Teach Me

We are officially in the season of Lent. This 40-day time of solemn preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday is often marked by “giving something up.” This is always a good practice for those of us who have slipped into a spiritual lethargy since last Lent, methinks! I encourage the plus/minus form of Lent-making. In other words, don’t just give something up, but add something new in its place.

This year I decided to teach a Lent Bible Study in my congregation. It is my own personal “adding to.” I know that the discipline of preparing for class each week will add to my own discipleship and shake me out of my complacency. Our first lesson is on prayer, and already God is working in my spirit to teach me things I need to learn about prayer.

So imagine my joy when Psalm 25 came along in today‘s lectionary. Not only is David’s psalm a prayer, but it also teaches us about prayer! Let’s find those teaching points together today.

Psalm 25 (New Revised Standard Version)

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    do not let me be put to shame;
    do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
    let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

We can’t enter a conversation with the Lord without lifting up our soul. This first sentence reminds us that we need to be deliberate in seeking and entering God’s presence. To lift up one’s soul is to expose everything we are dealing with in our hearts and minds to him. We enter a sacred chamber and wait, trusting God’s immediate presence. Through prevenient grace, we know that he is already in the chamber. We wait for OUR spirit to catch up with his presence.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.

So often our prayers are mere lists of needs and wants. Indeed, God inclines his ear to hear our wailing, but David reminds us that if we pause our litany of woes long enough, we can also be taught and led into God’s ways and his truth. The difference is LISTENING. God gave us two ears and one mouth. They should be used proportionally in prayer. Speak once. Listen twice.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Reminding God of his goodness is a psalmist’s trick to remind the reader of God’s mercy and steadfast love. When we remember those truths, our prayers are more honest and forthcoming. And remembering that God forgets our sins gives us permission to also forget them.

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

The Psalmist ends with more references to instructing, teaching, and leading.

What are you learning about prayer today? How will your prayers during Lent be different than before? Being humble in your approach to God is the first step. Humility calls us to be listening learners rather than loud demanders.

May we all rejoice in practicing listening, and may we celebrate a Holy Lent this year.

Our Prayers Take Flight by Michelle Robertson

Sins of My Youth

One of the blessings of the pandemic is the ability to participate in ZOOM calls. Conversely, one of the curses of the pandemic is the ability to participate in ZOOM calls. Yes, it is amazing to sit at home and make decisions with people all over the country without the expense and wear and tear of travel. But ZOOM is a one-dimensional platform that leaves you wanting more and too many in one day can slap wear you out.

I have a weekly ZOOM call with my daughters and niece that is truly in the blessing category. We laugh until we cry and sometimes I forget about the troubles of the world when we are talking. It has become a wonderful time to share memories and they are especially interested in things I share with them about my mother/their grandmere. Recently I shared a memory of something she told me that they found hilarious and a little shocking. Now they are pumping me for more. I am having to edit not only telling them about the sins of my youth, but the sins of my mother’s youth as well!

Luckily for us, God never remembers the sins of our youth as long as we have confessed them and repented. If he were on a ZOOM call with you and you said, “Hey God, remember that time I did XYZ?” his response would be “Nope.”

Psalm 25 (Common English Bible)

I offer my life to you, Lord.
    My God, I trust you.
Please don’t let me be put to shame!
    Don’t let my enemies rejoice over me!
For that matter,
    don’t let anyone who hopes in you
        be put to shame;
    instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.

Everyone who hopes in God will not be put to shame. Even in a time of correction, God’s unconditional love and mercy lead the way. He is always trying to save us and we can count on his faithful love forever.

Make your ways known to me, Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
    because you are the God who saves me.
        I put my hope in you all day long.
Lord, remember your compassion and faithful love—
    they are forever!
But don’t remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoing.
    Remember me only according to your faithful love
        for the sake of your goodness, Lord.

We know from scripture that a repented sin is flung as far away as the east is from the west. Thanks be to God, we can trust him to always do the right thing, always guide us in righteousness, and lead us in his truth. He forgives and forgets all of our wrongdoing.

The Lord is good and does the right thing;
    he teaches sinners which way they should go.
God guides the weak to justice,
    teaching them his way.

Are you still carrying a heavy sin from your youth? Let it go. Lay it down under the cross and walk away. Confess it to your Heavenly Father and receive his permanent forgiveness. He will teach you his way and you will never have to carry it again. You may remember it…but God never will.

Cast All Your Cares Upon Him by Cheryl Smith