Category: Prayer and Contemplation

A New Year Has Dawned

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I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.

He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains.Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.

Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.

He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall.

He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Lamentations 3:1-25 (NIV 1984)

 

Standing on God’s Promises

God holds back nothing in His Great and Precious Promises, giving to us in accordance with the riches of His grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. By clinging to these promises, all of which are fulfilled and merited for us in Christ, He imparts the quality of His character to us making us godly and beautiful (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4; Eph. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:19).  In fact, one way to explain the Christian Life is as a Life that daily clings to the Promises of God. As I walk through life, I’m faced with difficulties and challenges which always involve some combination of circumstances and relationships. These contexts evoke various emotions in me that the Lord uses as a catalyst to bring me to the place of humble prayer (one more reason to pay attention to your emotions). And it is in this place of prayer that the Lord desires for us to fix our minds and our trust on His Promises.

But what do we mean when we speak of God’s Promises?

God’s Promises are:
-His declarations that He will do something for us or give something to us.
-His express assurance on which our expectations can be based. He tells us what to expect from Him.
-His guarantees of security against loss. What we have in Him, we will not lose.
-His pledge of fulfillment of an obligation. He intends to keep all of His Promises.
-His bond that he has made himself responsible for us. The all-powerful Creator God is in charge of our well-being.

As children of God, we can trust the Promise Maker because this Promise Maker is the ultimate Promise Keeper. While we live in a world where we see promises broken all of the time. Our parents weren’t perfect at keeping their promises, about half or more of marriage promises aren’t kept and we’ve even become cynical about the promises of politicians. A Promise is only as good as the Promise Maker’s track record, the trustworthiness of His character and His true ability to impact the outcome. When we speak about the Majestic King of Kings, our Sovereign Creator and Redeemer, His track record is perfect (He has never forsaken His children), His character is absolutely trustworthy, and His Omnipotence guarantees the end result. This means that we can live in full reliance on Him and live out the words of the old hymn,

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

As I’ve thought about God’s promises this week, I’ve realized that I spend much of my thought life, clinging to and standing on specific promises that He has given especially when the “howling storms of doubt and fear assail.” In a quick, random brainstorming session, I listed these promises which are in my heart and yours:

  • Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thess. 5:24)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1)
  • For God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that if anyone believes in him he shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
  • He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Php 1:6)
  • If anyone is in Christ He is a new creation, behold old things have passed away new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • Do not be anxious in anything but in everything by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace that passes understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:6-7).
  • If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (John 1:8-9)
  • He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps. 103)
  • For He Himself Has Said,  I will never leave you nor will I ever forsake you. so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me.'” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Come to me, all who weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28)
  • Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. no one comes to the Father but through me. (John 14:6)
  • And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
  • Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’ (John 6:35)
  • Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6)
  • I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously,  and his children become a blessing. (Ps. 37:25)
  • Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Prov. 3:5)
  • Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:8-10)
  • See ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33)
  • He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalms 147:3)
  • So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)
  • The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. (Is. 61)
  • He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Is. 40:29-31)
  • No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[m] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
  • When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Is. 43)
  • We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
  • For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17)

Prayer for a Focused Heart

Fire

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Do you find it easy for your heart to lose its focus on Christ and doing His Will? I think there is natural drift in all of our hearts especially when our little worlds feel chaotic and our eyes attend to  circumstances rather than remembering the generosity and grace of our Lord. And sometimes we forget that Christ’s design in coming into the world was to reform the world and in doing so, He expects that His followers would be radically identified with Him. As we identify with Him and follow Him, we seek to cooperate with the work of His Spirit in the reforming of our hearts and lives. Thankfully even as we make a mess of things, He still remembers His gratuitous covenant which He has made with us through His Son.

The prophet Malachi writes, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.”  Take a moment with the following prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as Satan strives to draw me away from my full attention in serving You through the circumstances of disorder and confusion in my world;  — O grant, that I may know that You still have a tender affection for me; and if I perceive that you don’t by what I find in my world, may I rely on Your Word, and not doubt that You always watch over my safety; and being supported by this confidence, may I always continue in the path of my calling: and as You have designed to make me a partaker of the greatest evidence of Your favor in being reconciled to  You through Your only-begotten Son; and being made one with Him,  may I never hesitate to cheerfully offer my services to You, however defective they may be, since You have once promised to be a generous  Father to us, so as not to rigidly test what I offer to You, but so graciously to accept it, that we may know that not only my sins, which justly deserve condemnation, are forgiven and laid aside, but that You also bear with my infirmities and my defects in my imperfect works, that I shall at length receive the reward which You have promised, and which I cannot attain through personal merits, but through the sanctification of Your Spirit, and through the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. — Amen.

(paraphrased from Calvin’s prayer at the end of his commentary on Malachi)

An Encouraging Word

Volcanic rock cliff at Ana Kai Tangata, Easter...

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Remember all the patterns of grace that are in heaven. You think, oh, what a monument of grace you would like to be! There are many thousands as rich monuments as you can be. The greatest sinner did never pass the grace of Christ. Do not despair. Hope still. When the clouds are blackest, even then look towards Christ, the standing pillar of the Father’s love and grace, set up in heaven for all sinners to gaze upon continually. Whatever Satan or conscience say, do not conclude against yourself, Christ shall have the last word.                                                                                   

From Honey Out of the Rock

by Thomas Wilcox  (1621-1687)

“But I would feed you with the best of foods.
I would satisfy you with  honey from the rock.”
Psalm 81:16

A Good Friday Prayer

Groom, Texas

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O Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered death upon a cross for our sakes; We look upon You whom we have pierced and we mourn for our sins with godly sorrow; teach us how to forgive as you have forgiven us; display to us that we are to suffer as you suffered and prove to us that just as you have overcome that we shall overcome.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace. Lord, in Your great mercy, remember us when You come into Your Kingdom. Amen.

Second Chance Psalms

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...

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A.W. Tozer said, “We weren’t given the Bible as a substitute for God; rather it is supposed to lead us right to the heart of God.” And God’s heart is one that woos us back to Himself to give us the Second Chance. He holds out mercy and forgiveness to us continuously while calling us back to a lifestyle of repentance, holiness and love and His Heart is on display in His Word. The Psalms have a unique quality in that they display the heart of God while simultaneously they become windows into our own souls. As John Calvin comments “we are certain that God puts [His] words in our mouths, as if He Himself were singing in us to exalt His glory.The Psalms of Repentance (aka The Second Chance Psalms) is a name designation dating from the sixth century A.D. given to Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143  which are specially expressive of godly sorrow for sin and rich in God’s heart of mercy and consolation to draw us back to be satisfied in His love.

Psalm 130 is one of these Second Chance Psalms and was probably Martin Luther’s favorite. Here the Psalmist finds himself overwhelmed with adversity and passionately begs the Lord for deliverance. As he prays, he acknowledges that he is being justly chastised by the hand of God. He doesn’t innocently find himself in trouble instead, he is in a mess of his own making. This is not a trial which came out of nowhere. Conventional wisdom and sadly even many churches would say to him, “you’ve made your bed and now you have to lie in it.” He passionately begs the Lord for deliverance and finds hope because God is the everlasting deliverer of His people and has always shown Himself ready to extend mercy and rescue even from the worst of self-inflicted circumstances. Take a moment to savor this Psalm.

Psalm 130

A Song of Ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Spiritual Depression

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.”
-Martyn Lloyd- Jones – Spiritual Depression

A prayer of surrender

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will.  All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

— A prayer of Ignatius Loyola