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

Faithful Obedience by Heather Lloyd

When I think of my friend Heather Lloyd, a member of our church, the image that comes to my mind is always of a woman who is never idle, but always on the go. She is clothed with strength and determination is what she wears on her feet. I often times think that maybe she is the one woman in the world whose days are made of 48 hours! Our teenage daughter has spent two summer camps under her direction and she says, “Mom, I love her, she inspires me in many ways, especially on the way you can tell she loves the Lord.” So as you can imagine, I’m grateful to have Heather share with us in our series of Faithful Obedience.

Unanswered Prayer
By Heather Lloyd

A famous country song by Garth Brooks talks about unanswered prayer. It tells the story of a young man praying for a certain young woman and God, seemingly, doesn’t answer. Years later, this man and his new wife run into this “old flame” at a football game, who isn’t the “angel” he remembered. Brooks sings:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care… Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”

Sadly, this is often how we view prayer. When God is seemingly silent, or things look awry in the circumstances of life we hold to the idea that God will clearly reveal why He “didn’t answer.” And, we are certain that this revelation will be an “aha” moment, one where we see exactly why God waited to answer our prayer.

But, sometimes we want to think it is simply “unanswered prayer” when really God is saying a firm “no.” By all appearances, there is no reason insight and years later no “aha” moment has come. Sometimes the “no” doesn’t make sense — think Job. It is in these times that we are forced to sit in the hard place of “why Lord,?”

Paul talks about “unanswered prayer” in 2 Corinthians, “a thorn was given me in the flesh.” But he finishes with the reason, and it isn’t a glorious revelation it is simply sanctification; “so he wouldn’t be conceited.”

What does our faith do when God says “no?” It either grows or reveals deep-rooted sin like conceit. It is in these times that we either die to self or reveal our innate selfishness. It is in trials that we realize that the Master Conductor isn’t conducting an audience of one, but it is us performing for an audience of One. We aren’t the center, God IS.

We are not pawns in a game of chess but we are members of the orchestra, we are subjects of the King of Kings. God is directing and orchestrating and sanctifying. So these moments (moments that may last a lifetime) are revealing, but they are revealing of our own need for sanctification and may not necessarily reveal to us the plan that God is unfolding.

We live with relatively benign “no’s” compared to our predecessors. Think of the martyrs of the Church. They pleaded with God as they were tortured. The answer to these pleading saints was a firm “no.” Some gave in to their selfishness and renounced Christ and others lived faithfully to the end.

Blandina was a woman whom God gave a firm “no” to, a martyr of the faith that Eusebius speaks of. Once she realized the answer to her pleading for life was “no” she began to have a distinct fear that she would renounce Jesus when tortured. She asked her fellow saints to pray that she would not, she prayed to die well. Eusebius talks about Blandina facing more torture than any other martyr of the faith and yet through the entire ordeal she cried out “Jesus.” She clung to Jesus while she herself was void of any “aha” moment until she stood “Coram Deo” (before the face of God).

Our trials may seem small compared to a martyr, but we are no less at risk of renouncing Jesus through them. When we pray “thy will be done” we need to really understand what that means. God isn’t going to ignore our prayers. There really aren’t “unanswered prayers” as Garth Brooks sings. The character in that song actually received a “no” but this was a “no” with an easy reason clearly revealed — that isn’t always the case. The Lord will answer. The answer may be “yes.” The answer may be “wait” for a “yes.” And, the answer may be a firm “no.”

What we need to do when we plead with God is follow with “Lord keep me faithful should you answer no.” This is praying in God’s will. This is a prayer knowing that He sees what we need, that He sees what the Body of Christ needs, and He sees His kingdom unfolding from a perspective that we will never have. This is trusting Him, and this is faith.

We must never forget that God’s own son received a “no.” Jesus asked His Father to “take this cup from me” and the echo of that “no” is eternal. It is a “no” that started a Kingdom. The “no’s” we receive are growing that Kingdom.

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.

Image via Unsplash

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

The Paradox of His Providence

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Susannah Spurgeon wrote, after the death of her husband,  an encouraging prayer that will do us well to learn:

“Dear Lord, this is a paradox of Your providence, which both manifests and magnifies the glorious sovereignty of Your grace! Give us such true and tender trust in You, that Your “dealings” may never perplex or terrify us; but, rather, be the openings and discoveries of Your covenant love. Let us learn to read Your ways with us, as a skillful reader interprets a choice book, seeing the sentences in advance, as it were, and thus rendering a clear and continuous impression of the author’s mind and purpose.”*

May God continue to help us learn how to read His Providence as we open His Word and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, to encourage us, and to increase our faith.

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

* http://gracegems.org/SERMONS2/a_basket_of_summer_fruit.htm