We usually conclude our weekly Men’s Bible Study with a time of prayer, each man praying around in turn, and I conclude the prayer. This week’s was an especially good time of sharing in the presence of our Lord. When it came to my time I had noting further to add so I began singing the Doxology, and all joined in. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him all ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” This is a wonderful prayer in itself. There are times when we don’t know how we should pray.(Romans 8:26) This is certainly a wonderful way to set our attitude on the Lord and bring us into His presence.
English poet John Donne, writing in the 17th century, famously wrote that “no man is an island,” comparing people to countries, and arguing for the inter connectedness of all people with God. We need to think about this in light of the mass shooting that have occurred in recent weeks. What is displayed in these horrible events is the sin that resides in each human heart. I didn’t do the shooting. I don’t know the shooter or anyone involved. Yet I need to cry out to our Lord for forgiveness and mercy, because of what our fallen nature is capable of. I can’t just be glad that the shooter was killed, or a murderer is sentenced to death. (I’m not opposed to capital punishment, by the way.) But that, or more gun control, or stricter laws, doesn’t change the evil in man’s hearts. I believe we, as Christians, are called to implore the Lord for mercy, and for a heart change in all people. Read again the prayer in Daniel 9:3-19. Is this not what is truly needed?
Gracious Lord, be with me in this day. All of Scripture testifies that You are a God at hand and not far off. Thank You for the grace and mercy You have shown to me over many years. Thank You for my life in Jesus. I deserve nothing of the blessings You have poured upon me. I still resist You with my selfish will. Forgive me Good Lord. Work in my heart by the presence of Your Spirit to be able to yield my will to Yours. I thank You for Your great patience, and willingness to work with me as a Father with his child. I ask that You go before me this day. Give me the wisdom and courage to live and act in ways that bring You honor. I bow before You in humble worship for the love You have shown to me, and above all for the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ that brought me to You. To You be glory, honor, and praise now and always. In Jesus my Lord. Amen.
The Seminary I attended was in the middle of a Civil War battlefield. At the back of the property between the seminary and a farm field was a split rail fence I called my praying fence. It is where I would go when I was having a particularly difficult time. There was one day I remember going out to sit on my praying fence. It was winter, cold, gray, and all matching my mood for that day. I don’t even remember what the problem was at the time, but I sat on the fence praying, and probably complaining, to God about whatever it was. After a while I happened to look down on the frozen ground at the base of the fence. There was one tiny pink flower poking out of the otherwise barren ground. I had to break out laughing. “OK, Lord! If You can cause that little flower to break through the frozen ground, then you can see me through this day and the next.” And He did. And He has now for past fifty year. Not many things in life go exactly as we plan or would like to see them. Yet those little pink flowers keep popping through. God does not abandon us. He hears every prayer from our praying fences.
There have been many bad times in history with wars, plagues, famines, and natural disasters. Certainly we have seen a number of these in recent months. Today brings the news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas where 50 people were killed and many injured. That is not a natural disaster, but a serious problem in the heart of a man. And, as we have see with these events in many other places around the world, an infection in the hearts of mankind. We certainly pray God’s help, comfort, and strength for the victims, but our prayers must be more than this. We need to cry out for God’s mercy on us all. He alone… He alone is the One who can change the hearts of mankind. It is time to stop blaming this condition or that, and looking for stricter laws, and more security. Our security is only in humbling ourselves before the God who created us, and come in repentance, pleading for His mercy and healing for hearts that we have allowed to become corrupt in so many ways. We are never without hope in our God who loves us, but we must turn to Him in humble repentance seeking His mercy.
We all know how to call upon the Lord for our needs. We raise up before Him cares for healing, for safety in travel, for protection in natural disasters, and many more. These are important, and our gracious Lord does respond. We are also reminded to call upon Him in love. The first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God with heart, soul, mind and strength. Scripture pictures our relationship with God as that of a bride coming to a bridegroom, or a child to a good father. We know the love and desire in our human relationships. They are images of how we come to our God. We see the beauty of His life in all the natural wonders He has made. We know the grace He has shown us in the various events of life. We live in the truth of His redeeming love in Jesus Christ. We can take the words of Isaiah for our own, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”(61:10) In the midst of sharing all our need, remember that we are coming to our Father who loves us with an everlasting love. Tell Him of our love for Him.
“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty– and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works– and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” These are words from the first eight verses of Psalm 145. One of the blessings of the Psalms, and many parts pf Scripture, is that we take these words as our own. We repeat them as our own prayer. “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.” Our eyes are turned to Him, and our hope for each day rests in Him. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise.”
We had a devotional time yesterday morning at the meeting I’m attending. The leader began with the Kyrie, the three part prayer in our liturgy, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” Years ago one of my professors called this the most important prayer we can pray. We may think this strange, or an exaggeration. It doesn’t contain any words of praise. There are no requests for needs. Quite true, but it does bring us in humility before our God. It is kneeling in trust before our Lord who has shown Himself to be merciful many times in life. It focuses our attention on the true source of life from whom all good comes. Yes, in thinking about the Kyrie in this way it does, at least, make it one of our most important prayers. May the wideness of God’s mercy rest upon you today and always.
The following is a pray given by the Southeast District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I thought it very helpful and necessary for our times.
In a divine design O God, you created people uniquely, crafted with intricate detail in hues of color and shape of body. When it comes to people however we admit seeing what is different more than what is the same. Without a word being spoken we use color and shape, background and language, economic status and residence to be the narrow lens through which we define who is friend and who is not. Give us then the courage O God, to look in the mirror at our own reflection. Help us to see ourselves as people gifted by your creating hand who live lives filled with both noble intention and failed deceit. Let us honestly realize the sin that is within us and be again grateful for your grace that is around us. Help us even more O God to truly see others around us inside out too, beyond the obvious external differences among us on the outside to the hearts, minds and souls we have in common as people created in your image. Give us the courage O God to know enough to know that we don’t know other people as well as we thought. Give us a double measure of patience and wisdom to work at understanding the people around us for who they really are. Let the first thing we see in people be the love with which you created them, the cross by which you have redeemed them and the spirit by which you mark them as your own. Call us again to build more bridges than walls in a broken and hurting world. Give us courage O God, to face the fears and insecurities with which we build walls between ourselves and others. Give us the wisdom and patience to work at better understanding the people whom you surround us with. Let our words and actions incarnate your love. Amen and amen!
We have become accustomed to instant worldwide communication. We see images from across the globe of events as they are happening. We send a text or an e-mail that can be read moments later anywhere in the world. This is the marvel of our electronic age. In another sense we’ve always had a communication tool, even greater then this, always available. Jesus used one of His parables “to show that at all times (we) ought to pray and not to lose heart…” (Luke 18:1) Prayer is a more effective communications tool than all the electronic devices we have. It reaches beyond all barriers, and is not dependent upon any battery or power source except faith in our one true God. Prayer has reached to the depth of the person standing next to us, and to the one who is half way around the world. Prayer has brought healing, strength, encouragement, and new life like no text or e-mail could ever do. Be encouraged to pray and trust the One who knows us and loves us to the depth of our being.