Tuesday Prayer: Expectation

Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. 

Psalm 5:2-3 (NIV)

Lord who hears us and who answers prayer, we praise You today for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness. Blessed be Your name and Your Kingdom, and may Yours be all glory and honor now and forevermore! Thank You that even though You are the Almighty God, the Creator, You take the time to listen to the prattling of Your children. 

And children we truly are, Lord. So often, we fail to see the bigger picture as we pray, praying from  the limited perspective of our earthly lives rather than with Eternity in view. Other times, we hurl requests at You almost like a drive-in order, speeding off before we’ve taken the time to listen for Your reply.

Still other times, we ask for guidance but we do not search Your Word for answers, hoping instead that You will move heaven and earth to respond when we are not willing to move the covers of our Bibles to seek Your counsel. 

…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

Lord, we confess that we can be impatient and demanding, self-serving and petty, and we too often forget that You are God and we are your creation not the other way around. Sometimes when we pray, we pray anxiously, not really trusting You to answer but pleading before You almost as if we’ve never seen You at work nor heard of Your works of old. Forgive us for such acts of unbelief or of selfishness.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

Today we ask that You will rid our hearts of all that is poisonous to the peaceful fruit of righteousness. By Your loving discipline, train us to pray, not anxiously, but expectantly – trusting in our Father to give us all good gifts and to withhold only that which would be detrimental to us for eternity according to Your perfect knowledge and wisdom.

Then, Lord, help us to watch and wait to see how You will work to bring glory to Yourself. Change our hearts to long for Your will much more than we desire our own wants, comforts, and whims met. Make us to want Your glory, not our own.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:13

Instead, Lord, teach us to ask You for the Holy Spirit and the wisdom He brings, trusting You in faith to deliver these priceless gifts to us, though we are no more than clay jars.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 4:7

May we walk before You in obedience and humility, letting our prayers and our very lives be guided by You. Help us to keep our minds on the things above not on the things of this earth as we pray and live and move in this world, loving You and those You put around us to love, amen. 

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

Psalm 119:9

Psalm 119:9-16

Have you noticed the references to a journey in the psalm so far? The first and third verses talk of walking in His laws and ways, and now with verses 9  and 10, we pick up the idea of a path and of wandering from it.  Perhaps it’s my love for hiking, but the idea of sanctification as a walk with the Lord resonates with me. However, before we further discuss the walking analogy, let me insert another nerdy interlude:

Many translations render verse 9 very similarly to the ESV: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word.”  

The NIV, however,  paraphrases the passage: How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”

Here again, I love to peek at other translations and to use my Bible study tools. A program I rely heavily on is e-sword which includes a KJV translation with Strong’s numbers linked to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary, making it extremely simple to do minor word studies.  As a disclaimer, I know little to nothing about Hebrew grammar, so I tend to stick to nouns in my word studies for now. Using these resources,  I found that the word translated “way” is the Hebrew ‘ôrach. According to Strong’s, it can be stated as, among other things, “a well-trodden road.” I love that.

Imagine with me for a moment: We are each walking our own well-trodden roads, for such you could call our habits and lifestyles. How can we keep these pure and swept clean of debris and obstacles that may cause us to stumble or even veer off course? How, in fact,  can we keep ourselves on the narrow path that leads to life?  By guarding our ways according to God’s word.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the verse in these terms, it conjures a wild image of trekking along a harrowing, narrow trail leading to a destination where I desperately desire to arrive. In my mind’s eye, I find myself stopping at a point where the track begins to wind up a precipitous incline.

Heart pounding, I see myself nervously examine the path ahead and realize with a pleasant shock that, of all things, there are guard rails along the way! They are low enough I could choose to step over but high enough that I would know I was making a conscious choice to do so.  No matter; my desire is not to stray. I am comforted to know that while the trail may be difficult, it is not without protection for the careful hiker.

Perhaps I ran with the analogy a bit,  yet we could think of God’s word as guard rails for our hearts as we make our spiritual journey. His Word, studied with diligence and humility, is the sure guide to the narrow path we tread when we follow Him. Within its pages, we will find not only comfort and solace but words and concepts that will bring the full weight of conviction bearing down on us.

Conviction may be painful, but it is a “good pain” if we will let God’s Spirit have His way in it.  As 2 Corinthians 7:10 states, “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” The burn of shame is a blessing when it produces true repentance. Our enemy would have us either ignore conviction completely or else let the reproach gnaw painfully, endlessly in our hearts until they have become utterly numb.

If, on our journeys, we feel the sting of reproach, let’s school ourselves not to push it out of our minds nor make excuses for sins. Let’s beware of adopting the more convenient and stylish cultural definitions of morality even though it is our nature to prefer this, the wide-open path that produces fewer bruises to our egos.

I love how C. S. Lewis describes the thing in his book, The Screwtape Letters, a fictional collection of “letters” from a senior demon mentoring his nephew in the ways of tempting and trapping souls:

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing.  Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…”

Yet, my friends, we are not taking that broad and most dangerous of roads, for we know that though it seems an easy way and a safe, its destination is far from desirable.

The winding, narrow path, though certainly less populated and possibly overgrown from lack of use, is full of markers and signs to keep us from accidentally straying. The Bible serves as our guidebook along the way–our guard rail if you will–full not only of the grace of God but also of humbling reminders of why we need His grace.

So as we memorize let’s diligently and without pretense apply this word to our ways, not making excuses nor looking into it only for comfort and never for guidance. We will then find that our path is clearly and safely marked out, just waiting to be trodden on with confidence and joy.

And oh my, I just realized — I didn’t even make it past the first verse…

Psalm 119:1-8

Psalms 119:1-8

Though I am memorizing in the ESV, I love the first verse of this psalm in the Holman Christian Standard version: “How happy are those whose way is blameless,  who live according to the Lord’s instruction!”  

The first word of our psalm is the Hebrew word ‘esher. The word can be translated “happiness” or “blessedness,” and it is often used as an interjection akin to saying, “How happy!”  Indeed, how happy are those who tarry with the Lord!

Right at the very beginning, the psalm flies in the face of everything I believed before I came to know the Most High. Before I fell in love with the Author of my faith, I did not see His law and happiness as co-existent.  Blinded by sin, I believed the law to be stifling and ridiculously full of old-fashioned values and outdated mores. I did not want such restrictions on my activity. I was progressive. I was enlightened.  I was intelligent.  Or so I believed.

If I had been honest (which I certainly was not back then), I would have had to admit that my main beef with God’s law was simply that I did not wish to give up my way of doing things.  Although I knew deep in my heart that many choices I made were dead wrong and even unhealthy and unsustainable, I stubbornly clung to them, fearful that giving up my “independence” to a bunch of laws would rob the joy from life.

Quite the opposite: how happy is the man (or in my case, woman)!

You see, in those days of running from God, I never did find the happiness I sought. Oh, I had good moments and good days, but when I was all alone in the night, I also had fear. I had regret. I was full of bitterness and self-loathing.

In those days I was also haunted by a sickening knowledge of my own wrongness. These were the genuine bursts of real thought that surfaced during rare times I did not self-medicate with alcohol or distract myself with licentious living.

Oh, if I could only go back and tell that old self how much happier she would be if only she would not continue to flee from God’s laws but embrace them and find the peace she craves! I long to tell her that “old-fashioned” is not always akin to obsolete but is sometimes ancient and marvelous, full of beauty as the skies are full of stars.

Let’s look back and visit the old me for a moment; this girl who had trusted in the new ideals over the tried-and-true.

There she lays, sobbing on the floor of her apartment. She has been in a desperate, fruitless search for love, for something to quiet her turbulent heart, yet she ignores the only One whose love will complete her. She even mocks Him whose love will loose the snaky bonds she now calls “freedom” and make her more truly herself than she is now in this sad, half-life of bars and shallow relationships.

I pity her.

But she will learn. Before many  years pass, she will read this very psalm and make the fifth verse her own fervent prayer. Seeking God with her whole heart, she will find a love even greater than  she ever dreamed possible.  She will find happiness in walking in His laws, and despite what she now thinks, will find nothing but distress and heartache outside the borders of His will.

It will take a trip or two across those borders before she realizes the absolute futility of trying to reconcile the old life with the new. The more she walks with the Light of the world, the more she sees the chipped paint and tarnish on those things that once seemed to glitter like diamond, the very things that once enticed her away from her King.

As her reverence for her King grows,  she will choose to walk more and more closely with Him, avoiding  even drifting towards the boundaries of His will lest she stray across the edge.  The lure of her former life will be utterly dead and its corpse sidestepped with disgust.

Though difficult times will come and she will be troubled, the Lover of her soul will always provide grace to help in time of need.  How happy will she be!


On Bridles and Leashes

Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Psalms 32:9

I have very little experience with horses, but this verse rings true to me nonetheless. What I do have is a dog that I absolutely adore. Actually, I have two dogs but one if them is squarely my dog.

When she was a puppy,  she would only sleep in the crate if it was positioned where she could see me in the bed. If I leave through the downstairs door, she is often found waiting for me on the top stair when I return.


Her crate days are long over, and while she has branched out a little and often ventures into rooms I am not present in, she does still, for the most part, follow me like… well, like a puppy dog.  She is an excellent companion. I trust her around children and rarely have trouble getting her to obey promptly.

Unless, that is, she sees a squirrel.

I don’t know what it is, but the bouncy little guys trigger something deep in her doggy brain that nothing else does and she is prone to dart after one when she spots it.

And so, on our frequent walks together I use a leash.  When she was younger, she would strain against the leash at the enticing vision of one of the little rodents fitfully searching for its winter hoard. Age and many miles of experience walking on a lead has tempered her interest, and now she only acknowledges them with a perk of the ears… or sometimes not at all.

Even so,  I keep that leash on when we walk. She has proved in the past that she needs it, and I am aware of dangers that do not enter her canine consciousness.  I confess I have envied the occasional hiker I’ve seen whose dog trots faithfully, leash-free, at his heels, but I am not yet willing to risk my dog’s safety with such heady freedom as that. Someday, perhaps, but for now I have seen enough interest sparked by a scurrying squirrel to keep my dog tethered on our excursions.

It is the same with us…  Some of us have learned that our God is so good, so  wholly trustworthy, and so incomprehensibly wise that we will eagerly follow His footsteps on the narrow path. That isn’t to say we might not look around or hesitate, but we come at his bidding and regain our place at His side with little fuss.

I long to be like that, and by God’s grace I truly believe that someday, He will bring my training to just such a point. I strongly desire to be more eagerly responsive to His quiet calls, more mindful of where He steps, less tempted to wander away at the slightest diversion; in short, to fix my eyes on my Master alone as we walk along.

However, I confess that I am by no means as close a follower as I ought to be. I am not yet to a point where I never require a “bit and bridle.” What I have learned, however, is not to strain against such apparatus when God attires me in it. As I have grown more trusting of Him, grown to love Him more and more, I notice the bit and bridle less, in part because I fight them less. 

More often these days,  my eyes are fixed on Him and we have taken some few little adventures together where I walk free, bound only by adoration for my King. Even so, I know that any moment I demonstrate a need for His restraint, He will promptly provide it. 

Because He is a perfect Father, He will give us each the measure of discipline we deserve. If we need a bridle to keep us from straying, He will  supply it. Should we need a rod applied in discipline, He will apply it as vigorously as the situation requires to curb our error and bring us back into the safety of His presence.

Make no mistake — if we need correction of any sort, correction we shall have– not because He is a tyrant, but for our welfare,  to keep us from wandering into danger. Because He loves us and in His infinite wisdom, knows dangers our created minds cannot fathom.  Because He is good.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalms 23:4