O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.

Psalm 88: 1

 

We humans tend to want to look so very cool in the way that we go about our lives. After all, image is everything. Perception is reality. Looking like we are in control will lead to control. There are so many ways to spin this idea that considering them makes my head spin. Yet, for most of us, life is not lived in total control; rather, much of it is lived in a state of abject terror at the prospect of crashing ingloriously to earth. As we live in a world where chaos is continually attempting to gain the upper hand, we are fighting against the forces of nature to maintain any Godly order, reason and truth that we can grasp hold of. This is the perspective of the Psalmist as he cries out to God.

 

It would seem that the shadows of evil are creeping all around him. His story also speaks to the fact that he has contributed to their presence by his own thoughts and actions. The writer of the psalm has not lived a pure and blameless life. He is far too human for that. He is one of us! Yet, he knows that he has been wrong, for he recognizes his own sinfulness that has invited in the evil that was waiting for the opportunity to enter into his life. Now he feels alone and abandoned. He is lost and without resources for recovery. He has reached that well noted end of his rope and there are still hundreds of feet of descent left until he reaches solid ground again. This is the sort of place where we all have been if we are being honest about what is going on in our world.

 

It is from this position of helpless distress that the Psalmist cries out to God. He does it with a passion and an intensity that abandons polished language and careful expression. He bares his soul to the only one in the universe who truly understands what he is feeling. In his need, he surrenders appearances and gives in to his honest need for God’s intervention. I believe that this is what God desires for all of His people to do. When we are on our knees before the Mighty King we tend to become quiet enough to clearly listen to His voice. As we stretch out flat on the floor in complete surrender, we seem to be more receptive to doing what the Lord commands. The Lord, God Almighty, yearns to hear our pleas, and He is loving and just in His response.

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Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4: 2

 

Although prayer is something that Christians do at regular or set times in certain settings, it is much more than that. During many of our worship services we have established times for prayer. People determine to take planned parts of their days and devote that time to prayer. We set aside days of the year and hours of some of our days for prayer. All of these prayer practices are good things and honor God’s desire for us to be people who engage with Him with prayer. Yet, these practices are only part of God’s intent for us to be people of prayer.

 

God listens with great interest to the words that we speak to Him. The Lord enters into these times of deep personal expression with the fullness of His presence. The Holy Spirit is with us fully and totally, and He works within us to show us the words that we need to pray. The Spirit also assists us in hearing and in understanding what it is that the Father is saying to us. Christ goes before us to proclaim His people worthy to speak our petitions and to lay the words of our hearts before the Holy One, righteous God Almighty. The Father hears us, engages with our lives, and grants His grace, mercy, and blessing to us. As we pray, we are in deep and intimate communion with our God, and He is involved in like manner with us.

 

Paul’s instruction for us reflects the realities of life. As our days develop and too often spin away from our desired course, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that prayer is a vital part of our foundation of faith. There are many situations in life that are best handled in and through prayer; yet, our natural tendency is to solve the problem and pray in thanksgiving after all is well again. God desires for us to see it the other way around. He wants for us to turn toward His will and to fully operate out of His truth in all matters, from routine to momentous. This orientation of our hearts and minds toward God is best accomplished through an on-going, all-encompassing practice of prayerful communication with God.

I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.

Genesis 17: 1b

 

This is a point in the story of our ancestor Abraham when he has tried to figure out the answers to the most troubling challenge of his life. He did this by going his own way and by doing things in a manner that he readily understood. Abraham lacked the ability to just hang in there long enough to see how God would resolve it all. He listened to the first person that gave him an idea for resolution that seems like something that he could accomplish on his own. The actions required were understandable to him, for they didn’t require anything supernatural or outside of Abraham’s control. Yet, Abraham was totally wrong, and God was about to fill his world with the touch of that which for the Lord is totally natural.

 

As our days progress and our personal stories unfold, it seems that we are often in the same place. We believe that God is good to His word, and we trust His accomplishment of it. Still, when the pressures start to mount, the time for resolution gets short, or our nerves become frayed and our patience runs thin, we start working on the solutions, and we become open to suggestions that are too often not ones that God would or could endorse. Then human nature takes hold, and we try to do it all on our own and keep everything that we are doing out of the sight of God.

 

For Abraham, the Lord made it very clear and understandable. He does this for all of us, too. God is who and what He is, for He is the Creator of all, the ruler of everything, and the power to accomplish anything is held in His hands. God also loves each of us absolutely, cares about our needs as the true Father that He is, and continually blesses us in all of the ways that we require. God wants me to live my life in His presence with all of my thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and plans fully in His view. The Lord gives me His word, the people in my spiritual family, and His Spirit to comfort, counsel, and assist me along the journey. He calls upon me and all of His people to walk before Him in full submission to His will and with bold confidence in God’s direction for our travels.

 

And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Matthew 22: 33

 

At this time Jesus was teaching in the temple, and He had been engaging in a series of discussions with various groups of religious leaders about their basic understanding of God and of His kingdom, both in heaven and on earth. These were the sorts of things that these leaders in the religious life of the people should have been teaching to their followers with accuracy, understanding, and passion. However, this was not true. They had strayed far from truly knowing God, and what they said about Him was not based in revelation but was formed in their own minds and out of the desires of their self-serving hearts.

 

So, when people heard Jesus speak, they heard something fresh, revelatory, and alive. Their hearts were convicted of their own sinfulness, and their minds were opened up to the greatness and the grace of God. This is what happens when we listen to Jesus. This is the sort of ear and eye opening experience that comes to people as they stop speaking the chant of their own understandings and remain still long enough for Christ’s words of gospel truth to penetrate into the depths of their beings. For pursuit of the lost is what Jesus is a bout, and bringing all of us into the now and forever presence of God Almighty is His objective.

 

The jaw dropping, stop-in-your-tracks astonishment that the crowds experienced is ours to know as well. Truly hearing Christ speak from the pages of His word, with the voice of the Holy Spirit, and in the counsel and comfort of His people is both life altering and life giving. The presence of Christ in my life is astonishing, and it is so every moment of each day. As I cling to my Savior and continually yield to Him as my Lord, Christ brings me into the holy halls of eternity so that this life is lived in the hope and peace of God’s unending love.