Peace for the Hurting

May21


*Editor’s Note: Last week we explored how to fill our prayers with
arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that.

Lord,

Meet with us this morning. Awaken us with a song of praise in our hearts and on our lips. Give us a vision for service in our cities. Incline our hearts to the Word and not to getting gain. Fill us with your Spirit of wisdom, joy and righteousness. Make us happy children, spouses, parents, friends, citizens and colleagues. Bind our hearts to one another and bind our hearts to you through the new covenant that is sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we look at the world around us, we see great turmoil. Not only is there confusion in our own country, there is disorder throughout the nations. 

We pray, as the psalmist did in Psalm 74; “Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name. Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long. Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.”

Do not leave your work unfinished. What you have begun, do not fail to complete. You are an unchanging God, who will do in the future what you have done in the past. For you do not turn from your purpose and cannot be thwarted in your design.

Therefore, go before us, as you did with the Hebrews. March through the wilderness and shake the earth. Cause the heavens to pour down rain in abundance. In your goodness, provide for the needy, displaced, homeless, and weak. Make yourself known to them. 

You are a God who cares for victims of violence and oppression. You spread your cloak over refugees and foreigners. For your people were aliens in a land not their own and you sustained them. We were aliens without an inheritance to your promises and you adopted us through Jesus. Therefore, heal your people and use us as your hands and feet.

Amen.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 30 (Listen – 5:52)
Psalm 74 (Listen – 2:34)

Arguing with God
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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A Fitness for the Display of Grace

May20

*Editor’s Note: Last week we explored how to fill our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that.

Lord,

How great is our dilemma! For silence best becomes us in your presence, but love inflames our hearts and causes us to speak. Were we to stay quiet, the stones would cry out; yet if we speak, what shall we say? 

As A.W. Tozer shows in The Knowledge of the Holy, the nearer we approach the throne, the less sure our words become. Teach us to know what we cannot know, for no one – apart from the Spirit – knows the things of God. Yet we yearn to know what cannot be known, to comprehend what is incomprehensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable. Deep calls to deep and we long to return to you. Let faith support us where reason fails.

There is a wall, infinitely high, that separates us from you. Our sin is a great obstacle to knowing and enjoying you. Therefore, have mercy on us this morning. For our iniquity is great. 

Why should you go about doing little things? You are a great God and we are great sinners. For we confess the words of the psalmist in Psalm 73, “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.” We cannot hide from you. Our sins are laid bare before your eyes.

Yet in our unworthiness, there is opportunity. For there is a fitness in us for the display of your grace. The greatness of our sin makes us perfect platforms for the greatness of your mercy to be displayed. Let the greatness of your love be seen in us. The power with which you restrain yourself is great indeed. 

So we creep down at the foot of your throne, crouching low and crying, as Charles Spurgeon  in Order and Argument in Prayer, “O God, do not break us. We are bruised reeds. Oh! Do not tread on our little lives. They are but as the withering grass. Will you hunt us? Will you come out? Will you watch us? Because we are so little and because the greatness of your mercy can be shown in us even though we are so insignificant, we plead that you would have mercy on us.”

In Jesus, in whose name we plead, we have the final answer to our dilemma. We come to you through his wounds and mediation. In him, your steadfast love is good. Turn to us, according to your abundant mercy. Save us and build up your people so that your name will dwell among us.

Amen.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 29 (Listen – 5:05)
Psalm 73 (Listen – 2:56)

Arguing with God
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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God’s Mercy in our Rejection

May19

*Editor’s Note: Last week we explored how to fill our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that.

Lord,

We confess that we stand in a long line of your people who have rejected your leadership. When the Israelites demanded, “Give us a king to lead us”, you lamented because you wanted to be their king. You even warned them that a king would take their land and resources without solving their problems. 

But they did not listen. Instead, they said, “We want a king! Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” They did not meditate and muse on your promises: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 

In your great mercy, however, you gave them many good kings who sought your face. Solomon, for example, asked for things that would bless others. He prayed in Psalm 72, “Give the king your justice, O God … May he judge your people with righteousness.” He also prayed for things that would benefit himself: “Long may [the king] live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! … May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!” 

But he tethered his requests to the great reality of knowing you as the ultimate king: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever, may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” When he asked for blessings, he asked them for the sake of your glory. That by his rule, all people would know that you are king.

Today, we ask you to bless our leaders for the sake of your glory. Give them your justice that they may rule us with righteousness. Give them courage to defend the poor against the oppressor. Give them wisdom to make difficult decisions with limited information. May they be like rain that falls on mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In their days, may the righteous flourish and peace abound. 

Over all of this, however, we pray that they might know you. May they fear you while the sun endures. May they fall down before you. May your name endure forever.

Amen and Amen.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 28 (Listen – 3:51)
Psalm 72 (Listen – 2:21)

Arguing with God
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Enemies of God

May18

*Editor’s Note: Last week we explored how to fill our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that.

Lord,

When Jesus went to Gethsemane, it was not just human adversaries he was facing – soldiers, guards, even one of his friends turned traitor. “It was the concentration of all those unseen forces that opposed the kingdom of God because they knew it to be the powerful opponents of their own kingdom-dreams,” N.T. Wright observes in The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today.

It was, “the forces of oppression and violence, the unseen pull that makes people fight rather than be reconciled, that makes them choose brutality rather than humanity, tribe rather than world, self rather than God. These forces had opposed Jesus throughout his public career, sometimes shrieking at him from the lips of some poor deranged spirit, sometimes carping at him in the sneers of the religious, sometimes issuing threats against him from the royal palace.”

Today, your enemies are the same. The evil one and his minions mock your great name and blind people from seeing your glory. You are spoken against and demeaned throughout the world. Our culture is full of blasphemy. The evil one taunts your church, saying, “Do not let Christians deceive you, saying the Lord will deliver you. Surely the cross is foolishness.” His ability to spread discord and enmity is great and his manipulation and subtlety is clever.

Therefore, Lord, we pray as the Psalmist prayed in Psalm 71, “May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.” When those who seek injustice are victorious, your justice is trampled upon. When those who seek to wield the weapons of anger and mischief succeed, your peace and prosperity are mocked. Therefore, come into the battle and fight for your people and your name. Shame those who speak against you – even as you call them to know you. Come and show what your bare arm can do!

May all who seek you – even your enemies whose hearts we pray would return to you – rejoice and be glad! Arise and wake up to bless your people so that your name will not be shamed among your revilers. May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” For, in you, we take refuge; let us never be put to shame. For your righteousness reaches the heavens. You have done great things. O God, there is none but thee.

Amen.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 27 (Listen – 3:08)
Psalms 70-71 (Listen – 3:29)

Arguing with God
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Unanswered Prayers

May15

Psalm 66.19
But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Disobedience can fracture our relationship with God in such a way that he will not answer our prayers. David acknowledges this just prior to talking about answered prayer, “If I had harbored sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

Yet our obedience doesn’t earn answered prayer. If this were the case Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane would have been vastly different. 

Jesus obeyed every letter of God’s law with exacting precision and still faced unanswered prayer. “Remove this cup from me” he begged with such intensity the blood vessels under his skin ruptured mixing blood, sweat, and tears. Yet the Father had other plans. 

Christ would have known this — for, as Hebrews says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He faced greater battles than we face, yet he was perfect where we fail.

Christ not only prayed to have the cup of the crucifixion and God’s rejection taken from him, he also prayed, “Your will be done.” This is the prayer of a fully surrendered man — a man fully and sacrificially committed to the Father.

Unanswered prayer reveals whether our heart truly trusts God. In this way prayer is different from thinking about God. “To the thinker, God is an object. To one who prays, God is the subject,” observes Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book Moral Grandeur.

What we receive in prayer is greater than any request we can make. In this way no prayer goes unanswered because all prayer deepens our relationship with God — something worth far more than anything we could imagine.

As for the particulars of our prayers, which are God’s joy to fulfill, “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows,” says Timothy Keller. 

Our intimacy with God is deepened through prayer — which is what we need most. Trust becomes the foundation we stand on — in longing expectation — when our prayers are unanswered. Our satisfaction in God makes him the object of our rejoicing when our prayers are answered.

Prayer
Father, help us to know you more deeply through prayer. Help us to develop a discipline of intellectually honest, emotionally vulnerable, and dedicated times of prayer. Answer our requests. Direct our desires. Guide our hearts.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 24 (Listen – 3:37)
Psalms 66-67 (Listen – 2:42)

Inner Vision
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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This Weekend’s Readings
Saturday: Numbers 25 (Listen – 2:20); Psalm 68 (Listen – 4:26)
Sunday: Numbers 26 (Listen – 7:47); Psalm 69 (Listen – 4:04)
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