Tag Archives: prayer

TRIP At Last

TRIP at last

I think I promised to explain the TRIP method for Bible study. Here goes.

The TRIP method was first explained to me in the book Daily Texts published annually by Mount Carmel Ministries. They borrowed their idea from Martin Luther. I somewhat modified their idea as I grew in study. Feel free to try it and revise it to fit your needs.

After I had spent most of a year simply reading and meditating in no particular form on the texts for each day, I decided to try the TRIP method. This method emphasizes an important truth about Bible study: Bible study is integrally related to prayer. You really can’t do one without the other. They belong together. They are two disciplines, but like the chicken and the egg, it is quite difficult to discern which comes first. The TRIP method incorporates them into one process.

You can read any text and use the TRIP method, although it would be best to use it for a relatively concise text. A long rambling story might be difficult to analyze and filter with this method, although it could certainly be done. You begin by simply reading the text, and you may want to read it more than once. Then you ask yourself four simple questions:

  • What in this text makes me feel thankful?
  • What in this text calls me to repentance?
  • What am I motivated to pray for after reading this text?
  • What do I plan to do today about what I have learned in this text?

The TRIP method is easy to remember:

  • T – THANKSGIVING
  • R – REPENTANCE
  • I – INTERCESSION
  • P – PROMISE (or PLAN)

I am an inveterate journaler, so I use a small notebook to write down my answers to the simple questions. Here is what a day’s journal entry might look like:

* * * * *

The texts: Proverbs 37:8, James 1:19

You can write out the texts if you think that will help you study and meditate on them, or you can simply note the reference. I have done it both ways. For this sample, I write the text to prevent the need for you to look it up.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only leads to evil. Proverbs 37:8

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

T – Thanksgiving

I am very thankful for this reminder that angry outbursts accomplish nothing good. I have a quick temper, and when I feel frustrated, it often bursts out against the very person I love most. Often we are both upset by the same circumstances, and hateful words only make things worse. I am also grateful that with the warning comes the solution – listening. Whenever I am patient enough to listen instead of blurting out my anger, the situation always improves. I need this reminder. (I happened upon this reading the day after a key engine part on our boat failed to work, and we were stuck buying a new one while in a foreign country. Yup. I was angry.)

R – Repentance

It is easy to see what I need to repent of. I need to ask God and my husband to forgive me for shouting and pouting. That is no way to treat someone I love who is in the same boat – quite literally – as I. We have a problem. We don’t need to rag on each other about it. We need to help each other. Solving this problem will not be easy. I am very sorry I spouted off in anger yesterday.

I – Intercession

I need to confess my sin to God and ask his forgiveness. I need to do the same with my husband. I’m using the word sin advisedly. Worshiping self is the major sin of all humans, and until I topple SELF off the throne of my heart, I will continue to feel entitled to be angry about the way this situation is a big pain. O Heavenly Father, please forgive my hasty, angry words, and please put it in my husband’s heart to forgive me as well.

P – Promise

I like to use the word “promise” instead of “plan” because I want to be committed to do it. I promise that today I will listen attentively to God and to my husband as we work through the solution to our problem. Make me a servant listener. May my listening spirit be inspired to serve God and to serve people more faithfully today and into the future instead of focusing on my ego and the way it feels.

So, that is a TRIP Bible study and prayer. As you can see, prayer is interwoven into even this very simple Bible study method. Prayer is crucial, because when we study the Bible, we are not trying to learn a lot of intellectual things. We will certainly improve the intellect by Bible study, but that work is pointless unless it changes us into more faithful disciples. Knowing God’s teaching about anger is completely useless unless I recognize that I need to learn how to manage my anger and stop worshiping my own world view. Bible study and prayer, or prayer and Bible study. The two interlaced disciplines open us to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and that is the real point of it all. It can be a real TRIP!

Why Don’t You Have Time to Read the Bible?

A lot of my friends accuse me of inappropriate pressure when I suggest that they should take time for Bible study and prayer. They say that I am retired, and of course I have time for such extras as Bible study and prayer. You may feel the same way. Maybe your life seems very hectic and maybe you think you already have enough demands on your time. You don’t need another thing on your daily schedule.

It is true that I am retired today, but I haven’t always been retired. I worked at some very hectic jobs along the way. I reared two children. I attended meetings, took night classes, failed to keep my laundry or housecleaning done to my mother’s standards, and yearned to read the latest breakout novel. I know what it is to think there is no more time.

Yet I observe that everyone makes time for the things that seem important. Just as people find money for the important things. If parents believe that a child has musical talent, they will find money for piano lessons and make time to drive the child back and forth. They will listen to practice sessions while making supper and they won’t complain that the recital falls on the very same Sunday afternoon as a playoff game. People make room for the things that rise to the top of the priorities in their lives.

When I was working, I had one job in which I traveled 100%. I got up at 4:00 AM on Monday mornings, even if it was raining or even if it was only 15 degrees Fahrenheit, because I had to be at the airport by 5:30AM in order to get through security and catch the first plane out. I got up even earlier if my plane left at 6:15AM. That was the way things were. I worked long days on that job, often 12 hours or more. I worked every business day of the week, and sometimes on the weekends. I was expected to put in not less than 40 hours on the projects to which I was assigned, and I was expected to be active in continuing education and personal professional development on top of those project hours. It was a challenging life.

Yet all those years, I rarely failed to start my day with Bible study and prayer. I won’t try to sound like someone who never failed in my personal devotional discipline. I am an imperfect human. I am not a machine. Sometimes I fail. But the failures were intermittent. My daily routine started with coffee, Bible study and prayer. Sometimes I had an hour for those purposes, and sometimes it was less, but always there was some time. I had time, because I made time.

My work in the area of technical support was a 24-hour responsibility. I was subject to be called or even scheduled to work at 2AM just as surely as I might be scheduled for a project meeting at 2PM, and those two responsibilities might both come on the same day. I had to make my time for work and protect my life and health without failing in my responsibilities. Yet every day, there was time for prayer and Bible study.

I am not an exceptional person. I simply have a priority. I think Bible study and prayer are important. I think I can’t live successfully without making time for these personal disciplines. In blogs yet to come I will explain myself, but today I simply want to say that you have time for whatever is important to you. When you look at yourself, you will see immediately that you make time when you need time. You may feel guilty about your priorities and you may try to keep a low profile about the way you use discretionary time. You probably feel that this issue is none of my business, and you are right.

How you use your time is completely your business. You are not accountable to me or to anyone else’s judgment of your priorities. However, I hear people express regrets that they do not know God well, or that they don’t have any peace or that they wish they had time for prayer and Bible study. I hear the regrets, but when I suggest that it is worthwhile to make time for Bible study and prayer, I am almost always accused of not understanding how busy everyone is.

Everybody is busy, and one of the biggest problems most people want to solve is how to do the important things and not feel burdened by all the other undone things. People need to feel that they are doing the right things and living the right way and acting with honor and integrity. There is a way to feel that way about life, and it starts with Bible study and prayer.

There were years in which I got up at 4AM every day, whether I had a plane to catch or not, because that was the only way for me to have time for Bible study and prayer. That discipline was hard. Sometimes it seemed quite unpleasant, and I bribed myself to stick with it by making sure I got the coffee going right away. But the most important result was a reassuring peace and a sense of the presence of God in every day that only grew more beautiful and more reassuring over the years. Today I am retired and my days are my own, more or less, but it is just as easy for a retiree to let the discipline slip as it is for anyone else. I still need to be committed to that time or it does not happen. I must make the time, or I don’t have the time. I do it, not because I am retired and it is easy, but rather I do it, because it is worth doing.

Where is the real power center?

This weekend I read an interesting statement. “One of the hardest lessons for a follower of Christ is that visible power is not always the highest level of power.” (Thibault, Jane Marie, 10 Gospel Promises for Later Life, copyright 2004, Upper Room Books, Nashville, p. 52)  The author was actually talking about the apparent powerlessness in people’s lives as they age, but when I read the statement, I realized that it applies to everyone. The feeling that we have lost control of our lives is a crazy-making experience at any age.

 I feel that way often these days. It is not my health, or even my finances. It is actually my country. I see this country do things and go places and harm people in ways that are completely incomprehensible to me. I feel simultaneous amazement, despair and total incredulity. Is this really happening? Why can’t I do anything about it?

I don’t think I could feel more despair if a soldier had suddenly arrived at my door and escorted me in handcuffs to a re-education camp. I used to read stories of the Israelites going into exile because their conquerors wanted to erase their memories of the way it was when Israel was an independent kingdom, and I had no idea what they were feeling. In those days, I imagined that relocation was like taking a permanent vacation to another country, and as a child, I thought that might be fun. Today I feel that without being moved out of my country, I am constantly subjected to a barrage of re-education by the press with the objective of making me forget what it is like to live in a country governed according to the Constitution of the United States. Somebody, obviously a lot of somebodies, intend for me to learn to live a different sort of life. I experience the visible sources of power as both oppressive and confusing.

 You may not agree with my political despair, but you probably experience your own sort of despair. We both know that sick feeling as we examine our options and discover that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to push back against the power being brought to bear on our lives, power that is taking us where we do not want to go, regardless of our wishes or even our deep convictions. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, you know how I feel. If you just discovered that the person to whom you committed your life “till death do us part” has no such reciprocal commitment, you know how I feel. If you have been laid off from a job that was both personally fulfilling and well compensated, giving you means to care for your family and enjoy a few things above the survival level, and now when you search for work, that kind of work is no longer available, you know how I feel.

 We all have to go through times, sometimes very long periods of time, when we are in the grip of power we cannot resist or defeat. The days look hopeless. The nights seem endless. There seems not to be any light at the end of the tunnel where we live our dark days. Maybe there is no end to this tunnel of doom.

 What do we do about this situation? Despair and dismay destroy our ability to appreciate anything beautiful. They crush our hope that we can accomplish even small things. What do we do?

 If we truly believe that we are completely at the mercy of only the powers we can see in the world of time and space, then we are truly doomed. In fact, if we believe that the reality we observe in time and space is the only reality, then we are doomed. This reality has a propensity to cave in to evil intentions and monstrous egotistical power. Furthermore, nothing in the world of time and space lasts forever – not the happiest life, not the best of people, not the most beautiful bridge or the finest painting. Nothing at all lasts forever. Everything ends and everything dies. Our best survival strategies still end in death. What can we do?

 Our only hope is that this world we can see, hear, smell, taste and feel is not all there is. Our only hope is God.

 This message is the whole point of the Bible. The Bible tells us from the first word to the last that this reality is not all there is. God himself created this reality for our joy and blessing, but when we allowed ourselves to be deceived by Satan, then we allowed ourselves to believe that this world is all there is, and that is when we lost hope. The Bible tells us that we can have hope, because the evil, destructive power we can see at work around us is not the strongest power and is certainly not destined to hold sway forever. There is hope.

 In the days of the Roman Empire, a lot of people had reason to feel hopeless. The might of Rome was greater than anyone in Galilee or Judea had ever seen before. Rome’s power had conquered nations across the entirety of the world Mediterranean peoples had known. Roman power suppressed all power but its own, and eventually the emperors of Rome demanded not only submission, but actual worship. The book of Revelation was written to Christians who were in danger of losing hope in God while living under the boot of the Roman Empire. They were being tempted and/or threatened to worship the emperor of Rome, and the impetus behind that demand was to shore up Rome’s political power. The emperor wanted all his subjects to look to him for what they needed, and he wanted to be the one who decided what they needed. Christians had to ask themselves whether they wanted to be subject to the power of Rome, the power they could see at work in the time/space reality, or if they were actually subject to the power of God, the eternal, infinite Creator who had given his Son’s life for theirs. They had to decide if this world we can experience with our physical senses was all there was, or if there were something more, a higher order of power, a different and more compelling Savior than the emperor of Rome. The author of Revelation instructed them to hope in God, not the Empire, and he recorded the promise of Christ to those who hang on to that hope.

  •  To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
  • Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
  • To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
  • To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. ( Revelation 2:28)
  • If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life. (Revelation 3:5)
  • If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. (Revelation 3:12)
  • To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)

 According to the author of Revelation, we conquer when we put our hope in God alone. We conquer by testifying to our faith in Christ, by living according to his call and his claim on our lives. According to Revelation, Christ says, “hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” (Revelation 3:11) If we have faith in Christ and live our testimony, putting him ahead of everything else, we do not succumb to despair because the Roman emperor thinks he is God or because a twenty-first century socialist government enslaves and impoverishes its citizens. If we put our hope in Christ, we will not despair at terminal diagnoses or give up on life when betrayed or be defeated by the job market.

When I face my hopeless situation, I remember that this world is not all there is. I remember that God sits on his throne, and that he has power and sovereignty over everything that happens. I trust him to be with me as he promised, no matter what happens in this earthly reality. That is the only antidote that gives me peace and happiness in my time of despair. I believe it is the antidote we all need when we feel powerless. It is not for me alone; it is for you as well. Hope in God. He is on his throne. You can count on the One who gave Himself for you. You can count on the One who is the real power in the real reality beyond the limit of time and space.

Pray for the Government?

I pray for government every week. I started doing this a little over a year ago after visiting the National Day of Prayer website. I borrowed their concept of praying for some aspect of our national life every day, but I modified the list a bit. I pray for government every Monday. My high-level prayer is that everyone in government will act with integrity and serve the people according to local, county, state and national law. Beyond that, I pray about specific issues in these various realms. It all sounds fairly benign when stated that way. I might just say “Bless everyone in government and keep our country safe,” but that is not nearly enough.

Praying for government is complicated. For starters, everyone in government, whether elected, appointed, or hired through some civil service process, is a human being. They are all sinners, just like me, and they all do things that make me crazy. Just because they are human. That, unfortunately, is the start, but not the end of the problem.

At every level, there are some people who are in it for what they can get out of it. They have figured out how to scam the system or beat the system to some advantage for themselves. They lie to the public, they lie to each other. They steal by deception or by blatant theft. In most cases, I only suspect, but I don’t have facts to support an accusation of outright criminal fraud. It is hard to pray for such people. I don’t know how to word a truthful prayer.

There are people in government who, to all appearances, serve with integrity and honor – until they don’t. It is easier to pray blessings on someone whose behavior and character appear to be honorable. It is a deep wound to discover that some of them have feet of clay. That discovery is such a challenge, especially if they retain their position of trust after I no longer trust them.

The biggest challenge is the political ideologies that I consider destructive and even unlawful. When I read that some politician or public official has embarked on a program that I consider to be sidestepping or even completely in opposition to our constitution or our laws, I can hardly bring myself to pray blessings on that person. I certainly cannot pray for the success of the program. My prayer is confused and halting. I am angry. I am hurt. I am afraid for the future.

It is even worse when day after day I hear national, state and local leaders line up to support this destructive action. I can pray that the program will be defeated or ended, but that is more like wishful thinking than prayer. In fact, my mental churning and emotional stew makes it very difficult for me to pray about these issues.

One day I wrote to a blogger whom I have long admired. We share a common political viewpoint, but we also share faith in Christ. I observed that even when she had to speak in opposition to a program or a candidate, she retained a level of focus that avoided the ad hominem attacks that so often cloud the issues in the public forum. I asked her how she keeps that clear perspective on the issues without scorning the human being. Her answer was very clear.

She said that she prays for the salvation of every person in government every day. Knowing that God sent Christ into the world in order that the world might be saved, she focuses her prayers on God’s will that all of us be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I was humbled. I knew immediately that she was right. God’s purpose for each of us is to know Christ and to be reconciled to God through him. We are all failing in our obedience, no matter our level of relationship with Christ, so it is always right to pray that each person will come to know him in a relationship shaped by love and grace.

Now I keep that prayer uppermost when I pray for our government. I still pray about the issues. I think God had a hand in the formation of the USA. The people who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the people who fought the Revolutionary War, the people who wrote our Constitution and who served as our early leaders all testified to faith in God, both in their lives and in the words they wrote in our founding documents. They relied on God for guidance in the establishment of our country. They, like me, were imperfect, but they did what they did as an outgrowth of their relationship with God. So I feel confident that God cares what becomes of us.

Therefore, remembering that God worked through flawed human beings to achieve his purpose in the founding of this country, I pray that he will continue to do that. I ask for his guidance in understanding the issues. I ask for his leadership in shaping my actions and comments with regard to the issues. I pray fervently for his will to be done in all things.

I pray for our government, and when I do so, I pray for myself. In this country, we can never exempt ourselves when we criticize the government, for we are the voters who elected the leaders who do the government’s work. If we really want the government to work the way God wants it to work, then we are all called to be God’s faithful servants, obedient to his will in our lives, including the way we vote. I have come a long way since the day I prayed for the defeat of a bill I thought was bad. We may be unhappy with our government for doing things we never expected when we voted for the incumbents, but we must always remember that in this country, at the most basic level, the government is us. We must pray fervently the petition in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Then we must speak and act and vote in accord with God’s will as we best understand it, and pray with love that our elected leadership will do the same.