The Prayers Of David

The life of David is an open book for us. One of the unique things about David’s life is that we get to read both the historical narrative of his life, and his diary-like thoughts recorded in his psalms, songs, and prayers in the Book of Psalms.

David’s prayers are gut-level honest and full of raw emotion.

His prayers are also very helpful for anyone who desires to be as close to God as David was, to be one God describes as “a man after my own heart, who will do everything I want him to do.”

Join me this Sunday as we begin an exploration of the passionate, personal, powerful prayers of David.

Dear Abba (book review)

Dear AbbaAbba is a term of endearment that a child would give to his father, and it’s Brennan Manning’s preferred way of addressing his Heavenly Father. As you might imagine, then, Dear Abba is an intimate prayer journey.

This is a 31-day prayer journey, utilizing passages of Scripture, a passage from one of Manning’s books, and a prayer that Manning wrote as he contemplated that Scripture. There are two readings each day—one for the morning and one for the evening. Each day’s section will only take you a couple of minutes to read, but the thoughts shared will stick with you all day long.

One of the things I especially appreciate about Brennan Manning’s writing is the realness of his words. He doesn’t write in a churchy style, but in real, raw emotion. Then to read his prayers addressed to “Dear Abba” adds an even deeper level of intimacy with God.

Whether you are a fan of Brennan Manning’s work or not, this 30-day journey will take you to a place of greater awareness of God’s abiding presence.

By the way: if you would like to read a review of The Ragamuffin Gospel, another book by Brennan Manning, please click here.

Ticked Off!

Have you ever been so angry that you couldn’t see straight?

Has someone ever pushed all your buttons?

Have you ever worked with someone who knew how to get on your very last nerve?

I can’t imagine anyone answering “No” to these questions. Of course we all get mad. The really issue is what do we do when we get there?

More specifically: what’s a Christian to do when he or she gets throughly ticked off?

Starting this Sunday, I’m going to be exploring this topic, and I hope you can join me. We’ll be looking at what the Bible has to say about what we are supposed to do with these strong emotions.

Don’t Fake It

Have you ever had someone tell you, “Fake it until you make it”? In other words, you may not feel happy, but just start smiling and soon you will feel happy. Sadly, I’ve heard this type of so-called wisdom given by Christians to other Christians:

  • Don’t let anyone know that you feel scared, doubtful, angry, etc.
  • Never let ‘em see you sweat.
  • Even if you’re down, put on a happy face.

Turns out that this is not only bad advice, but harmful advice too. A recently study by Michigan State University found —

Pretending to smile when you’re feeling bad makes you feel worse and be less productive. …[You] can’t just fake a smile and expect to feel good about it or negative feelings intensify.

(You can read the full report here.)

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you should never fake it. Take a quick glance through the psalms and you’ll see raw, real emotions: anger … depression … anxiety … vengeance … sadness … envy … spite …

Because here’s the deal: You may wear a {fake} smile on the outside, but God knows the {real} emotions in your heart. You’re not fooling Him. And, as it’s been revealed in this study, you’re not fooling anyone else either.

So go ahead and vent those negative emotions when you’re alone with God. Tell Him how you really feel (He already knows, but it’s good for you to hear you say it). And then let the Holy Spirit show you how to deal with those emotions in a healthy way.

Don’t bottle it up — don’t fake-it-until-you-make-it — be real and let God heal you.

Listen To Me

Have you ever been involved in high-level negotiations? The stakes are high. The potential for reward is great, but the chances of crashing-and-burning are also great. Everyone is on their A-game both mentally and emotionally. No one wants to misstep  or misspeak.

Sounds like a hostage negotiator, or a government official brokering a treaty, or a business leader finalizing a multi-million dollar business deal, right?

Actually these high-level, high-stress, high-risk-or-reward negotiations happen almost every day. And you’re involved. Whenever you have a conversation with someone where you’re opening your heart to them – or they’re opening up to you – you’ve stepped into a place where wonderful or tragic things can happen.

Think about how your blood pressure rises when you hear…

  • …your spouse say, “We need to talk.”
  • …your boss intercoms you and says, “Will you come into my office.”
  • …your friend says, “This isn’t very easy for me to tell you this, but….”
  • …your coworker says, “You need to sit down for this.”

Here’s a scene from the Bible – Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah has died, and he wants to bury her somewhere special. The problem is, Abraham doesn’t own any land. So for the first time since leaving Ur he has to negotiate the purchase of land. The Hittites know Abraham is a powerful man. They don’t want to give anything away for free, but neither do they want to anger him. Abraham is a wealthy man. He can probably pay any price for the land, but he doesn’t want to be seen as a sucker.

Let the negotiations begin. Multiple times throughout their conversation a phrase is repeated:

Listen to me.

In the Hebrew there is nothing unique or noteworthy about these words. But the fact that the phrase is repeated so frequently in so few verses is interesting. In fact, this phrase is only used one other time in all of Genesis.

Both parties are saying, “I realize that one misspoken word here could be hurtful. This is a difficult, touchy subject, but I want it to be a win-win. So don’t just listen to my words, hear my heart.”

Here’s my takeaway for my emotionally-charged conversations:

  1. Take a deep breath and ask for God’s help.
  2. Go slowly.
  3. Make sure I’m in the right place to listen to them.
  4. Listen to the other person’s heart, not just their words.
  5. Look for a win-win.
  6. Go slowly.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear one of those blood-pressure-elevating opening phrases. When you hear those phrases, you have just entered into high level negotiations. But you can successfully broker a win-win for everyone, if you’ll just hear their heart.

Real Raw Emotions

This week I’ve been writing about my favorite book — the Bible — and why I find it so fascinating. Yesterday I talked about how the Bible helps me mentally. But we are not just mental creatures, we are emotional, too, and I have found my Bible to be an excellent way to express some of my deepest, rawest emotions. (If you would like to read the other parts of this series, they are here, here, here, and here.)

Humans are created in God’s image, and God expresses emotion. In fact, God expresses emotion more deeply than humans can — His sorrow is more bitter, His love is more intense, His jealousy is more pure.

Emotion is expressed throughout the Bible, but I’m particularly attracted to the emotional responses in the Psalms. These are prayers and songs which express the deepest emotions of angry, loving, hurting people. A few examples —

You know what I long for, Lord; You hear my every sigh. (Psalm 38:9, New Living Translation)

Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride. (Psalm 56:1-2, New International Version)

God, smash [my enemies’] teeth to bits, leave them toothless tigers. Let their lives be buckets of water spilled, all that’s left, a damp stain in the sand. Let them be trampled grass worn smooth by the traffic. Let them dissolve into snail slime, be a miscarried fetus that never sees sunlight. Before what they cook up is half-done, God, throw it out with the garbage! (Psalm 58:6-9, The Message)

O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]…. (Psalm 42:6, Amplified Bible)

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, and am not silent…. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. …But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. (Psalm 22:1-2, 14-16, 19, NIV)

Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man… able to experience the deepest, rawest emotions of anyone. “He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus knows what you feel because He felt it, too: “For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation” (Hebrews 4:15). As a result, “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf (Hebrews 7:25).

Don’t ever be afraid to express your rawest emotions in God’s presence — He knows profoundly what you are feeling. When you are struggling with deep emotion, the Bible knows how to speak your heart’s cry to God.

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