Most of us can’t not believe in God.
Not at this point.
It’s just that we can come to believe, as CS Lewis did in the wake of his bride’s passing, the most “dreadful things about Him.”
Sorrows churn our insides. Inexplicable losses and lives ripped away decimate us. Local traumas and national tragedies conspire with the drizzle of disappointment, chronic pain, or dismay of our waking hours to make us wonder, just how good our Lord is...and if he is even there. Or cares.
During this 40 day wilderness season before Easter called Lent, we look in slow motion at God’s take on migraines, arthritis and the devastating fragility we encounter in our many sufferings. We see God’s take in the life of Jesus who was expert in offering “fervent cries and tears to the One who could save him from death.”
And in our congregation, I have been sharing daily Lenten prayers I’ve composed via email with those wanting to pay special attention to God in prayer together for this 40 day season.
Today, I share one such prayer with you.
It’s scaffolding comes from a running dialogue with Christ that Augustine relays in his Confessions.
And it is fitting, for such is precisely how prayer often works as anyone who ever gives it a whirl in earnest will come to discover.
Prayer is rarely, neat and orderly, but is, instead, frequently like a meandering conversation, filled with shouts, cries, pleas, silences, and questions, just to mention a few of its robust elements.
I’m drawn to the urgency of it.
Augustine knew that prayer is an urgent matter...and his demands, as I’m sure they’ve been for you at times, were fueled by a burning necessity--that God himself communicate to his very soul. Listen to him wrestle verbally with God in prayer:
“Oh! How shall I find rest in You? Who will send You into my heart to inebriate it, so that I may forget my woes, and embrace You my only good? What are You to me? Have compassion on me, that I may speak. What am I to You that You demand my love, and unless I give it You art angry, and threaten me with great sorrows? Is it, then, a light sorrow not to love You? Alas! Alas! Tell me of Your compassion, O Lord my God, what You are to me. “Say unto my soul, I am your salvation.” So speak that I may hear. Behold, Lord, the ears of my heart are before You; open them, and “say unto my soul, I am your salvation.” When I hear, may I run and lay hold on You. Hide not Your face from me. Let me die, lest I die, if only I may see Your face.”
I reckon we ourselves need no less than to hear again God “tell us of His compassion.”
So let’s begin afresh today. And remember, like Eugene Peterson has taught us, “There are no experts in the company of Jesus. We are all beginners.”
As you pray (if you choose to pause a moment and give it a go) realize we approach, even with heaviness of heart, a God who’ll draw near. Only it isn’t a god of the philosopher’s concoction or of popular imagination. As poet Jane Kenyon grasped, it isn’t a god like that, far away and aloof, at all:
The God of curved space, the dry
God, is not going to help us, but the son
whose blood spattered
the hem of his mother's robe.”
It’s a graphic image. But important to remember with the wounds of our bleeding world and in the midst of our very own that we cry out to a Savior “whose blood splattered the hem of his mother’s robe.”
A PRAYER FOR A TUESDAY IN LENT 2018
Father of compassions that fail not, I want to be near to you this day.
So I call to you.
You, O Lord, are “near to all who call on you...”
Be near to me this day.
Let your tender regard, soft yet sturdy as it is, somehow overpower every rival voice bullying me around this morning.
“Tell me of Your compassion, O Lord my God, what You are to me....Say unto my soul, I am your salvation.” So speak that I may hear. Behold, Lord, the ears of my heart are before You; open them, and “say unto my soul, I am your salvation.”
Lord, all around me, injury multiplies and sorrows compound.
Our own community has in it grieving, aching, empty, devastated people who are precious to you and to me.
You are “near to the broken-hearted.”
You “save those crushed in spirit.”
Lord, I would be today like those friends who had to get their paralyzed friend to you so desperately, that when the crowd blocked their path to you, they dug a hole in the roof. I bring to you the injured, wounded, sorrowful, discouraged in my life by name....I have to get them to YOU.
You can heal them.
You can tell them of your compassion.
You can convince them that You are their salvation.
(Spend a few moments imagining that you are bringing friends, co-workers, neighbors, or anyone that is brought to mind, to Christ himself, so Christ may heal them, help them, and be the lifter of their heads with his compassionate nearness and healing touch...ask Him to act in their lives...)
Lord, hear these prayers. Help these friends whom I bring to you. Surprise them with your nearness, your wonders, and your rescue.
And as the Psalmist prayed (Psalm 143), today Lord:
“Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let (this) morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.”
As I go out to the demands, worries, troubles, and goodnesses that await today:
please answer me and give me continued confidence to ask you for much,
please show me your face and introduce others to your compassionate self through my words and ways,
please bring me a full measure of your affirming affection...
for to you O Lord, I lift up my soul.
May Your voice, Your ways, and Your influence be supremely valuable to me.
Father, “Say unto my soul, I am your salvation.” So speak that I may hear. Behold, Lord, the ears of my heart are before You; open them, and “say unto my soul, I am your salvation.” When I hear, may I run and lay hold of You.” Amen
Contact Eric Youngblood, pastor of Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mountain, at firstname.lastname@example.org