So, let’s take a minute and think about how we have done over the first 10 days of Lent. This is an opportunity for “examen”. First, take a few minutes and prayerfully enter into the presence of God. Now, Ask God to reveal to you how he is working in your life. Third, review your week. As you do, recall specific times and places where God gave you opportunity to witness, or take a stand for him. Fourth, reflect on what you did, thought, or said at those opportunities God provided you to witness and, or serve him. Did those moments draw you into closer communion with God, or did they draw you away from him? Thank him for the opportunities he presented you. Ask his forgiveness and help for those times you failed to say or do the right thing. Finally, think about this coming week. Ask God to make you sensitive to his Spirit’s leading. Ask God to give you a strong desire to do his will. Thank him for all he will be doing in and through you in the days to come.
Arise, O Lord…
O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah
But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!
The enemy has you surrounded, your ammunition is depleted. You have been abandoned, it is you against the “mongrel hordes”. Have you ever felt this way? Perhaps, you have been awakened in the middle of the night, panicked by this very nightmarish dream. What do you do? Where do you go for help? To whom do you turn?
The Psalm has this note at the beginning, “A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son, Absalom”. David was betrayed and abandoned (read the story in 2 Samuel 15). He was running for his life. While on the run, he paused to pray. The words, found in verses 6-7a, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, My God!” His only hope, his one defender, was GOD!
God is our best hope in times of distress. He is the One we can at all times rely on!
Search Me… Lead Me…
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
The Psalmist’s prayer is often repeated. I have seen it on plaques in offices and homes. I have seen it streaming across computer monitors. I have heard pastors preach sermons and small group leaders lead studies of these two verses. My question of us all, is this: Do we mean it? Do we really want God to search us, know us, and test us?
Years ago, my wife applied for a job working on a naval base in San Diego. She got the job, that was the easy part. After getting the job, she had to undergo an extensive background check. They asked her many probing questions. I remember her stopping several times, asking the same question, “Why do they need to know that?” Incidentally, in case you were wondering, she passed the government background check.
That government background check is nothing, compared to God’s background check. Nothing will be hidden from him. When we ask God to search us and try us, we are asking him, ultimately to forgive us, cleanse us, and make us to be wholly devoted to him. When we ask him to check us out, we come to him humbly, acknowledging that we come relying on his grace and mercy. When we ask him to search and test and try us, the only outcome is to say, “God, help me and lead me on from this point, forward!”
God Knows Us!
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD (vv. 1-4).
I have been married to my wife, Amarie, for 43 years. We have been friends for more than 47 years (wow, that makes me feel old). She knows me! She can take one look at me and tell me what kind of day I have had. She knows when I have something serious on my mind. She can sense when all I want to do is “play”. Yet, in spite of this, there are times when I will do, or say, something, and she will say, “Who are you? And, what have you done with my husband, Bob?” She knows me, but there are times when I am an absolute mystery even to her. Those are the same times I am a mystery to myself, when I ask myself, “Where in the world did that come from?”
The Psalmist is reflecting, as he prays, on God’s knowledge of us, all. He realizes God, the Creator, knows us better than our closest friend, better than our spouse, even better than we know ourselves.
Now, here is something to think about. God knows us, every light and dark corner of our lives. He know us and yet, “How precious to me are your thoughts (concerning me), God! How vast is the sum of them! (v. 17) His thoughts of us, are GOOD!
Know God’s Will
“… since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
Paul Is different, I know, but I have to ask this: When you pray for your family, or close friends, or the people of your church, how do you pray? I know I am always asking God to protect them from the enemy. I am always asking God to keep them healthy, or to heal them from an illness or injury. I ask God to direct their paths and to draw them ever closer to him.
Paul prays that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will, that they would be able to discern what God is doing in their lives and be able to see and know what he was doing and where he was leading them. He prays that they would be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding. That they would know: this is what God wants.
When we pray, let’s begin to pray this for our family, our friends, and those who are part of the Church we call our home! God help us know and do your will.
Jesus’ Habits of Prayer
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (v. 35).
There was a time in my life when I got hung up on prayer. I thought a person had to pray in a particular manner, at a particular time, and in a particular place. I even pointed to this passage as an example. “See,” I would say, “Jesus got up early in the morning while it was still dark and went to a solitary place, and there he prayed. Now, Go and do thou likewise!”
But, this is hard to admit, I was wrong. Prayer is not about the time of day we pray. It is not about a special place we pray. It is not about the phrases we use when we pray! Here is what we need to learn about prayer. We need to pray, and do it continually! Prayer is about relationship. Jesus had a habit of prayer. His disciples soon learned, that prayer was a regular and continual part of his life. Sometimes, he prayed early in the morning. Sometimes, he prayed through a long and dark night. Sometimes, he prayed before eating. Sometimes, he prayed outside a tomb. One thing they learned for sure, JESUS PRAYED!
Jesus prayed, because he needed to remain in close and intimate conversation with his Father, God. When decisions were to be made. When the next steps were uncertain. Really, all the time and in every place, he needed to pray. We say that about Jesus, can we agree it needs to be true of us, too. WE NEED TO PRAY, CONTINUALLY!
2 Kings 19:15-19
Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”
Here, we find Hezekiah, the King, praying. This time his prayer is the result of threats against God and his people. Outside forces were speaking terrible words against God, and saying they were going to destroy all who believe in him.
We are frequently called to pray for persecuted Christians in our world. There are men and women, in our world today, who are threatened with job-loss, imprisonment, beatings, even death because they have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We are blessed to live where we do.
We are called to pray for those who suffer for OUR FAITH, they are our brothers and sisters! For more information, as we pray, visit the website: The Voice of the Martyrs, http://www.persecution.com.
“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD , “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city. (vv. 2-6)
Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall that he might suffer no distraction. Recently, the movie, War Room, was released; it tells the story of a prayer warrior raising up others who would pray without distraction, seeking God’s face with zeal. Where do you go to pray? Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed. Find your “wall”, your place that is free from distraction and the world’s noise.
Hezekiah says, “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you…” We know God doesn’t need us to remind him the life we have lived. God knew Hezekiah’s life, he knew how he had worked to restore Israel’s God-centered worship. God knew his desire to do God’s will. God knows us. He knows our hearts and minds. Hezekiah wants to continue to do what he had already been doing. He asks God to spare him that he might continue to lead Israel back to God!
God responds to Hezekiah’s prayer. He gives him more time to finish the work he had begun. God hears our prayers, He knows our hearts. He will respond, are we listening for his voice. His response may come from another person. Are we listening?
God Has Not Forsaken Us!
“O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens… But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage” (vv. 6, 8-9).
Perhaps you can identify with Ezra and his prayer. He was part of a sinful and disobedient people. God-forsaken; they were suffering terrible bondage. What can he, for that matter, anyone do to change this situation?
We all know someone who is certain they have sinned too much, who believe they are too far gone for God to forgive them! They are “in over their heads” and heaven knows all about them. They “just know” they are hopeless and on their way to hell. It may be that someone reading this feels this way, too.
I have news for you! Good news! God is in the restoration business. He is an expert at taking those who are beat up by sin, left on the salvage heap, given up for destruction; and making them over, completely new!
Ezra writes, “But now… the Lord our God has been gracious…” God does the unexpected. He does not treat us as our sins deserve! Instead, he forgives and he reconciles us to himself. Instead of treating us as we deserve, he loves on us! He does not write us off, though he could! Instead, he freely gives us New Life in Christ Jesus. He invites us to start new, trusting him to lead us into the Abundant Life, the life that is yielded to his Lordship. Life that says “YES” to God and his ways!
Today, say “YES” to God! Celebrate the new life he gives you!
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
… the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (vv. 11-13).
Luke introduces Jesus’ story by writing, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else …”
Growing up, I would often stop what I was doing and bow my head and pray! When I was asked, “What are you doing?” I would answer, “I’m praying to myself.” The reprimand always followed, “Bob, don’t pray to yourself, pray to God!” They knew what I meant, and I knew what I meant, but the Pharisee in Jesus’ story did not. He was praying about himself and to himself. That prayer gets nowhere near the throne of God.
The tax collector was another story. He dared not approach the altar. He would not even look to the heavens. With his head bowed to the ground, he beat his breast and cried out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
The simplest prayer, it contains just a few words. We do not have to be “wordy” when we pray. God wants us, instead, to be true, to speak from a heart that is open to him! The Pharisee does what we often do, he compares himself to other people, and comes out looking good in his own eyes. The Tax Collector sees himself through the eyes of Holy God! He knows he is a sinner, needing to be forgiven and made right!
Today, pray this prayer! Now, hear this: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).