Sunday, July 27, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Lord, Let Not Your Church be Put to Shame Because of Me

"Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord of Hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel" (Psalm 69:6).

Father in heaven, my pastor's sermon this morning, an exposition of John 10:1-10, stirred my heart in several different ways--not the least of which was driving home thoughts I had yesterday after reading Psalm 69:6. I'm still working through the connection between the two passages in my life. But this I know, Father; thanks to the Holy Spirit and the reading of Your Word, I've come to consider more deeply that my responsibility to my brothers and sisters in Christ runs deeper, wider, and farther than I realized or maybe I've wanted to admit.

Father, I am prideful and I all-to-often seek the praise and approval of my Christian brethren. There are also too many times when I seek the negative attention of those who despise You. Lord, there are times when I struggle to differentiate between defending truth and seeking attention for myself. And Lord, there have been many times, I'm sure, when I have feigned humility when receiving the praise of others when, in actuality, I was glorying in the praise given to me. Wretched man that I am, I hate this about me!

Father, please forgive me for my pride and for the times when I seek the praises of men. Lord, I long to be conformed to Your image in every area of my life, especially this one. Lord, while I can never match Your perfect humility, please help me to be as conformed to Your image as I can be, this side of heaven.

Father, for reasons known only to You, You have allowed me a small amount of influence among my Christian brethren. While I am thankful, I am also fearful because I know myself too well and how quickly my thoughts can turn toward pride. Lord, I am thankful for brothers and sisters in Christ who love me and encourage me to embrace where You have me in service to You and Your Church. They have admonished me, telling me that running from the responsibilities You have given me to exhort and admonish a segment of Your people, longing instead for a simpler life of only street preaching, in order to avoid the welling up of the pride within me, is not the way to glorify You in my life.

They are right, Father. Thank You, Lord, for the people in my life who are willing to tell me when I am wrong, and who do so with a loving, not a critical spirit.

Praying with what I hope is humility and contrition (only You know, Lord), I ask for Your help, Lord. "Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me." Father, the world hates You more for who You are than for what You do and seemingly do not do. Father the world hates You because You are holy, good, sovereign, righteous, just, wrathful, forgiving, and loving. O Father, let not the world hate You because of times when I shamefully misrepresent You through my public sin. And Lord, please let not Your Church, my brethren who hope in You, be put to shame through my shameful behavior. Lord, please help me and keep me from leading Your people into temptation when I fail them and You be encouraging them toward any thought or behavior that is contrary to Your perfect Word and will.

Lord, please "let not those who seek You be brought to dishonor through me." Father, prevent people from following me when I am not following You as I should. May they only follow me or look to me as an example when I am humbly following You--when my eyes are locked on You and Your cross--when I am denying myself (not glorying in myself), taking up my cross daily, and following You.

Lord, the responsibilities You have given me in ministry, in Your Body, are too great for me. As flawed and inept as I am, as much sanctification as I yet need, You have validated Your Word through the life You have given me: "But God chose what is foolish . . . low and despised in the world." Help me, Lord, to never again think of myself more highly than I should. And may my life be marked by thinking of and treating others, whether saved or unsaved, as more important than myself. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

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