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40 Days of Prayer, Day 22

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Day 22, Sunday, September 11

(NLT) “9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. 10I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. 11I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12I praise you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. 13I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. 14I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. 15I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. 16I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.”


The Lamp of God’s Word
Attempting to navigate unfamiliar places in the dark is always a challenge. It’s has become a regular occurrence lately for me to get up in the middle of the night to let the dog out. Bossier is getting older and eight hours is longer than it used to be for his bladder. Not wishing to wake the rest of the house, I grab my cell phone in order to have a light in order to navigate the journey to the back door and the return journey back to my bed. Darkness paralyzes our ability to function. If we are unable to see, almost every attempt at basic living is hindered. In addition, the risk of bodily injury increases dramatically. For those with preschoolers, a walk at night through the house is incredibly dangerous as toys with sharp edges and annoying music seem to jump under the feet of every nearly comatose parent. All of this modern world inconveniences help us to understand this psalm, but in reality these minor inconveniences mute the weight of this verse when we contemplate the world of the writer of Psalm 119.

In the ancient Israel, a lamp provided life-giving resources. From the shepherd watching his herd, to the traveler attempting to arrive at the next safe city just as night falls, a lack of light in David’s day could prove deadly. One misstep could plunge the traveler to his death. No light and the surprise of a wild animal attack could prove deadly. That is the world into which this psalm was crafted, in the world where “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” was the difference between life and death. Applying this in the spiritual world, the psalmist reflected on the impact of the Bible. In the realm of moral purity, the Word of God functions as a light in a dark world. In a world where the culture all around us is antithetical to God’s causes, the Word of God functions as a light of truth and righteousness. There is a path that leads to life. Though it is narrow, and seemingly grows more narrow every day in our broken world, there is a way that God has given for us to travel. That pathway provides for the hearer the reality of God’s standards: proper thinking about Him along with a right understanding about our own failings, a check of the purity of our heart, a careful analysis of our motives, a scrutiny of our words and actions. We cannot trust our own thinking in determining the rightness of our path. We dare not trust our own intuition or emotions for there is no light within our own hearts and minds. We must allow God’s Word to provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves, light.

Prayer Focus
O Lord, let Your Word be a light to my path today. I know You have provided Your Word as a guide to lead me safely through the pitfalls and challenges of this life. Lead me in the paths of truth and righteousness. Let Your Word guide my thinking and my actions. Though I cannot trust my own instincts, I can trust You. Thank You for Your love for me. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
A broken-hearted man is a sensible man; he is brought to the exercise of all the senses of his soul. All others are dead, senseless, and without true feeling of what the broken-hearted man is sensible of. He sees himself to be what others are ignorant of; that is, he sees himself to be not only a sinful man, but a man by nature in the bond of sin. “In the bond of sin” is Peter's expression to Simon in the Book of Acts, and it is a saying common to all men: for every man in a state of nature is in the bond of sin; he was conceived in it; it has also possession of, and by that possession infected the whole of his soul and body (Psa 51:5; Acts 8:23). This he sees, this he understands; every professor does not see this, because the blessing of a broken heart is not bestowed on every one. David says, 'There is no soundness in my flesh'; and Solomon suggest that a plague is in the very heart. But not everyone perceives this (Psa 38:3; 1 Kings 8:38). He says again, that his 'wounds were corrupted': that his 'sore ran, and did not cease' (Psa 38:5, 77:2). But these things the brutish man, the man whose heart was never broken, has no understanding of. But the broken-hearted, the man that has a broken spirit, he sees, as the prophet has it, he sees his sickness, he sees his wound: 'When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound'; he sees it to his grief, he sees it to his sorrow (Hosea 5:13).

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 21

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Day 21, Saturday, September 10

 

(NLT) “9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. 10I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. 11I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. 13I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. 14I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. 15I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.  16I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.

Psalm 119:9-16

Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the entire Bible, reflects a consistent message that the Bible speaks about itself.  The Bible calls its readers to read, study, memorize, delight in, and follow the words of God found in its pages.  Psalm 119 presents the faithfulness and benefits of the Bible in the most positive terms.  This particular section contains two of the more familiar verses from this lengthy passage.  Verses 9 and 11 are verses that we quote often.

 

The Word of God and the Purity of Heart

Verse 9 opens with “How can a young person stay pure?”  That is an excellent question.  Apparently temptations were rampant for students even during the time of David.  What is it about our youthful days that creates so much trouble?  Is this an issue of freedom, too much time and not enough responsibility?  Is the heightened battle with temptation greater because of raging hormones?  Maybe it is the peer pressure which seems to come upon individuals migrating out of childhood and into adulthood.  Whatever the cause, the pressure to fall into temptation while a youth is not a new phenomenon.  The need for help in the fight is available.  The hard work of learning and obeying God’s word is God’s protection for our purity.  The psalmist goes on to say that he has “hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  The psalmist used poetic language, “hidden your word in my heart,” to refer to the process of memorizing and meditating on the Scripture.  Scripture memory provides heart protection from the temptations of life.  When we are tempted to sin in anger at our family member or a co-worker, then hopefully a verse like, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20) comes to mind.  When we are tempted to lust for our neighbor’s car or house, then hopefully this verse enters our thinking, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  (Exodus 20:17) When we are tired and decide we need a morning off from church, then the words from the book of Hebrews come into our thinking.  “not forsaking our own gathering together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”  When we are prone to worry then we remember and apply the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount.  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)  In this way, the Bible helps to protect us from the temptations that so easily trap us.  In order to experience such gracious protection, we must spend time in His Word every day, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating.  However, we cannot leave the Word of God in the intellectual realm.  Then we must act on the Word of God through the power of His Holy Spirit.

 

Prayer Focus

Oh Lord, establish Your word as the meditation of my heart.  Take my thoughts and fill them with the purity of Your Word.  Protect me from sinning against You.  You are holy and pure.  Keep me pure and make me holy by keeping me in Your Word.  Amen.

 

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

What is meant by the word contrite? A contrite spirit is a penitent one and deeply sorrowful, for the sins it has committed against God, and to the damage of the soul. As a man that has by his folly procured a broken leg is heartily sorry that ever he was so foolish as to engage in such foolish ways; so he whose heart is broken with a sense of God's wrath due to his sin, has deep sorrow in his soul, and is greatly repentant that ever he should be such a fool to bring himself and his soul so much sharp affliction. Hence, while others are sporting themselves in vanity, such a one calls his sin his greatest folly. 'My wounds are corrupt, ' said David, 'because of my foolishness.' And again, 'O God, thou know my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from You' (Psa 38:5, 69:5). Men, whatever they say with their lips, cannot conclude, if their hearts are not breaking, that sin is a foolish thing. The foolishness of some men, is that they take pleasure in their sins; for their sins are their foolishness, and the folly of their soul lies in their countenancing of this foolishness. But the man whose heart is broken, he is none of these, he cannot be one of these, no more than he that has his bones broken can rejoice that he is desired to play a match at football. Hence, to hear others talk foolishly, is to the grief of those whom God has wounded: or, as it is in another place, their words are 'like the piercings of a sword' (Psa 69:26; Prov 12:18).

 

 

40 Days of Prayer, Day 20

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Today is the half way point through the 40 days of prayer.  I hope and pray for God’s blessings on you today. 

Day 20, Friday, September 9

Psalm 19:7-14 “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple…Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

The Contrite-Hearted Prayer Life

The final words of this psalm are the prayers of a contrite heart.  “Forgive me…keep me from sin…let my words and my thoughts be acceptable in Your sight.”  When we consider the normal content of our prayers, how do they measure up with these requests?  Do we often ask God to forgive us?  Do we often ask God to keep is from sin and to keep sin from ruling over us?  Do we ask God to check our words all day long at home or work?  Do we often ask God to evaluate our thoughts?  This is not a one-time prayer request.  This must be continually on our hearts and minds.  All day long we must plead with God for His help.  With each conversation, we should ask Him to protect our words.  With each idle moment, we must seek Him out so that our thoughts reflect His holy character.  As Paul told the Thessalonian church we should, “pray without ceasing.”

The following text provides a model prayer crafted around the themes of the last few verses of Psalm 19.  It is from antiquity so the language can be a bit challenging.  It is also a little longer than our usual daily reflections.  However, I found this prayer to be profound and heart-felt, while also retaining theological richness.  I hope and prayer it is helpful to you today as we ask God to work in our lives.   

From Arthur Lake (Bishop), in "Divine Meditations," 1629 (With some modernization by me for readability)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Fast and pray; Lord, I do fast, and I would pray; for to what end do I withhold sustenance from my body if it is not to cheer up my soul? My hungry and my thirsty soul?  But the bread, the water of life, both which I find nowhere but in Your word, I cannot receive without exercising my soul in them. This I begin to do, and hope I would do it well, but in vain shall I attempt except that You bless it: bless me then, O Lord; I would withhold neither part from You. Not my body; I would set my tongue about the work to speak of You; not my soul, I would exercise my heart in thinking on You; I would join them in devotion which You have joined in creation. Yes, Lord, as my mouth and my heart have conspired to sin against You, so also do they now work together to do their duty to You; my tongue is ready, my heart is ready; I would think, I would speak; think upon You, speak to You. But, Lord, what are my words? what are my thoughts? You know my thoughts, that they are altogether vanity, and our words are but the reflection of such thoughts…Both are wicked, my heart a corrupt fountain, and my tongue an unclean stream; and will I bring such a sacrifice to God? Lord, my sacrifice is no better than faltering words, wandering thoughts, and neither of them presentable to You; how much less evil thoughts and idle words? Yet such are the best of what I have to offer. What is the remedy? It is in You, O Lord, that I must find it, and for that remedy I seek it now from You. You only, O Lord, can make my tongue holy, and make my heart holy so that my tongue may speak, and my heart think that which may "be acceptable to You," yes, that which may be Your delight. Would it be enough that God should bear with, that he should not publish, the defects of my words, of my thoughts? May I presume that God shall accept of me? Even to delight in me? Have I forgotten who the Lord is? Of what majesty? Of what beauty? Can it stand with his Majesty to guarantee my acceptance? Would He take joy in the content of the words of a worm? In the thoughts of a wretch? And, Lord, I am too proud so that I think too highly of myself, and then magnify You no more. But see where the desire of Your servant carry me; how, willing to please, I do not truly consider how hard it is for dust and ashes to please God, to do that where You, O God, should be contented. But Lord, here is my comfort that I may present to You, to give words unto You; God is mine, and I cannot but have access to Him, since God may always approach Himself. Let me be weak, yet God is strong; O Lord, You are "my strength." Though I may be a slave to sin, God is a Savior; O Lord, You are my Savior; You have redeemed me from all that woeful state into which Adam cast me, yes, You have built me upon a rock, strong and sure, that the gates of hell might never prevail against me. These two things You have done for me, O Lord! May I not presume upon Your work.  Though Your eyes are holy eyes, I will not run away as did Adam to hide my nakedness from You, for I am able to keep my ground; seeing I am supported by my Lord. For all my troubles, for all my sin, I will not shrink away.  No, I will approach You for You are "My Redeemer." The nearer I come to You, the freer I will be of both sin and trouble.  Oh, blessed state for any who is so weak, and yet so strong; so wretched, and yet so happy; weak in himself, strong in God; most happy in God, though in himself a sinful wretch. And now, my soul, You make sacrifice to God with Your words, sacrifice to God with Your thoughts, make yourself a sacrifice, do not doubt that you will be accepted, you will make an offering to even the most glorious, the most holy eyes of God. Only do not presume of yourself, presume on Him; build your words, build your thoughts upon Your Rock.  Free your words, free your thoughts by your Savior, and your sacrifice will be accepted. So that "The words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer."

Prayer Focus

O God, engage my thoughts and my words.  You are Lord of the universe.  You command the power of the sun, moon and stars.  And yet, Oh God, I take my own authority over my thoughts and my speech.  You are the rightful Lord and sovereign.  I submit my whole life to You, even what I think and say.  Thank You for Your word.  Use it to change me.  Amen.

 

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

I am therefore come to show you how and what the heart is when broken and made contrite.  First. For this word broken, I take it to be a heart disabled, as to former actions, even as a man whose bones are broken is disabled, as to his way of running, leaping, or wrestling, which vainly he may wish to do; therefore, that which was called a broken heart in the text, he calls his broken bones, in the eighth verse: Cause me, to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which you have broken may rejoice' (Psa 51:8). And why is the breaking of the heart compared to the breaking of the bones? but because as when the bones are broken, the outward man is disabled as to what it was wont to do; so when the spirit is broken, the inward man is disabled as to what vanity and folly it before delighted in; hence, feebleness is joined with this brokenness of heart. 'I am feeble, ' he says, 'and sore broken' (Psa 38:8). I have lost my strength and former vigor, as to vain and sinful courses. This, then, it is to have the heart broken; namely, to have it lamed, disabled, and taken off by sense of God's wrath due to sin, from that course of life it formerly was conversant in; and to show that this work is no fancy, nor done but with great trouble to the soul, it is compared to the putting the bones out of joint, the breaking of the bones, the burning of the bones with fire, or as the taking the natural moisture from the bones, the vexing of the bones, &c. (Psa 23:14; Jer 20:9; Lam 1:13; Psa 6:2; Prov 17:22). All which are expressions adorned with such similitudes, as do undeniably declare that to sense and feeling a broken heart is a grievous thing.

 

 

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