Prayer: A Litany of Humility

James Tissot - Jesus Ministered to by Angels

Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

Attributed to Rafael Cardinal Merry Del Val by Charles Belmonten in Handbook of Prayers (Manila: Studium Theologiae Foundation, 1986). 

Daniel: A Prophet of Prayer

 

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“The handwriting’s on the wall…”

“We’re walking into the lion’s den…”

It might not surprise you to hear that these well-known English idioms trace their way back to the biblical story of Daniel. Daniel is best known for his journey into the lion’s den when he defied a monarch’s edict. The story of Belshazzar’s feast, where Daniel interprets writing that miraculously appears on a wall, has been recounted in numerous works of literature.

Enduring Prayer
But what catches my eye as I read through the book of Daniel is not the lions’ den or the miracle handwriting, but Daniel’s life of prayer. We see in the first chapter of the book that Daniel and his friends were dedicated to the Lord God of Israel by their commitment and behavior. When Daniel faced a challenge of interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we read that he and his friends “plead for mercy from the God of heaven” (2:18). In answer to those pleading prayers, God miraculously provided when the pressure was on for Daniel. Clearly, Daniel was a man of prayer when faced with challenges.

Consistent Prayer
Yet as we read on, we find that Daniel was a man of prayer at all times, not just in times of challenge. In fact, it was Daniel’s consistency in prayer that provided the opportunity for him to be sent to the lions’ den. Out of jealousy for his position, Daniel’s enemies realized that they could not catch him up on issues of integrity or character but only if “it has something to do with the law of his God” (6:5). So, they trick King Darius into signing off on a law that prohibits prayer to anyone but the king himself for a thirty-day period. Undaunted by this situation, Daniel returned home and did what he always did: “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (6:10). Daniel was consistent in prayer.

Humble Prayer
In chapter 9 of the book, we find Daniel poring over the Hebrew Scriptures of the prophet Jeremiah. There, Daniel discovered that a seventy-year period was decreed for the exile of God’s people (Jeremiah 29:10) and that the end of that time is drawing near. Daniel’s response is not to lurch into action and set up a strategy for returning the people of God to their homeland. Instead, his immediate response is to turn to God in contrite prayer. His heart is broken over the sin and idolatry of His people and, in Daniel 9:4-19, he offers one of the most moving and powerful prayers of repentance in the entire Bible. Daniel’s prayer eventually takes him into a time of deep repentance accompanied by a vision of God’s messenger, the angel Gabriel. Daniel was a man of prayer that took sin and wrong seriously. Action was required, but it was not actually to come through Daniel. God had that task for Ezra and Nehemiah. Yet it was Daniel’s humble prayer that catches the eye in Daniel 9.

So, who is Daniel? The un-eaten prophet of the lions’ den? The reader of divinely-sourced dreams for earthly kings? A person of integrity in the presence of great earthly power? Yes, without a doubt, Daniel is all of these things. Yet at the core of Daniel’s life is an intimacy of relationship with God that is birthed in the crucible of prayer: enduring, consistent, and humble.

[For more on Daniel, consider following through the Eastbrook Church preaching series, “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.”]

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 April 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

glorious humility jesus“Glorious Humility” – About three weeks ago, I read Wesley Hill’s beautiful reflection on the humble glory of Jesus the Messiah. Weaving in some thoughts on Jane Williams’ The Merciful Humility of God, he writes at one point: “We look to Jesus—above all, to his self-giving in life and death—and find our notions of ‘glory’ and ‘power’ transformed completely.” Hill’s essay is worth reading, particularly as we celebrate the Paschal Triduum.

 

TOPSHOT-FRANCE-FIRE-NOTRE DAMENotre Dame Cathedral Fire – The historic Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire this week and billions of Euros have already been pledged to rebuild it.  There have been photo tributes to the beauty of Notre Dame, as well as photo summaries of the damage wreaked upon it by the fire. Some journalists have addressed why it is so significant to Roman Catholics worldwide, and to France as a country. Matthew Milliner offers a marvelous reflection on this in light of Good Friday in his essay, “At Notre Dame, Good Friday Came Early.”

 

Matthias Grünewald Crucifixion“Crucifixion is horribly violent – we must confront its reality head on” – “One reason people before modern times wanted their crucifixions gory and their churches full of images of death was that mortality and its horrors haunted their real lives. Death was everywhere, from the sick beds of people struck down by all the diseases medicine had yet to conquer to public executions whose victims were left to rot on gibbets or, as Bruegel paints them, on open platforms at the tops of wooden poles. In other words, when artists 500 years ago depicted the crucifixion they were not showing a totally unfamiliar sight. People were still executed and left to rot in public, just as they had been in ancient Roman times. Death was ever present.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 11.39.09 AM“Hardship-Birthed Hymns: What Can We Learn From the Negro Spiritual?” – At The Witness, DeAron Washington reflects on how hymnody shapes us and the power of the Negro Spirituals: “We must pay attention to the songs we sing. If we are not careful, we will sing lies that exalt ourselves. We will sing about an idol and disguise it as Jesus. If we are not careful, we will sing songs that call people to trust in themselves. The spirituals are oozing with pungent biblical truths. They are not perfect, but we can learn much from their content. Beloved, read and sing them. Drink from the well of spirituals that is overflowing with sapid theology.”

 

18sneakers1-print-jumbo-v2“Let He Who Is Without Yeezys Cast the First Stone” – And now for something completely different, mainly the firestorm of interest in the preachers’ sneakers, and how much they paid for them. “Carl Lentz, the pastor who baptized Justin Bieber in a professional basketball player’s bath tub, appeared wearing a pair of Nike Air Fear of God sneakers that were selling online for about $500. Then John Gray, a pastor from South Carolina, was shown in blood-red Air Yeezy 2s, the sneakers made in collaboration with Kanye West, that were going for upward of $5,000. And in another photo, Chad Veach, who preaches in Los Angeles, had a $1,900 Gucci bag and wore $795 pants….the photos have led to soul-searching over what some see as an undercurrent of materialism that has been getting uncomfortable attention. The exchange has grown beyond simply criticizing the pastors, as many young Christians were nudged to wrestle over how they present themselves to the world and how it squares with the faith’s teachings.”

 

heart cord“How Disconnection Boosts Your Creativity” – From Austin Kleon: “Creativity is about connection—you must be connected to others in order to be inspired and share your own work—but it is also about disconnection. You must retreat from the world long enough to think, practice your art, and bring forth something worth sharing with others. You must play a little hide-and-seek in order to produce something worth being found.”

 

idea_sized-codex1-add-ms-43725“The birth of the book: on Christians, Romans and the codex” – “A codex is just the Roman name for a book, made of pages, and usually bound on the left. Its predecessor was the scroll or book roll, which was unrolled as you read. The codex is manifestly superior: one can hold many volumes (from the Latin for book roll, volumen); codices have a built-in cover for protection; and pages that can be numbered for reference, from which arose a cornucopia of tables of contents and indices. The codex didn’t catch on until surprisingly late in the ancient world. The early Christians, however, took to the codex with singular enthusiasm.”

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded,” King’s College Cambridge (2011).

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Hungry for Greatness

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Someone once told me that what they wanted most in life was to be seen and acknowledged for who they were. We can describe that desire as a hunger for greatness or, at least, a desire to be necessary. We all want someone to see who we are and what we have to offer. That hunger for greatness can be appropriate, such as our longing for someone to recognize the uniqueness of how God has made us (Psalm 139:13-14) and also the unique talents and abilities God has placed within our lives (Romans 12:4-8).

However, there are times when our hunger for greatness expands beyond what is appropriate. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, describes Satan’s great sin as “Monarchal pride,” signaled by his belief that it is “better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” The way of Jesus the Messiah is unlike this. He taught differently – “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27) – and He lived differently – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

The same sort of pride seen in Satan can infuse our human longings for great- ness. This is why Paul the Apostle wrote to the church in Rome: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3). Jesus Himself reminds us that we live in a world where hungers are often turned upside down. But in His Kingdom up is down and down is up: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (Luke 9:48).

James the Apostle comments on this theme: “Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:6-8). Throughout this week in the devotional, we will explore what it means to have an appropriate hunger for greatness that does not expand into pride.

RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.

Take Off:Take note this week of the ways that you tend to seek attention or turn conversations with others back toward yourself. How many times do you interject or interrupt others with stories of how what they are sharing relates to you? When you dress in the morning, how much of what you wear is intentionally chosen so that you will be noticed? Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.

Put On: Find ways each day this week to celebrate and build up someone else in your life. Write them a note, throw them a party, brag about them on Facebook, etc. At the end of each day, thank God for specific people and how they have blessed you that day.

[This a devotional I wrote with Jim Caler as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

Prayer of Surrender: Mary

As we continued our Great Prayers of the Bible” series this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I spoke from Mary’s prayers of surrender to God in Luke 1. This weekend’s message explores what it means to pray into a place of surrender with God and why surrendering to God in prayer is one of the best things we can do. This was the second of two weekends of outdoor worship services for us, which explains why the video may look different.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Read More »

Don’t Pray Like Hypocrites [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites.” (Matthew 6:5)

When we come to the topic of prayer, there is nothing worse than starting in the wrong place. In Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, He graciously highlights two errors that we easily slip into with prayer. We will look at the first error today and the second error tomorrow.

After criticizing those who give offerings in public in order to receive accolades from others and not God, Jesus brings a similar lesson within the realm of prayer. While our attention should be upon God in prayer, Jesus says it is also worth paying a certain amount of attention to ourselves in prayer. Specifically, He says we should be thoughtful about how we approach prayer so that we do not lose our way before we begin.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5)

This first error that Jesus highlights is a wrong love within our prayers. The hypocrites love to pray standing in public places to be seen by others. They love others’ attention more than God’s attention.

It is often pointed out that the Greek word behind our word ‘hypocrite’ derives from the theatre and acting. A hypocrite at one time was literally a person who was a stage actor, putting on and taking off different masks depending upon the scenes acted out on the stage.

Returning to the subject of prayer, the hypocrite is one who is ‘performing’ his prayers for the audience that is around him or her. The hypocrite loves to pray, not in order to draw near to God, but in order to receive praise from people around them.  The reward we receive in praying like this comes from that audience. If we are approaching prayer with hopes of being recognized as a great man or woman of prayer, someone who people beg to pray at special events or who will receive a bouquet of roses for our prayer performance…well, then, we have received the reward we desire in the form of human praise.

Of course, that’s not the point of prayer at all. It highlights that we love the wrong thing: the praise of people instead of the presence of the Father. As we continue learning prayer, we need to assess the direction or aim of our love in prayer. Do we love the accolades of people or the love of the Father more?

Lord, I confess that many times
  my prayers are misdirected.
I pray loudly to sound good in others’ ears
  or I hold back in prayer for fear I won’t sound good.
Lord, help me to love You
  more than others’ opinions
  in my life of prayer.
Teach me to approach You
  with a humble heart of love in prayer.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 10]

Andrew Murray 2This week I continue “Thursdays with Murray” by concluding my study of Andrew Murray’s short book Humility. Last week, I jumped ahead and talked about the final chapter in relationship with chapter ten. So this week I return to chapter eleven, “Humility and Happiness,” as the last part of the book about which I will write.

Beginning with similar themes seen throughout this book, in this chapter Murray says “the highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility.” However, lest we begin to think that Murray is set on a bleak picture of the life of faith crowded with dark shadows, he also writes: “the place of humiliation is the place of blessing, of power, of joy.”

How can this be true? Murray helps us to understand that if humility is the expulsion of the self, it can only truly be expelled with the presence and glory of God. And if our souls are filled not with ourselves but with the fullness of the presence and glory of God, this can in no way be anything else but the experience of the greatest joy in God.

In trial and weakness and trouble He seeks to bring us low, until we so learn that His grace is all, as to take pleasure in the very thing that brings us and keeps us low. His strength made perfect in our weakness, His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness, becomes the secret of humility that need never fail….

I feel as if I must once again gather up all in the two lessons: the danger of pride is greater and nearer than we think, and the grace for humility too.

These two realities underly the entire breadth of Murray’s book. He wants us as believers to experience both the depths of humility in the Cross of Christ and the heights of exaltation in the resurrection of Christ so that we might enter into the abundant life through Christ. It is his conviction that there is no other way to this great reality than to walk the pathway of humility upon which Jesus walked. That is truly the way of the disciple.

Christ humbled Himself, therefore God exalted Him. Christ will humble us, and keep us humble; let us heartily consent, let us trustfully and joyfully accept all that humbles; and the power of Christ will rest upon us. We shall find that the deepest humility is the secret of the truest happiness, of a joy that nothing can destroy.

[Read the entire series of posts on Andrew Murray’s book Humility here.]