Friday, May 01, 2015

Nature, Nurture, Need

I love the great prayers of the bible.  I am challenged by how others prayed, how they sought God in their times of need.  Thankfully the bible gives many prayers in detail to help us.  When I come to a prayer in a narrative passage I try to slow down and listen carefully to the words of the prayer.  Each one has something to teach me.

One of the great prayers of the bible is woven into my favorite narrative from the Old Testament.  It's a story of fear, faith, trust and deliverance.  

In the passage the king hears that a large army is coming, in fact they are closer than anyone knew.  There wasn't time to prepare weapons or build defenses...the enemy was simply too close!  

The text says the king was scared!  So what did he do?  He turned his attention to seek God in prayer.  In fact he called for a fast and invited everyone to pray with him.  And the people came from everywhere, mothers and fathers with their children to join the king in prayer.

The king's prayer is wonderful in honesty and insight.  It has three parts and they are important for how we pray too.  Here is his prayer,

Part 1- Nature-  Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.” 
In this first part of his prayer the king reflects on the nature of God- “are you not?”  He looks up.  What is God like?  Who is he?  What can I know about him to help me as I pray and seek him?  If I don’t start here both my God and my prayer will be too small and my need will be too great.
Part 2- Nurture- Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’”
In the second part of his prayer the king looks at the nurture of God- “did you not?”  He looks back.  How has God taken care of us in the past?  What has he done for us when we needed him before?  At a time of great need, when my fears are large, I need to look back at the wonderful love and care of God in all my needs in past trials.
Part 3- Need-  “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
In this third part the king addresses his need- “will you not?”  He looks ahead. Because of who God is and what he has done I can ask for my needs.  In this story the king asks for God to help them.  He falls on the mercy of God and honestly, sometimes, that’s all we can do. 

I love his closing words.  It’s a bold statement for a king.  He says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  When I come to a prayer like this I’m in awe.  Here is a king, the ruler of Israel, admitting to God and his people he doesn’t know what to do, but in that admission he directs the focus of his listeners in one specific direction- UP…. “but our eyes are on you.”

The end of the story is exciting.  Because of the king’s prayer and trust in God they saw him work once more.  I invite you to read the whole story in 2 Chronicles 20.  It will inspire your faith.  

And, I hope the king’s model of prayer- look up (God’s nature), look back (God’s nurture), and look ahead (my need) will help you in your own prayers.

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