prayer Posts

The Silence of God – Andrew Peterson

It’s enough to drive a man crazy; it’ll break a man’s faith

It’s enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane

When he’s bleating for comfort from thy staff and thy rod

And the heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.

 

It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart

When he has to remember what broke him apart

This yoke may be easy, but the burden is not

When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God.

 

And if a man’s got to listen to the voices of the mob

Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got

When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross

Then what about the times when even followers get lost?

‘Cause we all get lost sometimes…

 

There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll

In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold

And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a stone

All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

 

And the man of all sorrows, He never forgot

What sorrow is carried by the hearts that He bought

So when the questions dissolve in to the silence of God

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not

In the Holy, Lonesome echo of the silence of God.  

 

Why Lent?

lent word-1Growing up I didn’t know much about Lent. To me, it was simply a strange “Catholic” practice. Through the years, I’ve gained a broader understanding of the Body of Christ through the study of Church history and I’ve experienced a deeper expression of prayer and worship through a broader Christian heritage. Most Protestants think of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season as a “Catholic thing” or even a “pagan” holiday of some sort. The season of Lent appeared after the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) though some have noted that our earliest known reference of the practice was Ireneus (an early church father who died in 202 A.D.). With so many biblical precedents, it seems that the church would have seized upon the idea of fasting for forty days prior to that. But the early history of Lent is interesting and complex. Even the etymology of the word takes different paths. Known as Tessarakosti in Greek and Quadragesima in Latin, for “the Forty,” it was later referred to as “Lenten” which comes from an Old English word “lencten” meaning “Springtime” or “Spring.” This was derived from a West Germanic word that means “long-days,” because of the approaching Spring, or vernal equinox – literally, “equal night” and equal day. All of this to say, what it’s called has a long, winding history and it has been a long-standing practice of the Church. Understandably, many equate the practice of Lent, or Ash Wednesday, with the debauchery of Mardi Gras and, therefore, want to run as far away from it as possible. But is there something redemptive about this ancient practice that could actually bring us into a deeper walk with Jesus all the way to Resurrection Sunday? Why Lent? And even more, why Lent among believers who have not had the practice as part of their spiritual history? As noted, it is a part of our history and I believe there’s something here to be restored.

What we’ve sought to do is strip the Lenten season of anything that is not biblical or does not bring our mind’s attention and heart’s affection to Jesus. Instead, maintain a simple and clear focus of prayer, repentance, and personal sacrifice. I’ve heard many sermons on Christ’s instructions to pray as He says, “When you pray…” pray like this.  But He also says, “When you fast…” fast like this (Matthew 6:16). He doesn’t say “if” you fast, but “when.” Jesus expected His followers to pray, and at times, fast as a regular part of our spiritual pattern of worship. Could it be that we (in the U.S. in particular) could learn a few things about restraint, about giving up so much of what we want and dying to our selfish need for more? I am certain that prayer and fasting is greatly needed among believers, particularly in the affluent West.

What many have written off as a strange practice (ashes on the forehead, giving up certain foods, etc.) we’ve sought to recapture in its purest biblical sense. It is true that “Ash Wednesday” or “Lent” are not in the Bible. (Of course, neither are Christmas Eve services, Good Friday services, Advent, and so much of what others of us would call “normal.”) You don’t see “Easter Sunday” in the Bible either, because every Sunday is Easter Sunday – or better, Resurrection Sunday for the believer.

“Lent” may not be in the Bible but focused seasons of sacrifice, confession, and repentance clearly are. In the church I grew up in we rushed to Easter Sunday without any preparation of the heart before God. I’ve learned much from the larger Body of Christ as it relates to the spiritual disciplines of solitude, prayer, and fasting. The Lenten or Easter Season should be a focused time of confession and repentance from “Ash Wednesday” to Easter Sunday. Forty Days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday – minus the Sundays leading up to Easter – because the early believers would not fast on Sundays. Later many would go from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday (forty days later). Maundy comes from “mandatum” meaning “mandate” or “command.” Jesus said, “A new commandment (mandatum nuevum) I give to you” (John 13:34). So the Lenten season is a period of intentional prayer and fasting (with a focus on confession, restraint, sacrifice, and repentance). Why forty days? Forty days shows up throughout the Bible – the flood, the spies in Canaan, the Israelites in the wilderness, days before Samson’s deliverance, Goliath taunting Saul’s army, Elijah fleeing Jezebel, days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and on and on. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus (Luke 4:1-2) all fasted for forty days. Forty is not an arbitrary number.

Some practice the placing of ashes on foreheads or wrists signifying the start of a season of confession and repentance. The ashes remind the worshipper of his/her mortality, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) as well as the need to repent of sin in one’s life. It was common for Jews and early believers to mourn the loss of a loved one with “sackcloth and ashes.” Ashes were also a sign of brokenness and repentance of sin. Confession of sin, however, is a private thing between you and God and is not something to be paraded around and seen by everyone.

The practice of fasting is the act of the will through which the follower of Jesus puts forth spiritual control over the flesh (through sacrifice – i.e. not eating, or some other form of self-denial) with a view to a more personal and powerful experience with God in prayer. Fasting involves giving up but is much more about receiving.  You give up in order to receive. You die in order to live. The essence of fasting and renewed commitment to Jesus is summed up in Philippians 1:21, “For me, to live is Christ and die is gain.” During this season of restraint, Christ is experienced as more than enough for us in every way. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). During a fast He becomes our “food.” The will of God becomes your sustenance.

Come walk to the cross with the Lord Jesus this Easter season as never before. Let the prayer of David be yours.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 

St Patrick’s Day Prayer

St. Patrick depicted with shamrock in detail of stained glass window in St. Benin's Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland

St. Patrick depicted with shamrock in detail of stained glass window in St. Benin’s Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

~ St. Patrick

 

 

 

I’m Coming Back For You

“So always be ready, because you don’t the day your Lord will come.”  Matthew 24:42

It’s interesting that on the final week of Jesus’ life He spoke much about His return. It should come as no surprise. The scenario is pretty simple as He explains it in John 14.  “Don’t worry.  I’m leaving for a while, but I’ll be back.  And when I come back, I’ll take you with me.” The return of Christ is certain. His return is final. And when He comes again He will separate those who are with Him from those who are not. Separation can be a sad thing.  Jesus knew a lot about separation. He was about to experience a separation such as He had never known before. When He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”, He was experiencing the abandonment of His Father. His Holy Father turned His back on His Son as He took on the sin of the world. And He did it all for you.  He did it all so that one day, He could come back and take you home. He did it so you would never be abandoned. He, who had been separated from the Father, was about to be united again. Soon He would experience the warm embrace of His Father once again; the weary traveler from a foreign land would find Himself in the loving arms of His Father.  That’s the same reunion He wants you to know as well. When He comes again, every person who ever lived will be judged on whether or not they had received His forgiveness.  He’s coming back for you. Who will you bring with you?

“So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”  Matthew 24:44

Pray:  Lord, I want to live every day in expectation of Your return. Today I will realize that I have been given but one life and that it is brief at best. I will maximize this day for Your purposes knowing that the Day is coming when I will be united with You.

The Day God Got Mad – Monday

“My Temple will be called a house of prayer but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”  Matthew 21:13

Most of us have the mental picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd with a baby lamb on His shoulders, carrying it to safety. We think of the soft images of Jesus in the manger as a baby or as a grown up with children sitting in His lap. But there’s one picture few of us ponder very often. It’s the picture of Jesus on the Monday before His death storming through the temple like a wild man yelling at people to leave! In one of the most dramatic acts of His ministry, Jesus said more about the priority of prayer than in a hundred sermons on the subject. He actually did this twice in His ministry and the first time He made a whip out of cords and was thrashing people out of the temple.

Why was He so mad?  As Jim Cymbala states in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, “His house was being prostituted for purposes other than what was intended.” The Bible never says, “My house shall be called a house of preaching, or programs that suit me perfectly, or lots of great music.” No, He says His shall be a house of prayer. Cymbala says, “I’ve seen God do more in people’s lives in ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.” Then he asks, “What does it say about our churches today that God birthed the church in a prayer meeting, and prayer meetings today are almost extinct?” What about you? Is prayer your first priority?  Is your house a house of prayer? Is your life a life of prayer? Determine that it will be. Let’s let our first priority of the church be prayer!

“The prayers of an upright person accomplishes much.”  Proverbs 15:8

Pray:  Lord, I want prayer to be the first priority of my church and of my life. I don’t want to grieve Your heart because of prayerlessness in my life. I will devote time to pray to You every day. I will be in constant conversation with You today.