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Daily Devotions and Prayer - November 2023

Recently, I have been pondering the connection between the word ‘courage’ and the word ‘encouragement.’ I often think of courage as simple bravery and encouragement as lifting someone up. However, in the scriptures of the New Testament, the word we translate as courage is a bit different. It means to be of good cheer and to be confident to such a degree that one becomes bold. To be courageous is to be so secure in the power and love of God that energy is not wasted on fear and, therefore, a confident joyful boldness arises in even difficult circumstances. The word we translate as ‘encourage’ comes from an entirely different root, two actually. One means to urge forward or persuade. The other means counsel or advice and is used especially to stimulate people to be able to do what has to be done. It has within it an undertone of comfort for the journey of ordinary life. A third word is used to for the noun ‘encouragement.’ It means to call to one’s aid. It is the same root for the word paraclete that John uses of the Holy Spirit as Advocate.

Perhaps you, too, in the last days have found yourself in need of all of that. To be of good cheer when there is such suffering in the world and so many challenges in our own lives is not easy. Nor is it easy to regularly feel secure, confident and bold. Especially as I sit with the intractable tragedy of the war in the land, we call Holy, I find that I need, almost moment by moment, to call God to my aid, and the aid of the world, and to pray for all of the qualities of courage to take hold in my heart.

So, with that in mind, I have chosen scriptures to take us to the season of Advent this year that each speak to me of some aspect of courage and encouragement, or that I have turned to over the years for comfort in times of challenge. This month I am going to resist my natural tendency to provide too much in the way of commentary. I will only do that when the context is essential to understand the word being offered.

Process for using these devotions: I invite you to use the daily verses as a springboard for your own reflections this month. Take a moment each day, before you read the verse, to sit quietly. Ask yourself what, if anything, is concerning you. You might want to make a mental bullet point list of those things or jot them in your journal. Ask yourself if there are those of whom you are aware, near and far, that need a word of encouragement or a deepening of loving courage. Note those things as well. Do you know anyone who needs help? Make a note. Are you personally in pain in any area of your life. Make a note. These are the conditions you are asking God to address through the daily scripture. The Spirit will assuredly guide you in this preparation to receive the word. If you are concerned that it is just your own ego speaking, simply share that concern with the Lord and repeat the words of Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (NRSV)Once you have settled your heart, gently read each scripture slowly three times. Notice if a word or image seems to resonate more powerfully than another. Linger there. Consider how the scripture might speak to the concerns you articulated. Even if you don’t feel a connection immediately, take the scripture with you in your heart, or write it out in your own hand, for the day and see if the Spirit enlivens it in a concrete and specific way. Be assured that the Spirit is using your time, your openness, and the word to touch, heal, encourage, and direct you even if you are not immediately aware of it. Close your time of prayer by, if possible, saying the closing prayer out loud. That will bring special energy to the prayer and also connect you with the praying community that is sharing that prayer with you today. (This process is a modified version of the ancient prayer and reflection process call Lectio Divina, divine reading, or meditation, thinking prayer.) I will be doing this with you, wherever you are in the world, and I believe this practice, at this time, will bear abundant fruit. Love, Eugenia

November 1: Psalm 28:1 “To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, do not refuse to hear me, for if you are silent to me, I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.”
Prayer: Dear God, you are my rock. I depend upon you completely. Hear me, O God, as I bring my whole heart to you today. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 2: Ezekiel 17:23 “In the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.” This verse comes from an intense section in which the prophet bemoans the lack of faithfulness and breach of covenant of the people and their leaders. He has shared with them what that failure will cost them and the travails of exile to Babylon. In today’s verse, God is telling them that even in the midst of dire consequences and judgment God will find a twig upon which to build a new future. And then even the trees of the field will know the Lord.
Prayer: Dear God, you have fashioned creation with such intricacy and majesty. Help me to remember that, just as the bird’s rest in their nests, I may also rest in you. There is no circumstance in my life and world that does not contain the seed of new beginning with you. Help me Lord to look to you for a new start. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 3: Romans 15:2 “Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.”
Prayer: Dear God, Like the ancient ones we too sometimes argue about who is our neighbor and who should get the priority of our love. How short sighted we are! Please today show me one specific way today that I can build up a neighbor. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 4: Psalm 31:24 “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.”
Prayer: Dear God, I do not feel strong today. The circumstances of my life and the pain of the world are difficult and confusing to me. I need you to help me. Fill me with the peace of your presence and the courage of your provision. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 5: John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Prayer: Dear God, you laughed and danced in the beginning. You fashioned me with delight, and I belong to you. Drawn near to me, Lord. Let your Word unfold within me that I may celebrate with you in all things. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 6: 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Prayer: Dear God, I pray today for all of your children. There is no joy like their laughter, no peace like their security. There is no lasting joy or security without a commitment to the whole truth. Help us to love your children and not to turn from the truth. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 7: John 21:9,12 “When they [the fishermen disciples] had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread…Jesus, said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” This intimate image is one of the resurrection appearances in John’s Gospel. It is intended to reinforce two things. First, Jesus arose bodily. Ghosts don’t eat. And second, that his tender care and provision did not come to an end with his death.
Prayer: Dear God, I love the small intimacies of life with you! I love a snippet of a hymn, the shimmer of a hummingbird, the changes of the ocean, fish cooked on a grill. I share life with you, and it is good. Even when danger looms and I have many unanswered questions, you provide for me, and I am grateful. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 8: 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you.” In this section of the text, Paul is concerned with divisions in the church and how people are taking sides and treating themselves awfully. He is urging them to see themselves as vessels in which God dwells. He believes this will change not only how they treat each other, but how they treat themselves.
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I fight with my body. I don’t like is shape or aches. Help me, God, to treat my body with the reverence of your temple so that I may treat others as you yourself would treat them. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 9: Psalm 16:11 “You show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your guidance in the past. I confess that I have sometimes only seen it in hindsight and missed your way. Lead me today on my deeper path to you. Help me to release my fears and trust that your love is always the way. Only then will I find strength and joy. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 10: Hebrews 12:11 “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Prayer: Dear God, I am tired of my failures and woes. Remind me today that I may learn from pain and, surviving, grow strong. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 11: John 14:6a “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
Prayer: Dear God, you long not just to be my God, but to be my way of life. Help me to turn to Jesus today to find the truth you have for me. How can I follow you more nearly today? In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 12: Galatians 6:5 “All must carry their own loads.” Paul is ending his fiery letter to the church in Galatia after chastising them and painting a picture of what Spirit led life is to look like. He has just told them to gently correct each other if needed and to bear each other’s burdens as a way of fulfilling God’s values. Immediately before this verse he that they cannot draw on the work of others, but most do their own spiritual and ethical work.
Prayer: Dear God, some days I weep for your people. They sometimes seem far from you and do not care about your values at all. I so long for an wakening and know that I cannot do it for anyone else. I can barely do it for myself. Help me not to disrespect other’s ability by trying to do too much for them. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 13: 2 Peter 1:3 “his divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Prayer: Dear God, thank you that you have provided for me absolutely everything that I need today. Keep me full of praise and peace. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 14: Psalm 107:21 “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.” This psalm is a celebration of deliverance from many troubles.
Prayer: Dear God, your steadfast love is a miracle. How can you love me so much? Yet you do, and my whole life is shaped by your love. And not just my life, but the life of every human being and the planet upon which you placed us. All is grace! Thank you! In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 15: Psalm 139:3 “You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.” This beautiful psalm celebrates the inescapable love of God. Nothing is hidden from God, and it is useless to try to white wash our behavior of spiritual lives. So why bother? God is love everywhere we go. We cannot run from God, nor can we outrun grace.
Prayer: Dear God, help me to remember that you are with me in every moment, that my life is open to you and that you are always available to help. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 16: Proverbs 3:5 “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”
Prayer: Dear God, the more I try to make sense of things these days, the more confused I sometimes become. It is hard for me to release the need to fix or control. Today, please help me to trust you, and you alone. Show me what is true and help me act accordingly. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 17: Song of Solomon 2:10 “My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” This beautiful and often erotic book of the Bible describes a passionate human love story and uses it as a symbol of the passionate love story between the soul and God.
Prayer: Dear God, your love runs through my life like a deep and beautiful stream. Help me to drink from it and share it with all I meet. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 18: Mark 10:16 “He took [the little children] up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” People have been bringing their children to Jesus in the hope that he will touch and bless them. The disciples are irritated. They think this is an intrusion into more important things. So they sternly try to send the families away. Jesus is indignant at this and takes the children into his arms. In the gospels, the children also have a symbolic purpose. They are the weak, the helpless and the lowest on the socioeconomic totem pole. In addition to taking the beloved children on the community into his arms, he is also demonstrating his compassion and blessing on the weak, powerless and vulnerable.
Prayer: Dear God, I feel like a child today. My body creaks and ages, but inside I am wild and free…and sometimes foolish, helpless and vulnerable. Protect me, Lord and give me your blessing. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 19: Psalm 55:6 “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” The psalmist is distraught because a dear friend has betrayed him in an especially treacherous way. Early in the psalm his anger is intense and focused on his enemy. In the midst of that release of anger comes this o so human expression of the desire to simply flee from the pain and rest a safe distance away in the presence of God who has more perspective.
Prayer: Dear God, I am frustrated and frantic this morning. Things are not as I dreamed them to be and those I thought I could count on are not there for me. I just want to run away and hide. Hide me in your love so that I can meet my responsibilities in peace. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 20: Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Paul is writing to people he does not know well personally. In this section he acknowledges the pain and persecution that can accompany the life of deep faith. In this verse he puts his, and others’ suffering in perspective. The battle has already been won.
Prayer: Dear God, help me to claim your promise that there is nothing that can ever separate me from your love in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 21: Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” This psalm was used in worship as people entered the temple. It was intended to infuse the community and their worship with the grandeur and glory of God.

Prayer: Dear God, everything belongs to you, this beautiful earth and all its creatures. Thank you for my life. I praise you and offer myself to you today and always. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 22: Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” In this portion of Isaiah, the prophet is trying to help people see that they cannot rely on the worldly powers, in this case Egypt, to protect them. In addition, verses 8-17 charge the people with rebellion and laxity in
the ways of God. Today’s verse shows that even given that the people are rebellious and trusting the wrong powers, God’s mercy is bigger and more durable than human failure.
Prayer: Dear God, I know that you are always working for my good and the good of the whole world. Help me to do my part and to wait patiently for your blessings even as I commit myself to your ways of justice. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 23: John 6:40 “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the faith that you have given me. Fan its flames today. Give me an opportunity to share my love of you with others so they may share my joy. On this day when we remember the gifts you have given us, help our thanksgiving to be rich with the promises of unending life. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 24: 2 Thessalonians 2:16a-17 “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father…comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.”
Prayer: Dear God, oh the comfort of your loving presence! There are no words to describe it. Thank you for the salve of your love. It is my strength and guide. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 25: Revelations. 3:20a “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking.”
Prayer: Dear God, is that you in the bird’s song, in the light on water, in the warmth of a friend’s embrace, in the tug of my heart at your word? Thank you for waking me to your presence! In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 26: Luke 24:5 “The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Prayer: Dear God, help me not to look back too much so that I miss the new mysteries and wonders you still have in store. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 27: John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
Prayer: Dear God, I want to build my home in you, to stay tucked in your pocket, hidden in your heart. Help me today to focus my heart on you and be still. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 28: Psalm 95:1-2 “Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before God’s presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to the Lord with psalms.”
Prayer: Dear God, fill us with a deep sense of gratitude for all the blessings of our lives. We pause now to lift up to you our thanks with shouts of joy. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 29: Ephesians 3:14-15 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father; from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” Immediately before this verse Paul has been extoling the blessing of his ministry to the Gentiles. Here he reiterates to an often-skeptical audience that God is the God of all peoples.
Prayer: Dear God, we are all a part of your family, all siblings of one parent. I pray today for the peoples of the earth, for peace, justice, freedom and dignity. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

November 30: Ezekiel 34:28b “They shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid.”
Prayer: Dear God, it is so hard to fear and praise simultaneously. Remove my fear that I may praise you with my whole heart. Gather all of your children across the earth in the arms of your will for peace and safety. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

December 1 – Psalm 91:15 “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.”
Prayer: Dear God, today I offer this verse of promise from you as my prayer for all your children who suffer due to war, poverty, injustice, illness or for any other reason. Be close to each and all. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

December 2 – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Prayer: Dear God, on this eve of the holy season of Advent, we thank you for the year now past. We rejoice in your constancy in every circumstance. Help me as I watch and wait for your coming in Advent to pray without ceasing and with both a joyful and penitent heart. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.