“How to be Willing”, Hebrews chapter 10

Hebrews series 2018

How can we be willing to love God and serve Him? We look at the willingness of Jesus to offer his body and the willingness of God to remember our sins no more.

Please leave a comment with your own thoughts, or post a question.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13.20-21

God bless, Malcolm

“How to be heard by God”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 23

It’s very frustrating to be ignored. When it’s a stranger it’s an inconvenience. When it’s your children it’s an annoyance. When it’s your spouse, it’s an emergency!
 
But what about when it’s God?
 
 
I took my usual prayer walk this morning in the park. I saw many dogs and their owners. I didn’t see many owners ignoring their dogs. But I saw lots of dogs ignoring their owners! One person in particular was trying to get their dog’s attention by shouting loudly and blowing on a whistle. I could see the two dogs halfway across the park having a great time, with clearly no intention of returning to their owner anytime soon. On one level it was quite funny. It certainly entertained me! But it wasn’t healthy.
 
What do we do when it doesn’t look like God is listening? We can’t answer every angle on this question today, but we will take a look at one verse in Hebrews which can help us.
 
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5.7 (NIV11)
 
What does this passage teach us about how to be heard in prayer? I suggest two things to ponder:
 

1. Peace Plant

The word translated ‘petitions’ is ‘hiketeria’. It is an olive branch held in the hands of someone who wants peace. They are not coming with a demand, but with a request. They are not being passive, but taking initiative.
 
If you want your prayers to be heard by God, come to him on his terms of peace. Approach him, with confidence (Hebrews 4.16), but with humility, understanding that peace is in his hands to give, not in yours to demand.
 

2. Wholehearted Heart

Jesus prayed with fervent cries and tears. A rabbinic saying goes like this:
 
“There are three kinds of prayers, each loftier than the preceding: prayer, crying, and tears. Prayer is made in silence: crying with raised voice; but tears overcome all things (‘there is no door through which tears do not pass’).”
 
It is not necessary to weep every time we pray, of course. But, ask yourself if you are praying like you mean it.

Conclusion

Jesus was not delivered from death. Does this mean he was not heard? Not at all. We know he would have preferred to live (Matt 26.36ff), but his greater preference was for God’s will to be done in his life. The evidence he was heard is that, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Luke 22:43 (NIV11)
 

Question

What helps you to come to God with the confidence that you will be heard?
 
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 fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

 

 

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“It will be worth it. Hold on to your ticket.”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 22

Life is not always lived in the light. Not even the Christian life. Especially not the Christian life. What do we do when the darkness invades the light?
I’m deep into the Epistle to the Hebrews at the moment. We’re teaching through it in the Thames Valley churches of Christ (click the link for recordings).
 
One example of faith after another piles up in chapter 11: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses…and the rest. All are “commended for their faith,” (v39), but none “received what had been promised” (v39). At least, not all they were promised. They had a tough time of it.
 
It’s true that Abraham received his son, Noah saved his family, Daniel shut the mouths of lions and Rahab was spared her life.
 
But what of those who were “tortured..faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment..put to death by stoning..sawed in two..killed by the sword..went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated..wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (vv35–38)
 
There is just as much darkness caused by doubt, fear, suffering and disappointment as there is light caused by victory.
 
What do we do when the darkness arrives?
 
Here are two thoughts for reflection to help us when the dark days arrive.
 

1. Darkness is temporary

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” (Psalms 18:28–29 NIV11)
 
Darkness is not permanent. It will depart. It does not always feel that way, but no darkness can hold God back. Hold on to him and wait patiently by faith for the dawn to arrive.
 

2. Darkness is directional

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed….I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.” (Psalms 143:3–6 NIV11)
 
When the darkness closes in we are left with only one direction to go in search of light. To God. Can you allow your darkness to direct you back to God? That’s what David did in this Psalm.
 
Corrie Ten Boom said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
 

Conclusion

Are you going through a tunnel? Now is not the time to jump off. Now is the time to pray all the more.
 
Pray for the patience to hold on until you see the light. And pray for the confidence to approach God even while you are still in the darkness. After all, he knows what the darkness feels like (Matt 27.45).
 
Do not throw away your ticket. “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (Hebrews 10:35 NIV11)
 

Question

What does the darkness do to your relationship with God? How might it be 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 fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
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“How to avoid the danger of drifting”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 20

Drifting is dangerous. Ask anyone caught in a riptide. But what about spiritual drifting? How dangerous is it? What are the signs?

Drifting and Driving

Not long before Christmas my father drove home from church. He is a priest and, having finished the service, set off home for lunch. Rounding a bend on the narrow Kent country lane, he was startled to see a car coming towards him on his side of the road.
 
He took evasive action, pulling to the left as far as he could. But his Skoda was struck by the Land Rover Discovery. It was not a contest between equals. Fortunately, my father was not injured, but the car was seriously damaged. The drifting driver turned out to be a member of the church and took full responsibility. They could hardly lie to the priest!
December’s drifting driver damaged only a car. But what of spiritual drifting? What damage does it do?
 

Warning from Hebrews

The writer to the Hebrews has drifting on his mind. He wrote:
 
“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1 NIV11)
What kind of ‘drifting’ did he have in mind? The word is, ‘παραρρέω’ (pararreo). In this context, it means to gradually give up one’s belief in the truth. In other contexts, it describes a boat drifting away, or a ring slipping off a finger, or water leaking out of a damaged jar.
 

Drifting Diagnosis

One key to dealing with drifting is to be self-aware of your symptoms. When I taught on this passage recently I asked the group if they knew what their signs were? They said,
  • “When I try to control everything”
  • “When I get frustrated.”
  • “When I stop reading my Bible.”
  • “When I avoid people.”

Are any of those familiar? Some of my own signs are:

  • Not answering the phone when it rings
  • Getting inappropriately angry over trivial things
  • Reading the Bible but not feeling it’s message in my heart
Rudie summed it up best when he said, “When I find myself reverting to type.” By which he meant his unregenerate nature. Do you know your symptoms?
 

Drifting Defences

What are our best defences to the drifting disease? The ones which help the most will depend on you as an individual. However, these will make a difference to all of us at one time or another.
  1. Listen to GodHebrews 3.7, 15Read the Bible, but don’t stop there. Pause before leaving. Ask yourself the question, “What was relevant to me from this passage today?” The better question might be to ask God directly, “What are you teaching me today, Father?”
  2. Listen to FriendsHebrews 3.12-13 (Prov. 27.6; Gal 4.16; Eph 4.15). We need friends who care. They have insight we do not. They see us from a different angle. Listen to your friends, and pray for the strength to accept the truth they offer.
  3. Listen to YouJames 3.14; 4.8. We are responsible for what is in our hearts. A lot of it is good, but not everything. It’s true that just because we have a clear conscience does not mean we are pure of heart (1 Cor 4.4), which is why we need 1 and 2 above. But you have a conscience for a reason. Listen to it. What is it saying? Guard your own heart by being honest with God and other people.

Conclusion

Drifting is inevitable. But its duration is controlled by you. The drift distance is decided by you. With God’s help and the love of friends, we can course-correct before we’ve drifted too far.
 

Question

What do you do to deal with drifting? What suggestions do you have to help me and others? What questions come to your mind about the how and why of drifting?
 
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 set yourself up for spiritual growth this year”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 18

What spiritual goals do you have for the year ahead? I am writing this in the first week of January. Over the past few days, I’ve done a thorough review of last year and created some goals for 2018.
 

Aim

“If you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it”. But, when it comes to spiritual goals it can be tricky to know how to aim, let alone what to aim at.
 
Spirituality, and growing in it, is about character, integrity and relationship. As such, it can be tough teasing out specific goals that don’t become ‘rules’. The actions endanger the relationship or the substance of the goal. What’s the answer? Firstly, we need to remember the point.
 

Point

What is the point of a goal? The goal is never the thing. The goal is a tool. A means. A method. The point is God. Or Jesus.
 
Is this what lies behind Paul’s desire expressed in Philippians?
 
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11 NIV11)
If the point is to be more like Jesus, how do we get there? 

Strategy

All healthy aims need a strategy. Here are four steps for developing a sound strategy for spiritual growth.
  1. Aspiration. Clarify your aspiration. This is not the ‘goal’. Goals change, but aspirations remain. We’ll never achieve full Christ-likeness in this life, thus we aim to grow, not arrive. Examples of aspirations would be to have the compassion of Christ, the courage of Christ, the faith of Christ. Which particular aspiration is right for you, right now, at this point in your life?
  2. One. Find the one tool that will move you in the right direction. That tool becomes the focus of your goal. It could be the Bible, prayer, friends, books etc. Choose only one. Life has enough complexity already.
  3. Action. Now we have an aspiration and a tool we need an action. Make it simple. Include a verb, and make it daily if possible. The action is not the point, but it will move you in the right direction.
  4. Goal. Your goal is to execute your action connected with your tool in pursuit of your aspiration. What is your goal?

Me

Here is my focus for growth this year:

  • My Aspiration: To be like Christ in that he found spiritual food, fuel, and faith from God’s Word. Last year saw significant growth in my prayer life. My Bible focus was OK, but only OK. Not where I think it could be, nor where I want it to be.
  • My One Tool: The Bible!
  • My Action: To spend the first 30 minutes of my day in Bible study before anything else (other than ablutions, a cup of tea and a five-minute gratitude journal).
  • My Goal: To do this every day for 90 days from January first (four days ticked off so far as of 4 Jan 2018).
 

Motivation

Knowing your motivations is vital to maintaining growth. You will get tired at some point and tempted to give up. Here are mine:
  1. To feel close to God and provide me with prayer fuel
  2. To feel spiritually fed and focussed at the start of the day
  3. To have integrity as I teach other people
 

Methods

Write your aspiration, tool, action and goal down. Put them somewhere you will see them. I have three ways of staying connected with mine.
  1. A daily reminder in OmniFocus
  2. A tick-list in my Full Focus Planner
  3. A reminder in the Coach.me app.
If I forget to look in one place, the others should catch my attention!
 

Conclusion

Christians follow Jesus. We think he is amazing. He is our inspiration. Therefore we are aspirational people. God does some of the growing of us whether we plan for it or not. But what better way to honour God’s hopes for our growth, than to make plans in that direction.
 

Question

What is your greatest aspiration for the year ahead? What ideas have I missed? Let me know your own goals, and feel free to comment on mine.
 
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 quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

Get coached on Coach.me

 

“How To Hear When God Speaks To You Today”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 17

I’m deep into the Epistle to the Hebrews at the moment. My preparation for the New Year teaching series is complete. But I want to make sure the book is feeding my soul. Not just my mind. Here’s a thought that came to me this week.

Opening paragraphs of Hebrews in the Chester Beatty museum, Dublin. p46 ca200AD

 

 

God’s Word exists to feed all of who we are. The mind, the heart, the emotions – all of us. He speaks to us. But how?

In the days before Jesus, it was “through the prophets at many times and in various ways,” Heb 1:1.

Past Words

Check out some of the ways God spoke in the past:

And that’s not to mention a donkey, a false prophet, a flood, thunder and storms.

Present Words

Now, “he has spoken to us by his Son” Heb 1:2. Why His Son? Because a son is better than a messenger.

God speaks to us today in the entirety of the New Testament. But what I’d like to focus on is how God speaks to us in the person of His Son as revealed in the Gospels. And how this helps our Bible Study and our Prayer. To do this, we’ll take the example of Jesus in Luke 7.36-50. Here is the passage in full:

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40  Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Penetrating Words

Here’s how to make sure a passage about Jesus speaks to you. Really speaks to you. Not just enter your consciousness, but has the potential to change you. To do this we’re going to ask three questions about Jesus and the people around him.

  1. What do I understand about who Jesus is?
    • A question about his identity
    • What is revealed about his deity?
    • What is revealed about his humanity?
    • In this passage the words, ‘prophet’, ‘teacher’ and phrases like, “your sins are forgiven” point to something important
  2. What do I feel about what Jesus said and did?
    • Put yourself in the shoes of the other characters in the story
    • In this passage, what did Simon feel? How about the ‘sinful’ woman? The other guests?
  3. What do I see that’s relevant for me today?
    • Is there an attitude to avoid, or adopt?
    • Is there an action to copy or cut out?
    • In this passage: avoid self-righteousness; adopt unconditional love; speak kindly to those burdened with guilt; be grateful for what Jesus has done for us; etc.

Putting it Together

Now you’ve done your study, summarise it and make it into a prayer.

It could look something like this, “Father, ……I understand better than before that Jesus was/is…..(prophet, teacher, able to forgive sin etc.); Like others, I feel….. (grateful, sometimes confused, loved etc.); Please help me to be less like Simon in……(self-righteousness etc.), and more like the woman who was……(grateful, loving etc.); Today, I can see ways to think and act more like Jesus by………; Please give me the strength I need………..Amen”

God speaks to us more fully through His Son. Jesus improves our understanding, our hearts, our emotions and our actions. He is the full package. Are you making the most of him? Why not try these tips and see if they help your prayer life?

Question

How do you hear God speaking to you today? What have I missed in this short article?

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 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.
 
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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
 

Get coached on Coach.me

 

“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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