Finding Words for Prayer

June22

Psalm 119.14-15
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

“The true source of prayer is not an emotion but an insight,” observes Abraham Joshua Heschel in Man’s Quest for God. Yet our sources for insight often prove inconsistent or even unreliable. Cultures wax and wane, emotions churn, even our personal perspectives evolve. Nothing can eviscerate a prayer life more quickly than locating our sole source for insight inside ourselves.

“It is the insight into the mystery of reality, the sense of the ineffable, that enables us to pray,” says Heschel. So too, the psalmist who composed the longest chapter in scripture, Psalm 119. The overtone of the psalm is the confession of God’s word as the source of vitality, joy, and meaning in life. The undertone is the way meaningful prayer is sparked and fueled by insights found in his transcendent word. 

The remedy for spiritual dryness is prayer saturated with scripture. When we pray the words of scripture they enliven our prayers by allowing God’s word to blossom inside our heart, mind, and soul. In An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible Jim Rosscup identified the psalmist’s record of this experience, verse-by-verse, in Psalm 119.

In regards to our daily experience, God’s words in prayer are, “purifying (verse 9), a treasure (11, 72), joy-inspiring (14), delighting (16), replete with wonderful things (18), counselors (24), enlivening (25), strengthening (28). They are freeing (45, 133), comforting (52), stimulating for melody (54), perfecting (80), life-encompassing (96), sweet dessert (103), light (105), an inheritance (111), and worth waiting for (114). Not only these, but they are protecting (117), provocative of hate toward evil (128), truthful (142), righteous (144), everlasting (160), awe-inspiring (161), peace-promoting (165), and love-kindling (167).”

To experience this first-hand, Rosscup suggest taking one eight-verse section of Psalm 119 and praying through it each day. “God saturates all the psalmist’s thoughts as he prays, and rekindles one’s passion for God just to pray the very verses as one’s own thoughts.”

Prayer
Father we pray for an effervescent prayer life. Bring your peace and joy to us through scripture. Correct us and guide us. Revive us and heal the wounds from which we suffer. Help us reclaim our identity in you each morning. Affirm the work of your spirit in us each evening. We pray this in Jesus name.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28.19 (Listen)
Psalm 119.1-24 (Listen)

Ancient Word in Modern Life
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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How Must We In All Things Give Thanks?

June19

Psalm 115.12-13

The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great. 

How Must We In All Things Give Thanks? | by William Cooper (fl. 1653)

St. Augustine inaugurated that ancient custom among Christians, in whose mouths you should always hear these words: Deo gratias, “Thanks be to God!” When they met and saluted one another, Deo gratias, “God be thanked.” When they heard any tidings of persecution or protection, favor or frown, gain or loss, cross or comfort — still Deo gratias. 

“What,” said Augustine, “shall brothers in Christ not give God thanks when they see one another? What better thing can we speak, or think, or write, than this? God be thanked! Nothing can be more compendiously spoken, nor more gladly heard, nor more solemnly understood, nor more profitably acted, than this; God be thanked!” 

Such a frame of heart had holy Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And such a one was in the sweet singer of Israel: “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Notable is that of Chrysostom: “There is nothing, nothing we can study, more pleasing to God than to be thankful — not only in good days, but also when things fall cross. This is the best sacrifice and oblation we offer God.”

This made Jerome say, “It is peculiar to Christians to give thanks in adversity. To praise God for benefits, this [anyone] can do. To give God thanks in dangers according to the apostle’s sense, and in miseries — to always to say, ‘Blessed be God’ — this is the highest pitch of virtue. Here is your Christian; such a one takes up his cross, and follows his Savior: no loss or cross can dishearten him.”

To give God thanks for crosses and afflictions is to be numbered among those singular things which Christians are bound to excel in. We ought excel beyond [those who do not believe] in loving our enemies and blessing those that curse — which our Savior exhorts and commands.

We must thank the Lord for afflicting us, and for laying the cross upon us, because it is so far below what we deserve at his hands. To drink as He drank it we cannot — we need not. Thank God, then, that you have such a little share of it — when all was your portion by right and justice. This is worthy of our thanks.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen – 3:21)
Psalms 114-115 (Listen – 2:18)

Questions of Faith
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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This Weekend’s Readings
Saturday: Deuteronomy 25 (Listen – 2:38); Psalm 116 (Listen – 1:34)
Sunday: Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13); Psalms 118-119.1-24 (Listen)

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How Should We Pray for Faith?

June18

Psalm 112.6-7

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. 

How Should We Pray for Faith?  | by Vincent Alsop (c. 1630-1703)

1. Pray that God would so establish you in the truth, that you may not be blown away with every wind of doctrine.

It is our great interest to pray and strive that we may reach such a clear, distinct, coherent light into the doctrine of the gospel that every small piece of sophistry may not perplex and stagger our belief of it.

2. Pray that God would establish you in the truth of His promises, that your faith may not be shaken with every wind of providence. 

We are apt to have our hearts tossed by contrary dispensations. Pray that God would increase and strengthen our faith; that we may be so firmly built upon the unmovable Rock, that we may “not be afraid of evil tidings,” having our “hearts fixed, trusting in the Lord.” And this was the glory of Job’s faith — that though God should “slay” him, yet would he “trust in him.”

3. Let us pray and strive that God would so settle and establish us in love to himself, that no blast of afflictions from his hand may cool the fire of divine love in our hearts.

We want exceedingly the faith that God carries on a design of love under all his various, and sometimes seemingly contrary, dealings with us. He can love and correct; why then cannot we love a correcting God? Whether he wounds or heals his love is the same; and why not ours? Can we not love God upon the security of faith that he will do us good, as well as upon the experience that he has done us good?

4. Pray we and strive that God would so settle and establish us in our inward peace, that no wind of temptation may overthrow it.

It is a slender and ill-made peace which every assault of the tempter dissolves. The Psalmist stood upon a firmer bottom, when the terrifying onsets from without made him fly more confidently to his God: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.” And we have God’s own promise to answer our faith: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.”

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 23 (Listen – 3:10)
Psalms 112-113 (Listen – 1:49)

*Today’s devotional is abridged, and language updated from, “What is That Fulness Of God Every True Christian Ought To Pray and Strive to be Filled With?”

Questions of Faith
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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How Must We in All Things Give Thanks?

June17

Psalm 111.9
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! 

How Must We in All Things Give Thanks? | by William Cooper

Stop and reflect upon every mercy coming to you in the stream of Christ’s blood, and through the covenant of grace. Because God’s mercy is in line with His covenant, every mercy is a token of the Lord’s favor to his favored: it is that which makes even common mercies become special mercies.

Carnal men, though they enjoy mercies, mind not which way they come — so long they have them. But a child of God knows that every thing that comes through Christ’s hands is the better for it, and tastes the sweeter by far.

A crust of brown bread, coming in mercy is better than a purse full of gold another way. As a king’s kiss to one friend was said to be better gold than a cup of gold which he gave another friend.

Look on mercies as answers to you prayers, and bless the Lord for them on that account. All our mercies we get by prayer should be the more solemnly dedicated to the Lord by thanksgiving. Such a frame of a thankful heart is a spiritual frame; that God has inclined and directed your heart to beg such a mercy is a special act of the Spirit of adoption.

If the chief Shepherd seeks us together, and keeps us from straggling, and brings us under command, this is a mercy to Christ’s sheep. Mercies are drawing-cords, afflictions are whip-— bot drive us and by both we are brought nearer to God. It is a special mercy when any of God’s dealings draw or drive us nearer to Him. 

That storm that sinks and splits some ships, drives others faster into the haven: so do the troubles of this world make a true Christian’s voyage towards heaven the speedier. Thank him.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 22 (Listen – 4:13)
Psalms 110-111 (Listen – 1:57)

*Today’s devotional is abridged, and language updated from, “How Must We in All Things Give Thanks?” Part of Cooper’s argument was removed, as he believed answered prayer was “a sign that God ”accepts you.” This is clearly not the case in scripture or Christ’s experience Gethsemane would have gone radically different as he prayed, “remove this cup.”

Questions of Faith
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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How Can We Find Spiritual Rest?

June16

Psalm 109.1, 4

Be not silent, O God of my praise! .. I give myself to prayer. 

How Can We Find Spiritual Rest? | by Samuel Annesley (c. 1620–1696)

How can we live with a conscience that is pacified by the blood of Christ? Christians, be persuaded to practice these:

1. Take heed of every sin, count no sin small.

2. Set upon the healing duty of repentance.

3. Compose thyself to live as under God. You cannot deceive him, for he is Infinite Wisdom; you cannot fly from him, for he is everywhere; you cannot bribe him, for he is Righteousness itself.

4. Be serious and frequent in the examination of your heart and life. This is so necessary to the getting and keeping of a right and peaceable conscience, that it is impossible to have either without it. 

5. Be much in prayer, in all manner of prayer, but especially in private prayer. 

6. Let your whole life be a preparation for heaven. Strip yourself of all encumbrances, that thou mayest attend unto piety. Pleasures may tickle you for a while; but they have an heart-aching farewell. You may call your riches good; but within a few days, what good will they do you? Men may flatter you for your greatness; but with God your account will be the greater. 

7. Live more upon Christ than upon inherent grace. Do not venture upon sin because Christ hath purchased a pardon; that is a most horrible and impious abuse of Christ. 

8. Be, every way, nothing in your own eyes. It is the humble soul that thrives exceedingly. “And, alas! what have we to be proud of?

9. Entertain good thoughts of God. We never arrive to any considerable holiness or peace till we lose ourselves in Deity;

10. Do all you do out of love to God. Spiritual love-sickness is the soul’s most healthy constitution. When love to God is the cause, means, motive, and end of all our activity then the soul takes flight towards rest.

O my soul, you are so little, why won’t you open all your little doors; why wont you extend your utmost capacity, that you mayest be wholly possessed, wholly satiated, wholly ravished with the sweetness of so great love? 

O, therefore, my most loving God, I beseech thee, tell me what may most effectually draw out my love to thee, considering what prevention of love, what privative, positive good things I receive from thee, infinite in greatness, infinite in multitude!

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 21 (Listen – 3:33)
Psalms 108-109 (Listen – 4:28)

*Today’s devotional is abridged from, “How May We Be Universally and Exactly Conscientious?”

Questions of Faith
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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