TBT: A God Who Hears Prayers

Exodus 2.23-24
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.

A God Who Hears Prayers | by Jonathan Edwards (January, 1735)

“You who answer prayer, to you all people will come.” Psalm 65.2

With respect to God, prayer is but a sensible acknowledgment of our dependence on him to his glory. As he has made all things for his own glory, so he will be glorified and acknowledged by his creatures. And it is fit that he should require this of those who would be the subjects of his mercy, that we, when we desire to receive any mercy from him, should humbly supplicate the Divine Being. 

For the bestowment of that mercy, is but a suitable acknowledgment of our dependence on the power and mercy of God for that which we need, and but a suitable honor paid to the great Author and Fountain of all good.

With respect to ourselves, God requires prayer of us in order to the bestowment of mercy, because it tends to prepare us for its reception. Fervent prayer many ways tends to prepare the heart. Hereby is excited a sense of our need, and of the value of the mercy which we seek, and at the same times earnest desires for it, whereby the mind is more prepared to prize it, to rejoice in it when bestowed, and to be thankful for it. 

Prayer, with suitable confession, may excite a sense of our unworthiness of the mercy we seek. And the placing of ourselves in the immediate presence of God, may make us sensible of his majesty, and in a sense fit to receive mercy of him. 

Our prayer to God may excite in us a suitable sense and consideration of our dependence on God for the mercy we ask, and a suitable exercise of faith in God’s sufficiency, that so we may be prepared to glorify his name when the mercy is received.

Prayers from the Past
God can do anything. Let us beg him to take pity on us and make us not merely listen to what he tells us but do it as well. May he send the flood of his waters over our souls, destroy in us what he knows is in need of destruction and give life to what he considers should live, through Christ our Lord and his Holy Spirit. To him be the glory, age after age, for all eternity. Amen.

— Origen, c. 250 C.E.

Quiet Trust in an Anxious World
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 2 (Listen – 3:18)
Luke 5 (Listen – 5:04)

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The Pain of Being Forgotten

Exodus 1.8-10
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them.”

It’s intensely painful to be forgotten. When we’re forgotten professionally it costs the accolade of others, the promotion we hope for, or the compensation we’ve earned.

In friendship and dating, it launches a restless search for a reason. 

In divorce, it cuts to the deepest parts of the soul.

In disease, like Alzheimers or dementia, it destroys dreams, lives, and families. 

The book of Exodus begins in the darkness of being forgotten. In a matter of a few generations, Israel went from saving Egypt to being enslaved by them. Now they toil and suffer because pharaoh has forgotten.

Being forgotten is a fruit of the fall. It’s a condition of a broken world that people can cease to be mindful of others who are made in the image of God. It’s no wonder God’s words to Moses are the words of someone who remembers — who holds close — the cry of his people. “I have seen… I have heard… I know… I have come to deliver…”

When the authors of scripture say God remembers someone they are not contrasting it to God’s forgetfulness, but the world’s. The book of Exodus chronicles God’s remembrance of Israel alongside their pain of being forgotten by Egypt.

Evil has no regard for our wellbeing in the world. Yet God remembers. It was the Son of God’s hands which were nailed to the cross because God refused to forget us — even in our sin. It was his body that was bruised and broken so that we could be known.

The true and greater exodus is found in God’s redemption of his people. The forgetfulness of the world may wound us deeply, but it cannot diminish, in the least, the vibrant life and work of Christ in our lives. In him we are remembered. In him we are restored. In him we are loved and known in a way that the forgetfulness of this world cannot take away.

Prayer
Father, you know the numbers of hairs on our heads. Our names are etched in your hand. While we were yet sinners you gave your life for us. Thank you for not abandoning us — for sacrificing so profoundly for us. May our lives be fundamentally reoriented by the love you have shown us.

Quiet Trust in an Anxious World
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 1 (Listen – 2:32)
Luke 4 (Listen – 5:27)

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A Vocation Hostile to Faith

Genesis 50.26
So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

The earliest dated Egyptian mummies happened naturally, preserved by the relentless heat and arid climate of the ancient Near East. Around 2,600 B.C.E, long before Joseph’s time, Egypt formalized a mummification process.

The Greek historian Herodotus was among the first outsiders to document mummification. “The embalmers [first] took out the brains and entrails and washed them in palm wine… they began to anoint the body with the oil of cedar, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia.” 

Mummification is not simply a medical practice, but a spiritual rite. Archaeologists have unearthed amulets believed to provide blessing, and canopic jars which pair individual organs to gods for protection. Many mummies held a papyrus scroll containing spells from the Book of the Dead.

The Bible makes a point to show that Joseph asked for his father to be embalmed by doctors. Egyptian priests would have been normative, and Joseph’s maneuver likely exempted Jacob from some of the spiritual murkiness of mummification. But as a ruling official under Pharaoh, Joseph would have had a full Egyptian burial ceremony.

This isn’t the only place in scripture where faith creates tension with vocation. The Syrian army commander Naaman, after placing his trust in God, had to sort out his job requirement of assisting his leader in bowing before Baal’s idol.

God abhors idolatry. (Great reward is given to Daniel, as well as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for purity in worship in pagan lands.) Yet, after hearing Naaman’s case, Elijah tells the commander to, “go in peace.” He is to carry the tensions of his faith into his workplace.

God knows the true resting place of our hearts. There is not only tension, but great purpose in a person wholly submitted to God yet embedded in a foreign culture. How else will the nations be reached? How will each vocation be redeemed?

The inaugural book of the Bible ends with two of Israel’s patriarchs in Egyptian sarcophagi. The author seems unconcerned by this point. He knows it’s the end of a book, not the end of the story. More importantly, his faith wasn’t in men for redemption, but in the coming Messiah.

Prayer
Lord, we long to see our vocations redeemed, but daily life in them can be inhospitable to your word. Be the resting place of our hearts. Be the center of our aspirations and desires. Give us your peace as we live in this tension as an act of faith.

Quiet Trust in an Anxious World
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Genesis 50 (Listen – 4:54)
Luke 2 (Listen – 6:11)

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Coming Home

Genesis 49.33
When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

There is a brutal reality to death that cannot be softened. When his father Jacob dies we read that, “Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him.” Old age may make death more expected, but nothing makes it less heartbreaking.

Joseph had been robbed of his best years with his father, reconnecting only as an adult. When he first heard Jacob was nearing Egypt, Joseph raced out in his chariot to meet him along the way. 

Reunions are meant to be joyous occasions. At their best, they are times when loved ones gather to reminisce, laugh, and feast. In this case, the beloved was restored to his family. Jacob and Joseph’s reunion was filled with the triumph of a father and son, once separated by what seemed like forever, reunited.

The revelation at Jacob’s death, that he, “was gathered to his people” is not simply a Hebrew euphemism. This is one of the first images scripture reveals about the afterlife. Like Joseph’s feelings when he fell headlong into his father’s arms, death, for the faithful, is a reunion of inexpressible joy. 

Death may be a present reality, but time is not eternity. 2 Corinthians observes that Christians are, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Now death; soon life. 

Even Jesus wept at a funeral — yet death did not get the last word. He called Lazarus from the grave. Resurrection is a fundamentally relational concept in the scriptures. It not only brings life to body and soul, it restores the community of believers. In resurrection a fractured world is brought to integrity through the embrace of God.

No wonder the prophets of the New Testament would rejoice at the image of the resurrection as the great banquet of heaven. Together we shall delight in new life. Moreover, whatever joy we experience as we reunite with friends and family shall be fully eclipsed by the triumph of living in harmony with our Father.

Prayers from the Past
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ: in all my trials and sufferings you have given me the strength to stand firm; in your mercy you have granted me a share of eternal glory.

— Irenaeus of Sirmium prior to his martyrdom under Diocletian c. 304 C.E.

Quiet Trust in an Anxious World
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Genesis 49 (Listen – 4:07)
Luke 3 (Listen – 5:24)

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