Preying for Each Other

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry. 16 August 2012

Yesterday morning I took our dogs out for their walk and as I returned I saw this lady sitting on our garage door. As if she were deep in her morning meditations, she sat motionless waiting for her prey to get within reach of those long front claw-like arms.

According to Wikipedia the general type of mantises are “ambush predators. They camouflage themselves and stand perfectly still. Then they just wait for their prey to stray too near. When a target does get close enough, the mantis then  strikes  at remarkable speed, in fractions of the time it takes people to blink. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey. Prey items are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs. The praying mantis usually holds its prey with one arm between the head and thorax, and the other on the abdomen. Then, if the prey does not resist, the mantis will eat it alive. However, if the prey does resist, the mantis will eat its head first, and then carry on with the body in pieces.”[i]

If you are a regular reader of Ministry Minute first, Thank You! Second, you are no longer surprised get a somewhat different approach to ministry than perhaps with some devotional reading you have done!

The praying mantis got me thinking. I wonder how often prayer requests or prayer chains are more about spreading some good gossip more than they are about really praying for the person. Before long you might have someone prey-ing for you rather than praying for you! Now, before anyone begins to speculate, “No, I have not recently been the subject of such (of which I am aware). I’m just thinking out loud here.” The Apostle Paul had a concern for those in the first century church that they were falling in to the snare of gossip. In his letter to young Pastor Timothy, he speaks of those who have cast off what they first believed and “…they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

You see, the praying mantis first camouflages itself and remains perfectly still. Gossip is the same way, camouflaged as concern for the person of whom they are about to share some juicy piece of information as a ‘prayer request.’ Then, the mantis, once it has its prey in its claws two things can happen based on the action of the trapped prey. If it doesn’t resist, it is eaten alive. Perhaps if a person who is gossiped against doesn’t speak out against the lies, they are consumed by the gossip about them. Perhaps their ministry is torn apart and cannot continue. If the prey does resist, the mantis bites off its head to stop the resistance. If the gossip analogy is accurate, then the target of the gossip, if they speak out and defend themselves, they may be cut off at the head.  Idle gossip becomes vindictive slander with a purpose to destroy that which it has targeted. Gossip is death to a ministry.

Paul was concerned about such behavior and we should be also. Be on the look-out for praying that is really preying. Speak only good one for another in order to build up and not tear down. The praying mantis is cute from a distance and you can even hold it. The little fellow just seems scared but if you could see its face…

Hebrews 12:12

“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees.”

[i]  accessed 15 August 2012

Big Enough

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there is only a minute for ministry

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, DMin ~ “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15


The precept, “there are no atheists in foxholes” may have been said by celebrated war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Chaplain William Cummings with a sermonette at the Battle of the Bulge or other possible war-time philosophers. Whoever it was, we owe them our thanks. It states aphoristically what perhaps escaped us by its simplicity that: When everything around us is totally out of our control, we long for someone or something that is bigger than us, able to restore order to the chaos! It is not until we come to grips with the truth of our own vulnerability to any number of external (and even internal) forces that we realize our neediness.

I was reminded of this by a letter I received from my son during his first week at Army basic training. During their first chapel service after an intensely grueling week, the platoon found they were unable to even get into the chapel. It was filled to overflowing; so… being the good, though neophyte, soldiers that they were, they adapted and had a Bible study instead. Two soldiers were saved by the grace of God. This first week had taught them that they needed something or someone bigger than themselves. Daniel, too, has found solace in scripture reading that he had not known before. By alluding to the statement by Mr. Pyle, or whomever; I do not doubt the sincerity or the efficacy of these soldiers’ prayers for salvation. My observation is simply that, an observation.  I believe the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh for two reasons, the first to remind him that he needed someone greater than himself to get through the days and the second, because he had not given Paul a wife!

Now, wait, before you throw rocks my way… (You know you smiled at that right?) But that is not exactly what I meant. The realization came to me just before I was to get married that suddenly I had the responsibility to care for this human being that I loved for the rest of my life and that I would be held responsible for how well I did that, by God! The feeling of inadequacy was matched four more times in such a strong epiphany; each time that I held a brand new baby for whom I was responsible. In the early years, that feeling was so overwhelming that I did a Jonah and ran from the responsibility. I tried to not think about that day when YHWH would demand of me an accounting for how well I had or had not fulfilled my responsibilities as husband and father. I am ashamed of my initial failures and I praise God for His grace and mercy.

Each and every human being on this earth must believe in something. If they claim to be atheists then they believe more in the non-theology of Karl Marx than the Word of God. The god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth, but still they believe in something.


Atheists shoving nothing in your face



“Father Mulcahy” of MASH played by William Christopher was once counseling a young man who was afraid that since he had survived his wounds, God would require him to take the vow and become a priest as he promised he would while in his foxhole begging God to get him through the ordeal. The good “Father” assured him that God understood and that “If everyone took the vow as they had promised in a moment of danger, it would be as if the priesthood had a population explosion!” He regretted his analogy shortly thereafter.

Peter required of us that we be always ready to respond when asked why we have hope; when all around us seems hopeless. That is a wonderful command. But I cannot help but wonder, for me and for Christians I know, in a time of crisis would someone who doesn’t know Christ look at us and see that we have hope? Would we be wringing our hands and ‘oh woe is me-ing’ along with everyone else? If we were in that foxhole, would the non-believer next to us be able to turn to us and ask, “Why are you so calm? What do you know that I don’t? What do you believe in?” God has given us an instinct of fear when we are in danger. That is a tool He gave us to help us stay alive. But to fear and fret uncontrollably without seeking the peace God offers, that is sin.

Everybody believes in something. What do you believe?

Would you pray with me between now and mid-September that as Daniel faces this time of stress and testing that he would find strength in God’s Word and that he would be ready to give a reason for the hope within him should he be asked?

The Need for Phylacteries

Riggs Ministry Minute: For when there’s only a minute for ministry              Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D. Min.       

True North Ministries

6 May 2012

Immediately I begin with an explanation to our Jewish friends, particularly any orthodox worshippers of YHWH. My writing is not intended to mock or to give less importance to the use of, or the teaching concerning the Tefillin. In actuality, I hope to show how the concept behind the wearing of phylacteries (and the prayer time attached to it) is most needed in our hectic world today. Anyone with an interest in learning the specifics of their history, with what they are made and how they are applied may enjoy a visit to: Actually, my path to where I rise at 3 a.m. to write this includes several stops along the way. I will mention only two. The first is an overseas flight where, as we approached Israel’s coastline with the new day’s sun greeting us, the gentleman sitting next to me took a phylactery from his luggage and began the slow process of donning it. I watched in ignorance and later read to understand. My second stop was just recently in the home of dear friends, the wife in her upper 80’s, the husband just into his 90’s. She explained a conversation she would have with my son, Daniel, before he leaves in a few weeks for the Army. This dear friend is a devout Catholic and her story is an off-shoot of that faith!

Both my friend who wishes to counsel Daniel and this stranger aboard an intercontinental flight depend on a similar interaction between man (a person) and God. My friend’s message is that we must, for a minimum of five minutes per day, stop completely what we are doing and remove all thoughts from our mind except that Jesus is all around us. She went on… “You don’t have to say anything”… just be still, waiting on God to speak to you. You will feel it perhaps when silent, an answer, a quiet peace, an incomprehensible feeling that you just received an affirmation. The key is to be silent and allow God to speak. A well-rehearsed verse is Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted among the earth.” (KJV)

This is where the phylacteries make sense. The two ‘boxes’ with scripture in them are held on to the forehead and left arm of the intercessor with a leather cord that is attached by a precisely tied knot. One represents praying with your entire mind, the other with all your heart (it is close in proximity to the heart). Here is where it truly hit home for me. The remainder of the cord is then wrapped several times around the left hand. It is not to just wrap up extra cord, it is to occupy the hand that otherwise would find a way to busy itself, even while the mind and heart are trying to commune with God. Certainly there is much more to all of this, the kosher aspects of each part of the phylactery is amazing, down to the way in which the threads are made. So please, this is just to make a point, not to teach the wonderful intricacies of the phylactery prayer model.

This is the theological anthropology (or Christian anthropology) with a smattering of pneumatology[i]   for the divinity students out there. God interacting with man. What is so incredible about the communing between the all-powerful, supreme ruler of the universe who chooses to not only talk and share with us; He chooses to patiently wait for us since we are often too busy to pray. So, God waits. He desires a relationship and we desperately need the direction and the peace we can receive by praying and studying God’s Word.

I desire to have my mind focused, my heart tuned and my hands kept from the distractions of life so I can more often and more clearly, hear that still small voice that brings about a peace that only God can give.

[i] The study of the Holy Spirit, His interactions in the world and within the believer

When Prayer Seems Pointless

“The Ministry Minute: For when there is only a minute for ministry”                                                         Dr. Ross Riggs – True North Ministries 

Prayers in crevices of Western Wall

It appears that, as 2012 begins, there are circumstances surrounding this world that are so large the solutions are evasive at the least and totally inapprehensible at the worst. Events and forecasts paint such a dismal picture that, to even the most stalwart of Christians, prayer almost seems pointless. An anathema to make such a statement or more likely the lie that Satan would ask us to believe? Can Christians find themselves at a point where they wonder if their prayers are futile? Sadly, many Christians do get to that point in their journey of faith; and even sadder is that there are few brothers or sisters in Christ that truly offer some legitimate reason these suffering saints should carry on in prayer even when it seems that all hope is lost. With worn out clichés about praying harder or admonishment that their faith just isn’t strong enough, the struggling saints seek refuge in the solace of a plethora of ‘Christian self-help’ books that find answers everywhere except in the Bible. In this Minute, it is important to examine the issue.

The economy:  The US has its highest unemployment in decades, “…nearly half of all persons under 30, did not go to work today… If the American Church was healthy and strong – faithfully walking with Jesus Christ, obeying the Scriptures, preaching the gospel, and making disciples –wouldn’t the American society be stronger and healthier?”[i] The prayers of the faithful seem to lack results and the actions of those faithful seem to do even less.

Israel – Iran: “We better keep praying for peace, while preparing ourselves for war.”[ii] Within 9 to 12 months, according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak; Iran’s nuclear program will enter what he termed, the immunity zone. Barak defined the immunity zone as a point in the development of Iran’s nuclear capability after which they will be immune, or almost immune, to attack. Any attack after that point would not have the debilitating impact on the nuclear program that is necessary for Israel’s and the region’s protection.  “And the Israelis are trying to warn that if a decision is not taken during this time, from now until the mid or end of 2012, then it would be too late to (make) a decision.”[iii] Even with all of the rhetoric, international investigations, sanctions and covert military action; the Iranian nuclear program continues its juggernaut toward the goal of attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon.

Dr. Ronan Bergman author of ‘Israel Will Attack Iran in 2012’ published in the New York Times, Sunday January 30th, said: “…even that most of the leadership of Israel, including Mossad’s current assessment, military intelligence and others, all of them agreed that the timeline is very different, that Iran would be able to produce the first device within a year, and that sanctions… or the combination between sanctions and covert actions are not significantly effective.”[iv] Praying for the peace of Jerusalem has brought only millennia of war. Even now, in a dark hour, prayers of the thousands who have carried their petitions to the Western Wall; Protestants, Catholics, Baptists and, of course, Jews seem to hit that hard wall and go no farther than the pieces of paper with prayers scrawled on them stuck in the crevices by worshippers. Recently, a Jewish guide quipped to his gaggle of tourists that Jerusalem was the only place in the world where you could call on God or send Him a fax, referring to the prayers on paper that fill the small spots in the wall daily and are later taken by rabbis and ceremonially burnt as a prayer offering to God. It seems the fax machine’s line is down.

Cancer – human disease and suffering: A dear wife struggles to care for her husband of so many years as he battles daily to breath and to take even the most basic nourishment. The doctors say his cancer is in remission but the cancer has taken away his ability to eat and the pain he struggles with is debilitating. This wife, a life-long companion, mourns for a relationship that is a tattered veneer of what it once was. Their own priest looked at her when she asked for his help and he proclaimed that he ‘didn’t have a magic bag of tricks in his car.’ Her prayers seemed to go no farther than the ceiling and her faith was barely enough to get her out of bed in the mornings.

It does not matter that prayers do not ‘go beyond the ceiling.’ A Christian counselor can share this truth while being careful not to sound callus like the priest who had seemed flippant to her. It is not to heaven that her prayers must ascend, but rather to the nearby ear of a close friend who loves her more than a brother. God’s ear is described in Scriptures as inclined toward His children awaiting their next word of prayer. A prayer must travel only as far as one’s own heart where the Holy Spirit resides, for those who love God, with those who are called according to His purpose. The Bible assures believers that the Holy Spirit communes with their spirit, giving words to their feelings that they cannot find. As intimately as one’s own spirit communes with them; the Holy Spirit communes with God the Father and God the Son as One. Heartfelt prayers need travel only as far as one’s own heart and there find the ear of God waiting to acknowledge the deepest emotion and calm the worst fear. The Holy Spirit stands at the ready to make intercession for believers. Paul, in his letter to the Romans wrote, “In the same way, (referring to understanding that hope in the unseen is faith), the Spirit helps us in weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.[v]

If the struggles in this life such as the global economy in a death spiral, the desperate position of Israel surrounded by her enemies seeking nuclear warheads, and the pain of a life-mate battling cancer every minute of every day were not so overwhelmingly large, then man would not need a big God. It is true… if mankind can solve something alone, most likely he will do just that and take all the credit too; even when both the mind and skills are also gifts from God. God is big enough to speak the universe into existence and close enough to hear the soft crying of wounded hearts. God always answers prayer, and true, sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ God always hears, He always cares and He always knows what is best for His children. The world will continue along the path He has set for it whether it is the economy or in war. Israel will always be the chosen people and God will fulfill for them all that He has intended. Each individual believer has a path, carefully designed by God and in that path may He show and teach, direct and guide until finally His creation is with Him forever more. As John Stockton was traveling by ocean liner to England in the early 1870’s with D.L. Moody, he gave thought to changing a rendition of an old well known hymn from the church. The title of that hymn is perhaps the best response: “Only Trust Him.[vi]

[i] Rosenberg, Joel C. Blog: State of the Union: Is America at Risk of Implosion? 25 Jan 2012

[ii] Rosenberg, Joel C. Blog: White House Makes 2 New Mistakes on Iran 16 Jan 2012

[iii] Bergman, Dr. Ronan: Interview Transcript NPR Radio accessed 1 Feb 2012

[iv] Ibid.

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