Prayer


If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 1: 5

 

This thought makes me wonder about the times in which James lived. Was there more wisdom afoot then than there is now? You see, to me there just isn’t much of that great and Godly commodity visible in our world today. I don’t think that this is the result of my just hanging out in the wrong company or on the bad streets of my town, either. This unwise nature and function of people in general today is the product of deliberate choices that we have made. Unfortunately, lack of wisdom tends to inform the unwise, and the unwise frequently become the information experts for people who lack Godly wisdom themselves. This process of the clueless being counseled by the unwise isn’t just circular in nature, either; rather, it established a path of declension that heads ever further away from the truth.

 

The good news in all of this is that this downward path is changeable. Like a pilot is trained to take corrective actions when the plane is heading dangerously toward the ground, there are things that each of us can do to change the way that we are processing and responding to our world. Getting back to James and his statement, I think that he was posing a rhetorical question here in that I sincerely doubt that he was seeing all that much wisdom or that many wise people in his neighborhood either. The “if” refers to everyone in his day, and it calls me out and everyone else around me today. This is our problem as fallen people who live in a broken world. We lack God’s wisdom, and we don’t always realize just how much we are missing because of this state of being.

 

Yet, like that well trained pilot, we don’t need to crash and burn. We can do what our old friend James suggests here and seek out God and His wisdom of life. The Lord has placed it right before our eyes, and He has granted His presence in us and in our world to illuminate, illustrate, and explain His truths to us. We can read God’s Word on a very regular basis, and we can meditate and contemplate on what He is saying to each of us as we do this reading. The Spirit does speak and He will bring the eternal word of life into meaningful context for all that we are facing in the days to come in our world. As the old expression goes, in our relationships with God, “There are no dumb questions.” The Lord hears our doubts, concerns, and pleas, and He does answer them with the sort of wise truth that transforms our approach to life and that brings the order of Christ into our days so that we can give a touch of reason to the unwise environment around our doors.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1: 13

 

Regardless of whether we are prepared or not, action will come our way. It might be physical in its nature or it could just engage the mind; yet, it will be there. This world is like that. There are forces at work in it that cannot be stopped and that will not be silenced. Some of them are determined to upset us and to send our journeys off track. They are subversive when it comes to following God’s will and desire for the lives of His people. Other action causing agents are more benign in their intent, but they are still disruptive when we are ill prepared for their presence.

 

The best that we can do to handle it all is to enter into God’s wise counsel and set the focus of our hearts and minds on Him. This sort of preparation doesn’t just happen; rather, it comes about because we have purposed and planned to be made ready for whatever comes our way. The Holy Spirit within us does the real work of this preparedness as we yield ourselves to His will and meditate upon God’s Word. Through this process of purposeful surrender our minds and our hearts enter into the sort of peace and calm that allows for them to function with the clarity and the confidence that Christ desires to grant to us. This is how we gain the foundation that is needed to walk through this world upright and balanced.

 

This equilibrium that was established by preparation for the day is maintained by keeping the focus of the eyes of our heart on Christ, Himself, as we go out into the storm. Every day in Christ is one in which we travel forward with the hope of eternity in our hearts and with the grace that we know with certainty will restore all that is broken and lost in this world to its creation glory upon our minds. Thus, the forces that bring about today’s action are tamed and brought under the control of the Spirit. It is in this manner that we become people who engage with it all for the sake of God’s kingdom and who provide the support and the peace of the Savior to others in their times of turmoil and trial.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

Psalm 103: 1

 

This is a prayer; and it is a wish, a hopeful desire of the heart. It is also a focus statement that could be set forth every day. Consider the possibilities that open up if you set your heart and your mind on blessing the Lord through everything that you do during the day. Also, think of what your own life could be like if you truly sought out the Lord’s view of the people that you will encounter so that you could respond to them with Christ’s love and grace.

 

From the vantage point of a blesser, old annoyances and long-standing problem people can seem different. The creaking floorboard is still there, the difficult coworker is just the same, and the hard to live with habits of your loved one haven’t gone away overnight. However, it can become possible to look beyond these issues and to see the gift that God has provided for you. That gift might be in the form of something that He has provided for you, or it might be a person to care about and to demonstrate His concern for. Seeking to be the one who brings a blessing to God through the way that I live also fills my heart with an understanding of the presence of His Spirit.

 

The Lord wants all of me. He asks me to give every aspect of my being and to use all that I have in serving Him. Yet, this all-in approach to living inside of the will of God is actually the easiest way to go, for, in fact, it takes less energy to love than it does to fight, is simpler to listen than to argue, and blessing fills me up while cursing drains me dry. Let this hopeful prayer of blessing guide the thoughts and the actions of your day; then, you can judge whether you end it with a greater sense of peace than on a day where this is not the goal.

 

And Mary said, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1: 38

 

Here she is; the young woman, really a girl still, who has encountered a form of being that has been nothing more than a fantastical image that exists only in the stories that her grandmothers tell. Now an angelic figure has told her that her life will never be the same; for, she will become a central figure in the singular world-changing event of all time. Whatever dreams, hopes, and plans she had formed would need to be set aside, and events that she could not begin to comprehend were to become her reality. This is the definition of a life turned upside down.

 

Mary’s response is what is so amazing. She hears the sort of news that would send most of us running for cover or at least to the safety of family or friends, and she opens her heart and her mind to the will of the Lord. This is faith, and this faith requires that Mary trust God to a degree that cannot be solely taught. Mary has heard the voice of the Lord speaking to her heart, and she has surrendered her life to His loving will; so, she says, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord.” She is ready and willing to lay it all on the line for her God. Mary enters into a journey without a known destination, and she does this with peace and with joyous anticipation settled well upon her heart.

 

How is it that this young, teen-aged woman who is the product of such a humble, small town upbringing would be so well prepared to surrender herself in the most absolute way possible to do what God was calling her to do? That same question rings loudly in my ears as I think about Mary and consider the fact that her faith stands as a crucial aspect in establishing the way for me to exist in intimate relationship with Christ. Mary did what she did because she trusted God and had an unshakable faith in Him. Christ speaks to me, and He asks me to respond to His much simpler request to love others, to share Him, and to live righteously with the same total surrender and joy that Mary had. O, Lord let me answer, “Be it done to me according to your word.”

 

Cast your burdens on the LORD,

and he will sustain you;

he will never permit

the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55: 22

 

There are days when the air, itself, seems heavy. It may be the weather, but it might also be all that is happening in life at that moment. Personal concerns, family matters, and strife and struggles in our world can all add to the density of the atmosphere. It might be so thick that the morning doesn’t bring refreshment and new energy; instead, it portends of another oppressive day of hard working steps and hope deferred. This is a tough place to be. Most of us have been there to some degree before we get too far through our allotted days. I believe that Jesus, Himself, must have experienced times like this, for He lived out His earthly life at the center of the tempest that is caused by the sinfulness of our world.

 

For Jesus there was no turning back and no vacation days, either. He was in this world for the duration as He traveled the road of redemption for Creation. In so doing, Christ demonstrated the understanding, empathy, and mercy that God holds for all of us. Jesus lived out and experienced that which God already knew, and the pain that He and that we go through and feel is something that causes God to grieve. Yet, it also serves a real and a valuable purpose for us as we navigate our way through life, for these days of heavy air, the times when the ability to draw the next breath is debatable, are times when turning to the Lord seems to be the only thing that brings real relief. When faced with the greatest of pressures and turmoil, Jesus turned to the Father in prayer with a heart and a mind that trusted in God’s presence and in His response.

 

Turning to the Lord in these times is not always an easy ting to do. People are made to be capable and to take on the challenges of life by using the resources that we possess. Yet, that may be a part of what facing into challenging days is all about, for these aspects of living are ones that do take us outside of our knowledge, skill, and strength and give us no other place to go for the capacity to enter into today than that which comes from the Lord. In this entire universe there is only one source for hope when there are no answers, there is only one trustworthy provider of wisdom that outlasts all of our worldly thinking, and there is only one place where we can go to find salvation for our remaining days and into eternity; and this is Christ. We can go to Christ with whatever breath we have at the moment, and He will hold us up and embrace our weary hearts in the loving arms of God’s boundless love and care.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Romans 8: 20, 21

 

On this date, July 4th, the United States of America, the country where I live and the one that birthed and raised me, celebrates freedom. This day is the singular great holiday on the nation’s calendar, and it is generally the occasion for a massive and hopefully unifying party. I do think that freedom is worth celebrating and also that the freedoms that are considered to be fundamental to the national character of the United States are truly worthy of a vast and universal party. We should gather at the hearts of our communities, play festive music, remember those who have sacrificed in order to secure our world and this nation, and light up the sky with fireworks. Freedom is more than a worthy reason for all of this. Still, I think that there is a freedom that is greater than all that we are celebrating today, and it is something that we certainly should consider as we put on our party clothes and sing out our national hymns.

 

The need for freedom comes about because of its absence, its loss. When God made this world He made it and us free. We had an almost unfettered ability to make choices and to enter into our roles as the rulers of our daily life on earth. God did provide guidance and law, He was directly involved with us on an ongoing basis, and people were granted responsibility and were given freedom that was in balance with it. We know the story. This freedom was taken to extremes and the responsibility to follow God’s will and to reverence Him above all else was set aside with catastrophic results. So, we live in a world where everything is distorted and corrupted and wherein it is hard to find the sort of true freedom that God designed and intended from the beginning of our world’s history.

 

This country does set out concepts and ideas that move in the direction of the form of freedom that God desires for people and for His creation to enjoy. Yet, I do wonder if we don’t get some of it wrong or at least in the wrong order. The greatness in this nation is found in its world-embracing diversity and by virtue of the gift of resources that allow for this soil to enfold people who come with nothing and grant them the opportunity to develop and to become contributors to the well being of others. This is a nation where humanity’s great conversations can take place in an open and protected environment in which understanding is the objective. We can meet and share our faith, our understanding of the nature and the person of God, our views on the makeup and function of family, how we care for this planet, and the best way to establish peace upon its surface and among its people. The ability to enter into these and many other discussions, both large and small, is a part of the freedom that God has granted to us here.

 

The glory of God is seen in our love for others and in our openness to hearing their stories and to caring for them. There is no greater freedom than what is found in the ability to set aside fears and to embrace God’s desire for reconciliation among peoples who have become separated by the human-derived barriers of this broken world. This sort of thing is the foundational greatness that can set the United States apart in our world. This nation has great resources, and I would pray that we would learn to use them to care for people who are in need. This nation grants many freedoms, and I desire to see us tender them to multitudes in order to narrow the gaps of understanding and mistrust that are prevalent in our world today. There is much to celebrate here today, and as we do this, I do sincerely pray that the glory that fills our sky will be that of the Lord as His desire and will for people to enjoy true and eternal freedom becomes the hymn of our nation.

And the effect of righteousness will be peace,

and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17

 

Isaiah lived in difficult times. Those were not peaceful days, and the concept of the sort of quietness that is being discussed here was not known. The leaders of the nation were quarrelsome and rancorous with themselves and with the world round them. Judah’s internal problems had disabled its ability to be what God had intended for it to be and to do all that the Lord had ordained for it to accomplish in the world. Instead of being God’s own hands and feet of reconciliation, truth giving, and justice, they were defensive, self-serving, oppressive, and profane. They were in very real need of the sort of revival of their faith that Isaiah was sent to proclaim, for they needed to turn away from their focus on self-reliance and enter into repentance before the Lord and seek out His righteous path for themselves and for their nation. That is why Isaiah is looking ahead in these words to the effect that the coming of Christ will have.

 

The description of the world above could be said of and about our own world and the days in which we live. We are in a period of almost unheard of anger, frustration, and unrelenting drive to see personal objectives met at the expense of true care and concern for the cause of peace, justice, and truth. There is little that is said or done by our leaders that is worthy of any sort of praise or that is truly in alignment with God’s call to govern righteously and justly. I fear that this last statement is true regardless of political affiliation or nationality. We live in a time where people have determined to go their own ways with such defensive stridency that there is no longer room for reason or civility in their engagement with each other. So, it seems that almost all of the real responsibilities and the moral mandates of governance are being set aside and even abolished for the sake of all of this posturing and power seeking behavior. We live in a world wherein our public figures and governmental leaders are no longer fit role models for us to consider.

 

It would seem that we all need to turn in the direction that Isaiah was indicating so that we move away from the caustic and abrasive approach to handling conflict and difference of ideology that is pervasive in our culture and enter into a prayerful and Spirit-led process of determining the direction for our world. I think that this sort of revival begins with each of us and in our own hearts. We must decide that we desire the sort of deep flowing peace that comes about only by and through following Christ in all matters and that leads to the type of quietness in the spirit that is formed out of total trust of the Lord and in His Word. In Christ, we are not citizens of nations, and we are not to be followers of any political system or point of view. By Christ’s guidance and in the power of His Spirit, we are to proclaim the truth of His righteousness by all that we say and do. With Christ we can impact our world for the sake of peace, justice, and righteousness. This begins with personal repentance and proceeds in trust with confidence and courage into the way we engage in the public sector. Then it goes forth as we demand righteousness and godliness from our leaders and in our processes of governance.

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