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Monday, June 29, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 89:1–4, 15–18
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
‘I will establish your descendants forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’”
Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.
For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. (NRSV)
Prayer is sometimes difficult. We want to draw close to God, but we don’t know what to say. This can become a discouraging kind of “writers block” to the would be pray-er who gives up too easily. The Psalms provide a way forward. The Psalms are the “hymnbook” of Israel. The poetry and the imagery give us words to form our prayers. How to begin? Let’s start with praise. If you have trouble with a wandering mind, as I do, it may help to write down the first sentence of your prayer. This can be the beginning of your spiritual journal. “But I’m really not very spiritual, what do I say?” No worries, don’t try to be creative. Just let the first sentence of the psalm be the first sentence of your prayer. It’s like jump starting a car with a dead battery. So you write, I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever!
“But I don’t feel personally loved by God.” No problem; that’s the point. You begin your prayer by faith; that is, prayer begins not by our feelings, but by our convictions. The basic conviction of Christian faith is that God has proven God’s love for us by sending us Jesus. Basic. So we begin our prayers with that simple conviction: I will sing of your steadfast love forever. Not because things are going so well for us. Not because we have a sing-song-y feeling inside. Not because we have had answered prayers that week, or good fortune. We pray because it is our basic belief, our conviction, that Jesus is the historic sign that God so loved us, that God gave Jesus to give his life to prove the point.
OK, we’ve made a start. Now what? The words are still not coming. So let’s try writing down the second part of the first verse: With my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. Here is where we move from the realm of faith to experience. The Psalms themselves can suggest questions to ask ourselves. For example, “Where has God shown God’s faithfulness to me?” And then we listen expectantly. Sometimes blessings will come to mind immediately; other times, especially if you are going through a time of depression, you may need to “wait on the Lord” for a few seconds, or a minute. This is where you bring into your prayers one of the most wonderful promises for prayer from the Apostle Paul: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray or how to pray, but the Spirit prays through us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). We are not alone when we pray; we have help. When you receive an answer to the question, When has God been there for me? then it is good to write a sentence or two about it. And as you write, you often will get deeper insight as to why that blessing has been such an important part of God’s faithfulness in your life.
Try it and see. I would like to hear about your experience.
We remember the disciples who came to you with a simple request: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Thank you for the gift of the matchless Lord’s Prayer, and for the psalms that help us pray your own words back to you in our own words. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit who helps us in our prayers. Give us the will to persevere in prayer and not give up, so we may be taught as we go, and so draw closer and closer to you. Amen.
Written by David Handley, Interim Minister for Pastoral Care
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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