Monday, May 21, 2007

Praying the Prayer of Hannah

Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 is, of course, prayed in response (in my opinion) to seeing her baby, little Samuel at probably age 3 or so, fold his chubby little hands together and worship the Lord.

Verse 27-28 of 1 Samuel 1 says: “For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him.
So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
(emphasis added)

There is debate about who that last “he” in verse 28 is - whether it is Elkanah, or Eli, or Samuel. And I believe it was Samuel. How else could Hannah so “easily” give up this child for whom she had prayed so desperately? After all, Eli hadn’t done such a great job with his own boys, and now she is going to leave a baby with him - a child who must be taught the things of God…?

We don’t have Hannah’s prayer after she is told God will answer her prayer. We don’t have it when she conceives, or even when the child is born, but when Hannah sees her baby boy clasp his little hands together and worship the Lord, she knows in her mother’s heart, that she has done what God would have her to do, and that God Himself will raise this child.

However, when we look at this prayer outside of that context, it is still a great prayer of victory and comfort. The following is a paraphrased prayer of 1 Samuel 2:1-10 to be used at anytime in any situation…

My heart rejoices in the Lord God.
In the Lord, and in Him alone - my strength is lifted up.
I can now claim victory over my enemies, regardless of internal or external enemies; they have no power over me anymore. God, my Saviour has delivered me!

There is no one Holy like our God.
My God, there is no one to compare to You; there is no Rock - nothing to hold to, like the resting place, the secure place, that You give.

You command the proud to shut up! You silence those who are arrogant! For You GOD, are the God who is omniscient, and by You, everything else in the world is examined.

Those who are strong in their own eyes, You will make weak, and yet, those who rely on You will have all the strength they need, in Your omnipotence!

Those who thought they had everything will find that they have nothing. And those who were empty will be hungry no more… Yes, those who were empty, will be filled with abundance, and for those with much, You have said, even what they had will be taken away.

You are the LORD GOD, and You control life and death, feast and famine, defeat and victory. You send empty wells and running water, You drag down, and You lift up.

The poor and weak who cry out to You, You elevate from the very pit, and seat them with the exalted ones.

The world and all of creation is Yours, and You are in control of everything. You will lead and protect those who are Yours, but those who deny You will be silenced with darkness and disgrace.

We can do nothing by our own strength, and anyone who opposes (or ignores) You will be devastated in the end. Ultimately You will judge the earth and all its inhabitants, and Your judgment will rain down with a vengeance.

But to Christ Your anointed, You will give that privilege of judgment, for Christ alone is sinless having lived as God, having lived as man. And His name will be glorified forever! Amen!


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Break Glass in Case of Fear

I'm sure you've seen the fire equipment in buildings with the words "Break Glass in Case of Fire..."

Well, in case of fear, read this Psalm...

When Martin Luther was imprisoned awaiting execution, he read this Psalm and penned the words to "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." (However, on the way to the execution, he was rescued! During his time of "hiding out" he (ahem) busied himself by translating the entire New Testament from Latin into German - the very first time the Bible was translated into the "language of the people!")

What has God got for you to do while "in your fear...?"

May this strengthen you as well as it did Martin Luther (I know it has me...)

Psalms 46:1-11

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. That is why we are not afraid even when the earth quakes or the mountains topple into the depths of the sea. Water roars and foams, and mountains shake at the surging waves.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God, the holy place where the Most High lives. God is in that city. It cannot fall. God will help it at the break of dawn. (And "dawn" comes how often? That's right - every single day!)

Nations are in turmoil, and kingdoms topple. The earth melts at the sound of God's voice. (However, we have no need to fear because) The LORD of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, see the works of the LORD, the devastation he has brought to the earth. He puts an end to wars all over the earth. He breaks an archer's bow. He cuts spears in two. He burns chariots. (Therefore) Let go of your concerns!

"Then you will know" (God says) "that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth."

The LORD of Armies IS with us. The God of Jacob IS our stronghold.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

National Day of Prayer 2007

As I was thinking this morning of this day of “National Prayer”, I remembered a scrap of paper that I’ve carried in my Bible some 30+ years. On it are scripture references from a sermon with the title of “6 Reasons Prayers Aren’t Answered.”

These are:
Psalms 66:18
James 1:6-7
1 John 3:21-22
James 4:3
Matthew 6:14
Proverbs 21:13

Of course we know there are many others, such as Proverbs 15:18 and 28:9, as well as Isaiah 1:15 and John 9:31, to name a few.

But the one that struck me was the first on the list - Psalms 66:18. Those of us who’ve grown up in the church may remember it from the King James Version, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear me.”

And The New American Standard translates it, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”

The word “regard” can mean “to see, or to experience, or to enjoy”, which are each progressions of the other. Of course if we are honest, we will all “see” iniquity or wickedness in our hearts, for we are all fallen; we are all sinners saved by Grace. And so there will be iniquity in our hearts. And if we but look, we will see…

And if we see it, we will have experienced it - for “iniquity” or “wickedness” doesn’t just sit there and behave… it manifests itself.

Ah, but perhaps the next word is the telling factor… If I “enjoy” iniquity in my heart; if I allow it to take root and grow; if I let it become a part of me… then yes, I can understand how God would not give a second thought to my prayer.

And then, there’s that word “iniquity” or “wickedness” - what’s that all about? “Iniquity!” It just sounds so… dark and evil.

And “wickedness”… Am I really a “wicked” person?

The Hebrew word is “Av-en” and literally means “to pant or to exert oneself in vain.” It reminds me of the word “aught” or “naught” which means “nothingness.” And isn’t that really what “life” is, without God?

And then, how can I really expect Him to hear my prayers, if I see Him as nothing to me?

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, puts it this way: “The Jewish writers, some of them that have the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy, put a very corrupt gloss upon these words: If I regard iniquity in my heart, that is (say they), If I allow myself only in heart-sins, and iniquity does not break out in my words and actions, God will not hear me, that is, he will not be offended with me, will take no notice of it, so as to lay it to my charge; as if heart-sins were no sins in God's account.

The falsehood of this our Saviour has shown in his spiritual exposition of the law, Matthew 5. But the sense of this place is plain: If I regard iniquity in my heart, that is, “If I have favourable thoughts of it, if I love it, indulge it, and allow myself in it, if I treat it as a friend and bid it welcome, make provision for it and am loath to part with it, if I roll it under my tongue as a sweet morsel, though it be but a heart sin that is thus countenanced and made much of, if I delight in it after the inward man, God will not hear my prayer, will not accept it, nor be pleased with it, nor can I expect an answer of peace to it.”

I like that… “…if I love it, indulge it, and allow myself in it. If I treat it as a friend and bid it welcome… if I roll it under my tongue as a sweet morsel…” That, I think is the true meaning of “regard it in my heart.”

However, in reading the verse in context; in reading David’s whole Psalm, one gets an entirely different sense of the statement. The New Living Translation puts it this way (beginning with verse 16) “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. For I cried out for help, praising Him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw His unfailing love from me!”

May God bless the study of His WHOLE Word on this National Day of Prayer, May 3, 2007.

My Father and my God, as I come to this “National” day of prayer, my heart is filled with images of people all over this country coming to You in prayer. But God, is it the cynic or the realist in me that has to wonder about a “national” day of prayer?

Oh God, I do believe in such a day! I do relish in such a thought of men and women and children everywhere bowing the knee to You - of taking a special time to thank, and remember, and especially to call upon Your Mighty and Holy Name with cries of petitions and tears of repentance! God! What a wonderful thought…

But a national “day”, Lord? Why not a national week, or national month, or national year? Oh my God! Why not a national lifestyle?!

I think of the cry of David as he said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, You will not hear…” And I have to wonder Lord, how many prayers will You not hear today? And it is for these, I pray…

Oh my Lord, my God and my Saviour… Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord my Rock and my Redeemer… Amen.

Labels: ,