For What to 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: For What to Pray
By John Tillman

C.S. Lewis, in some of his final published writings, addressed the question of “How important must a need or a desire be before we can properly make it the subject of a petition?”

As always, the professor is insightful and honest.

“‘Even an intimate human friend is ill-used if we talk to him about one thing while our mind is really on another, and even a human friend will soon become aware when we are doing so.

It may well be that the desire can be laid before God only as a sin to be repented, but one of the best ways of learning this is to lay it before God. Your problem, however, was not about sinful desires in that sense; rather, about desires intrinsically innocent and sinning, if at all, only by being stronger than the triviality of their object warrants. 

I have no doubt at all that if they are the subject of our thoughts they must be the subject of our prayers—whether in penitence or in petition or in a little of both. Penitence for the excess, yet petition for the thing we desire. If one forcibly excludes them, don’t they wreck all the rest of our prayers? If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses. But the pressure of things we are trying to keep our of our mind is a hopeless distraction. As someone said, ‘no noise is so emphatic as the one you are trying not to listen to.’

The ordinate frame of mind is one of the blessings we must pray for, not a fancy-dress we must put on when we pray.

And perhaps, as those who do not turn to God in petty trials will have no habit or such resort to help them when the great trials come, so those who have not learned to ask him for childish things will have less readiness to ask him for great ones. We must not be too high-minded. I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than of God’s.”

May we take every thought, every care to Christ. He will lovingly meet with us regardless of the trivialities of our concerns. In this, we may grow more mature and bring more mature petitions. We must be faithful with a little before we may be faithful with much.

*Quotations from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis


Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.— Psalm 71:23

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

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 1-2 (Listen -11:18)
Hebrews 8  (Listen -2:22)

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 from Lewis on Prayer Without Words
Words are in any case secondary. They are only as an anchor. Or, shall I say, they are the movements of a conductor’s baton: not the music

Read more about Inattentiveness in Worship
Lewis chides his readers for casting judgment on the worship practices of others, making an appeal to variety within the community of the church.

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.

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