How do we lament?

First, direct your conversation to God.
Lament is not directed toward our enemies, toward our suffering, or toward our pain. We direct our conversation to God, the One who hears us. It acknowledges God’s sovereignty in all things, and He is the One in control.
 
Second, describe your suffering and your pain to Him
The Lord knows our deepest innermost thoughts, but we should make it a point to tell Him what we are feeling! How angry are we about the pain we are experiencing? How frustrated we are that He seems to be silent?

Thirdly, depend on Christ for your help and your hope
We don’t simply pour our sorrows and pain before God and end there. Instead, we then turn to the gospel of Christ to find help and hope in our suffering. We turn a corner, begin to speak the gospel of peace and hope to ourselves, and turn to Jesus and ask Him for comfort, for His perspective, and for Him to act.


In the Bible, lament isn’t about blame, or anger. 

Lament is when we acknowledge, in grief and pain, that there’s no getting back what we’ve lost. 
Our fixes haven’t worked.
Our world will never be the same again. 
We’ve all lost by what’s happened during the Covid-19 crisis, whether or not we’ve been ill or bereaved. 
We’ve lost work opportunities, the company of friends and family, the ordinary privilege of doing what we like. 
Perhaps most of all, we’ve lost the illusion of invulnerability.
The idea that life will just keep getting better, because scientists and technicians will always keep us safe, healthy and comfortable, turns out not to be true. 
These have been dark times, and it’s right to acknowledge that without joining in those calls for someone to take the blame for it.

We shouldn’t try to be cheerful, or to peddle a false optimism about COVID 
We shouldn’t pretend we can soon, if at all, go back to how things used to be. 

But we are also people of hope, because we follow a crucified and risen Saviour. 
We’re familiar with the sadness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when hope seemed buried in the tomb; but we also know the rejoicing of Easter Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead. So for us, lament is not the same as despair.
Our hope, though, doesn’t rest on human skills or achievements. 
But so is hope, grounded in a faithful God. 
We want to move forward to be part of the mission God has called us to.
We want to look at where he wants to lead us and what plans he has for our church family.
But we have to acknowledge the damage COVID did to us and the church, talk with God about it and be ready to move forward.

I read these verses on Pastor Carols O’Donnell’s Facebook page, do join me in speaking them into our lives.

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from Him. 
 
He comforts us in all our troubles. 
Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. 
We ourselves have received comfort from God. 
 
We share the sufferings of Christ. 
We also share His comfort. 
If we are having trouble, it is so that you will be comforted and renewed. 
If we are comforted, it is so that you will be comforted. 
Then you will be able to put up with the same suffering we have gone through. 
 
Our hope for you remains firm. We know that you suffer just as we do. In the same way, God comforts you just as He comforts us. 
 
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the hard times we suffered during COVID  
We were having a lot of trouble. 
It was far more than some could stand. 
We even thought we were going to die. 
 
In fact, in our hearts we felt as if we were under the sentence of death. But that happened so that we would not depend on ourselves but on God. He raises the dead to life. 
 
God has saved us from deadly dangers. And He will continue to do it. We have put our hope in Him. He will continue to save us. 

Spiritual Exercise

What happens when we don’t or can’t rest?

  • We lose sight of what we enjoy
  • We find things we enjoy doing becoming a chore
  • We fail to give people the gift of attention and presence
  • We become more obsessive about the to-do list
  • We impair our ability to hear God’s voice

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is a practice that helps us maintain a posture of heart in which we are moved and motivated by the Holy Spirit. It involves some degree of stillness, silence, and solitude. It is not about talking with God or sharing your desires or requests; but listening.  

  1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. 
  2. Choose a short passage or sacred word/phrase (i.e., “I love you Lord”, “You are Lord”) that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence and open to His divine action within you. You are not emptying your mind but focusing on hearing God. 
  3. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor. 

Also Consider: 

  1. Reflect on what a perfect day of rest and recreation would look like for you. Is it a possibility? 
  2. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God then go and do something you enjoy: exercise, take a nap, go for a walk, play a game. 
  3. Think about what kind or rest would refresh your soul: retreat, sleep, music, reading, centering prayer.  
  4. Choose two times this week when you will intentionally enter rest for your body and soul. 

ATTITUDE OF PRAYER

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. 

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:5-8

Prayer is something that we are all familiar with, but are we familiar enough with prayer or is it possible that we have become too familiar with prayer. I believe there are instances in our lives where both are true. Many times, prayer has become so friendly that we aren’t earnest enough in it, and then there are times when we feel so inadequate. Whatever the circumstance, I am confident that we all could improve regarding our prayer life. 

As you study the life of Christ, it is quickly evident that He was committed to prayer. He enjoyed an unhindered fellowship with the Father and was in continual communication with Him through prayer. In our text, Jesus addresses various attitudes of prayer, two of which are unacceptable, and one will be heard and answered. 

Jesus had witnessed those who loved to offer prayers in public places. They wanted to ensure that others would see them as they prayed and heard the words they offered. They were not interested in getting in touch with the Lord or even having their prayers answered; they desired the recognition of men. There was no depth or substance to their prayers. They were only offered for show and recognition.

This is not a condemnation of public prayer. Jesus is not teaching that we should never pray audibly in the presence of others. Public prayer can be an effective witness for the Lord. When offered from a pure heart, we can display our faith before others as we pray. The difference lies within the motive. If we are offering a public prayer in sincerity, God will hear that prayer. If it is offered to receive the recognition and praise of others, it is nothing more than words uttered from our lips. There is something within the nature of man that desires praise. If we aren’t careful, we will seek to pray in a way that pleases others rather than making our requests known to God. 

We all know that we can pray anywhere and at any time. We are to be in a continual state of prayer. That is the beautiful thing about prayer; it isn’t reserved for special times and occasions. However, there is a great truth that we need to consider. Jesus encouraged that we have a specific place in which to pray, a prayer closet. That speaks of a storage room, but it also can refer to an inner chamber or a secret room. The point is we need a place where we are comfortable and able to pray. It may be in a particular room, the basement, or out in the garage. It doesn’t matter where it is if we have a place to pray and seek the Lord. We all need that quiet place of prayer and meditation.

God’s people need to understand and exercise the privilege of prayer. We need to come boldly before the throne of grace and make our petitions known. This is not done so that others might think we are holy, but to intercede for the needs of our day! We need to maintain a positive witness among the world, but there are far greater needs than what others think of us. We need to get in touch with God and plead for the souls of humanity and the perils that plague our modern society.

If you are facing needs or difficulties in life, bring them unto the Lord. He already knows, and He is waiting to hear from you. If you have never accepted Christ as your Saviour, He stands ready to save you today. Whatever the need is, bring it to the Lord.

KEEPING A PRAYER JOURNAL

We can talk to God any time, but it helps to set aside a specific time for prayer. Consider using a prayer journal as a reminder of who and what to pray for.

Keep a list of people and needs you want to talk to God about. Pray for particular needs and areas each day. For example; on one day, pray for family members (their needs, salvation, etc.); on the next day, pray for friends (their needs, salvation, etc.); on another day, pray for your church; and on another day, pray for the world (world leaders, missions, and the spread of the gospel) In your prayer journal, record the date you began praying for your need or that of a friend. Then record the date it was answered. Learn to celebrate answered prayer.

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God”. (Romans 8:26-27)

A while ago the MCF posted spiritual practices on this website with the aim of assisting people grow their understanding of God. One practice was called Contemplative prayer which is a means to connect with God, without giving Him information about what we would like to see happen. In contemplative prayer we sit and wait and depend on God to initiate communion and communication. It requires patience. To understand and enjoy its benefits we do need to try this type of prayer often. 

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

The practice

  • Set aside a time of quietness with God.
  • One way to quiet our minds it to quiet our bodies.
  • Spend 5 minutes intentionally relaxing your body and breathing deeply. 
  • Afterwards, spend 5 minutes noticing where your mind wanted to go. 
  • Offer what you noticed to God, then let go and open yourself to God’s love. 
  • Be receptive to a prayer God may be giving you to say. (Remember that contemplative prayer is more receptive than active). 
  • If it is difficult for you to sit still in God’s presence, then go for a walk. 
  • Say to God “Here I am. I am with you.” 
  • Be with God and welcome Him. 
  • Try to not to control or influence the situation and just give God your attention.
  • End your prayer time breathing in God’s love by being aware that your every breath is God’s gift.

Lent Devotionals Week 3

Monday

CONFESSION: Psalm 38:6-9

READING: Mark 12:1-12

REFLECTION: (Medicine for the soul) Dwight L. Moody

The very medicine that we don’t like is the medicine that we ought to have, and the very truths that men object to, and that make them angry, are the truths that bring them to the cross of Christ. What we want is to preach Christ in season and out of season-

“Tell the old, old story, of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, and of Jesus and His love.”

Why, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The very stone that they would not have was the very stone that God chose, and upon this stone He is building His Church now—upon the Rock of Ages. It is Christ, yes, Christ that men want, and then they will get sure food for eternity.

RESPONSE/CHALLENGE

Is there a time in your life when you found it convenient to reject Jesus? Perhaps you thought you could repent later. What brought you back to the gospel?

Lent Devotional Week 2

MONDAY

CONFESSION: Psalm 6:1-4

READING: Mark 10:32-45

REFLECTION: (Sermon on selected lessons of the New Testament) Augustin of Hippo

Elevation is pleasing to all, but humility is the step to it. Why do you put out your foot beyond you? You have a mind to fall, not to ascend. Begin by the step, and so you have ascended. This step of humility those two disciples were loth to have an eye to, who said [to the Lord], “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37 nrsv). They sought for exaltation; they did not see the step. But the Lord showed them the step. For what did He answer them? “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38 nrsv) He does not simply say, “Let him deny himself, and follow me.” But He says, “[Let him] take up [his] cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 nrsv)

What is, “Let him take up his cross”? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so, let him follow me. When he begins to follow me in conformity to my life and precepts, many will contradict him, many will hinder him, many will try to dissuade him—even those who are, as it were, Christ’s companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ. Whether there be threats or caresses—or whatever hindrances there be—if you wish to follow, turn them into your cross. Bear it, carry it, and do not give way beneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ? The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made.

RESPONSE/CHALLENGE:

The call to take up your cross is a radical one. Is your life marked by transformation? Are you willing to bear troubles, conflicts, or even persecution on His behalf? Are you willing to share the good news of Jesus with others?

Obstacles to Prayer

From: ‘Prayer changes everything’,
written by Bennie Mostert, Carpe Diem publishers


Sometimes we feel as if our prayers just bounce off the ceiling and are not breaking through.

There can be many reasons for this.

Listed below are only a few of them.

Ask the Lord to show you other things that may also hinder your prayer life.



  1. Conscious unconfessed sins: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened …”   (Ps.66:18). “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor His ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear” (Is.59:1-2).
  2. Stingy and covetous: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Pr.21:13).  “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim.6:10).
  3. Unbelief and doubt: “…in regard to sin, because men do not believe in Me” (Jn.16:9). “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (Jas.1:6-8).
  4. Unforgiveness and bitterness: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  5. Pride: (Jas.4:6) “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
  6. Selfish motives in prayer:  (Jas.4:3) “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
  7. A critical spirit: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Mt.7:1). “You, then, why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before God’s judgement seat” (Rm.14:10).
  8. Ingratitude: (1 Th.5:18) “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  9. Love for the world and worldliness: (1 Jn.2:15) “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
  10. When you do not pray according to the will of God: (1 Jn.5:14) “This is the assurance we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Lent Devotionals Week 4

Monday

Confession: Psalm 90:1–8

Reading: Mark 13:9–13

Reflection: (by Basil of Caesarea – Admonition to the Young)

Learn the lessons of the evangelic conversation—of mastery over the body, a meek spirit, purity of mind, and destruction of pride. Pressed into the service, add to your gifts for the Lord’s sake; robbed, never go to law; hated, love; persecuted, endure; slandered, entreat. Be dead to sin; be crucified to God. Cast all your care upon the Lord, that you may be found where are tens of thousands of angels, assemblies of the firstborn, the thrones of prophets, scepters of patriarchs, crowns of martyrs, and praises of righteous men. Earnestly desire to be numbered with those righteous men in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Response/challenge: 

How are you being an effective witness of Jesus? On what occasions have you felt the Holy Spirit guiding your speech? Write down your prayer for the Spirit’s guidance as you tell others about Christ’s work in your life.

Prayer for a peace within

Oh Lord, sometimes my insides feel like a battle zone, where missiles are falling too close to home. Other times I’m caught in an endless storm, with thoughts flying out of control. Confusion reigns and defeat creeps in to steal my joy. I need your peace—the deep-down-in-your-heart kind that stays with me day and night and speaks confidently into the wind.
Calm my anxious spirit, Lord; all the attacking “if-only’s” and “what-ifs” fill me with needless worry.

I know that trust is a big part of experiencing peace and that fear has no place in my life. Most of the things I worry about or dread don’t even happen.


So I’m declaring my trust in you. I’m releasing the reins of my life again and asking you to take control.


I may need to pray this same prayer daily, but I’m tired of the frenzy of life that leaves my schedule and my thoughts without any margin. I need more of you, Lord, and less of me.

I surrender and admit I can’t control people, plans, or even all my circumstances, but I can yield those things to you, and focus on your goodness. Thank you today for every good gift you’ve given, every blessing you’ve sent, all the forgiveness I did not deserve, and, yes, for every trial you’ve allowed into my life. You bring good out of every circumstance if I’ll only let go and believe you. I know that when I pray and give thanks instead of worrying, you have promised that I can experience the kind of peace that passes all understanding. That’s your kind of peace, Lord. And it’s the kind I crave.

Whenever I’m stressed, anxious, or afraid, help me remember to run to you. You’re the only one that can calm my fears and end my fretful behavior.


Whether in trivial or heavy matters, I know you will not only give me peace; Lord, you will be my peace.


And when I draw close to you—in prayer, in reading your Word, in helping another, in taking my mind off myself—you will be there, up close and personal.

I can’t handle these times alone, Lord. Will you speak peace and calm my storms, or hold my hand while we walk through them together? Will you bring the reassuring wisdom of those who have come through similar times into my life? Thank you, Lord. I’m trusting you. In the name of the One who makes the wind and the waves stand still, Amen.
~ Rebecca Barlow Jordan