praying Psalm 37

psalm 37I had a technical problem this morning that has kept me home from church. I woke fully intending to go worship, but my iPhone clock was unbeknownst to me still stuck in the central time zone from my trip yesterday. I figured this out 25 minutes before our worship service was to begin, and while I was still in my pajamas.

So this Sunday morning, I’m worshiping at home, praying Psalm 37:

LORD, may I trust in You and do good. May I dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Please show me what that means in this life you’ve marked out for me. What does it look like hour by hour, minute by minute to be faithful to You?

Help me to delight in You, knowing that when I do You promise to give me the desires of my heart.

Oh, LORD, may my heart truly find delight in You and not be distracted by the delights in this world that pale in comparison to Your glory. It’s soooo easy to get distracted. Help my heart’s desires to line up with Yours.

LORD, today I commit my way to You. May I trust in You and truly believe that You will act.

Help me, LORD, to be still before You. You know it’s not my default position. I’m a person who tends to get busy, who likes to check off my to-do list, who finds it hard to sit and wait. Yet, You command me to BE STILL. Help me to quiet my soul before You and wait.

Help me to wait patiently for You, not fretting because of others who are up to no good but seem to prosper. Help me to keep my eyes on You, not on them. You want me to wait WITH PATIENCE. Again, that does not come naturally to me. I need Your Spirit for that. I need Jesus for that.

LORD, help me to refrain from anger. It can flare up in me so quickly and sometimes it catches me by surprise. Help me to only get angry at what angers You, not at what interferes with my heart’s idols or inconveniences me. Help me to know the difference between righteous anger and sinful anger.

Father, help me to WAIT for you and keep Your way.

May I live today with the constant awareness that You are my stronghold at the time of trouble and may I take refuge in You.

Because of Christ and in His name, I pray.

Amen.

abounding

abounding

From Psalm 103:8

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord overflows with steadfast love for His people. Like Moses when God announced this very aspect of himself to him, my heart bursts into worship of this God who is so much better to His people than we ever deserve. Why, oh why, do we ever forget his benefits?

People disappoint us. Fellow believers and loved ones hurt us. People leave. They give up on us. We do those things to others. Yet, our God overflows with steadfast love and faithfulness. 

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

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“…sweetly fed and fattened.”

cassiodorusCassiodorus on the Psalms:

The Psalter appears like a heavenly sphere thick with twinkling stars and, so to speak, like a beautiful peacock that is adorned with round eyes and a rich and lovely variety of colors. The Psalter is indeed a paradise for souls, containing numberless fruits on which the human soul is sweetly fed and fattened.

My soul is currently being “sweetly fed and fattened” by studying Psalm 103, using Kathleen Nielson’s Psalms study as my guide. I’m thinking about the verbs in verses 3-5 — what the LORD does for his people:

  • forgives our iniquity
  • heals our diseases
  • redeems our lives from the pit
  • crowns us with steadfast love and mercy
  • satisfies us with good so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s

Each of those verbs is something I cannot do for myself. Only the LORD can do them. And He does!

Grateful this Friday morning,

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“…but prayer cannot be confined…”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

I call upon you, O LORD; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you! ~ Psalm 141:1

Arrow prayers — petitions shot off to God on the spur of the moment — are spontaneous and urgent. The use of incense to symbolize prayer and the appointing of an evening hour for the sacrificial act of worship are legitimate enough, but prayer cannot be confined to such established forms and set times. Empty hands and unstudied words are always welcome before God.

PRAYER: Lord, take the half-formed sentences I address to you and the half-concious movements I make toward you — my interjections and my gestures — and make prayers of petition and praise out of them, in the name of and for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

salvation

psalmsstudyKathleen Nielson’s Psalms study has me working through Psalm 98, and a prominent theme there is the Lord’s salvation. Dr. Nielson writes:

Scripture is the whole story of salvation, of God’s deliverance — his saving of a death-doomed people. That salvation was from the beginning found in Jesus Christ, who was promised; who then came and died for the sins of sinful people; who rose again, conquering death; and who will come again to judge and to reign forever — as we shall anticipate at the end of Psalm 98. What this psalm focuses on at its start is the joy of this salvation, a consistent theme throughout Scripture.

If the joy of salvation is a consistent theme throughout Scripture, it ought to be a consistent theme in God’s people. What would that look like? Consider Isaiah 12:2-3.

Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my
song,
and he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the well of salvation.

I love that picture of drawing water from the well of salvation — with joy! I’m going to work to keep this thought in mind as I go throughout my day — to meditate on how confidence and joy in the Lord’s salvation leads to trust and boldness. It is a song for my soul to sing.

Will you sing it with me?

Rejoicing,
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“Life accumulates irrelevancies…”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. ~ Psalm 143:5

Life accumulates irrelevancies as a ship acquires barnacles. Each item seems harmless in itself, but in the mass they sink us into sluggish immobility. Then some trouble invades our inertia and forces reflection; we see our lives in relation to God (“I meditate on the works of your hands”) and realize our primary needs (“my soul thirsts for you”).

PRAYER: God, too much of my life is deadweight — habit, routine, and duty that have become separated from you. Wake me to my essential, eternal relationships. I will go over again what I know of your ways and reorder my ways by what I learn in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

rightly remembering

psalmsstudyAs I mentioned, I’m working through Kathleen Nielson’s Psalms study and I’ve spent some time in Psalm 77. One assignment reads like this: (emphasis mine)

Certainly it is important for the psalmist to work through the kinds of remembering and questioning that he does in the first part of this psalm. The psalmist of Psalm 42 has to do that as well. They spoke out their troubles, fears, and longings for happier times. But it is vitally important that they did not stop there and so drown in their troubles, fears, and longings. They kept on speaking. And they kept on speaking to the Lord they knew was there. There is one other crucial aspect to what the psalmist does here: he remembers in a different way, starting in Psalm 77:10. Read the following verses and consider this question: How should the stories and truths of the Scriptures invade and transform our thoughts and even our memories?

Each of those passages exhort God’s people to remember, to be mindful, to not forget, to remind our children. Remembering is a very willful decision because our default is to forget. Also we tend to more easily remember and dwell on the troubles than on the deliverances. The psalmist wisely moves on from expressing his anguish to addressing God directly. That is a model for us. We’re to bring our troubles and burdens and pain to God, but we’re not to stay there, wallowing in them. We have to look up. And remember.

Reading the psalms is an excellent way to begin remembering rightly.

What do you remember?

Grateful for God’s reminders,
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“Trouble does its best work when it drives us to God.”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

Look on my right hand and see — there is no one who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for me. ~ Psalm 142:4

Trouble does its best work when it drives us to God. The discovery that other people cannot or will not help us is not a disaster if, at the same time, it shows us that God both can and will help. That we are abandoned by others is not the last straw so much as the first step to the realization that God is our help and salvation.

PRAYER: In the empty places in my life, devastated by broken promises and vacated by faithless companions, come, Holy Spirit, as Companion and Comforter. I will use my times of trouble to receive the help that only you can give.  Amen.

“God makes the first move…”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. ~Psalm 139:1-2

Any true life of the spirit must be narrated as a story of God’s search for humankind, not humankind’s search for God. God makes the first move; he understands our being and is conversant with our most personal inner life. His seeking removes all the panic from faith and all the anxiety from hope. All our works can be response and all our words praise.

PRAYER: “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior try; no, I was found of Thee” (Anonymous, “I Sought the Lord”).  Amen.