Appropriate Response

Tears of great grief have clarified my vision.

I don’t think clever arguments are the best way to effect change and I’m unconvinced that gathering the right group of people can guarantee an outcome.

But I know that God’s people, repentant and responsive to His will can do battle in the heavenlies.

donald-trump-vs-hillary-clinton

I am writing this BEFORE tonight’s scheduled presidential debate-I won’t be watching itnothing the candidates have to say and no media spin can undo the knot in my stomach.  

I am not surprised to find us here. But I am surprised that so many of my fellow believers are surprised.

Like captive Israel, we seem astonished that God does exactly what He says He will do.

Daniel understood his times.  Daniel knew that the blame lay not on those “out there” but on us “in here”.  

Pagans will be pagans.

They have no reason nor the power to act in accordance with biblical teaching.

But those of us called by grace and covered by Jesus’ blood-that’s an entirely different story.

So instead of lobbing political arguments across the aisle or pounding one another with snarky social media posts, I think we should follow Daniel’s example and storm the gates of heaven.

daniel-praying

An appropriate response to our current political predicament starts with prayer.

And that prayer starts with repentance.  

Not a general, “We’ve been so bad, God.  Sorry.”

But genuine, gut-wrenching, heart breaking acknowledgement of the degree to which the people of God-me, you, ushave turned from truth and pursued our own pleasure.

For generations, we have put our faith in a political party instead of a Holy God.  We have been happy to accept leaders of questionable integrity as long as our pocketbooks didn’t suffer.

We have sinned.  And we are reaping the fruit of the seed we sowed.

Our only hope is the mercy of God.  

I am going to be fasting and praying and begging for that mercy, like Daniel.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;…The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

Daniel 9:1-19 selected NIV

Prayers I Still Pray, Last Installment

Months ago, in my first post about prayer,  I spoke to the difficulty of praying while experiencing great pain.  In Praying Through the Pain I wrote:

I am thankful that before Dominic died I had a habit of praying and reading Scripture.  I am thankful for the many verses that are so ingrained in my thoughts that they come, unbidden to my mind.

So I have continued to pray each morning, opening my journal and my Bible.

Even when I cannot feel the connection, I know God is there.

Today’s post is the final in a short series where I am sharing the prayers I still find easy to pray even after burying a child.

If you comb through the New Testament looking for prayers, you find that they don’t look like the ones we hear most often in church-most New Testament prayers focused on expanding a believer’s knowledge of who they are in Christ and Who Jesus is to them. 

Based on Scripture, I can ask in faith, speaking God’s words back to Him.

THESE are prayers I can still pray, I hope they are helpful for others in similar circumstances.

II Thessalonians 1: 11-12

God, I pray

  • that You will count____worthy of Your calling,
  • that by Your power You may fulfill every good purpose in ___’s life and every act prommpted by their faith.
  • I pray this so that the name of our Lord may be glorified in ___and they in You, acccording to Your grace.

2_thessalonians_1_11_12_by_ktbdesigns-d5voe0h

I Thessalonian 1:2-9

I always thank You, Father, for ___, as I bring them to You in prayer,

Continue to stir up in them

  • work produced by faith,
  • labor prompted by love, and
  • endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Cause ____to know that they are loved by You and especially chosen of You.

Cause the gospel to take root in their lives and go forth from them

  • not in words only,
  • but also with power,
  • with the Holy Spirit, and
  • with deep conviction.

Cause___

  • to keep their eyes on the Lord Jesus and become imitators of Him,
  • to have joy as only the Holy Spirit can given, and
  • to model Christ with their lives to a wathcing world, that their faith in You might become known to the ends of the earth.

Keep ____actively serving only You, the living and true God.  Keep ___’s heart turned to You so that they will recognize the snare of idols and conciously choose to have noting in their lives that rivals You.

i Thessalonians 1_2

 

 

 

 

 

Prayers I Still Pray, Part II

As I mentioned yesterday, prayer after loss is complicated for me.  I wrote a post months ago The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer that addressed this.

But I AM able to pray Scripture-especially the prayers of Paul, which are centered on asking God to strengthen others and to expand their understanding of His love, compassion, power and grace.

Here are two more that I find helpful:

Philippians 1:9-11

phil 1_9 feet

I pray

  • that ___’s love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
  • that___may be able to discern what is best, and
  • that____may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
  • that___will be filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.

 

Colossians 1:9-12

Father, I pray

  • that You will fill___with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
  • that___may live a life worthy of You, Lord,
  • that____may please You in every way,
  • that___will bear fruit in every good work,
  • that___will grow in the knowledge of You,
  • that___will be strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might,
  • that___may have great endurance and patience,
  • that___will joyfully give thanks to You, Father, who has qualiied them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Today by Your Spirit make real all their inheritance in Christ Jesus.

col 1_9

Prayers I Still Pray

Prayer has been difficult for me since burying a child-I’ve written about that struggle in a previous post.

I have yet to find a comprehensible way to think about both the sovereignty of God and His goodness, free will and predestination.

So I find myself incapable of praying for things like safety for my children, freedom from disease or specific outcomes in difficult circumstances.

Instead I pray the prayers of Paul, straight from Scripture-prayers that focus on expanding a person’s understanding of Who God is, how much he or she is loved by God and the development of godly fruit in his or her life.

THESE are prayers I can still pray, I hope they are helpful for others in similar circumstances.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Glorious Father, I thank you for_______, and I bless them. I ask You to give _____the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that ______may know You better.  Enlighten the eyes of ______’s heart, so that they may know

  • the hope to which You have called them,
  • the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints,
  • And Your incomparably great power for them because they believe, the power of the resurrection and the ascension which seated Jesus at Your right hand where He is above all rule and authority, and power and dominion in this world, and all things are under His feet.

Fill ____with all the fullness of Jesus in every way today.

ephesians 1_17

Ephesians 3:15-20

I call You Father, and I pray

  • that from Your glorious riches You will strengthen______with power through Your Spirit in their inner being,
  • that Christ may dwell in ______’s heart through faith,
  • that ____will be rooted and established in love,
  • that____may have power, with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
  • that ____will know this love that surpasses knowledge,
  • that___will be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.

I give You all the glory, for You are able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to Your power that is working within us.

ephesian320

 

 

The Hard Question of Prayer

In the wake of burying Dominic, the most difficult spiritual discipline for me to recover has been prayer.

In part because my heart just doesn’t know what to ask for or how to talk to a God Who has allowed this pain in my life.  

In part because I don’t really have a framework for placing the prayers I want to pray inside my ongoing struggle to commit my future and the future of my family to the hands of a Father Who didn’t step in to prevent Dominic’s death.

I still struggle with this.  

“When it’s not your kid you can think of all kinds of lofty, theologically correct arguments or reasons for why God answers one prayer and not another–for why one person is healed and not another–for why one person survives a devastating-should-have-killed-him accident but not another.

But when it is your child that doesn’t survive or isn’t healed or is stolen through the violent actions of someone else…well, that’s a different matter entirely.”

Read the rest of this post here: The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer

 

A Strong Tower

 

In the  days when battle was conducted face-to-face, before missiles were guided from planes and ships and game consoles continents away-a fortified tower, a castle or a deep cave were places of refuge and safety.

Death could be imminent, but if a harried combatant could make it to one of these places he could catch his breath, regroup, plan a counter-attack.

Grief feels like a battle.

And I often find myself looking for refuge.  I need a safe place to find my strength again.

Praying is still very hard for me.

I know my Father is listening, I know Jesus is with me but I don’t really have much to say. The one great cry of my heart cannot be answered, my son will not return.

So I run to the promise that is His Name.

When I can’t even whisper a prayer, I speak peace to my soul by declaring  Who He is.  

Years ago I memorized this verse:

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10 NIV

And it has been a light in the darkest nights of this dark, dark journey.

I know many who read my blog are fellow bereaved parents and they are battling too. They are struggling to find a way to face another day without their beloved child.  They hurt and they long for the comfort of hearing God’s voice in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Prayer might be hard for them too.

I want to speak courage to your heart.

I want to whisper hope to your battered soul.  

When you can’t speak, when you feel defeated, when you are running for your life from the enemy who would have you believe that there is no safe place, remember that God sees you. He is your refuge.  

His name is powerful and He is mighty to save.

Many of us have memorized the twenty-third psalm.  We don’t see it in English, but these verses contain several names of God.

shepherd 2

At the start of this passage, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Roi: “The Lord my Shepherd”.

He is the God Who sees, He is the God Who is present, He is the God Who guides me even here in this awful valley.

So I declare the truth that God is my Shepherd to whoever and whatever is chasing me.

I declare that God is with me to my weary soul even when I cannot feel His Presence.

I shout, “God is my Shepherd” to the darkness and run for safety to His arms.  

 

 

The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer

When it’s not your kid you can think of all kinds of lofty, theologically correct arguments or reasons for why God answers one prayer and not another–for why one person is healed and not another–for why one person survives a devastating-should-have-killed-him accident but not another.

But when it is your child that doesn’t survive or isn’t healed or is stolen through the violent actions of someone else…well, that’s a different matter entirely.

I prayed every day for my children.  I asked God to protect them, to give them wisdom, to draw them to Himself and to guide their steps.

I never thought I was “giving orders” to God, but I did expect that my prayers would be honored-that by praying in obedience to biblical commands and in accord with scriptural principles I was making a difference in the heavenlies.

Like Daniel, who received word that his prayers had helped Gabriel fight against the prince of the air opposing him, I sent my petitions as weapons and armor against any schemes of the evil one  that might threaten to undo my family. (Daniel 10: 1-13)

Herein lies the problem:   when things go well, when the job comes through, the test score is great and the person walks out of the hospital, healed and whole, we say, “God answered prayers.”

And I believe that He does.

But if we ascribe glory and praise and honor and thanksgiving for the blessings received, how are we to understand and talk about the ones denied?

The nation of Israel was looking for Messiah-expecting Him.

Yet when He came, most missed Him.  They had decided for themselves what He would look like, what He would do and how He would rescue them from bondage.

God’s ways are inscrutable.

I’m not arguing that prayer doesn’t matter.

It does.

I am commanded to pray. And God’s faithfulness to answer prayer is documented from Genesis through Revelation.

But I would argue that the way we speak about prayer, as if we understand how it works and how God works in it and through it, is often unhelpful.

The book of Job pulls back the curtain on what was happening in the heavenlies when God allowed Satan access to Job’s life.  We know that Job’s earthly suffering represented a testimony for God against the Accuser.

But there’s no evidence that Job ever knew.

There was no dramatic revelation by God to this man that had lost EVERYTHING except his own life (which he would have gladly given up) and his wife (who, it seems, went on to bear him more children-oh joy!). Instead, God confronts Job with questions, not answers.

My heart wants answers, not more questions.

I doubt that I will have them this side of heaven.

So I have decided to speak more honestly about my experience with prayer, to refuse to pretend I understand how it works any more than I understand how God breathes life into bodies or takes souls to heaven.

I will pray, as best I can-mostly recalling God’s own words to Him-and resist my desire to think that because I pray, I can direct His hand.

When Jesus was in agony at Gethsemene, He asked His Father to take the bitter cup from HIm, but in the end, submitted to God’s will and plan.

That is all I have left for me as well-to submit and be made into whatever God has ordained.

I will trust in the goodness and faithful love of my Heavenly Father, because He IS my Father.

I will lean into His heart even when I cannot see or understand the work of His hands and follow because He is the One Who will lead me Home.

he is faithful who has promised