Prayer for help

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Prayer for help

Psalm 102:1-17

Prayer to the Eternal King for Help

A prayer of one afflicted, when faint and pleading before the Lord.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;

let my cry come to you.

Do not hide your face from me

in the day of my distress.

Incline your ear to me;

answer me speedily in the day when I call.

For my days pass away like smoke,

and my bones burn like a furnace.

My heart is stricken and withered like grass;

I am too wasted to eat my bread.

Because of my loud groaning

my bones cling to my skin.

I am like an owl of the wilderness,

like a little owl of the waste places.

I lie awake;

I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.

All day long my enemies taunt me;

those who deride me use my name for a curse.

For I eat ashes like bread,

and mingle tears with my drink,

because of your indignation and anger;

for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.

My days are like an evening shadow;

I wither away like grass.

But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;

your name endures to all generations.

You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to favor it;

the appointed time has come.

For your servants hold its stones dear,

and have pity on its dust.

The nations will fear the name of the Lord,

and all the kings of the earth your glory.

For the Lord will build up Zion;

he will appear in his glory.

He will regard the prayer of the destitute,

and will not despise their prayer.

The first prayer we pray is for help. Whether we are grown adults seeking God for the first time honestly or newborn infants experiencing a terrifying life for the first time. In either case, we do not fully know the God we seek help from. There is really only two things we are sure of: We have a need and God is more powerful than us. This knowledge or acknowledgement reflects the first two steps of the AA 12 Steps to Recovery. The third step is the prayer itself.

I don’t think it is fair to compare infants and addicts in our weaknesses, but we can certainly compare the hope each day brings for new life, along with those challenges. That hope, whatever hope we have, begins with God and our willingness to ask Him for help.

What do you need God’s help in today?

Will you begin the day asking for help or will you wait until you’ve exhausted all your other options first?



Leaning

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“On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in all the earth.

Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: O my people, who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. The Lord of hosts will wield a whip against them, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. On that day his burden will be removed from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your neck.” Isaiah 10.20-27 (NRSV)

When the wind blows and the snow falls, what do you lean on? Who do you find yourself turning to? Psychologists have long noted that in traumatic situations, our first instinct is usually to go to our deepest point of security. Children run to their mothers, parents run to their children, we all run to our cars, and as soon as we put some distance between ourselves and the danger, we grab our security vice of choice: cigarettes, alchohol, chocolate, and Facebook. Some of us who are more talented can do all of the above.

We blame a lot in our nation on consumerism – as if it were some kind of foreign entity that has infiltrated our lives and taken control from the inside out. It is easier to act as though we have no choice when it comes to dealing with our consumeristic culture. But Isaiah points out all through his prophecies that consumerism is just another idol that we pull out, dust off, and put on the mantle of our hearts each and every day. We find ourselves wavering between claims that “I can quit anytime we want to…” and “I have no control over my life.”

I love the way Isaiah describes this problem. He calls it leaning. We all find ourselves needing to lean on something or someone every day, even if just for a moment. There is something incredibly human, maybe even just part of walking on two legs, that creates a need to lean. Isaiah, warns us to be careful of what we lean on though. Some things in life look sturdy but will collapse under our weight and end up piercing us with broken pieces if we put our weight upon them. Other things may be much sturdier than they look. What we see consistently with God is that He calls us to lean on Him, even when we cannot see Him at all!

Leaning on God is like leaning into a strong wind sometimes. We cannot see it, but we can feel it and see the effects of it. Yet we have no control over it and live in constant concern that it may stop and leave us toppling over. This, invisible, uncontrollable, Spirit of God is the very thing that we need to put all our weight into… and this is what the Bible describes as living by faith.

It is ridiculous and incredible to live like this. It is as ridiculous an incredible as believing that the God who created the universe was born as a baby from a virgin woman in a manger outside the small town of Bethlehem, and that we would know his name and celebrate his birth on the other side of the world 2000 years later… This ridiculous, unbelievable story is powerful enough to make Wall Street take the day off, inspire songs in hundreds of languages, and cause us all to stop and focus on loving God and loving one another at least one day out of the year. That is the God, Isaiah invites us to lean on!

  • Who do you lean on when you find yourself in trouble?
  • What do you go to or do when you are looking for comfort?
  • How can you, as an act of faith, lean on God a little more today?

in excelsis deo

Saturday December 17, 2016

Quiet

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In the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel went up to attack Jerusalem, but could not mount an attack against it. When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. Because Aram—with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah—has plotted evil against you, saying, Let us go up against Judah and cut off Jerusalem and conquer it for ourselves and make the son of Tabeel king in it; therefore thus says the Lord God: It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. (Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered, no longer a people.) The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. Isaiah 7:1-9 (NRSV)

Our church used to host a Narcotics Anonymous group. They used small candles as a part of their meeting and this often puzzled my church members. One night, I decided to find out exactly what they did, so I ventured out that evening and attended my first 12-step group.

Once everyone was assembled, they passed out the little tealight candles and everyone lit them with their own lighters they carried. (It was this moment that I sorta outed myself by not having my own lighter and having to borrow one from the person next to me.) Then they turned off the lights, so the only light in the room came from those tiny flames sitting quietly on the table before us.

We all live in a noisy world, and the noise is amplified tenfold in the life of someone facing physical addictions, mental instability, and emotional upheaval. Most of the people in the room had some combination of all three. I think for me, I juggle them around, trying not to hold more than one at a time. But for one moment, the noise was turned off and our attention brought to focus on these tiny lights of hope we had been given for the night. We could name the noises for what they were in this safe place. We could share openly and honestly without being judged for who we were. In this moment of quiet, we could find ground stable enough to stand and reach out to someone next to us who need help getting to their feet. It was a beautiful thing.

The Gospel of John tells us that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. That is a truth that simply is. Even if we do not believe it, it still is true. Light always casts out darkness, no matter how big or how bright. I think the season of Advent invites us to be reminded of the power of God’s presence, even when it seems small and dim. Just as Isaiah reminded King Ahaz – our hope has always been and will always be in God. When we try to take things on ourselves, tempted as we are by the noise around us, we will fall and fail every time. Our first and last call is always to trust in God.

  • What is the busiest/noisiest part of your week?
  • Where do you find quiet?
  • What is your candle that brings your focus back to the presence of God?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

Thursday December 8, 2016