Emptiness Filled by Love :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 92.4-7
For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord,
how profound your thoughts!
Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

From John:
There is joy and love to fill us, when we are emptied by confession. When we fall in repentance, there is strength to lift us up, carrying us to sanctification. Our arms are too short to grasp what we need. But Christ is the arm of the Lord, bared before the nations—never too short to save.

Reflection: Emptiness Filled by Love :: Worldwide Prayer
A prayer of brokenness from the USA

Gracious God,
We are sinners.

That stark declaration reverberates in the hollow and broken places of or lives. They are words we are often slow to speak because they are painful to hear. It is a description sometimes we more easily apply to others than to ourselves. Yet, when we are confronted by your awesome love and your infinite compassion the reality of our sinfulness pours from our lips and our lives.

Compassionate God, we are sinners in need of forgiveness. The emptiness within us can only be filled by your love.

We are hurting people in need of healing.
We are angry people in need of your calming presence.
We are broken people in need of wholeness.

Many of us have lived so long with our sinfulness that we believe we cannot be forgiven. Forgive us, gracious God, for believing forgiveness is an illusory gift.

Help us to live in the reality of your love, O God. Your love is as certain as the Cross of Christ, as sure as the nail prints in his hands, as real as the mended places in our lives.

We confess our sins, and we confess that we believe you love us so much that you forgive us our sins and make us whole once more.

Thanks be to God for sins forgiven.

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

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
O Lord, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks. I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me. But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast; my soul is quieted within me. — Psalm 131.1-3

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 41 (Listen – 4:40)
Psalm 92-93 (Listen – 2:09)

Additional Reading
Read More from Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened :: Worldwide Prayer
Forgive our closed ears—so rarely listening to your still voice and the needs of those close around us.

Read More about Liquid Wrath and Liquid Forgiveness :: Readers’ Choice
The link between multiple biblical images of God’s wrath as something poured out, and God’s salvation as Christ’s blood poured out, hit me very profoundly. — reader, Lauren Nichols

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Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 89.15-16
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.

From John:
There is no level of spiritual achievement or growth at which one is not susceptible to hardening of the heart and the spirit.

Christ’s call echoes again. Calling us deeper into every discipline we pursue. Whether into deeper love for others, or into deeper relationships with our community, or into deeper generosity toward all, or into deeper, more truthful and loving communication, there is always more to learn in Christ.

He accepts us just as we are. But he doesn’t settle. As C.S. Lewis says about Christ’s love for us, “It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

Reflection: Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened :: Worldwide Prayer
A Prayer of confession from Great Britain

Dear Lord, forgive us.

Forgive our hard hearts—so rarely showing
real love to you and our neighbors.

Forgive our week heads—so rarely thinking
for you with depth, imagination, daring, and trust.

Forgive our closed ears—so rarely listening
to your still voice and the needs of those
close around us.

Forgive our clenched hands—so rarely open
to give generously to you and others
and to reach out in friendship.

Forgive our willful tongues—so rarely stopping
before uttering words to cause hurt and trouble.

Lord, help us now. We want to be better people by your Holy Spirit. Please forgive us through Jesus Christ.

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

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 38 (Listen – 4:23)
Psalm 89 (Listen – 5:29)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ezekiel 39 (Listen – 4:51) Psalm 90 (Listen – 2:03)
Ezekiel 40 (Listen – 8:21) Psalm 91 (Listen – 1:39)

Additional Reading
Read More from Risks of Faith :: Advent’s Love
Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it. — C.S. Lewis

Read More about how Confession Destroys Denial
We confess we have been deaf to cries of the needy, cries for help, and cries of injustice. Give us your hearing and heart as we work in the name of Christ our king to proclaim good news to the poor and set the oppressed free.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday

Psalm 88.1-2
Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

Reflection: Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
By John Tillman

As Thomas Merton poetically wrote about humanity, “He is the saddest animal. He drives a big red car called anxiety.”

Meditation is a breathing apparatus to help us survive in a poisonous atmosphere polluted by anxiety and fear.

Meditation is not new age, but old. However, in the modern age, it has often been forgotten on the shelf as many Christians and Christian leaders followed our culture into frenetic clamor instead of leading our culture from a place of peace and rest.

Today we look back a few hundred years or so, to a collection of thoughts on meditation that were not considered radical or strange in their time, but simply a prudent, practical, and effective Christian discipline.

George Müller (1805-1898)
Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts.

This exercise of the soul can be most effectively performed after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God’s blessing though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
Nor should we imagine it will be as well to take up with prayer alone, and lay aside meditation; for they are distinct duties, and must both of them be performed. We need the one as well as the other, and therefore we shall wrong ourselves by neglecting either. Besides, the mixture of them, like music, will be more engaging; as the one serves to put life into the other. And our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer.

William Bridge (1600-1670)
Begin with reading or hearing. Go on with meditation; end in prayer…Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing.

From these writings and ones like them, we draw a pattern, a spiritual rhythm, that we want to promote for all our readers: Read, reflect, pray…repeat.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 37 (Listen – 5:07)
Psalm 87-88 (Listen – 2:45)

Additional Reading
Read More about A Discipline for the Anxious
A recent Harvard study found that church attendance paired with spiritual disciplines such as meditation and prayer have a beneficial effect on mental health.

Read More about The Practice of Meditation :: Running
Meditative prayer is exercise to expand your spiritual lung capacity, allowing you to breathe in God’s spirit more naturally at any time—including during a crisis.

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Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

The Radical Procedure of the Gospel

Ezekiel 36.26-27
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Reflection: The Radical Procedure of the Gospel
By John Tillman

It’s lovely to think of God giving us a new heart and putting a new Spirit within us. But it is terrifying to admit to the diagnoses that would lead to such a radical procedure.

Our familiarity with miraculous examples of modern medicine have muddied this concept for us. Ezekiel wasn’t thinking of a sterile operating room where doctors replace a ten pound chunk of muscle. As radical as cracking open someone’s chest is, Ezekiel’s concept of God replacing our heart is more extreme.

The biblical language isn’t referring to the heart in either the medical or emotional sense. When the Bible talks about the heart it is referring to our complete “inner being,” not any one organ or one part. It refers to our central, inner self. It is our spirit, mind, and emotions.

In the Bible, the heart, whether of a country or one person, is that which is central and vital, without which, meaning and purpose are lost. This is the heart that Ezekiel says is irreparable and dead and must be replaced.

A spiritually relevant question to ask would be, “How did it get that way?”

Israel’s heart was hardened by their determined pursuit of idols of wealth and power at the expense of the poor and the unfortunate. God repeatedly says through Ezekiel that they have caused “bloodshed” in the land. Ezekiel is clear that this means enriching themselves by directly and indirectly causing the deaths of the voiceless, the weak, and the powerless.

Repeated uncaring actions. Repeated justifications of wrongdoing. Repeatedly using legalism to escape our responsibility to others. Repeatedly taking advantage and accepting the benefits of advantages given to us.

This repeated friction as we strain against God’s promptings creates calluses, roughening hearts intended to be tender. These heart-hardening steps tread the path to exile. These are the actions of those whose idols are leading them to be insensitive to God’s voice, to be unmoved by God’s spirit.

After the shockingly violent and bloody experience Jesus undertook to make this transplant possible he quietly comes to his disciples to begin the procedure. There in the upper room, he intimately prays a simple prayer that would not be answered for nearly fifty days: “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’

May this prayer of Christ be made real in our lives.
May our hearts be made sensitive enough to feel his breath, hear his voice, and move as he directs.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
…For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living. — Psalm 56.12

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 36 (Listen – 6:40)
Psalm 86 (Listen – 1:39)

Additional Reading
Read More about Killing With our Hearts
Christ’s words about how murder begins with inner violence, adultery begins with inner lust, and divorce is not only adultery, but a victimization of the vulnerable party are as shockingly harsh to modern ears as they would have been to the original audience.

Read More about A Cautionary Tale of Unbelief :: Readers’ Choice
Moses brought God’s salvation to the ancient Israelites, but their hearts of unbelief charted a course of disobedient action. Let the warning of the Holy Spirit be heard by those who are followers of Christ, do not harden your hearts towards God.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

The Kiss of Righteousness and Peace :: Guided Prayer

Psalm 85.10
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Reflection: The Kiss of Righteousness and Peace :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The poets of scripture were grounded, living in a harsh world, and never shied away from bringing their anxieties and fears before God.

They were no strangers to sinful leaders, sexual scandals, or the horrendous consequences paid by the people of the land for the poor leadership of kings and high officials. As our reading yesterday emphasized, the sheep always suffer for the sins of the shepherds.

God will condemn and judge these incompetent shepherds who do not care for the sheep, but yesterday’s passage was also clear that the sheep are not innocent and too often turn on each other.

Today, we continue, in the face of anxiety, with a meditative prayer based on Psalm 85.

When love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other. But before that happens in today’s psalm, there is confession and justice, mercy and redemption.

The Kiss of Righteousness and Peace
We cannot reach the kiss of righteousness and peace without passing through wrath and anger via forgiveness.

You, Lord, forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.

We waste no energy on denial. We will not rise in anger when accused.
On our knees in humility, we thank you for your forgiveness.

Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?

Every generation blames others.
The old blame the young.
The young blame the old.
And young and old, turn together,
to blame those long dead and those not yet born.

By your watch, Lord, generations are meaningless.
A ticking of the second hand of God.
We will deny no longer the sins of the past.
We will decry no longer the sins of the future.
They are all ours. The blame is on us.
We confess now that there is no “other” generation to blame.

Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

We are like Lazarus, lain dead in the grave.
You let him die in his sickness,
So that he could be raised.
Raise us, Lord. Bring us back to life.

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.

May we meet with you and you with us.
May our steps follow in your righteousness.
May we bring your kiss of peace to our world.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
…The Lord shall give strength to his people; the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.. — Psalm 29.11

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 35 (Listen – 2:21)
Psalm 85 (Listen – 1:25)

Additional Reading
Read More about In Praise of Christ’s Righteousness
We cannot save ourselves. Praise God. God specifically tells Ezekiel that not even the greatest, most righteous men he might trust in would be able to save the nation.

Read More about Battered with Love :: Worldwide Prayer
Oh Lord…You battered me with love, you assaulted me with mercy,
You pierced me through with compassion
and turned my sorrows into peace.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation.

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