Last night I reflected on a prayer by John Wesley that said, O Lamb of God, in this evening sacrifice of praise and prayer, I offer you a contrite heart. Give me grace, throughout my whole life, in every thought, and word, and work to imitate your meekness and humility, through Christ, my Lord, I pray. Amen. As I read that prayer, and then the second or third time finally was praying that prayer, the phrase sacrifice of praise and prayer kept hanging me up. Wesley offered up a contrite heart. A contrite heart is a heart of remorse for sins one has committed. It comes from the Latin and means ground to pieces. Crushed by guilt would be another way of describing a contrite heart. Does that describe my heart? Does it describe yours? There needs to be times in our lives that we recognize that in the presence of Christ we come up short, or more accurately…come up sinful! We don’t want to hear that do we? (See 1 John 1). It may be that what we need to first offer up as a sacrifice is our pride. Here is the good news; the prayer asks for grace. Give me grace! Christ answered that prayer by his own sacrifice.
Have you ever felt like running away and hiding? When we feel threatened and weak the feeling of flight rather than fight often takes over. The picture of someone hiding out is a strong one, and conjures up images of confined dark places with someone cowering in fear in the shadows. The Psalmist provides a description of hiding out that is in sharp contrast to the one just mentioned. Psalm 61:3 says, For you are my refuge, my strong tower. The place of refuge or hiding in the bible is one that provides perspective and grand views. The place we are to go when threatened and feeling weak is to a tower, or a rock that provides a view (see Psalm 61:2). High in the tower we are able to look around at the landscape and see the possibilities and the perspective that God has on any circumstances that have caused us to seek a safe place. What was once thought to be scary and dangerous, may really be something quite small and less than menacing when seen from the heights of a tower, especially one built and inhabited by God. So where do I go? I go to the rock of my salvation; I go to God himself, my protector and my shelter.
Today’s prayer begins, O Lord, I thank you for all your daily blessings… Maybe it’s the human condition or due to the amount of bad news that is at our fingertips and before our eyes every day that causes us to dwell on the negative around us, in others, and yes, even within us (sorry for the long sentence). We are called daily to recognize blessing. It is a blessing that God is mighty, that he calls us his own possesion and that there is a rest for us…for me (see Psalm 50:1-2, Deuteronomy 9:29, Hebrews 4:9-11). When we read the story of Nicodemus and his encounter with Jesus in John 3 we think that Nicodemus was blessed to have met Jesus even if it was in the dark of night. But remember later on it is Nicodemus who is taking Jesus down off of the cross. I wonder if Nicodemus thought that was a blessing? It will only be after the resurrection that Nicodemus realizes the blessing it was to care for Jesus at the cross. Lord, may I recongnize the blessing of being with you in dark times and in your presence at the foot of your cross. I long for resurrection!
Lord God, send the Holy Spirit to be the guide of all my ways and the sanctifier of my soul and body. Save, defend, and build me up in your love, through Christ Jesus my Lord. John Wesley’s prayer remains the needed cry of today…send the Holy Spirit. My heart yearns to be led by the Holy Spirit. During this Lenten season of looking forward to the cross and Christ’s resurrection there remains the need for the cross and resurrection to be a part of today. May my soul and body be set apart, cleansed, and empowered for this day. It is easy for my mind to race and worry in an attempt to conquer what lies ahead, when this moment and this day is right here and is what needs to be cared for. May I daily be refreshed and filled by the Holy Spirit.