Prayer going nowhere

Blocked Doorway

It feels pointless when prayer is getting nowhere, and yet I sense the Lord asking me to pray. It is just going through the motions, so why persist? Then I read –

Have mercy on me, O God, …  wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2

Being unaware of any specific sin, there must be something God sees that I don’t.

What I acknowledge completely, is that the blockage itself has built up my resistance to spending time with God. And in this is sin, so,

Against you, you only, have I sinned … so you are …  justified when you judge.

Psalm 51:4

Jesus is drawing me back to himself.

 you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Psalm 51:6

I long for these times when he teaches me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

For this, I ask him to cleanse me. I am unaware of what I did to break the relationship, and isn’t that true with our most intimate relationships? However, I am aware of how I have backed away from him, and for that I need forgiveness.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Psalm 51:9

Thankfully, he is willing to hide his face from ALL my iniquity, not just the bits I am aware of and indeed, following this time of prayer, the blockage went.

When life is an open wound

Many think prayer should be dignified as if God would take offence at our saying what we really felt.

I yell out to my God … with all my might, (Psalm-77:1-Message)

Sometimes life demands prayers that yell.

my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.

Constant pain, aggravated by the least stress presses our character. Our world collapses to pain management and love for others is challenging. Yes, we yell to God.

When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”
I didn’t believe a word they said. (Psalm-77:2)

Others, who have not suffered, patronise us with words they want to be true to protect their theology.

I go over the days one by one, …. I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together. (Psalm-77:5-6)

Such pain is a lonely place. We are alone with our thoughts and our music.

Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders. (Psalm-77:11-12)

When we realise we are unable to put our lives back together we seek God again. We need to rediscover who the God of the Bible really is.

You … walked straight through roaring Ocean, but nobody saw you … hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, (Psalm-77:19-20)

Our pondering from pain brings us to new understanding of how God works.

I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. (Psalm-77:1-Message)

No explanations are given, but we do come to know him deeper, and are assured that he is listening.

 

For a more in depth study – The undignified prayer

Keys to the Kingdom

When what we say lifts Jesus as God and acknowledges ourselves as servants then we have the keys of Kingdom. When speaking in independence we lose them. Spiritual authority is based on submission to Jesus, ‘Son of the living God.’

In Matthew 16 following Peter’s confession:

16 …, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus states:

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

It seems Jesus gave Peter Carte Blanche; whatever he says goes. So, many believers pray believing they will get what is asked with an authoritative voice. However Peter immediately uses this authority and is rebuffed –

23 …  ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

Isaiah 33:5-6 coming from a different angle illuminates –

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; … He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

Isaiah lifts up the Lord, as Peter has, great things are promised on the basis of the fear of the Lord. If I put this thinking into Matthew 16 I see Jesus saying, while you acknowledge Me as God and take Me seriously, then you have the keys of the kingdom.

 

For the complete study – Key to the Kingdom

Freedom from Slavery

Psalm 114 (Message)

After Israel left Egypt, the clan of Jacob left those barbarians behind;

Judah became holy land for him, Israel the place of holy rule.

Leaving the land of slavery, Israel became God’s holy people and the land the place of holy rule. This was a first step to their being made Holy.

This move from slavery to holiness is not a process we are good at. We lurch between slaveries. People who have encountered the Lord and been freed often develop a path through which others can find their freedom that is upheld legalistically.

The freedom described here is not gained through repeating steps in a plan, but calling out to the Lord for mercy and waiting for Him.

Sea took one look and ran the other way; River Jordan turned around and ran off.

The mountains turned playful and skipped like rams, the hills frolicked like spring lambs.

When the Lord intervenes, then nothing will be an obstacle to Him. Discussing this with someone from Africa he commented that, in the face of corrupt officials, if the Lord wants something to happen it will.  It may take longer, but the Lord will fulfil his word.

Tremble, Earth! You’re in the Lord’s presence! in the presence of Jacob’s God.

He turned the rock into a pool of cool water, turned flint into fresh spring water.

The transforming effect is not because of the skill of the people of Israel, it is because the presence of the Lord is there. The earth trembles when the Lord approaches.

 

The more complete Study of this passage can be found at –Freedom from Legalism

Spiritual emptiness

Why does the Lord take us through periods of spiritual emptiness? We long for intimacy in worship and the word, but encounter dryness.

This seems to be the experience of the Psalmist in Psalms 42&43 (combined as one).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

This seems blasphemy to a culture exalting intimacy with God. How could God distance Himself? Yet the Psalmist writes –

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

When this spiritual emptiness is experienced there are consequences, a rawness to life. One is on edge and brought to the end of natural defences. One is tempted to fill up through satisfaction of physical senses that only scream louder.

In years gone by, the Psalmist may have believed in a ‘technique that worked.’ After gaining intimacy with God through such techniques and then losing it for no apparent reason one gains perspective that God is after more than experiences of wellbeing.

43:3 Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

The break through comes not from our efforts but from the Lord. The Psalmist calls on the one who seems to have forgotten him, recognising that the Lord’s purpose is as much about character as the experience of His presence.

 

For greater detail see the study for the whole passage.

One thing I ask …

Psalm 27:4 both inspires and challenges.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

First – In praying this I have seen the Lord bear fruit, however I then go on to ask the Lord to give ministry success as well, missing the point that He is sufficient in Himself.

The Lord has been challenging me to be content with ‘one thing’!  Only when willing to be open, that my ‘one’ ministry was to dwell in His house, experiencing the ‘humiliation’ of ‘not doing anything’ did He open the door to further ministry.

Second is the context – I had imagined it as the longings of one far from worries. In fact it is written in conflict. V12 –

Do not hand me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me,  spouting malicious accusations.

David the general has confidence not in his skill, but in the Lord. This confidence comes not from his history of success but from the core of his soul. He has encountered the Lord and seen His goodness in both success and failure. So David is at peace confident of God’s goodness, whatever that may look like. He prays, ‘One thing’ not out of sentimentality but because the outer situation reinforces the need for his core relationship with God to be developed.

The study from which this was derived is found in BibleBase2ADaringFaith

Trustworthy to Jesus?

The Lord loves us but he does not entrust himself to us.

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. John 2:24 (NIV)

We see this in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. They were with him wherever they went, yet he did not entrust himself even to his closest disciples. Consider James and John, two of the closest. There is the time they want to call down fire on a village for not having received Jesus or the time they ask for a place on His left and right in heaven. Though they had asked,

We want you to do for us whatever we ask, Mark 10:35

Jesus had not entrusted himself to them. He was free to do what was right.

When people are being emotionally abusive we need to keep our emotional distance. This is hard when they are friends or family. When Jesus would not entrust himself he was protecting himself from those he was closest to, and yet could not trust to act honourably.

This principle extends to the Lord’s relationship with us. I too can be abusive in the way I relate to Him. I call myself His friend but then presume on him with demands that do not reflect His love. The Lord will of course be gracious to me, but will not entrust himself to me while he knows this is in me. I am challenged to relate to my Father in love, respecting and trusting Him, so that He can extend deeper friendship to me.

Covenant with God

With God, what we declare on earth is declared in heaven. He fulfils what we commit to in union with Him.

Psalm 132 is a tale of two parallel oaths.

1 David … 2 swore an oath to the Lord, … 3 ‘I will not enter my house or go to my bed,… 5 till I find …, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’

David would not rest till he found a dwelling for the Lord. An oath carried out passionately, even after Nathan told him that he was not the one to build a temple for the Lord.

Most would say, ‘Oops!’ and revoke their vow. David dedicated his vast wealth to the construction of the temple.

In v11 we see a parallel oath. There is nothing to indicate which came first.

11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: ‘One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.

As David kept his oath, so the Lord would not revoke His. When David failed, the Lord redeemed! David’s oath came from his heart; the Lord swears with all of His being – and we see that oath fulfilled in Jesus who reigns for ever.

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, 14 ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; …, for I have desired it.

David chooses Jerusalem and wants the Lord’s presence with Him. The Lord chooses Zion for his dwelling; apparently independent yet together.

 

For the more complete thinking behind this follow this link

Overcoming anger

I was overcome by fear and anger.  Someone had made a threatening comment and I was churned up inside. My mind would turn on this person and fight mental arguments.

I know that when I am in such a state, it would be unwise for me to open my mouth – bile would come out. The Lord’s approach is instructive. He does not enter the argument but calls me to His side.

Psalm 110:1 “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

He asks me to sit with Him in His presence and allow Him to deal with the issue. When I can contain myself to sit with Him, meditating on His Word and surrendering in prayer, He changes my perspective. He shows me that He is able to handle this person who would threaten His son. When I fail to sit with Him I enter the fray and descend to my opponent’s level.

I am reminded of a cat fight. Our cat had been chased in-doors through the cat-flap and was now facing the threatening cat with the flap between them. There was hissing and scratching at plastic. Neither understood that the cat-flap was programmed to admit only our cat so she was safe. Knowing our cat was upset and fearful, I picked her up and held her. While the other cat continued to hiss and paw at the cat-flap, ours looked into my face and quietly settled in my arms.

Fragrance of Christ

When a person meets with God, the impact is not often in the spectacular, but in the fragrance. It is not often in miracles or recordable events, but in the tenderness of the love, the quietness of peace, the steadfastness in hope. This fragrance impacts those around us. They are qualities that are infectious, and in their turn bear fruit for Jesus Christ.

‘While the King was at His table, my perfume spread its fragrance.’ SofS 1:17

These qualities come to us when we meet with Jesus at His table in the Tabernacle, meditating on Him as we chew on His Word, fellowshipping deeply as we participate in His cup. This is a place of fellowship and inspiration, where we see things from His perspective under the illumination of the Spirit -the Golden Candlesticks and respond by praying, not our wish list, but the intercessions that come from His heart at the altar of burnt incense.

When we meet with God in the inner sanctuary then He works His qualities into our lives and transforms us. This transformation is experienced by others as the aroma of Christ. It is an aroma we are unaware of. Our focus is on Christ, and we are so caught up with Him that we become unaware of ourselves.

This type of testimony has to be experienced. Words don’t quite do it, in the same way that fragrance cannot be described except through rather inadequate comparisons. Love when told about rather than experienced always sounds somewhat corny.