Monday, April 23, 2007

Praying Nehemiah's Prayer

I’m currently taking a class on “The History and Geography of Israel” at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church (in Knoxville, TN) as a part of their “HILLS” (Harvest Institute for Lay Leadership Studies) program.

In one of the classes Pastor Crisp (in speaking about prophecy and judgment - particularly on America and the Church) said “Righteousness postpones judgment.”

When we think of that, we often think of the 2 Chronicles scripture of “If My people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

However, what came to my mind was Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah chapter 1. You may remember, Nehemiah asked his “kinsman” how things were in Jerusalem, and he said, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” (NLT) Nehemiah wept and fasted, then prayed…

The following is a paraphrased prayer based on that scripture, for our “people” for whom also, “things are not going well…”

Oh LORD, my God; Thou great and mighty GOD; You, Who keeps Your promises and Your relationship with all those who love You and obey Your commandments, I pray and plead now, hear my prayer, and look upon the burden of my heart today.

GOD, I have prayed night and day for these, Your people. No matter what I’m doing, they are never far from my thoughts, and their troubles weight my heart.

GOD, I have no right to ask anything for we have sinned against You and have not kept your commandments. Even those (and especially those) within the Body which we call “church”, even we have not kept your commandments - there is not a one of which we have not broken. You gave the greatest commandment of ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” and we have not come close to loving You, nor our neighbor… sometimes we don’t even love ourselves, either.

Even our talk - our “lips” are unclean, for we speak derogatory and insulting words about our very own brothers and sisters in Christ. God! That ought not to be so…

We’ve been warned, God. For we are not exempt from the curses of which You warned Moses and gave through the prophets, again, and again, and again. You will punish sin.

But You also, with such great love and mercy promised that if we’d just turn to You, You would bring us back from the deepest, darkest pit in which we might find ourselves. You promised the Israelites to bring them to the very place where You “made Your mark”; where You set your Name - literally and figuratively… And You will bring us unto Yourself as well.

Oh Father, we are Your people. We have been saved by the blood of Your precious Son, through the power of Your awesome might and love. Please, hear my prayer, and listen to the prayers of those of us who carry such a deep burden for Your children and Your church. May we hear Your Word, and Your Truth, and may we find answers to the specific prayers we pray today…

In Jesus’ Name - Amen.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sacrifice of Praise (VA Tech Devotional)

Hebrews 13:15 (NLT) says “(Therefore), let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name.”

The skeptic would say, “Yeah? What’s the big deal? Isn’t a “sacrifice” supposed to be something that’s ‘hard’; something that ‘requires’ something of you? Just how tough of a ‘sacrifice’ is it to offer praise?

Well, just ask the students at Virginia Tech this “day after” the most horrific day in the history of the school - indeed in the history of education everywhere! Ask any mother or father who’s lost a child; a wife who’s lost a husband, a child who’s lost a parent…

But, praise Him, they must… indeed, we must. He is our “thank offering.” He is our hope of redemption and of new life. He is the “first born of the dead.” Because He lives, we shall live, too.

But before the “sacrifice of praise” we read in verses 12-14 “So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

It is becoming more and more apparent that anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus is shunned and ostracized. The name of “God” is brandished around with great ease - because no one has to “explain” what they mean by “God”… It can mean anything (or nothing.) The Muslim says it, the Buddhist says it, the mystic says it, the Jew (orthodox or not) says it… even the nonbeliever says it…

But, one cannot say the Name of Jesus and remain neutral. There is nothing “neutral” about that Name.

How about you? Are you willing to offer the “sacrifice of praise” and claim the Name of Jesus, regardless of what it costs you…?


Virginia Tech Prayer

God! I am so frazzled (again.) I don’t know which end is up. I’ve got more to do on my “to-do” list than I’ll ever get done, and I’m so tired. And I don’t feel good, and, and… and I just heard the news about Virginia Tech…

Oh God, I am so sorry…

How those students and their parents must now long for the “mundane-ness” of a “to-do list…” How they long for their worries to be about class assignments, and term papers and exams. How they long for the comfort of the familiar…

Oh God, I lift them up and pray that they will feel Your arms around them. I pray that they will feel Your peace engulfing their lives when their whole world cries with turmoil and confusion. May they know that You weep with them at the depravity of Your fallen world. Comfort them, my Father, I pray.

And Father, I pray for their parents whose hearts are breaking and whose arms ache with longing to hold their child in their time of suffering. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be so far away from my child that I couldn’t hold him when he cries. But oh Lord, I pray most for those who’ve lost loved ones in this senseless act of killing. What agony they must be feeling.

I don’t even have words, Lord - there is no understanding, there is no sense… And so all I can do is raise my arms to You and say, “Take it, Lord - take it... Lift them up and carry them through.

Let us hold to the words of our Saviour who said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me…”

I pray for them the love of the Father, and the comfort of the Son in Whose name I pray… Amen.

I have a very close friend whose daughter is a student there. Please pray for them...

I am also very angry as I watched the convocation on tv at Time Out Deli today...

The Governor and President Bush both did a great job and called upon God and for prayer, but then there were 4 "representatives of the religious community..." There was a Muslim cleric, a Buddhist, a "something else" and a Lutheran minister...

The Muslim, of course, called upon Allah, the Buddhist called upon the Dali Llama (sp?). I'm not sure what the next gal called upon, as she didn't really say anything, except that we are all "born with a good nature..." (wrong!) And then the Lutheran minister came on (oh how I was longing for the precious name of Jesus to be called) but he, alas, said "nothing" either.

The Muslim read from the Koran, but the minister didn't even read a scripture... he just mumbled a few words of so-called "comfort" and then called for a "moment of silence..."

I left the deli in tears...

My God, my God, it is we who have forsaken You... forgive us, I pray...


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Intercessory Prayer

My Father and my God… what an awesome privilege You’ve given us - to just come right on in to the Throne of Grace - any time we want… And indeed, the more we “want to” the better it is for us - the more we’re filled with Your presence.

We come not only to the Throne of Grace, but of mercy as well, for You give us so much that we could never be worthy of… and You hold back, in Your infinite mercy, the judgment which we so seriously deserve.

I am in awe…

But Father, with this privilege comes an overwhelming responsibility as well. As we come bringing praises, we also come bringing our needs - and the needs of others. I find myself, Lord, saying to anyone with a need (and who doesn’t), “I’ll pray for you” or “I’ll put you on my prayer list…” and then I think, “Lord! I don’t know how to pray for them!!!”

I don’t know what the real needs are. I don’t know what Your will is. I don’t know what to ask for. I just don’t know… Lord! I just… don’t… know…

But yet, I told them I’d pray for them…

And Lord, there’s so many of them! And, so many more in the very same situations, with the same conditions, and the same needs that I don’t know about… who’s praying for them, Lord?

And, what if I forget, Lord? Would You withhold healing or comfort because I forgot to pray? I just can’t see You saying, “Oh - too bad… Betty didn’t pray today, so I’m not touching this person today…”

So God, what is it… I just don’t understand…

But Lord, all I know is that I MUST pray. I can no more not pray than I can not breathe. And so, I pray for these Thy children. You Lord, know their needs. You Lord, know their hurts. And You Lord and You alone, know the answers.

My responsibility and my privilege is simply to come to the Throne of Grace, and bring my friends… (and my enemies, as well…)

In the Name of the One who opened this door to the Throne room with His very blood - in Jesus’ Name - Amen.


I Will Pray for You

God, I’ve done it again! I told another person that I’d pray for them. God! I just can’t seem to stop myself. When anyone tells me of struggles or troubles in their lives, I just blurt out, “I’ll put you on my prayer list.”

And they seem so appreciative Lord - it really seems to lighten their load. But then Lord, I have to actually pray for them! And I don’t know what to say. I don’t know Your will for their lives. I don’t know the answers. So, what do I say, Lord? What do I say…

And not only that, but the list grows and grows. Who’ve I forgotten to pray for today, Lord? Whose face did I fail to see during my prayer time? Please don’t withhold any grace or comfort on account of my pitiful service, or my pathetic prayer life…

God, I’m so weak. The spirit is indeed willing, but the body is weak, and I, like the three disciples, simply fall asleep. While my brother or sister is crying and in pain, I… am asleep…

God forgive me.

Open my eyes to see the needs. Open my heart to see the pain. And open my ears to hear the cries of Your children. God give me wisdom to know Your will, and may my prayers be a “sweet aroma” wafting back into the Throne room.

May Your very Spirit carry my groans and lack of words back into Your presence, translated into the “correct” words and utterances that will bring peace and healing.

And now Lord, I lift these up to you:

In Jesus’ Name… Amen.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Lovely Easter Service

It was a lovely Easter service.
The pews were packed to the brim.
The choir sounded oh, so lovely,
singing victory-claiming hymns.

The Easter lilies abounded
Their fragrance overflowing the room.
White adorned the pulpit.
No sign in this place of a tomb!

The children’s time was precious.
Those cute and adorable tykes!
Each in their Easter finest,
charming parents and grandparents, alike.

The minister’s smile was infectious.
His singing filled the air.
The sermon was brisk and uplifting,
a festive story to share.

There were even a couple of baptisms,
a profession of faith or two.
Re-affirmations by others,
pre-planned and according to cue.

Yes, a lovely Easter service
Then tell me why it’s true
That my heart feels oh, so heavy
And my soul feels oh, so blue.

I should be happy and joyous
to see such a church-filling crowd.
I should be uplifted and cheerful
Instead of ensconced in this shroud.

Then why is my spirit so burdened?
And why is my countenance sad?
And why does my heart beat faster?
Where comes this feeling of dread?

With shouts of loud Hosannas
The roar rises to a din.
And I seem to sense His teardrops
As He enters Jerusalem again

And instead of Easter it feels like
It’s Palm Sunday all over again.

God forgive me, but it feels like
It’s Palm Sunday…
all over…

Oh Father, hear my humble cry. If I am wrong Lord, please, please, take this feeling away. I don’t like feeling like this. Is it just me, Lord? Why does my heart feel so heavy within my chest? Why do I feel the burning in the back of my throat? Why am I near tears?

Oh God! I just sense such an air of frivolity - and I just can’t put my finger on why. Am I just too serious, too much of the time? Am I being overdramatic? Should I just lighten up? Am I (as Joe and I often joke) just being a “fuddy duddy?”

There’s that “two-sided coin” again, Lord… Am I being judgmental or discerning?

LORD hear my humble cry. Please answer me…

I beg in Your Son’s Holy and Precious Name - Amen…

©Betty J. Newman April 8, 2007