I love the year starting off with a bang - and 2015 certainly has.
Pulling down the Christmas decorations is always kinda sad, another moment, rich in family and memories is over - with all that we have as the best of Christmas traditions. Spinning our eyes toward this new year, requires finding our new God-grace rhythm, matched with the big God ideas that we will discover with our communities over the next months.
Of course for us, we are stepping into the Mercy Town story, fully on the 25th of January, so that is like Christmas with a new baby - loads of excitement.
But preparing our hearts of the new adventure is essential. In fact, knowing how to pray for ourselves is possibly one of the least understood components of many a christian, especially leaders. We may be really good at presenting our petition lists to the Father. We may even be good at personal worship. But how do we pray for ourselves in a way that keeps our soul pure, clean, light, healed?
Using Psalm 51 as the matrix here are a few under-developed thoughts:
Intimacy vs Function
Our time with our Father is and must remain, a "date with Dad". He is neither our valet, always on standby to serve our needs, nor is he the harsh taskmaster, forever demanding more of us. When David cries out "Cast me not away from your presence", he is saying, 'please do not distance yourself from me - that is the thing I fear the most'. We so dearly need to find our identity in being sons and daughters of the most high, and not be defined by our position, title or role. The latter will certainly change, while the former should only deepen.
True North vs Drift
I remember seeing a movie when I was about 12, of a boy who is flying to meet his father when, the light aircraft he is flying in crashed in the Namib desert, killing the pilot. This young boy is left to survive in the desert against all odds. One of the final scenes in the movie, sees the boy, now somewhat delirious, pushing on whilst muttering to himself "My father will find me". As the camera pans out, the audience sees that the boy is pushing on, but his bias actually has him walking in circles.
We must orientate ourselves to "true north" daily. Our time of prayer draws us back to the anchor of our souls, so we are not drawn to walking in circles because of our propensity to build, erroneously around our strengths or because we are being blindsided by our weakness. The Father will speak to us.
David says "Let me hear joy and gladness [vs 8]... restore to me the joy of my salvation [vs12]. May I suggest, when the joy goes, we have probably left the trail of divine destiny.
Brokenness vs Bruising
Simply stated [in all its complexity, we are custodians of our souls, we simply cannot let our souls remain butchered!.
"Let the bones you have broken, rejoice" [vs 8].
These early morning times require us to i) forgive ourselves for our own sins; ii) forgive others for the sins they have committed against us. This glorious assignment is called 'expiation'. Time and space does not allow me to explore the wonder of this great grace gift, but we simply cannot move forward without perpetually settling that God breaks us to soar us to greater heights. We get bruised when we sin against ourselves and others sin against us. We cannot live with these bruisings without dealing with them. They will grow, deepen, develop into the cancer of anger, bitterness and resentment. That will eat us away.
Discerning vs Dismissing
We are a people at war. We simply cannot forget that - to use a military slogan "Carelessness costs lives". David should have been at war, but dismissed its relevance when he saw Bathsheba. We have an enemy. He knows both our vulnerable points and our vulnerable moments [he waits for an opportune time]. As Richard Forster wrote of so truthfully in "Money, Sex and Power", we are all vulnerable to at least one of these major collision forces where darkness and light meet in our frail humanity.
These personal prayer times act as thermometers for the condition of our soul and its vulnerability to the enemy's devices. We can discern it and find the great grace of the Father to stand strong in the face of the onslaught.
So, how can we respond to this matrix for personal prayer? Our exquisite soul does yearn for this kind of protection.