Prayers of the Psalms

Psalm 25 

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame;

do not let my enemies exult over me.

3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;

let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,

for they have been from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.

17 Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.

18 Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

19 Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.

20 O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.

Two Powerful Lenten Prayers: Repentance and Petition for Freedom of Modern Day Slaves

Written by students from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2010 and 2011:

Check out the article written in 2015 by now alumni on Human Trafficking and Pornography:

1: Lamentation over Human Trafficking

“Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord” (Ps.  130:1);

Father, from the depths of our core where helplessness and hopelessness reside, we cry.  Our hearts are broken that your men, women, and children all over the world are bought and sold into sexual slavery and slave labor for the profit, pleasures, and comfort of others.  We cry for the slaves who are already crying out deep within because of the yoke of oppression they carry. We cry because they cry. We cry because your heart is moved the way a mother is moved by the cries of a hungry and thirsty child. In our tears, we are hungry and thirsty for your justice and mercy.

“Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us” (Ps. 51:10). “So our spirit grows faint within us; our hearts within us are dismayed” (Ps. 143:4)

Jesus, we confess that we are part of the problem. We contribute to the injustice of slave labor with the things we buy and with the meditations of our hearts.  We repent for all the times we willingly submitted our wills to sexual perversion and exploited the beauty of your design in our brothers and sisters.  We have slept with darkness and therefore have perpetuated the evil of sexual exploitation against our brothers and sisters.

Spirit, we lift up those caught in the lust that causes them to pay for sex or view pornography. We lament over those that walk in darkness and help keep slaves in bondage, we cry. Lord, we lift up the exploiters- the pimps, johns, madams, factory, plantation, and brothel owners. We know it is your desire that they be redeemed as well. Lord, we lift up those who create the demand- individuals and families who exploit others for slave labor in their homes. As they sell, buy, and trade men, women, and children for pleasure or profit, we cry. Our tears fall with a confessing heart that pleads guilty of participation through consumerism and lust.

“Hear our prayer, O Lord; listen to our cry for mercy.  In the day of our trouble we will call to you, for you will answer us.” (Ps. 86:6-7)

Father, Son, Spirit, we ask that you would proclaim release for the captives, that they may know in the midst of their tragedy that you are good.  We repent for all the times we failed to pray for those in chains and hindered your justice from coming into the world.  We repent for all the times we turned our heads to the victimization of our brothers and sisters and said it was someone else’s problem and not our own.  We trust that you will guide us as a community in the fight against modern day slavery. We thank you and praise you for the work you are already doing and the people you are freeing from bondage all over the world, even as we pray. May your kindness lead us to repentance. May your grace lead us to action. May your mercy pour justice in our hearts. In Jesus’ name, amen.

——

II. A Lenten Abolition Litany

We are reminded this Lent that we have all been slaves to sin and death.   “We have all been there before, captive to the passions of our weak flesh, impulsively doing the will of our weakness. And like the rest, we were children whose nature deserved wrath. But You, exerting Your wealth, made a life for us together with Christ.”

(Ephesians 2.3-4)

Lord, our world has been deceived.  We pray this Lent against the industry of human trafficking, because when we do we are praying against many sins: greed, lust, materialism, apathy, prejudice, and selfishness.  Lord, we pray for our world, which is shackled in the chains of sin and death. In your mercy,

Lord, deliver us

Lord we cannot pray against modern slavery and mourn its existence without acknowledging our part in the mess.  Our shoes are saturated in the mire of slavery. Our bodies are covered with cheap products woven with suffering.  Our phones are smeared with the fingerprints of orphans.  The meditations of our hearts turn too easily into lustful desires.  In Your mercy,

Lord, deliver us

Lord, we cry out for enslaved women who are experiencing cruciform suffering every day, in vicious and nameless cycles of evil and degradation; Jesus, you know their pain.  In your transparency and vulnerability you are always with those who suffer and cry out for death. You can relieve them of the pain and give them life.  In your mercy,

Lord, deliver us

Lord, the darkness of sinful and selfish hearts thrives in our land. We cry out for enslaved men and children who may work from dawn till dusk in the Kentucky countryside for no pay. We pray against debt bondage. We pray against forced labor. Would you convict the hearts of a hundred slave masters today? In your mercy,

Lord, deliver us

Lord, in your Kingdom, darkness has no place.  All is transparent.  All is light.  Give us the courage to love those in chains in a way that defies a culture of materialism and sin. Awaken us as your body to embrace the plight of those who cannot defend themselves from the enemy’s agents of destruction. In your mercy,

Lord, deliver us

Lord, in your Kingdom you call each of us by name. Deliver us from our tendency to neglect our brothers and sisters, to ignore those who are sold like products all over the globe. Teach us how to be salt and light in this world; to be Christ’s hands and feet that walk into the dark grottos of civilization and unshackle the chains of idolatry and slavery. Lord, teach us how to LOVE. In your mercy,

Lord, deliver us

Remind us that we are our brother’s keeper. Free us from slavery to sin that we might be your deliverers through our prayers, words, and deeds. Raise up deliverers Lord. Make your church a house of justice. In Your mercy, build our empathy for those whose suffering knows no relief. May your kingdom come, Lord on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

Prayers of the Psalms

Psalm 22

11  Do not be far from me,    for trouble is near    and there is no one to help.

12  Many bulls  surround me;    strong bulls of Bashan  encircle me.

13  Roaring lions  that tear their prey    open their mouths wide  against me.

14  I am poured out like water,   and all my bones are out of joint.   My heart has turned to wax;    it has melted  within me.

19  But you, LORD, do not be far from me.    You are my strength;  come quickly  to help me.

20  Deliver me from the sword,    my precious life  from the power of the dogs.

21  Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

Prayers of the Psalms

Psalm 20

1.  May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;    may the name of the God of Jacob  protect you.

2  May he send you help  from the sanctuary    and grant you support  from Zion.

3  May he remember  all your sacrifices   and accept your burnt offerings. 

4  May he give you the desire of your heart    and make all your plans succeed.

5  May we shout for joy  over your victory   and lift up our banners  in the name of our God.   May the LORD grant all your requests.

Prayers of the Psalms

Psalm 19

13  Keep your servant also from willful sins;    may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless,    innocent of great transgression.

14  May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart   be pleasing  in your sight,

LORD, my Rock  and my Redeemer.

John 4 and Begging for Miracles

When faced with evil beyond our control or illness beyond our technology, Christians often struggle, not knowing how to pray as we should.   If one helpless response is forcefully to demand a miracle, the other is to start counting our losses. We tend either to double down on top of our prayer efforts or we begin preparing for the worst (wishing somewhere in the back of our minds that God might do something drastic in our favor). Neither route does justice to the miracles we find in the gospels; neither can guide us Christianly in our efforts of calling down power from on high.

When I was a young Christian I temporarily lost feeling on my left side. My face went numb on the left, my left hand fingers, and my left shoulder. There was a sharp pain behind my right eye socket. I attended a gathering of charismatics, who prayed for me, and the numbing immediately left. For good measure I had an MRI, and there was nothing to be found. The doctor thought it was a passing virus. I have a hunch that it was a miraculous healing. When facing a wicked sinus infection, my friend went to a healing conference. When they prayed for her sinuses, she felt warmth and a popping, and whatever it was moved into her ear. She contracted her first ear infection of her life at the age of 30. I’ve never prayed for somebody to be healed dramatically, or to be raised from the dead, though I tend to believe in the many reports of modern miracles, though not all reported miracles are genuine. So what are we to do when we need an urgent intervention? Is there a formula? Should we seek out a healing conference? Is there any advice in the scriptures?

The healing of the child in John 4.46-54 proves helpful for anyone in need of an urgent and extreme miracle. For Christians, if our founder and Lord worked miracles, we should pay attention to the details of those accounts, which the gospel writers have left for us. At whatever point this young child fell ill we do not know, but John writes that the dying child’s father, an official of Herod, left his son’s bedside expecting either to return to a dead child or to a miracle. He searches Jesus out and asks Jesus to come and heal his child, and though there are a couple of ways to understand Jesus’s response, it seems to me that Jesus actually is less than straight forward with him. We might even say that Jesus is calculated. “Unless I do a miracle”, Jesus laments, “you won’t believe in me”. But this man didn’t come to Jesus to enroll as a follower. He came for a miracle. And he got a miracle, but the point is not that Jesus only works miracles for those who subscribe to his blog.   Something much deeper is going on. When Jesus says “Unless I do miracles you won’t believe in me”, it seems that he was saying something more than the words John has recorded. It was as if he were looking unflinchingly into man’s eyes and saying actually, “I will heal this boy, but wonder if it will only embolden and harden you? Will you see in his restoration the pre-tremors of my world to come, or will it merely contribute further to the old way, a titillating story to amuse Herod, a stumbling block for the countless souls who have begged for a miracle to the silence of the heavens?” Jesus has dropped a smoke bomb in this desperate man’s face, and when we listen carefully to the man’s response, it seems to me, we are stumbling upon a revelation about the mysterious secret of miracles.

The dying child’s father did everything humanly possible to put his son into the arms of God, and when all is said and done, he held together in one grip a tenacious hope and a very simple faith. He left his son’s bedside, searches Jesus out, asks for a miracle, endures when Jesus’s answer is not straightforward, and believed Jesus’s words.   Asking for a miracle today involves all of these things, putting ourselves or loved ones into the arms of God, asking for a miracle, enduring when the answer is not straightforward, and accepting the outcome. Miracles after all are not like lucky numbers or a formula. Following these “steps” does not require anything of God. Neither does ensuring that our motives are pure and faith is present. Miracles are about one thing only: windows into a world yet to come. We cannot conjure them, but we can appeal for them with a steadfast abandon. Miracles can happen, because the earth will someday quake into newness; today we see the pre-shocks of new creation, which has begun. But our need to control these quakes will only deepen a divide between us and God. As one commentator put it “a faith based on signs or works will not only prove insufficient but in due course will turn into rejection”.[1]The secret of miracles is that while they are all around us, and we can and should learn to open ourselves to them, though we must not confuse these signs with what they point to.

God cares for our loved ones and for us far more than we can ever match. If God wills a miracle and we’ve asked for it, it will happen. Many times the miracles will come even if we don’t ask. Usually he wills miracles when his name is at stake or when it will spur on faith. Otherwise we are bound to a grieving world, and we must learn to be part of it.  God requires tenacious hope, which is a steadfast immovability as we peek open the doors of the emerging new creation through prayer. He also requires simple faith, which embraces the resurrection of Jesus as miracle enough for us. When we embrace the resurrection, we begin living in this world as if something changed when Jesus rose. So bring your sicknesses to Jesus, seek him out.  He is nearer than we know.  And come to him with simple faith and not an ultimatum.

[1] Witherington, Ben (1995). John. Louisville:WJK, 126.