One way to pray is to make the Scriptures our own by putting them in the first person so that we see how they apply to us. Today let us do that with Psalm 91, the great Psalm of God's protection.
God, you are my refuge, my fortress, my God in whom I trust. You will save me from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. You will cover me with your feathers and under your wings I will find refuge. Your faithfulness will be my shield and rampart. I will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Although a thousand may fall at my side, ten thousand at my right hand, it will not come near me. I will only observe with my eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
I make the Most High my dwelling – the Lord, who is my refuge – and no harm will befall me, no disaster will come near my tent. He will command his angels concerning me to guard me in all my ways. They will lift me up in their hands so that I do not strike my foot against a stone. I will tread upon the lion and the cobra; I will trample the great lion and the serpent.
Because I love the Lord He will rescue me. He will protect me because I acknowledge his name. I will call upon him and he will answer me. He will be with me in trouble. He will deliver me and honor me. He will give me long life and salvation.
"To counsel the doubtful" is a lofty-sounding goal that might put most of us off from attempting to do it at all. But I am not one of those who thinks that the spiritual works of mercy apply to some of us and not all of us. All of us, I believe, are called at various times to counsel the doubtful in the same way that we are all called to instruct others in the faith to the best of our abilities.
Who has not been doubtful about their faith at some point in their lives? I certainly have. Satan loves nothing better than to bring doubt to our minds. Isn't that what he tried to do with Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11)? Satan said, "If you are the Son of God, . . ." Starting off with "if" was meant to sow doubt. Obviously Jesus didn't need anyone to counsel him away from doubt, but he had just come off of 40 days of fasting and prayer. Plus Jesus was well versed in the Word of God.
Doubt about our faith does not come from God. When we come across someone who is doubting, what should we do? Let's take them in the reverse order of what Jesus did with Satan's temptation. Remind them of what Scripture says. Pray with and for them. Fast for them. And if we need to refer them to someone who can answer their questions more completely, we can do that too.
The same approach works if we are the one who is doubting. Read Scripture, pray, fast, consult an elder in the faith.
For Reflection: Times of doubt come and go. What do I do when I am doubtful? When I come across someone who is doubtful, what is my response?
Let us pray. "I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues" (Psalm 120: 1-2).
"Fill me up, Lord," is a lyric from a song on the radio these days. I woke up with it in my mind this morning, so I went looking for it in the Bible, of course. It's not worded as a plea in the Bible; it's worded as a certainty. Psalm 16:11 reads, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
There is quite a difference between a plea and a declaration. They come from totally different places in our lives. One comes from want, the other from confidence. Neither is wrong. When we ask God to fill us, often we have a list of things we want. We want the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2) - wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, power, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. Or we are asking for the fruits of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22 - love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
But when we come from a place of confidence we can declare, "You will fill me with joy . . . . " That is where we long to be. We hunger for the place of certainty, knowing that God wants all good things for us, knowing that he would never deny us, knowing that we have the rights of children of God.
For Reflection: Where am I today? Am I asking for or declaring the gifts and the treasures of God?
Let us pray. "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." I thank you, Lord.
From Psalm 29
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.
He sits enthroned over the flood as King forever.
His voice thunders over the mighty waters,
powerful and majestic.
His voice breaks the cedars of Lebanon into pieces.
His voice twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
His voice is lightening, shaking the desert.
His voice blesses the people with peace and gives them strength.
In his temple all cry, "Glory!"
Because I've never used a wineskin, Jesus' example of the wineskins in Luke 5:37-38 has not been one that spoke to me. The biblical commentators say this story is about flexibility, remaining pliable to God. I do understand about flexibility; my joints and muscles remind me every day that I am not as young and flexible as I used to be. A similar example is in Ezekiel 36:26 in which the Lord says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
We now know through medical science that hardened arteries and hardened heart muscle will eventually kill a person. Arteries and hearts that are hardened cannot efficiently move blood and oxygen through our bodies. On the other hand, proper food and exercise help keep our arteries and hearts in good physical shape. Repentance and listening to God help to keep our hearts in good spiritual shape.
The Lord also says through Ezekial, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (Ezekial 36:25, 27). So the way to a new heart and a new spirit is repentance, forgiveness by God and receiving the Spirit.
For Reflection: Jesus was saying to the religious leaders that their hearts were hardened; they were not flexible or adaptable to God's ways. What kind of shape is my heart in? Read Hebrews chapter 3 for further reflection.
Let us pray. "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night" (Psalm 63:1, 6).
For the most part the time of the Kings of Israel was not an illustrious one. With a few exceptions they served false gods and were wicked men. God sent prophets to them, but they didn't listen. The entire people suffered because of the kings.
The Psalmist says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Psalm 95:7-8). Yes, the kings of Israel hardened their hearts, but God continued to send prophets. God never gives up on us. He still speaks today.
Let us pray for leaders around the world to be men and women with soft hearts and open ears who listen to God. Let us pray the same thing for ourselves and our families.
As we grow in maturity in Christ there are things we must "put off" according to Paul. Since Paul is fond of lists, let us list here the things we are to put off: your old self, deceitful desires, falsehood, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, darkness, drunkenness (Ephesians 4:17 - 5:20).
Paul gives, of course, another list of what we are to "put on": our new self, righteousness, holiness, truth, wholesome talk (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs), kindness, goodness, compassion, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving, light, understanding, the Spirit.
Many of these have to do with our words, what we say to one another. As James says in his letter, if we control the tongue we control the entire person (James 3:1-12). If we change the way we speak, we will change the way we act.
For Reflection: If we don't find ourselves more in the second list from Ephesians than the first, can we find a way to immerse ourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?
Let us pray. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly. . . . I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth . . . . (Psalm 40: 9-10).
During the really cold weather two women evangelists came knocking on my door. One asked me to read a Scripture from one of the prophets. It promised a bad reward for those who are evil and a good reward for those who are good. The woman asked me, "Isn't that good news?" I replied, "It's not good news for the evil." "Oh," she said, "I meant for you to read another verse." This one was about the Kingdom of God. So she asked, "Where do you think the Kingdom of God is?" I replied, "It's here on earth." But said disagreed. She said, "I think if you read the Scriptures more closely you'll find that the Kingdom of God is in heaven."
"Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God on earth, and He did," I responded. "We don't see the fullness of it yet, but it is here all around us." The other woman with her was considering this, but the woman speaking would have none of it. So I continued, "Not only is the Kingdom of God all around us it is also within us." Having given them a little something to think about, I bid them farewell after complimenting them for their tenacity in being out on such a cold day.
I was reminded of this by reading two Scriptures this morning. Psalm 132:7 "Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool" and Revelation 21:3, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." For me these two verses bring up contradictory images: either we go to God's dwelling or he comes to us. The psalmist was thinking of going to the Ark of the Covenant where God dwelt. In Revelation, the author is speaking of his vision of the new Jerusalem where there is no Ark of the Covenant, no temple building because Jesus himself is the Ark, the Temple and he is among and within his people. There is no separation between God and his people.
For reflection: Today let us secure ourselves in the heart of God, listening to the Father's heartbeat.
Let us pray in rhythm with the heartbeat: Love you. Love you. Love you.
(In honor of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria and their mothers.)
Korea, early 1800s
Cecilia's husband was killed by the authorities because he was Christian. Eventually she went to live with her son who was involved in dangerous missions work. Cecilia prayed for the success of her son's work and practiced a life of sacrifice so that others might eat.
At the age of 79 Cecilia was arrested. The authorities demanded that she renounce her faith and tell them where her son was. She refused and was whipped repeatedly until she died with the names of Jesus and his mother Mary on her lips.
(This account is taken from the May issue of Magnificat, an excellent resource for daily prayer and Scripture reading. http://www.Magnificat.com )
For reflection: Christians have been persecuted since the time of Jesus. Several times per hour, somewhere in the world, another Christian dies.
Let us pray. Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. (Psalm 35:1) We ask you, Lord, to deliver the girls in Nigeria from their abductors without further harm and to release from prison all who are persecuted for their faith.
We were talking about the apostle Paul and his lists of good and bad habits and attitudes. He speaks of "putting on" the good and "taking off" the old. One good activity he mentions is to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16).
I teach courses online in various theological subjects. Several of the courses are on Scripture. The students often lament that they don't have time to fit more Bible reading into their lives. Many people don't seem to know that you can now listen to the Bible on your smart phone or tablet. The Bible is on CD in several formats - with or without background music, in dramatic readings or with only one narrator. So, I think that if we want to fit more Scripture into our day, we can. Listening to it while we are driving or traveling or exercising may not be prime time but it is good time and can be one way of letting the Word enter into us more frequently.
For reflection: Am I getting as much time in with God's word as I would like? If not, what can I do to change it?
Let us pray. "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:9-11)
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.