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Why should God answer my prayer for help? A study of Psalm 143

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

PrayerReach

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my pleas for mercy!” – Psalm 143:1, ESV

Your life is a mess, and you cry out to God for help. Have you ever stopped to consider why God should answer your prayer? In Psalm 143, David shows us how to pray for help for the right reasons. This is not a method to manipulate God; this is a supplication that submits to the Almighty.

In the psalm, David asks God to hear his cry. He talks about how his enemies are hot on his trail, and how he is so weary and worn out that he is ready to give up. Then he concludes his prayer with the right way to appeal to Yahweh.

First, notice the wrong reasons to ask God for help.

1) Not because I’m good. “No one living is righteous before You,” David says to the Lord (v. 2). God isn’t going to answer me because I’m good, because I’m not.

2) Not because I beg him. In verses 4-6, David sounds pitiful, saying his spirit faints and his spirit fails. Yet, as we shall see, all of this begging is not the reason that God answers.

3) Not because I need him. In verse 7, David says he’s afraid he’s going to end up at the bottom of the pit. Yes, God cares about our needs, yet even this is not the reason God comes to my aid, because, as we shall see, it’s not about me.

Second, notice the right reasons to ask God for help.

1) Because God is good. “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” (v. 10). The Hebrew word used here means “good, gracious, beautiful and pleasant.” God answers because God is good, not because we are good (no one is righteous– v. 2).

2) Because God glorifies His name. “For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life!” (v. 11). Whenever you see “LORD” in all capital letters, it translates the given name of God, Yahweh. God answers our prayer for help to glorify His holy name, that He might draw people to faith in Him.

3) Because God is faithful to His covenant love. “And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies…” (v. 12). The phrase “steadfast love” translates one word in Hebrew, chesed, the word for God’s love that He gives in His grace to His people, not because we deserve it, but because He promised to do it when He made a covenant with His people. David also uses this word in verse 8, saying, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love.”

So if you are crying out to God to help you, ask for the right reasons. Don’t ask because you’re good, because you’re not. Ask because God is good. Don’t ask to help because you want it; ask because it will glorify God. Don’t ask for help because you need it; ask God to help because God has promised to be faithful to you and love you. Don’t tell God what a big problem you have, tell your problem what a big God you have, and stand back and watch Him work in ways you never dreamed.

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Guest blog: “Defeating Giants” by Melissa Hanberry

HanberryFamily(1)_editBelow is a guest post from Melissa Hanberry, from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Melissa writes eloquently of the lessons of faith that she and her family have learned as her 16-year-old daughter, Maggie, battles cancer. (Melissa is seated in this family photo, with her daughter Maggie seated on the chair arm, and daughter Mollie and husband Phil standing.)
This post is taken, with her permission, from her Caring Bridge website. You can follow Melissa’s writings and learn how to pray for Maggie at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/maggiehanberry.”
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;
 Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4
Despite the Shepherd Psalm’s perennial status as the go-to passage for the dying and grieving alike, lately I’ve come to appreciate the message for the living that David expressed in Psalm 23. The picture of God as Shepherd and His people as sheep strikes at the heart of man’s humanistic hubris, but I find comfort in knowing He guides and cares for His own. My enemies and the evil they unleash threaten to turn life’s walk into a valley of the shadowiest shadows, as the Hebrew implies. David had more than his share of overhanging darkness and the wickedness that can hide within. I wonder exactly which foes pounced anew in his mind as he pinned these words.  Lions? Bears? Goliath?
Goliath’s name is forever coupled with David’s as the ultimate descriptor for the unexpected triumph of underdog over odds-on favorite. When they faced off in the valley of Elah, Goliath seemed to carry victory in his back pocket. At least that’s the way it appeared day after day when his challenges were met with stony silence. But do we get the story exactly right? Did Goliath’s massive size and prowess present such an obstacle that David’s one and only chance was a miracle-type one in a million shot? David had faced hairy beasts before – and won. He had slung his stones countless times until he achieved true warrior status as an ancient artillery expert. Truth be told, Goliath was probably the underdog in his cumbersome attire and with his weighty weapons relying on his own brute strength. His defeat was the safe bet that day unless he could freeze David in his tracks with fear and doubt, not by his intimidating exterior, but with the tongue he used to taunt David.
Goliath has a thousand twins that live large in our valleys. A few have human faces, some have heavy-sounding names and lurk within, while many are formless clouds looming overhead with darkest intent. Cancer. Pride. Debilitating pain. Unbelief. Disappointment. Bitterness. Insecurity. They mock us with questions and foster doubts in the One who sends us into battle. Your God is not big enough, strong enough, wise enough, concerned enough to deliver you. You think you have the proper tools to beat me? “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?” (1 Samuel 17:43)

David took Goliath’s life with a stony missile and a conquered sword. Those are the tools of the trade we associate with his victory. But his first step in winning the battle was winning the war of words. “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.” (1 Sam 17:45) And there were two more weapons with David that day. Those sticks didn’t escape Goliath’s attention, so they shouldn’t escape mine. David’s rod and staff? The same rod and staff of Psalm 23:4? Maybe David carried them to battle for comfort, a tangible reminder of the Good Shepherd who counts, rescues, and protects His own. Today they remind me that our battle with cancer is not fought on one plane with one weapon alone. In the same way a shepherd numbers his sheep as each passes beneath the rod, He numbers the very hairs on Maggie’s head and bids us not to fear (Luke 12:7). And with the staff, He searches and rescues me from the end of my own path. With such a Shepherd, my valley of darkest shadows becomes my place of deepest trust and sweetest victory.

Prayers for the sick

PrayerSickCopyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

Perhaps more than any other kind of prayer, people pray for the sick. Yet many are at a loss as to what to say in their prayers. The Bible teaches us to be honest and straightforward with God in our prayers. King Hezekiah just reminded God of his service to the Lord, and wept. God heard his prayer and his tears and answered his prayer. (2 Kings 20). Mary and Martha prayed a simple prayer to Jesus when their brother Lazarus was sick. They just presented him to the Lord, saying, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” (John 11:3) Lazarus died, and they may have felt their prayer was not heard. Yet a few days later, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! Let that be a reminder to us that what matters in our prayer for the sick is the One to whom we pray, not the words that we say.

It is also important to remember that when we pray, we must pray in faith, believing God really has power to do amazing things in answer to our prayer. James 5:15 says, “The prayer of faith will save the sick person.” Notice it says, the prayer of faith. If we only think prayer is positive thinking to make us feel good, we might as well just dispense with the pretense that we are talking to Almighty God, and say, “Hey, cheer up! Think good thoughts!” Yet we recognize the emptiness of such pop psychology as a denial of reality. We recognize that there truly is a Person greater than us, a Supreme Creator. His name is Yahweh, the Lord God of the Bible, who has revealed Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, who healed bodies when He walked on this earth, and accepted His fatal wounds on the cross to heal our souls for heaven.

So pray in faith! Whatever you pray, pray believing in a powerful, loving God.

With that said, people still struggle with how to put their heart-felt faith into words. So with the above in mind, here are some prayers that I have prayed for the sick, or have heard others pray. May they be an encouragement to others to pray in faith to the Great Physician.

 

General prayers

 

“Heavenly Father, we thank You for the medicine and knowledge used by the doctors and nurses, but we realize that these are gifts from You, for You are our Great Physician and Healer. Please give wisdom to the doctors as they seek the best treatment, give compassion to the nurses as they care for their patients, give stamina to the family who are caring for their loved ones, and give to the patient Your peace that passes all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

“Father, we thank You for Your power to heal, for You created our bodies. We thank You for Your presence in our time of sickness, to bring us strength and encouragement. We thank You for the prayers of our family and friends, who lift up this one who is sick to Your throne of grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.” – Nathan Barber (adapted)

 

“God, my loved one is ill. I ask for your healing power to come upon them. You give us life and you have the power to renew life. I believe in your power to heal. Open my loved one to whatever for your healing power takes. And help me remember that, no matter what happens, you are the same yesterday, today and forever. You are always with us. Amen.” – Norman Vincent Peale

 

“Jesus, when You walked this earth, you often touched the sick and healed their bodies. We also know that you did more than heal bodies—you brought healing to the spirit and soul, forgiveness to sinners, and reconciliation to enemies. Today we ask that you heal this one who is sick in any and every way that he needs—touch his body, soul and spirit with your healing power. And we will give You the glory for all that you will do. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.”

 

“O thou who hearest prayer, we pray thee to be very kind and merciful to thy child, whose body suffers in pain and weakness. Grant unto him patience and tranquility of mind; peace, purity, and courage of soul; the strong will to live; and a heart ready to trust thee waking or sleeping. Bless all the means used for his recovery, and all who minister to him in his suffering. Restore him speedily to health, if it please thee, and above all things grant him that which thou knowest to be best for him, and keep him thine for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.” – Henry Van Dyke

“I pray, God, that You will refuse Satan’s requests when he accuses people (as with Job), I ask You, God, to let nothing hinder Your good plans in their lives, and that You use their situation for Your glory, to bring them and those around them closer to You, and that You heal them if that be what’s best for them.” – Emily Jordan Leggett

“Lord, we ask for Your will to be done in every situation, for wisdom for doctors, strength for families and the one who is sick. We ask for healing, for guidance in every situation, for peace and comfort, for Your Spirit to fill each and every person involved, that Your wrap Your arms around them, that they will know without a doubt that You’re with them. We thank You, Lord, for being our provider, our comforter, our strong tower, our peace, our refuge and our strength in time of need. And we thank You, Lord, for being all of everything for the ones who need healing. We ask for Your army of angels to protect them and may Your will be done. In Jesus name.” – Crystal Hallauer Basdeo (adapted)

 

Prayers for the caregivers

 

“Thank you, God, for my doctor and nurses. Thank you for their skills and training. Thank you for their patience with me when I am irritable because I don’t feel well. Give them the insight they need to diagnose my illness and determine the right treatment. Steady their hands and give them the power to heal in your name. Amen.” – Norman Vincent Peale (adapted)

 

Before surgery

 

“Heavenly Father, this Your servant is preparing for surgery. She’s nervous about it, Father. Would you calm her spirit with your peace that passes all understanding? We thank You for the skill and knowledge of the surgeon, and we ask You to guide the surgeon’s hands to complete a successful surgery. We ask that you give this servant of Yours a full recovery, and the patience that she will need during the time of recovery. Please use that time to draw her closer to You, as she must depend on You more than ever before. We thank you for her family who are here by her side. She is so blessed to have so many people caring for her right now. We thank you for how you work all things together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

 

“Our Father, as we face this new experience we come to You for peace and strength. We have confidence in Your healing power and in the doctor. You gave the very life which we have, and since we belong to You, we have trust and faith. We thank You for the understanding that we are constantly surrounded by Your loving, healing care. May Your power be felt through invisible forces. May this operation be successful that this Your child may return to health and useful living; for the sake of Christ and in His Spirit. Amen.” – Edmond Holt Babbitt (adapted)

 

For someone not expected to recover

 

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26

 

“Dear Lord, we do not understand the reason for suffering. We wish we knew the answer to the question, ‘Why?’ But even though we do not have the answer to the question, ‘Why?’, we will not let go of Your hand, for we know that You hold the answer. We will trust You now in the dark, because we know that the Lord is our light and our salvation. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who shed His precious blood on the cross to forgive us, and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Amen.”

 

“Heavenly Father, our hearts are broken over the sickness of the one we love. We know that You love him even more than we do. We know that even at this late hour, you are fully able to heal him. But we also know that for every followers of Jesus, there is a spiritual healing that is greater than any physical healing. We know that you have created a place where there is no more suffering, crying or pain. So we ask for peace to accept whatever healing You choose to give him. If You choose to heal him physically now, we will rejoice and glorify You. If You choose to heal him spiritually now, we will rejoice and glorify You, because of our firm hope in the resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

 

“Our Father, you have given our loved one to us, and You love her even as we do. In confidence and trust we give her back to You. We know that she is Yours. As we climb the steep ascent of faith, please speak peace to our hearts. Take from us all bitterness and mistrust. Although we do not know the answer to many of life’s questions, we do know that we may live in Your love. As we yield ourselves to You, we are confident that You will give Yourself to us; through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Amen.” – Edmond Holt Babbitt (adapted)

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Book review: “Rooms” by James Rubart

Rooms Rooms by James Rubart is a Christian novel about a wealthy young Seattle software developer who gets a cryptic note saying that he has inherited a house on the Oregon coast from an uncle he doesn’t remember. When he goes to claim his house, he finds that he has inherited a house with weird rooms that God is using to change his life.
Some people have compared this book to The Shack, since both books call a man to a house and force him to deal with the pain of his past. However, there are many differences between the two books. Rubart is a more experienced and better writer. He uses vivid descriptions that paint a clear picture of the characters and events. Rubart does not delve into any questionable theological teachings, the way the author of The Shack does. However, The Shack is more emotionally satisfying as an answer to the problem of suffering. Rooms deals with pain, forgiveness, and includes a good romantic story, but it reads more like a science fiction novel, and for some reason, I found it harder to suspend belief and accept the alternate lives and time travel that takes place in the novel. Rooms is also very long, but I’m glad I stayed with it to the end, as the plot picks up pace, and comes to a fascinating and satisfying conclusion.

I listened to the audio version of the book, which was 9 CD’s. It made a good book to pass the time on long trips from Georgia to Mississippi.

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Book review: “Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith”

Immersed
Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith, is a daily devotional designed to develop deeper Christian disciples, written by Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois. It is divided into six chapters designed for each week, and each chapter has seven daily readings, except the last chapter, which has five readings, bringing the total to 40 daily readings. Each reading is about two and a quarter pages in length. The book may be read alone as a daily devotional, or read in conjunction with a small group discussion or church-wide campaign. I read one reading each day for 40 days, as suggested, but on my own without a group discussion. Each daily reading comments on a particular scripture verse, which he explains and applies to daily life, and concludes with points to ponder and reference to two chapters of the Bible as a suggested daily Bible reading. The seven weeks of devotionals cover the subjects of God’s Word, personal renewal, following Christ in difficult times, recognizing blessings and blessing others, choosing a missional life, and living out your faith in the real world.
Munton writes in a conversational style, filled with everyday illustrations, making it easy to read. However, don’t assume this is just light reading. He has many keen insights that often sent me to my knees in prayer, reflection, and got me on my feet to take action.
Munton has a gift for memorable illustrations. The story on Day 22 is a beautiful example. Munton tells how his father learned to count his blessings, while alone on a mountain during the Korean War. Then (spoiler alert) Munton shares how after his father died, they found a photo of his Dad in uniform in Korea. His mother pointed to the mountain behind him in the photo and said, “that is the hill where your father counted his blessings” (p. 110). Munton also knows how to turn a phrase and is full of provocative quotations. He says, “our hope is not that our problems will be absent but that our Lord will be present” (p. 80). He says, “the mission of Jesus– and, therefore, the mission of His disciples– is about more than helping nice people be nicer. It is about helping dead people find life” (p. 140). He says, “We can never be worthy of salvation but we can live worthily in salvation” (p. 176).
Each daily reading ends with reference to two chapters of the Bible suggested for daily scripture reading, designed to take the reader through The Gospel of John, The Acts of the Apostles, and Proverbs. While I agree that it is an important part of discipleship to read through books of the Bible, I wonder if it might have been better to if Munton had done the daily Bible readings differently. Most of his assigned daily Bible readings do not relate to the daily devotionals. However, since each daily devotional is built around a key Bible verse, it seems to me it would have been better to assign the reader to read the whole Biblical chapter that includes the focus verse of each day’s devotional, giving greater context to the excellent devotionals that Munton writes.
Despite that minor critique, this book is one of the best resources I have read for personal discipleship. I highly recommend it.
Copies can be found online at amazon.com, or at discounted bulk prices directly from the author at http://www.dougmunton.com.
In the interest of full disclosure, Munton is a personal friend of mine, and I received a complimentary copy of his book, but I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Poem: “Awake in Bed”

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

Note: I wrote this poem originally as a teenager in 1975, but to this day, I continue to struggle with the same feeling that it expresses.

AwakeInBed

When I plop wearily into bed

Lights out at the end of the day

I suddenly begin to remember

All of the things I forgot to say

All of the things I forgot to do, too.

The simple reason for my every view

I remembered I had left unsaid

What later popped into my head.

These thoughts come slowly, like

the gradual approach of a far-off light.

And they always manage to come to me

in the midst of the night.

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Book review: “Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales”

DeadLawyersTellNoTales If you like John Grisham, you will probably like Randy Singer. I have read many of Singer’s legal suspense novels, and I found his plot twists to be consistently good, often better than Grisham. Singer is a Christian writer who avoids profanity and has a Christian worldview to his books. As a Christian myself, I really like that. But if you are not a Christian, don’t let that put you off, especially in Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales. Although his previous novels are not “preachy,” this novel is even less so. Singer simply weaves a captivating story of redemption. Landon Reed, a former SEC football quarterback who went to jail for taking a bribe to throw a game, wants to redeem himself by becoming a lawyer and helping others. He is an imperfect man who nearly falls again, and then gets caught up in a law firm where somebody is slowly killing every lawyer at the firm.

From beginning to end the plot kept my interest. Each short chapter seemed to end with something that made me want to read the next chapter and learn how the plot would resolve. Singer is a lawyer himself, and is able to describe complicated legal situations with clarity and detail. But what made this story engrossing in the first half was the theme of forgiveness and a second chance. In the second half, the plot accelerated and I couldn’t put down the book until I finished. This is probably Randy Singer’s best book to date.

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Who Needs My Kindness?

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

KindnessThe fifth fruit of the Holy Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22, is kindness. We know what kindness is, but have we stopped to think about who needs to receive our kindness? Undoubtedly, everybody needs it, but scripture names some specific groups of people in particular need of kindness:

1. My wife. Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.” Sadly, men tend to come as across harsh with their wives, often without realizing it. The stronger male physique and deeper voice of the male can be intimidating, which is why 1 Peter 3:7 commands, “Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature, yet showing them honor as co-heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

2. My fellow believers. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

3. The poor. Proverbs 19:17 says, “Kindness to the poor is a loan to the LORD.” Jesus tells a parable of righteous sheep and unrighteous goats, and the distinguishing mark of the sheep is how they show kindness, particularly to the poor. Christ said to the sheep that they were blessed to inherit the kingdom, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink… I was naked and you clothed Me…” (Matthew 25:35-36). In the same passage, Jesus adds three other people groups who need our kindness:

4. Strangers (Matthew 25:35). This is an often overlooked theme of the Old Testament Law, to always show kindness to strangers and foreigners. Deuteronomy 10:19 says, ‘You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Many Americans who are unkind to immigrants seem to forget that most of our ancestors originally came from another continent.

5. The sick. (Matthew 25:36). The head chaplain at the hospital where I work recently said to the other chaplains, “Guys, remember when you have a bad day, that our worst day is better than the best day of most of our patients.” When people are seriously sick, their worlds are turned upside-down, and their emotions are on edge. How they need our kindness.

6. Prisoners (Matthew 25:36). Most of us find this last group the most difficult to show kindness. After all, if they’re in prison, don’t they deserve their punishment? Probably, but maybe not. However, for Jesus, the issue is not what they deserve, but what they need. All of us deserve punishment for our sin, for we have all broken God’s laws. But we need grace. Let’s show it to those in prison, as well.

Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  The Bible teaches that it is especially the most vulnerable people in society, such as the deaf and blind, the poor, the sick, and those in prison, to whom we should show extra kindness.

So instead of asking who deserves our kindness today, let’s ask, Who needs my kindness today?

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Surprised by Joy

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

JoySnoopyCharlieBrown

Christian writer C.S. Lewis famously described his salvation experience as being “surprised by joy.” Joy is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22– and it is surprising how joy comes. Notice these three examples from the Bible:

*Joyful surprise of forgiveness from sin. When we are convicted of sin, we usually feel shame and may even experience depression. Yet confession of sin and God’s forgiveness brings the surprising result of joy. After David’s confession of the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God in Psalm 51:12, “Restore the joy of Your salvation to me.” God answered that prayer, for in Psalm 32 he exclaims, “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven… How joyful is the man the LORD does not charge with sin…” (Psalm 32:1-2, HCSB).

*Joyful surprise during trials. When we suffer trials, we may experience stress, anxiety and worry. Yet James says that God uses trials to produce a godly endurance and maturity, which once again is a surprising reason for  joy. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3, NLT).

*Joyful surprise of strength in the midst of grief. How can we experience joy in the midst of grief? Isn’t grief the opposite of joy? After the Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile, Ezra the scribe gathered all the people in the public square and read the law of Moses to the people and explained it to them. The people began to weep, grieved over their ignorant disobedience of God’s word. But the priests urged them to celebrate instead of weep. Why? They said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB). It is natural to grieve when we experience loss in our lives, but when we take a look in faith at the big picture, we draw strength from the LORD, who is our Savior. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

So my brothers and sisters, has life got you down? Are you ashamed and grieving over your past, and anxious and hurting in the present? Then look in faith to the wonderful future you have in Christ. Surprise! The joy of the Lord is your strength.

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Poem: “Pinned and Wriggling”

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

“I am pinned and wriggling on the wall.” – T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

PrayJAlfredPrufrock

Oh! Beastly burdened groan

Piercing pain in my side

Blood dribbling from my mouth.

 

I shot the arrow and missed the mark

Boomerang cutting back at me

I am pinned and wriggling on the wall.

 

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

 

The incomprehensible creature comes

To pull our arrows out

But what will it be like?

I have grown accustomed to chopped flesh

No! I will keep my arrow

How else can I keep close contact with the wall?

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