Tag: prayer

There’s no wrong way to be a lizard in the sun

 

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I love November. It’s the summer month par excellence for me. Early mornings, days stretching to their apogee, their afternoons often swallowed up by thunderstorms and rain that beats the smell of ozone from the earth. November is full of the dance of some old thing we’ve mostly lost to the advent of 24-hour living. Novembers are simply magical.

November isn’t hugely productive as a rule. Combined with the mischievous wink of summer and sun and the approach of Christmas (tacky, seasonally inappropriate decorations seemed to go up at the stroke of midnight on the 31st of October) and the beckon of the schools closing for the year, November is about as circumspect as a toddler presented with a bowl of candy. It’s an odd time to be thinking about the Advent season and the new year, when so many things seem to be telling you to stop thinking, to turn your face to the sun and the season and to just breathe it all in.

I wonder whether God isn’t asking the same thing with prayer. Glancing through my prayer list, much of it is busywork: me trying to press my case or impose my will (masquerading as God’s will of course) or otherwise labouring at my idea of what a faithful life looks like. Sometimes that labour is necessary – if I didn’t go against my natural urges, how often would I get up early on a Sunday morning to go to church, for instance – but maybe like the month of November, sometimes prayer isn’t a job to do or an item to tick off or a solemn request to make, but a turning to the “sun” of God in our lives.

For the last few weeks, whenever I go outside it’s to a scatter of small lizards streaking in all directions, startled by my appearance. If basking in the sun were a religious practice, lizards out-holy us all. They go to the sun with nothing but the need to be warmed, and nothing but the expectation that they will be warmed. There’s no wrong way to be a lizard in the sun, other than not seeking the sun, of course. There’s no wrong way to seek God, other than not seeking him.

Work and necessity will play tug-o’-war with November for our heart. Even Advent will push its own agenda. But I think the month of November is itself a kind of prayer. All the while, whatever the season, God is there, trying to lure us from the shadows of tradition and busywork and our own limitations into the warm sun of his light, love, grace and mercy; back into relationship with him, friendship with him, communion with him.

Sometimes that communion is bread and wine in a church building. Sometimes it’s the rustle of Bible pages at the end of a long day. Sometimes it’s a hurried, muttered prayer in the mornings. But sometimes, other times, it’s a shady, grassy spot under a big tree with the wind whispering through the leaves.

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Need of Jesus

LORD JESUS,
I am blind, be thou my light,
ignorant, be thou my wisdom,
self-willed, be thou my mind.
Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after his beckoning hand;
Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds,
and there cease to tremble at all alarms.
Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy Word,
and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.
Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales
may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.
Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,
Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart,
but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.
I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,
but thy cross has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me thy Father’s child,
has admitted me to thy family,has made me joint-heir with thyself.
O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,
that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.
May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith,
and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart,
for unless he move mightily in me
no inward fire will be kindled.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur G. Bennett.

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Dear Lord, I don’t want to write a prayer for you today, not when you’re technically responsible for PMS. I don’t want to pray when praying feels like falling down a deep pit with no bottom in sight and no way to turn back. Maybe, really, I just don’t want to pray at all. Words, words, words. I’m tired of talking when talking doesn’t seem to do any good.

They say You’re in the silence, Lord. Today I need to believe that. I need to believe that silence isn’t an absence of You, but Your presence magnified to the point where speaking or hearing isn’t necessary, but arbitrary, like comparing dim long-distance phone calls to  companionably sitting together on a couch as the sun sets. I need to believe, again, still, always, in the reality of You. It’s such a beginner lesson, Lord, but I keep failing this class. For the love of You, help me.

Help me to have faith, and love, and mercy, and above all hope that You are even a speck of who You say You are. Surely that speck is bigger than the visible cosmos.

Good heavens, please. Amen.

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Lord God, thank You for the mercy of a new week.

Thank You for another morning, another day, another chance.

Why I should get it when so many people all around the world haven’t, I don’t know. I can’t offer any justifications or explanations other than “the world is a broken place”, and we are all broken people.

Thank You for trying to fix that. Thank You for believing it can be fixed. For paying the price for our world’s restoration.

Help me this week to do as much as I can to make the world a little bit better. Where I’m busy with work, with family or friends, where I’m doing laundry or the dishes or sending emails or checking Facebook… Where I am, You are; where You are; I am. Help me to remember that. To live it.

In Your holy name, Jesus. Amen.

Sabbath 15/10/2017

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Listen: Old Church Choir – Zach Williams (Youtube lyric video)

Pray: Psalm 106:1-5

1 Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
or fully declare his praise?
3 Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.
4 Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

Listen: Praise the Lord – The City Harmonic (Youtube lyric video)

First reading: Philippians 4:1-9

4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Second reading: Matthew 22:1-14

1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Listen: Glorious Engagement – CRC Music (Youtube lyric video)

Pray:

Dearest Lord,

We are grateful to come before you on this spring day to meet with You. We set this time aside to bring glory to You, to remember Your transcendent presence in our day-to-day lives, and to refresh our souls for the week to come.

None of us come to You with clean slates, Lord, but to be known by You is to be loved by You, healed by You, forgiven by You and cleansed by You. Thank You for the grace of Your mercy and lovingkindness. Thank You for the immense privilege of serving You.

Help us this week to rely on Your grace in everything we do and say, and to extend it to others as freely as You extend it to us. Help this Sabbath to awaken us anew to the presence, power and guidance of Your Holy Spirit alive within us. Speak to us, Lord: we are listening.

In Jesus’ precious name, amen.

Listen: Rescuer (Good News) – The Rend Collective (Youtube lyric video)