12 items tagged "psalm 23"
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Jesus’ instructions on prayer are followed by some of His instructions on fasting. This is interesting since fasting is about not eating, and part of the Lord’s Prayer is about the need to eat. How do they connect?
Years ago in a season of great personal need, I longed for renewal in my prayer life. What I found was exactly what many have discovered: when prayer is most needed, the words are the hardest to find. How to start? What to say? What is even ok to ask for? I was stressed, afraid and less capable of effectual fervent prayer than I should have been. In desperation I turned to the Lord's Prayer (and a bit later, Psalm 23) and began a journey into its healing, restoring power. I have received blessings and healing in a 21-second prayer taught 2000 years ago by a Jewish rabbi. I did not so much take hold of the Lord's Prayer as it took hold of me. And it has never let me go. I pray it multiple times daily, often silently in meetings, while I drive and even at basketball games. By the way, you can pray the Lord's Prayer before the shot clock runs out.
I have likewise encouraged others to rediscover the Lord's Prayer. Many of them, with emotional wounds that hampered their lives, found inner healing in the Lord's Prayer. It seems to me that the habitual use of the Lord's Prayer, as good as that is, cannot be compared in effect to its healing power. Especially in combination with Psalm 23, the grace to forgive and to be forgiven, what King David called soul-restoration, is exactly what so many long for. I have seen so many utterly amazed to find it was there all the time, right there in the Lord's Prayer.
Sheep are so nervous and timid they will hardly lie down unless the shepherd is visible and on guard. And they will not drink from live water. Evidently flowing rivers and rapid brooks are terrifying to them. Sheep will only drink from standing water such as a pool or a pond. Some have claimed that this is because of their thick wool. If they fell in, it would be like trying to swim in a heavy overcoat. Be that as it may, sheep need a shepherd sympathetic to their fears and insecurities, one who will guide them to still water.
“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15 nkjv).
I don’t know why, but I have always struggled more with receiving than giving. A friend of mine said it is a form of pride. With friends like that who needs enemies? Be that as it may, I just find it awkward to receive gifts from others. I love to give them. Generosity is actually a blessing to me. It’s in getting where I freeze up. Sometimes, especially if the gift is exceptionally generous, I have a hard time coming up with the right words. I have even had to go back later and try to give a better thank you and an apology.
Many years ago when times were very hard in Ghana, I preached at a poor village far in the north. It was summer and the heat of the Sahara was making itself felt in a terrible way. Still the people stood without a murmur for a lengthy service. Their response to the sermon was moving to say the least, and afterward several village elders made speeches thanking me for coming. The last man to the platform said the village wanted to bless me. At that, a woman came
How very like David the king this statement is. David knew all about enemies. His whole life he was surrounded by enemies. The ravenous beasts who wanted his sheep were the enemies of his childhood. And what a childhood it was! After the lions and bears came Goliath, then Saul, the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, palace plotters, one of his own sons, and finally, old age. When David wrote of enemies he knew whereof he spoke. He lived his life in the presence of enemies.
It is no wonder then that he speaks of God’s loving providence in the midst—not in the absence—of enemies. David never said God would give me a life without enemies. He did say that God has not forsaken me when gossipers and detractors and envious plotters are circling me like hungry wolves.
As a university president and as a businessman, I frequently needed cash flow projections from my chief financial officer. In order to understand those projections I had to know the assumptions they were based on. Likewise, the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 are based on a certain set of assumptions.
Here are the seven assumptions of the Lord’s Prayer.
I am no fan of the "non-competitive culture" nonsense being cultivated in many schools today (especially elementary schools). In real life, competition is part of the human experience. In business, politics, sports or whatever, competition exists. In a silly effort to keep from damaging some child's self image, such efforts to shield him/her from the momentary pain of losing, actually fail to instill character. Setbacks, losses, the pain of not being the best or the first, is real life. How can a child learn to deal with that, to manage the emotions those moments engender, if they never feel the pain? I am opposed to giving winners and losers the same trophy. "Participation" trophies, so called, are anathema to me. The kid or team who wins gets the biggest trophy. Period. That's the way it is in real life and the sooner they learn it the better.
Having said that, the kid who gets the biggest trophy may not learn the biggest lesson. If they win too much, too often, too easily they may never learn it. I know the parents who take the losing child home have a difficult job to do. They have to manage that painful moment, encourage their child to try again harder, and reassure them they are loved irrespective of performance. However, their teaching task is not nearly so daunting as the parents of the constant winner.
Winning easily and consistently can translate inside a child's psyche to many really dangerous life views, such as:
David knew plenty about those seasons of life in which a soul needs to be restored. Following his terrible failure with Bathesheba, which by the way included not just adultery but a cover-up conspiracy and murder for hire, David's soul needed to be restored. After the Bathsheba episode, David's soul was wounded by his own sin, public embarrassment, deep personal shame, and a guilt-ridden conscience.
Ziklag was a very different kind of wound, but my suspicion is that when it was over his soul needed restoration. As we discussed in chapter 3, before he became king of Israel, David was the leader of a band of very dangerous
Here is a statement that should give no one a flicker of pause: Jesus was not a Christian. Jesus never knew a Christian or knew anyone that became a Christian until after His crucifixion. He was Jewish and all of His companions were Jewish. All of those He taught were Jewish except a very few scattered Gentile tourists, some in Syrophoenicia and here and there a Roman soldier. The prayer that we call The Lord’s Prayer is thoroughly Jewish, taught by a Jewish rabbi to a Jewish audience in Israel. Therefore, it is no surprise that the prayer is quite consistent with the main stream of Jewish prayer.
More surprising by far is that Psalm 23, written by King David a thousand years before Jesus was born, is more similar to Christian prayers, at least in one important way. Most Jewish prayers are corporate in nature; that is, they are usually plural in their language. The Lord’s Prayer is a perfect example. “Our Father . . .” “Give us . . .” “Forgive us . . .” This is characteristic of most Jewish prayers, especially liturgical prayers, which are commonly about the Jewish people, the land, the nation, or the family.
When I was in undergraduate school, my Western Literature professor was a young firebrand atheist who made no secret of his disdain for religion. One day in class someone asked him what he thought was the greatest single poem ever written. He shocked us all when he answered Psalm 23.
“We thought you were an atheist,” someone called out.
“I am,” he answered. “Two years ago our baby died. My wife is a Catholic and insisted on having a priest do the funeral. I did not want any such thing, and I was very angry at her and that old priest. At the grave he prayed Psalm 23 and I, who believe not one word of it, felt deeply moved. Some unexplainable wave of comfort swept over me. I don’t believe in God but I believe in poetry. Any poem that can move you like that, against your will, is great poetry.”
With the upcoming release of my new book, 21 Seconds to Change Your World, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share an excerpt. Below is the foreword, written by my friend, Mark Batterson. I am so grateful for his kind words and I hope this book will be a blessing to you. To order your copy please visit 21secondsbook.com.
Foreword by Mark Batterson
Have you ever heard someone talk about how their entire life changed—their entire life saved—because they had a thought that was just out of character enough to think upon it and act upon it?
With the upcoming release of my new book, 21 Seconds to Change Your World, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share an excerpt. To order your copy please visit 21secondsbook.com.
Two very disparate elements of Christendom have regrettably nudged the Lord’s Prayer toward a musty and seldom opened cabinet. It happened because of equal and opposite errors, but the effect was the same: assumed irrelevance. The Roman Catholic use of the Lord’s Prayer for acts of penance sometimes devolved in the minds of Catholic laymen into punishment rather than penance: “Say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys and do something nice for the person you hurt.” The intent was to push the penitent soul straight into a dynamic encounter with spiritual formation. Somewhere along the line, for some, saying the Our Father became the parochial version of writing “I will not talk in class” one hundred times on the blackboard.
Some traditional Protestants deposited the great prayer in the dustbin of spiritual irrelevance, or at least powerlessness, in quite another way: liturgy. By relegating the Lord’s Prayer almost exclusively to liturgy it became the mindless suffix to the pastoral prayer, the obligatory annex tacked on corporately just before the amen. Droned through with bovine enthusiasm, the prayer became to genuine spiritual formation what outside lights became to the meaning of Christmas.
Charismatics and Pentecostals finished the job. Paranoid about any possible liturgical subversion and terrified that something might look—God forbid—traditional, they by and large ignored the Lord’s Prayer. When I became the president at Oral Roberts University, certainly the best known charismatic university in the world, I began to occasionally use the Lord’s Prayer corporately in the chapel services. It was not long before one mother called me in tears that her daughter was in “spiritual pain” at being subjected to such a practice. I was, she continued, destroying the students’ worship experience. Pointing out to her that Jesus gave us the prayer and commanded us to use it proved an irrelevant and effete argument in the face of her deeply held convictions. Christian college students, she insisted, should not be put through such a grueling and Spirit-killing experience as praying the Lord’s Prayer together in chapel.
Some charismatics even dismissed the prayer as “too elementary” and lacking in faith. Odd, isn’t it, that it is the prayer Jesus told us to pray? I find myself reluctant to dismiss the Lord’s direction on prayer. It could be that those who believe they have “moved beyond it” have marched on to some greater victory, leaving their ammunition behind.
I found much more winsome the response of a visitor at Free Chapel Church in Orange County, California. After hearing me teach at length she told me how excited she was to go home and memorize the prayer and start using it. She said she had never heard the prayer before and found it quite beautiful and that hearing it had a powerful effect on her. I was surprised that she had come to adulthood without having ever heard the prayer until she explained that she was Jewish.
“It is a Jewish prayer,” I told her. “A Jewish rabbi taught it to His Jewish followers. It was decades before any Gentiles ever heard it or prayed it.”
Absolutely delighted with this fact—and it is a fact—and utterly charmed by the prayer itself, she assured me that she would use it just as I recommended. Not coincidentally that conversation and the thrill of discovery I saw in her eyes in no small part helped me decide to write this book. Have you laid aside the Lord’s Prayer? Has it become perfunctory? Or even forgotten? What about the Twenty-third Psalm? Does it thrill you to pray it? Is it the medicine of your very soul’s restoration? Do you merely repeat it? How long since you prayed the psalm? Or spent time slowly meditating your way through it word by lovely word?
That precious Jewish lady was not the sole encouragement I received to write this book. Pastor Jentezen Franklin invited me to teach on this at Free Chapel Church. He expressed that he was personally touched in a new way by the ancient prayer. He graciously but firmly pressed me to write this book and furthermore, not to wait. My wife, Alison, also urged me to do so. In other words, two of the most significant Christian spirits in my life seemed as blessed as that Jewish visitor.
I interpreted that to mean that the book might be a blessing to neophytes and veterans alike. I was, of course, thrilled that a Jewish lady who had never heard the Lord’s Prayer could express such genuine excitement for this teaching. Knowing that two wonderful, mature, experienced Christian leaders such as Alison and Pastor Franklin were so deeply stirred was the impetus I needed.
The Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm together became the cocktail of life that healed my mind. Mixed and well-shaken, repeated back to back, over and over again, prayed aloud, prayed silently, desperately, and joyfully, sometimes with such ragged faith that it could hardly be called faith, these two ancient devotional instruments became the medicine of my soul’s restoration.
Order your copy of 21 Seconds to Change Your World today at 21secondsbook.com
Before we find victory in the last valley, we must, as David did, find the submitted faith to use the first person possessive. David did not say, the shepherd, or a shepherd, or even our shepherd. He said my shepherd. “the Lord is my shepherd” (Ps 23:1).
David envisioned a Savior who, between the twin escarpments of divine suffering and divine glory, is willing to walk through the valley of our very human need. He is more than willing to be my shepherd, to sleep where I sleep, to care where I slake my thirst, and to restore my soul. He is there to lead me, defend me, feed me, anoint me, and walk with me when death casts its shadow across my face. The only caveat is that I must let him.