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40 Days of Prayer, Day 31

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Day 31, Tuesday, September 20

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, “When your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore, I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalm 95:6-11

The Contrite Heart and Soul Rest
In these verses, the psalmist gives a call to corporate worship, “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” The motive for the call to worship follows in the next verse. “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” The call to corporate worship comes from the place of soul rest, a deep soul satisfaction in the presence of our Creator. Sheep, under the watchful care of the shepherd, possess a restful, peaceful disposition. They are not dominated by fear. They remain near the shepherd, sensing his guiding and caring hand. Sheep outside the care of the shepherd do not possess such restfulness. The natural inclination of the lamb is to stray. The natural inclination of the human heart is like that of the straying lamb. Isaiah 53 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way.” Humans, like sheep, have a natural inclination to stray into trouble. There are sheep that remain in the fold and there are sheep that stray. Those that remain in the fold are restful. Those straying outside the fold lack rest. What’s the difference between the two lambs? What’s the difference between the one that wonders and the one that remains? Is it that one lamb lives a trouble free existence? No! Both lambs still face the trials of this world. The world is dangerous and trouble lurks around every corner. Is the difference between the wayward and the reaming lamb driven by the protective gathering of the community of other lambs? No! There is no comfort in the mere company of others. A single lamb is completely helpless. A thousand lambs, without a shepherd, are still completely helpless. All lambs, either as individuals or as a heard, are completely defenseless and helpless. So then is the difference between the wayward lamb and the peaceful lamb which remains in the fold determined by the strength of the individual lamb? Though it is true that some lambs are bigger and faster than others, relative to the dangers of the world around, size and speed matter none. All lambs, regardless of their respective size, speed and strength are completely helpless in their world of danger and are venerable to enumerable assaults. No, the only real difference between the wayward lamb and the lamb that remains is their relationship to their shepherd. Safety for a lamb is not in the community of the herd or the in the individual strength of the lamb, but in the abiding care of their shepherd. A hard-hearted person is like a wayward lamb. A hard-hearted person wonders away from God just as the wayward lamb wonders away from the shepherd. When trouble comes, as will always occur in this life, the lamb that has separated itself from the pasture of the shepherd becomes overwhelmed with fear. They are dominated with unrest. No matter what direction they run, if they are running outside the watchful care of the shepherd, they will ultimately run to their own destruction. They cannot experience rest, soul satisfying rest because no matter how fast they run, there is no help. However, when trouble comes to the lambs that are close to the shepherd, they rest in the shepherd’s care. When trouble comes they run toward the voice of the shepherd. They know his voice. They trust his care. They have experienced the continued love and care of their shepherd. In their abiding with him they have developed and cultivated a restful trust in the shepherd’s care.

This image of the herd wondering away from the watchful care of the shepherd reminds the psalmist of an event from Israel’s history. The whole generation of the nation hardened their hearts toward their Shepherd. God, their Shepherd, called them to the safety. Their Shepherd longed to provide a restful place for them. Instead, the entire generation turned their backs on God as their Shepherd. They went their own way even though they had seen His mighty power to guide them safely through incredible troubles. Soul rest, deep soul satisfaction, comes from remaining close to our Shepherd. We never know when a single, small step away from the safe confines of obedience to our Shepherd may lead to a life of wondering completely outside of His care. Then, as troubles come and trials come, the futile quest for rest comes to no avail. We are called to rest in the presence of our Shepherd. Soul rest, deep soul satisfaction, can only be found in Him.

Prayer Focus
Oh Lord, protect my heart from chasing after the allure of false satisfaction. You have created me to see, know, experience and enjoy You. My heart is prone to wonder. My heart is prone to seek satisfaction in things that will quickly turn to dust. My heart is prone to take me outside of Your watchful care. Guard my heart today, Oh Lord. Let me hear Your voice. Draw me close to Your presence. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
Man, take him as he comes into the world, and he is not only a dead man, a fool, and proud, but also self- willed and headstrong (2 Peter 2:10). Man is a stubborn creature before his heart is broken. So they are often called rebels, rebellious, and disobedient: they will only do what they wish. 'All day long, ' says God, 'have I stretched out my hand to a disobedient people.' And they are compared to a self-willed horse, that will, in spite of his rider, rush into the battle. 'Everyone, ' says God, 'turns to his course, as the horse rushes into battle' (Jer 8:6). Hence they are said to stop their ears, to pull away their shoulder, to shut their eyes, and harden their hearts, 'against the words of God' (Psa 107:11}. They are fitly compared to the rebellious son who would not be ruled by his parents, or to the prodigal, who would have all in his own hand, and remove himself far away from father and father's house (Deut 21:20; Luke 15:13). Their self- willed stubborn heart will not comply with the will of God before it is broken (Deut 21:21; Luke 15:14-17). These are they that are called the stout-hearted; these are said to be far from righteousness, and so will remain until their hearts are broken; for so they must be made to know themselves (Isa 9:9-11).

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 30

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Day 30, Monday, September 19

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 95:6-7

The Contrite Heart is a Dependent Heart
God is our Creator. We have been made by Him and for Him. He is a God of relationships. Our creation by Him is for the purpose of a relationship with Him. There are a variety of portraits in the Bible that depict our relationship with God. Many of these portraits convey more than the Creator and creature relationship. For instance, the biblical image of a parent to a child communicates many aspects of our relationship to God. There is the picture of God as the master and we as His servants. There is the New Testament portrait of the church as the bride of Christ. These images allow our minds to grapple with the incredibly complex notion of an infinite God loving His finite people. Another portrait of our relationship to God is that of a sheep to a shepherd. This agrarian language spoke so clearly to the culture of ancient Israel and to the people of the time of Christ. Shepherds and sheep were common to everyone. This image points to our continual dependence upon God. Sheep are helpless and completely dependent on their shepherd. The shepherd brings the sheep into the pasture. He watches over them. They live under the protective care of the shepherd. It’s a personal and close relationship. “The sheep of His hand” provides us with the portrait of the personal care of the shepherd, the gentle hands of our loving shepherd. There is a dependence on the him. The sheep continually live with an awareness of every need being met by his loving hands. So we too, as God’s people live with a continual, personal relationship with God. We need Him and He loves us. He watches over us. He provides for our daily needs. He knows what is best for us even when we cannot see it. His flawless wisdom and complete knowledge provide for His perfect shepherding ability over His sheep.

Prayer Focus
Lord, I need You every moment of my life. Thank You for Your gracious and personal care for me. Your love and provisions comfort my heart and mind. You are my Creator. You are also my Shepherd. I know You watch over me and guide me. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
Ah! pride, pride! You are that which holds many a man in the chains of his sins; you are it, you cursed self-conceit, and keep them from believing that their state is damnable. 'The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God' (Psa 10:4). And if there is so much in the pride of his countenance, what is there in the pride of his heart? Therefore, Job says it is to hide pride from man, and so to save his soul from hell, that God chastens him with pain upon his bed, until the multitude of his bones stick out, and until his life draws nigh to the destroyer (Job 33:17-22). It is a hard thing to take a man off his pride, and make him, instead of trusting in, and boasting of his goodness, wisdom, honesty, and the like, to see himself a sinner, a fool, a man that is cruel, as to his own immortal soul. Pride of heart has a power in it, and is therefore compared to an iron chain, by which they are made stout, and with which they are held in that stoutness, to oppose the Lord, and drive his Word from their hearts (Lev 26:19; Psa 73:6).

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 29

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Day 29, Sunday, September 18

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation, let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His. also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:1-5

The Contrite Heart is a Heart of Worship
The contrite heart worships God. Seeing God as worthy of praise and then engaging purposefully in the worship of God must become a natural extension of the life of every contrite believer. We were created by God in order to see, know, experience and enjoy Him forever. Worship provides the tangible expression of that purpose for which we have been created. Sin blocks our access to God. Sin prevents us from seeing God as worthy of worship. Sin is the barrier to our purpose. God tears down the barriers to His glory by destroying our sin on the cross of Christ and through His resurrection. Because God is holy, He cannot and will not allow unredeemed sinners to have access to His presence. But God made us for worship. As Jesus told the woman at the well, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:23-24. God seeks worshippers. He made us for this purpose. He seeks worshippers who will worship Him with hearts engaged and minds set in truth. Our hearts and minds are never truly satisfied until they are satisfied in discovering this purpose, the purpose for which we have been made. God seeks us all the way to the death and resurrection of His Son, the greatest display of love possible.

Notice the call to worship from the psalmist. "Let us..." This call reflects the corporate nature of the purposes of God. We were made to see, know, experience and enjoy the presence of God. However, this is not purely an individual act of worship. God has also designed us for fellowship with others. The most binding act of a community of believers is the act of corporate worship. The singularity of purpose, the unifying of common expression, the joyful lifting of voices, all point our hearts and minds toward the One who made us and the One who saved us. As we sing, we engage not only our own hearts, but also the hearts and minds of others, setting their hearts and minds with greater focus on Him.

Today, Sunday, provides the opportunity to gather with the purpose for our own joyful expressions of worship but also to encourage others in corporate worship. "Let us sing for joy to the Lord." Let's come together on this day of worship with contrite hearts, broken before our God. Let's come together with joyful hearts, having been forgiven. Let's come together with worship hearts, longing to see, know, experience and enjoy God in the gathering of His people.

Prayer Focus
Oh Lord, give me a heart of worship today. Let me seek you with heart and mind. Help me in my weaknesses. So many things distract me from the worship for which You have created me. Set my mind on You. Use me as an instrument of encouragement to others. Take our time of worship as a church and fill it with humble expressions of gratitude. Come in power by Your Holy Spirit so that our worship as a church might bring You glory. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
And now the heart lies open, now the Word will prick, cut, and pierce it; and it being cut, pricked, and pierced, it bleeds, it faints, it falls, and dies at the foot of God, unless it is supported by the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ. Conversion, you know, begins at the heart; but if the heart be so secured by sin and Satan, as I have said, all judgments are, while that is so, in vain. Hence Moses, after he had made a long relation of mercy and judgment to the children of Israel, suggests that yet the great thing was wanting to them, and that thing was, a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear until that day (Deut 29:2, 3). Their hearts were as yet not touched to the quick, were not awakened, and wounded by the holy Word of God, and made to tremble at its truth and terror. But I say, before the heart is touched, pricked, made aware, how can it come to a place of thinking that it should repent, cry, bow, and break at the foot of God, and beg for mercy! and yet it must do so; for thus God has ordained, and thus God has appointed it; men cannot be saved without it. But, I say, can the spiritually dead, whose heart is past feeling, do this; before this dead one be awakened, to see and feel its state and misery without it?

 

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