Do You Ever Get Lost?

Do you ever get lost and aren’t sure what to pray?

If you’re like me, these are often exactly the moments where we need to most – under stress, facing temptation, having sinned or sinned against.

Today we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure that our prayers are creative and beautiful – or else we feel like a fraud. We need to be a breathtaking Christian poet on the spot or else we feel it’s not worth doing or that our prayer somehow lacks power to be heard by God.

Fortunately for us – this isn’t what the bible tells us about prayer. In it we learn we are heard by the merit of our mediator – who is perfect, sent by his Father, and his Holy Spirit intercedes for us and every day teaches us to pray as we ought to (Romans 8:26). God himself has opened up the impassable way between us and God.

There are a number of practices we can reclaim to take the attention off of ourselves and back onto Christ – the founder and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

One of them is taking the pressure of prayer-performance off and appreciating the beauty of faith in simple prayer – “Lord have mercy on me a sinner” (Luke 18:13) or recited prayer such as we were taught in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) – a teaching which in the gospel narrative directly followed a warning about being performative in prayer!

Finally, we ought to take a deep look at the psalms again which give us words to wear for every occasion. Not sure what to pray? Skim the psalms, find one that resonates, and wear the words of the historical-faithful to be your own today.

Virtues Upside-Down In The New Kingdom

Christ has ushered in a new kingdom. There are no borders, you can’t see the king, there is no currency, and it isn’t of this world (John 18:36). In this new kingdom hierarchy Jesus flips values on their head: and this is what a kingdom citizen look like (Matthew 5:2-10 paraphrased):

The spiritually poor, the mourning, the meek, the repentant, the merciful, the pure at heart, the peaceful, and the persecuted

These are the people who receive the blessing of God. These are what people look like when they are recipients of the grace of God. This is unusual, because by anybody else’s standards we can recognize these quiet and unremarkable traits as naturally boring to us – not even worth attention. Surely these aren’t agents of an invisible kingdom. Why would we esteem honour to those who are downcast, self-reflective, broken-hearted, and meticulous in personal conduct? We may experience these people are drab, sad, picky, and maybe even mildly irritating: the “bleeding heart”, “scrupulous”, or “rain-on-your-parade” types. These are surely not the type of people we instinctively want to laud with praise and honour – or the type of people we would expect to be considered winners by any measure. Let’s take a look at their antitype:

The self-sufficient, the triumphant, the proud, the unapologetic, the ruthless, the ambitious, the conflictual, and the celebrated.

These are not the kind of people who inherit the blessing of God. This is a description of a person who do not know grace. But this same person is the kind of one our worldly heroes and leaders resemble – those whom we naturally admire. These are also the sort of characters that naturally succeed: the winners.

Have you ever asked God why the wicked succeed? Why do worldly winners seem blessed while God seems to pass ‘the blessed’ by? Asaph did, and his Psalm is worth reading.

In this upside-down paradoxical kingdom where it seems that every worldly virtue is a vice and every earthly weakness is a new kingdom strength, it can be hard to wrap your head around. In a plea for this kind of reorientation Arthur Bennett penned it well in his prayer ‘The Valley of Vision‘:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.

and that’s why the apostle concludes:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)

and that’s the story of amazing grace.

Lockdown Reflections

Nobody could predict exactly how the COVID-19 lockdown would affect them. For many, it woke us up to thankful for what was a gift from God for a season – and for what he continues to bless us with (Job 1:21). While we’re in the middle of discouraging times the best we can do is is grab a hold to the promises of God and give a quiet plea for help. Those promises are found only in the man of His choosing, in whom all the promises of God are made manifest (2 Corinthians 1:20). In this way, it’s no different from how we are to live on any ordinary day of our lives.

It’s true that God loves his people, and true that He is shapes them to be shaped like his true Son through their every pressing moment like a master potter (Romans 8:28-29). It also rings true that caught in the storm without apparent shelter it’s hard to see how the Lord can mean our moments for our good through the downpour. It’s in times like these, to muster strength for the day, that we need to be encouraged by the word of Christ in a brother, which one author described as stronger than the Christ that dwells in our own hearts – which are uncertain. We need to hear words that beckon hope again and to fix our eyes on the victorious king who is uniting all things in creation to himself toward resolution (Ephesians 1:10). Which also means this time is difficult as we experience greater physical separation from fellow believers.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
 It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes! 
    (Psalm 133:1-2)


And yet to many of us it has become clear that there is much good going on. No doubt, you, like me, have heard of or experienced a strengthening of family bonds. These ties run deep and I believe that the children will remember fondly the length of time spent investing in love to one another as alternatives dissipate under the weight of restrictions and a faltering economy outside the four walls of the home. We can’t pay enough to purchase these shaping moments.

Perhaps your family is going through a crucible in this time – a trial by fire that is burning away longstanding imperfections. This though painful is for your good too. Perhaps this is a time that your family has had to wade through a red sea of conflict – pressed by enemies and restrictions on each side. Press onward in faith, trusting that God is bringing a resolution to conflict not through avoidance and a false peace – but through hearts bare, contrite admission of guilt, broken-hearted repentance, and sweet forgiveness. It’s the messiest beauty in the world when the Lord brings grace out of sin and paints something new and wonderful by the stroke of his brush – but it’s the story of this world and our lives. Relationships are built on grace and the loving persistent action that flows from it. The Lord is doing a marvelous thing if you would hear it, see it, taste it, and walk where he would call you to go as you receive his counsel. Father give us the eyes to see it!

As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14-16)