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Psalm 18:1-19


I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.


The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me;  the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.


Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.


The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.  He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (ESV)

Why Pray?

Wednesday of Pentecost 2

10 June 2015

Why pray? There is plenty of trouble and sorrow in the world. When Jesus is confronted by unspeakable wickedness in the case of demon possession in the synagogue, He knows there is an onslaught to come. He knows that our oppressor has latched onto Him, because He has come to snatch us from the fiend. He has come to box the devil on the nose and cast him out: "'What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God.' But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be silent, and come out of him'" (Mk 1:24-25)! Why pray? Because the devil is prowling about seeking to devour you!


The devil knows what is afoot. He can name the Lord. The devil knows what the game is, even if he is trying hide it from us. So it is in these days in which God's laws are flaunted in the name of love; a love bent from the purposes for which it was given by God. There can be no right love, outside of the commands of the God who is Himself love. And yet our enemy is trying to blind us to this with worldly demands for fairness. Our own natural blindness finds us calling God's law unloving and calling moral discipline names I dare not repeat. Satan would prefer us to be instructed by teenagers and morally formed by those who have not yet matured in their judgment. Recently, in the Wall Street Journal comedian Jerry Seinfeld was quoted as saying about his own adolescent daughter, They just want to use these words. "That's racist." "That's sexist." "That's prejudiced." They don't even know what they're talking about" (WSJ). Such "wise, adult" children should turn again and become God's children, subject to a loving Father's disciple.


The older I get the more childlike I want to become, if that child-likeness is God's child-likeness. "Yes, dear Father, I am Your child and would do as you have commanded. I know that I will falter, but I will never glory in my fault, but confess it, sorrow over it, and seek Your mercy. Dear Father, forgive me. Turn me away from my sin. Restore me that I may not die." You see, the sin in the world leads me to pray about my own sin. If you don't need to pray, place your hand upon your heart and check to see if it is still beating. If it is, you are still in the world and there is plenty of trouble, sorrow, sin, and suffering in it. Why pray? Because I see so much needless suffering around me, much of it caused by me.


Jesus certainly prays at pivotal moments in His ministry. In Mark 1 He is making the first public appearances of His ministry. On the night of His betrayal He prays continually: at the Supper; for Himself, His disciples, and us in the Upper Room; and in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is ready to be offered in the eternal plan to die; a plan devised by Him from the foundation of the world. And yet now He is confronted by the enormity of His suffering (and not just its physical cost): the weight of human depravity which He is owning now to remove it from you, He is facing the implacable and stubborn unbelief of the humans who howl for Him to die, and for whom, despite their rage against Him, He has come to die. In the darkness, He kneels bloodying them. In the darkness, He cries out to His Father. In the darkness, great drops of bloody sweat ooze from His pores. Why pray? Oh, because we are in such deep trouble!


Martin Luther


"We read: 'I called upon the Lord' (Ps 18:6). You must learn to call. Do not sit by yourself or lie on a couch, hanging and shaking your head. Do not destroy yourself with your own thoughts by worrying. Do not strive and struggle to free yourself, and do not brood on your wretchedness, suffering, and misery. Say to yourself: 'Come on, you lazy bum; down on your knees, and lift your eyes and hands toward heaven!' Read a psalm or the Our Father, call on God, and tearfully lay your troubles before Him. Mourn and pray, as this verse teaches, and also 'I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him' (Ps 142:2). Likewise,'Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!' (Ps 141:2). Here you learn that praying, reciting your troubles, and lifting up your hands are sacrifices most pleasing to God. It is His desire and will that you lay your troubles before Him. He does not want you to multiply your troubles by burdening and torturing yourself. He wants you to be too weak to bear and overcome such troubles. He wants you to grow strong in Him. By His strength He is glorified in you. Out of such experiences men become real Christians." 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Psalm 118.5

O Lord, It is Your will and command that I should come to you and pray. Your Word has warned me of the trouble and trial that abounds in the world, much of it caused by me. Have mercy on a poor sinner like me! I come to You because You have commanded me to approach You. I will trust what You have commanded, especially when I am sensible of my complete unworthiness. Remove the weight of my sin. Amen.


For Janice Tackett, who will undergo knee replacement surgery this week, that the Lord would grant her full and complete healing


For those who struggle to pray, that the will and command of the Lord would lead them to be confident of God's care-filled desire to hear their petitions


For the Supreme Court of the United States, that it would not redefine marriage in opposition to long tradition, nature itself, and God's institution, so that we could live peaceable and quiet lives in the civic realm
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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