vantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and pos-sessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Our God always gives before He expects something in return. This has always been the case from the very beginning—in creation and with His covenant with the people of Israel. God commits Himself to be faithful and to bless His people. THEN He expects a similar be-haviour from His partners: faithfulness, trust, obedience to His commands – and also justice. This is a much different picture than a severe, demanding God of the Old Testament.
It’s not primarily about a justice which we do. The Biblical understanding is: People in general, and also individuals, should act according to who God is and what He does. Thus, according to Biblical understanding, encouraging and demanding belong together. Even in the books of Moses, God expects us to extend His justice to others. In Exodus 22, it is the foreigners (immigrant workers), widows, orphans, and the poor. Some of the prophets clearly state that God is angry when His covenant partners refuse to extend to others the same justice they have received, especially when they do exactly the opposite, namely oppressing and discriminating.
God’s justice was made visible to all through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross „while we were still sinners“ (Rom. 5:8). By faith, we can accept this gift of justification, live in it, and treat others with justice. First, among Christians, as it is ideally described in Acts 2:44-47. The alternative lifestyle of the first Christians was attractive, and they found favour among the people. The church grew rapidly.
A second step, however, should be that those who do not yet belong to the church should experience God’s love and justice through us. It is true that we will never reach perfect jus-tice here on earth. God Himself however will bring it about: “But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13) Nevertheless, it should be an active waiting, during which we implement as much of God’s justice as possible in this world. Our connection to Jesus helps us to live a just life in an unjust world, without reward. We simply give the love and justice that Jesus has given us to those who have a special need for it.
Prayer: Lord, we praise you for the fact that you suffered for us and made us righteous be-fore God, even though we did not deserve it. Open our eyes that we can see the needs of others around us and of those far away. Touch our hearts so that we can turn to them. Move our hands so that we can help them in whatever way we can. And have mercy on those living in great poverty and on those suffering injustice in the world.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Walking with God – because He gives us joy
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Additional Bible Text: Luke 1:46-55
It is hard work, nothing for soft hands. Cutting and dragging stones is not for everyone - usu-ally. In this case, however, it’s different. All the people were involved in the building. And after 52 days, it was done – the wall around Jerusalem. Great joy! What a masterpiece!
A masterpiece? YES – because unskilled workers completed something absolutely marvelous, in spite of resistance. NO – because when the enemies hear that the work is completed, they lose heart, because they know this is God’s work. (Nehemiah 6:16)
All the people came together „as one“ (Neh. 8:1) and ask Ezra to read from the Book of the Law of Moses. Ezra reads and then praises God. All the people agree by shouting „Amen! Amen!“ They lift up their hands and bow down and praise the LORD. Afterwards the text is clearly explained and interpreted. Everyone is deeply moved and begins to weep. But the spiritual leaders tell the people not to be sad. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The people then hold a great celebration on that holy day.
1. The people of God need unity.
Walking with God does not protect us from difficult times. But we are called to stand together. We can do it together! With God’s help and hope in our hearts, we can alleviate need and accomplish marvellous things.
2. The people of God need God’s word and a clear interpretation.
We discover who God is and who we are. We need a clear understanding of our condition – and of our position before God. Thus we will be protected from arrogance and at the same raised from our lowliness. (See Luke 1:48 + 52)
3. The people of God need corporate praise.
Reverence for God and love for God find personal forms of expression. However, as the body of Christ, we want to stand before God “as one” and praise Him.
4. The people of God need new joy.
„The joy of the LORD is your strength“. Let us discover this joy anew so that we will be strong! Today is Sunday! Every week, we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What joy! Let us celebrate – and share our joy with others!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that you have saved us! We want to praise You and honour you before all men. We stand before You “as one”. We are sorry that only part of the body of Christ is gathered here today. Help us to find ways to reach one another! We want to be witnesses of Your greatness and goodness together. Help us to do the works You have prepared for us with spiritual authority! Last but not least, we confess our joyless Christianity. We have often lost our joy. Help us to discover it again! We want to celebrate your presence in our lives and in our churches. Our joy in you shall be our strength!