Top 10 Things to Pray For

Gratitude Day 307

Wed., July 24, 2019

Matthew 6:5-6 – (Jesus said,) “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

It’s a question that I’ve often been asked as a pastor: What should I pray for?

The quick and simple answer?


If this still seems vague and daunting, here’s my list of Top 10 Things I Pray For:

  1. Myself. God is a safe place to spill my guts and “tell all.”
  2. Thanksgiving and gratitude for God’s presence in your life and the world.
  3. Forgiveness for God to heal your heart and soul.
  4. Those most important to you.
  5. Clarity in your work, personal life and spiritual life.
  6. Those struggling with health concerns, someone affected by something outside of their control, anyone who needs someone advocating on their behalf.
  7. Those who are feeling lonely, abandoned or confused.
  8. Your church and denomination.  
  9. People in positions of influence.
  10. Dedicate the day to following God’s leadings in your life.

What are the Top 10 Things you pray for?

For me, prayer is personal. Yes, there are times Hubby Rick and I pray together. I also feel I need quiet time with God. I need the opportunity to share with God the deepest corners of my very being. Personally, I prefer praying quietly and by myself, with no one aware this is even happening. Jesus encourages us to do so in private and I think this is awfully good advice.

Contrary to most people’s beliefs: there isn’t a “right” way or a “wrong” way to pray. The only wrong way? Not praying at all.

If you are struggling in having the words to share, go easy on yourself. Simply pray the Lord’s Prayer. It covers all the bases.

For communicating with God through, I am grateful.

Our Father in heaven, may your name always be kept holy. May your kingdom come and what you want be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Give us the food we need for each day. Forgive us for our sins, just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us. And do not cause us to be tempted, but save us from the Evil One. The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.

Blessings –


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For a great adventure when school shopping, I am grateful.

Holy God – how fortunate we are for the opportunities for kids to learn and grow in knowledge and education. While it maybe a few weeks before school officially begins, place before us opportunities where we can support little people around us. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 203 – Urgent vs. Important

Sat., Jan. 26, 2019

Psalm 86:6 – Listen closely to my prayer, O God. Hear my urgent cry.


One of my 2019 goals has been to focus more on the really “important” things in my life versus the “urgent.”

There’s a difference? Glad you asked.

The “important” things: these are the “big” things that bring you joy, happiness and inspiration. The things that you want others to know as your signature items. The values and work (paid or unpaid) that you feel is where you make a difference in people’s lives.


The “urgent” things: the things that you feel “must” be done. They often are the more mundane items that are important (i.e. – paying bills so the electricity or phone doesn’t get turned off) but not all the sexy. They often mask themselves as being seemingly quick and easy tasks that can turn into items that suck your time, energy and attention.


I’ll list what I think are some “important” things in my life and what are the seemingly “urgent” items.

Important: writing for this blog as well as the book that I’m working on; much of the volunteer work I do as ministry work as well as things I do for the local school and community; my part-time marking job; daily devotions; taking care of my temple through proper eating and exercise, investing in important relationships.

Urgent: managing our finances; laundry; shopping; making and keeping necessary appointments; keeping up with the house; meals and food; some volunteer responsibilities that I’d like to reduce in my life.

Of course, there is a whole bunch of stuff that falls in-between. Sometimes, these things are important, i.e. – planning a vacation. It’s important to have time away to spend with loved ones and recharge your soul. This can be urgent when you need to get things booked, plans made, etc.

What falls in-between will vary from person to person. One person’s hobby can be important, whereas a similar item for another will be a nagging urgent. Reading for spiritual growth is important to me. Reading e-mail and other things often feels very, very urgent.

What about social media? This can very different for various people.


Too often, I let the “urgent” run my schedule. I look at my to-do list and think, “I just want to get some of these quick items crossed off my list. Then, I’ll work on some of the bigger, more important items.” The problem? “Urgent” items always take longer than I anticipate. Beginning an urgent item often leads to a whole bunch of other urgent items. Before you know it, time goes towards the “urgent” and the “important” get shoved to the back for another day, week, month or year.

Anyone else feel my pain? And so, the struggle continues.

This week, I was determined to spend more time with the “important” than the “urgent.” My to-do list had plenty of “urgent” things. All week, I might get a couple done. Most kept getting rolled over into tomorrow’s to-do list. Friday morning, I realized some urgent things needed to be tackled or dropped off the list.

Time management gurus often say some of our “urgent” things should be thrown into the wastebasket.

Anyone else feel the pain of trying to let these things go? And so, the struggle continues.

I spent most of Friday working through the “urgent” list, ignoring the “important” things I desperately want to put my time into.

And so, the struggle continues.

I have rocked some “important” areas so far this year. I love the new way I’m doing daily devotions and loving it. I’m exercising for at least 20 minutes a day. I am blogging regularly and writing some. But so many other “important” things never see the light of day.

And so, the struggle continues.

If you struggle with this, I’d love to hear your insights. How you try to manage this? What is your best tip to not let your life get consumed with the urgent?

And so, the struggle continues.

So often, this same struggle is often found in our prayer lives. How often do we pray for the really “important” things? How much of your prayer life is consumed with the “urgent” requests? Just another example how the “urgent” often takes over.

Having answers for these types of challenges can be hard. What we should not do is stop seeking or trying to find ways that resonate with us and our lives.


For help in determining what the “important” things in our lives versus the “urgent”, I am grateful.

Lord God – thanks for being patient with me when I struggle to do the really important things. I appreciate your graciousness in allowing us to make these daily choices. May I find ways to focus on the “important” versus the “urgent” in my daily life. Amen.


Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 116 – 17 Years

statue of liberty

Tues., Sept. 11, 2018

Romans 8:26 – In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.


Seventeen years ago today.

For those who were living and old enough to remember, today is a day we will never forget. (Difficult to imagine that any student who is in high school today or younger would not have been born or old enough to remember the actual events of 9.11.)

A day that defines life in terms of “before” and “after.”

both towers burning

One of those days when we say, “I know exactly where I was …”

Where were you?

I was attending seminary. It was the beginning of the semester. Three days a week, seminary students were encouraged to attend chapel. I was on my way to chapel, walking into the hall where it was held. Something was off, different, unsettled. At the beginning of chapel, a rundown of what was unfolding before America’s eyes was shared. Like much of the rest of America, we spent time gathered around a television, watching the horrific events play out unscripted.


The raw emotion.

The people who tried to help and ended up being in the wrong place.

The lack of proper words to describe what we were witnessing.

The disbelief of how this could ever happen.

Lesson plans were abandoned.

Calls to loved ones were made.

It was impossible not to embody some self-reflection about one’s life, priorities and feelings.

The next day during chapel, the previously scheduled speaker was abandoned. The Dean of the entire university spoke. Before assuming this role, he had been Dean of the seminary and is an ordained Presbyterian elder. He felt the need to address the standing room only crowd, filled with undergraduates, faculty and staff joining the seminary students and faculty.

I was familiar with Romans chapter 8, often listed as one of “the best” chapters in the bible. The chapter where Apostle Paul assures us that there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to separate ourselves from God’s love.

tower burning

But these were not the words the Dean reflected upon. No, he shared words from a little earlier in the chapter. Here, Apostle Paul tells us when we lack words to pray, not to be discouraged. When we are weak and no longer have the words to say to God, it’s OK. It’s alright. In these moments, the Holy Spirit steps in and uses words on our behalf.


Somehow, I had previously missed these words. Words which assure me that no matter what is going on in my life and when I’m not sure how to pray, it’s OK. The Holy Spirit knows the words and prays on my behalf.

This, my friends, is unconditional love. This is stepping in and taking over the load. This is a picture of a loving God. These words, I have held onto so many times since then; times when I truly no longer had any words.

ashes on vehicles

I don’t know what is going on in your life today. Or a family member’s life. Or a loved one’s life. Or someone you barely know. When you run out of words and feel like you no longer have anything left to say to God, just sit before God. Just wait. For the Holy Spirit will step in with just the right words to share with God, all on our behalf.

What a beautiful picture of the God I know and believe in.

How many times have you felt like God didn’t answer your prayer? Heard your prayer? Didn’t come rushing to your need immediately like you felt God should?

Actually, God did. You see, when you no longer knew what to say to God, the Holy Spirit quietly took over and did the praying for you.


I know there will be times in the future when I will run out of words to use in prayer. Thankfully, there already is a backup plan in place.

The Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God.

For God’s backup plan when my prayers fail, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I pray we find moments today to reflect upon what happened 17 years ago. I pray we recall the times when the Holy Spirit stepped in a prayed for us. I pray we are thankful for you in our lives. Help us be just a bit more reflective, thankful and grateful today. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 110 – Prayer

Mon., Sept. 3, 2018

Luke 11:1 – When Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his followers to pray.”

For Americans, today (Monday) is Labor Day. Most businesses are closed. It’s the last hurrah of summer for some; a symbolic end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s a national holiday that appreciates work and the need for a break.

I have been thinking about what to do today for several days:

I could paint the upstairs bathroom.


Can the cucumbers I’ve been delaying canning for about a week.

Move some plants in the flower beds that I would like to move before fall.

Continue in the upstairs storeroom, which I have been trying to clean-out for months.

Go for a walk and have lunch with Hubby Rick.

Do laundry.


These are all very good ideas. But I kept feeling like there was something else I should be focusing on.

Sunday afternoon, I figured it out.


I would focus the day on prayer.

In its most basic sense, prayer is communion with God. It’s being aware of God in our lives. Having a simple conversation with God, as if you were having a cup of coffee or a soda with God. It’s speaking … and listening.

Too often, we think of prayer as our opportunity to present before God our laundry list of wishes and desires. What we often fail to remember is that the main purpose of prayer is NOT to have God simply answer our big and little requests. Prayer is not about changing God. In its most defining act, prayer is about changing who we are. Maybe look at prayer the way Luther did, “Even if we don’t catch anything, we come back different than when we left.”

front porch

Many, many people say to me, “But I don’t know how to pray.” Here’s the great news: there is no wrong way to pray. Honestly, it’s hard to get prayer wrong. Raw prayer is not something we accomplish. It’s something we enter.

I think it is easy for people to assume a narrower bandwidth of prayer than God envisions. We think prayer “must” be done a certain way. God really doesn’t care if you are showering, walking, lying down or sitting straight up in a chair. God is more than happy with a pre-written prescribed prayer, as God is with a spontaneous, off-the-cuff prayer. The words or location or body position are not nearly as important to God as they maybe to us. God is happy when we allow ourselves to show up on God’s radar screen and have even the smallest of interactions.

front porch chair

Here’s what I think we can confirm about prayer: it matters, and we don’t have to get it right. Jesus and the Holy Spirit intervene for us when we don’t get it right. Can I get a “Praise the Lord?”

Prayer can and should be wherever it feels right for you. One suggestion is to do what you love to do, where you feel relaxed and joyful. As you do these things, listen for God while you are at it. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear something exciting.

God has spoken to me in the most mundane ways: while raking leaves, driving in the car, waiting in line at the store and a thousand other ways. We expect God to show up in a particular way when we pray. For assistance with this, think of how C.S. Lewis writes, “The world is crowded with God. God walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”

raindrops 2

So today, Monday, Labor Day: I plan to remain awake to God’s presence in this world and in my life. As I go about doing some of those things on my potential to-do list, where will I find God? Where will God find me? What is God trying to say to me these days and I haven’t quieted myself long enough to hear? I anxiously await God’s voice in my life.


As I typed these words, it’s Sunday afternoon. The noise of unceasing raindrops that we have heard way too much this week surround me as I sit on our porch with my laptop. Slowly, the sun is trying to peak out behind the dense clouds that just have hung for days over Wisconsin. It maybe just for a minute, but it is a minute of hope.

There is so much I can and need to share with God. And I’m confident God would like a bit more of my attention. I’ll try to make this available to God. Prayer. This is my main goal for the day. If anything else gets accomplished, it’s icing on the cake.

Lord knows, this world needs a few more prayer warriors these days. Will you join me in a day dedicated to prayer? Of taking God with us and seeing God’s loving presence with us throughout the day?

sun on porch

For the reminder to dedicate a day to prayer, I am grateful.

In this day, Lord God, I pray that I can allow my life to quiet a bit more, so I can hear your voice. Bring down the din of the world and allow me to hear your voice in my life. Forgive me for the times I rush through a day, a week, a month and I don’t embrace the opportunity to listen and simply be with you in prayer. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 102 – Psalm 23 


Fri., Aug. 17, 2018

Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Here is a version of the 23rd Psalm from Japan:

The Lord is my pace setter … I shall not rush

He makes me stop for quiet intervals

He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity

He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here

His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance

He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility

My cup of joyous energy overflows

Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in his house forever.

These words are hard for me right now. They feel more like a “someday” desire than today.

But for now, I want these words to inspire me. May they encourage us all in our journey with God.

For words of scripture in a little different way: I am grateful.

Lord God – thank you for another way to pray biblical words that are so familiar to us. May they inspire us in our journey with you.  Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 98 – Blessing of Prayer


Fri., Aug. 10, 2018

1 Kings 8:54-55 – Solomon had been kneeling with his hands outstretched toward heaven. As he finished this prayer, he rose from before the altar of Jehovah and cried out a blessing upon all the people of Israel.

Prayer is a blessing. I consider the following prayer, written by a Benedictine nun from North Dakota named Sister Ruth Fox, a true blessing.

May God bless you with discomfort at each answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your had to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough follishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

May we all be blessed by Sister Ruth Fox’s prayer.

For prayer, I am grateful.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 82 – Perspective

Sat., July 14, 2018

2 Corinthians 12:7 – I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. 

“Cancer has been a blessing in my life,” she said.

That’s right. A blessing.

Liz Curtis Higgs

Liz Curtis Higgs is an author and a speaker. While sharing her story, Liz explained how God has used cancer to teach her about life. Doused with honest humor, Liz had her audience in stiches about cancer. She spoke openly about the wig she was wearing and how this too has been a blessing. Somehow, she turned her hairpiece into a story that none of the attendees will forget.

For 30 minutes, Liz captivated a room filled with people who want to be successful writers, much like she is. She taught us how to do this with her own story. She explained how her journey with cancer this last year has taught her new things; things she wanted the rest of us to learn from her. I’ll share just a couple of her great one-liners:

  • Liz has discovered that everything she’s been teaching through her writing and speaking is true.
  • When someone is hurting, they just want to hear that you love them and that you are praying for them.
  • When we deal with the thorns in our lives, God will lavish God’s love on you.
  • Learn to love a good insult. Through it, may we learn to delight in it.

Liz packed a lot of punch into her words. She did it very humbly and openly. She has made me look at the thorns in my life from a new perspective.

For this, I am grateful.

Holy God – thank you for the gift of perspective. The honesty that cancer can be a blessing. Someone may read these words and think cancer has not been a blessing to them or their family. I pray this thorn in their life will be turned into a blessing. This can only happen through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 47 – Just a Phone Call Away

call to God

Tues., May 22, 2018

Psalm 18:6 – I was in terrible trouble when I called out to you, but from your temple you heard me and answered my prayer.

Explaining prayer can be difficult; especially to kids. To help them understand prayer, I often say prayer is like making a phone call to God. I encourage them to talk to God as if they were talking to a friend on the phone.

In Melanie Shankle’s book Everyday Holy, she writes about watching Barbara Walters interviewing Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen spoke of the ups and downs of her career and life. During the interview, a clip of Ellen’s first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was shown. In the clip, Ellen talks about wondering if fleas are necessary and calling God on the phone to ask.

After the clip, Barbara asked Ellen what she would say to God if she could really call God on the phone. In complete sincerity, Ellen said, “I’d say thank you. I’ve got nothing but gratitude. My whole life. I’m so blessed. I’m so lucky and I feel it every day.”

Gratitude. Blessings. Thank you.

Prayer really is like a phone call with God. Think about your last prayers with God. How much time did you spend thanking God for what God has already done in your life? Are you quick to express gratitude for what we have as a priority over our personal check-list of what we want God to do for us today?

Yes, God answers our prayers. We find confirmation of this in scripture. Maybe our prayers aren’t answered how we would prefer. Yet, I pray we take opportunities to thank God for answering prayer, for daily provisions, gratitude for what we have. In your next phone call with God, please make this the first part of your phone call.

Just in case you are listening in God, I know you answer prayer.

For this, I am grateful.

Thank you, God, for all the times you have answered our prayers. Thank you for providing what we need and more in our lives. Thank you for guiding us daily. Thank you for calling us as your children. Amen

Blessings –


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Gratitude Day 33 – Give Thanks

give thanksMon., May 7, 2018

2 Corinthians 1:11 – Please help us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks for the blessings we receive in answer to all these prayers.

During worship on Sunday, there came a time when I truly felt at home. Many years ago as a pastor, I began using the song “Give Thanks” after the offering rather than the Doxology. Some people really love the Doxology. I really love “Give Thanks.”

Why? Early in our marriage, Hubby Rick’s eldest son was killed months before we were married. There were times it was a challenge to make sense of this accident. Nate was just 21. So much life to live. Sed quickly because of a snowmobiling accident.

Many days, Rick would come home and sing, “Give Thanks.” It was a purposeful way for him to remind himself that in everything, he wanted to give thanks. In the good days, give thanks. In the awful days, give thanks. In the days that are too busy, give thanks. In the days when life is too difficult, give thanks. In the days that may seem boring and predictable, give thanks.

Simply, give thanks.

Read (or sing) the words of this worship song:

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

Give thanks.

Today’s bible verse reminds us of something important in our daily lives. Most Christians pray. What tops our prayer list? Our needs, our wants, where we want God to intervene and intervene now. Here, how are we encouraged to pray? For all the blessings we have received because of answered prayer. It seems so much easier to criticize God for unanswered prayers than to give thanks to God for answered prayer. Too often, we dwell on the prayers that don’t get answered as we desire and give little credit for when a prayer is answered in an amazing and surprising way.

As we stood and sang this song during in worship, my heart felt very full, blessed and at peace. I just wanted to express my thanks to God for all the answered prayers, the blessings in our lives and the ways God works in our lives we take for granted. I just wanted to give thanks.

For this, I am grateful.

Almighty God – I pray we give thanks to you this day: for things we see and the things we don’t see. For our place in our lives even when we take it for granted. For all the prayers you have answered which have had an impact in our lives. We give you thanks. Amen.

Blessings –


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What Prayer Life?

large_prayer-for-beginners-g13leaizFri., Mar. 24, 2017

Luke 6:12 – About that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night there.

When Jesus was exhausted, confused, unsure or just needed time alone, what did he do? He went to a mountain and prayed.

I believe in praying. God doesn’t need us to pray to God. We need to pray to God as a way to connect, ground ourselves and know there is someone bigger than ourselves intervening. I’ve seen the results of prayer in the lives of myself and others. I’ve felt the power of prayer while praying with someone. I’ve witness the wash of comfort that can come over someone when they are prayed over.

And yet, I struggle with prayer.

One way I find praying helpful is to write out my prayers. I have a journal which aids me with this. Yesterday, as I turned to my prayer journal, I realized the recent lack of effort on my part with prayer. I’ve followed more of a drive-through version of prayer than a quiet-my-heart-and-soul version of prayer. I’ve held onto too many things rather than sharing the load with God. I’m embarrassed and humbled that once again, prayer has taken a back seat in my spiritual life.

So, I penned a rather honest prayer. Just in case you are struggling with lack-of-prayer focus, I share with you some of the things that landed on my prayer list yesterday:

Dear God:

I haven’t been praying for the woman currently living with us and her situation enough. Soften her heart in the right ways. May she be drawn closer to you and find your guidance in her life. Soften my heart in the right ways also.

I haven’t been praying for Rick’s kids enough. Each has his/her own situation right now. I pray you bring people into their lives which will speak the message you desire them to hear.

I haven’t been praying for our grandchildren. May Spirit-filled people be part of their daily guidance.

I haven’t been praying for my Mom as her body changes. May she be open to hearing the messages you desire for her to hear and patience for me as I help care for her.

I haven’t been praying for the churches that I serve. Inspire these faith communities to become healthy, vital and sustainable as is your will.

I haven’t been praying for the denomination in which I serve and the distractions it now faces.

I haven’t been praying for my husband. Thank you for bringing such a person of God into my life. May he be guided by your Spirit.

I haven’t been praying for Your place in my life. I haven’t been praying for patience, understanding and being realistic. May I more willingly and more often turn my challenges over to you rather than failing to deal with them by myself.

May these prayers be lifted to you, Almighty God, this day. Amen.

Lord Jesus, you gave us a wonderful prayer model. Forgive me for choosing a less honorable prayer walk. Thank you for accepting me the way I am. May I be encouraged to seek your Spirit more fully each day. Amen.

Blessings –


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