Here is today’s prayer from Psalm 119-7 (Zayin, “tool”), verses 49-56:
God. Abba. Father.
Thank you for your word. Like a trowel, may you plant your word deep in our hearts. Thank you for your promises of truth and life. We cling to your word every day for it brings us hope. Your promises keep us steady when the storms prevail. Yes, we are energized by your word!
Others may turn their backs to you, but we will press on. Others may mock our devotion to you, but our adventures with you affirm your love for us. Your precepts keep us on the right track. Your unending compassion guides us and keeps us safe.
We sing of your faithfulness day and night. For you are good to us. We are comforted by the peace of your word.
Jesus in the Word.
And it is in His name we pray.
We’re reading through, and with intentionality, praying through the Psalms during this school year. There are 150 Psalms, divided into 180 different readings. See this post for more info.
Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.
We all love a good story of suffering, don’t we? Aren’t we quick to tell others about the time it rained every single day of the vacation? Or about the widow down the street who is going through one misfortune after another following the death of her husband? Why is that? I can think of at least two reasons. The first is that we all go through pain and affliction in our lifetime. It comes with being human. We can all relate. Secondly, I believe that we all have a deep-seated hope for happy endings, for the triumph that follows defeat.
Paul opens this passage with the confirmation that there is glory and victory ahead, not just for us, but for all of creation. “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.” (Romans 8:18-19, MSG). Doesn’t that paint a picture of what we all have experienced this year? We can’t wait for the end of all this bad news. The Word assures us of eventual freedom ahead.
And what a joyous freedom it will be! We are told the Holy Spirit of God, the very presence of the Father in the absence of the physical body of Jesus, is with us in our weakness. He even prays for us. (Now that’s a deep theological thought which we might ponder all day.) And through it all, God is in control, even when things seem to be total chaos.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV). This is where I hang my hat. This is why I trust God completely. No matter the calamity, no matter the strife, no matter the horrendous situation you might face, God is at work. He’s not sleeping. He hasn’t turned His back. He is orchestrating what is best for each one of us. “All things” means all things! Even during a worldwide pandemic.
This chapter offers one beautiful gift, one beautiful promise, after the other. I am thankful for God’s goodness, His grace, and that we are His children. He works for our good. He calls us by name. He stays with us to the very end, gloriously completing what He has begun.
Why? Why does God do this? Why does He care? Because He loves us so incredibly much.
Jesus is crazy in love with you! He’s in God’s throne room right this very minute asking the Father to take care of you, to meet your heart’s needs. He’s continually praying for our triumph! Our victory! Not just our survival or our just getting by. But for us to TRIUMPH! Wow!
“With God on our side like this, how can we lose?” (Romans 8:31, MSG).
How much does He love us? He gives us what we need to be not just conquerors, but Paul says we are “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37, NIV).
We can trust God because His of His love.
So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! (Romans 8:38-39, TPT).
How do we respond? Paul encourages us just a few chapters later: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV). We are victors today! Even in the midst of our present suffering.
Do you have an unanswered prayer? Something you have been praying for weeks, months, years or decades? You desire that your voice travels all the way to heaven but it feels like it only gets to a glass ceiling a few inches above your head?
I’m going to venture out and suggest that every single one of us has had one of those prayers at some point in our life. There is the woman whose husband of many years lost his battle with cancer and she lost her life partner. And the businessman who ran his company by faith, and had plans of sharing his wealth, but the company went bankrupt because he couldn’t get sales. Or the young boy, who with true child-like faith, asked God to prevent his parent’s divorce. But he spends every other weekend with his dad instead. All of these prayers, and so many more, were prayers of hope and belief and yet were not answered in the way the pray-er desired.
So then, you might say, “See, prayer doesn’t work.”
This is one of the great mysteries of the Christian walk, isn’t it? And we answer the question with a trite “God knows best.” But that is so unsatisfying to the widow as they lower the casket into the ground, isn’t it? It is so perplexing to the businessman who was going to give away 90% of his profits and now is cashing unemployment checks. It is confusing, at best, to the child who feels responsible for his parent’s split.
How do we reply?
The only way we can… with love, compassion, grace… and continuing to affirm that God is God. And that He loves us.
And you may say, “if this is love, I don’t want it.” And I get that. I do.
I believe that the Bible is true. And the Bible says we are God’s children and we have an incredible inheritance… an eternity with no need, no hurt, no pain.
Can you trust that God is in control? Absolutely! Can you believe that He knows your pain? Yes! For did it make sense to the disciples to see Jesus die on the cross? Not at all. Did they understand once they saw Him rise again? Yes indeed!
The encouraging word today is that you can trust in the Sonrise of Messiah Jesus as certainly as you can trust that the sun will rise tomorrow. And if we look close enough, I believe we can make sense of the prayers that appear to go unanswered. We can pray, like Jesus did, that God’s will be done. It’s tough though… especially when there is significant loss.
Hope is found in the promises of God that the lost will be found, the dead will rise, the sick will be healed, the forsaken will be restored, those in prison will be set free, the blind will see and those with a broken heart will find His eternal, unconditional love.