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Friday, April 20, 2012

A prayer to change your world

This week I am praying about and grieved over secret service agents allegedly soliciting prostitutes, soldiers posing with mutilated bodies, and an elderly mom killing her husband and son. However, it's easy to sit back and shake our heads about such actions, but not address our more “respectable sins” of subtly manipulating family members, refusing to serve those right before us, or being controlled by a need to please other people, to name a few. All of these problems, whether more "acceptable" private sins or the indiscretions of public figures in the news 24/7, share a similar source and have the same ultimate solution. The solution is the good news that Jesus died and then rose from the dead to save us from the penalty of our sin. This grace of God personally experienced satisfies the cravings of our souls that otherwise drive us toward all varieties of sin. We sin because we believe that what God offers is not enough and that we have to fight and grasp to get our needs satisfied. The solution is that we need to encounter God so strongly that we are powerfully aware that he is real, that we need him, and that his love is enough.

This Sunday at Bethany Place I will explore a text that, prayed through consistently, would so reveal the goodness of God directed toward us that it would cause significant emotional healing, leading to ever increasing benefits to those closest to you and to the world around you. You can see the scripture text and outline below.

A Prayer to Change Your World
Psalm 139:1–24 (ESV)

1.    Celebrate God’s knowledge of you
   O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
   You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
   You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
   Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
   You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
   Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

2.    Celebrate God’s presence with you
   Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
   If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
   If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10    even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12    even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

3.    Celebrate God creating you
13    For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
       Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15    My frame was not hidden from you,
       when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16    Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
       in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

4.    Celebrate God’s perspective
17    How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18    If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19    Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20    They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
21    Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22    I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23    Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24    And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Questions for individuals, groups, or families: 

What difference would it make for you to constantly be aware that you are known more deeply than you ever imagined?
What causes you to feel lonely? How does a person learn to not just know that God is always with them, but to believe it to the extent that they rarely sense loneliness?
What unmet needs in your life result in you reacting negatively to other people? 
How can a person learn to see things from God's perspective? 
How do you think that it would change you if you consistently prayed the prayer recorded in Psalm 139? 


  1. Catching up slowly on sermons online. Absolutely wrecked by this sermon tonight and passage. Have studied 139 many times, but never like expressed in this sermon. The intense loneliness of single parenting, the wondering if there is a purpose behind my even being born or my life in the future. The intense need to be seen and known by God, from birth to death. The grief that stills into my soul in the middle of the dark night though I fight it off fiercely. Thank you, thank you for being faithful to the text. Not nothing that I tuned into this on this night of choking. Whew. Settling now. Hoping your techies will post Romans and Revelation sermons soon. Have done much work on those passages.

    1. Want to remember always to celebrate his knowledge of me, his presence with me, his creating me for some unknown reason, and His perspective.