Jumpstarting a Prayer Life

We must (MUST!) pray as believers in Jesus. Prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. We must breathe, or else. When I go to my doctor she puts an 0ximeter on my finger so she can assess how my lungs are using oxygen. I suppose if we would put it on our “spiritual finger,” might it reveal something?

We don’t know exactly how to pray, I think communicating with God isn’t natural. We must be taught. The disciples wanted desperately how to pray–they didn’t know how, (Luke 11:1-2). So, we too must have Jesus teach us.

We can only learn how if the Spirit teaches us.

Also, we must practice praying. We may do it terribly rotten, but we should never give up–it’s not natural–it’s supernatural. But we learn by doing. We may get discouraged but keep at it. Even if you’re a pro, the Holy Spirit will make sure you keep learning. Our walk should always grow deeper.

For me praying the Psalms is good practice, and there are 150 of them. The Jewish people have a 4000-year start on us–they’ve used the Psalms as their prayer/praise book. My sense is that this covers every human need–the entirety of our spiritual walk!

I think that Psalms 103 might be a great place to get started.

I’ve been told by some that the “Lord’s Prayer” is quite useful as well. I guess if you honestly take it phrase by phrase, something good will happen. I’m still learning (and I suspect I still will).

Below we find a way to jumpstart our prayer life. I hope you can use it.

One more thought. “Conversational Prayer” is a good thing for me lately. Talk with Jesus as if He was in the same room with you (He is) and just converse. Share your ups and downs, and it’s okay if you feel messed up. Relax. He’s your Father!

He absolutely loves talking with you.

When Angels Stand Amazed

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“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~Barbara Bloom

Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters. 

I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you.  Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill). 

Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.

Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness.  Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)

Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.

I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her,  but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel.  Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.

Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe. 

I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”

But you know what? They really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.

Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness.  In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain. 

But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.

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Oh How He Loves You!

Comprehensive Protection

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The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so many of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90-foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, all would fall down and worship.

Thgold statueere are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty, but that doesn’t deter the three.

Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.

They are resolute. The first, second, and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There were no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things, there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God.

Dan. 3:16-18:

 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The king is enraged.

Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before.  Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”

(v.v. 24-25)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little.

They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.

Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)

The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.

The lessons for today are many,

  1. God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs.

  2. When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs.

  3. God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone.

  4. In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph. One way or another.

We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.

“When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God. When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers. When you have nothing but God, see all in God. When you have everything, see God in everything. Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.”

    Charles Spurgeon

Grabbing On to Psalm 27

This is a bit of a longish post. My apologies.

This post is a perfect Psalm for broken believers and rascals–those who struggle to believe. We can understand because we each have encountered very difficult things–hard things. So buckle up, here are my comments on Psalm 27. I really hope that they might help you through your personal mess:

Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
    afraid of no one and nothing.

When vandal hordes ride down
    ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
    fall flat on their faces.

Man alive, we tolerate so much darkness. But the believer understands that God not only chooses him/her, but protects them. And yes, there is going to be a difficulty, that much I understand. I can’t or won’t sugarcoat this.

“Vandal hordes;” and “bullies and toughs” are motivated by darkness–Satan’s kingdom. The psalmist David sees trouble up ahead, he’s very real here and definitely not a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ optimist. But he’s very much convinced of their defeat.

When besieged,
    I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
    I’m collected and cool.

I’m asking God for one thing,
    only one thing:
To live with him in his house
    my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
    I’ll study at his feet.

There exists a place of safety for David. He’s being blasted by the enemy, but in that place, he finds “calmness.” He’s protected and wears spiritual body armor. Wearing that we discover that he’s bullet-proof, for he wears a vest of spiritual steel.

The house of God is crucial, and he wants to live in it, to “contemplate” the wonder of the Spirit of God. David sees it as his castle that stands in resistance against all those who want to destroy him. And believe me, it is his complete focus.

He injects the word “study” which tells us that he’s found Someone that teaches him the things he needs.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
    in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
    far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
    above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
    that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
    I’m making music to God.

Outside the Church, there is very little that can protect a straying believer. David is very much aware that the world is a noisy place (v. 55). But he knows that the very presence of God is a place of quiet and security, it’s “the perfect getaway,” that exists for everyone who believes.

Worship is critical here.

I think it not only exalts and glorifies God but it also is the best way of protecting himself. David is exuberant here, he can hardly contain himself! Perhaps we really don’t understand–it seems rather excessive–may be too zealous for us.

In v. 6 we see the spiritual effort of God holding David in place. He understands that there are many who are trying their best “to pull” him away from the security of God.

7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!

9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
    but God took me in.

Wow! “the top of my lungs” is pretty intense. The passage speaks of seeking–that’s the key of this whole thing. To be an authentic seeker has to be a “heart” issue, and never a brain thing. Heart followers know the difference.

And the presence of God is David’s entire focus. There’s a very real plea for us as well. One of his petitions here is “don’t hide from me now.” As a New Testament guy, I know that it isn’t really possible. See John 14:15-17.

What incredible security we have!

If you’re struggling, like David did, you’re in good hands. Even though it seems like God is distant, He’s not. “God took me in” is a statement of real faith. David knows that the Father’s love is beyond the love of a father or mother.

And now the comes the finale!

11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
    direct me along a well-lighted street;
    show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
    those liars who are out to get me,
    filling the air with their threats.

13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.

“Point me” and “direct me” is David’s discipleship to his Father’s ways. He speaks of enemies (“dogs” and “liars”) who are trying very hard to destroy him. “Out to get me” is David’s assessment of the hard things that come.

David is convinced that God is always very good to him, he understands this. It’s the same for the NT believer, although Satan nips at our heels, God protects us–He’s on our side.

He exhorts us twice to “stay with God.”

Maybe that’s where a lot of issues come. “Don’t quit” is David’s plea. This is stated throughout Paul’s epistles written for us.

What a wonderful Psalm. So much security here (as well as the opposition). Psalm 27 is written to us rascals and inconsistent believers in Jesus. I exhort you to spiritually digest this passage. It’s yours!

Illustration: Solomon’s Temple. I’m using “The Message,” a translation by Eugene Peterson.

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