28.9.22: Honest prayer

Context: This blog had a rather unusual start in life. It began to arrive just as I was about to leave my hotel room early yesterday morning to walk the short distance to London City Airport. The words I was given were clearly an ending, so I hastily jotted them down, then set off, thinking no more about them.

At the airport, I had a very welcome breakfast, went to my gate and boarded the plane. Just as we were taking off, the beginning of this blog arrived, so I had to repeat it in my mind until the plane levelled out and I could reach for my iPad. By the time we landed, the first draft was largely complete. This is what I received: 

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Introduction

I often find it impossible to say “Amen” to other people’s prayers, to join in with printed responses during services, and to sing congregational hymns. This is because:

  • I don’t agree with what is being asked for, or said.
  • A prayer or hymn doesn’t speak for me, or doesn’t express what is in my heart at the time.
  • The language used is formal, grand or flowery: that’s not how I talk to God.
  • The prayers or hymns are too long for me to take in, or to make my own.
  • The person leading the prayers speaks so quietly that I can’t tell what they are saying.
  • The prayers are said so impersonally, or so quickly, that they seem devoid of meaning.

My aims

Reflecting on these reservations helped me to draw up a list of personal aims:

  • To pray because I want to, rather than because I think I ought to.
  • To pray for those who come to mind, rather than working my way through a list of those I feel I should include.
  • Not saying “Amen” to prayers I don’t agree with, instead quietly sharing with God that I don’t concur.
  • Not joining in with hymns whose words don’t speak for me.
  • Not ignoring, overriding, hiding, or suppressing my hurts, irritations, disappointments, anger, judgements, fears etc. Rather, I aim to be honest about them, facing their truth squarely with God, who knows exactly what is in my mind and heart.
  • Not pretending to feel other than how I actually feel. Rather, I aim pray about how I’m really feeling, and what I’m really thinking.
  • Not saying what I think God wants to hear.
  • Facing up to things I’ve got wrong and asking God to help me put them right.
  • Avoiding grand or flowery language, instead praying simply and honestly, like a child.
  • Not worrying about how short or long my prayers are, as long as they’re honest, genuine and heartfelt.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I aim to follow my golden rule:

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).


References 

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1; NLT). 

As for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts (Jeremiah 12:3; NLT). 

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord (Psalm 139:4; NLT).


Today’s reading: Matthew 6:7-13; NLT

When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles. They think God will hear them if they use a lot of words. Don’t imitate them. Your God knows what you need before you ask it.

This is how you are to pray: ‘Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: give us today the bread of Tomorrow.

And forgive us our debts, as we hereby forgive those who are indebted to us. Don’t put us to the test, but free us from evil.’

NB: I can say “Amen” to this without reservation, apart from disliking some of the punctuation!

A bonus prayer (#4 of 3)!

Context: Today’s prayer arrived a couple of days after last week’s three linked blogs, but to my surprise, it continues the series, so I’m including it as a bonus prayer!

He gives the childless woman a family,
making her a happy mother (Psalm 113:9; NLT).

1. None of us is childless, Lord,
Each child belongs to all.

2. None of us, forgotten, Lord,
You hear us when we call.

3. None of us, forsaken, Lord,
You help us when we fall –

4. You love, and live in, everyone,
Though we are frail and small.

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
(Colossians 3:11; NLT).

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16; NLT).


References 

1. Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” (Mark 10:14; NLT).

Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me” (Mark 9:36-7; NLT). 

2. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you (Isaiah 44:21; NLT). 

The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help (Psalm 34:17; NLT).

3. He will not fail you or forsake you (1 Chronicles 28:20; NLT). 

He saves them from all their troubles (Psalm 34:17; NET). 

4. He loves us with unfailing love; the LORD’s faithfulness endures forever. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 117:2; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14; NLT). 

Sister and Brother (#3 of 3)

Context: This is the last in a series of three blogs which arrived in rapid succession on the same morning. Whilst I was praying, I saw that everyone is my sister, my brother and my mother, and that every child is my child. God is within us all, so we all belong to one family, and we are all one. Jesus, of course, understood this long ago:

There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:32-5; NLT). 

You’re my Sister and Brother,
My Child and my Kin;

My Teacher, my Shepherd,
My Saviour, my King;

My Mother and Father,
My Staff and my Rod,

For, living in all,
You’re my Lord and my God.

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:28; NLT).


References

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children (Psalm 113:9; CSB).

A dream: 13.8.22.

Context: A few nights ago I had a vivid, strange and disturbing dream:

I saw a group of very young children who had just been separated from those whose task it was to take care of them. The children weren’t old enough to walk, so they were having to crawl along a rough, narrow, dirty street, moving away from their carers, and towards an unknown destination.

All of them were wailing. It was a heartbreaking sound. In his distress, perhaps blinded by tears, one little boy blundered head-first into a stone wall. He slumped to the ground, and I was shocked to hear him cry out, “They don’t love us any more”, in utter despair, hopelessness and desolation. After that he stopped moving. It was clear that he had given up the will to survive.

My heart went out to him. I jumped up and ran to him, putting my arms round his small body to comfort him. At that moment, I woke up with my arms clasped around my pillow. Instantly, even before I could begin to pray, several realisations struck me hard: 

What I realised

Everything I experienced during my childhood laid the foundations of my mental health during adult life.

This includes how I was treated by those who brought me up, as well as by those I was exposed to at school, in churches, clubs, hospitals and all other settings.

Thus, for good or ill, I have been influenced and affected by all the relationships and events I experienced during my formative years.

Comments

From my dream, and from the realisations which followed immediately afterwards, I understood even more clearly than before that the damage done to me in childhood caused the wounds and scars I have carried into adulthood.

These wounds shaped the person I have become, including all I feel, think, say and do. They affect how I behave, relate to others, cope with suffering, treat the world, understand God, and even whether or not I want to live. They also affected how I brought up my son, and how I reacted to having a miscarriage.

My dream showed me the mechanism by which so much of my psychological distress and mental illness has been caused. Only God can fully heal the inner damage I sustained, and the consequences with which I have had to live.

I am the LORD who heals you (Exodus 15:26; NLT).

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3; NLT). 

The air we breathe

There is one Lord … who is over all, and in all,
and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT). 

Lord,

You’re in the air
We breathe,
Our food and water,
All we see;

In our bodies,
Minds, hearts, spirits:
Waiting, Lord,
To set us free;

For you cherish
All your children,
Loving us
Unfailingly.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings
(Psalm 36:7; NLT).


Heart’s desire

I love you, Lord
(Psalm 18:1; NLT).

Lord,
You are my heart’s desire:
My hope, my peace,
My light, my fire;
My way, my truth,
My source, my goal –
I love you.

Lord,
I am your heart’s desire:
The lowest creature
You inspire;
Your slave, your guest,
Your child, your heir –
You love me.

He loves us with unfailing love
(Psalm 117:2; NLT).


My prayers

Image: waldryano, Pixabay


❤️

Lord,

1. May my prayers
Be natural –
Childlike, simple,
Sweet.

2. May my prayers
Be genuine –
Honest, prompt,
Complete.

3. May my prayers
Be uncontrived –
Trustful, loving,
Pure.

4. May my prayers
Be uncompelled –
Joyful, short,
Mature.

5. May my prayers
Be from the heart –
Spontaneous,
And true.

6. May my prayers
Be constant, Lord –
Then I’ll be one
With you.

❤️

Image: Pexels, Pixabay


References

1. Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3; NIV).

They will be called ‘children of the living God’ (Hosea 1:10; NIV).

2. You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

3. Trust in God, and trust also in me (John 14;1; NLT).

I have done no wrong, and my prayer is pure (Job 16:17; NLT).

4. Always rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16; NIV).

When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words (Matthew 6:7; NIV).

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4; NIV).

5. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

6. Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

Would you?

Image: Roy N, Pixabay


The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others
and to give his life as a ransom for many
(Mark 10:45; NLT).

1. Would you forgo your hope of rescue,
So a foreigner is saved?

2. Or forswear your dream of freedom,
So a friend is not enslaved?

3. Would you renounce your chance of healing,
So a neighbour is made whole?

4. Or surrender your survival,
Just to save a stranger’s soul?

5. Would you resign your reign above,
So enemies are welcomed in?

6. Or face death by crucifixion,
Bearing many people’s sin?

7. Would you believe the Father’s promise,
Trusting you will rise anew,

8. And then give up your life for others –
Just as Jesus did, for you?

 


References

1. Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

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

3. Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27; NLT).

4. Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole (Isaiah 53:5; RSV).

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; NLT).

5. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being (Philippians 2:6-7; NLT).

Love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

6. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8; NLT).

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24; NIV).

7. Those who die in the Lord will live; their bodies will rise again! (Isaiah 26:19; NLT).

I trust in God (Psalm 56:11; NLT).

They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again (Mark 10:34; NLT).

8. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16; NLT).

Like a holy angel

Image: Henry Tanner, Yandex


1. Like a holy angel,
Like a child of God,
Jesus, may I follow you
Along the path you trod.

2. Like a faithful servant,
Like a humble slave,
Jesus, may I follow you,
And share the price you paid.

3. Like a good disciple,
Like a loyal friend,
Jesus, may I follow you
Until life’s bitter end.

 


References

1. Angels came and took care of Jesus (Matthew 4:11; NLT).

To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12; NLT).

“Come, follow me” Jesus said (Matthew 4:19; NIV).

Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:14; NIV).

2. Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities (Matthew 25:21; NLT).

Whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else (Mark 10:44; NLT).

If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT).

3. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34; NIV).

A friend is always loyal (Proverbs 17:17; NLT).

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching (Luke 23:49; NLT).

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46; NIV).

When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit (Matthew 27:50; NIV).