2741759137_a40f850dcd_oFor many years I used a loose leaf notebook for my prayer list (the Personal Prayer Notebook — see the earlier post on prayer lists). It was easy to update my prayer list and the Personal Prayer Notebook kept it organized. The Personal Prayer Notebook has a recommended organization for prayer with tabbed sections for (in order) Adoration, Thanksgiving, Confession, Intercession, and Petition.

Adoration is praising God — not thanking God for specific gifts received but rather praising God because of who God is, and praising the characteristics of God (holiness, abounding mercy, complete goodness, etc.). Many of the Psalms can be used here; Psalms 95 and 100 are two traditionally utilized for this purpose.

Thanksgiving is thanking God for gifts received whether requested or not. This helps us recognize what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. It is good to keep a list of answered prayers for use in this section. We should write on our hearts and in our minds that God loves a thankful heart (Psalm 50:14,23) and we should work toward having a general attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude.

Confession is the acknowledgement of our failings and request for forgiveness. I do not recommend keeping a list of sins (as some people do) as I find it better to do a brief examination of conscience and ask God to give me awareness of my sins. I rely on God to lead me in examining my faults and guide me in understanding the areas of my life where I need to improve.

Intercession is offering prayer for others. Many people ask for prayer if we but listen to them. Some requests are quite specific, for example in the case of illness. Many are vague: a person may say that he or she is having a difficult time with a spouse or a child. People may ask me personally to pray for them or they may make a general request so I also use the intercession list from my church bulletin for this part of prayer.

Petition is offering prayer for oneself. Let’s be clear: God knows our needs (Matthew 6:8, 32) but God also wants us to ask for what we need as the Lord’s Prayer makes clear (“Give us each day our daily bread”, Luke 11:3, NIV). We need to cover spiritual, mental, and physical needs.

During both intercession and petition we need to be keenly aware that God knows our needs better than we, and that God will give good gifts even if they are not the gifts we desired or expected (Luke 11:11-13). We certainly should not treat intercession and petition as a “shopping list” of what we want or as a “to do list” for God. It is better to approach with the thought, “Here are some things I want to discuss with you,” and then be open to God working in our lives. God’s gifts to us, in the long run, are better than anything we could have specifically requested.

One can maintain a prayer list for each section using Psalms, songs, poems, scripture portions, and of course, lists of needs or problems of others and ourselves. This is particularly useful for Adoration and Thanksgiving as psalms, songs, poems, and scripture often have the effect of raising our hearts and minds to God. With familiar verses the result is sometimes automatic — a line from a Psalm or a song may immediately transport one to a realm of praise or gratitude.

The order of Adoration, Thanksgiving, Confession, Intercession, and Petition is important. All the liturgical daily offices with which I am familiar follow this order. We need to begin prayer by focusing on God rather than ourselves. We need to confess and repent so that we can discuss intercessions and petitions with a clear heart and mind. It is also important to pray for others (intercede) before praying for ourselves (petitioning). Jesus call us to focus on the welfare of others before focusing on ourselves. There’s an old adage that the way to joy is to think of Jesus first (J), then others (O), and lastly yourself (Y) (Matthew 22:37-40).

Another order for prayer, which is very similar though not identical to one above is given by the acronym ACTS: Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; and Supplication. Use either order — the important thing is to focus on God and not on ourselves, and to be thorough by giving attention to the several aspects of prayer.

An earlier post on this blog provided information about N.T. Wright Online which offers courses by New Testament scholar Bishop N.T. Wright.  At that time a free course on Philemon was available. Bishop Wright now offers three additional free courses:

I found the course on the Lord’s Prayer to be especially helpful and insightful; it provided me things to ponder for several days.

askntwrightanything1Bishop has also expanded his cyber presence by offering a podcast. The fortnightly Ask N.T. Wright Anything podcast consists primarily of Bishop Wright answering questions sent by listeners.

The podcast is a joint partnership of Premier Christian Radio, SPCK Publishing, and N.T. Wright Online. After subscribing to the podcast, one ought to visit the Premier web site and sign up for the email list. The Premier site has additional content with short videos of Bishop Wright addressing various topics. Additionally Premier offers give-aways of N.T. Wright books and signing up for the email list enters one in drawings for the give-aways.

prayer-book-1798452_1280A prayer list is an important tool for the Christian spiritual life. Most of us need written lists because our memories are not good enough for us to rely exclusively upon them. My first prayer list consisted of slips of paper which I kept inside the cover of my Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Since I use the BCP offices, this was a convenient place to keep the information. Initially the pieces of paper were unorganized — just notes made as I became aware of needs or when people asked for prayer.

As my prayer life matured and I found myself having more requests to remember, I decided I needed better organization for my prayer list. I purchased the Personal Prayer Notebook from the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer. (It is still available from the Canadian AFP: click here for information.) This small three-ring binder (which I still have after about thirty-five years) has general information on prayer and tabbed sections for Adoration, Thanksgiving, Confession, Intercession, and Petition. Since it is a loose-leaf binder, one can insert pages with one’s own intercessions and petitions, or materials one finds useful in prayer such as meditations. This binder served me well for decades.

Some years ago I purchased an Android tablet. One of the primary uses of my tablet is reading. I soon realized that I could easily copy the BCP Daily Offices and Psalter to my tablet and use the tablet for daily prayer. Having copied the Offices and Psalter, I decided also to copy my prayer list to the tablet. For several years I have produced my prayer list pages (for the Personal Prayer Notebook) on my computer. Having my prayer list in a word processor document made updating quick and easy. I produced a pdf document from the word processor document and copied it to my tablet. The Aldiko Book Reader app makes it easy to use the office, psalter, and personal prayer list by switching among the documents as needed. And that is what I currently use for daily prayer. I have everything on one small tablet which is easy to transport and the files are simple to access and use. I also have the Bible (pdfs of both the ESV and the NET) for the daily scripture readings. No more juggling books, and since Aldiko automatically keeps my place for me, I don’t have to worry with bookmarks or ribbons. It is especially handy when travelling as I everything is on my tablet which I would take on a trip anyway. It’s lightweight, and easy to pack and carry.


Many archaeologists, historians, and even casual Bible readers become curious about foods mentioned in ancient sources. Often these folks have a desire to taste the foods and compare them with modern cuisine. However, this presents a difficulty as there are few recipes for ancient dishes, and when there are recipes they are often merely a list of ingredients without specifying amounts or methods of preparation. Sometimes the name of an ingredient cannot be translated as the modern equivalent is unknown. And of course the recipes do not contain cooking temperatures or times as ancients did not have the means to measure these.

mersuBut some are not deterred by these problems, and seek to recreate ancient foods by reconstructing recipes using information gained by archaeologists and cultural historians combined with personal knowledge of cooking techniques. One example is the Babylonian stew described in a post below. Another is the attempt by Megan Sauter (Associate Editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society) to make mersu, a type of cake or pastry. Ms. Sauter used a receipt recreated by Adam Maskevich who based his work on a recipe originally translated from the Babylonian by Jean Bottéro. The Babylonian recipe came from the site of Mari in Syria and dates from c. 1775 to 1761 B.C.E.).

Mersu is made of a basic dough using flour and a liquid. The dough is shaped into a ball and hollowed out. The center of the ball is filled with a mixture of fruit and nuts, and then baked. It sounds similar to a modern pie (with crust all around) or a popover (with a harder crust). It also sounds like it would be quite tasty. You can read Ms. Sauter’s article with full details for the recipe here.

Nicea, or Nicaea, is extremely important in the history of Christendom as the site of the first and seventh ecumenical (i.e. world-wide) councils. The First Council of Nicea convened in A.D. 325 to settle the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ in reaction to Arianism. A product of this council is the Nicene Creed, named after the council. The Nicene Creed is one of the three major creeds of the Church. (The Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed being the other two.) The Nicene Creed is an expansion of the Apostles’ Creed and incorporates specific language concerning the nature of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and their relation to God the Father. The less significant Second Council of Nicea (the seventh ecumenical council) in A.D. 787 restored the use and veneration of icons (i.e. holy images) which had been banned by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V thirty-three years earlier.

ChurchOfNicea1Nicea was located in northwestern Anatolia, which today is part of Turkey. Nicea lies within the modern city of Iznik on the eastern shore of Iznik Lake, also known as Lake Ascanius. On the shore of this lake was a church, and it was in this church that the First Nicene council met. In A.D. 740 an earthquake struck the area, and the church was submerged beneath the lake. The exact site of the church was forgotten over time, and has been unknown for centuries. However, that has now changed.

Dr. Mustafa Şahin, a Turkish archaeologist, has searched many years for the ancient church of Nicea. He explored the area around Lake Iznik (known as Lake Ascanius in Roman times) without success. In 2013, the government began taking aerial photographs of the lake but the government did not share the photographs with archaeologists. Recently the government renewed the aerial photography and a member of the team thought of contacting Dr. Şahin. The photographs showed an ancient structure about 160 feet from shore and under about ten feet of water. Dr. Şahin immediately recognized the remains as those of a church and he was sure that his search was over. “When I first saw the images of the lake, I was quite surprised to see a church structure that clearly. I’d been doing field surveys in Iznik since 2006 and hadn’t yet discovered a magnificent structure like that,” Dr. Şahin told reporters.

ChurchOfNicea2Divers dispatched to explore the submerged building discovered several human graves and some Roman coins.

The site may become Turkey’s first underwater museum; Dr. Şahin hopes that wll be the case. Museum plans include a sixty-six foot tower which would allow the ruins to be seen from the shore, a walkway over the lake itself, and a submerged glass room at the nave allowing visitors to pray in the area enclosed by the original church. The museum would allow visitors to dive and get a closeup view of the structure. Construction may begin soon and the museum could open in 2019.

For more information on the find, as well as information on the controversy leading to the First Council of Nicene, read this article in the Daily Beast.

When one studies Biblical archaeology, one gets the feeling that all the great stuff has already been discovered: the Dead Sea scrolls, Megiddo, the Nag Hammadi texts, and Hezekiah’s Tunnel. However, archaeologists are always active at digs in the Holy Land and they often find significant artifacts. It takes time to investigate and authenticate remains so public announcements of discoveries can take years and even decades which causes us, the general public, to always be some years behind in our awareness and knowledge of these discoveries. Here’s one find which made the news this year, 9 years after it’s uncovering.

Archaeologists have excavated Ophel in Jerusalem for several decades. In 1986 and 1987, archaeologists discovered a building which probably served as the royal bakery for King Solomon and King Hezekiah. In 2009, further excavation of bakery area uncovered pottery fragments, figurines, and many other small items. Among these were jar handles with impressions and 34 bullae. A bulla is a seal impression stamped on a soft piece of clay. Most of the bullae found at Ophel are in Hebrew and are impressed with a seal bearing the name of the seal’s owner. One of the bullae found was impressed with the personal seal of King Hezekiah.

King Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 13th king of Judah; he reigned from c. 729 to c. 687 BC, sometimes as coregent. According to the book of Kings, Hezekiah was a righteous king and instituted many reforms to purify the religious practices of the Israelites. Hezekiah is mentioned in the non-Biblical Sennacherib Prism or Annals containing the account of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib. The siege is mentioned in several books of the Bible including Isaiah chapters 33 and 36; 2 Kings 18:17; and 2 Chronicles 32:9.

Two other prominent Israelites lived during the time of Hezekiah: Isaiah and Micah. Isaiah is one of the major prophets, so named because of the size of the scroll, but Isaiah is also a major prophet in the sense of the importance of his writings. Isaiah is probably the best known of the prophets (after Moses), or least his writings are the best known prophetic writings among Christians. Isaiah is often quoted in New Testament writings, and passages from the book of Isaiah are used in lectionaries, liturgies, and songs throughout Christendom. Luke records that when Jesus began his public ministry, he did so by announcing it after reading aloud a passage from Isaiah (61:1,2) in the synagogue at Nazareth.

Isaiah_bulla.jpgAlong with the bulla bearing the seal of Hezekiah was one bearing the name “Yesha’yah[u] Nvy[?]”. When translated, the seal seemingly states that it is the seal of Isaiah the prophet. Since the bulla was found with a bulla bearing Hezekiah’s seal, it is no stretch to claim that the bulla bears the seal of the prophet Isaiah. This is certainly an exciting find, but like most archaeological items, the identification is not unanimous or without controversy. It is an exciting find, in fact the whole royal bakery area is exciting, and is sure to ignite more study. You can read about the Isaiah bulla in the Biblical Archaeology Review, the Times of Israel, National Geographic, the Smithsonian, and other places on the web — it’s big news. One of several articles which dispute the identification of the bulla with the Biblical prophet Isaiah is on the Remnant of Giants blog, titled “Why ‘Isaiah’ of the Isaiah Bulla is not the Prophet Isaiah“.

Whether or not the bulla is properly attributed to THE Isaiah, it is an interesting find, as are the other bullae, pottery fragments, inscribed jar handles, and various bits found on the site. Each piece found can guide us in filling in details of the history and everyday life of the Israelites. An item such as the bulla with the seal of King Hezekiah gives us a physical connection to the past and makes the figures of the Bible a bit more real to us. And maybe this is actually the seal of the prophet Isaiah, and those who touch it or see it are making a physical connection, however tenuous, with one of the great prophets of Judah.