When All You Have is a Silent Prayer

My drive into work finds the car filled with an unfamiliar silence. This space is typically flooded with prayers and contemplation woven together with an outburst of worship songs. But not today. Fatigue weighs on my shoulders like a wet blanket…pressing down, smothering. I am trying hard to pray, but nothing escapes my lips but a deep sigh. “Lord, there’s nothing I can say that I haven’t already said.  I am worn. So, if it is ok with you, I will exhale a silent prayer.” 

I wait in uncomfortable silence. Will He speak? If He does, will it be the answer to so many prayers I have wept? Will strength find its way to my weary bones? 

Then in the quiet, I hear that still small voice, “Look around.” Hands clutched tight around the steering wheel I glance to the left. The sun is peeking up over the eastern horizon spreading rays of vibrant orange, plum red, and canary yellow across the sky. I turn to the right and catch a glimpse of cornfields, swaying gently with the rhythm of the wind. My heart inhales deep gratitude for the farmers who thought their fields would lie in muddy waste this year.  My eyes are waking up as I spy geese skimming the diamond-studded ponds on either side of the road. The fog begins to lift off of the landscape and my heart as I take in the wonders of His handiwork.  

He speaks.

“My child, you have prayed all your wants, concerns, and needs. Though I long to hear your heart, there is something you are missing. You are consumed with expressing your weaknesses, while I am more concerned that you understand my strength. This life is less about you constantly remembering your inefficiencies and more about embracing my all-sufficiency. Remember me, who I am. I am God.

God

With that simple yet profound word whispered to my heart partnered with the visual reminder of His creative power, hope and strength begin to rise. 

There are books of the Bible that get referenced abundantly when we face trials. David paints a picture of the authentic heart throughout all of the Psalms. We get a front-row seat to his deepest struggles and his resolve as he concludes that God is God. Somehow, his version of man’s inner wrestling is easier to identify with than say that of Lamentations. Just the mention of Lamentations and I feel as though I have watched a movie where all the heroes die in the end. 

Yet today, that is precisely where God led me. Tucked away in this book of deep grief is a passage that solidifies what God has been speaking to me in the car. Written by someone whose prayers were steeped in more pain than the ones I have been praying. But someone who in the middle of the crushing remembered the very character of God…and that was enough. 

But this I call to mind,
and therefore, I have hope:
 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore, I will hope in Him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

There is truth to be gleaned from the old hymn Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

It has been quite some time since I have shifted my gaze toward Him. I had allowed the weight of my circumstances to nag at me, reminding me of lack. But one glance in his direction was all I needed to remind me that He is enough. No matter what surrounds me, He is enough to face it head-on. 

What about you? Do the voices in your head pull your gaze away from the one who loves you more than you love yourself? Are your eyes locked tight on your failures rather than His faithfulness? Then maybe these verses from Lamentations will guide your vision back to His glory like they did mine.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:25-26

Oh, my friends, life gets so busy and burdens pile up. It is in our nature to grab hold of our failures rather than reach for His faithfulness. But if we are to be a people of hope in troubled times, then we must turn our gaze away from our inadequacies and behold the One who is more than enough. 

“Father, the landfill of my failures continues to pile up. But You, oh God, are the faithful one. Today, fix my eyes on you the one starter and finisher of my faith. Remind me of all the ways you have led me up to this point in my life. And as I remember, may hope rise out of the ashes. May I see with a fresh vision that you God, who created all things, is the very one that cradles my heart in your hands.”

Until next time, let’s find hope in the journey,
Evelyn Sherwood

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.

Who Asked You? Part 2

“We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” – The Apostle Paul, Romans 8:26

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalms 46:10

Probably too often, we think of prayer as an opportunity to talk to God.

Not nearly often enough do we use it as a profound opportunity to listen to God.  When we do – listen, that is – it is quite possible to be stunned by the deep knowledge, creativity, compassion, wisdom, and forethought God can offer each one of us in every prayerful moment.  God is always aware of the big plan – His Big Plan – while rarely do we look beyond our present circumstances, and then only dimly. God is big, we are small.

When Jesus is minutes away from His arrest by Jewish guards, hours away from his trials before Jewish leaders and Roman prelate Pontius Pilate, shortly after which He would be crucified by the Romans, His startling last words to His disciples spoke of nothing they could have imagined, asked for, or, until later, understood.

At that juncture, which we see in John 15-16-17, did any single one of the disciples have it in his mind to pray for all the things Jesus was about to bring into their lives, or the work of salvation He was going to complete for all humanity? 

Who among the disciples would have prayed that Jesus fulfill His mission by giving Himself up to His own humiliating death?  Who would have prayed for their joy to be complete?  Who would have thought to ask for eternal life – for themselves?  Or to learn the true and immutable name of God in loving relationship as only Jesus truly knew each of them?  Who would have prayed for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit by which they later could understand many things, find peace in the Lord, and be comforted? 

Who would have prayed for Jesus to be relieved of His loneliness as He was deserted by men?  Who would have thought to ask Jesus to forgive them for deserting Him?  Who would have known and prayed for the looming sacrifice of Jesus that would cover all their sins and restore humanity’s relationship with God Almighty forever?

Likely someone would have prayed for courage, but would they have included the prayer for the gift of conquest over sin?  There’s no record that any prayer was offered by the disciples during this time: Jesus the son of God was doing all the talking.

Simply enough, any Jew you asked at that point in their history about what they expected of the promised “Messiah,” would have responded, “To kill the Romans.”  The astute likely would also pray for the return of Israel with a King and a Kingdom.

Absolutely no praying person looked at Jesus and asked him to provide all of humanity with forgiveness, eternal love, eternal life, and intimate knowledge of the good, loving, and righteous God.  No one prayed for their own pathway of faith and hope into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Neither the disciples, family, nor friends who loved Jesus, nor the greatest minds of Israel trying to kill Him, saw any of that coming.

This is all to say, then, that when you’re not sure what to pray for, invite God to go ahead and do His thing.  Then … be still and listen.  You may be very surprised.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that God and Jesus never asked a question to which they did not already know the answer. That makes it hard to argue with them. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Who Asked You? Part 1

“… I tell you the truth, my father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” – Jesus to the disciples, John 16:23

For quasi-Christians with a stubborn, worldly cant who go to church only when convenient, study the Bible only lightly, and think religion is “to get stuff,” John 16:23 appears to be the ultimate good news: God will give you whatever you want.

Wow! A free pass through the check-out lane of life!  Just pray and say “Jesus!”

It’s a fake-news notion that’s launched a thousand sinking ships.
Our purpose today is not to rant about the “prosperity” gospel, “name it-claim it” doctrine, the “golden” gospel, or any other assorted false flags of me-directed faith.  Context in the Bible is everything – I mean, Jesus is everything, of course – but a “Playtex” interpretation of scripture where you “lift” a verse or phrase you like and then “separate” it from its holy intent, dis-serves the Spirit and darkens one’s humanity.
It’s never a good thing to replace a truth with a lie, not when God is watching.

And He’s always watching.

We’ve been studying this section of scripture – John 15-16-17 – in our Thursday morning Mustard Seed Bible Study.  It’s the teaching of Jesus after the Last Supper and before the Garden of Gethsemane.  Last week’s column, pulled from John’s earlier writing in chapter 3, focused on our “belief” in Jesus the Son of God as the key to salvation.

As Jesus spends these final couple of hours with His disciples before His arrest, trial, humiliation, beating, flogging, crucifixion, and death, Jesus is decisively and directly telling the disciples that He is one with the Father, that He came from the Father, that He is going back to the Father, and that because they know Him – Jesus – they – the disciples – also now know the Father.  That is Jesus’s final teaching, and the headline Jesus leaves with His disciples is: “You know God, because you know Me.”

That’s the revealing and critical bit of the context to the line, “whatever you ask in my name.”  It’s a line Jesus repeats in verse 26, “…you will ask in my name.”  Jesus says it twice – so it’s important – and it is as shocking as it is true. But the focus here should not be the word “ask.”  Instead, take full measure of the word “name.”

After previous BC (or BCE) millennia of Jewish instruction never to say the name of God, and that we will never see God, Jesus is telling His disciples that they have encountered both the person and the name of God … in the flesh … in Him.  “Name” here isn’t just a “Joe-Bob” or “Linda-Sue.”   No, in this context “name” implies both knowledge of and relationship with the person being “named.”  Jesus is talking about not just His own person but the very name of God; Jesus is saying, “That’s Who I Am.”

The disciples of course don’t quite get it all; not yet.  They know Jesus saw into their hearts, revealed to them what they were thinking, and knows them personally.  But what Jesus really is giving to them and to all humanity is something for which they never would have thought to ask: to know the heart of Almighty God; to know His Name.

That is our gift from Jesus, and it can only be unwrapped by a believing heart.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) finds it fascinating that in this most profound and critical section of scripture, neither sin nor forgiveness are mentioned, only belief. More next week. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.