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Psalm 135

 

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD, who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them! O house of Israel, bless the LORD! O house of Aaron, bless the LORD! O house of Levi, bless the LORD! You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD! Blessed be the LORD from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD! (ESV)

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Pray?

Abraham

9 October 2013

Much of our praying is the tears torn from a heavy heart. When we experience grief we know not how to pray, we only feel in our hearts the burden of suffering and the anxiety of our helplessness. That prayer is a kind of empty hole pierced into our sides by our suffering. It is what Paul calls the unspeakable groanings (Rm 8:26), which arise from us in the midst of the trouble that God sends us. This is not inarticulate babblings as is sometimes thought, because Paul tells us that these groanings are not uttered, because they are unspeakable.  A husband feels this as he kneels at his dying wife's bedside, his welling eyes covered by impotent hands as her life ebbs from a long battle with cancer. What more can he say to God? What plea or petition has he not offered? His heart sobs out the prayer heard only by God, "Let Your will become my own and let me believe it good."

 

The great saints of the Bible often find themselves groaning inwardly like this with brief grief-laden petitions. This is not what we expect of the heroes of the faith, however. We expect virtuous stoicism and triumphant praying. Yet they are believers like us whom God tests with great trials and afflictions, again not for His information, but for their growth in faith, that they might conform their will to His own and call it good and gracious. In like manner, Christ Himself prays in the Garden. He knows what the will of God is, that He should suffer and die for the sins of the world on the cross. He prays that He would conform His will to God's will and call it good (Lk 22:40-44). On that Friday, which we call good, Jesus called God's will very good. In the Garden, as He groaned out His prayer it was articulated by the patter of blood-laden sweat, feeding with His life the ground that Adam had poisoned by His choice of His own will (Gn 3:5). Who had greater faith than this man, who did God's will in agonized death? Yet He prayed in groanings that received the pierced side and from that hole was drained from Him the flood that answered every groaning prayer uttered by those who believe in Him.

 

We do not despair when we are reduced to sobs of grief from the heart, any more than the groans of Jesus on the cross were expressions of unbelief. We abandon ourselves to the One who can alone save us, just as He once did (Heb 5:7). So prayer may not always be articulate, let alone prim and proper or stoic and triumphant. Weakness gives forth the best prayer because we have a God is strong to save those who are too weak to know how to pray.


 

Martin Luther

 

"Jacob (Gn 43:11-14) pays God the service that is most acceptable and is commanded in His Word. For after he had done what he could and should have been done to ward off the danger, he adds prayer, by which he indicates that he had not abandoned or cast off the promise, although he weeps, sobs, and laments in his tribulation and distress, to such an extent that he seems to have forgotten the divine protection that had been promised to him. Here the dimly burning wick shines forth. It has not yet been extinguished and the reed has not yet been crushed (Is 42:3), since he cries out and prays, but not without very heavy sobs.

 

"The prayer of faith was very short. But it was intense and ardent, because it proceeded from the reed and the dimly burning wick. Therefore he pours forth words of faith and of disbelief at the same time. For he prays out of faith. However, his disbelief causes him anguish, and he almost despairs of Benjamin.

 

"But why does he fear and tremble this way, as though the cause were totally lost? Why does he not leap for joy because of the promises he has? Because in prosperity we easily recall these things; but when God hides His face, we are soon downcast and sad. It is sufficient, however, that the wick is not extinguished and that we cry 'Abba! Father!' as Paul says (Rm 8:15), although we ourselves do not hear this cry. Thus Moses did not know of his own cry at the Red Sea. But 'He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit' (Rm 8:27). He understands how great this cry is; because of our weakness we do not know it. Thus the Lord says to Moses: 'Why do you cry to Me?' (Ex 14:15) when he, standing as he was in extreme danger and in the greatest trouble, could not even have opened his mouth. His heart was pounding in a strange manner, and with his mind and eyes he observed nothing but the most imminent destruction, whether he looked back toward Pharaoh, who was pursuing them, or turned his eyes toward the Red Sea. Thunderstruck by such great danger, he is speechless. Perhaps he thinks to himself: 'What if we shall all be drowned or be cut down by the Egyptians?' At this point God says: 'Why do you cry out?' Although he does not cry out, He who searches the heart understands and hears the cry.

 

"In this way Jacob prays. His reliance on the promise is very weak, for he laments and mourns pitifully. But since a spark and the unutterable sobbing (Rm 8:26) of faith still remain, he does not despair but prays."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 43.14 
 
Prayer

O Lord, when we are struck dumb by the trials we are undergoing, give us the cries of Your Spirit, that He might intercede for us in words we cannot utter. Amen.

 

For the District Presidents of the LCMS, that the Lord would grant them wisdom, discretion, and an extra measure of the Holy Spirit

 

For Leonard Jones, that the proper therapies would be used to bring him recovery and renewed strength

 

For Maryann Murray, for strength and health, that the Lord would be gracious to her in her trial

Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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