It was a surreal moment for me to see the images of July 1st on the news. We flew out of Hong Kong on Monday morning. It was sunny and clear – a beautiful summer’s day. Then, we landed 12 hours later in another country and saw what had happened. It was such a stark contrast with dark scenes of unimaginable destruction in half-lit interiors.
Many times in life, we face situations where we don’t know what to say or how we should pray. Some situations are so complex and overwhelming that we’re confused and stunned, and no prayers come to mind. Maybe we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, like when we’re trying to comfort someone who’s grieving or going through a low point in life. Often in a political or politicised situation, we are cautious with our words so as not to offend someone or to inflame a situation.
In these moments, I have always leaned heavily on Romans 8:26-27:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
The context of this is waiting and hoping for the redemption and glory of the future but having to live in and accept the suffering and reality of the present. Our “weakness” is that we don’t know how to live in the present very well. It’s hard to hope for the best outcome and difficult to trust in His sovereignty when we don’t have anything to fix our eyes on (“Now hope that is seen is not hope” v. 24). It’s hard sometimes to know how to pray.
The comfort of this verse is that God knows us and our weaknesses. Communication with our Heavenly Father isn’t cut off just because we don’t know what to say. In His mercy and love, He sends the Spirit to fill in the silence, to intercede on our behalf, and to put our formless thoughts into prayer using a spiritual language deeper and richer than any of our words could be.
Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Psalm 33:1
As believers, we are called to clothe ourselves with many things, like love, humility, and compassion. The goal, then, is for us to increasingly embody these characteristics so that eventually they are words used to describe and define us. In fact, they will completely define us one day in heaven.
Psalm 33 would like to add one more characteristic to that list... praise. “Praise befits the upright,” the psalmist writes. This means, ideally when you think of a Christian, you should be able to think of someone who is known for their praise.
What is praise? Praise simply means to “honour, commend or worship”. And praise, as the Bible speaks of it, is not handcuffed to Sundays, but is a lifestyle of responding to everyday life with language and actions that exude honour, commendation, and worship.
Now, if you’re like me, you often find that a day’s circumstances are the real driver of your praise levels. This is natural, and an okay place to be for a season, but as we mature in Christ, the hope is that we would grow into the characteristics we were made to embody.
So, let’s use today’s post as an opportunity to stop and reflect:
Are you known for your praise?
Would others say it’s common for you to exude language that honours God and celebrates Him?
Has it become natural for you to respond vertically to things that are happening horizontally around you?
If not yet, think about this:
You were made for it. Whatever your personality type and natural demeanour, God’s Spirit is wanting to empower you to be someone who is full of praise.
So friends, I encourage you to begin your journey today of clothing yourself with praise, it fits you.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
We all know this saying, “you are entitled to your opinion.” This statement embraces differences in the way we approach a subject, but it really means “it doesn’t bother me that you don’t see it my way.” Truth be told though, other’s opinions, especially when we are the subject matter, do have a grip on us. When these hard-to-hear opinions are offered by people who matter to you, like a parent or a boss, it really eats us up inside.
An example I could think of is when our parents critique the way we parent. I so wish that I could just say “that’s just your opinion, but we are the parents here!” Instead, I respond with anger and frustration, and attempt to prove them wrong. The fact is, I want them to agree with me because their approval on this matters.
In the start of the passage, Paul rebukes the believers in Galatia for deserting the true gospel he preached about the grace of Christ. He gets worked up as he saw these early Christian being swayed away from the truth. Then Paul states this rhetorical question about who his authority is. This verse is a great reminder to me when I get tangled up in seeking earthly approval. Before getting too deep into my frustration or, sometimes, the feeling of defeat; I take a deep breath and remember whose approval matters most to me.
We should respect and listen to the opinions of others as God does provide great earthly counsellors to help us grow, but remember who our real master is. God’s approval is the one that really matters and “who He says I am” is the truth.
Whose approval are you working so hard for in order to win it?
Next time you get tangled up in it, practice “who He says I am” by:
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9–10
How do you understand a partnership? Normally a good partnership consists of people working together, communicating well, sharing tasks, complementing one another’s abilities, and sharing work and reward. Is this how you see your life with God? Perhaps you might not think of yourself as partnering with God: firstly, it’s a rather unequal partnership; secondly, communication seems difficult; and, thirdly, it’s not clear how God wants you to partner with Him.
But to think this way is to ignore an essential pattern of scripture and perhaps to miss the point of prayer.
God made humans to work with Him, not for Him. God wants people to be His co-workers, irrespective of their ability but depending on their availability. All the great servants in the Bible were people He chose to be a co-worker: Moses, Elijah, Nehemiah, and Peter to name a few. God did not need them to work for Him, He wanted them to work with Him and was prepared to wait until they were listening and learning… that is where prayer comes in.
Prayer is neither a matter of telling God our plans and hoping He will bless them nor making a series of well-meaning requests, but finding out His plan, so we know what to ask for in the first place.
As Jesus showed us, we are to seek out God’s heart for His Kingdom and how this involves us. Prayer is a listening, working partnership.
Of course, it’s an unequal partnership but that doesn’t seem to bother God: He is delighted with our stumbling, weak-willed attempts to work with Him. In thinking of your life or a person you want to pray for, ask God what is on His heart, what are His plans, and what does He feel? Gradually you will find your mind becoming clearer and you will know what to pray for and, indeed, pray powerfully.
Let us practice to be God’s partners by:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Do you have a regular morning routine before heading off to work, school or otherwise getting the day started? It might involve waking up at a set time, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, and so on. My mornings typically follow a similar pattern as just described. After leaving my flat, my day continues with a 30-minute bus ride to the office.
I use my commute to settle my heart and mind as I break open the Word and converse with the Lord in prayer. That time with the Lord is especially important to me as I know the day ahead will contain episodes of stress, temptations and other situations that may cause me to sin.
To prepare for those encounters, part of my daily prayer is asking the Lord to help me be salt and light to those around me and to be able to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as listed in the verses above.
While I am far from perfect, starting my day with the Lord and reciting those verses reminds me of the importance of those qualities and helps me to calibrate my heart and mind with a Christ-like perspective.
Let us practice starting the day off right by: