Emotions in Prayer – Continuing through Psalms

David is certainly an emotional man. He is called a great Warrior King. In fact, he is said to be the greatest of Israel’s warriors. A man who hid from Saul in a cave and then was convicted because he touched the robe of a king, he later snuck into Saul’s camp and stole his water jug, which he promptly returned. He was a man of passions, of feelings, and hope. He did not restrain this truth from God.

I would ask us as a church, “What part of our lives do we willingly reveal to the Lord?” Certainly he knows all and sees all, but what do we willingly present before him? Do we show him our emotions? Are we willing to admit when we are in need? I have always found it to be unsatisfying to have to pry a question, wish, or need from my children. As my two oldest have grown up they have shown a modesty in their material desires. Sure, they want things, and at times they even (Ok, Lewis on a fairly regular occasion) verbalize those desires to their mom and I. Yet, at times, they won’t tell us what they want. Whether they think the item is too costly, too absurd, or whatever other reason they might envision, they stubbornly refuse to admit their desire.

As a dad this can be very frustrating. Yes, they may not need the item, but I would rather they verbalize what they want and me be able to share why I don’t believe they need such an item. The older two are certainly cost-conscious (I really, really, hope the younger two learn – wow!) and they are hesitant to announce some of their desires for fear that mom and dad can’t afford to buy the item and then they will feel some embarrassment. As a dad, I want to know what my kids desire. How else can I communicate to them my position as their father?

There have been times as well when I have encouraged my kids to share their disappointment, frustration, or anger that they may have with me. Am I big enough as a dad to allow my children to express their frustration with me? I am not perfect, therefore I must make mistakes with my kids, and thus they would be fully entitled to frustration, disappointment, and anger.

I say all of this to question our willingness to pray, and share our needs, passions, desires, and frustrations with the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  Last Wednesday, according to Twitter and Facebook, Jesus was sitting upon the Throne of Heaven. I wonder of the many people who made that statement if that was the first time Jesus had heard that statement from them? I wonder how often we think that our frustrations, desires, and needs are something that we can shield God from, or if we simply want to pretend as if he doesn’t already know our motives?

 I know with my kids that they can’t always count on me to understand. I know that at times their father will react angrily, harshly, or perhaps mockingly to their needs, wants, desires, and emotions. Unfortunately, I believe many of us limit our Heavenly Father to the same petty emotions and selfishness that we experience as parents or have experienced as children.

 If our God is not a great enough God to handle the truthfulness of our hearts, then he is a fabricated god. Scripture makes it very clear that our Heavenly Father desires to hear our prayers. David makes it very clear throughout the Psalms that such a God could be approached with his passions, emotions, needs, wants, and desires.

  PSALM 6

A Prayer of Faith in Time of Distress To the Chief Musician.

With stringed instruments. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David.

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. 2 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O LORD—how long? 4 Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake! 5 For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks? 6 I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. 7 My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies. 8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer. 10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.

He asks for God’s mercy in that he is not corrected in anger.

He asserts his own weakness and his dependency on the Lord.

He willingly discloses the emotional turmoil that he is experiencing.

He begs for mercy, for mercy’s sake, not due to some personal righteousness.

His grief makes him to consider the possibility of death and his inability to praise the Lord from the grave

He expresses the wear that his grief has placed upon his physical body

He declares his belief that God has heard him.

He boldly declares that God will act on his behalf.

He rebukes his enemy with the assurance of God’s answer.

Image

 

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that we don’t wrestle against a fleshly enemy but rather a spiritual enemy. James tells us in James 1 that we wrestle against our flesh and the desire to satisfy self. Peter warns us that the Devil looks about for those that he can destroy. Can we say with authority to these enemies that God has heard our prayer and that he will answer? If we can’t is it because we are still attempting to control the situation by what we do or do not tell our Heavenly Father? 

 

I don’t believe that we will have assurance that God has heard our prayer or that He has already answered, until we are honest about our current condition. David was certainly repentant in that he held nothing back before the Lord. The only reason we would have to hold things back would be the misguided idea that we could somehow change the situation on our own or that we could fool God.  

Advertisements

More, Thoughts on Prayer

Last spring, Christy and I made a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Our intent was to visit the Biltmore House and enjoy a few days to ourselves. Both were accomplished and the evening before we returned home I began to prepare for our trip home.

 I love driving through the mountains, Christy not so much. Well, she enjoys the mountains; it is my driving through them that causes the angst. I had noticed that there seemed to be a road not far from our hotel that would give us access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was determined to take the road and spend some of our trip home admiring the views on the Parkway. I was the only one excited but since I was driving I made my plans for me.

 The road to the Parkway was as bad as you could have imagined it being; narrow, winding, and steep. There were moments when you could see some pretty spots but much of the road was covered by overhanging trees, and rock outcroppings which prevented you from seeing far at all. There were no scenic overlooks where we could stop and enjoy the view, but we had to push on towards what we hoped was the Blue Ridge Parkway at the top of the mountain.

 Turning the final corner I was excited to see the four-lane highway of the Parkway stretching out beyond us. However, I was mortified to see the locked gate which blocked my access to the Parkway. Due to possible ice on the road the Parkway had been closed and all of the access points were locked.

 As I thought about my prayer life today I remembered this incident in my life. Many, many times, my prayers are about getting what I want, fulfilling my needs and desires, oftentimes at great cost to others. In Psalm 2 the Psalmist writes of the danger that awaits men and women who reject the coming Christ. He proclaims the greatness of God, but in the end he gives a plea to those who have rejected Christ that they return to the Savior.

 When prayer becomes rote and mechanical, I end up being as fulfilled as my trip up the mountain that cool spring morning. I reach the top but the obstacle that faces me still seems insurmountable. I pray for myself and rarely pray for others. I proclaim my needs, as I should, but my intent is so much on self that I miss the glory of Who Christ is. As the Psalmist writes of Christ’s glory this prompts him to return with an appeal that all who have rejected Christ would turn to Him.

 How often does our prayer reach full-circle? From the proclamation of our needs, do we recognize the glory and power of God? Does our recognition of the beauty and majesty of God lead us to have concern for others and a desire for them to receive the blessings of Christ individually?

 My day is so complex and my personal needs so great – no matter how insignificant they may appear to others – that I must pray. Not only must I declare my needs, my hopes, and my desires but there is an overriding truth that accompanies my desire to pray. I must simply know that my Father in Heaven knows that I realize my needs, hopes, and desires, must be fulfilled and can only be fully realized through Him. I cannot rest until I am assured that He knows my heart. 

Thoughts on prayer

Encouragement in prayer

Untutored, we tend to think that prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose that there must be an “insider” language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in prayer. There is not. Prayer is elemental, not advanced, language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything in our lives out in the open before God. – Eugene Peterson

Remember, no one has time to pray; we have to take time from other things that are valuable in order to understand how necessary prayer is. The things that act like thorns and stings in our personal lives will go away instantly when we pray; we won’t fell the smart any more, because we have God’s point of view about them. Prayer means that we get into union with God’s view of other people. – Oswald Chambers

One reason why prayer is so hard for us is that prayer forces us to admit our own spiritual impotence. Its very existence shouts that God is the only source that can make us all we ought to be. – David Jeremiah

A prayer

 

Probably the greatest confession that I must make each time I pray is my lack of dependence upon You. You alone are worthy of worship and praise. I confess, Lord, that I honor self above You, circumstances above right, and desires above obedience.

Your grace, Lord, is what I seek today. I ask you, my Heavenly Father, a good father, to show me grace today. I plead for your mercy and I place my hope in you; my plans, my ideals, I yield them all to you. May your name be magnified in all the earth.

A short thought

 

Prayer is difficult for many reasons but at the crux of the issue is our pride. We think that if God would move a stone or two then we could repave the road all by ourselves. I think of the scene in Disney’s movie, Cars. Lightning McQueen is told that he must pave the road and he will be released. He tears out and spreads pavement over the old road and is delighted that he is done so quickly. It is then pointed out to Lightning that he must remove the old and broken pavement before he spreads new pavement. That is work and it requires time and attention.

I know that often my own prayer life is simply spreading new pavement over the broken pieces of my life. True prayer is the acknowledgment of our need and dependence upon God. This is work. It requires a willingness to actually hear and see what God is accomplishing in our lives and His desire in the lives of others. Just as Lightning McQueen must pay attention and devote his time to the road so must we give our time and attention to our God in prayer.

A song

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm5oirhXl7I&feature=channel&list=UL

Picture book, anyone?

At some point in their life all of our children have loved books. Lilah, our youngest, is no exception and may love them more than any of our other children have at this point in their lives. I was reminded of her love for books while driving in the car with her yesterday and I was constantly forced to hand her another “buk, buk.”

After several, several, “buks” being “read” and thrown to the floor she finally settled on one that occupied her attention for several minutes. As I watched her I was reminded of the stages that my children have gone through in reading.

They all started out loving the pictures. As they grew older and we continued to read to them they began to learn particular words and would even know when Dad was skipping pages or skipping words. (Hey, some kid’s books are loooong!) Landon especially knew every word to his favorite books. Picture books, however, don’t last forever and they began to foray into the books with more words than pictures. Finally, they become bored with picture books. Yes, they may pick one up every now and then and be amused but this passes very quickly and they are off to look for something more substantive.

Allow me to skip over into a believer’s personal devotion life. As a youth pastor I was constantly asked by parents about devotionals for their children. I was usually hesitant to recommend much that I knew was available because it really was just a picture book, most of simple colors and shapes. I have even been asked by many adults what I would recommend and I sometimes facetiously reply, “ummm … the Bible.” Listen to what Scripture says about a believer and their spiritual growth:

Hebrews 5:12-14  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

You and I would be disappointed and would be enquiring about the mental growth of our children if they were satisfied with picture books all of their life. As believers we should desire to learn more from God’s Word than just the “picture stories” which are quickly seen. Let’s read with interest and with a desire for understanding.