Our Protective Heavenly Father
I recently attended a Bible study on Psalm 23. We are all probably familiar with the first verse of that psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” For me, this has always conjured up images of a gentle leader providing perfect guidance. A shepherd certainly does that. But during this study, I learned that the shepherd will lie down at the gate to the field where the sheep are kept to protect them from all harm.
As I listened to the teacher, I was reminded of all the times the Lord has protected me, and I began writing them down. I thought of 10 right away, and the list is still growing. But one example has always stood out to me.
I was preparing to drive a group of teenagers to a church meeting. As I pumped gas into my car a powerful feeling came over me that got my full attention and I heard in my mind the words, “Pray for protection.”
My thoughts turned to the precious cargo I would be transporting that evening as I prayed.
That night, as we were getting close to our destination, I saw traffic cones all along the side of the road. It was pitch black as there were no streetlights on this road. Suddenly, a car came out from between the cones and passed in front of me, and I had no time to even touch my brakes. The car came so close in front of me that it seemed like metal went through metal.
This was in the days before airbags and I can’t imagine what would have happened that day if I had plowed into that car at full speed. To this day, it fills my heart with gratitude to the Lord.
I used to wonder why the Lord didn’t just protect us. Why did He ask me to pray? Now, I realize, had He just protected us, I would have thought, “Oh my gosh, that was close!” and went on my way. But because of the experience while pumping gas, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was God at work, watching over His precious children.
I remember my pastor once told a story about the day his daughter was in a car accident. He said at that moment he would have tried to run through a wall if he had to, in order to get to her.
As I heard my pastor say that I thought, “What a picture of our Heavenly Father.”
To be sure my pastor is a loving father, but it’s not possible for anyone to love us more than our Heavenly Father.
Isaiah 58:8 says,
“… the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.“
That means He’s always got my back. He’s always looking out for me and, like my pastor, when one of his kids is in trouble, He will move heaven and earth to get to them.
Turn with Me to Your Next Prayer
By: John UpChurch, crosswalk.com
According to Hollywood, most funerals should include the pastor intoning the morbid notes of the twenty-third Psalm. All the black around the pastor makes it seem that much more depressing. Usually, there’s rain.
But there are two things about this that strike me as odd. First, Psalm 23 isn’t depressing. Yes, it mentions the “shadow of death,” but it’s chock full of hope and paths of righteousness … and oil pouring over heads. You can’t be depressed when oil’s dripping down your nose … at least in biblical terms.
Second, I don’t really hear people pray from the Bible. Sure, they toss in a verse or two about being “more than conquerors” or “God working all things for our good.” But I’ve never seen a pastor reach for Psalm 23 or any Psalm for that matter when praying in public.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard plenty of great prayers from pastors and other believers. Some of them have hit home hard. But it seems as if Evangelicals especially are averse to anything that isn’t somehow unique when it comes to praying. It’s as if we think that just praying from the Bible isn’t quite spiritual enough. We have to say something original.
Honestly, that’s too bad. Because the Bible is crammed with better prayers than I could ever come up with—ones that fit almost every situation. And, really, that makes sense. After all, God inspired Scripture. These are His prayers to us; they’re gifts of His grace.
In the Psalms alone, there are prayers for depression, loss, fear, moments when you just gotta praise … it’s like an encyclopedia of prayers. Just dial up a Psalm, and you’ve got a template for expressing what may have seemed inexpressible a few moments earlier.
Now, I’m not saying we should reject all original prayer-making. I’m just saying that there’s no reason to ignore the Bible as a source for some pretty great prayers. We don’t always have to come up with something original when God gave us His own Word to pray from. These prayers are creative for you creative types; passionate for those who like passion; and orderly for those of you who like things with three main points.
Just make sure that you aren’t praying the Psalms like those pastors in the movies. Put some heart behind it.
The Reason I Pray, Even When It’s a Struggle
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV, 1984)
First, I have struggled with concentration. Why is it that as soon as I bow my head to pray, my thoughts start to scatter? Instead of truly communicating with God, I think about what I need to fix for supper, or what I’m going to wear to a special event, or when I can schedule coffee with a friend. Or I’m so tired that I simply doze in the quietness of the hour.Prayer has been one of the greatest challenges of my Christian life. While I know I’m commanded, encouraged, invited and often compelled to pray, I have still struggled with prayer. My struggle has centered primarily on three areas.
The second area I have struggled with is consistency — making time daily to meet with the Lord in prayer. How often I have been distracted by my chirping phone, or interrupted by my dog, or so busy I jump out of bed at the last minute and into my day without any real prayer at all?
And I have struggled with content — just knowing what to say and how to say it.
As I have sought victory in these three areas, I have asked God to give me solutions. And He has! Setting my alarm for an earlier time, allowing me to meet with the Lord before I begin my day, has helped with consistency. Writing down my prayers has helped not only with content but also with concentration. I find it helpful to include four elements in my written prayers: worship, confession, thanksgiving and intercession.
I begin my prayers by worshipping God for who He is, because as I focus on Him, it’s amazing how my own needs and problems are reduced in size compared with who He is. Then I look at myself and confess the sin that now seems obvious, revealed by the light of His holiness and glory.
I do not beat myself up over my sin, but instead, once I have named it for what it is, I move into thanksgiving to the One who has forgiven and cleansed me. At this point, I am ready to present my requests and intercede for others.
The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian followers of Jesus, and I pray these words for us as we seek to draw closer to God:
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Remember, the purpose of prayer is not just to get answers. The purpose is to develop an intimate, personal relationship with the One who loves you, gave Himself for you and longs for you to live in the light of His presence. Achieving the purpose makes the struggle more than worthwhile.
“It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” – Luke 13:19 NLT
The world can seem so complicated. Each of the billions of people has their own opinions, their own personal stories, and experiences. Their own personality, interests, and genetic make-up. Each of the thousands of cultures has its own history and traditions.
We see the impact as these people interact daily. Sometimes there is harmony and compatibility, but often there are various kinds of conflicts, ranging from polite competitions to all-out wars.
We need to understand that the fundamental truths about the Gospel are exceedingly simple. And they apply to everything in life: business, government, education, relationships, thoughts, and emotions.
Jesus described God’s Kingdom as being “like a tiny mustard seed.” Miniscule. But also packed with meaning and power. Every life-changing principle and all the power and the truths of the Gospel are condensed into this small package.
These truths contain many applications and nuances. But the foundation is exceedingly simple and applies to all people in all cultures. This is why we need to learn the truth, focus on God, and start with Him – not to make things complicated but to trust in Him. Seek Him, just like little children. Place a higher priority on knowing Him than on developing our own opinions.
Ask God to give you insight into His truths. Trust Him. Believe Him. Build everything on the foundational principles of His Word and the truths of His Kingdom.