Do you ever struggle with prayer? What about self-image? No? Just me? Yeah, I figured.
Sometimes I think, “Well, God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do…so why pray?” And to add to that, I have a past. And it’s not particularly pretty. It involves illicit substances and nefarious deeds. So thinking about God’s interaction with me can be a mixed bag. Sometimes I remember all the good stuff that He has done. And sometimes…sometimes I remember all the hurt. Sometimes I remember all the times things went wrong, whether because of something I did or not. The past few months have been the latter. It’s been rough. And so I haven’t wanted to pray all the time. I keep thinking, “Well, God is gonna do his thing, whatever that thing happens to be…so I’m just going to brace for the worst and let him do it.”
But I got to thinking the other day, if I want to understand prayer, I should look at prayers. I should go to scripture and to church history and see how people have prayed. I figured the Psalms were a good place to start. David had a past, too. Maybe he could relate.
So a few weeks back I opened up my shiny copy of the Psalms in Hebrew, because I like the language. The copy has English help because I also happen to not be very good at the language.
I read Psalm 1. I noticed some interesting stuff. And then the next day, I didn’t read anything. And the next day…I didn’t read anything again. Have you ever done that? No? Just me? Yeah, I figured.
Anyway, a few months went by and I didn’t read much at all. Then today I thought, “I should try to blog about reading through the Psalms. Maybe that will motivate me.” So I opened my shiny copy back up, not expecting to see much…and I was surprised. Here’s the text of Psalm 1, for those that would like to follow along at home.
1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Yup, blessed is the guy that does the right thing. And…well…shall we say “not-blessed” is the guy who does the wrong thing. Thanks for the reminder. I know which column I fall into. I’m not the tree. I’m the chaff. Awesome. There’s that self-image again.
But then something struck me…”for the LORD knows the way of the righteous.” See, I’ve done some research lately on righteous and righteousness. As it turns out, we don’t tend to use them properly. We think of righteous as right standing, which is a status that we have to earn. But it isn’t that. Think of it this way, if God is righteous…with whom is he in right standing? No, righteous must mean something else. And it does. It means to act the way one ought to act. I won’t bore you with all the details. If you’re determined to be bored anyway, you can go here (http://vimeo.com/102095725) to listen to a sermon I recently preached on the topic. But here’s the TL:DR…God is righteous because he always does what he’s supposed to do…towards everyone. Which is pretty incredible.
Well what on earth does that have to do with Psalm 1? Everything. See, I am the chaff. And so are you. And sometimes we get caught up in the fact that we’re chaff, and on average chaff is pretty worthless. But that’s the beauty of the cross. God made him who knew no sin to be sin so that you might be the righteousness of God. God knows the way of the righteous, and he knows that the wicked will be doomed. So he made a way for the wicked to become righteous. He made Himself wickedness. All of it. He took all of the penalties for being a complete…chaff. And he offers to us all the benefits of righteousness. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” for the sake of the wicked, that they might be redeemed. Blessed is He.
Blessed is He. That’s my prayer today. I hope it’s yours as well.