Playoff time is Prayoff time

Victory.  That is what many sports teams are after as they move into playoffs and final games.  Victory.  In sports, we love the story of the underdog.  The David vs. Goliath story.  The team that defies the odds.

I have always loved the story of David and Goliath.  It has to be one of the more popular and well-known stories of the Bible.  As I re-read it today, I realized that I had forgotten that David volunteered to take on Goliath.  He had complete confidence that he would be victorious.  Saul and his brothers thought he was crazy.  But David had complete confidence, not because he was super human or athletically gifted, but because he had God on his side.  His confidence was because he had complete faith.  He boldly told Goliath why he could beat him with just a sling and a stone:

“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have insulted.”

1 Samuel 17:45

No matter our strength or our talent, we are undefeatable when we are with God, when we have faith.

My son is currently playing in the high school soccer playoffs.  Although I feel silly spending time in prayer about a high school soccer game, I still do.  I know there are so many greater things to pray about — including in our own lives, and yet still I ask God, if it is your will, help these young men shine your light and your strength and help them bring home a victory.  Somehow, it comes easy to pray over a sporting event, but then I forget to do the same for the everyday challenges and victories in my own life.

All of our victories big and small are made possible through God.  I love when athletes are humble enough to recognize that their abilities and talents are gifts from God.  Tim Tebow was a great example of someone who chose not to forgot his faith on the field. But sometimes I wonder about whether the athletes who point to the sky are truly thanking God, or just saw someone else do it and think it makes them look cool or think they are signaling that they are number one.  I hope they are truly thanking God.  But as frustrated as I sometimes get with athletes who seem to be feigning a recognition to God for their touchdown or miraculous catch, I realize that rarely do I remember to recognize God for my daily accomplishments at home or at work.

Earlier in the book of Samuel, Hannah praises God, who has gifted her with a child (Samuel).  Her words remind me of how arrogant I am not to thank God for everything that I do, everything that I accomplish.  I don’t need to throw a touchdown pass to thank God:

There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God.  Speak boastfully no longer, Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.  For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who weighs actions.  The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength.

1 Samuel 2: 2-4

Her prayer is a great reminder.  There is nothing I can legitimately boast about or take credit for.  All of my gifts and talents come from God.  All of my actions (even the best of them) are nothing compared to those of the Lord.

It also reminds me that we are all Davids.  We are all the underdogs in the world.  When we think we alone are something different, when we boast or try to be the mighty, without God, we will fall.  We will be broken.  But with God, the underdogs, the tottering, become the mighty.  We can put on the strength and armor of our God, through our faith.  And we can be victorious.

Lord,

There is no one like you.  There is no one all powerful and all knowing but you.  You are my rock.  You are my strength.  Through you I know  I can do anything.  Through you I know my son’s soccer team can do anything.  I pray that they have the faith to believe — not just today, not just for a game, but throughout life.  Through you they can accomplish anything.

 

 

 

 

Father, Should I?

Remember the game Mother May I — the children’s game where the children have to ask “mother may I take three steps forward” (or whatever movement they want to make) to the “mother” player, with the goal being to be the first person to reach where “mother” is standing.

I was reminded of this today, when the Bible opened to the first book of Samuel.  I read several stories about David going into battle.  Each time, he asked the Lord whether he should go.

David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue these raiders? Can I overtake them?” The LORD answered him: Go in pursuit, for you will certainly overtake them and bring about a rescue.

1 Samuel 30:8

I find that I frequently ask the Lord for help or things I want, things I think will help me on the path I have chosen.  But I don’t often ask him for advice as to what I should do.  Unlike the game, God does not require us to ask permission before we make a move.  We can always take 3 giant leaps forward, if we want.  But, I wonder what the result would be if we more frequently asked Him whether we should, before we made a move.  Is it any wonder that David accomplished so much on the battlefield, when he asked God before pursuing battle, if he should?  Perhaps, like in the children’s game, we would reach Father more easily if we asked for his permission and guidance?

Lord,

Thank you for everything you do for me, and your constant love and guidance.  Help me find the path that you have chosen.  I want to know your way, not my own. I need your guidance.  Help me to include you in my decision process to include you in every part of my life.  Help me to listen and hear what you say.  Help me to have the courage to follow.  That is what I want.  Prevent the many distractions from the world from clouding my vision or my heart’s desire.

 

 

 

 

Here I am! Guard my steps!

Today the Bible opened to the book of Samuel on the same page where Samuel tells God “Here I am.”  Very fitting after yesterday’s adventure.

But where my eyes were directed was to Hannah’s prayer after God blessed her with Samuel:

My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted by my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in your victory.

There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God.  Speak boastfully no longer, Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths. For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who weighs actions.

1 Samuel 2:1-3

My heart exults in the Lord!  I wasn’t sure I knew exactly what the word exult means (as I do not commonly use it or hear it outside of the church setting), so I looked it up.  Exult means to show or feel elation or jubilation, especially as the result of a success; to leap for joy; to be extremely joyful.  And now I can say with confidence, my heart too exults in the Lord.  My face beams when I think of his goodness.

I am sitting out in God’s beautiful nature feeling the warm breeze rustle the leaves and hearing the cicadas and birds exulting God with their sounds.  There is nothing that I can do to compare to the wonder and power of God.  There is no room for boasting from those of us on earth.  Hannah states that she has swallowed up her enemies.  Pride is my enemy.  I must swallow it up!  For God is my only rock.  There is no one holy like the Lord.

Hannah’s prayer continues:

The LORD puts to death and gives life, casts down to Sheol and brings up again.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich, humbles, and also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap lifts up the poor, To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.

For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he has set the world upon them. He guards the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness; for not by strength does one prevail.

1 Samuel 2:6-9

God gives us life and death. He raises us back up again.  He humbles us but also exalts us.  He knows what we need and when we need it.  Sometimes we need to be humbled.  Sometimes we need to be brought to the depths so that we can appreciate when we rise again, so that our faith can be strengthened.

God sets a path for us.  But He has given us free choice to  decide where our feet take us.  God guards the footsteps of his faithful ones.  Even when we misstep, he is there beside us.  Guarding us.  Calling us back so we do not stray too far.  But we must have faith.  It is not human strength that prevails.  It is not human strength that survives.  It is faith and the strong in faith who prevail.

I exult in you O Lord!  You have created this beautiful earth.  You have given us the entire world.  I can never be worthy of your goodness. But, here I am, God!  I hear you calling.  Guard my steps.  Keep me safe!

 

 

 

 

Here I am

How do you know when God is speaking to you?  I think about this often.  Is it my thought and desire or is it God’s?

Today the Bible opened to Samuel:

The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”  He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli answered. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep.  Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But he answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

Samuel did not yet recognize the LORD, since the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.  The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.  So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and stood there, calling out as before: Samuel, Samuel! Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:4-10

Samuel was sleeping when God first called him.  In other words, he was quiet.  He was still.  In today’s world, I find it hard to hear God — there is so much other noise and distraction.  Finding time to be quiet and to listen is a challenge.  I am sure God is speaking and we are missing it.

Here I am, Lord!

Your servant is listening.  Help me to take time to be quiet, to be still.  Help me to listen.   I want to hear.  I want to follow.  I want to serve.