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Today’s Pulse article is written by Amy Swanson.
"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:1-2)
Going into this season of Lent, I admit to being unsure on how, or if, I would even participate. That changed one morning, as I opened my Bible to the reading plan I'm in. This day’s reading landed on Deuteronomy 9 and brought with it some unexpected conviction.
In this chapter, Moses is retelling their law and history to the generation of Israelites about to enter the Promised Land. When he talks about the sins of the people, and their rapid willingness to turn away from the ways of the Lord, we see Moses' response was prayer. But not just any prayer, Deuteronomy 9:18-19 reads, "Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also." (ESV)
I had made a public note under this passage in my Bible app the year before. A note I was now reading on the first day of Lent, as we were being challenged to seek the Lord more frequently and intentionally for the next 40 days.
My note was as follows:
"To see Moses interceding for the people, on his face in prayer and fasting before God, for 40 days, is really humbling. When we pray for those who are sinners, seeking God to forgive them, save them, draw them in, do any of us take it as seriously to heart and to God as this?"
Some of you may find a similar conviction in this passage; to be more earnest in interceding for those around you this Lenten season. I pray that you do, for the Glory of God!
To my surprise, however, this passage that once lit a fire, was now being used to illuminate a hidden hesitation in my willingness to commit more time in prayer. Turns out, there was a new challenge at hand - a much needed challenge - of trusting God, continuing in prayer to seek the Lord and sit in His presence, when the answer to prayer wasn’t as clear, immediate, or favorable, as maybe it had been for Moses.
Turns out, fasting and prayer doesn’t initiate some magic formula as these words in Isaiah forever hold true, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV) This can lead to some understandable pain and frustration, when things don’t work out as we’d hope or think they should.
These are my feelings, as I look back on last year’s prayers, realizing not much has changed. It is here I admit that it's become harder to pray, harder to trust, and harder to persevere, as a result.
Still, there is hope, because we serve a God who reveals Himself to those who seek Him. (James 4:8) A God who promises all things will work for good. (Romans 8:28) And a God who says, a grain of faith, the size of a mustard seed, is more than enough. (Matthew 17:20) These are the truths I stand on when there isn’t much left to give, and you can too.
From this standpoint, I am reminded of a few different ways to seek the Lord, prayerfully, even if it means He has to carry me through. Praise the Lord, it is here He has revealed Himself to me, over and over again. So, whether you're a weary warrior, or simply don’t know where to start, or how to participate, here are some helpful habits to consider as we seek the Lord together:
Gratitude as prayer - Thanksgiving changes perspective as it's the Lord who richly provides us with every good and perfect gift, and everything to enjoy. (James 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:17) We can forever talk to Him about all there is to be thankful for.
Praying through Scripture - The Bible is an invaluable prayer prompt as God’s Word is particularly full of truths to praise, thank, and ask God for. It can also help in guiding our hearts towards confession and repentance, designed to equip and strengthen the saints for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Prayer with others - Jesus says where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name, He is there among them. (Matthew 18:20) If you’re unsure of who to pray with, NewLife offers a number of opportunities to be edified through the act of praying with others.
Sing to the Lord – A solid playlist goes a long way, primarily, because worship music has a way of expressing words and emotion unlike much else. God’s Word even tells us to sing praises to the Lord, and to make melody to Him in our hearts. (Psalm 30:4, Ephesians 5:19)
I pray that in whatever manner we come before the Lord that we only come with the simplest of expectations. Yes, let us pray, no matter what His will is for the concerns and requests at hand. In doing so, we go beyond seeking God’s hand for a specific need and turn to His face, where we ultimately catch a glimpse and are filled.
This is how I’ve decided to approach the Easter season, standing at the foot of a mountain that appears to be growing instead of moving. It is here, the Lord has impressed upon my heart that I am blessed and He is worthy.
How so? Because it’s in the darkest night, light shines at its brightest; in great hunger, manna in the wilderness tastes so sweet; through mighty thirst, water from the stone quenches like no other; And in unrelenting distress, the fortress proves its strength.
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