Helplessness

kalasWe’re on Chapter 11 this week of Longing to Pray, and we’ve come to a topic I’m sure we’re all quite familiar with these days:  helplessness. We not only feel it when we read the news and witness others struggling against COVID-19, but we may also feel it within ourselves as we adapt to our “new normal.” But, helplessness is something I’m sure you’ve also experienced at other points in your life. I know I have.

Helplessness can make us feel frustrated, irritable, angry… lonely and sad. Alone.

Dr. Kalas packed several points of insight into his chapter on helplessness, and this week I’ll be writing a little more in-depth about five that stood out to me:

  1. During times of helplessness, we often build close, lifelong friendships that help us discover our full humanity – both human and divine.
  2. We know very little about ourselves – truly – until we see what we are like when backed into a corner or at the end of our rope.
  3. Acknowledging helplessness is one path to humility. We don’t know it all. We can’t do it all. And, that’s okay.
  4. Dr. Kalas makes the argument that God is also helpless at times, but his helplessness is self-imposed. We cry, “Where is God?” and God responds,  “I am here. But the battle is in your hands.” An interesting thought.
  5. Dr. Kalas also asks us to consider that God may not always be on our side in every argument. To some, this will come as a shock! We must admit helplessness and humble ourselves before God. It isn’t wise to make assumptions when it comes to “knowing” God’s will.

If you’ve yet to read Chapter 11, I hope this list of highlights has piqued your interest! Be well this week.  Consider your helplessness, and… contemplate its worth.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

P.S.  Shout out to all the Star Wars fans today.  “May the Fourth Be With You!”

Passionate Faith

Yesterday, we talked about Psalm 51 and the expression of King David’s repentance. But there’s something else mentioned in Chapter 10 of Longing to Pray that I’d ask you to give some thought to:  the passion of our faith. It was David’s passionate faith and love of the Lord that made him pursue repentance and restoration of his relationship with God.

Dr. Kalas asserts that in modern times, “we fail at repentance because our friendship with God has no or little passion. The Scriptures say that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength” (86).

“That’s the language of passion…”

Dr. Kalas mentioned a hymn as an example of the passion we should have for our Lord entitled, Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart. I’d never heard this hymn and the complete lyrics weren’t given, so I went in search of what this hymn had to say. Come to find out, the hymn also has an interesting back story:

“The words of this sung prayer are among the most passionate in the history of hymnody….  This masterpiece of Christian devotional poetry is the work of George Croly (1780-1860), an Anglican minister born in Dublin, Ireland, but whose ministry took place in London. It was there that Croly accepted the challenge to reopen in 1835 a church in one of the worst slum areas of the city, one that had been closed for over a century….

“Through personal charisma and dynamic preaching, he attracted large crowds to St. Stephen’s Church. Croly prepared a new hymnal in 1854 for his congregation and published it as Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship. [Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart] first appeared in that hymnal under the title “Holiness Desired.” It is the only hymn by Croly to have survived.” (Excerpted from UMC Discipleship Ministries – History of Hymns)

These words written by George Croly have survived over 150 years for a reason. Read them slowly, and let his desire for repentance and the passion of his faith wash over you… like baptismal waters.

Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart

Spirit of God, who dwells within my heart,
wean it from sin, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as you are,
and make me love you as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no opening skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.

Did you not bid us love you, God and King,
love you with all our heart and strength and mind?
I see the cross, there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek you and O let me find!

Teach me to feel that you are always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
to check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
teach me the patience of unceasing prayer.

Teach me to love you as your angels love,
one holy passion filling all my frame:
the fullness of the heaven-descended Dove;
my heart an altar, and your love the flame.

Saying Sorry

kalasThere’s so much to take away from Chapter 10 of Longing to Pray that I hardly know where to start! I do believe it’s important to take a look at Psalm 51 before we go much further, so maybe it’s best to begin there. Psalm 51, where the psalmist feels every bit of the gulf sin has created between him and God, the yearning he feels to repent, but also the assurance he has that says his relationship with God will only be strengthened by openly admitting his sins. This isn’t a time for hiding in shame.

The notation given with Psalm 51 tells us that it was written by King David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. David knew the gravity of what he had done, but more importantly, he knew he must admit this sin to God and ask forgiveness… something we tend not to “know” instinctively anymore in the same way David did.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

As Dr. Kalas writes, “Several qualities are no doubt missing from a good deal of religious experience as it is commonly known in our day, but perhaps nothing is more serious than our failure to see the need for repentance…. We have such a limited theology of sin…. We don’t realize that sin, even as we experience it in its most pedestrian forms, is a violation of the very nature of our universe, a universe whose original core is utterly right because it is of God” (86).

But whatever David’s failures and despite all the wrong he had done, his heart still longed for God. The separation created by his sin was too much to leave untouched; something had to be done to repair his relationship with God. David also knew, deep inside, that he could go to the Father no matter what mistakes he had made. And he had to approach God with everything in plain sight in order to fully repent.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

“David counts on God’s ‘steadfast love’ as his assurance that God will hear his prayer and will accept his repentance” (85). It is so important to speak our sorrow at having done something against God. As a friend, we must speak it and ask for forgiveness. “Unconfessed sin, whatever its form – bitter memories, resentments, thoughtless words, moral and ethical betrayals – will eventually stifle the soul unless it is dealt with” (84). And we know that God – in his steadfast love – will draw us nearer as we say, “I’m so, so, so sorry.”

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

“If one cherishes a friendship ultimately, the need to repent is even greater than the need to be forgiven. Something in the soul says, ‘I want desperately for our relationship to be restored; but above all, I want you to know how sorry I am that I have violated our friendship. To forgive is yours; to repent is mine’” (88).

Check it Out

Today’s read is Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by Dr. Charles Stanley

stanleyFrom Amazon: Have you ever considered what it means to talk to God? Is it really possible to communicate with the Creator of all that exists and be able to understand His plans and purposes for your life? Perhaps there are questions you desperately need answered. Maybe you are facing a trial that is too large or difficult to face on your own and you yearn for divine direction. Or it could be you are simply curious about what He would say to you.

In Prayer, The Ultimate Conversation, which is based on a lifetime of walking with the Father and fifty-five years of ministry founded on prayer, Dr. Charles Stanley not only teaches the disciplines of intercession but also explains how to fight life’s battles through intimate communion with the Lord. No matter what confounding questions, perplexing circumstances, or seemingly insurmountable dilemmas you are facing today, the solution to them is absolutely obvious to God—and He longs to share His answers with you. Draw closer to the Father. Get to know God by engaging with Him in Prayer, The Ultimate Conversation.

About the Author

Dr. Charles F. Stanley is a New York Times bestselling author who has written more than sixty books, with sales of more than ten million copies. He has been senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia since 1971, and his outreach ministry—In Touch—reaches more than 2,800 radio and television outlets in more than fifty languages.

Bless You

All I am saying is that anyone can do this. Anyone can ask and anyone can bless, whether anyone has authorized you to do it or not. All I am saying is that the world needs you to do this, because there is a real shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize the holiness holding its sometimes bony, often tender, always life-giving hand above their heads. That we are able to bless one another at all is evidence that we have been blessed, whether we can remember when or not. That we are willing to bless one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”  Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World