To Whom We Pray

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: To Whom We Pray
By John Tillman

Many cultures pray. Some pray with greater frequency, devotion, and earnestness than much of Christianity. But the outcomes of prayer depend more upon the faithfulness of the one who hears, rather than the one who prays. Madeleine L’Engle asks the question, “Whom do we pray to?” in her book, And It Was Good.

“If we are to pray, we must know where our prayers are directed. Jesus prayed to his Father. And here again, we have, in this century, a source of confusion…Jesus called the Master of the Universe Abba—daddy. Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was a man he could admire…but what about the rest of us, living in this time of extreme sexual confusion?

There was plenty of sexual confusion in Jesus’ world too, especially in the Roman culture where license and perversion were the order of the day. Nevertheless, Jesus constantly referred to his heavenly Father, and he taught us to pray: Our Father.”


Our century is not unique in being obsessed with sex and awash in sexual confusion. The image of fathers is, historically, troublesome for many.

“For those of us who are only confused or hurt by this image…Perhaps it helps to remember that it is an image…a way of groping toward the real.”

L’Engle recognizes some need to overcome broken father images to see God properly and she has a suggestion… 

“Some of us may find in the image of the Father the parent that we always longed for, and needed, the parent that our human father never was. What is it that we trust most? Is it the turning of the stars in the heavens? That, for me, is another image of the Creator.”

In coming to know God through prayer, we can transcend false and broken father images with the true image of Abba.

“It is Jesus of Nazareth, the Word as a human being, who calls God Abba…if the Word, as Jesus, could call out, “Abba!” so can I.

We all have our own images, and they nourish us, but ultimately the Lord to whom we pray is beyond all images, all imagining.”

When we begin in prayer with the image of God as our loving father we take the first steps of faith toward our true home and truest family, in the kingdom of God.
May our prayers, and their resulting actions, remake in our own mind and in our world the image of a good father.

*Quotations from And It Was Good, by Madeleine L’Engle
*Good, Good Father — by Housefires


Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.— Psalm 90:14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 25 (Listen -5:24)
Hebrews 7  (Listen -4:01)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Prayer and Faith

From John: 
Rather than strictly following our readings in Hebrews or Kings and Chronicles this week, we will pursue a week of thematic reflections on one of the issues closest to the heart of the mission and vision of The Park Forum—prayer. 

Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Prayer and Faith
By John Tillman

“In any study of the principles and procedure of prayer, of its activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to faith.” — E.M Bounds

E.M. Bounds’ classic works on prayer are a staple of many theological libraries.
At the beginning of his volume, The Necessity of Prayer, Bounds is clear that what is necessary for prayer, is faith.

“Faith is the initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk to the unseen. He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must believe, where he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply faith, claiming its natural yet marvelous prerogatives— faith taking possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just as true, steady and persevering in the realms of faith as it is in the province of prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.”

Does our faith falter and feel weak? Reconnect our faith to the power of prayer.
Do we feel that God is distant from us? It is we who have moved. Draw near in prayer.

“Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In his cursing of the fig tree, our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that, he proceeded to declare, that large powers were committed to faith and prayer, not in order to kill but to make alive, not to blast but to bless.”

Can we truly, and honestly say that we have consistently wielded the power of prayer to bless rather than blast our enemies?

“Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith stand strong and foursquare, these days, as iniquity abounds and the love of many grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as religion tends to become a mere formality and worldliness increasingly prevails? The inquiry of our Lord, may, with great appropriateness, be ours, ‘When the Son of Man comes,” he asks, “will he find faith on the earth?’ We believe that he will, and it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith is trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that right early.”

*Quotations condensed and language updated from The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds.


Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.”— Psalm 12:5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 24 (Listen -3:21)
Hebrews 6  (Listen -2:5)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Faith Requires Humility
One reason faith is so difficult for today’s culture is that we devalue humility. And faith cannot exist without humility

Read more about A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice
The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Praying Through Ancient Hymns :: Worldwide Prayer

*Our devotionals for the next week and into the following week will focus on prayer. May this prayer and prayerful hymn, prepare our hearts.

Reflection: Praying Through Ancient Hymns :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

This prayer from Australia is interspersed with verses from William Henry Draper’s hymn “All creatures of our God and King.” 

Draper’s hymn, written around the turn of the century in 1899 and widely published in 1919, is a loose translation/paraphrase of one of the most ancient hymns of the church. The text is taken from Saint Francis’ Canticle of the Sun written in 1224, near the end of Francis’ life and amidst suffering from illness. Parts of Canticle are based on Psalm 148.

It seems much of the most profound art in the church was originally intended for children. This hymn is one example, being penned and set to music for the purposes of a children’s celebration before gaining its immense popularity that has seen two centuries of use in worship.

May we then, with childlike faith, approach God’s throne as Francis would have us do—as brothers and sisters, united through the Holy Spirit with each other, with nature, and with Christ, nature’s Maker and Lord.

*If unfamiliar with the hymn or tune, you may find lyrics and tune in this video.

A Responsive Song of Praise
From Australia

Creator of all, we praise your name. Large and small, important and insignificant, plain and beautiful, all are part of your Kingdom.

(sung)
All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice with us sing,
Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thou burning sun with golden beam, thou silver moon with softer gleam.
O praise Him, O praise Him.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


Creator of wind, clouds, and the evening, we see your love of beauty and order.
We bring our heartfelt thanks for the beauty of the skies.

(sung)
Thou rushing wind that art so strong, ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thou rising morn in praise rejoice.
Ye lights of evening find a voice, 
O praise Him, O praise Him.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


For humankind, the crown of your creation we pray for wisdom and peace.
May there be peace with brothers and sisters, black and white, rich and poor, powerful and weak.

(sung)
And all ye men of tender heart, forgiving others take your part,
O sing ye, Alleluia.
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, praise Him and on Him cast your care.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


Creator, sustainer we magnify your wondrous name. You are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, We worship you as Lord and King, we worship you as companion and friend, we worship you as leader and as servant.

(sung)
Let all things their creator bless and worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him, Alleluia!
Praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit three in one!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Amen.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

*Song: “All Creatures of Our God and King” – recording by David Crowder Band


Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life and will nor allow our feet to slip.— Psalm 66:7-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 21 (Listen -4:06)
Hebrews 3  (Listen -2:25)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 22 (Listen -3:45), Hebrews 4 (Listen -2:43)
2 Kings 23 (Listen -7:43), Hebrews 5  (Listen -1:57)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Praying as Music
If music is a universal language, prayer can be similarly described. Prayer is humankind’s universal language of love to God. — Dr. Tony Cupit

Read more about We Confess :: Worldwide Prayer
When we call others to confession, we ought to be inviting them to join us, not sending them somewhere we’ve never been.

A Sin We Are Proud Of

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 10:19
“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

Hebrews 2.1
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Reflection: A Sin We Are Proud Of

By John Tillman

Hezekiah is one of the greatest kings among the great kings of Judah. The writer of 2 Kings says of him, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”

Hezekiah drove out idolatry and reestablished true worship. In Hezekiah’s day, the Temple of the Lord had actually been closed up, like a shop with no customers. The lights were out. The doors were barred. 

Hezekiah not only opened them, he covered the doors and other items in the Temple in gold and silver, reopening and restoring the Temple and the priesthood to shimmering glory

Hezekiah is, however, as deeply flawed as his father David before him. Even in our “anything goes” culture, David’s sin is abhorred, but Hezekiah’s sin is one our culture is proud of—pride. 

Other passages about Hezekiah make it clear that God was concerned about Hezekiah’s pride. God tested Hezekiah by sending Babylonians to inquire about Hezekiah’s miraculous healing. Instead, Hezekiah showed off his accomplishments and wealth to them, prompting Isaiah’s prophecy that everything that had been shown to them would be carried off to Babylon. 

At least David repented of his lust and murder, giving us the beauty of Psalm 51. All we get from Hezekiah when he is confronted with the results of his sin is a shrugging, selfish, justification. Hezekiah says that at least there will be “peace and security in my lifetime.“ 

Our culture has a hard time seeing what Hezekiah did wrong. We hesitate to equate Hezekiah’s sin to David’s. Pride and selfishness don’t seem that bad or dangerous. Storing up for ourselves is prudence. Seeking our own peace and prosperity is honorable. God thinks otherwise. Jesus spoke to his time, Hezekiah’s time, and ours when he said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then, who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” 

We do not know where Christ was standing when he told the parable of the rich fool, but I like to imagine that he might have been standing next to some of the rubble from the buildings Hezekiah built to hold his treasures of gold and silver, food and grain. Christ’s audience would have understood the significance.

Obtaining “peace and security” in our lifetimes is not a gospel-centered way of living. We are expected to think beyond ourselves. May we humbly repent.

Pride, greed, and love of wealth are sins equally heinous in God’s eyes as lust, rape, and murder. May we humbly repent.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus went on to say. ” What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.”— Luke 113:18-19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 20 (Listen -3:39)
Hebrews 2  (Listen -2:47)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about The Identical Nature of Greed and Lust
When the prophet Nathan needed an analogy for lust, he chose a parable about a rich man stealing material goods from the poor.

Read more about Pride and Shortsightedness :: Throwback Thursday
The remarkable life of Hezekiah ends in pride and shortsightedness.

God Who Speaks

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 1.1-2
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Reflection: God Who Speaks
By John Tillman

The text of Hebrews makes no claim of authorship but the identity of its writer or writers has been a hotly debated topic amongst Bible scholars through the centuries. (My favorite theory is that it is a collaboration of multiple teachers such as Paul, Priscilla, Apollos, and perhaps others.) As Origen said, “Who wrote the letter, God only knows with certainty.” 

Though we may not know with certainty who the letter was from, we know who it was written to—Jewish believers who were early converts to Christianity. (Most scholars date its writing to approximately 68-70 AD.)

The Jews this text was written to were people accustomed to the idea of a God who spoke. Most religions were not. Most gods don’t speak. But our God does. He speaks to us as he spoke to so many in the scriptures.

He speaks our name, as he spoke to Mary outside the tomb. He knows our past and redeems our identity from damages, both self-inflicted and those from the sufferings of this world. We are intimately known, intimately cared for, and intimately called.

He speaks good news, as he did from his first sermon. He speaks of God’s Kingdom, near and accessible. A Kingdom of goodness, not just for some but for all. He speaks of lifting the head of the poor and humbling the heads of the powerful. 

He speaks rebuke, to the world but also to us. Christ rebukes sin in us. Christ didn’t come to ignore sin; he came to destroy sin. We like Jesus to say, “Woe to you,” and point at others. But when he turns to us and says, “Get behind me, Satan,” it is difficult not to be offended. And when we have taken sin into our hearts and let its tendrils penetrate us, destroying sin will be painful to us.

He speaks comfort, as he spoke to the disciples. By his words we know we will have suffering in this world, but also by his words we know that the Holy Spirit is our comforter, co-sufferer, and source of sustaining life.

He speaks through us. When Christ speaks our name, he speaks a benediction, a “sending blessing” that we are to carry to the world. Christ makes his appeal to the world through us, so let us be appealing in the way we serve and in the way we speak.

Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: Request for Presence
Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield.
Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you,— Psalm 33:20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 19 (Listen -6:11)
Hebrews 1  (Listen -2:15)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Good News to the Poor
Once we are filled with good things, we can now play our part in the Incarnation, passing on what we have been filled with.

Read more about The Spirit of the Lord
We, The Church, are charged as Mary was, to deliver Christ, to manifest him, to the world.

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