How to stop your smartphone getting between you and God

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 16: Your smartphone isn't Satan's tool, but it can be his friend

When is your smartphone your friend and when is it your enemy? What does it do to your relationship with God? I have tips to make it a spiritual asset.
 
SmartPhones are not the answer to all ills. Neither are they the reason for any societal decay you care to highlight. They are here to stay. As with all new technologies they have the power to enhance or detract from our spirituality. I have found my phone a great help at times, but a distraction at others.
 
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40 NIV11)
 
Martha was not distracted by something evil, but something good. Hospitality is a Biblical command, after all. 
 

The “iPhone Effect”

Research illustrates the effects of a phone on relationships. The details are in the links provided. In summary, when a phone was visible the quality of the conversation diminished. People felt less connection, less empathy, less warmth. Even if the phone was not turned on. I know families who have a rule to counter this issue. No phones at the dinner table. 
 

Pause the Phone

We must consider the application to our walk with God. Especially our devotional times. Those moments we set aside for focused prayer and Bible study are precious. Will the phone help or hinder? Here are a few pointers.

When you want to avoid distraction

  1. Put the phone in Airplane Mode – vibrations can be enough to cause distraction
  2. Put the phone in another room – i.e. out of sight
  3. Leave the phone behind – if you go out for a prayer walk or into the garden

When you want to use it to help your prayer time

  1. Open a prayer app – I use “PocketPrayer” and “Daily Prayer” weekly
  2. Open a Bible study app – for praying through scripture
  3. Keep a notes app open for recording prayer thoughts – I use Drafts and save to Evernote
 

Conclusion

The key is to be intentional about your use or non-use of the phone. Where do you need to alter the way you use your phone? Remember, the phone is not the issue. The use of it is. You are in control.
 

Question

How do you prevent your phone from becoming a problem in your quiet times? In what ways do you find it helpful?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

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“How to Make your Relationship With Jesus Personal”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 15: "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." Exodus 33.11

Our friendships are personal. No two are alike. Jesus offered his followers friendship,
 
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends..” John 15.15 (NIV11)
 
What about your relationship with Jesus? Is it personal? Is it unique? Or is it a cookie-cutter friendship? One where you are trying to fit your experience of walking with Jesus into a mould someone else invented?
 
What does it mean to make our relationship with God personal? We’re going to look at this today because of something that happened last Sunday.
 

Jesus meets us where we are

The most recent sermon in the Watford church of Christ focussed on the Bible’s teaching about grief. We were looking for material to help grieving friends.
 
Among other passages, we looked at John 11. Lazarus dies. Jesus goes to comfort the grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. I’ve preached on this passage many times and written about it in my book. But I have missed something. Jesus treats Mary & Martha differently. They both come out to see him. They both accuse him with these words,
 
“If you had been here, my brother would not have died”, John 11.21 (Martha) & v32 (Mary).
 
However, they approach Jesus differently. Martha comes out straight away. Mary stays at home. Martha discusses the situation with Jesus. Mary does nothing more than state her accusation. With Martha, Jesus discusses the next life, his identity and belief. With Mary, he weeps.
 
The women are different with Jesus. Jesus is different with them. It’s personal.
 

Careful with the comparisons

Do you see your relationship with Jesus as personal? Do you see him treating you as you are? Not what you are ‘meant’ to be? Are you measuring yourself against others?
 
Taking inspiration from other people is fine. The example of others is helpful:
 
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13.7
But comparisons are odious. I spent a good part of my years as a Christian feeling that my relationship with God was inadequate. I did not pray long enough, loud enough, intensely enough, and so on.
 
The guilt piled up until I realised Jesus did not want to have a relationship with me defined by how others connected with him. Instead, I was invited by God into a relationship with him that was personal, and would develop over time.
 
How can we develop the personal side of our walk with Jesus? There are many ways, but here are three that I have found most helpful so far.
 

Power up the personal

  1. Try new things: Follow rabbit trails that interest you. Bible verses, characters, themes, book ideas. Try lighting a candle, going for a walk, experimenting with set prayers.
  2. Learn from others: Pray with people (see Luke 11.1), listen to podcasts (including this one!)
  3. Bring your whole self to God in your prayers: Read David’s Psalms (Psalm 18.1; 22.1). He was one never shy of being himself with the LORD. God seemed to appreciate it (1 Samual 13.14).

Conclusion

There is no ‘standard’ for a QT. There is no checklist. But there are ways to learn, to grow.
 
No quiet time has to be perfect – nor can it be. It needs to be authentic. The three practices above will deepen your personal walk with God. Persevere in them and you will experience a more and more personal and therefore satisfying relationship with God.
 

Question

What helps you to make your relationship with God personal? Do you have any tips for me? Are there any examples, verses, in the Bible?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

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“How to succour your soul with silence”, Psalms 62.1 & 65.1

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 14

Do you enjoy silence? Is it scary? Is it enticing? Do you run towards it, or away from it? What part does it play in a healthy prayer life?

When alone I walk around the house with a podcast broadcasting from the phone in my pocket. Car journeys are opportunities to catch up with podcasts. The shower is one of my favourite places for listening to podcasts thanks to the shower-proof phone protector my wife gave me and the shower-proof Bluetooth speaker my daughter gave me.

Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts. A veritable sound-storm of podcasting surrounds my solitude. But is this healthy?

Sober Silence

Some of my podcasting obsession is reasonable. But I must admit that occasionally it’s a way of filling the silence when it wants to speak to my soul. This came home to me yesterday.

I’ve been visiting my parents to help with some errands. Here in rural Kent, I don’t have access to my usual broadband. A video upload was needed and I used my phone as a mobile hotspot. The file was big. Really big. The phone remained tethered to the laptop for an entire morning.

I walked around the house, I pruned a pear tree, deadheaded rose bushes, gathered leaves, picked up fallen branches and put them on the bonfire pile. In silence. Wonderful!

Silent Psalmist

I submitted myself to the silence more willingly than usual. The reason was the fact that the previous day I read an article in the November edition of Christianity Today magasine. Sandra McCraken wrote on, “Our Silence, Music to His Ears”. In her article, she focussed on Psalm 65.1.

She said, “Many translations and paraphrases of Psalm 65:1 reference praise with an emphasis on silence. Duke Bible scholar Ellen Davis once translated it as, “To you, O Lord, silence is praise.””

Eugene Peterson translated the verse thus: “Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God, And also obedience. You hear the prayer in it all.” (MESSAGE)

Poised Posture

McCraken goes on to say,

“In silence, prayer comes up as word-less petitions and attentive expectation. In this, we affirm that prayer is a two-way conversation. Silence is the waiting posture that helps us to be poised to hear God’s voice.”

What is it about silence that open’s our ears to God’s voice? Silence creates the conditions for the decluttering of our minds. Robin Daniels in “The Virgin Eye” says, “Silence is not the absence of sound. Rather, sound is the absence of silence. Silence is primary.”

Perhaps he is right. We believe God wants a relationship with us. He waits for us to be silent so that we can connect. Until the noise of life is tamed we’re in no position to listen to the one who gave us life. In this sense silence is primary. It is necessary for us to be able to receive.

Silence and Speech

Daniels goes on to suggest that, “if we have learned to be silent before the Word, we shall also balance our silence and our speech during the day.” Silence is not the goal. Silence is a means to hearing God’s Word and carrying it with us throughout the day. Silence is not passive, nor an opening to nothingness. Silence is active and focussed.

Silence is a conduit to living a life of substance. Daniels again, “If we do not keep attuning to silence, we lose gravitas, we become lightweight.” How do we access the promised spiritually enriching sound of silence?

Beginning and End

I end with some simple suggestions for making the most of the spiritual discipline of silence:

  1. Quality, not quantity: One minute of silence regularly enjoyed is better than sporadic longer periods of silence.
  2. Focus on the Word: One verse, read, meditated on, prayed over in silence will nourish the soul.
  3. Begin each prayer time with a moment of silence. Don’t rush into your words.
  4. End each prayer time with a moment of silence. Don’t rush off into your next task.

Conclusion

Silence was the experience of many in Bible times. Elijah, Moses and David come to mind, as well as Jesus himself (Luke 5.16). They benefitted from the quiet. Silence is never expected to be the substance of our lives, but it must be a significant part.

Psalm 62 has a similar sentiment to Psalm 65: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalms 62:1 NRSV)

What can you do to surface opportunities for silence to do its work?

Question

Let me know what your experience is with this. What difficulties did you encounter? What stood out to you? What helped you? If you were encouraging someone else to practice this prayer technique, what would you emphasise to them? have I missed anything important regarding the spiritual discipline of silence?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.

I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

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“How to make the most of praying through a Psalm”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 13: Scripture's Songs

Why do we have 150 Psalms? Why is there such a big poetry book in the Bible? Why did God think we needed this resource? How can the Psalms help our prayers? We will delve into this topic today.
 

Massive Manuals

Recently I bought a new camera. I like my Canon EOS M6 very much. It does what I want it to do. But I know it does far more than I realise. The manual is huge. 221 pages long! And, yes, the picture above is taken by that very same camera.
 

At the moment, I’m satisfied with what I know of the camera’s functions. It takes basic pictures and video. Excellent. For now. The ‘quick start’ manual has ben adequate up to now. 11 pages have supplied all I need. But I know as time progresses I will want it to do a wider variety of activities. How do I wirelessly transfer pictures to my laptop? How do I adjust for low light? And much more.  I will want to know what all those buttons and menu options are for. At that point I will need the full manual. It would be foolish of me to ditch the camera because I have not read the manual.

When we struggle in prayer or get stale, the solution is not to ditch prayer. Instead we can go back to the manual for advice, input and perspective. That is what the Psalms are for.

 

Psalmodic Inspiration

Psalms have inspired many hymns and songs. For example, 
  • Old hymns: “Praise my soul the king of heaven” – written in the 1800s by John Goss, based on Psalm 103.
  • Modern hymns: written in 1993, “Among the Gods” by Carol Owen, based on Psalm 86.
  • Recent songs: from the 2000s, “Forever” by Chris Tomlin, based on  Psalm 89.1-2.

Psalmodic Templates

Psalms have been used as a template for songs. They can also be used as a template for personal prayer. For example, here is the text of Psalm 130 with suggested prayer themes.
  • Vv1-2: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” Expressing how we feel about our problems and challenges. Asking God to hear these prayers tonight.
  • Vv3-4: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; so that we can, with reverence, serve you.Being open about our sins. Asking for forgiveness. Trusting God that He will forgive. Expressing gratitude for His forgiveness.
  • Vv5-6: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Wanting to be close to God. Expressing how much we love God. Telling God that His word gives us hope. Asking for greater eagerness to be with Him.
  • Vv7-8 “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Telling God how much we love Him. Asking God to fill us with greater appreciation for His grace to us. Confidence that God will forgive us and take us to be with Him.
Of course, the above suggestions are ideas that are not meant to restrict our prayers. Add other areas of prayer that matter to you, or that the Psalm suggests by its content. Learning to pray through a Psalm is a good discipline and an enriching experience, so stick to the Psalm’s internal themes where you can.
 

Preparation

1. A quiet place
2. Read through the Psalm or section of the Psalm
3. Take your time – no rush
 

Practice

1. Read one verse or phrase – slowly and thoughtfully
2. Pray through it and over it
3. Allow the theme of the verse or phrase to take you to other places in the Bible, in your heart and in your life
4. Move on to the next verse and repeat
 
What themes stand out to you? Godʼs holiness? His generosity? What else? What is your response to this Psalm? Feelings of gratitude? Feelings of love? What else? What do you learn about the character of God? Record your observations and also read through the words of the hymn based on this Psalm.
 
In the video and podcast versions of this article I offer a brief demonstration of these techniques. If you would like to hear those, click the links on this page.

Conclusion

 Why not try praying though a Psalm for your next prayer time? How about tomorrow? We have 150 Psalms. That’s more than enough material to keep us going for a long time.
 

Question

Try it and tell me what your experience is with this. What difficulties did you encounter? What stood out to you? What helped you? Imagine encouraging someone else to practice this prayer technique. What would you emphasise to them?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
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What is the Point of Praying?

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 12: The Mystery and the Majesty of Prayer

Someone asked me recently what the purpose was in praying. Why do we pray? What is it for? It’s a good question. Not only is prayer inherently confusing, but it’s also uniquely mysterious.
 
We pray and are not answered. We pray and find an answer. We pray and don’t like the answer. We pray and like the answer.
 
Abram, Moses, David, Job, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus and Paul all prayed. Their prayers overlap in intent but vary wildly in content and focus. What are we to make of all this?
 

Common Question

“What’s the point?” questions are common. What’s the point of voting if governments break their promises once elected? What’s the point of taking the time to cook a delicious meal for your family when all they do is wolf it down in 10 seconds flat? What’s the point of supporting your team when they never win anything? And, what’s the point of having a sat-nav if it keeps taking you the wrong way? I include this because of two such incidents on my journey to Manchester and back last weekend which led to me paying a toll twice instead of once, and adding an hour to our journey. More on that another time.
 
I’d suggest our purpose in prayer is one of the more relevant, “What’s the point?” questions.
 

Prayer is Personal

There’s no one definition of prayer that can satisfy all it means. That’s because it is, fundamentally, an expression of our relationship with God. Relationships defy simplistic definition. At least, they do if they are meaningful.
 
I like the title of chapter 1 in the BST “The Message of Prayer”. It is, “The Conversation of Friends.”
 

Meaningful Relationships

My ‘relationship’ with my dentist is narrow. The ‘relationship’ I have with my accountant less so. That’s because he is also my brother in Christ and friend. Thanks, Dennis, for being a super accountant and a valued friend! Then, my ‘relationship’ with my wife is on another level entirely. I’d find it hard to sum up my relationship with Penny in a few words.
 
How much more so with God. Because our relationship is different, so also is our conversation.
 

Honest Talk

If there is one thing we know about good relationships, it is that honesty is foundational. Among many examples, the Psalmist cries out,
 
“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1 NIV11)
 
Jesus asks the question,
 
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NIV11)
 
I’d suggest this is the place to begin. Honest expression of facts, feelings, hopes, failings, sins, needs and desires will build a meaningful relationship with God. Are you being ‘real’ with God? If not, start there. Rather than ponder the purpose of prayer, trust that God wants to know you. That means him hearing what’s on your mind and in your heart. It’s a place to start, anyway.
 

Conclusion

As Tim Chester says in the BST book mentioned above, “Prayer is not ultimate but penultimate, a pointer to the days when we shall see God face to face. It directs our attention forward to our participation in the trinitarian community. Prayer is an anticipation of the day when we shall truly know even as we are truly known (1 Cor 13:12).”
 
Well said. When prayer confuses, continue to pray knowing it is preparation for the face-to-face communication we will enjoy in the coming life.
 
I’ve said we cannot sum up prayer in a few words, but I can’t resist having a go. Here is the best I could do this Thursday morning.
 
“My purpose in prayer is to begin the relationship with God I will enjoy in its perfection in the next life.”

Question

What do you think of my definition of the purpose of prayer? Do you have your own? Have you heard or read one that makes sense to you? Could you share your best ideas?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

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“How not to be a spiritual pushover”

What to do when your faith is tottering

Sometimes we feel spiritually strong. We’ll take on all-comers. On those days I read Acts and can see myself backing up Paul as he preaches to the baying crowds. I’d be happy to keep him company in a Philippian jail. Not always, though. The days are all too frequent when I feel weak. On those days I avoid Acts. What to do on the ‘weak’ days?
 

Feeble Fences

We’re replacing the left-hand fence in our garden. Our lovely neighbours have been waiting patiently for the day. The gaps are significant. The state of the fence ragged. Some of it looks like it is the original from when our home was built in the 1930’s. My wife is putting in the new posts and arris rails. I’m the destroyer. With mallet and chainsaw, I’m taking the old fence apart section by section.
 
Some of it needs the application of power. But some does not. The lightest touch snaps the rotten wood. Simply leaning on the fence is enough to topple it. The ivy cladding was holding it up.
 

Wobbly Walls

David knew this feeling. Consider what he wrote in Psalm 62:3,
‘How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down— this leaning wall, this tottering fence?’
He is not feeling strong. He is not feeling stable. Uncertainty has seeped into his soul. Fear has enfeebled his faith. Have you ever felt like that? Perhaps you do today? What to do? Let’s see what else David wrote about in this Psalm.
 

Refreshing Repetition

When feeling weak we need refreshing. David repeats himself in this Psalm.
v1 – “my soul finds rest in God;”
v5 – “my soul, find rest in God;”
 
v2 – “Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
v6 – “Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
 
Repetition of truths we know to be true but do not feel is one way to refresh our faith. Of course, vain repetition is no use (Matthew 6.7). But a meditative contemplation of God’s trustworthiness must surely refresh our faith.
 

Conclusion

David sandwiches his fears between repeated truths about God. The next time you feel weak, go to God in prayer employing David’s ‘sandwich’ technique. Tell him about your wobbly wall and your feeble fence, but top and tail with praise for his power and love. There’s no reason for you to be a pushover!
 

Question

What do you think about this ‘sandwich’ idea? Have you tried it? Does repetition work?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

Our delightful new fence

“How to be real about fear without being controlled by it”, Psalm 27

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 10

Life reveals an unsettling truth. Fear is part of our everyday existence. There’s no running away from fear. It stalks you even in private. What to do? Self-medicate? Not satisfying, successful nor healthy.
 
 

Eye-opening Bravery

My father had an operation on his eye on Thursday. He had the option of a local or a general anaesthetic. He opted for local. Eye open, fully conscious, lying on an operating table for 90 minutes while the surgeon operated on his right eye. He’s a braver man than me. I’d go ‘general’ every time. As a result of his courageous choice he was out of the hospital more quickly and is enjoying a faster recovery. He felt the fear but was not controlled by it.
 

Fear Appears

How do we best handle fear when it appears? David was a man who knew fear. Bears, lions, spear-throwing kings (1 Samuel 17.34-37; 1 Samuel 19.9-10). They all had a go at him. Let’s have a look at David’s thinking in Psalm 27 and see what we can learn.
 

Confident Declaration

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
(Psalm 27:1 NIV11)
 
David is in trouble. Later in the Psalm he mentions enemies, the wicked, foes, war, trouble, oppressors and false witnesses. In other Psalms he opens with his challenges. But here he starts with a confident declaration of faith. David is not pretending. He is afraid. But he knows his feelings, real as they are, do not objectively describe reality. God is in the picture and is involved.
 

Faith and Feelings

There is no ‘right’ way to bring our fears to God. David shows us one way in this Psalm. He begins with what he knows to be true about God. He may not feel it, but he states it in faith. Look again at David’s statement: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”. It makes sense to be afraid of darkness (Isaiah 59.9-11, Matthew 6.23) and lostness (Jude 6, Luke 16.24). However, by faith we find that God provides light and salvation (Psalm 119:105, John 8.12, 9.5). Therefore we can be confident of his concern, presence and support even when it’s dark and we feel ‘lost’. David describes God as his “stronghold”. What does this mean? A ‘stronghold’ is a place of safety (Psalm 9.9), a refuge. In the Hebrew it can mean a fortification behind a wall above the enemies at a safe distance from their attacks. 

Conclusion

David’s confidence is not in Jerusalem’s physical defences. It is not in his skills (formidable as they are). His confidence is in God. Making that the first statement of this Psalm reveals how determined he was to set his mind and heart on God. Our fears need putting into perspective. Even in our fear, we can have the confidence that God will supply all the strength we need (Ephesians 3.16-17). The next time you feel the fear, don’t begin your prayer with it. Instead, why not tell God how much confidence you have in him? And then talk about your problems?
 

Question

What difference does it make when you tell God what you know to be true about him, before mentioning your fears? Are there other ways to bring our worries to God? What works for you?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

How to be supplied with spiritual strength from the Psalms

Using the Psalms as God intended

Worship is Work

I lead musical worship in Church congregations. It is a privilege, a joy, and hard work! I need spiritual strength to lead worship. Where is the supply coming from?
 

God’s Songbook

Two weeks ago I chatted about this with my friend Dave Eastman. Check him out on lifechangingworship.com. He shared his conviction with me that a worship leader needs to be constantly in the book of Psalms. It is God’s songbook. A hymnal with 150 songs ready for any and all occasions in the Christian life.
 

Regular Devotion

I love the Psalms. I turn to them from time to time. But I’ve not been devoting myself to them regularly. I wonder how many of us use the Psalms in moments of great joy, or deep crisis, but neglect their day-to-day use.
 
What a shame to relegate this amazing resource to special occasions. They are available to supply us with spiritual strength whenever we need it.
 

A Psalmic Pile

Thanks to Dave, I’ve reflected on my use of the Psalms. So far I’ve made two decisions.
 
  1. I’ve opened a tab in my Bible software specially for the Psalms. That tab stays open no matter which other part of the Bible I’m studying.
  2. I’ve pulled my favourite books about the Psalms off the bookshelves and piled them up in one place. Now I see them every day and am reminded to look into them for insights. The books include: “The Psalms and the life of faith” by Walter Brueggemann (more theological). “Music of the heart”, new Psalms in the Celtic tradition by David Allen. “A long obedience in the same direction” by Eugene Peterson (focussed on the Psalms of Ascent). “Prayer, praise and promises” a daily walk through the Psalms by Warren Wiersbe (a devotional focus).

All About You

Here is a thought from Psalm 86 and some insights from Brueggemann. Read this Psalm, and you will hear a desperate David. But notice that his attitude is not one of self-pity. Instead, he is very focused on the qualities of God. This is emphasised by the use of the word, “You”.
 
Quoting selectively from the Psalm, “You are my God…For you, O Lord are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you… For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God… But you, O Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness… Because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”
 
The force of the Hebrew doesn’t come across in an English translation. But the point does. David knows he must focus on who God is if he is to be supplied with the spiritual strength he needs.
 

Conclusion

I will finish with an old rabbinic prayer quoted in Brueggemann’s book on page 37:
 
Where I wander-You!
Where I ponder-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You ! You! You!
When I am gladdened-You!
When I am saddened-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You! Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!

Questions

What is it about the Psalms you find most helpful? Do you use them regularly? What books would you recommend to help us understand them and apply their message?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm 

How to Pray for Kings

How to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness

Have politicians and public authority figures ever been more derided? Perhaps, but not in my lifetime. We’d agree they need our prayers, but do we, in fact, pray for them? What does the Bible have to say?
 

Pleasing God

Our key passage is 1 Timothy 2.1-4.
 
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NIV11)
 
Paul wrote this. He had first-hand experience of the injustice of authorities. Yet, his perspective was pure. We could forgive him for a rant, a diatribe, a list of complaints. Take for example his illegal beating and imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16.37). This might, in our day, have been followed by a twitter storm. But no. He acquires an apology and moves on. What is going on here?
 

Two Reasons to Pray for Authorities

Paul recognises that God wants all people to be saved. The appeal to pray is for “all people”. Paul goes on to mention “kings and all those in authority” for two reasons.
 
1. Firstly, they have more power to stand in the way of the spread of the gospel than other people. They also have the power to facilitate conditions favourable to the Gospel.
2. Second, they are often the last category of people we think to pray for. Unpopular decisions, questionable morality and insensitive pronouncements lead us to dislike them. Perhaps even hate them.
 
Jesus said this, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NIV11). If we are to pray for our enemies, then we can’t leave our kings and authorities out. No matter our differences.
 

Suggestions

1. Pray for those who influence your community: local councillors, your MP and the like
2. Pray for those who influence your country: parliamentarians, party leaders, kings, queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents.
3. Pray for those with global influence: world leaders, the secretary-general of the United Nations and leaders of other global organisations.
4. Pray for your enemies: the authorities you complain about
 
If we spent as much time praying for these people as grumbling about their decisions, we would see the Gospel spread more rapidly. Some of them might become followers of Jesus. We could find ourselves in a better spiritual and emotional place.
 

Conclusion

Pray for them by name. Do it personally, and do it in church gatherings. If you are a church leader, I urge you to call on members to pray in this way.
 
I believe I am called to pray for Baroness Dorothy Thornhill (Mayor of Watford), David Gauke (MP for where I live), my Queen, Theresa May, President Trump, Kim Jong-un, António Guterres – and othersPraying for them does not mean I agree with them. It simply means I acknowledge they are sons and daughters of God just as much as me.

Question

Which kings and authorities do you pray for? What motivates you to do so? What points have I missed?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

What to do when you don’t know how to love God

Three tips to find and grow that connection with God

Connection Crisis

It’s awkward when you don’t know how to connect with someone. Even more so with God. How can we connect with the awesome, pure creator of all we see and cannot see? Let’s talk about that today.
 

Mexican Standoff

I’ve just returned from a few days in Mexico where I was attending a conference on worship. I speak no Spanish and most of the people there spoke no English. In my home church culture, we hug one another as a greeting. But I noticed a lot of cheek-to-cheek kissing going on in Mexico. The women did this with one another and with the men. The men held out their hand to other men in a clasp-like manner and then hugged. I clumsily imitated them. Once I kissed a woman’s ear instead of her cheek. Another time I trod on a man’s foot as I attempted the hand-grip and hug. Coordination was never my strong suit!
 

Shunned No Longer

I was embarrassed about my mistakes and my clumsiness. However, no one shunned me. I was not avoided in case I trod on someone’s foot. Everyone embraced me eagerly. I relaxed, kissed and hugged, and gradually got better at it. I was reminded that God will never shun my attempts to communicate, not matter how hapless.
How are we going to connect with God? By embracing the ways he has taught us to connect with him. And doing so consistently. Practice makes perfect in many things, and our relationship with God is no exception. Here are three ways to connect. If practised regularly they will help you to develop a deeper connection with God over time.

Three Tips

1. Open your heart to God. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 NIV11). Give him your deepest fears and dearest hopes.
2. Praise God. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:18 NIV11). The word, ‘call’ is ‘qara’ in Hebrew meaning to praise the qualities of YHWH.
3. Pray with others. “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalms 34:3 NIV11) Find a friend to pray with and glorify God together.
 

Conclusion

Connection with God is possible. He made us for this very purpose. But we’re limited in our understanding of how to do so. Never fear. God has left us with a huge book with helpful examples, instructions and principles. Put the three above into practice this week and see your connection with God grow and grow.
 

Question

What helps you to connect with God? What have I missed that could help other people?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm