Call to worship and prayer of praise

call to worship and prayer of praise

 

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from heaven,
you that live in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels,
all his heavenly armies.

Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, shining stars.
Praise him, highest heavens,
and the waters above the sky.[a]

Let them all praise the name of the Lord!
He commanded, and they were created;
by his command they were fixed in their places forever,
and they cannot disobey.[b]

Praise the Lord from the earth,
sea monsters and all ocean depths;
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
strong winds that obey his command.

Praise him, hills and mountains,
fruit trees and forests;
all animals, tame and wild,
reptiles and birds.

Praise him, kings and all peoples,
princes and all other rulers;
young women and young men,
old people and children too.

Let them all praise the name of the Lord!
His name is greater than all others;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He made his nation strong,
so that all his people praise him—
the people of Israel, so dear to him.

Praise the Lord– Psalm 148

The Church of England has this prayer added to this psalm —

O glorious God,

your whole creation sings your marvellous work;

may heaven’s praise so echo in our hearts

that we may be good stewards of the earth;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Common Worship: Daily Prayer

Click here for a prayer from a Presbyterian minister based on this psalm.

Here is a prayer based on this verse – “He commanded, and they were created;
     by his command they were fixed in their places forever,
    and they cannot disobey.” – verse 6 —

How we praise and thank You, heavenly Father, for all that You have created. Praise the Lord, for You are worthy of all honour from the heavens above and the earth beneath. Thank You for sending Jesus to be my Redeemer and thank You that He was willing to stretch out His arms of love for me – on the cross of Calvary. You alone are worthy of all honour and glory, for all that You are, all that You have done and all that You have promised to do. Thank You that the works of Your hand are established forever and Your decrees will not pass away. How I praise You that I will be part of that celestial chorus to honour You in the ages to come – in Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN.

Here’s a combination call to worship/prayer of praise inspired by this psalm.  It was written by Joan Stott —

We gather to praise you O God,

for all the things we can see, and sometimes understand:

the sun, moon and stars; the clouds and changing weather:
We join in their eternal chorus of praise to God.

We gather to praise you, O God,

for all the things that we cannot see or understand:

all heaven’s angels, outer space; and the skies above us;
We join in their eternal chorus of praise to God.

We gather to praise you O God,

for all the things in life that we experience:

the created world, people of all ages and circumstances,

all God’s creations.
We join in their eternal chorus of praise to God:
whose name is glorious, and whose ways are holy. Amen.

This is not a ‘word of praise’ slapped onto whatever
       mess we are in at the moment. This crafted
       conclusion of the Psalms tells us that our prayers
       are going to end in praise, but that it is also
       going to take awhile. Don’t rush it. It may take
       years, decades even, before certain prayers arrive
       at the hallelujahs….Not every prayer is capped off
       with praise. In fact most prayers, if the Psalter
       is a true guide, are not. But prayer, a praying
       life, finally becomes praise. Prayer is always
       reaching towards praise and will finally arrive
       there. If we persist in prayer, laugh and cry,
       doubt and believe, struggle and dance and then
       struggle again, we will surely end up at Psalm 150,
       on our feet, applauding, “Encore! Encore!” – Eugene Peterson

 

A promise is the basis of my prayer so I will repent

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When I read about Caleb’s request to Joshua for the land in Hebron, I see his strength as he stands on the promise of God to him and his family.

Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him the city of Hebron as his possession. Hebron still belongs to the descendants of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, because he faithfully obeyed the Lord, the God of Israel. – Joshua 14:13-14  GNT

It is a powerful place to stand in prayer presenting the promises of God. It allows me to pray according to His will. 

It does not allow me to stop praying a sinner’s prayer.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob to help them
    and who depend on the Lord their God. – Psalm 146:5

Refering to Jacob may not seem to be the right approach here but what a picture of redeeming character and salvation. Jacob was very human and selfish but he was also a man who believed in God and who believed in prayer. A sinful heart is no proof that he was hypocritical. What a great lesson for me to understand that I do not have to wait to be a saint before I pray, for it is in prayer that I am sanctified.

So when Jeremiah is told by God not to pray for the people of Israel, it was God’s way of saying – stay out of the way, I need to do some work here.

The Lord said, “Jeremiah, do not pray for these people. Do not cry or pray on their behalf; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. – Jeremiah 7:16  GNT

There was corruption, there was a prevailing attitude that was skewed towards God’s holiness and this was not the time for the people to be left unchanged. Promises and all, we need to be sanctified and if I choose not to move closer to Him, God will draw me in.

Is it not true that when we go to church every week, do a couple of volunteer hours, pray a prayer of thanks when we get up and when we go to sleep and over our mealtimes that we seem protected from the consequence of our sin because we are close to sacred things? This kind of sinfulnesss stops the promises of God to be effective for God wants more and it starts with me acknowledging and repenting of my sins daily. 

Prayer is our most intense and interior act of futurity. All prayers, by definition, are directed to God, and this aims brings them, finally into the presence of God where ‘everything that has breath’ praises the Lord. Praise is the deep, even if often hidden, eschatological dimension in prayer…’Most joy is anticipatory,’ says Karl Barth. ‘It normally has something of an eschatological character’…The five hallelujah psalms with Psalm 145 as a foundation are a cathedral built entirely of praise. No matter how much we suffer, no matter our doubts, no matter how angry we get, no matter how many times we have asked in desperation or doubt, ‘How long?’, prayer develops finally into praise. Everything finds its way to the doorstep of praise. Praise is the consummating prayer. This is not to say that other prayers are inferior to praise, only that all prayer pursued far enough, becomes praise. – Eugene Peterson

 

God does not leave me when I pray even when my prayers are not answered the way I expect them to be

god does not leave me even when he does not answer my prayer the way I expect him to

On the theology side, I know God is omnipresence which means He is always near me. However, I believe not only is He near me, He is also there to sympathize with me and to give me favour. When I pray and confess His name, God does not leave me alone to battle the world, He is by my side. Formal prayers or false professions will never bring me to the relationship that God wants to have with me. To pray with true professions means I need a true heart marked by humility and with passion – anything else would make prayer a lie.  

He is near to those who call to him,
    who call to him with sincerity.
He supplies the needs of those who honor him;
    he hears their cries and saves them. – Psalm 145:18-19  GNT

I believe that there are unlimited answers to my prayers that come from the riches of God’s grace that comes in Jesus. From my desire to pray, coming out of my expression of need, I find what makes a genuine and effective prayer.

God’s people are a praying people, a generation of seekers, and such commonly are speeders. God never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye my face in vain. They seek his face, righteousness and strength, and he is found of them … The saints alone betake themselves to God and his help, run to him as their sanctuary; others fly from God’s presence, run to the rocks, and the tops of the ragged rocks, call to the hills and the mountains; but a child of God goes only and tells his Father, and before him lays open his cause; as good Hezekiah did, when Rabshakeh came out against him; “O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me”; or the Church ( Isaiah 33:2 ), “Be thou our arm every morning, and our salvation in time of trouble.” They only sensibly need, and so alone crave and implore divine succour; and God will not suffer his people to lose the precious treasure of their prayers. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him; he will fulfil their desire, he will hear their cry”, etc. That God who prepares his people’s heart to pray, prepares also his own ear to hear; and he that promises to hear before we call, will never deny to hearken when we cry unto him. As Calvin saith: “Oppressions and afflictions make man cry, and cries and supplications make God hear.” –F. E., in “The Saint’s Ebenezer”, 1667.

Definition of prayer – “call to Him“; variety in prayer – “call, cries, honour“; essential characteristic of prayer – “sincerity“; where is God when I pray? – “near“; assured success of prayer – “supplies, hears, saves.

The story of the blind men being healed give me an illustration about how to pray. There are a number of truths I have gleaned from what looks like a simple account of what took place with Jesus.

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd was following. Two blind men who were sitting by the road heard that Jesus was passing by, so they began to shout, “Son of David! Have mercy on us, sir!”

The crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even more loudly, “Son of David! Have mercy on us, sir!”

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them.

“Sir,” they answered, “we want you to give us our sight!”

Jesus had pity on them and touched their eyes; at once they were able to see, and they followed him. – Matthew 20:29-34  GNT

I believe they were desperate to get through to Jesus and I believe Jesus appreciated that desperation. There was no formality, they opened their mouths and exercised their right to cry out in their incredible desire to connect with Him.

They did not look for someone else to connect with Jesus – they did not seek for an intermediary. They knew they could have access to call on Him directly.

When they connected with Jesus, they presented themselves in a simple and straightforward manner. No need for fancy words or the right combination of words.

They specifically asked Jesus what they wanted – what is important here is how they didn’t pray. Do I not sometimes come in a round about way to making my request? What takes 1 minute to pray, I take 5 minutes for it to come out of my mouth.

They shouted out loudly – even when I know God is not deaf and already knows what is in my heart, but it sure helps keep my spirit, and thereby my prayer, focused on Jesus. I know this is something I rarely do – I am one to pray silently – I am usually engaged with my thoughts, anxieties or feelings. Howeve, there seems to be an ability, in exercising my prayer out loud, that strengthens my prayer life.

I can pray to God about all the matters of my life – prayer is simply a personal, direct conversation between Him and I. Even when He does not respond directly to my request, or even answers differently than I expected Him to, I am assured that what matters to me matters to Him and that He cares about what bothers me or weighs me down.

The first four benedictions work variations on a common theme with the words “Blessing” and “Amen” holding key positions. … When the time comes to provide a conclusion of the fifth book, the Blessing and the Amen, wonderful and powerful as they are, are dropped in order to bring the Hallelujah front and center as the controlling word. Psalm 150 begins and ends with Hallelujah, but also uses it internally. These hallelujahs are cannonades: thirteen times this strongest of all Hebrew praise words thunders across the earth reverberating the eucharistic end of prayer. There is more. Psalm 150 does not stand alone; four more hallelujah psalms are inserted in front of it so that it becomes the fifth of five psalms that conclude the Psalter – five hallelujah psalms, one for each “book” of the Psalms, and the last, the 150th doing double duty as the conclusion to both the fifth book and to the five books all together. – Eugene Peterson

 

 

The burden of prayer for the next generation

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There are so many prayers in the Psalms for what adults experience in their day to day lives. I feel that we might miss what is happening in our families as we pray these prayers. I believe children are watching. So when I read this prayer and saw, for the first time, a prayer for our children, I had to take note for what surrounded it as well.

Save me from my cruel enemies;
    rescue me from the power of foreigners,
    who never tell the truth
    and lie even under oath.
May our sons in their youth

be like plants that grow up strong.
May our daughters be like stately columns
which adorn the corners of a palace.
May our barns be filled
with crops of every kind.
May the sheep in our fields
bear young by the tens of thousands. – Psalm 144:11-13  GNT

If I looked at what surrounds the prayer for our children first I see the burden of this prayer – the need for God to step in and rescue us from those we always need rescuing from. If I am surrounded by serpents of all kinds and do not know how to deal with them, the only available method is to pray and ask God to rescue and deliver me.

And on the other side Robert Robinson speaks best into this.

This psalm is the language of a prince who wished his people’s prosperity: that their “garners might be full of all manner of stores;” that their “sheep might bring forth thousands and ten thousands in their streets;” that their “oxen” might be fat for slaughter, or “strong for labour;” that there might be neither robbery nor beggary in their streets: no oppressive magistrates, nor complaining people: and as if all these blessings were to be derived from the character of the people, and the character of the people from the education they had received, our text is a prayer for the youth of Judea. — Robert Robinson (1735-1790), in “The Nature and Necessity of Early Piety.”

The prayer for a rising generation comes with metaphors – sons are like plants and daughters are stately columns which adorn the corners of a palace.
Plants because they may live and not only live, but that their godliness might be fully expressed. Columns so that they might make an open and lovely profession of faith. It is about both of them having a walk of holiness and revealling that walk to others.

Jesus also prays for the next generaton.

Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

He placed his hands on them and then went away. – Matthew 19:13-15  GNT

He insisted on the necessity of having my spiritual journey disturbed by little children. Otherwise I might lose the future thread of my life. It reminds me that what I am doing now has implications for those who come next. It would be safe to say that the disturbance of little children is holy disturbance.

‘Praises’ as a title is not statistically accurate but it is accurate all the same. It is accurate because it accurately describes the end, the finished product. All prayer, pursued far enough, becomes praise. Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experiences it traverses, ends up in praise. It does not always get there quickly or easily–the trip can take a lifetime–but the end is always praise. ‘Praises,’ in fact, is the only accurate title for our prayer book, for it is the goal that shapes the journey: ‘The end is where we start from.’ – Eugene Peterson

 

 

 

 

God answers when I come with prayer

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All answered prayer can be seen as miraculous, but some are quite obvious – Joshua asking for the sun and moon to stand still would be such a miraculous answer to prayer.

On the day that the Lord gave the men of Israel victory over the Amorites, Joshua spoke to the Lord. In the presence of the Israelites he said,

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon;
Moon, stop over Aijalon Valley.”

The sun stood still and the moon did not move until the nation had conquered its enemies. This is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stood still in the middle of the sky and did not go down for a whole day.

Never before, and never since, has there been a day like it, when the Lord obeyed a human being. The Lord fought on Israel’s side! – Joshua 10:12-14  GNT

I believe God honours bold prayers.

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers.  If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.”  Mark Batterson 

Is there not a correlation between God being moved and the level of faith I bring to my prayers? Is my prayer life too small and is my life a witness to the smallness of my prayer? I believe my prayers reflect how big or small I believe God is. Maybe I believe that I am offering God a prayer I have no business praying – maybe this is where my faith gets stretched.

Bold prayer requires bold faith believing God is able. All impossible things that He does comes in response to prayer. Do I believe that God fights for me in the battle?

“Anytime our Heavenly Father intersects our earthly lives, and answers our prayers by any means He chooses, it is a miraculous occurrence. And I believe He desires to do this in a bigger way in our lives — here and now — than most of us have ever imagined.” — Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church

No matter what my trials and troubles are I have a choice – fall away from God or take them to Him, in prayer, so that I may endure and grow. Psalm 143 is a greater psalm of prayer teaching me how to pray correctly when facing serious trials.

It reminds me that praying is not something I consider to manipulate God to get what I want. It is place for me to repent, and to trust Jesus to be my Saviour. It is where I know God as my God and I want to follow and obey Him as His servant.

For the particular mercies bestowed on us. Ways God has been patient with us; ways he has helped us change and break bad habits and patterns of thought, heart attitude, and practice; ways he has protected us from the fuller consequences of our own blindness and foolishness; ways he has revealed himself to us, giving us communion with him; ways he has answered our prayers; ways he has walked with us through pain and suffering. – Timothy Keller