Each day brings news reports that are troubling. A virus spreading across the world, plagues of locusts in East Africa, storms, earthquakes, people going on killing sprees with guns, various religious faiths being persecuted. It leaves us with questions – questions that have no good answer. Many people reject the Bible’s Old Testament as antiquated history and myths that have no relevance to our lives today. But it is a picture of a God who created mankind for a good purpose and gave them a way of life in a relationship with Himself that was for their good. It is a picture of God, our God, who cares about and is involved in human life. It is also a picture of a people who would repeatedly fall away from God’s good will, suffer many trials, and finally turn crying out to the Lord for help. Over the years we have moved far away from truths God has given for our good. We continue to substitute man’s reason for God’s good will. And we see the society suffering for it. Am I saying that the present virus is God’s judgment? No. But maybe it is a wake up call. It’s not unlike the state in which Daniel found himself living in exile in Babylon with his home country in ruin. Daniel went to the Lord in prayer “confessing my sins and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill.”(9:20) I believe this is what is needed today – Christians willing to recognize the state we are in, and that our human sinful nature has ignore and moved far from God’s will for mankind. Is it time to go to the Lord in confession for ourselves and our people? I believe so. We are to plead with the Lord, not just for us to have peace, prosperity, and freedom from trials, but simply to humble ourselves before our Lord trusting ourselves to His mercy. (Remember the two thieves on the cross.) This is the prayer God seeks from His people.
There are times in the Gospels that Jesus seems to give us a blank check concerning our prayers. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”(John 14:13) Whatever you ask? But we know that there are things we ask in Jesus name and don’t receive. Another time Jesus spoke about the power of faith and said, “All things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”(Mt.21:22) Believing faith is a key, but that gives us a real problem. Doubts so easily assault us. When we pray for a healing and nothing happens, are we to blame for our lack of faith? I don’t believe that is a burden of guilt the Lord intends us to bear. That kind of guilt can drive us to despair, and that’s not where our Lord wants us. On another occasion a father came asking Jesus for healing for his son. Jesus asked if he believed He could do this. The father responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) That is where our faith must rest – in the One who has the power to help us overcome. He is the One who has given His life to cleanse us from sin. He is the One who knows us to the depth of our hearts. We won’t see all of our prayers answered just the way we ask, but we can trust ourselves into the hand of the One who loves us with an everlasting love.
They say that seeing is believing. We like to see the results of the things we hold to be true. When we flip a light switch, we don’t see the electron running through the wires inside the wall, but we see the light come on, so we believe that the electrons are there. Just because we don’t see a result doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. A light bulb may be burned out, but the electrons are still in the wire. So it is with our prayers. We want to see the results of our prayers and often do, but there are times when we pray and pray with nothing seeming to happen. We always look at the outward results when our Lord begins His work on the inside. The Lord’s greatest miracles are those of turning hearts to Him, of forgiving sins, of healing deep and long held hurts. These will be seen later on in changed lives, but there is so much happening that is unseen. It is why Jesus encourages us to continue to pray and not lose heart. He further said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” God does love you, care about you, and is working for your good far beyond anything your eyes presently see.
We know what it means to repent for our sins, but how about repenting for the sins of all people? Really? Many would say that doesn’t make sense. We don’t have control over anyone but ourselves and our own actions. Yet many of the great prayers in the Bible made this type of confession. In the small Old Testament book of Nehemiah we hear him pray, “let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.”(1:6) In this prayer there is a refusal to separate one’s self from the rest of the community. It is so easy to point fingers at those sinners over there. We are not as bad as they are, but sin is sin. My “small” sin separates me from God just as much as their “big” sins. I’ve written in the past about my opposition to certain accepted practices in today’s society. But I also realize that I’m as guilty before God as anyone else. A prayer of repentance for all doesn’t accept evil as normal and good, but it implores God to open all of our hearts to receive the love He freely gives and to change us all more into His image.
Paul writing to the Ephesian church said, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”(1:17-19) I can say this is also my prayer for all of you. It is really a prayer that I pray for myself as well. That the eyes of our hearts might be opened more and more to the real presence of God working in our daily lives. We do not serve a God who is far off or unconcerned. He is God with us, God of wisdom and strength sufficient for all of our needs. He is God at hand to be worshiped and praised. He is our redeeming God who has called us to Himself. May the eyes of your heart be opened more and more to see Him.
Holy Lord you have given your church many men and women of faith who have written hymns to praise you and to strengthen our lives for each day. One of those has left us with the assurance that you give “strength for today and great hope for tomorrow”. Lord, how we need this assurance. Some of what we have to do today is the routine part of living, but other tasks are difficult or even hurtful. We don’t have all wisdom, but you do. We don’t have the strength sufficient for every task, but you do. Thank you for the promise never to leave or forsake us, and for the assurance that whatever we face today that is not the final word. There is hope for tomorrow. That same hymn writer followed this great promise by saying “blessings abound and ten thousand beside”. We have seen your hand of blessing in our lives in many ways over all of our past years. We can only bow in humble worship giving glory to your holy name. Through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
A prayer for your day –
Gracious Lord God, You have created mankind and all that is. The heavens declare Your glory, and all the earth shows Your handiwork. The mark of Your life is upon all that exists. And You have made me. You knew me before I was born, and created me for Your good purpose. I have not always sought to know that purpose, or follow it when I did. Forgive me, Good Lord. Yet, You have redeemed me through Christ Jesus, and because of Him I can always be restored again to Your grace. You have given me each breath that I take, and You have given me spiritual breath by the presence of Your Holy Spirit. You continue to guide my life, and give me strength for every situation. You have given me family and friends, and material blessings beyond anything I deserve or could earn. For all of this, Good Lord, I am forever grateful. My desire is to come ever closer to You, and to give you thanks and praise for all eternity. To You be glory and honor, now and forever, through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.
[category Good Morning]
On several occasions Jesus remarked to His followers, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”(Luke 17:6) And there were several people who displayed that kind of faith. The woman who said if only I touch the hem of His robe I will be healed.(Mark 5:28) The Centurion who wouldn’t allow Jesus to come to his house but only asked Him to say the word to heal his servant.(Matthew 8:8) The Canaanite woman who said that she only needed a crumb of the Lord’s mercy to heal her daughter.(Matthew 15:27) I’m realizing something more and more, that I don’t even have that mustard seed faith apart from Him. With every prayer I pray, with every intercession I make for another, I am totally dependent upon His grace. I truly don’t know how to pray as I ought.(Romans 8:26) So prayer begin by kneeling before Jesus for His mercy, and trusting one’s self to His grace. Apart from this I have nothing.
Peter Jackson is the Hollywood director who did the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is now doing a documentary about the First World War, but doing it from a very human and personal perspective. He remarked, “I was interested in the food they ate, how they slept, and what they did on leave”. We are surrounded by so many big events – political figures in Washington, media personalities, the royal family in Britain, and so on. We can forget that they are people who eat, and sleep, and like to do certain things to relax. These same people have hopes and plans, needs and fear, just as you and I do. And they also have the need, whether they are aware of it or not, for the Lord to complete and satisfy the deepest part of their being. We may pity them, or complain about what they do, or just be fascinated by their lives. Maybe we would do better to realize that they really are humans like us, and offer a brief pray for God’s grace to reach fully into their lives.
A physical therapist my wife sees often is also a dear Christian sister with whom we share prayer requests. She told my wife of an incident in her neighborhood this past week. The mother of a young man who lives across the street was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The young man came over to our friend and asked “if she could do that prayer thing” for his mother. He had some vague concept of a god who some how hears our concerns, but probably likens him to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. There is a whole generation of young men and woman with the same background. Dear Christian friends we have work to do. I don’t ask you to go stand on a street corner and start preaching. That’s not my style either. But the Lord does give us opportunities each day to witness to our life in Jesus Christ. Look for them. Expect them. And be ready to do “that prayer thing” on the spot when it is needed. More will happen in a minute or two of sincere prayer, than many minutes of preaching. Put aside your self consciousness. Don’t worry about the right words. The Lord will give them. Let’s shine some light in the darkness of this generation.