The Reflectionary – What is Prayer? Jesus on Wealth, Mental Health, and More

by | Sep 8, 2022 | The Reflectionary

It’s inevitable. If you’re in ministry long at all, you will absolutely find yourself ministering to people who struggle with mental health issues. And rather than there being clear boundaries between the mental and spiritual parts of us, we are, instead, whole beings.

We think thoughts. We feel emotions. We make decisions. And our bodies and our brains are made of matter and exist in a real, physical dimension. And it all relates. It all overlaps.

The other day, I sent an email to my list promoting the upcoming Church Mental Health Summit, which features speakers that I personally know and respect. I’m recommending every church leader get a ticket. It’s free and it’s online (there is a paid option to watch sessions beyond the day of the summit).

I received a reply to my email that essentially said, The only true “mental health” is a right relationship with God. Every time I write about depression, anxiety, or mental illness of any kind, some people will inevitably respond with a pseudo-spiritual, condescending attitude that suggests all of our mental health issues would disappear if we simply had more faith, prayed harder, or chose to be happy.

Unfortunately, this approach completely ignores reality. It also ignores the stories in which Jesus approached mentally ill people with a great deal of compassion, involving himself in their mental mess to offer his love.

I believe we’ve seen a lot of progress in the last couple of decades when it comes to how the church approaches mental health. But we also have a long way to go. I long to see the church keep getting better in this area and wanted to offer some suggestions for pastors and church leaders about how we can intentionally grow in this area.

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Sermon Ideas Based on the Lectionary

Note: The notes in the Reflectionary each week are based on Lectionary texts ten days out (so, the next Sunday, not the coming Sunday). If you need to see notes for this Sunday’s texts, visit last week’s Reflectionary.


For September 18, 2022
Year C – Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost


First Reading and Psalm


Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

WORKING TITLE: When Our Hearts Should Be Broken

There are certain seasons and occasions when our hearts absolutely should be broken over the conditions in which people around us are living, spiritually, physically, economically, and otherwise. Search your heart for any ways in which you’ve come to see yourself as superior to those who haven’t yet personally discovered the grace and goodness of God.

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Psalm 79:1-9

WORKING TITLE: Praying Based on the Goodness of God

The spiritual condition of the world around us may break our hearts – and this is appropriate – but we can never give up on God’s willingness to show mercy and compassion because his nature never changes. When you pray this week, pray for the culture around you not based on how good you perceive Christians to be, but based on the character of God that bends toward forgiveness and mercy.

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Alternate First Reading and Psalm


Amos 8:4-7

WORKING TITLE: Why Does God Get Angry?

When we sense that God is upset with his people, we should check to see if we’ve been trampling on those in need and neglecting those for whom he died. How can you involve yourself in the task of working toward greater equality in your own community? How can you come alongside and defend those who have been disadvantaged, disenfranchised, or marginalized?

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Psalm 113

Working Title: God Pays Attention to the Forgotten

God is continually looking out for the unnoticed and working on behalf of the least, the last, and the lost. He pays special attention to those whom society seems to forget most easily. When you praise God as the one who is powerful, holy, and good, also remember to praise him as the one who is attuned to the needs of those who are so often forgotten. And then, in his steps, look for opportunities to come alongside those who need your ministry in their lives.

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Second Reading


1 Timothy 2:1-7

Working Title: Praying is Practicing the Presence of God Together

Prayer makes a difference, both in us and around us. Prayer is an integral part of the mission of God to save a lost world and bring everyone into a peaceful relationship with himself. Pray, not just as a religious activity or as a means to a desired end, but pray in the sense that you tune into the presence of God in and around you, trusting him to re-order the world according to his redemptive will. Give your mind, heart, desires, ambitions, and worries to God in prayer and receive from him his power and presence to bring peace to it all.

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Gospel Reading


Luke 16:1-13

WORKING TITLE: What Jesus Had to say About Wealth, Wisdom, and Generosity

We who follow Jesus have the opportunity to totally reconsider our priorities so that we can detach from any system that unfairly favors some over others, while at the same time being wise in how we handle wealth so that we can grow in generosity. Consider whether you are benefitting from an economic system that favors the wealthy while perpetuating poverty in the lives of others. If so, find ways to loosen your attachment to that system and to be intentionally generous. Be open to ways to fix broken systems so that equality might be more within reach.

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Creative Sermon Series Ideas from MinistryPass

My favorite resource for sermon series and message ideas, complete series graphics, and video bumpers (but NOT full notes) to get you started is MinistryPass! Each week, I’ll feature a series I would recommend checking out for the upcoming season of the church year. This week:

From the Description:

This four-week series tackles a different social stigma each week. God offers believers healing and hope instead of condemnation as they struggle with mental health, physical health, singleness and infertility, and aging. Scripture guides our understanding of how to live and serve despite the stigmas that sometimes surround our realities.

Check Out This Sermon Series »


Upcoming Events


African-American Preaching Conference
September 27-29, 2022 (Waco, Texas)

The purpose of the African American Preaching Conference is defined in its permanent title with an emphasis on “Where the Pulpit Meets the Academy.” The preachers and plenary speakers are selected for their widely known expertise as both students and preachers. The program always focuses on the rich legacy of African American preaching in relationship to today’s culture, church, and the academy.

Registration and More Information Here »


The Church Mental Health Summit
October 10, 2022 (Online)

This one-day virtual event equipping the church to support mental health in their communities has perhaps never been more relevant than now. The church is, too often, ill-equipped to handle the concerns people share about their own struggles with mental health issues. We need to remove the stigma and invite people to bring their hardest struggles to Christ and his body for help.

Registration and More Information Here »


A Conference for Church Communications Leaders
October 18-19, 2022 (Charlotte, NC)

The Church Communicator Conference is specially designed for the accidental church communicator, the one that wears many hats and may have stumbled upon this role without a plan. Lead pastors and executive pastors will also benefit from this conference as it will introduce principles and concepts that will assist with creating a unified communication strategy that aligns with the vision and mission of the church.

Registration and More Information Here »


Exiles in Babylon: Theology in the Raw Conference
March 23-25, 2022 (Boise, ID)

To be a Christian is to be an exile. The Bible has a name for the country we’ve been exiled to: Babylon. As exiles living in Babylon, we need to think biblically, Christianly, indeed exilically—not partisanly—through cultural and political issues. This year, our topics include: The Future of the Church, Disability and the Church, Multiethnic Perspectives of American Christianity, a conversational debate on the Problem of Evil, and a pre-conference symposium on Women in Leadership!

Registration and More Information Here »


Books, Links, and Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders

I’ve recently refreshed my online bookstore with a lot of my favorite titles in categories like pastoral leadership, preaching, leadership, self-development, reference and commentaries, social justice, and even a section on deconstruction. I’ve also added some fresh touches to my page of resources for pastors and church leaders. And below are other links to articles, videos, books, etc. that I’ve found helpful, interesting, or inspiring lately


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About the Cover Art: Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash.


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All of the resources and ideas found on Preaching for Change are made freely available to anyone who benefits from them. Some pastors have the budget and means for professional development and creative resources while others do not. For those who can and wish to support this website financially, feel free to do so at the link below.

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