pray for yourself

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 6:1-4

In the morning and evening offices in our new hymnal, Voices Together (985, 987), there is the part toward the end when we’re offering prayers.

We pray for ourselves and those dear to us…

At first, when I was beginning to do this every morning and night, I gently resisted the idea of praying for myself, especially first. But I dutifully did it, knowing that I’m not as wise as the collective wisdom of others. And I began to more and more see the wisdom of doing so. If God doesn’t help me or I receive little of that, I certainly can be of little or no help to others. James tells us that we don’t have because we don’t ask God. And I’m reminded of the African-American spiritual,

It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

This really has been a tremendous help to me. We pray for “those dear to us,” “our community and…our neighbors,” “for the church,” “for the world,” “for other concerns we carry in our hearts.” But it begins with us. We can see that in Jesus’s high priestly prayer on the eve of his crucifixion. He first prayed that the Father would glorify him so that he could glorify the Father (John 17). I can’t help but think that when Jesus used to break away early mornings to pray to the Father that he lifted himself up for the help he needed, as well as praying for his disciples and others, whatever else he might have prayed. Certainly enjoying his fellowship as God. Yes, he is God, but fully human, too. And in this life in which he lived, he did so in full dependence on the Father.

But again, this practice is helping me immensely. I have not done this on a regular basis, as far as I know, ever. Just here and there, when I felt in need, which was a lot. But to do so regularly helps me find the help from God I need. In and through Jesus.

Note: In the morning and evening offices mentioned above, toward the end we also “Pray together the Prayer Jesus Taught: “Our Father…”

the needed difference

…prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:18; MSG

1 Somebody prayed for me,
had me on their mind,
took the time to pray for me.
I’m so glad they prayed,
I’m so glad they prayed,
I’m so glad they prayed for me.

2 The people prayed for me,
had me on their mind,
took the time to pray for me.
I’m so glad they prayed,
I’m so glad they prayed,
I’m so glad they prayed for me.

3 My Jesus prayed for me,
had me on his mind,
took the time to pray for me.
I’m so glad he prayed,
I’m so glad he prayed,
I’m so glad he prayed for me.

Voices Together, 698

Do we really believe prayer makes the needed difference? We should pray for ourselves. That might sound selfish, but it need not be at all. “It’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” Somebody Prayed For Me is an African-American spiritual. We need it, and we need to pray for others. And keep doing that. On this side, in this present life, to the very end. In and through Jesus.

not yielding to condemnation

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, we read in Romans 8. The beginning of a wondrous chapter which all of us would do well to memorize and frequently meditate on.

My life has been full of thinking the worst of myself. My wife Deb will attest to that. Not to say I can’t be quick on a dime to defend myself. Though growth in grace and likeness to Jesus puts the damper on all such defenses. We are after all, sinners. I think I’ve been conditioned to think in an unhealthy way in regard to myself. Not from my wife! Something I may have imbibed no matter what the past for all I know. But naturally my defenses quickly arise and I bristle when others attack me. I find that often it is no attack at all, though sadly enough we do all too well at speaking ill of each other even if only in our hearts. Not good.

We in Jesus must not yield to condemnation. Jesus died for us, so no one can bring any charge against us. We have the Spirit to guide us as those who are no less than God’s very children–into all the will of God. Jesus not only died for us, but was raised to life, and is seated at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Interceding as in praying. For our lives now.

If God is for us, we’re told, who can be against us? So much in this chapter. It ends telling us in Jesus that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.

I sometimes have to be quiet and still before God, and refuse to respond to inward, and perhaps even outward accusations, though the latter we must certainly take seriously.  Of course we always do well to pray the prayer of examen, as it’s called, as in the words of the psalmist: God, search me and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there is any offensive, wicked way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting.” We need to be sure before God that we are not cherishing sin in our hearts. Confession, and waiting before God are always good. And confession of our sins to others we hurt or sin against. As well as talking over our struggles in a spirit of confession with a trusted spiritual mentor. It should be our goal to be pleasing to God.

And then we rest in the promise, the reality that is ours in Jesus. Through his death for our sins, and his resurrection for no less than a new life. Beginning now. With a hope that is active for all creation, indeed for the reconciliation of the world to himself. In and through Jesus. A hope that is anticipatory of God’s sure fulfillment. Which actually begins now through the Spirit’s working and groaning in us.

And so we can leave self-condemnation behind, learn to leave it completely behind–though in the nature of things, it can be a more and more type of blessing for us. That we indeed might be a blessing, sharing this love of God in Jesus with all others.

lifted up

In my own experience there are times when I am down in the dumps, nearly down and out, continuing to do what I have to do, but most definitely in a kind of survival mode as in hanging in there. I want my mentality during such times to be faithfulness in the midst of adversity. After all, there are usually reasons why I feel down, and I’m working and struggling through them, hopefully before the Lord, even as we see the psalmists do time and time again.

Yesterday at work (nothing to do with my good work/job, and the people there) I was going through something of the same. I was pushing myself to keep going and doing what I needed to do. At a certain time well into the day, I felt a kind of strength coming on me, and my despondency lifting. In place of the measure of despair was a measure of living hope, the kind that lifts us up, and helps us carry on with strength and fortitude with the task at hand (actually vacuuming one of our large machines, a “stitcher” of booklets such as “Our Daily Bread”).

I know this was the grace of God, and I couldn’t help but think that it was through Jesus’ intercession in prayer that I was so enabled. It didn’t help any that I was extra tired going into the new week. But even as I arrived home, and entered our house, not far from exhaustion, and ready to get some rest, the Lord gave me strength to finish another task, albeit not a large one. These were not feel good moments, but very encouraging in giving me the strength and grace I needed to carry on well with what needed to be done.

I am so thankful for the prayers of others, and particularly for the ministry of intercessory prayer our Lord Jesus continues for us in his ascension ministry. We are most needy creatures as humans, and as those in Jesus we’re under the assault of the world, the flesh and the devil. To expect both inward and outward trials on a regular basis is to accept reality. And we need to learn to live well in that, through God’s grace in Jesus by the Spirit. But that learning and being lifted up is dependent always on God. And within the community of God’s people in Jesus, for the good of the world, of people in the world.

What kind of experiences have you had in receiving a needed lift from God?