52 Simple Prayers for 2018
You cannot listen to the Hallelujah Chorus from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” without getting goose bumps. That’s not only because the Hallelujah Chorus is a tremendously moving piece, it is because it strikes a God-implanted chord deep within the human soul. It touches an undeniable reality that we intuitively know, whether we are Christ-followers or not: the final act to be played out in the cosmic drama is the indisputable exaltation of our God and the unfettered reign of his Christ.
A Simple Prayer for this World to Become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ:
God, I long for that day when this world truly and fully becomes the Kingdom of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. So today I pray, let your Kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. May this be the day.
Turn Your Tears Into A Tune
The reason we keep coming back to sad songs time and again, for millennia — and will do so until sadness is banned from the created realm at the end of time — is because they work. As we listen to the plaintive music, the singer skillfully pulls from us the very same raw-edged emotions of pain, loss, and disappointment contained in the song, and somehow mysteriously, inextricably, we become a part of it. Strangely, a sad song done well makes us even sadder, yet we love it. But what’s even better is when a sad song turns us to God. So, what if you turned your tears into a tune? And if nothing else, sing your sad song to the Lord. You never know, someone may discover your lament and make it famous. It wouldn’t be the first time — just ask the psalmist.
Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 88:1-3
A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite: O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.
Country and Western music (they just call it “Country” these days) isn’t the only genre to have an over-abundance of sad songs. The truth is, all types of music have their fair share of lament. It may not be obvious at first, but the inspiration for so many of the songs we love have their origin in a broken heart or a dashed hope or a shattered dream.
The reason we keep coming back to sad songs time after time, generation after generation, millennium after millennium—and will continue to do so until sadness is banned from the created realm at the end of time—is because they work. As we listen to them, the singer skillfully pulls from us the very same raw-edged emotions of pain, loss, and disappointment contained in the song, and somehow magically, mysteriously, inextricably, we become a part of it. Strangely, a sad song done well make us even sadder—and we love it.
That’s what the psalm is doing here. He’s sad, and he has written a song about it that pulls us into the raw, jagged edge of his pain. This man despaired of death—perhaps from outside forces, or maybe from the inner pain of his heartbroken life. (Psalm 88:3) He felt abandoned by his closest friends, and all alone in the world. (Psalm 88:8,18). He was simply worn out with sorrow (Psalm 88:9) and was deeply disappointed with God for it. (Psalm 88:13-14) He had suffered a life-long devastation—with no relief in sight, and he was at a point of surrendering to the likelihood that his would always be a hard and sad life. (Psalm 88:15)
We know that this man, named Heman by the way, was a very wise man (1 Chronicles 4:31)—among the wisest of the wise. Yet all of his wisdom, talent (he was also a singer-songwriter according to 1 Chron. 15:19) and position in the king’s court didn’t prevent nor alleviate the pain that saturated his world. But Heman was wise enough not just to sit around and stew in his sad juices. Perhaps what made him so wise and talented was that he did something as therapeutic as anything else on earth to counteract his sadness: He wrote songs. He put his experiences and his emotions into words, and those words were set to music, and they were memorialized in the psalter of the human race, the book of Psalms. Maybe his pain never went away. We just don’t know, but I’m guessing—no, I’m sure—he felt a whole lot better knowing that others would be inspired and find strength for their own painful journey through his music.
So why don’t you give it a shot? You’ve got pain, too. You have your fair share of sorrow, and disappointment. Sometime you wrestle with the sobering sense that your sadness over a matter may just be your lot in life. Perhaps it never will go away—perish the thought—but that may be your reality. Go ahead and put your experience into words. Then turn your words into a tune. And if nothing else, sing your own song to the Lord.
You never know, someone may discover your sad song someday, and your lament may become famous. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Try turning your complaint into a song—a song that turns to praise and thanks to God. Who knows, you may have a hit on your hands.
A Positive Impact is in Proportion to Our Words of Encouragement
The chief reason we stumble into sin, surrender to fear, slip into emotional depletion, sink into spiritual hardness and shrink back from reaching our faith-potential is from discouragement—or more precisely, the lack of encouragement. You and I not only have the spiritual responsibility, we have the awesome potential for making a huge impact in another’s life by simply living out the Biblical injunction to “encourage one another daily.” Someone needs you to encourage them today. Go make it happen!
Enduring Truth // Focus: Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching
There is nothing quite so powerful as an encouraging person! I love to be around them, and I’ll bet you do, too. They even find ways to have difficult conversations that leave you feeling valued and hopeful. They are life-giving. They are a gift. May their tribe increase.
On the other hand, we all know people who seem to find fault in just about anything. They look on the dark side of everything and infect anyone who is near them with their negativity. And if we’re not careful, we can get pulled into their black hole of negativity, fault-finding and discouragement.
That’s why the writer of Hebrews gave us these two powerful admonitions:
We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. (Hebrews 10:24-25, CEV)
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
One of the chief reasons we stumble into sin, surrender to a spirit of fear, slip into emotional depletion, become spiritually hardened and shrink back from reaching our faith-potential is from discouragement—or perhaps more accurately, the lack of encouragement. As believers, we not only have the spiritual responsibility, we have the awesome potential for making a huge impact in the lives of others by simply living out the Biblical injunction to encourage one another daily.
This is especially important since the Enemy of our souls works overtime in his attempt to discourage, diminish and destroy us. But good, old fashioned, Christ-hearted encouragement is arguably the most powerful force for good we can unleash on one another. Just consider the power of encouragement in the following verses:
The mouth of the righteous is a tree of life…” (Proverbs 10:11)
The tongue of the wise brings healing…” (Proverbs 12:18)
An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21)
Wow—that is the amazing, life-changing potential in the words you can choose to deliver today. So why not try it! Let me suggest five different approaches you can take to unleash this power upon another:
- Through verbal compliments: Try showering someone with praise for something they have done.
- Through inspiring words: Speak affirming words to someone because of who they are, the beauty and potential of their character.
- Through acts of kindness: Encourage someone simply by doing something nice for them, when they least expect it, or maybe even don’t deserve it.
- Through indirect words: Talk about them behind their back—in a good way. For sure, it will get back to them, and it will be even more powerful coming from a third party.
- Through written words: Send someone a note of appreciation. It will have the added value of being enjoyed over and over again.
Encouragement—it’s the most powerful thing you can add to this world. So let me encourage you to go for it today!
This week, write a word of encouragement and send it to someone whom God prompts you to bless. Or, before the week is out, use an indirect word of encouragement by telling a third party how much you love, appreciate a mutual acquaintance.
Negative Conversations Are Even Worse Than Negative Thoughts
We have been told that chronic patterns of negative thinking will corrode our being—body, mind and spirit. If that weren’t bad enough, even more destructive is when negative thinking turns to words of complaint that end up in conversations of criticism. Not only is it corrosive to the speaker’s soul, it taints the listener and ultimately breaks shalom in the family of God. That is why, throughout the Bible, divine judgment befell those who trafficked in spreading a bad report. Never forget, your words can heal, or they can harm—yourself and others. So choose your words wisely!
Enduring Truth // Focus: Numbers 14:1-3
Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voice rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?”
As the children of Israel neared their Promised Land, their leader Moses sent out twelve spies on a reconnaissance mission. They were to probe enemy territory for weakness in order to reveal to the Israelite army the best place to invade the land and the best strategy to conquer the inhabitants that held “their” land. Of course, it was expected that these twelve spies, having seen the mighty hand of God extended time and again on Israel’s behalf, would come back full of faith for the challenge ahead.
But when the twelve spies returned from their mission with a first hand report of the land, ten of them were of a pessimistic perspective, and they turned the whole community into complainers. Their field reports started off well—it was indeed an incredible land their God was giving them—but it quickly turned from the promise of fruit to the problems they would face, namely giants and warriors. And it quickly threw cold water on the faith of the Israelite community.
That is so true of negativity—it can spread at the speed of a wildfire.
In spite of all that God had miraculously done up to this point, the people focused on how difficult things were in front of them rather than on how awesome the Power was behind them. The people got down, then they got mad, then they complained about their leader. Then, unbelievably, they complained about God. Then, incredibly, they actually whined that they wanted to go back to a more secure and predictable life of slavery in Egypt.
In essence, they were saying, “God, we don’t trust your sovereign plan, nor in your power to pull off the Promised Land for us. We don’t think you know what you’re doing and we don’t like one bit this mess you’ve gotten us into.” Though they didn’t say it quite that directly, that was the underlying spirit of their complaint.
The underlying spirit in all complaint is that we don’t trust God’s sovereign plan that has allowed us to be in the undesirable state about which we are complaining. Likewise, our complaining indicates that we don’t trust his power to see us through it and accomplish his purposes by it. That is why complaint, even if it is directed at another person or a situation, is really a complaint against the Sovereign Lord; it is a sin. Worse yet, complaining spreads like wildfire, leaving the ashes of doubt and distrust throughout our spiritual community. At all times and in every circumstance, we must reject spiritual temper-tantrums for tempered trust in the One who does all things well.
There is no greater gift that we offer to God than our trust—even when, or more accurately, especially when circumstances are difficult, enemies are great, and resources are few. In contrast, nothing disappoints God more than when his children complain, since it is in essence the worst form of distrust in the Lord’s goodness, wisdom, power and love. And this is precisely why God judges so harshly the deep and persistent complaints of the ones who should deeply and persistently lean into him.
As a friend of mine says, you are either a lean in-er or a lean out-er. I hope you are the former!
Are you a lean inner or a lean outer? Do you trust or do you complain? Do you worship or do you whine? Re-read Numbers 13 and 14, then determine to offer yourself to God in complete, unshakeable trust.
52 Simple Prayers for 2018
The underlying spirit in all complaints is that we don’t trust the sovereign plan of God that has allowed us to be in the undesirable state about which we are complaining. Likewise, our complaint indicates that we don’t trust that his power will see us through it and accomplish his purposes by it. That is why all complaints, even if they are directed at another person or a situation, is really a complaint, a sin, against the Sovereign Lord. And what makes it worse, complaining spreads like a wildfire, leaving the ashes of doubt and distrust in its aftermath. We must reject our spiritual temper-tantrums for tempered trust in the One who does all things well.
A Simple Prayer To Not Be A Whiner:
God, keep me from grumbling, complaining and whining—about people, circumstances, and even you. Give me more grace to trust that you are working all things—irritating people, unfair circumstances, unmet expectations—for your glory and my good. Give me the good sense to get a grip when I start to gripe, the discipline to turn my protest into praise, and the driving conviction that positive faith not only pleases you, it makes me bright light in a culture that is so quickly offended.