But I Give Myself to Prayer

IMG_8600The phrase “but God” in the Scriptures is always the preamble to a life changing situation. The most important is found in Ephesians 2. We all, by nature, have no hope. We are born children of wrath, deserving hell, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (2:4-5). Because of that “But God” we can be reconciled with God. We can be made children of God and can come boldly to the throne of Grace to find mercy and help in time of need. Amazing grace!

In the Psalms there is another phrase that is also life changing for those who are in Christ, for those who by grace through faith can now come boldly to the throne of grace.

In Psalm 55 we see David crying out to God for mercy. The situation in which he is is so desperate, that David cries to God pleading that He would not to hide from him. David needs the Lord to come to his rescue soon, even this very moment, and so he prays with urgency. David is restless (v.2), in anguish (v.4), in such fear that he is trembling and horror surrounds him (v.5). David wants to escape, to go somewhere away from this terrible situation.

But then we come to verse 16 and find a phrase that turns his heart from a place of anguish to a place of hope:

But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and noon,
I utter my complaint and moan,
and He hears my voice….”

In the midst of a crushing situation, David knows what is the only thing that he can do that will break the waves of terror…and so he prays.

He will not let the crushing of fear extinguish his voice: But I call to the Lord…”

And by the end of the Psalm, David is able to say… “Because  there is a “But God” moment ahead, I will cry again, “But I trust in You.

In Psalm 69 we see the same thing. David starts the psalm from a terrible place,

“Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold….”

He is again in a desperate situation. He is weary of crying out to the Lord His Redeemer. His throat is parched  and his eyes are swollen, growing dim, the waiting has been too long. Those who hate him are more than what he can count. They attack him with lies and plans to destroy him. They have dishonored his name, and those who loved him became his traitors.

In the midst of his great agony, we hear him say, “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord…” (v.13)

He knows that prayer will bring the “But God… “ moment he is desperately waiting for. He might be sinking in fear, in anguish, but he knows that even there, he can say, “My enemies want me to be crushed under this, but I will pray to my God who abounds in love and is forever faithful” (v.13).

The Sons of Korah knew this too. In Psalm 88 Heman the Ezrahite cries day and night before the Lord in agony because his soul is full of troubles, even to the point of death. He was no strength and feels like God has forgotten him. He knows the wrath of God is upon him, he does not deny that the hand of God has brought him this great affliction, and instead of turning away from his Redeemer with all his questions, he looks up to God and says,

But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before You” (v.13).

This is huge! Do you see it? He is an agony because he is walking through the consequence of some sin. The Psalmist acknowledges that the Lord, in anger, brought this terrible situation on him, But he is a child of God, so even in the turmoil of his soul, in the midst of the consequences of his sin he knows that the way out is always looking up. He doesn’t turn inwardly, he looks up… “But I, O Lord, cry to you, even as I open my eyes in the morning… I will call on you.”

In Psalm 109 we see it again. David is again in a very hard situation. He is asking God to not be silent. He is not telling his friends how God seems to be silent. No! He turns to God and boldly comes to the throne of grace and asks God to intervene.

David doesn’t turn away from God when God seems silent. He presses on. He knows that though God might be silent now, He is the God who hears the prayers of His children. David knows that this apparent silence doesn’t mean that God has abandoned him. He doesn’t let his feeling determine his response in a huge crisis. He doesn’t turn away from God, he knows in whom he has believed all these many years. He knows a “But God” moment is around the corner, so he cries,

But I give myself to prayer…” (v.4b)

And then, in v.21 his faith resonates through his words,

“But You, O God my Lord
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!”

One more story. In Psalm 141 David is again praying from a place of anguish. Again he cries to God with urgency because what else could he do? Where else could he go to find help in time of need? He hasn’t forgotten that he has to lift his eyes to the hills because that is from where his help will come from. He is afraid this time that in hos anguish he will sin. So he asks the Lord to set a guard on his lips. In his anguish he asks God to keep his heart from all evil. David knew what you and I know too, when the trials are heavy the temptations to sin are heavy to. And Bitterness and Impatience and Unbelief are like roaring lions waiting for an opportunity to devour us.  And what does David say in all this?

But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord;
in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!” (v.8)

Wherever you are now, look up and follow the Psalmist steps. Do not run away from God, do not hide your fears from him. Do not let the Enemy or your flesh deceive you into believing that God doesn’t hear you, that your prayers are in vain.

Are you praying in the name of Jesus? then let your “Amen” be firm. God will never turn His face away from those who have been redeemed by the blood of His Son.

In the depth of your pain, in your brokenness cry out to God.

Lord, I don’t understand all that you are doing now, but I will give myself to prayer. My strength fails, every morning I think I won’t make it through another day, but I will give myself to prayer. My fears are trying to consume me, but even there I will give myself to prayer. My faith fails, but  I will give myself to prayer, because I know you are compassionate and loves to glory in my weakness. My tears are my food day and night, but I will give myself to prayer. This, that, Lord, you see, you hear, nothing is hidden from you, but in the midst of all of it, I will give myself to prayer because a “But God” moment is not far from me. I will keep looking up to the hills, my help will surely come from the Lord.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

Read The Word, Pray the Word

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The men and women of God through history are people who pray. And I imagine we all want to know what is it that made their prayer life rich and effective. I would say that one thing they all have in common is that they pray according to the Word of God.

We want to have a rich prayer life too, and having heard of this idea of “praying the Scriptures back to God,” we take a notebook and start jotting down promises, Bible verses that we believe will enrich our prayer life and strengthen our faith. And what a blessing that is. We hold dearly to these words of life. We let them be the last word we hear in our minds to silence our anxious thoughts and fears.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex.14:4

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Prov.30:5

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is. 41:10

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Rom. 8:32

These are only a few, there are so many more promises, more than we can count and all are yes and amen in Christ for those who are His. Each one of these promises is powerful and comforting. Each one is like a lifeline thrown from Heaven to us, as so we grasp them by faith.

But there are times when the trials of life are too deep and too dark, they rage against us fiercely, and the pain is hard to bear. We grab our notebook with Promises, and barely find our breath to pray through them… our voice has drowned under our tears.

It is in those times when knowing the God who gives these Promises will keep us alive. It is then when not only one or two Promises will revive us and give us hope, but when we need the whole counsel of God to be our stronghold.

There are times when our flesh will fail us, and our knees will be weak, and in these times every Word we have read in the Bible, every story in it will prove to be the backbone of our life. We may fall one, two, three, seven times, but we will not be crushed because the Word of God has the power to hold us against the enemy.

Oh, how important is is to be immersed in all the Word of God! How important it is to fill our mind and heart with all the stories of the Bible. Stories in which God reveals to us not only His character, but the way He loves to write stories. The Promises we love and count as precious, are not magic words. These promises belong to some part of God’s  story, and when we know the story in which they were spoken, we gain much more assurance.

I have been there, praying with the Bible open, praying not one or two verses, but story after story back to God.  With my Bible open, I have prayed to the God of the Bible because I know Him, I have read His Word, I have read how He is faithful when we are not. I have read how He is just and holy and at the same time merciful and compassionate. I have read story after story how He loves to redeem and restore His own children. I have read how He disciplines those He loves and how He walks with them through the consequences of their sin. I have read in the Bible how He saves those who don’t deserve to be saved. I know how much He loves to show Grace. I have read over and over, from Genesis to Revelation, stories that reveal to us who God is. I can know Him, because He wants me to know Him. I have my Bible in my hands as a proof for that. I know the Triune God of the Bible in whom millions and millions have trusted before and in whom I will trust too.

I will not stop reading. My life depends on the very Words spoken by God, written for me.

I will keep coming, I will keep reading. I want to know my God more, to trust Him more, to love Him more.

I still carry my notebook with Bible promises with me, but in my heart I carry the whole story that gives life to each one of those promises.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

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Don’t know where or how to start reading your Bible? Join us today. You can jump in on today’s readings found here.

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Do Not Waste Your Sighs

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 1.14.24 PM“Dear reader, in the time of your trouble, do not roam; do not send out your sighs into vacancy; do not let your thoughts wander, as though they were looking for some  one on whom to fix; for some one to whom you could tell the story of your heart’s need, and desolation. Fix your heart, as the Psalmist did, and say, ‘Unto Thee will I cry.'”

P.B. Power, The ‘I Wills’ of the Psalms

An Important Distinction

Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 12.43.19 PM Here is a very simple, but important distinction that might change your life.

Thinking about something without ceasing is NOT the same thing as praying about something without ceasing.

Thinking about *it* will make you anxious, but praying about *it* is what God wants us to do and will lead us to a place of peace and hope.

In 1 Peter we read,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

When we worry about something and think about it all day we are not humbling ourselves before God. Humbling ourselves before the mighty hand of God involves casting all our anxieties before Him knowing and trusting that He cares for us.  And this is humbling because it means that we must recognize that we can’t do anything about that thing that is causing us all this worry; and so we cast our fears, anxieties, worries before our God who is indeed able to do far more abundantly than we can imagine or think (Eph. 3:20-21).

We can pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) by turning every anxious thought, every worry into a prayer to God.

Let’s learn to turn our worries into prayers, remembering that our Heavenly Father loves to hear the prayers of His children.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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PC Priscilla Du Preez

Praying Without Ceasing

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“Pray without ceasing” is the apostle’s instruction for the saints (1 Thess. 5:17). And some may ask, how do we even do that? But maybe the question we should be asking is this one, How can pretend we can live this day without praying without ceasing?

The moment we get up from bed (or even in bed!) our minds start to rush. So many things to be done, things to be said -and not said-, decisions that we must make, expenses that we must plan. We receive many texts and emails with prayer requests. Our own burdens are present, we know there are hard fights we must face. How will we go through all these?  “Pray without ceasing,” we read.

Praying without ceasing is a command, but if you think about it, it is also a wonderful balm. The fact that we can come to God in prayer every day and all day long and lay all our petitions and anxieties at the feet of Jesus is an invaluable gift of grace.

We must carry our cross, yes, but not on our own, there are mercy and grace to help us in time of need at the throne of Grace. We just need to draw close before this heavenly throne in the name of Jesus. Oh, that we may have eyes to see this as the reality it is! The fountain of mercy and grace is open for us every day all day long! There is no need for us to walk through the day carrying our own burdens and trying to alleviate our own anxieties; we can pray without ceasing! That is our privilege as children of God. That is our right as coheirs of the grace of God with Christ Jesus our Lord.

So just as we breath to inhale oxygen, we pray to receive mercy and grace. We make dinner and pray. We drive running errands and remember a portion of the Bible we read in the morning and also our friend in need and so we pray the Words of God back to Him. We listen to our audio Bible as we fold laundry and as we listen we are reminded to pray for someone in a very specific way. We receive a prayer request and we pray -right there. We are about to have an important meeting, we pray asking God for help. We sin and we pray. We fight sin and we pray. Until we are called to God’s presence, there will be no ceasing of our battles, so why would we cease to pray?

Praying without ceasing is what we do because we know how great is our need and how compassionate is our God. We pray without ceasing because if we don’t we will despair and find ourselves buried under our anxious thoughts. We pray without ceasing because we know down deep in our hearts and in our bones, that we can do nothing apart from Jesus. We know that apart from Him there are no answers to our questions, no peace for our hearts, no place to find rest. We pray without ceasing because how can we not if there are so many needs around us and in our own lives? We pray without ceasing because how can we not?

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

The Merciful Hand of the Lord

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Photo by Johannes Rapprich on Pexels.com

The disciples, with their belly still filled with the bread and fish they had eaten among the five thousand, got into a boat. Jesus would meet them on the other side. No doubt the disciples were talking about the miracle they had just witnessed. Five loaves of bread and two fish for more than five thousand people! And they got to pass it around among the hungry! And, Oh, how it tasted… like heaven for sure!  The conversation was lively until darkness came. The waves roared and hit them so strong that their laughter was washed away.  The winds were against them and as they clung to their boat they let their peace go.

Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, who is “mightier than the waves of the sea, and the thunder of many waters,” (1) came to them, walking on the sea. They had read the book of Job, they knew that only God can tread on the waves of the sea (2). So, when they saw him they were not only terrified, but very terrified. (3) “It is a ghost!” they cried out.

The waves had not ceased to hit them. The winds kept lifting the waves higher. And Jesus was not asleep. He was not in the boat. He was walking on water watching the scene and approaching it slowly. This time, however, He did not speak to the waves and the winds, but to His men:”Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid!”(4)  His voice had to be louder than the roaring of the winds for them to hear Him.

Peter put his hands around his mouth and yelled through the storm, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (5)

And there he was, a man walking on the Word of God. Had anyone seen such a faith before? Such an obedience? Not a moment to hesitate. Just one word was enough for Peter. But all of a sudden his fears were more real than Jesus’s Spoken Word, and being afraid he started to sink.

But we must the stop the story here for a minute. Why, you say? Because we are -again- judging Peter too hard and too soon. (“Oh, Peter, just keep your eyes on Jesus, take him at His Word! Stop looking at the circumstances around you. You know better, Peter!”)

Put that Bible-Story narrative aside and keep reading. The big lesson is coming.

When Peter “saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”(6)
Who among us has never been afraid? Who never looks at the winds and the waves and trembles? Who among us hasn’t taken one step of obedience (because that is what steps of faith actually are, right?) and then starts sinking just thinking about taking the next?

We know the answer, we all are like Peter that way. Imitating Peter in that is not hard, it comes pretty natural for us. We all freak out and are quick to doubt the Word of the Lord, the Word that the Almighty speaks to us in the midst of the storm.

But we must learn to imitate Peter in the next thing he does, or we will sink.
As Peter began to sink, as his faith began to fail, he didn’t get mad at God for commanding him to come to Him (Why did you ask me to come if you knew I would sink, God?). Peter didn’t start making excuses. He didn’t even try to save himself. He knew, as he was starting to drown, what he had to do. Most of his faith had sank to the bottom of the ocean. He was thinking of nothing but the storm, that was all he could see now, but in his darkness, he found enough faith in his heart to cry out, “Lord, save me!” And that was enough.

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”(7)

Immediately Jesus took hold of Peter. Jesus had called him to come, he would not let him drown.

When Peter cried to the Lord the first time, Jesus heard his loud voice through the storm and answered him. This time, Peter’s voice was a faint and desperate cry, but it didn’t make a difference in the ears of the Lord. He heard him again, and again answered him.

In Jesus’ reproof, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  there is comfort for us. He knows that our faith weavers, that it is small, and yet He still comes when we call on to Him. What a comfort to know that Jesus knows that our faith is small and our weaknesses are big! Because He knows our frame and is compassionate toward us, He is interceding for you and me even now.(8)

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”(9)

Sometimes this happens. Well, actually many times this is the way things happen: The Lord will carry us to safety only after we have been close to seeing our end, thinking that we would for sure drown. Many times he calms the winds and the waves only after we stop having faith in our own faith to keep obeying.

When the only prayer we can mutter is, “Lord, save me!”  we must remember that our Savior is already there, closer than we think, ready to take us to a safe place in His arms.

The disciples saw the whole scene. And we know that in God’s story no one gets the role of spectator, so their part came and they did the right thing, “they worshiped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

We might be going through something similar than what Peter went through in this story. Friends and family are watching us. But you know what? It is not our super strong faith that will draw them to fall on their knees before Jesus, no, it is the mercy and goodness of the Lord that will draw them to their knees.

It is not about trying to impress others with our radical obedience, our big faith that takes us to walk on water. It is neither about our weaknesses or our lack of faith when storms come. It is always about the faithfulness and goodness of our God who calls us to obey him and sustains us as we learn to obey Him.

Peter, who almost drowned, years later wrote:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”(10)

He learned the lesson well so that we can learn it too. May our faith, big or small, after being tested be found to result in praise and glory and honor for Jesus.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

(1) Psalm 93
(2) Job 9
(3) Mt. 14:26 ESV
(4) Mt. 14:28 ESV
(5) Mt. 14: 28-33 ESV
(6) ibid
(7) ibid
(8) Hebrews 4 and 11
(9) Mt. 14:32-33
(10) 1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV