prayer in difficult places

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.

Psalm 61

There are times when we don’t know what to do, or where to turn. We’re not sure what step to take. Those are times for me to especially petition God, and hopefully draw near to God in prayer. And I seek to get counsel from others I respect.

In the past I’ve gotten peace from God in answer to prayer to move one direction or another. There’s no question that it’s not like I’ve got this all down to any kind of science, with clear answers one way or another, on everything. Life is complicated. Our prayers factor in what we’ve done, or failed to do, and God’s answer doesn’t always means clear sailing. Read scripture, and you’ll see that again and again.

The prayer by the psalmist above, is a request that God would lead them to a rock higher than they are, to a place of safety. When I think of safety, I think of freedom from all harm. But that’s not promised to us in this life. Instead God promises us his presence, and that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love to us in Christ Jesus.

More important than specific outcomes is our journey. We do need a sense that God is in it all, and that he will take care of everything. That he will lead us as needed.

The psalm above is suggestive and instructive concerning this. And of course we need to pray it with the truth that all of God’s promises, or in this case, intimations of what is available to us, are indeed fulfilled in Christ.

We know in the end all will be completely and perfectly fulfilled. In the meantime, we long for God’s peace, the sense that all is okay now, and will be okay no matter what we face. And that Christ will be exalted through our lives, and in everything.

Advertisements

prayer for relief

A psalm of David.

Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

Psalm 143

I hesitated in sharing the entire psalm. But all of the word is important, even those parts which might not be directly relevant today. Not that relevancy as we see it is the test for whether or not we need something. All is important for us in some way though, a part of the whole.

David as in the Old Testament engaged in a warfare which while physical, was spiritual at the same time. For us today, as Paul tells us, our warfare is spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). It was apostolic, and in terms of the gospel, but by extension has application to all of us as followers of Christ.

That has its place within the main point of this post: the prayer for relief in the midst of trouble. We need the sense that everything is going to be okay in the end, that God will work all the difficulties out. In a sense it is true that “all is well that ends well.” But unfortunately there’s more than enough trouble on the way to that, and especially difficult is the heartache over people, and their troubles, especially when they make poor decisions, and fail to entrust their lives to God. Not that we know anyone’s heart, or understand anything fully like God does.

This is a wonderful prayer. Though we won’t mean exactly the same, we can trust that God will answer it according to his will, the Spirit even praying for us (Romans 8) when we are at a loss, and don’t know how to pray, ourselves. And with this psalm in mind, it’s good and even important for us to pray our own prayers.

God wants to give us relief from our troubles. As his people, we need to keep coming to him for the help that we will always need in this life. In and through Jesus.

God’s word a light for life

נ Nun

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much;
preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.[d]

Psalm 119:105-112

There is something about scripture which is unique. It is written for us in this world. Most if not all of it is actually not written to us, but all of it ends up being for us, so that in an indirect way, it is written to us. God’s written word for God’s people individually and together.

We certainly have to read it in context, and together, depending on the Spirit as well as how the Spirit has directed God’s people, even the church, staying away from interpretations which deviate from that.

It is called a lamp for the psalmist’s feet, and a light on their path. We often don’t seem to put the same value on the word. Or we do, but we fail to avail ourselves of it.

That thought needs to be considered with the rest of this segment (called, pericope). It is in the context of commitment, suffering and prayer. Along with delight. For us today, all of this in and through Jesus.

Jesus tells us not to lose hope, but pray

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus was more than a teacher, for sure, but he was a teacher par excellence. A good part of the gospels consist in his teaching. Of course the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7; also the Sermon on the Plain- Luke 6) might be considered the prime example of that, but then you also have his parables, such as that of “the good Samaritan,” and “the prodigal (lost) son(s).” And many others. This is one of his parables that ties faith and hope together, along with prayer.

It is easy on the surface, but it also seems hard to simply pray about things. “What must I do?” is the big question for most of us. Or just as likely, we feel like we can’t do anything at all, and so are completely at a loss since we don’t really have enough faith in God to pray.

Jesus does tie faith and hope together, just as we find elsewhere in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:8). If we have faith, then we’ll always have hope. To have faith means to pray, even to cry out to God about our trouble, or the trouble of others around us.

Jesus refers here to simple justice, which often in the world, even today (not here in the United States, though it may happen subtly) is denied to Christ-followers. We must bring our own troubles to God, rather than letting ourselves become consumed in them. And be sensitive to the problems of others. And keep doing that day after day until Jesus returns. In and through him.

a new calling; a new discipline

A new calling is a bit of a stretch for this post, even a new discipline as well, but there’s some truth in it for me.

I am a Bible person. I always have been, and surely always will be. I have bought plenty of NIV‘s over the years, the kind you carry in your pocket. I’ve listened to the Bible many times over the years. That is what seems to awaken faith in me, and stretch and challenge me in my faith.

What I will be about, is what I more or less have been doing for quite some time. Except there will be hopefully an added twist. I want to apply faith more intentionally, and make it more personal between God and I, as well. That has always been more or less present, except, being a mind person like me, I can too easily just get caught up in thinking, like in an academic way, which may have little bearing on life. Though I really want no part of what really doesn’t in some way or another ultimately contribute to faith.

For me this is vital in the midst of all the other things I have to do. As I get older, it seems like on some levels life is more challenging. There are always plenty of things to do. And my job is that way, as well. I need the word in the midst of it all.

But I also need the word in the midst of rest or play. There’s not a time when we’re not to meditate on God’s word, as the psalmist says, “day and night.” That has been a weakness in my life, and a new calling, and especially discipline, might especially apply to that. Although I think it is okay to have periods of simple rest or enjoyment, and doing nothing more. But one should not stay away from the word for long. We certainly must not neglect the word.

To read it, and let it soak in. I like to read or listen to both large chunks, maybe whole books, as well as plod through the text slowly. Both. The Bible is rich in all kinds of ways, no end to the education you can get by simply being in it over time. And letting it activate your faith, since it’s God’s word. Along with the change that comes with that over time, in and through Jesus.

accepting the hard things from God

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job 2:9-10

Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health. Yet he accepted not only the good he had once had from God, but the trouble as well, yes, even as from God. In the Hebrew mindset both good and evil came from God, we would say the evil passing through God’s hands, even though God is never the source of it. Although somehow God uses it, and even somehow, we might say, engineers it for good. In ways we could never imagine, and aside from grace are not able to appreciate at all.

Job’s story is certainly unfathomable, well beyond most anyone’s experience on earth. But that should serve us as an example to us of God’s goodness in the midst of whatever trouble we face, even as James points out (James 5:11). Job’s perseverance in all the brokenness continued on, even as his comforters proved to be mistaken, and Job himself ultimately exonerated by God (Job 42:7-9). After he received revelation from God which made him realize that he didn’t know what he was saying, what God was up to, that being well beyond him.

Accepting trouble from God involves casting all our cares on God, because we know God cares for and about us.

Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.

Psalm 55:22

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

That can take some effort on our part. It is certainly about faith, but simple prayer, and persevering in that way can make all the difference. God answers, and will give us the help we need, the grace to see us through.

It is no fun in itself, but God will be with us as we accept all the trouble that comes our way, learning to cast all our cares on God, trusting in him. Seeking the help we need from others in Jesus when necessary and appropriate, through their prayers and whatever they might be able and willing to do. That, too. But essentially learning to accept the hard things from God ourselves. In and through Jesus.

 

commitment to not be anxious

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

I remember years ago there was a well known (in some circles) pastor and writer who hosted a radio call in program, in which people could ask him questions. Once I called in out of desperation. I had to know better, but logic is sometimes lost in the midst of pain, so I asked him if it’s possible just to make a commitment not to sin, and then follow through. Immediately I think (or hope) I could see the fallacy. We will sin in this life; there is no sinless existence until the life to come in God’s love. We begin an existence now in which we’re set free from sin’s rule over us. Christian theology does vary here, and I struggle a bit on that myself. I believe we will sin, but that we don’t have to (see 1 John 1 and 2). Romans 7 is not to be a part of the Christian life, but it will be to the degree that we fail to live out what is true of us as those no longer under law, but under grace, and as those who are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

Anxiety is not necessarily a sin, but at least it can come from the sin of failing to trust in God, something God takes very seriously as we see in scripture again and again. People have conditions of anxiety disorder which prevent them from fulfilling responsibilities. They need professional help and medication at times, to help address physiological factors which contribute to that, although I think it’s best to go with natural means as much as possible along with good, preferably biblical and psychological counseling. So I’m not sure we can just make a clear-cut distinction and be sure that some of our own struggle isn’t in some measure simply due to living in a broken world in which we share in the brokenness. We won’t be put together, completely whole until the resurrection to come, when all the brokenness of life is gone.

But until then we do need to seek God’s counsel and grace to deal with what anxiety we have. Do not worry, or don’t be anxious are both viable translations (Mounce). I guess compared to the general population, I might be termed a chronic worrier. My wife is not, and that is both a blessing to me, and a challenge, since she can’t empathize, and yet provides for me a good example in what it means to completely trust in the heavenly Father. I like either translations for different reasons. To not worry implies an action, while not being anxious implies a condition. So what has to be addressed is what we are failing to do. Simply not to worry is dependent on us learning to completely trust in God.

The idea of being committed to not being anxious is okay insofar as we accept the limitations of this life. Basic to this is simply the commitment to address it as best we can, according to God’s directive, indeed imperative here in the Philippians passage above, and as we’re told in other parts of scripture, as well. So the commitment strictly speaking is not to be anxious free, but to simply do what we’re called to do to address the problem. And this is a good passage to address what we know might cause us anxiety, temptation to worry, rather than after we’re overcome by it. But both. And keep reading scripture, praying, and asking others to pray for us.

God’s help to us in this life in and through Jesus.