Tag Archives: Psalms

The prayer dialectic…

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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

ForsakenThoughts on Psalm 22

God’s promise and perspective: My early Christian beginnings were nourished in the victorious context of a prayerful missionary movement. I fed on the nectar of such Biblical promises from Matthew 7:7 and John14:14 – “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” My guiding principle was:

“Prayer means answer.”

What do I then do with the shuddering God forsaken cry that comes from a broken man?

“O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…” v.2

What do you do in face of failure? How do you handle a cross? Jesus himself spent a lifetime resisting the Devil’s promises to answer prayer. The last temptation of Christ was to come down from the cross:

“Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”  Matthew 27:40

Theologians come up with two useful phrases that help me understand God’s apparent failure and weakness. Kenosis and Epistemological distance…the first is based on the humility of the incarnation, the fullness of deity, “making himself nothing kenosis(kenosis)” Philippians 2:7

The second speaks about a necessary limitation on the knowledge of God in order to protect our freedom to love. God doesn’t write his name high in the sky or play miracles to the crowd in order to impose Himself. He hides in humility, and sometimes pain, waiting to be discovered by those who long for true intimacy.

Perhaps my own prayer weakness may also be a sharing of the same principles? I am not a “prayer superman.” I need the discipline of learning obedient sonship, leading me, like Solomon in the face of the prayer promise – 2 Chronicles 1:7, to ask for more wisdom.

So should we all just give up and abandon the prayer promises? Surely not!

My experience is always less real than God’s Word and promise. In the face of transient non-answer and pain – Hang on! Be a limping Jacob, refusing to let go of the promise:

“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  Genesis 32:26

In the Psalm, the suffering hero appeals to the Sovereignty of God and decides to praise Him anyway, whatever the circumstances – can we not do the same?

“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” v.3

Other’s testimony and my experience: Are you sometimes overwhelmed by the victorious testimony of others compared with your own meager experience of victory? v.4 speaks of the testimony of history where “Fathers” trusted and were delivered. Others “cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” Wonderful, Hallelujah, buy the DVD…But what about me!Fail

“I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people…” v.6

There seems to be a glaring contradiction in the heart of intimacy. The bridal delight of “Hephzibah” in Isaiah 62:4 seems to have been perverted into the restrained “delight” (Chaphets) v.8, of God towards his servant. I should be a glorious Bride…but I feel like a worm! Kenosis and distance are again at work.

What can I do? Appeal to destiny – throw yourself into the ultimate purpose of God.

“Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even from my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” v.9-10

Demonic oppression, yet victory in His presence: Bulls, lions and oxen speak of the fearsome reality of the demonic opposition let loose sometimes upon holy servants. Hearts turning to wax, being “poured out like water” v.14, are experiences of many burnt out, fearful – yet faithful, men and women of God. The “piercing” v.16, of hands and feet points us to Christ’s passion, but it is the same physical or mental torment of many of his people throughout time and geography.

BullsOnly the presence of the Almighty can give us strength in such times:

“But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” v.19

The apparent contradiction of the opening “abandon” finds a deeper answer of intercession in the ultimate Presence:

“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” v.24

My testimony: Intercession, prayer, praise and proclamation.

“I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.” v.22

My mission: Geographical – “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.” v.27-28

Social – “All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-those who cannot keep themselves alive.” v.29 The whole social structure from the rich to the “dirt poor” will be impacted by such intercession from his Church.

Generational – Our lives of faith, prayers and sufferings lay a solid foundation for those who are to follow. Nothing is wasted. Can you believe that part of your mission is for the yet “unborn?” Those who sow in tears can be encouraged by this long-term perspective.

“Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.” v.30-31

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From the womb of the dawn…

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“The LORD says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.
The LORD will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.  Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn your young men (and women) will come to you like the dew. (You will receive the dew of your youth.)
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” Psalm 110

This “Messianic” Psalm is one of the most quoted parts of the Old Testament used in the preaching and writings of the New Alliance. It’s emphasis on the victorious “Lord” encourages us to turn our eyes towards Christ and his eternal priestly ministry. Following on from lasts week’s challenge of finding a new context for mission I have found a stong prayer encouragement from the inspired words of this Psalm.

Are you sitting comfortably…?

Then I’ll begin! God will truly begin to tell a new story of victory in our lives as we humble ourselves afresh, like Mary, to listen at his feet.  God is calling us to “Sit”. This is a renewed place of faith and intimacy with Him – a “Barnabas” place. Before being named “Barnabas”- son of my right hand, Jacob’s son bore the name “Ben-Oni” – son of my trouble or suffering. (Genesis 35:9-10) Resurrection to the “right hand” always follows the troubled deaths and humiliations we go through.

A growing sphere of influence…

“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth…as it is in heaven.”

Doubtless we have joined our own longings to the synergy of generations who have hung their hopes on this prayer. It is time to wield the sceptre! The burning fire spoke from the bush and asked Moses what he held in his hand – Exodus 4:2, and this may be the time for whatever humble tool you have been holding over the years of your pilgrimage to be transformed to greater influence. Could Moses ever have dreamt that his personal “walking stick” would become a means to liberate a whole nation from bondage?

A new willingness born from a new day…

As our hands engage a new context we will see a new day dawning. The labour pains of our intercession will birth a new day and a new generation of holy, willing workers, thrust out into the harvest fields of the world. As dew comes down from heaven, so a “God inspired” work will initiate, empower and freshen a global army. Ezekiel’s season of speaking to the dry bones is coming to an end and a new mandate of prophesying to the Spirit is beginning.

“Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they might live…and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.”

The other translation, which speaks of our own youth being revived, hints that this “new dawn” may also bring personal renewal, fresh anointing and the restoration of our “first love”.

The power of an indestructible life…

The “thief” comes to steal, kill and destroy and all the annihilating power of hell will be let loose against these vulnerable troops. Flesh and human ingenuity cannot prevail – it can only die, leaving the beautiful opportunity of “Melchizedek ministry” to emerge. Only this Christ impacted, sanctified ministry will stand the onslaught of battle. We need to be those who, like Melchizedek,

“…become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” Hebrews 7:16

Such a “band of brothers” will carry the oath of God’s intention with them as they forge an eternal place in history. Perhaps you feel you are “dying” at the moment. Hang on…you may well emerge in true Melchizedek ministry with the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” living in you and giving “life to your mortal bodies.”  Romans 8:11

Don’t outrun the water!

No doubt we will be seeing more shaking and crushing of nations as God’s purposes advance. In the exhilaration of serving God in such exciting and demanding times we may well be tempted to run further ahead in ministry than the strength of our intimacy to Christ, the source, will allow. In ancient times many great battles were lost because the soldiers, in their enthusiasm, ran ahead of their water supplies and ended up weak with thirst. Make drinking deep of Christ a priority in your life. May you always be able to “lift up your head” in victory, refreshed in the Word and the Spirit, as you run on into your ultimate destiny.

Samson, after a wonderful victory with a dry donkey bone, found himself dying of thirst because he had not cultivated the art of Holy intimacy in his life. God had mercy on Samson as he cried out to the Lord. On “Jawbone” hill he opened up a spring to save Samson. The spring was called “En Hakkore” which literally means “caller’s spring”. Perhaps it is time for some of us to desperately “call out” afresh for renewed intimacy with Christ. Jesus himself became our “En Hakkore” when he cried out:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39