Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #26

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Prayer for Help (Paraphrase of Psalm 140)

Rescue me, O LORD, from evil thoughts; protect me from doing violence to truth in the self-made courtroom of my mind where I set myself up as jury and judge. There I devise stories to defend my selfish behaviours. There I create rationales and retorts to support my man-made arguments. My tongue has become as sharp as a serpent’s when it ought to be as gentle as a lamb’s. I know, LORD, that the tongue is never tamed until the thoughts are held captive by the restraint of love.

Keep me, O LORD, from godless actions. Help me notice when my hands fall under the unspoken command of selfish thoughts. Help me attend to the direction my feet move me throughout the day, especially in moments of leisure. I catch glimpses of the snares about to trip me up as I push forward in my proud and selfish plans, yet I so often ignore them. Help me see the nets and webs and traps those paths hold.

O LORD, I hear myself saying to You, “You are my God,” but I wonder if I actually think and speak and live it. Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy. O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who rescues me from myself. Do not grant me the prayers that arise from my selfishness. Cause my desires to grow out of a love and respect for You and for every person You created, for Your glory and their good.

I know You uphold the cause of the needy—I am that person, Father. Change me. remake me according to the pattern of Your True Son, Jesus. Then I will be able to praise Your Name with a tongue that is not forked. And then my upright living will not be skin-deep but rather be genuine to the core. You, God, are my only help.

(Photo Credit: By Chris Paul from England – CNP_3289, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25737936)

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Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #10

Prayer Acknowledging God’s Help (Paraphrasing Psalm 124)

Without You, God, without Your faithful, loving and all-powerful help, I would have been swallowed up alive by the enemy; the subtle attacks of the spirit of this age, the insinuation of the evil one—enemy of my soul—and my own foolish whims and rebellious plans would have engulfed me. Like a great and hungry wave they would have crashed over my head and drawn me into their deep watery grave, senseless, faithless, hopeless.

But You were there for me; You were and are and will be ever near, protecting my soul for Your eternal kingdom.

Somehow I sensed Your presence, believed what You said about me, and came to You for forgiveness. And what did I receive? Love—Your soul deep, ever-present, faithful compassion, calling me Your dear child.

Like a bird released from the fowler’s snare, I have escaped the deception and self-destruction I see all around me. I am breathless thinking about my narrow escape. May I never forget that my help is in Your Great Name, Jesus, O Maker of heaven and earth.

Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #7

 Prayer Acknowledging God’s Providence (Paraphrase of Psalm 121)

Even though it’s an uphill climb, LORD, I’m on the high road and my sights are set higher than those beautiful mountains on the horizon. I have in You, LORD, a helper, a personal guide, and a companion here and now: God, Creator of the universe, my Maker.

This is how I see Your providence working: it shods my feet with crampons on the slippery slopes; it keeps You on the lookout for my good, day and night; it focuses Your infinite watch care on and over me—no exceptions; and it ensures nothing involving my life escapes Your notice.

You watch over those who entrust themselves to Your care. You stand between us and anything that might ultimately harm our souls, which are so precious to You. Your ongoing commitment ensures our ultimate good—whether we find ourselves in the valleys or on the mountaintops, whether in the shade or in full sunlight, we are never lost or hidden from You.

So I won’t distract myself by looking to the mountains for my help. I will look only to You. I’m relying on You to watch over my coming and going both now and forevermore.

Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 8

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Authority.

Jesus had finished His thought-provoking Sermon on the Mount. At the end of Matthew chapter seven we’re told that the crowds of people who had come to hear Him “were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority”—in distinct contrast to the weak and waffling speeches they were used to hearing from their religious leaders. They sensed the challenging message of Jesus was more than the charisma of a gifted orator. There was something deeper. His words pierced their hearts, speaking truth and demanding a response from His listeners. They sensed that Jesus not only spoke authoritatively—He embodied authority. Authority like this could get a person into trouble with the ruling establishment, though—the Jewish leaders were not known for being tolerant of any competition, and Rome itself was not about to share its power. This alone was enough to attract more than a few onlookers to follow Jesus. Perhaps this amazing man would use His authority to gain political power. Who would want to miss that?

As Jesus descended the mountain, the crowd following Him began to see what divine authority in action looks like. Not only did Jesus teach unlike anyone else, He displayed power unlike anything they had ever seen. Matthew chapter eight records eight interactions Jesus had as He moved through the lakeside town of Capernaum, crossed the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee by boat, and visited the remote region known as the Gadarenes.

First, Jesus met a social outcast; a man with nerve-numbing, limb-killing leprosy fell at Jesus’ feet asking to be made ‘clean’, a term referring to the complete absence of the disease. “Be clean!” Jesus commanded the outcast’s body—and it obeyed; the man’s nerves, blood vessels, soft tissue, lymphatic system and skin were completely healed and regenerated. Jesus sent the man joyfully on his way to present himself to the religious establishment to have his social banishment revoked.

Then, as Jesus entered the streets of Capernaum a Roman military figure moved purposefully toward Him—a commander of a division of one hundred soldiers. Perhaps the crowd following Jesus wondered if Jesus’ authority would find its match here. But the centurion, like the leper, had come for help. His attendant lay at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering. The centurion asked Jesus to use His authority to “just say the word” that would heal the suffering man without having even seen him. Jesus, delighted at the centurion’s faith, replied, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would,” and the servant was healed at that very hour.

Each interaction is the same. Jesus, confronted by diverse challenges, displays His authority over every aspect of the physical world. The sick and suffering find release from their captivity. Storms are stilled. Madmen find themselves back in their right minds. Nothing confounds or perplexes Jesus.

Why is this? The only plausible answer is that Jesus, through His display of authority over any obstacle or predicament, is earth’s Creator and Redeemer. Placing Himself in situations where God the Father leads Him, He, God the Son, reveals Himself by what He says and what He does. Nothing confounds or defeats the One who has all authority. And when the time was right, Jesus would submit Himself to being hung on an instrument of Roman torture, dying and returning to life, to display an aspect of His authority that has perplexed many: He has authority to take upon Himself the moral debt of every person on this planet; He has authority over death and over life; and those who accept His authority finds themselves recipients of an amazing gift of forgiveness and relationship with God.

What is the take-home message for us living here today? Check out the evidence. Read the record of Jesus’ life and ministry in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. See if the authority of Jesus doesn’t strike you true. Then do what any sane person ought to do: bow before the author of life, accept His gift of salvation and hope, and draw close to the lover of our souls. As we submit to Jesus daily, we find that Jesus uses His authority to lead us and to bless us, and will continue to do so through eternity.

(Photo Credit: “כפר נחום תצלום אויר” by AVRAM GRAICER – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D7%9B%D7%A4%D7%A8_%D7%A0%D7%97%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%99%D7%A8.jpg#/media/File:%D7%9B%D7%A4%D7%A8_%D7%A0%D7%97%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%99%D7%A8.jpg)