How can there be anything good about Good Friday?
It’s easy for me to celebrate Easter. I love reliving the story’s happy ending, seeing the empty tomb in my mind’s eye, hearing the shouts of “He is risen!” I love the festive egg hunts and family dinners and exuberant songs as we party in honor of the Resurrection. I know how to call Sunday “good.”
But how can I possibly celebrate today?
Today is the day we betrayed You. It’s the day an innocent victim was executed on false charges by a corrupt justice system. Five days earlier, crowds had welcomed their Messiah with palm branches and praises—today, crowds turned on Him and called for His crucifixion. Today is the day Jesus drank from the cup He had begged might be taken from Him, the day the sun’s light failed and the temple curtain was torn and God Himself looked away. Today is a funeral in memory of a promising young man’s tragic death.
SEE ALSO: What Would Good Friday Look Like without Generosity?
The soundtrack of Good Friday isn’t an anthem or a victory cry. It’s the chanting of a bloodthirsty mob, the words “Crucify him!” over and over again, biting like a whip. It’s the terrified, heartbroken sobs of Jesus’ few remaining followers, clutching one another as they stood at the foot of His cross and watched Him die.
Good Friday is a day for mourning. And I’m not much good at mourning.
I always want to skip ahead to the happy ending. I want to put a 5-minute time limit on tears and then race back to laughter, pretend that the pain ever happened. Too often, I’m guilty of believing that the Resurrection means Jesus’ death no longer matters. I forget all about sin and redemption because I’m too busy planning the resurrection party.
Too often, I’m guilty of living as if I can scrub Good Friday out of the history books altogether.
SEE ALSO: “Good” Friday
But You, God, have called me to a faith that includes both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. You call me to remember both death and resurrection. Because either one, without the other, would be meaningless.
Today is part of the gospel. Today is good news. Jesus didn’t wait until Easter morning to conquer sin and death. He was already crushing them as He hung on the cross. His dying words weren’t an admission of defeat but a declaration of victory, like an artist stepping back to behold a masterpiece with His final breath: “It is finished.”
On Good Friday, Jesus turned the world’s system upside down, losing everything in order to win everything. Death greedily swallowed up a perfect victim, destroying itself in the process. Heaven’s heartbreak bought earth’s redemption. It was the perfect storm: an unspeakable loss, an incomparable victory.
How can I do anything but rejoice?
SEE ALSO: It Doesn’t Make Sense; How Can This Friday be Good?
How can I do anything but weep?
Today, God, I ask that You would teach me to mourn. Don’t let me rush to Easter Sunday too quickly. Give me grace to linger here, in the place where sorrow meets redemption. Make Your death as real to me as Your resurrection. Keep me always near the cross.
As I wait at the foot of the cross, God, reveal to me again the costliness of my sin. Don’t let me live in an imaginary world where Easter’s happy ending makes my selfishness irrelevant. Remind me that Your all-consuming grace came at a highest price. Forgive me for the times I’ve lived as if sin is no big deal, as if Good Friday never really happened.
Fill me with the joy and sorrow and reverence and gratitude that befit a Good Friday funeral: joy for Your victory, sorrow for Your death, reverence for Your holiness, gratitude for Your grace. Don’t let me settle for just one of those emotions at the expense of the others. Give me a heart big enough to hold them all in tension. Make me bold enough to search after a truth that’s really true, not just a truth that fits easily in the palm of my hand.
Give me eyes, God, to see the triumph of the cross. Even when all seems lost, even as I mourn Your death, remind me that You conquered the grave by sneaking inside of it and unraveling it from the inside out. In the midst of defeat and disappointment, sing songs of victory over me. Turn my world on its head so I can recognize the upside-down Kingdom of God at work.
Jesus, You tell me to take up my cross and follow You. Today more than ever, I remember what a weighty invitation that is. You won by dying—and it’s only by dying that I can follow in Your footsteps. It’s only by dying that I’ll ever truly come alive.
Teach me, God, to mourn and celebrate Your death. Then take me by the hand, lead me into my own death, and teach me to mourn and celebrate that death too. Amen.
Gregory Coles is an author and an English instructor at Penn State University. Learn more at www.gregorycoles.com.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/mbolina
Several years ago–I can’t remember if it was three or four–we experimenting with turning one Sunday evening service a month into a prayer meeting. I’m happy to say the experience stuck and these monthly prayer services have become a highlight of our life together as a church.
Over the past couple years, and especially over the weekend after I tweeted something about our prayer service, I’ve had people ask me what we do at these prayer meetings and what they look like?
In general, the service is 60-75 minutes long. We usually start with a hymn and then have a brief (15 minute sermon). We haven’t always included the sermon–and there is a danger of the sermon eating up all the time for prayer–but we’ve found that a brief sermon gets the heart ready for prayer and is also helpful for non-Christians who may be visiting. The rest of the service is set aside for prayer, which is normally led by me, or sometimes by one of our other pastors. Rather than go into a blow by blow of this past week’s service, I thought it would be helpful to share some lessons we’ve learned about planning for and leading an effective prayer meeting.
1. Establish a regular and attractive time for the service. If you don’t currently have a prayer service, you will have a hard time starting one up at a new time. People are already overbooked. No matter how much you exhort people, it’s hard to get a good turnout for prayer on Friday night or some early morning. We have a 30 minute prayer meeting on Tuesday mornings which is faithfully attended by a few church members. It’s a great time for those of us who make it a priority. But it’s rarely more than 10 people. By putting our prayer service in a regular church slot–which for us was Sunday night, but could be Wednesday night or some other time–we not only made it possible for more people to attend, we sent a signal that this was important. To be fair, our Sunday evening attendance is not anywhere near our Sunday morning attendance, but I bet we had 125 people at our prayer service last night. That’s a lot better than nothing.
2. The pastor has to be involved. I lead most of our prayer services. Rarely does anyone besides one of our three pastors lead. That’s not because others are incapable of leading well. They are and some have. But we want people to see that this is not a throw away event. The pastor does not have to be the best prayer warrior in the church or the only champion for prayer, but I’m convinced he has to take ownership of the prayer meeting if it is to succeed.
3. Use variety. Our prayer services are always different. We’ve used lots of different forms and approaches, including: singing prayers, reading prayers responsively, praying through Scripture, being led in prayer, praying as a large group, praying in small groups, praying through old liturgies, praying through old prayer manuals, praying through confessions, and taking prayer requests. This past week I led the congregation in praying through Martin Bucer’s prayer of confession (with periods of silence) and his prayer of intercession (with periods of small group prayer), both taken from his Strasbourg Liturgy.
4. Include children. This has been one of the unexpected delights of our prayer meeting. We have lots of children in our church and many in our worship services. They are full participants, often praying out loud when we huddle in small groups of 8-15.
5. Celebrate. We share a meal after our prayer services. Some churches may be too big for such fellowship, but most are not. Having pizza and ice cream together gets the kids excited and sets apart the evening as anticipated fellowship event as well as a time for prayer. Prayer is hard work, so put your best foot forward.
6. Be patient. Praying out loud is difficult for some people. Praying for 30-60 minutes can feel awkward at first. Keep at it. I think we’ve grown a lot in praying together as a church, but it takes practice.
7. Keep up the pace. Maybe in some churches and in some cultures God’s people can linger in prayer for hours on end, but in my experience in this country, we need to keep things moving. A half hour of prayer can seem daunting, until you break it up into 3 minutes of silent prayer, 4 minutes in led prayer, 5 minutes in read prayer, 8 minutes in large group prayer, 10 minutes in small groups praying through five separate items.
8. Plan, plan, plan. Can I say it again. Plan! The biggest human difference between a vibrant, effective prayer meeting and a dull, ineffective one is planning. I learned this from Ben Patterson, both from his teaching and from his example. Many churches gave up on the prayer meeting because no one knew how to plan one. Asking people to popcorn prayer for 30 minutes will not sustain most people’s interest. People need categories for prayer. They need models for prayer. They need theological boundaries for prayer. The pastor must spend significant time preparing to lead his people in prayer.
9. Remember. Be expectant when you pray. And when God answers prayer, remember to thank him. I will never forget that it was soon after starting our monthly prayer service that God started opening the doors for us to buy our current church facility. I don’t think anyone who was at the service will forget the time of prayer we had for a college student with cancer and his newlywed. We’ve prayed for little babies and old saints. We’ve seen some people get better and some go to be with the Lord. Of course, every church prays for these sort of things, but we’ve been blessed to be able to pray for them together.
10. Don’t forget to pray. Taking prayer requests for 25 minutes and praying for 5 minutes is nice, but not really a prayer meeting. Having your calling pastor do a traditional service for old people may be a wonderful idea, but it’s not a prayer meeting either. And singing four hymns, preaching for 30 minutes, and then praying through the sick list for 10 minutes is not what we’re talking about. Make sure your prayer meeting is full of prayer.
Pray for a Good Husband Are You Searching for the Right Man? Here’s How to Pray and Get Results!
Learning how to pray for a husband is not as complicated as it may seem. One of the biggest myths of the day is that there is a great shortage of ‘good’ men. It’s not that there is a shortage of good men, many women are searching for good men in all the wrong places.
If you’re searching for a good man, you probably won’t find him at school, work, on the train, the mall or your church (I’ll explain why later).
Before you continue your search for a husband, take a deep breath and relax – if you are alive, you still have time. Here are 6 easy steps that worked for me when I prayed for a husband.
Step 1: Write your prayer request on paper. When I was praying for a husband, I decided to write my request on paper to God. There is something special about writing to God on paper. It’s like you’re pouring your heart out to Him.
Then you’re going to pray the request back to God. For example, let’s say you wrote: “Dear God, please help me to find the right husband.” You’re going to read and pray your request back to Him.
Now, I have to be honest, I probably wrote God more than a dozen letters about finding a husband until He finally answered my prayers. So, if God doesn’t answer you immediately, don’t give up hope. He hears your prayers – even on paper. Remember, His time is not our time.
Important Note: In your letter to God, make sure you are very specific on the type of husband you want. For instance:
1. A Godly man.
2. A man who will love me.
3. A man with a good sense of humor.
4. A man that is handsome, but with a good personality.
5. A man who will never abuse me.
6. A dedicated man that will never leave me.
7. A man that has a strong relationship with Christ.
This is just a sample list. Feel free to use it – you can make your list as long as you desire.
Step 2: Fold your letter up and pray over it. This doesn’t have to be a long prayer, just a short prayer like: “Lord, I believe you will answer my prayers.”
Ask God to Send a Good Husband
Step 3: Bury the letter in the ground. Yes, I know. This may sound a bit strange. After all that work you’re going to bury the letter? In reality, I started burying my prayer request letters in the ground, at the beach, after I got married. I did something a little unorthodox when I was single (like this isn’t). Now, it’s important to note that when I started praying to God for a husband, I was very young, so my tactics were a bit odd.
I would write letters to God, pray over them and throw them out the window while riding down the road in a car. This may sound funny to you, but I truly felt that God would send an angel to report the details of the letter back to Heaven. Then He would answer them.
As I matured in Christ, He revealed to me that He read the details of my request even before the ink from my pen dried on the paper.
Step 4: Ask others to pray for a husband for you. When two or more people are gathered for prayer, God is in the midst (Matthew 18:20). Just make sure you choose people that can actually get a prayer through. There is no point in asking someone to pray for you and they never seem to get their prayers answered.
Keep in mind, the person that you ask for prayer doesn’t have to be married. I remember asking anyone that I knew who could get a prayer through. I personally asked the elderly mothers in the church who got their prayers answered from God.
If you decide to ask a minister in your church to pray for you, make sure you are specific. Don’t just say, “Pray that I find a man.” That sounds too desperate. Say something like: “Pray that I find the ‘right’ husband,” or “Pray that God helps me to find a good husband.”
Also, never walk up to a prophet or minister out of the blue and say: “Pray that I get a husband.”
I tried that once when I was single with a prophet that came to our church to preach. I thought that he would prophecy about my future husband. I assumed that he would say: “God told me that you are going to get married soon.”
I was totally wrong. Instead, he said, “Oh, okay.” Then he walked away. I was so embarrassed. Thank goodness no one was around to hear my desperate plea.
Save yourself the embarrassment and don’t make the same mistake I did.
God has someone for you.
Step 5: Pray without ceasing. Pray daily until God answers your prayers like in: 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Just make sure that this isn’t your only prayer. It’s sort of rude to come to the Creator and beg Him for a husband as soon as you wake up in the morning. Also, when you pray, ask God to prepare you to be a good wife. Often times, some women will pray for a husband, but they won’t prepare themselves spiritually for a husband.
Step 6: Don’t assume that the first man you meet is the right ‘one’. Remember, Satan knows that you’re in the market for a husband. So, he will try to distract you by sending the wrong men. Just because a man is a Christian, pastor or a good choir boy doesn’t mean he’s the one that God has for you. After I asked God to help me find a husband, I ran into a few milk duds along the way. Years later, I looked them up on Facebook and I am SOOOOOO glad I didn’t get involved with them.
It’s very important that you seek God for a husband. When you meet a potential mate, He will let you know whether or not your prospective husband is the one.
Also, it’s important to know that God isn’t predictable. I assumed that I would meet my husband at my church. I imagined him walking in one Sunday morning. I lived about 50 miles away from my church. My future husband lived only 15-20 minutes away from where I lived at the time. So, you never know where you will meet your future husband.
Bonus: Leave it in God’s hands. When you have prayed for God to find a husband, trust in Him completely. Don’t worry about when, where or how you’re going to meet him. The moment that I stopped stressing over when I was going to meet the right one, that’s when God stepped in and introduced me to the love of my life. We have been married for 16 happy years.
So, if you feel super anxious about finding a husband, I understand how you feel. I was afraid that I would not meet the right man because I was told there was a shortage of men. That is simply not the case. If it is in God’s plan for you to get married, you will eventually get married.