21.11.22: Lifeline prayers

Context: Despite coughing and sweating my way through the night with covid, when I woke next day and began to pray, I received some insistent words almost immediately. The four brief, lifeline prayers included in this blog seem to be virtually all I need now, given my new highly isolated and simplified lifestyle:

“Why so dispirited?” I ask myself. “Why so churned up inside? Hope in God!” I know I’ll praise God once again, for you are my Deliverance; you are my God (Psalm 43:5; TIB).

When I feel alone and blue,
With dismal thoughts I can’t subdue,
This is what I say:
I love you, Jesus. 

When I feel ashamed and sad,
Full knowing I’ve done something bad,
This is what I pray:
Forgive me, Jesus.  

When I feel ignored and hurt,
Self-pity turned to high alert,
This is what I sigh:
Forgive them, Jesus. 

When you give, and when you take,
No matter how my heart may break,
This is what I whisper:
Thank you, Jesus. 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).


References 

I love you, LORD, my strength (Psalm 18:1; CSB). 

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21; CSB).


Rosary news

Yesterday afternoon I made a blue and white rosary, but the final stage (the attachment of the crucifix), failed QC. However, one of the best things about learning to make rosaries is the joy of taking them apart so I can re-use the beads for my next attempt.

The devil

Introduction

We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15; NIV).

On Monday morning, a friend asked me how I understand Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, which prompted me to re-read Luke’s familiar story:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days (Luke 4:1; NLT). 

During this time, Jesus had to wrestle against the temptations caused by his desperate physical hunger (vv2-4), his desire for earthly power (vv5-8), and his longing to test out his trust in God (vv9-12). 

Discussion

Many people have written extensively about what Jesus experienced in the wilderness, but I would like to focus briefly on the mysterious, alarming figure who tempted him.

An immediate problem is raised by the Greek word “diabolou”, which is often translated as “the devil”. However, this word is actually an adjective, rather than a name or a noun. It means “prone to slander, slanderous, or accusing falsely” (Strong’s Greek). Thus, “the devil” is clearly not a being of any kind. 

I find this interesting and helpful, as I have never seen the “devil” as a being. Rather, I understand the personification of “accusing falsely” as a way of representing Christ’s inner struggles with the temptations to which all human beings are subject. Welling up spontaneously from the unconscious mind, powerful, disturbing desires and impulses can assail us at any time, especially when we are very vulnerable, as was Jesus in the desert. 

Jesus’ understanding of temptation

Jesus came to understand the inner, psychological process of temptation very well, both from personal experience and through observing others. This how he explained it to a crowd one day: 

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness…

It is interesting to note that there is no suggestion at all here that people are tempted by any kind of external force or being. Rather, Jesus concludes his teaching by stating firmly that:

…All these vile things come from within (Mark 7:20-23; NLT).

Conclusion

As a human being, though also divine, Jesus was subject to temptations, just like us (Hebrews 4:15; NIV), and how strong they must have been during those challenging days alone in the wilderness. He had just experienced one of the high points of his life: hearing God’s approving voice, and receiving the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Then, immediately afterwards, he felt compelled to spend many days alone in the wilderness, facing extreme heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and the constant threat posed by wild animals.

What a strange, challenging experience this must have been, causing him much deep physical and mental suffering, so it’s not surprising that the Gospel-writers’ accounts faithfully reflect the vivid, hallucinatory quality of Jesus’ desert retreat. Perhaps this is what leads so many translators to personify the powerful reality of his inner temptations, by turning them into an external being they called “the devil”. 

Born again (#2 of 2)

Unless you are born again,
you cannot see the Kingdom of God.
(John 3:3; NLT).

Not for deeds that we had done, but by his steadfast love alone, he saved us through a second birth, renewed us by the Spirit’s work,
and poured him out upon us, too.
(Titus 3:5-6; ISV).

Father,
Being born again
Means starting life afresh,
No longer thinking we’re alone,
But trusting, Lord, in you.

Jesus,
Being born again
Means starting life once more,
No longer lost in self alone,
But serving, Lord, like you.

Spirit,
Being born again
Means starting life anew,
No longer facing death alone,
But walking, Lord, with you.

💚

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.
(Ephesians 4:21-4; NLT).

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4; KJV).

 


In darkness

If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord, and rely on your God (Isaiah 50:10; NLT). 

I grope towards you, Lord,
In darkness,

Blunder,
On your narrow way;

Burdened
By my trials and sorrows,

Trusting you, Lord,
Every day.

I grope towards you, Lord,
In silence;

Lost in stillness;
All alone;

Yearning, Lord,
To see your face,

When you draw near
To take me home.

They shall see his face
(Revelation 22:4; KJV). 


The Helper

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
(John 14:16-17; ESV). 

Lord,
When I’m sick,
Or in pain,
Or I fall:
You are the Helper
Who shares in it all.

Lord,
When I’m sad,
Or alone,
Or afraid:
You are the Helper
Who comes to my aid.

Lord,
When I’m angry,
Or hurt,

Or I sin:
You are the Helper
Who pleads deep within.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words
(Romans 8:26; NRSV).


Christ’s passion

Image: Harry Fabel, Pixabay


💛

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends
(John 15:13; NLT).

1. Welcomed by the crowds,
Who later jeered.

2. Kissed; betrayed;
Arrested, Lord, at night.

3. Deserted by your friends;
Alone; bereft.

4. Spat on, mocked, and whipped;
Accusers lied.

5. Judged unjustly;
Sentenced, and condemned.

6. Burdened by your cross,
As women grieved.

7. Crucified by guards,
Whom you forgave:

8. In agony, and anguish, Lord,
You died.

💛


References

1. The next day, the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13; NIV).

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40; NLT).

2. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss” (Matthew 26:48; NLT).

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him (Matthew 26:50; NLT).

3. Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away (Mark 14:50; NLT).

4. They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head (Matthew 27:30; NET).

Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29; NLT).

He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip (Mark 15:15; NLT).

Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other (Mark 14:56; NLT).

5. The leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:12-13; NLT).

He […] turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified (Mark 15:15; NLT).

6. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (John 19:17; NLT).

A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women (Luke 23:27; NLT).

7. Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross (Mark 15:24; NLT).

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; NLT).

8. My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth (Psalm 22:14-15; NLT).

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last (Mark 15:37; NLT).

Come to me

Image: jianke 1964, Pixabay


🤎

When will you come to me? (Psalm 101:2; NIV).

1. Come to me
In fear and pain,
When all my hopes, Lord God,
Seem vain.

2. Come when all is dark
And still,
To help me face
Your perfect will.

3. Come:
Death is already here;
My final breath
Is drawing near.

4. Come, for I am lost,
Alone:
Please come, at last,
To take me home.

🤎


References

1. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1; NIV).

We have become old, dry bones – all hope is gone (Ezekiel 37:11; NLT).

2. You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

You will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2; NLT).

If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

3. My spirit is crushed, and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me (Job 17:1; NLT).

The time of my death is near (2 Timothy 4:6; NLT).

4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1; NIV).

You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave (Psalm 16:10; NLT).

You come to me

Image: John Greece, Pixabay


✝️

1. You come to me
In fear and pain,
When every hope, Lord God,
Seems vain.

2. You come when life is dark
And chill,
To help me face
Your perfect will.

3. You come, Lord,
When my race is run,
And all my days on earth
Are done.

4. You come when I am lost,
Alone –
You come, at last,
To take me home.

✝️


References

1. Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you (Isaiah 35:4; NLT).  

We have become old, dry bones – all hope is gone (Ezekiel 37:11; NLT).

2. My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

You will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2; NLT).

3. My spirit is crushed, and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me (Job 17:1; NLT). 

4. You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture),“I thirst” (John 19:28; RSV).

You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave (Psalm 16:10; NLT).

He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3; NKJV).