Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 24 2013 - Luke 6:12-38 – Prayer

Luke tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16). Today we read of him going out to a mountainside to spend the whole night in prayer before choosing the twelve who would become the apostles – those who would share in his mission (6:12). Jesus was a man of prayer. Prayer was important to him: it was communion with his Father; by it he sought wisdom for the decisions he was to make; through it he gained strength for the ministry the Father had given him.

I suspect that I am not alone when I say that I find prayer difficult – particularly prayer on my own. I don't find it difficult to pray with others, but when I am on my own my mind seems to go blank or to wander down a thousand different side-tracks. A quick 'arrow prayer' for this or that person or situation is simple enough, but I find it difficult to focus for any extended period upon the business of just talking with God. The idea of spending a whole night alone in prayer seems quite terrifying.

And yet, if prayer was so very important to Jesus it surely cannot be less needful for us. We also need wisdom for the decisions of the day. We also need strength for the ministry that the Father has for us to do. We need the presence and power of the Spirit within us to live as Jesus calls us to live: to love those who treat us badly; to be generous to those in need; to avoid a critical spirit; to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. And then there are friends and family who need our prayers and a broken world crying out for the healing touch of the Lord Jesus. There is so much need for prayer; why do we find it so difficult?

Prayer cannot be separated from the ordinary business of our daily lives. We find it difficult to pray because we live so much of our life without conscious thought of God. Then, when we withdraw to pray, prayer seems so artificial; our thoughts and words are stilted. We need to learn to live consciously in the presence of God in all that we do – to practice the presence of God – then extended times of prayer will seem natural and easy rather than strange and artificial.

You may also find a journal or prayer diary helpful. The day will bring many blessings for which you can offer thanks and praise; do so as they arise but note them down for continuing praise and thanksgiving. Each day will bring to your attention many matters for prayer. You may be asked to pray for someone; pray for them at that moment, but also note it down for later petition. Many things you hear about during the day, including items on the news, will touch your heart; pray for them as you hear of them, but also note them down to bring before the Lord. Each day is packed with reasons for praise and prayer.

But we need also to learn to be still before God. Prayer does not require a torrent of words. It’s not about making sure God knows what’s going on; there is nothing we can tell him that he does not know already. Moreover, the deepest prayers well up from the Spirit of God within us; he sets us praying and joins our hearts to his own.

Lord Jesus, teach me to live close to you and to follow you in all things. Teach me to pray.

Father, I abandon myself
    into your hands.
Do with me what you will,
whatever you do, I will thank you,
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
    as in all your creatures,
and I'll ask nothing else, my Lord.

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
I give it to you
    with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
    and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
    with a trust beyond all measure,
    because you are my Father. (Charles de Foucauld)

Mar 24 2019 - Psalm 32 – Transgressions covered

We were made in the image of God, made to reflect God's character and to live in close fellowship with him. But something within us is broken and that beautiful image has become distorted and ugly. We have sought to go our own way in life, to impose our own will on others and to insist that the world ought to be reshaped to feed our desires. But instead of this bringing joy and satisfaction, it brings only pain, a deep sickness of the soul. This is the wages of sin – it is a living death.

The psalmist speaks of this sickness of soul in verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 32. It is a heaviness of spirit that can lead to physical pain and sickness. Is there any remedy for this fatal disease?

Five years ago I was very ill. I did not know what the problem was but I did know that I had no energy. I could no longer go running and even climbing stairs proved difficult. When I went to the gym I could only exercise for a minute or two before I had to stop and my pulse, which previously had risen dramatically during exercise, now refused to rise at all. One afternoon I was told by my GP that I needed to go into hospital immediately. Initially they still did not know the cause of my problems but it was soon discovered that I had a faulty heart valve that was allowing the blood flow back the wrong way. This had also resulted in damage to the electrical pathways in the heart damaging my body's ability to adjust its pulse rate. Once an accurate diagnosis had been made a remedy could be prescribed; I was first fitted with a replacement heart valve and then with a pacemaker. A fatal condition was remedied through accurate diagnosis and appropriate action.

It's the same with the soul-sickness of sin; while we refuse to recognise that there is anything wrong with us, we close ourselves off from the possibility of remedy and allow the fatal sickness to continue its course. Much better to come to our senses and acknowledge that we are rebels against God, that we are broken and unable to mend ourselves:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, ‘I will confess
    my transgressions to the LORD.’
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin. (v.6)

Diagnosis and acknowledgement of the disease is the first step towards a cure. We need to come to God in confession and repentance. But God alone can mend and restore our broken lives. He alone can mend the broken relationship with him; he alone can remake the broken image.

How does God, the great physician, deal with our sin? He cannot overlook it or just sweep it aside any more than we can. The Psalmist speaks of the blessings of those "whose transgressions are covered" (v.1). God does not cover our sins in the sense of brushing them under the carpet; he has dealt with them finally and effectively through the saving work of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world to identify himself with us and take our sin and guilt upon himself. He paid the price for our sin through his atoning death upon the cross and broke the power of sin and death through his resurrection from the dead. Trusting in him our sins are forgiven and our guilt is turned to joy. By the power of his Spirit he is repairing the broken image – remaking us in his own image, the image and glory of God.  He is our "hiding place" who surrounds us "with songs of deliverance" (v.7)

Lord God, we thank you that you have made us painfully aware of our broken and sinful condition; we no longer try to hide our sins but readily confess them before you. Thank you for the Lord Jesus who bore our sin and condemnation. We thank you for the blessing of knowing that we are forgiven – that our sins are no longer counted against us. We praise you with our songs of deliverance.

Peter Misselbrook