The Psalms have long comforted me and continue to do so because they have taught me how to express honest emotion. The sludge that hides deep in my heart is given a voice. And they show me that even when I screw up, there’s hope.
Further, the Psalms give us an overview of God’s faithfulness towards the Israelites and reminds us that he is faithful to us. Here in this book, we can learn about God, his heart for mankind, and insight into how our heart behaves. God’s heart is for us, and his righteousness and kindness calls us up and onward.
So The Psalms Prayer Series will contain a portion of Psalms, a little explanation, and a prayer for your heart. Prayer unites us so that our souls know we’re not alone. (Do you ever feel alone? I do.) Prayer creates community and God shows up when we pray. Let’s meet him there.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” Psalms 86:11-13 NIV
Does your heart ever feel divided? Mine does. It wrestles back and forth like a tug o’war and eventually I fall “splat” in the mud. It races through the cycle of trust and worry, worry and trust. My heart gives problems to God and snatches them right back. It wrestles with control and surrender. It wants what it wants more than it wants what God wants.
An undivided heart is tied to fear. And this is what I know: there’s fear that lies and convinces us that we are beyond redemption and that’s the kind that leads to death. But then there’s the fear that brings us life and that is an awareness of the power of God and that there’s no one like him. It’s here that what was once divided is made whole.
His love rescues, redeems, and restores and we glorify him through praise and obedience. As he teaches us his way, we walk in his truth.
You are beyond magnificent. You are glorious and righteous in all your ways. You lead us into righteousness and truth. May we walk in you, with you, for you, and towards you. Oh God, teach us your ways for our ways are filled with confusion, doubt, and wrong turns.
Guide us to walk in your truth, every day, every moment, and let us reach for you before a word leaves our mouth. Oh Lord, our hearts are divided and may we have hearts that are singularly yours–wholly and completely–not wavering, but steadfast and that is only found in you. Let us turn to you for unity, for strength, and for love.
Lord, we praise you–with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Let us glorify your name as we navigate the difficulties this life presents. Our hearts are yours, Lord, all of it, all of us, for your love is great towards us because you have delivered us. The grave cannot hold you, and it cannot prevent you from bringing new life to our heart. Great is your love and we proclaim it in the dark and in the day, in the sun and in the rain, in the depths of despair and the ecstasy of joy.
How do we translate joy into strength when this life seems to drain us of our energy?
We live in the thin place where we function in this world but not of the world. Where we embrace grace so that we can live well with grace while resisting the temptations of the world that hold us back and prevent us from standing strong in the faith that saves.
It’s in the thin place where we realize that we don’t affect transformation but that God works within our surrendered hearts so that we experience renewal. If we look within ourselves for joy and fulfillment we’re let down. If we look to others then we join the human race of competition and comparison where we’re always, always disappointed.
But if we look to God for joy, we discover the source of joy, and the strength to face the troubles that comes with this life.
The end of Nehemiah 8:10 states, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” In context, we discover the Israelites weeping as they listening to Ezra reading the word of God.
Nehemiah tells the people that it’s good and right to be sorrowful over their sin, but not to allow their sorrow to be so excessive that it hinders their joy in God and cheerful service. He exhorts them to find strength in God’s joy.
This joy of the Lord as our strength is not found in the flesh, but found in the holy understanding that God is good, that his grace directs and governs our lives, and that our hearts delight in his love and favor.
God is Good
Many times the world seems to disprove this, but if we look with eyes to see, we find God’s hand. At times we expect God to ride in on a white stallion and remove us from our situations, when in reality, he sends people along with a kind word, a gentle smile that gives us the strength to endure. We can serve other’s in this way as well.
God is good. Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean he endorses them. This life holds pain, struggles, triumph, and joy, and we mustn’t judge God based our circumstances. Knowing the joy of the Lord as our strength begins with wrapping our minds around the truth that he is good.
God’s Grace Directs and Governs
God’s grace does not endorse sinful behavior, but makes a way to resist the behavior that separates us from him. We’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re born sinners. God’s grace governs and directs our lives and makes a way for us to resist temptation.
As living sacrifices we struggle with the battle between our flesh and our spirit and it’s through God’s grace that we’re able to be renewed. God’s transforming grace governs our lives as we surrender to him day after day. His joy is our strength to say “yes” to him over and over.
God Loves and Favors Us
Joy as our strength to obey comes through the celebration of God’s love and favor for us. Receiving God’s love is foundational to our day to day walk with Christ.
He loves you with an everlasting love that doesn’t waver based on your feelings, but remains constant because God is constant. It’s his consistent love that compels us to obey him even when it’s hard. God’s love propels us onward because his joy is the oil that lubricates the wheels of our obedience.
His favor rests on you, the apple of his eye, and motivates you to obey his call in your life. He calls us to live a worthy life: a life clothed with compassion and kindness, grace and mercy, love and obedience.
The joy that radiates from him like a piercing light is the place where we receive the strength to do the hard things like resisting our sinful nature and saying yes to the ways of God.
God’s joy is our strength to receive his forgiveness and to live like we’re forgiven. Yes, we grieve over our sin and troubles in this life, but we also can live in abundance and God’s joy is the strength that enables us to do so.
My heart hurts and feels bruised by disappointments and relationships. I trudge through the same routine over and over again. I’m weary of white. Of the threat of water in my house if I wash a load of clothes or use the shower. The feeling of failure looms over my ability or inability to wife and mother well.
It’s in these moments when I need my relationship with my Father God, even if I’ve been distant with him. Friendships have felt dangerous due to recent relationship rejections. And I hold myself together by sheer will and search for joy.
You develop a friendship only to realize weeks or years later that it was false. And realize that it’s like a trick pack of gum kids use on one another and wonder if relationships are worth it. But as difficult as relationships are, we need them to develop joy in our lives.
Partly because we’re instructed to bear one another’s burdens, to share sorrows as well as joys. Our lives need relationships even when friends bruise our hearts. I’m drawn to people like a moth to a flame even while I toy with the idea of disavowing future relationships.
I love people. I want to know if you’re a morning or night person or if you like to shop or hate it or if you’re a hopeful pessimist or a realistic optimist. What sorrows and joys have you lived and what has scarred you and how have you healed. Do you like coffee or tea or neither?
You’re interesting before I even meet you, but I wrestle with fear of you too. Rejection is a possible outcome.
Fear and curiosity tussle within me. Sometimes fear wins and I sacrifice myself on the altar of your approval. And other times curiosity wins and the security of God’s love propels me forward. And sometimes I move forward with fear dogging every step.
Joy and Our Walk with Christ
Joy and our relationships relate to one another. We get to live this life as a believer and follower of Christ in community, not in isolation. And it’s in community that we learn to choose right actions, to temper our responses to reflect Christ, and to share the joy of the Lord.
We contribute joy to another’s life when we refresh others, and when we live our lives in ways that honor the teaching we received about the Lord.
Paul and John write about this throughout the New Testament. He references how his hearers bring him joy when they give themselves to the whole of Jesus’ teaching and their lives change.
We bring joy to our mentors, friends, teachers, and spiritual directors when we choose God’s way over ours. His ways don’t always make sense, but when trusted and implemented, bring about joy and lasting change that we could never accomplish on our own.
Who’s teaching have you benefitted from? Do you have someone in your life from whom you receive spiritual direction and teaching? Bring joy to them by living your life according to God’s standards and righteous ways.
Joy spreads. As you learn from a sound biblical teacher, you teach others as you live your life. Whether you realize it or not, there is someone who learns from you. You need others who are a few steps ahead of you and a few steps behind you. And this joy that comes by living lives that reflect the love of Christ become like the spreading ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond.
Relationships: difficult and painful, but oh so necessary. Joy: complex and simple, but contagious.
And just as we affect joy in other people’s lives by how we live our lives, we also bring joy to others as we refresh each other.
Joy and Refreshment
Refresh indicates a restoration, a renewal, and a revival. Do you need your spirit revived? Is life dragging you along and you question whether or not there’s more than this, whatever this may be?
Extend joy by sitting with someone in their sorrow and rejoicing with them in their triumphs. Offer the refreshment joy brings by extending kindness and mercy, overlooking an offense, and extending forgiveness.
When we reach out to someone, our hearts receive refreshment, and the joy overflows and affects the lives around us. We sit with someone in sorrow and we rejoice with someone in their triumphs. Refreshing others brings joy to our hearts.
Let’s hold to the truth that joy comes from a relationship with its source: God. But as a byproduct of receiving that joy, we get to refresh others and be blessed ourselves.
Consider how your life affects someone else’s and take a small step to bring them joy.
Pray: “Lord Jesus, you are my rock, my comfort, my everything, and my joy. Let me live a life worthy of your calling. Lord, I surrender my will and my ways and submit to your transforming power. Let your joy flow from you and to others as I live for you.” Amen.