Monday, November 2, 2020

A prayer...

 Dear God,

We're told in Romans, "We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words." (8:26) Right now, that's where I am. I think it's where so many of us here in the United States are, because right now our country is anything but "United." The division and hatred is wounding so many hearts and causing so many rifts. The most horrific part of it all, though, is not the fact that our country is divided--that's something that has been coming for a long time. The worst part is how those of us who call ourselves Your children are divided.

God, You are holy and just and perfect in Your love. You know we are weak--after all, You created the dust from which You created us. You know our lives here are nothing more than a breath, and You know how much we mess up. Despite it all, You love us. Somehow, for some awesome reason I can't wrap my mind around, You love us. You watch us fail You time and time again, and You love us.

Your mercy is unbelievable and Your patience is unimaginable, but when it comes down to it, Your love for us means that You also discipline us. Just like my mom always told us, "I love you too much to let you act that way," sometimes that's what You say to us.

Father, this nation was founded on Your word. It was started by men and women who called out to You and based their decisions on Your will. Instead of honoring them--but more importantly, honoring You--we've decided that our country doesn't need You. We've pushed You aside and, like petulant children, said that we can do it ourselves. We've pushed You out of everything--our homes, our schools, our courts, even many of our churches. We've grabbed hold of the idea of feelings over facts, of the idea that it doesn't matter what You said, all that matters is what makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. We've decided that you are nothing more than an old man to be placated, shaking our heads with a knowing smirk as we listen to stories of how things used to be.

For so long, we've tried to take control. We've tried to say that we know better than You, that we're better at this "life" thing, that Your word is outdated and irrelevant. We took all the gifts You gave us and threw them away, demanding something bigger and better and shinier and more modern. Demanding that You let us have our way, that You just leave us alone and let us take control and do things the way we want.

And now, God, I'm afraid that You've decided to do just that. I'm afraid that You are doing like you did when Israel demanded a king--You warned them, then You gave them what they thought they wanted. You stepped back and they found out what it meant to get their own way.

Father, forgive us.

Despite our demands, despite our petulance, I know Your will will be done. You are in control, though sometimes that control means our discipline. Please, remember Your children. Through the coming turmoil, remind us that You love us, and that even when we are in the pit You are close enough to whisper.

Psalm 31

"You are my shelter, O Eternal One—my soul’s sanctuary!
    Shield me from shame;
    rescue me by Your righteousness.
Hear me, Lord! Turn Your ear in my direction.
    Come quick! Save me!
Be my rock, my shelter,
    my fortress of salvation!

You are my rock and my fortress—my soul’s sanctuary!
    Therefore, for the sake of Your reputation, be my leader, my guide, my navigator, my commander.
Save me from the snare that has been secretly set out for me,
    for You are my protection.
I entrust my spirit into Your hands.[a]
    You have redeemed me, O Eternal, God of faithfulness and truth.

I despise the people who pay respect to breathless idols,
    and I trust only in You, Eternal One.
I will gladly rejoice because of Your gracious love
    because You recognized the sadness of my affliction.
    You felt deep compassion when You saw the pains of my soul.
You did not hand me over to the enemy,
    but instead, You liberated me
    and made me secure in a good and spacious land.

Show me Your grace, Eternal One, for I am in a tight spot.
    My eyes are aching with grief;
    my body and soul are withering with miseries.
10 My life is devoured by sorrow,
    and my years are haunted with mourning.
My sin has sapped me of all my strength;
    my body withers under the weight of this suffering.

11 To all my enemies I am an object of scorn.
    My neighbors especially are ashamed of me.
My friends are afraid to be seen with me.
    When I walk down the street, people go out of their way to avoid me.
12 I am as good as dead to them. Forgotten!
    Like a shattered clay pot, I am easily discarded and gladly replaced.
13 For I hear their whispered plans;
    terror is everywhere!
They conspire together,
    planning, plotting, scheming to take my life.

14 But I pour my trust into You, Eternal One.
    I’m glad to say, “You are my God!”
15 I give the moments of my life over to You, Eternal One.
    Rescue me from those who hate me and who hound me with their threats.
16 Look toward me, and let Your face shine down upon Your servant.
    Because of Your gracious love, save me!
17 Spare me shame, O Eternal One,
    for I turn and call to You.
Instead, let those who hate me be shamed;
    let death’s silence claim them.
18 Seal their lying lips forever,
    for with pride and contempt boiling in their hearts,
    they speak boldly against the righteous and persecute those who poured their trust into You.

19 Your overflowing goodness
    You have kept for those who live in awe of You,
And You share Your goodness with those who make You their sanctuary.
20 You hide them, You shelter them in Your presence,
    safe from the conspiracies of sinful men.
You keep them in Your tent,
    safe from the slander of accusing tongues.

21 Bless the Eternal!
    For He has revealed His gracious love to me
    when I was trapped like a city under siege.
22 I began to panic so I yelled out,
    “I’m cut off. You no longer see me!”
But You heard my cry for help that day
    when I called out to You.

23 Love the Eternal, all of you, His faithful people!
    He protects those who are true to Him,
    but He pays back the proud in kind.
24 Be strong, and live courageously,
    all of you who set your hope in the Eternal!"

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