Prayer for Comfort

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Prayer for Comfort

Genesis 8:13-19

In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

Confession and comfort are two sides of growth in prayer. Together, these two kinds of prayer encompass steps 4-10 of the way to recovery and spiritual maturity.

This kind of prayer involved more than wires whispered at a bedside. It is prayer with hands and feet. We go to Jesus as our mediator between God and ourselves, but we also need to go to Jesus to mediate between ourselves and others. It is confession that follows along the line of the teaching Jesus gave in a general sense I response to paying taxes. If you owe your neighbor an apology, God expects you to give it to her. If you owe your neighbor more than an apology, Jesus expects you to pay that as well. Zaccheus it’s a phenomenal example of this from the gospels and Paul writes to the Romans the same thing. Owe no one anything but love.

This kind of full-bodied confession is costly. Between the jabs of confession we need comfort. We need reassurance that, even if we have not been and are not okay in the present, God is meeting us and making a way. There may be no more beautiful and concise picture of this than what James, the brother of Jesus wrote to the churches: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

It is terrifying seeking reconciliation sometimes. It does not always go well. Sometimes it seems to make things worse because it is often easier to ignore a problem than to address it, especially if there is no convenient solution within our grasp. The healing comes not from our own strength, but from God. The promise we have about comfort is not that we will not suffer, but that we will not suffer alone and that healing and joy will follow.

John 14:27-29

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Prayer of Confession

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Prayer of Confession

Acts 27:13-38

The Storm at Sea

When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and so were driven. We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.”

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they took soundings again and found fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. But when the sailors tried to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and set it adrift.

Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. (We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.

Confession is good for the soul. It lightens our load. But many times it is lightening our load during a storm – done not for convenience, but for survival. Confession is also the 5th step to recovery and the more thorough we are in taking it, the more healing and redemption we open ourselves to receive.

Paul knew, through his prayers for guidance and discernment, that it was unwise to set out to sea, but no one listened to him. I wonder, had he not been a prisoner of Rome at that time, if he would have stayed back and let the others perish at sea. This particular time, he was not given the choice.

How often do you find yourself facing the consequences of actions for which you had little choice? Sometimes it may seem unfair to go to God in confession for those sins. Paul led that time of confession for the crew of the whole ship! Many of us have a romanticized vision of Paul, but from the perspective of the soldiers and crew on this prison ship, Paul was a political dissident and a criminal. Perhaps his calm demeanor put them at ease. Or maybe, it made them even more suspicious.

In the middle of that storm, it didn’t matter. People will naturally follow the clearest, calmest soul in the midst of such chaos. It takes a clear soul to lead others in confession. Our own junk has a way of cluttering our vision and giving us wrong vision of how we to lead others around us. Sometimes it even hides itself in false modesty, convincing us that we do not want to lead ourselves, just give helpful advice. I heard Beth Moore speak on this topic once in reference to the scripture:

Matthew 10:27

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

She spoke about the temptation to take what we hear from God and immediately share it with everyone around us before we find out how to actually apply it to our own lives. I have experienced this to be true in preaching especially. My best sermons are the ones that I learn to live before I preach them.

You have to pray your own prayers of confession before you can lead others in them. And sometimes we have to pray them in the storm, not just when it is convenient. Like Paul, God is not going to save us from all the consequences of our sin, but He will spare us from some of it and He will redeem the situation to show everyone around just how marvelous a God He is.

What do you have to confess?

Airing out

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Airing out

Psalm 32

The Joy of Forgiveness

Of David. A Maskil.

1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.
11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

-The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 32). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

One of my favorite stories I heard about my dad was the time he bought vinyl shoes. Apparently they were very comfortable, and he was so excited about them. By the end of the day though, his feet felt like they were on fire because the shoes did not allow his feet to breathe.

That is how our souls can get if we cover ourselves up with too much shiny, plastic faith. It looks good on the outside, but inside, we are burning up and suffocating. This is also how David described his life when he was covering up his sin.

Dad went home, got a pocket knife, and began to cut holes in those shoes. It didn’t look so good anymore, and they did not last long – but at least his feet could breathe again. David also found relief in acknowledging his sin to God. In those days, acknowledging sin meant more than just going off into a dark, quiet room, and whispering to God that you were sorry. It meant repenting of that sin and seeking to restore or heal whatever damage had been done. Then, you had to bring a sacrifice to the Temple in public. While everyone may not know what sin you specifically committed, they would know you had done something wrong. Like going up to the altar for prayer during a church service – everyone saw you.

Confession brought David relief. Instead of worrying about what people were saying about him, he celebrated God’s love and vowed to share this love and way of life with others.

What do you need to air out today?

Is it time to cut some breathing holes or is it time to get some new shoes?

An Acrostic (from Blackbirds)

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Crawling onto new feet, edging soundlessly, slinking into offal now

O Foolish

Animal

Sick inverted narcissistic nuisance ever ready

 

Tearing open new infractions that eat

Into

Souls of lingering death

More yet

For leaving every single hair

And washing away youth

A numb dirge

Welcomes every dog

Minded young

Headless endeavor and roars twice

Too often

Singing into nowhere

 

I taste sorrow

Reviving every velvet entrail like rotted yolk

Interspersed

Just old in natalry

Bending each candle across useless seasons each

Making yellow

Sunlit openings under languishing

Icicles

Cold and narrow, never over time

Waning into nothing

 

All lamenting a song

For orphaned rites

Memorized epiphanies

They held in silence

Waiting ever in great hope that

Incantations

Hold orders loosing dreams

Inside

Canopies and needle nets our troubles

Hate our loyalties yet

Beneath each ardent reverie

 

Fane or risen

I

Halt among vagrant eaves

Garnishing ivies, vacillating, entirely new

Until persuasion

Tripping hearts easily

Shame hope again, perhaps even

Mistaking You

Guarding our dead

Gardening all vacant entrances

Marking everything

Towering over

Worlds ever after remember