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Saturday, November 7, 2015

What's in a prayer?

Every now and again, we come across scripture which really reads like a prayer we might want to utter in our own voices.  Something in the words rings true in our hearts and minds, making us just want to let God know we feel exactly the same way.  It could be the cry of David, overburdened by the weight of his guilt, crying out for God to look upon him with a heart of mercy in Psalm 51.  Maybe it would be the words of another psalm in which the writer clearly is asking God to "bend his ear toward him" - maybe because the heavens seem as brass, or the urgency of our need needs to "get through" to the one true God (Psalm 5). It really doesn't matter which portion speaks the loudest - it is okay to "pray scripture"!  There is one prayer which should be part of our daily lives - maybe not the exact words, but certainly the intent behind it.  To ask God to eliminate any hint of worthless or deceitful words and to let him know you trust him to provide all your needs is a worthy prayer, indeed.  To actually live as though you want your words "governed" and your needs met by someone other than yourself - that is an entirely different matter!

Two things I ask, O God. Sometime before I die, grant these humble requests: Eliminate any hint of worthless and deceitful words from my lips. Do not make me poor or rich, but give me each day what I need; for if I have too much, I might forget You are the One who provides, saying, “Who is the Eternal One?”  Or if I do not have enough, I might become hungry and turn to stealing and thus dishonor the good name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 VOICE)

Two things I ask - 

Eliminate any hint of worthless and deceitful words from my lips.  Worthless words are those which have no value - spoken, but no real meaning behind them, or thought.  They are words which might be described as "barren" - they don't produce anything of value.  Barren land will produce crops of weeds and even give way to fungus.  The land looks useless and unproductive, but even in the barrenness it "shows", there is a growth of something which might not actually be what we want to have.  In Arizona, there is a fungus which grows in the soil known as Texas Root Rot.  It has a more scientific name, but I think this name says it all. Worthless words are like Texas Root Rot - their full potential for destruction may not be noticed because their effect isn't actually "seen" until there is evidence of something wrong deeper down in the soil of one's life which might just be revealed in the words one speaks. Deceitful words are those which are disingenuous - they are artfully stated words which give enough hint of "good" in them that someone doesn't really catch that they are being put down, criticized, or downright made fun of.  Either way, these are the type of words we don't want around in our lives.  Most importantly, we don't want the character of heart which actually creates an environment within which allows these words to form and be spoken. Our writer is merely asking God to help change his heart so his words consistently reveal the grace and love of God.

The next part of the prayer might catch a few of us off-guard.  Don't make me poor or rich, but give me each day what I need.  You could ask 10 people today what they thought was the "right" amount of money to make, save, and give away to others.  You'd get 10 different answers.  Some would say they could live on less than they make, but they wouldn't want to. Others would say they really need more than what they make in order to live the way they'd like to.  Still others would wax a little philosophical and tell you as long as all their needs were met, they could live on whatever amount that was.  It isn't the dollar figure our writer is after here, but the state of heart which finds contentment in relationship with God above all other things.  I think our writer might just have in mind how we get distracted by the attention we give to the material stuff in life, over the attention we give to developing our relationship with God.  If we were honest here, we'd admit we spend far more time "earning a living" than we do focusing on our relationship with Jesus!  We just don't go through our day focusing every second on Jesus.  Yes, we know he is with us, has everything under control, and is helping us do our best at whatever we put our hands to.  But...we don't cloister ourselves away in a monastery somewhere and sing worship songs all day.  We live life, work on challenging stuff, and go about the business of life with an awareness of God's presence.   It maybe isn't a "make me poor" or "make me rich" kind of attitude our writer wants us to develop, but an awareness that even the ability to work and the ability to enjoy leisure are a blessing from God's storehouse of riches we get to enjoy each day.

Two distinct prayers - one distinct purpose - living life in a way which pleases and honors the God who has redeemed our souls.  Our writer connects two very real struggles we all experience with this one prayer - that our lives honor God in the words we speak and the actions / intent of our heart.  Maybe this would be a worthwhile prayer for us to turn to a little more frequently in our lives.  Just sayin!