Tuesday Prayer: Wisdom

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

All-knowing God, You are the Source of true wisdom, for it is by Your knowledge and power that all things were created. As the Beginning and the End, You encompass the fullness of reality – in fact, reality is Yours to define.

When we begin to think of You in this way – Your eternal magnificence, Your unfathomable power, and Your absolute sovereignty – we are overcome by worship. You truly are the great and mighty God who knows all and who works all things according to Your perfect plan. May Your name be forever praised!

Teach us to look to You and You alone for the wisdom we need to navigate this world and make the best use of our time. We confess our weakness before You; our tendency to get caught up in the “wisdom” of this world which is foolishness compared to Your eternal perspective. We take our eyes off of Jesus and we forget to keep our minds fixed on the things above rather than the things on earth.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2

But Lord, remember that we are dust and that the events of this world seem so long and so very real to us as they happen. Have mercy and strengthen Your servants. Teach our hearts to see all of life through the lens of eternity and to redeem the time we are allotted, not using the minutes and hours for self-gratification but to bring honor and glory to You. 

You have given us the Living Word to keep our hearts in check, but again we must confess: Too often we neglect it, or we rush through it as a check-list item on our agendas rather than savoring the Word and ruminating on it throughout the day.

Lord, today we humbly ask that You will firmly plant in us a strong and growing desire for Your Word. Teach us to long for it, to meditate on it, and to cherish it. May it be that our first response to crisis or a need for guidance is to open the Book and search its pages for wisdom from You. May our hearts surrender to the truth we read there, holding nothing back.

Our God, make us a people of the Word, holy and pure before You and useful to You in this world. From this day forward, may it be that never a day passes but that we seek Your face in the pages of Your Word and in prayer, humbly bowing ourselves before the Throne of Grace.

And when we receive our marching orders, make us to set out with confidence, knowing that whatever may happen to our bodies in this world, we share in the victory already won by Jesus Christ our Lord. To Him be the praise and the glory in all things, amen. 

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:56-58

No Pain, No Gain

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

(Proverbs 27:6)

As many of you know, I’m in the editing phase of a novel I hope to have published. The setting is dystopian – either our own world in the future or one enough like it to be almost familiar. It’s meant as an extended parable for sacrificial living and the potential to use or abuse our God-given gifts.

I belong to a critique group, which was a pretty brave act for me. Through them, I’ve received a lot of great feedback. But there’s this one guy…

He never hesitates to ask questions about what is confusing, to point out continuity issues or passive voice or a myriad of other mistakes. In fact, my submissions often come back from their time under his scrutiny riddled with comments and dissected sentences.

I could ignore his emails. I could collect a handful of people who love my writing as is and say very little. But in the long run, I would be the worse for my refusal to hear difficult truths.

As it is, I love the criticism. Not because it feels good to have your rough draft sliced and diced. It doesn’t. I love it because he pushes me to work harder, to tighten and refine and grow as an author.

Naturally, a part of me adores glowing feedback, but the reasonable part of me knows it’s the criticism which drives me to exert my mental abilities and strive toward a better product.

Similarly several years ago, my family took judo under the instruction of a dear friend (whom I often still refer to as Sensei though it’s been ages since I stepped foot on a mat or took a fall). Every time he would praise a technique I’d done correctly, I would blow it for the next 15 minutes. I finally told him, “I think I just work better with criticism.”

He believed me, and lo and behold, I did improve.

My point?

I have been reading the Word of the Lord daily for many years. Studying, memorizing, and reflecting on it are all parts of my average day. I also spend no small amount of time reading works by other Christians.

None of this is to my own credit, mind you. This desire for the Word is a gift from God; one I requested early in my walk with Him and one He happily granted.

Anyway, the more I become saturated with the Word, the more I realize that often it’s the things I want least to hear that I need to hear most.

In today’s American Christianity, there is an abundance of shelf space advertised as “Christian.” But mark my words: Just because a thing speaks of the Lord or quotes Scripture does not mean the teaching is based on sound doctrine.

In an act of audacious irony, our ancient enemy quoted Scripture to the Word made flesh (see Mark 4:6). And believe me, his kisses are profuse. He loves to keep us snuggled in such comfort we overlook the bars of our cozy cage. If I wanted, I could easily surround myself with nothing but heartwarming sentiment.

But then I wouldn’t grow.

I’m certainly not knocking encouragement – God knows every one of us needs it, and He offers it in due time. But we need an equal balance of rebuke and reproof. We need the sharp prick of a goad now and then to remind us to stay on the narrow path that leads to life just as we sometimes need a word to lift us out of the pit to soar on wings like eagles’.

Friends, the Christian walk is not one of self-indulgence and earthly pleasure. We are promised joy, but it is joy in the presence of the Lord. Pleasure at His right hand. This means that our joy will often come not in lieu of suffering but in spite of it.

And to achieve this state of “joy anyway,” we need a full complement of both correction and encouragement. Of discipline and strengthening. We need the wounds of a friend who has the long term as a goal. If we are to become more Christlike, we must also be willing to endure Christlike suffering.

To compete so as to win the prize, we have to put in the hard work of training if we are to run our race well. But the Prize will be well worth our effort!

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 3:13-14)

How about you? Do you tend to gravitate towards what I would call “easy button Christianity?” Or are you equally open to hearing hard truths which require some sacrifice or painful confession in order to grow in Christ-likeness?