“A 3-minute prayer meditation on Psalm 42”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 48

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalms 42:1–2 NRSV)

Something different this week. I offer a three-minute prayer meditation on Psalm 42:1-2.

Instructions

  1. Find a quiet place
  2. Settle in a comfortable position
  3. Take a deep breath…..hold…..exhale
  4. Relax and listen to the audio or watch the video

Readings of the two verses will be interspersed with the sounds of the River Gade.

What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

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

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me on coach.me.

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

God bless, Malcolm

“What to do when you are stuck with God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 47

In last week’s episode (number 46) we looked at more reasons why we need a specific place for study. Please let me know how you’ve been getting on with your own study.
 
This week, let’s talk about what to do when you are stuck in your relationship with God. We’ve all been there. I have many times. I will be again, and so will you. What is it that will get us out of our rut?
 

Neither shallow, nor introspective.

We cannot stay shallow. Equally, we dare not become introspective. Perhaps a change of perspective will help. We’re not really trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? We’re attempting to go deeper into God. As Richard Foster puts it,
 
“I do not mean to turn inward by becoming ever more introspective, nor do I mean to turn inward in hopes of finding within ourselves some special inner strength or an inner saviour who will deliver us. Vain search! No, it is not a journey into ourselves that we are undertaking but a journey through ourselves so that we can emerge from the deepest level of the self into God.”*
 
Yes, that’s right. We emerge into God. In other words, we take action and discover that the faith involved in that action brings the reward of a renewed connection with God. It’s so important to remember that a relationship with God is not, in its essence, a concept or a feeling. It is something built by our faithful actions.
 

Confidence comes from action

Confidence with God grows as we take action. It has always been thus in the Christian life.
  • Jesus said, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17 NIV11)
  • The faithful of Hebrews 11 are commended for taking action, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7 NIV11)
  • Abraham is held up as the example of faithful action, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22 NIV11)
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God – take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often.

Experiment with the ‘examen’

One action you could take is what’s called the ‘examen’. Psalm 139 sums it up:
 
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
 
The prayer of ‘examen’ consciously invites God to reveal truth in us. The revelation of truth is a startling stimulus to growth. We do not know what we will discover. As a result, we need to deal with the fear of what is turned up. Foster inserts this prayer at the end of his chapter on the topic:
 
“Precious Saviour, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid… Afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite you to search me to the depths so that I may know myself – and you – in full measure. Amen”*
 
Why not pray this prayer, and then practice one of these four suggested methods for going deeper with God?
  1. Meditate on scripture – such as Psalm 62
  2. Pray the ‘Lord’s prayer’, Luke 11.2-4
  3. Pray through the ‘Ten Commandments’, Exodus 20.1-17
  4. Pray through and/or meditate on one or more of the ‘Beatitudes’, Matthew 5.3-12
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God - take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Try one of these suggestions for a period of time and note what you learn. What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

Question

What happened when you took action on one of these ideas? Were some easier than others? Why might that be?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
Get coached on Coach.me
 

“More reflections on why we need a specific place for study”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 46

In last week’s episode (number 45) we looked at why we need a specific place for study. “Thank you” to Johann who found the episode helpful and posted his response on the YouTube channel.
 
This week, rather than start a new topic I’d like to give a personal report on my progress and offer some more ideas.

I have had a good week of study. Digging into Acts chapters 7 and 8 has been enlightening and inspiring. The commitments I made last week made a difference. Let’s do a quick check on each one.
 
Last week’s commitments:
 
  1. Phone out of sight: I kept to this commitment by leaving the phone in my pocket, or putting it on to charge behind me.
  2. Noise-cancelling headphones: Using them helped to narrow my focus.
  3. Clear the desk: Removing everything not connected with my Bible study kept visual distractions low.
 
My focus improved and I had a much better week of study. However, I learned of some more areas of distraction which I had not noticed before. Eliminating some issues revealed others. Here are this week’s observations and new commitments:
  1. Headphones: Pairing them via Bluetooth didn’t always work well. Sometimes it took two minutes which was frustrating. I also had some instances of skipping which were distracting. This week I will attach them via a cable if it takes longer than a few seconds to pair them or if more skipping occurs.
  2. Door: Even with the headphones on I still noticed sounds in the house. This week I will close the door to the room in which I do my study.
  3. Reflections: The computer screen faces some windows. This produces reflections when people walk past on the street. I found myself distracted when I noticed neighbours passing my house. This week I will close the curtains behind me while I do my study.
  4. Software: On one occasion this last week I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to run a program called “Clean my Mac” while I was doing my Bible study. How wrong I was! Even though it is silent, and does not affect the computer’s performance, just knowing it was open and running distracted my mind from time to time. This week I will close any software unnecessary to my study.

Conclusion

I’m looking for ‘flow’. A state in which my mind is fully engaged in what I am doing. That’s how I see my study being of the most benefit. You might like this TED talk on the concept of flow. And here is a link to the classic text.

Question

Have you put any of these ideas into practice? Do you have some you would like to share? What helps you to get into a state of ‘flow’ when you study?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

“Why you need a specific place for study”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 45

Where do you go to engage in the spiritual discipline of study?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because of a podcast I listened to the other day. I like the Renovare podcasts, and enjoyed the recent one entitled, “Spiritual director and author Fil Anderson and lawyer Justin Campbell talk with Nathan Foster about how to study for transformation instead of just information.” If you would like to listen to it yourself, you can find it here.

One of the interviewees spoke of the helpfulness it was to him having a separate room in the house for study. The interviewer, Nathan, does not have space in his home for a separate room, but has a chair set aside for study. Nothing else happens in that chair except study. When he is in that chair he does not allow himself to have his phone within reach or any other device that might distract.

Why do we need a place free from interruption? We need it because intimacy and understanding are bred in a focused environment.

It is well known that Jesus took himself away in order to be with God. In Mark he, “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). In Luke he, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)

Jesus may not have had a house with a study room, nor a chair for regular study. But that did not prevent him from being intentional about removing himself from people and other distractions in order to be focused on God.

To be honest, I’ve let this slip in my life. Therefore, here are my new resolutions. I would like to know what you think of these, and I’d like to know the practices which you have found helpful.

Here are the specifics of what I will do to enjoy more satisfying study:

1. Phone out of sight

The phone will go into my pocket, behind me on a shelf, or in a drawer. I have already disabled almost all notifications on my phone, but even the sight of it can be a temptation to distraction.

2. Noise-cancelling headphones

I have a really nice set of Sony noise cancelling headphones. I need to put them to better use. I already have a favourite piece of music I play when I’m doing my Bible study (Mozart piano concerto in D minor K466 if you’re interested). Now I will pipe it straight into my ears and allow the noise cancelling technology to keep me in my study-world.

3. Clear the desk

I don’t have much on my desk. I think better without clutter. However, I do have one or two things on the surface such as my Full Focus Planner and gratitude journal. These, and anything else I will remove from the desk surface.

Conclusion

I shall try these for the next month and let you know how it goes. Of course, this is not intended to create some new rule as if to say this is the only way to do it. Nor is ‘study’ exclusively connected to Bible study. This could apply to reading books, magazines and other materials.

Your study space might be a particular seat on the train, a park bench, the passenger seat in your car. It does not matter so much where it is. It matters more that we find and make the most of a special space for study.

Question

What do you need to put out of site? What do you need to turn off, or turn on to help you be focused? What else do you do to enjoy deeper study?

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

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.

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

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“What happens when you grab for the wrong support”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 44

My morning prayer walk was messier than expected. It was all caused by a casual grab at the wrong support.
 
 
One of my favourite prayer walks takes me to the edge of a canal. There is no bridge at this point, but you can cross by walking along the top of the lock gates. It’s narrow, but there are handrails. This particular morning I stepped up onto the top of the gates. I reached out towards the ironmongery with my right hand to steady myself.
 
Instead of feeling the cool iron under my fingers, I sensed a sticky gooey mess. I stopped, looked at my right hand and saw thick black grease. Instead of grabbing for the handrail, I had mistakenly reached for the mechanism which moved the sluice gates. They are heavily greased to protect them from the water.
Stepping off the lock, I approached a tree. With the help of several leaves I removed most of the grease from my hand.
I reflected on what lesson there might be for me from this experience. What do I grab for? What do I reach for when I need support?
 

1. Superficial support

Too often I prioritise feeling better instead of getting better. The instant-fix support sees me turning on the television, listening to a podcast or raiding the fridge. None of these are wrong in themselves. They are meant to be enjoyed – God gave us lots of things specifically for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17).
 
It’s just that they cannot provide the kind of support I need when I am struggling with something spiritual. You know the kind of thing. When I don’t want to persevere. When I don’t want to love someone. When I don’t feel like praying.
 
The problem with reaching for the superficial support is twofold. Firstly, it is only a temporary diversion and distraction. The original problem comes back with a bang.
Secondly, the consequences are a stickiness in my soul – rather like the grease on my hand. Because I have delayed dealing with the situation spiritually, procrastination is now clogging up my spirit. If I had dealt with the matter in a more spiritual manner, I could have moved onto the next challenge to my faith. Now, however, I have one piled on top of another. Not a good situation, and not a winning feeling.
 

2. Spiritual support

What I really need is spiritual support. What does that look like? Here are two suggestions.
 
i. Church support. I don’t mean the organisation, but the network of relationships. We are meant to be interconnected. If we are, we will feel the support of our community. Paul made the point in Ephesians:
 
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV11)
 
Those friendship-ligaments are a source of support when I am weak. Are you connected enough to feel that support? What is your part in that?
 
ii. God support. He is a very willing supporter. We don’t have to push him into it. We understand this intellectually. The point, however, is to grasp it from the heart. The Psalmist accepted this:
 
“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18–19 NIV11)
 
There is no substitute for the support of the Lord. It is his love that convinces us of his unconditional support. It’s personal with him. He wants to support us not because it is a duty or a project. No. His heart is one of compassion and connection. He is able to grant us not only the fact of support but the feeling of support if we are willing to accept it.

Conclusion

What did Jesus say? “I am with you”, (Matt 28.20). Reflect on him walking with you. Today. Pray to be aware of his presence and support. Next time you need some support, pause before reaching for the remote. Take a moment to call a friend and call on God.
 
If he is with me, that’s enough. He may not change the situation. His support may not change how I feel. But I know he’s in it with me, and that’s enough.

Question

What happened when you tried this? What difference did it make to your day?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community. Pass the link on….
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
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“What difference would it make if your enemy was anointed?”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 43

One Bible verse had a profound effect on my prayers this morning.

As I often do, I turned to the Psalms before going out to pray. I have been working through the Psalms of Ascent and have reached Psalm 133.

“A song of ascents. Of David. How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.” (Psalms 133:0–3 NIV11)

Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org.

It is a Psalm of beautiful idealism. God’s people living in unity. Not something that existed for very long at any point in Israel’s history. Not something which exists in many denominations and amongst Christendom today. And, frankly not something that exists consistently in my own network of relationships.

In particular, I focused on this phrase from the psalm:

“It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.” (Psalms 133:2 NIV11)

Anointed

I reflected on the fact that, “In Israelite practice anointing was a sign of election and often closely related to endowment by the Spirit.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary).

At some point in the past, I had studied this Psalm. I had noted a quote from a book by Eugene Peterson called, “A long obedience in the same direction”. He said this:

“When we see each other as God’s anointed, our relationships are profoundly affected.” (p181)

I determined to go out and pray for someone I found difficult to love. To hold them in my mind and heart before God as someone anointed. Someone special to God. Someone chosen by him and just as specially favoured as I or any other person.

As I walked through the park on my prayer walk, I picked one person and focused on seeing them as anointed. What a humbling experience. All of a sudden I stopped looking down on that person. Instead, I could see that he and I were on the same level ground.

I felt differently about him. I felt differently about myself. I could and would love him.

Conclusion

Is there someone you find difficult to love? Someone close to you. Why not decide to hold them in prayer before God and before your spiritual eyes as someone chosen, elected, adopted and anointed by him? Give it a go in your next prayer time.

Question

What happened when you tried this? What difference did it make to the way you see this person and feel about this person? Will it change your behaviour?

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

Get coached on Coach.me

“What a drowning deer taught me about the heart of God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 42

It was about 6:30 AM this morning. My customary prayer walk was taking me through Cassiobury Park and into the conservation area close to where I live. My mind and my prayers were centred on Psalm 130. All was well.
Approaching a bridge over the Grand Union Canal, I came across two dog-walking women in animated conversation. One of them saw me. She walked over and declared, “There’s a deer drowning. It’s fallen in the canal. I can’t help because my dog will scare it. Can you rescue it?”
 
Her face was contorted with worry. I could not say “no”. I had no idea how I was going to get a soaking wet heavy deer out of the canal. But I knew I had to try.
 
Annoyed, because she had interrupted my prayers and my walk, I trudged reluctantly into the undergrowth between the path and the canal. Soon I was surrounded by stinging nettles. I was wearing shorts. Not the best combination.
 
After multiple stings, I reached the canal bank. Now even grumpier. No deer in sight. No sound of a deer. No sign of a deer. The lady shouted at me through the undergrowth, “It looks like it got out. Thank you for trying.” I fought my way back through the stinging nettles to the path. Fully fed up now. Interrupted prayer time, interrupted walk, fruitless search, throbbing calves.
 
Then I considered this Psalm:
 
“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” (Psalms 119:175–176 NIV11)
 
The Psalmist wants to praise God. He has experienced God’s life-sustaining teaching. Yet he is aware of his tendency to stray. Many other Psalms talk about seeking God. But I love this verse. It is a plea for God to seek his servant.
 
And, of course, it reminded me of what Jesus said in Luke’s gospel:
 
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4 NIV11)
 
In this wonderful parable, God is portrayed as the seeking Shepherd. The master of the flock is not grumpy about the effort, annoyed at the time involved, bothered about being interrupted, nor reluctant to seek. I have to confess that some evil thoughts went through my mind about that deer. If it was stupid enough to fall into the canal it deserved what it got. No, I know that’s not the right attitude. Sorry.
 

Conclusion

I’m so glad that God is not like me. I hope that deer did get out of the canal. As far as I can tell it did. What a relief. How much more of a relief it is that God doesn’t treat me as I deserve. He seeks me out to rescue me, take me home, and – He rejoices all the way.

Question

When you pray, do you reflect on the seeking nature of God? Could you meditate on Psalm 119 and Luke 15 in your next prayer time? What helps you to be grateful for the seeking Shepherd?
 
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

 
Get coached on Coach.me

“Why the prayer of relinquishment matters”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 41

Is it possible to be surrendered to God’s will without feeling like a pawn?
 
I bring you a sixth look at the book by Richard Foster, “Prayer: finding the heart’s true home“. In the most recent chapter I’ve been reading, Richard talks about the significance of the prayer of relinquishment.
 
 
Richard quotes Andrew Murray, “..union with God’s will is union with God himself”. That being the case, how can we afford not to pray the prayer of relinquishment? In other words, the prayer that says, “not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV11).
 
Easy to say. Not so easy to do. And even harder to mean it.
 
This week we explore why the prayer of relinquishment is so important. We will discover the correct motivation for the prayer. Next week we will look at how to practice the prayer of relinquishment.
 

1. The example of Jesus

Jesus is our inspiration in all things. No less in this prayer of relinquishment. Without this prayer – no cross. Without this prayer – no sins forgiven. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed the prayer of relinquishment more fully, more powerfully, more painfully than at any other point in his life,
 
“not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV11)
 
As Foster remarks, 
“To applaud the will of God, to do the will of God, even to fight for the will of God is not difficult . . . until it comes at cross-purposes with our will.” p51
Thank goodness for the example of Jesus!

2. The door to hope

The Scriptures tell an interesting story – if you are called by God, you will struggle with God.
 
Jesus is the ultimate example, but what about Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, Paul? They all struggled with God’s will for their lives. But, when they came to a place of relinquishment, they discovered that God’s will was better and more glorious than the choice they preferred.
 
When we struggle, and submit to God’s will, and discover his wisdom, it gives us hope for the next struggle. Because there will be another struggle. It’s how we grow. It’s how God gets his will done. It’s how God makes sure he gets the glory instead of us. But even though he gets the glory, we get plenty of joy.
 

3. The soil for fruit

When we pray the prayer of relinquishment we are offering God fertile soil for him to bear fruit. That’s why Jesus said,
 
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24)
 
When we make ourselves available to God, he is able to produce the fruit of the Kingdom in us and through us. As Foster says,
“..we hold on so tightly to the good we know that we cannot receive the greater good that we do not know. God has to help us let go of our tiny vision in order to release the greater good he has in store for us.” p55
 
We don’t have to pray the ‘right’ prayer, we just need to pray the relinquished prayer.
 
Such a self-death brings us the freedom of self-forgetfulness which does not negate a person but sets us free to become all that we can be in Christ.
 

Conclusion

The Apostle Paul found himself at peace with the prayer of relinquishment,
“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:19–20).
 
What a blessing it is to arrive here. A place of contentment, free from anxiety.

Question

Do you have a prayer of relinquishment which needs to be prayed? In which areas in life right now do you sense a struggle? Have you prayed the prayer of relinquishment in those areas? How do you feel about praying such a prayer? What holds you back from doing so?
 
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
 
Get coached on Coach.me

You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool“, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“How and why to pray the prayer of penthos”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 40

Is there a place for tears in prayer? Is crying a sign of indisciplined emotions? Or is it a sign of spiritual health?
 
I bring you a fifth look at the book by Richard Foster, “Prayer: finding the heart’s true home”. In the most recent chapter I’ve been reading, Richard talks about the significance of the “Prayer of tears”, or, ‘Penthos’.
 
 
Last week we look to biblical examples of penthos. Old Testament characters, Jesus, and the apostle Paul. All found the ‘prayer of tears’ to be spiritually beneficial. This week we will explore the spiritual benefits of Penthos.
 

1. A source of joy

It might sound unlikely. Certainly, it is paradoxical. But, tears lead to joy. The Psalmist understood this: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalms 126:5 NIV11) Some years ago the church I loved was virtually destroyed by a combination of our own sin, and the disciplining hand of God. I was not the only one who cried at the state of the church. And I was not the only one who despaired for a positive future. 

However, I took some time to go away, climb a Welsh mountain, and open my heart to God. I confessed my sins. I confessed our sins. I admitted my fears about the future. My heart broke and I wept. After some time, I felt a deep sense of assurance. I realised that my heart was in sync with the heart of God. I knew for a certainty that he felt as I did. And, joy of joys, it dawned on me that he had not given up on me or the church. Therefore, there was hope. This hope burst upon me with deep joy. 

I went up the mountain heavy laden. I came down the mountain with a light heart.

2. A source of inner growth

Parts of who I am remain hidden to me. The undergrowth of my soul is too thick for ordinary prayers to penetrate. Developing the emotional side of my relationship with God reveals more of who I am. As Foster says in his book,
 
“..unless the emotive centre of our lives is touched, it is as if a fuse remains unlit.”
 
In the prayer of penthos we allow God, we invite God to part the tall grass and reveal what is beyond our sight. Sometimes what comes into view are aspects of our character. At other times it is our sinfulness. How do we discover the truth? Let me lay out the steps suggested by Foster:
 
  • Ask: Request that God help you to have a soft heart. Trust what David knew, that God will not despise, “a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalms 51:17 NIV11)
  • Confess: Open up to God about the sin of which you are clear. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool.’
  • Receive: Trust that God, “will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV11) Do not give in to the Devil’s lie that you are unworthy. Of course you are unworthy! That’s why Jesus went to the cross. But now, because of his victory, and your adoption, you are made worthy.
  • Obey: Where it is within your power, do right to the people you have wronged. Change your behaviour in areas where you have damaged your relationship with God.
Developing the emotional side of my relationship with God reveals more of who I am Click To Tweet

Conclusion

The prayer of penthos may not come naturally to you. That’s OK. We have a lifetime to develop all these different aspects of our relationship with God. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. God is.
 

Question

Why not try the four-step process above? If you do, let me know how it goes. Do you feel any hesitation in asking God to help you with the prayer of penthos? Can you identify what it is that is holding you back?
 
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

 
Get coached on Coach.me

“The place of penthos in prayer”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 39

Is there a place for tears in prayer? Is crying a sign of indisciplined emotions? Or is it a sign of spiritual health? 

I bring you a fourth look at the book by Richard Foster, “Prayer: finding the heart’s true home”. Richard talks about the significance of the “Prayer of tears”, or, ‘Penthos’.

What is ‘penthos’?

According to the Mounce’s Expository Dictionary, it means,

“to mourn, grieve, bewail. This word is used in contexts of mourning over disasters or grieving the loss of someone. Mourning is often associated with weeping. While in classical Greek usage, penthos was a passion that a wise person must intentionally avoid, in the NT mourning is encouraged in contexts of sorrow over grievous sin and is acceptable and appropriate in cases of overwhelming disasters.” Mounce, William D., D. Matthew Smith, and Miles V. Van Pelt, eds. MED. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Not being the most emotionally demonstrative person, I question the appropriateness of tears in prayer. We will take a couple of weeks looking at this, but today let’s survey some biblical examples.

1. Old Testament

Some classic Old Testament crying personalities include Isaiah, “I drench you with my tears O Heshbon and Elealeh.” Isaiah 16:9. Jeremiah, of course, is often called the “weeping prophet” – “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” Jeremiah 9:1.

Several Psalmists spent time crying, “Every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Psalm 6:6. “Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not on your record?” Psalm 56:8. “My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 43:3

2. Jesus

Was Jesus a crying person? The writer to the Hebrews tells us he, “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” Hebrews 5:7.

He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, John 11:35.

He taught, “blessed are those who mourn”, Matthew 5:4. He was kind to Mary when she washed his feet with her tears, Luke 7:36-50.

3. Paul

Paul a tough guy. Was he someone who cried? 

He came to Asia “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears”, Acts 20:19. He warned “everyone with tears” Acts 20:31, and when he wrote to the church in Corinth he did so, “out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears”. He rejoiced that they had godly sorrow which led to repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:7-11.

Conclusion

If the Old Testament Prophets and Psalmists, if Jesus and the Apostle Paul were all people who cried in a healthy way, who are we to resist it?

Next time we will go on to look at the potential spiritual benefits to us of praying this “prayer of tears”. 

Between now and then, why not have a look at some of the other examples of spiritual men and women shedding tears. What do you learn about their relationship with God? 

Questions

Do you shy away from crying in your prayers? If so, why might that be? What do you think could be a spiritual benefit to you being more in tune emotionally with your sin, the broken heart of God and the sins of this world?

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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