Prayer, Plain and Simple

There are no secrets from God. All is exposed to him. Living in denial of this fact, in the illusion that I have the luxury of secrecy is a kind of twisted deception and leads me to live my life under a convenient lie. There is no true and final privacy. God sees everything. He has already sifted my soul… The film, “The Truman Show” is a kind of parable of this fact. I am on display to heaven. I might deny this, but that denial is a stupid and futile illusion. I may not like it, but I don’t make the rules of life. God knows everything about me…

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
      and know everything about me.
 2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
      You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
 3 You see me when I travel
      and when I rest at home.
      You know everything I do.
 4 You know what I am going to say
      even before I say it, Lord.
 5 You go before me and follow me.
      You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too great for me to understand!

“God, you know me. This is a settled fact. You have already – past tense – known all the secrets of my life. I shed the illusion that you are not there, that I can have a personal secret, or thoughts or actions or plans or fancies or motives that are mine alone. I have no private property, no safety deposit box, no closed off closet. You know it all. You see it all. You are never surprised, or baffled, or amazed by the unexpected. I am an open book to you. This changes my life, to know and remember this. If I accept this and believe it, I find a new kind of sanity. I have to reconcile that I am not my own. Everything is open for view. You love me and want my best, but privacy and secrecy is an illusion. I accept this… This is what it is… This is reality. And living in this awareness is my sanity…”

King David of Israel was “A man after God’s own heart…” He screwed up many times in his life. He proved to be a lousy father, an unfaithful husband, impulsive, reactive, impatient, sometimes emotionally unstable. But David chased God with all his passion; he ran AFTER God with everything he had and was. Through all his flaws and failures, he remained always in that inner place where he could invite God to dig and expose and the redeem his weaknesses. One of his great prayers of invitation is recorded for us as Psalm 139. I’m using this as my model and template for this day that I’ve set aside for examining my heart.

Here’s the “New Living Translation” version of this wonderful poem and prayer.

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
      and know everything about me.
 2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
      You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
 3 You see me when I travel
      and when I rest at home.
      You know everything I do.
 4 You know what I am going to say
      even before I say it, Lord.
 5 You go before me and follow me.
      You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too great for me to understand!

 7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
      I can never get away from your presence!
 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
      if I go down to the grave,[
a] you are there.
 9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
      if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
 10 even there your hand will guide me,
      and your strength will support me.
 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
      and the light around me to become night–
    12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
   To you the night shines as bright as day.
      Darkness and light are the same to you.

 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.
 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
 16 You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
   Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.

 17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
      They cannot be numbered!
 18 I can’t even count them;
      they outnumber the grains of sand!
   And when I wake up,
      you are still with me!

 19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
      Get out of my life, you murderers!
 20 They blaspheme you;
      your enemies misuse your name.
 21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
      Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
 22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
      for your enemies are my enemies.

 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
      and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

I don’t know myself nearly as well as I suppose. I don’t really know my own motives, or the roots of my thoughts and actions. I know that I don’t know… That much is all I’m confident to say.

A friend took me to task this week for something I said. He claimed that a few words of mine betrayed something dark in my heart, something t that does not reflect Jesus’ heart. He’s right of course that “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Those are Jesus’ words, not his. Maybe he’s right then…

My instinctive reaction to challenge and criticism is defense. I immediately shift into justification mode, and I admit here that when he called me on the carpet I did fire up to defend myself. And even now I still believe I am/was right. But I’ve learned over the years – I’m 50 now – that in most criticism there is at least a nugget of truth, as painful as that is to consider. Maybe I’m not as right as my emotional defense suggests. Maybe…

So, I’m taking my friend’s challenge to task today. I’m taking time asking God to dig into me and to follow this surface evidence – the words my friend found offensive – down to the roots of my heart. I’m not qualified to do this excavation myself. I’m not an objective judge of my own intent. Instead, I’m inviting God to examine me and to expose and then purge any unholy base in my heart.

I’ve set other things aside today. Time away is really the only way to allow this kind of excavation of my spirit by God’s Spirit. I’m sitting now at a retreat center not far from my home. I’ll spend the day here, journaling as I pray and interact with God on these issues of my soul.

I’ll be posting portions of my journal entries as the day progresses. I don’t suppose this will be of much interest, but it is for me a kind of accountability. I reserve the right to edit and withhold anything related to people’s names and intimate specifics, but I do intend to follow out this repentance process in the light of this public platform. John wrote, “If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his son cleanses us from all sin.”  

Here’s to the light…

“God, search my heart… See if there is anything offensive in me…”

Eastern Michigan University’s motto is “Education First.” Perhaps that motto should read “PC Education First, Last and Everywhere Between…”

Michigan State ruling.jpg

 Freedom of religion was dealt another blow this week when a federal judge ruled in favor of EMU removed a Christian student named Julea Ward from its graduate program in school counseling because Ward believes that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. Monday’s ruling could result in Christian students across the country being expelled from public university for similar views.

“It’s a very dangerous precedent,” said Jeremy Tedesco, attorney for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund . “The ruling doesn’t say that explicitly, but that’s what is going to happen.”

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Ward’s lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University. She filed the case after she was removed from the school’s counseling program last year because she refused to counsel homosexual clients according to the guidelines of tolerance stipulated by the school. The school claimed that Ward’s refusal violated the American Counseling Association code of ethics.

“Christian students shouldn’t be expelled for holding to and abiding by their beliefs,” countered ADF senior counsel David French. “To reach its decision, the court had to do something that’s never been done in federal court: uphold an extremely broad and vague university speech code.”

This action is yet one more example of the erosion of a freedom of conscience and of religious liberty. Several court decision of late including a Supreme Court ruling last month have placed specific limits on religious speech and practice in public institutions. We need be concerned, wary, watchful and most of all prayerful about this trend.  Christians should never be surprised when persecution arises. We should not be passive about it either, particularly in this great nation built on the both the great Judeo-Christian tradition of moral values and freedom of conscience, speech and faith.

“God, we expect opposition to our faith and values. We know that our loyalty to your word and our commitment to abide by your stated standards will generate resistance and reaction from those who want to break free from your standards of right and wrong. We know this and are willing to bear the consequences of our obedience. Still, we pray for your protection in the midst of this opposition and we pray for your intervention. We pray that you will reach out and salvage the great and rare gift that is America. We ask you to bless America and in particular to preserve the unique freedoms we enjoy, the freedoms of conscience and speech and the liberty to live as our convictions determine. We ask for all those who are now taking dangerous and bold stands for their faith and morals in places hostile to your Word. There is a tolerance for everything but moral standards. Forgive us a people for wandering, and give us a new birth of freedom and moral courage based on a revived commitment to your never-changing standard, the Word of God expressed in Scripture. In Jesus…”