The Anglican Connection Connecting Gospel-Centered Churches in North America Mon, 22 Jul 2024 23:26:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The weekly podcast is a Mid-week Bible Reflection that includes Prayers drawn from an Anglican Prayer Book, Bible Readings (typically from the New Revised Standard Version), and a Bible Reflection given by an ordained minister of the Church. Each podcast session is introduced and closed with Music (and may occasionally include a song).<br /> John Mason: Speaker and writer. President of the Anglican Connection; Commissary to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney in the USA. false episodic John Mason: Speaker and writer. President of the Anglican Connection; Commissary to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney in the USA. The Anglican Connection The Anglican Connection podcast Word on Wednesday: A Mid-week Bible Reflection and Prayers, including Music The Anglican Connection TV-G Weekly 177772188 ‘Songs for the Summer: The Path to Life’ Tue, 23 Jul 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Songs for the Summer: The Path to Life’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Have you ever been resentful of people whose lives seem successful? They’ve achieved recognition, they have beautiful children, and take exotic vacations. The very thought of them strips any sense of happiness from you.

Now there’s nothing wrong with being successful, having a great family or taking vacations. The question is how do we value them? Do they represent what life is all about for us or is there more to life?

Today we come to a second Reflection on Psalm 1. The Psalm is important for it lays the foundation for the whole Book of Psalms. As it progresses it identifies our two life-choices – the road to nowhere or the path to life.

Consider verse 3. The imagery is vivid as it speaks of the truly blessed or happy people. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all it does it prospers.

Like a tree, truly happy people draw upon life-giving water, growing slowly, steadily, surely, putting roots deeper and deeper into the source of life. Their source of water is God’s word. And just as a well-rooted tree develops its own particular fruit in the appropriate season, so they develop their own distinctive personality and quality of life.

And significantly, because this tree is well-rooted, its leaf doesn’t wither in the crippling conditions of drought. Unlike reeds in dried-up river beds or grass in parched earth, trees because of their deep-rooting system are more able to reach what little moisture there is. Similarly in the tough times of life, the faith of God’s people is not likely to shrivel up.

Yes, our faith will be tested, but in the same way a deeply rooted tree in drought conditions is stimulated to push down even deeper in search of moisture, so too are we are stirred to dig deeper into God’s word; to rely more and more upon him; to be more focussed on putting our life in his hands. This results in bearing the fruit of love – love for God and love for others. We yearn for this. We long for the water of life, but in our natural state we look in the wrong places.

Two thousand years ago a woman at a well in Samaria longed for happiness but it had eluded her. Thinking that love and marriage was the answer, she had been married five times. And as Jesus observed in his conversation with her in John chapter 4, she was now living with a sixth man. But each time she made the same mistake. Her life was a mess. She felt insecure, lonely, and dissatisfied.

Unexpectedly and yet significantly, Jesus offered her living waters that spring into eternal life. He further pointed out that “…the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him (John 4:23f). In John, chapter 14, verse 6, we read Jesus’ further words: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me”.

Through the lens of the New Testament we see that it is through Christ Jesus we can become beneficiaries of God’s living water and so enjoy the true spiritual life God offers us. It involves a heart response to Jesus.

Consider what Psalm 1 tells us happens to a world that fails to turn to God and put its trust in him. In verse 4 we read: The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

Chaff is the epitome of what is rootless and weightless. It has no substance: it’s useless. We can feel the force of the imagery – the action of winnowing, tossing the harvested grain into the air so that the light, useless chaff will be carried off by the wind, while the heavy grain falls to the ground.

Other psalms, such as Psalm 73, point out that all too often it is the godless rather than the godly who seem to succeed in life. But such psalms come to the same conclusion as this psalm, Psalm 1. There will come a Day when men and women of straw together with their works of straw will be shown up.

Verse 6 looks ahead to this: Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

If this world is to make any sense at all, there must be a final judgement. If there is any morality, there must come a time when everyone is called to account. The day of final accounting for us all is a consistent theme throughout the Bible – as we read in Paul’s address to the intelligentsia in Athens (Acts 17:30f). Psalm 1 wants us to know that on that day, those who have ignored God, who turned their backs on the perfect pattern of life he has shown us, or who have simply rejected him, will not have a leg to stand on.

Are you looking for meaning and lasting joy in life? Psalm 1 tells us how we can find it. We won’t find it by following our own inclinations nor by following our passions. And, with the incarnation of the Son of God (John 1:14), we certainly won’t find the hope of life in all its fullness and joy if we dismiss Messiah Jesus.

We don’t know what life holds. But one thing we do know is this: our world is not getting any better. The western world is more and more wrecking itself on the rocks of unadulterated selfishness. People want happiness and hope but insist upon looking in all the wrong places.

God tells us where we can find it: in responding to him, in learning from him and leaning on him, in living lives shaped by his perfect pattern. Then, and only then, will we begin to find true happiness.

In his Christmas message in 1939, as Britain was about to enter the year of its darkest hour, King George VI quoted these compelling words: “I said to the man at the gate of the year ‘Give me a light’ that I may tread safely into the unknown’. And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.  That will be better to you than light; safer than a known way.”

So, if we want to find true happiness, it’s worth planning a lifestyle that includes the daily reading of the Bible – developing a pattern of prayer, so we can plunge into the springs of God’s living water. The best way to begin is to not procrastinate. If you are not regularly reading the Bible, start today!

A prayer. Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, so that, encouraged and supported by your holy Word, we may embrace and always hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Almighty and merciful God, out of your bountiful goodness keep us from everything that may hurt us, so that we may be ready in body and soul cheerfully to accomplish whatever you want us to do: through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

You may like to listen to the Keith and Kristyn Getty and Matt Papa song, What is Our Hope in Life and Death.

© John G. Mason

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‘Happiness…’ Tue, 16 Jul 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Happiness…’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Happiness is something we long for. But how can we achieve it? It’s elusive: one moment we can be feeling happy, but the next we’re not. Like moonlight it has slipped through our fingers.

In fact ‘happiness’ can’t be a goal in the strict sense of the word. For a goal is something that is within our power to achieve. Happiness isn’t like that. There are too many variables outside our control.

We can think that being successful, having a good family and friends, material assets and comfort, will make us happy. But they don’t. There will always be others more successful. And behind the best of families there is often unresolved pain or hurt; those with wealth often find they’re not satisfied – they want more, or they worry about the security of all they have. Despite experiencing much that is good in life we don’t always feel that overwhelming sense of real happiness and joy.

Psalm 1 helps us. Blessed is the one … we read. Blessed means ‘happy’. The idea is echoed twenty-six times in the Psalms. It is also the word Jesus used in what are known as the Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12).

In Psalm 1 verses 1 through 3 we read: Happy is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.

We all have a real thirst, a longing for something that will satisfy us deeply. The thirst is not wrong. It is part of our complex make-up that makes us human. Our problem is that we look in the wrong places to satisfy it. The prophet Jeremiah records God’s words: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water,…” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Verse 1 of the Psalm challenges us to consider our world-view. Our natural inclination is to adopt a world-view that appeals to our sense of self-sufficiency. We like the music emanating from the temples of materialism or humanism that puts us in control of our lives and our destiny.

As we continue down this path, we indulge in behaviour that appeals to our feelings, even though it means flouting God’s directions and good purposes. And so we find ourselves marching in step with the crowds who live as though there is no God and no objective moral order. In turn we join the cynics who mock Christianity. We become part of a silent majority, failing to speak up for what we believe because we’re afraid. We sit in the seat of scoffers.

What then is the path to real happiness? Verse 2 tells us: their delight is in the law of the Lord; and on his law they meditate day and night.

The negatives of verse 1 are now contrasted in verse 2. As others have observed, they show us we have a choice. Like Adam and Eve in the original garden, God respects the gift of choice he has given us. It’s one of the features that makes us human. We are not puppets on a string in a mechanistic universe. We can choose.

Verse 2 provides the key that unlocks our true humanity: Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. We need something to transform us from deep within. The law of the Lord which stands against the counsel of the wicked is a reference to God’s instruction.

Interestingly the word meditate here is the same word plot Psalm 2:1. What goes on within our hearts and minds becomes evident in our words and actions. In Psalm 2:1 the plotting is the intention of darkness that leads to evil. In Psalm 1 meditating on God’s Word, his self-disclosure, leads to Godly growth and behaviour.

People who are blessed meditate on God’s Word – God’s special self-disclosure. Here is the key to real and lasting happiness. It foreshadows Jesus’ reference to living waters that he promised to the woman at the well in Samaria. These ‘waters’ are bound up in knowing him.

Sometimes we think that mediation is something carried out by the super-spiritual – people who are etched into stained-glass windows, people who have their heads in heaven but who are no earthly use. This is not so. The words here echo God’s command to Joshua – God’s man of action who needed just as much as anyone else to think hard about the will of God if he wanted to achieve anything worthwhile.

Real happiness is found in our determination to be instructed and counselled by God himself. This isn’t easy. It means being prepared to look inside ourselves and consider why we say the things we sometimes do, why we think and behave the way we do, and then be willing to change. This can be tough. It means being honest with ourselves before God. It can take time.

For to meditate on God’s teaching involves letting the weight of God’s Word press upon our hearts and minds, and our life-style.

Where then do we find true happiness? Not swimming in the shallows of faith, but plunging into the mind of God found in the living waters of his Word.

Prayer. Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth so that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s service so that we may renounce those things that are contrary to our profession and follow all such things as are agreeable to it; through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Almighty and eternal God, grant that we may grow in faith, hope, and love; especially make us love what you command so that we may obtain what you have promised; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

You may like to listen to He Will Hold Me Fast from Keith and Kristyn Getty.

© John G. Mason

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‘Paul’s Prayer: Transformation’ Tue, 09 Jul 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Paul’s Prayer: Transformation’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


How can we weather the challenges of our messy and conflicted world?

Come with me to Ephesians chapter 3, verses 14 through 21 where we find one of the great prayers of the Bible. The curtain over Paul the Apostle is drawn aside and we are given a glimpse of him at prayer.

I kneel before the Father, he begins, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Genesis chapter 1 tells us that God created us in his image and it is therefore true to say that all humanity has its fatherhood or parentage in God. However, as the Bible unfolds, we see that there is a very special relationship between God and those who are personally drawn to him. Paul is echoing what Jesus taught his disciples: we can call God, ‘our Father’.

This really is an extraordinary privilege – to be able to call God ‘Father’. In fact, when we think about it, there is no higher honor that God could give us, for it means we stand in a very special relationship with him as his adopted sons and daughters. This awesome truth stands at the heart of Paul’s prayer. And he prays that we might experience this awareness in our lives, so we can relax and enjoy the amazing privilege of being God’s special people at every twist and turn in life. Three themes stand out.

Inner strength. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit…

The work of the Spirit goes to the heart of our being. Despite what cosmetologists and exercise gurus want us to think, the truth is that our physical bodies are wasting away. The time will come, when as far as our physical body is concerned, there is little hope for the future. But Paul wants us to understand that it’s not all downhill.

If God is at work in our lives, changes for the better to our inner being can occur. It’s here we see the counter-cultural way God works as opposed to the way that the world expects him to work. The world expects God to work with great displays of power. Tempted to think this way too, we might say that God’s power is to be expressed in self-confidence, self-assertion, success. And when it comes to churches, it is thought that God’s power will be seen in high-powered church growth and in dramatic answers to prayer.

But God has a different plan. For the present he chooses to work in secret, changing us from the inside out, not the outside in. It’s an important distinction most of us miss. Paul is praying that the Holy Spirit will strengthen us at the very root of our character and our lives. He prays that God’s Spirit will so work in our lives and so teach us that we will be strengthened in our appetite for God and our love and loyalty to Jesus. He wants us to focus our hope on Christ, to drop sinful habits and develop a new framework for living.

Paul says that he wants to see the whole of our inner life affected by the Spirit — our hearts and affections, our will, our minds and decisions. It’s radical and it’s painful. Once the Holy Spirit starts to work in our lives, begins to probe, to question, to challenge, to discipline and to develop us, it hurts. For when he takes the Word of God and reaches to the very depth of our being, the Word becomes like a scalpel in his hands.

Transformation. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love (3:17).

This is the only place in the whole of the Bible that speaks about Christ dwelling in our hearts. Dwell means ‘settle down’, or ‘putting down roots’. Mixing his metaphors Paul prays that we will be well-rooted trees withstanding droughts, and well-built houses that can withstand hurricanes.

There will be many things in us with which Jesus Christ will not be comfortable. Repairs and renovation are needed in our lives. And anyone who has done house renovation and repairs knows it takes longer and costs more than we anticipate.

Knowing that this kind of life-changing transformation is what God wants and knowing that it requires God’s power in our lives, Paul prays that God will do what is necessary to make our lives a fit home for his Son.

Christ’s Love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length, and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (3:18-19).

With imagery that awakens us to the complexity and profundity of God’s love – the breadth and length, and height and depth – Paul prays that we will know the love of Christ. He wants us not only to know but also to experience God’s love so that we may be able to say, and really know and feel it in our hearts, ‘the Son of God gave himself for me.’

This genuine experience of Christ rarely comes to anyone who is not spending time in the Scriptures – for example, meditating on Ephesians chapter 1 through chapter 2, verse 10. The kind of mind-shift we need to prompt us to do this usually requires large explosive power. Sometimes God gives us a wake-up call through hardship, bereavement or tragedy. Sometimes it’s not until we see material possessions for what they are, baubles and trinkets, that we begin to comprehend the reality of God’s love.

Indeed, it’s only when God’s power is at work in our lives that we will begin to see what it meant for God to get into our skin and enter our world, what it cost for him to suffer and die in our place. I pray, says Paul, that with all of God’s people you experience the power of God’s love in your hearts, and knowing that, experience the fullness of joy with the transcendent Lord.

Beyond Imagination. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (3:20-21).

Paul’s words here startle and encourage us. Our thoughts and imaginations are lifted beyond time and space to the Lord himself. Significantly, the focus of God’s powerful work is amongst and through his people.

Too often we forget God’s awesome cosmic purposes; we focus too much on ourselves. Maybe we are content to swim in the shallows of faith rather than in the deep, clear waters of God’s love. For in his love God has far greater expectations for us than we can even begin to imagine.

A prayer. Almighty God, who taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: so enable us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and always to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

You may like to listen to The Lord is My Salvation from Keith and Kristyn Getty.

© John G. Mason

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‘Jesus’ Prayer: (3) Confessional Unity’ Tue, 02 Jul 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Jesus’ Prayer: (3) Confessional Unity’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


A question we rarely think about is this: ‘What does Jesus expect of everyone who believes?’

A third part of the prayer Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest provides a vital part of the answer. In John chapter 17, verse 21 we read: “I ask … that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.

The all in this verse suggests that he is including everyone who comes to believe in him, as well as his disciples.

In the flow of his prayer, it is important to notice that he is not praying for ‘unity’ as we often think of it – a structural unity – but rather a ‘confessional’ unity. He is praying for a unity of understanding amongst all his people: the acknowledgement that he is the unique Son of God, sent by the Father to rescue humanity.

In other words, Jesus is praying that the essential truth of his relationship with God the Father will be at the heart of Christian belief. As such, he prayed for a unity amongst his people that reflects the unity of relationship between God the Father and God the Son. The unity that Jesus is speaking of here is that all his people would receive and respond to his teaching the same way.

Which implies another key to the unity for which Jesus prays – the acceptance of the unique authority of his person and work and his teaching.

Furthermore, there is to be a unity of profound love and fellowship between his people because of their fellowship with God the Father and God the Son. His prayer reflects his teaching that true worshippers will ‘worship God the Father in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23).

And it is also important to notice that Jesus is praying for a ‘missional’ outcome to this unity: “That the world may believe that you have sent me”.

Division amongst men and women is the way of the world. True unity amongst the people of God, for which Jesus prays, facilitates gospel outreach – ‘so that the world may believe’.

Men and women in the wider world are in revolt against God and the Son he has sent. Yet God has loved, and continues to love, the world and is committed to drawing more and more people to the One he has sent. The unity in faith of God’s people will be a sign that will draw many to faith.

Now, we need to note that Jesus is not praying here for the amalgamation of denominations. Joining like-minded Christians together might be desirable, especially where buildings and services are often duplicated with a loss of efficiency.

But Jesus is not praying for this kind of structural unity. Rather he is praying for the essential union of hearts and minds that respond to the truth of Jesus. Ultimately he is praying that all his people – whether the first disciples, or you and me today – will be with him where he is: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am,…” (John 17:24).

So, the essence of this part of Jesus’ great prayer is that all his people throughout the ages will be with him where he is in the Kingdom of God. His intention for his people is that we all see the glory that the Father has given him, as God’s unique Son, because of God’s love for him. So Jesus continued:  “That they may see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24b).

This prayer of Jesus that we have touched on over these three Wednesdays tells us so much about him – his glory, his suffering and his passion. We see his commitment to glorify God. It also tells us about the significant work of the disciples; if they had messed up, we would have no knowledge of God’s extraordinary love and the forgiveness he holds out to us. Thirdly, Jesus’ prayer tells us about us, and our need to work at the unity that springs from a united confession of faith.

Jesus’ prayer is not a ‘God bless…’ prayer. It is a prayer that instructs our minds and touches our hearts with the riches of God’s love.

Prayer. Lord may we come to love you more and more, with all our mind, with all our heart and from our very soul, so that you may be glorified in the lives of all who are united in a common confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Lord, give your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only true God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You may like to listen to May the People’s Praise You from Keith and Kristyn Getty.

© John G. Mason

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‘Jesus’ Prayer: (2) Life & Ministry’ Tue, 25 Jun 2024 15:00:10 +0000 The post ‘Jesus’ Prayer: (2) Life & Ministry’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


How can we be sure about God? Christianity makes claims that can be hard to believe in the 21st century – for example, its exclusiveness, its supernaturalism and its age.

 To say that Jesus is the only way to God appears to be very narrow-minded. Further, the story of Jesus is woven around miraculous events – a virgin birth and a resurrection. And it all happened more than two thousand years ago.

In John chapter 17 we find the record of a prayer Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed and arrested. The greater part of the prayer was for his disciples, revealing the unique role they were to play in building on the foundation that Jesus himself was laying.

In Jesus’ words to God the Father we discern the importance of the disciples in God’s big plan: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

The disciples were to be the link between Jesus and the world. Much will depend on their understanding of Jesus as the Christ – the Messiah – and their courage and loyalty to him.

In verses 2 and 3 Jesus had prayed: “Since you have given him (that is, he, Jesus) authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, so that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The ministry of his disciples would be essential if men and women were to benefit from God’s gift of eternal life. If the disciples failed in their task, if they gave in to hostile pressures and denied the truth they had been given to speak about, Christianity would have been still-born.

So Jesus prays that the Father would give each of the disciples eternal life. He also prays that the Father would protect them (17:11), keep them from the powers of evil (17:15), and make them holy in the truth (17:17). He also prayed that the love that God the Father has for the Son, would be true for them as well (17:16).

Jesus knew the road the disciples would tread would not be easy. Yet he didn’t pray that they would be taken out of the world. Rather, he prayed that they would be kept faithful and guarded from the powers of the evil one.

Furthermore, Jesus went on to pray for everyone who would come to faith: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, …” (John 17:20).

At the heart of the disciples’ ministry would be the ministry of ‘God’s Word’ – preaching and teaching. The content of their word would be Jesus the Messiah.

From the time of Pentecost the disciples, now apostles (sent ones), began preaching, urging their hearers to turn to Jesus as the Messiah in repentance and faith. Over the following fifty years, thousands turned to Christ through their word ministry.

Furthermore, it was during those years that the apostles and others who had been uniquely trained, equipped and commissioned by Jesus, wrote the Gospels and Letters for the churches.

In 2 Peter 1:16-18, we read: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Peter is saying that he and the other apostles did not pass on a cunningly invented myth. Jesus really is God in the flesh; he really did rise from the dead. ‘I have the evidence of my own eyes,’ Peter says. ‘Our testimony is true.’

Furthermore, in 2 Peter 3:15 we read: …Count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother, Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Paul’s Letters also were acknowledged as God’s Word.

What we often overlook is that these men, and others with them, overturned the Roman world not by armed revolution, but by the example of their lives, their testimony and teaching. Can you imagine that those disciples of Jesus constructed a monstrous lie?

Prayer. Heavenly Father, keep your household the Church continually in your true religion; so that those who lean only on the hope of your heavenly grace may always be defended by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

You may like to listen to Lift High the Name of Jesus from Keith and Kristyn Getty.

© John G. Mason

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‘Jesus’ Prayer: (1) Glorify’ Tue, 18 Jun 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Jesus’ Prayer: (1) Glorify’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Our prayers say a great deal about us. Are your prayers like that of AA Milne’s, Christopher Robin who, in the midst of his child-like bedtime prayers, prayed that God would bless his parents as well as himself? Or do your prayers reflect the shape of the honest and humble yet bold petitionary prayers of people such as Moses, David and Daniel or the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples?

In John chapter 17 we read Jesus’ prayer on the eve of his arrest. It’s a prayer that tells us a great deal about him and his relationship with God the Father, his concern for his disciples, as well his concern for all his people throughout time. Over three Wednesdays I’ll be touching on these three themes.

Today let me focus on verses 1 and 5. In verse 1 we read: After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, … “

Jesus knew that within hours he would be arrested, convicted by human authorities, and put to death. Given the confessional prayers of Moses, David and Daniel, as well as the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, it is significant that he makes no confession of sin. Of all humanity, he alone is without sin.

His prayer is sometimes called ‘the great high priestly prayer’, but strictly speaking it isn’t. The central task of a high priest’s work was to offer sacrifices and to pray for God to forgive his own sin as well as the sins of God’s people. But the focus of Jesus’ prayer is that God will glorify him: “Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you…” (17:1).

The verb to glorify typically means ‘to honor’ – as we find in John chapter 5, verse 23. There Jesus speaks of God’s plan that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.

But in the opening line of his prayer in John chapter 17, Jesus reveals the depths of God’s previously hidden pre-cosmic plan.

The opening lines of John’s Gospel read: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And in verse 14 we learn that the Word took on human form and came amongst us as one of us. John testifies: We beheld his glory, the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (1:14).

Now, in chapter 17, Jesus prays that God will glorify him, so that he will remain faithful to the bitter end in the implementation of his Father’s long hidden plan, so that he in turn may glorify the Father (17:1). God’s plan is extraordinary, in contrast to that of any human wisdom. God’s glory would be revealed through the events of Jesus’ death, resurrection and exaltation.

And some sixteen centuries later Archbishop Thomas Cranmer came to understand – as Dr. Ashley Null has observed – that ‘the glory of God is his love of the unworthy’.

On the night of his arrest, Jesus prayed that God the Father would honor him, so that he would honor the Father through his sacrificial death for the sins of the world.

We feel the impact of what Jesus is saying and what was about to happen. Judas had gone into the night to do his dark work of betrayal. Jesus was certain of his pending arrest, trial and death. “Glorify the Son,” he prays, “so that the Son may glorify you”.

In verse 5, Jesus continues: “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed”. Jesus is self-consciously divine, but he is also human and therefore vulnerable. He was praying that God would restore the glory he, Jesus, had set aside when he took on human form.

One great work remained – his work of bearing the sin of the whole world, when he would be lifted up on the cross as he had predicted earlier in his ministry (John 3:14-15). Furthermore, his final words, “It is finished”, recorded in John chapter 19, verses 28 and 30, express his sense that his work on earth was complete.

As he began his prayer, Jesus knew that with his arrest, trial and crucifixion, he would have to endure an injustice such as the world had never seen, and that the physical torture he would have to bear would be horrific. Significantly, the Gospel record is silent on the physical pain. Rather the focus is on the spiritual pain he would endure in taking on himself our sin and guilt before the holy God. In that hour he would feel totally alone. His eternal, perfect and loving relationship with God the Father would be at breaking point.

Jesus knew that the only way he could remain faithful, passing through the deepest shadows of the valley of death and so glorifying God, would be in God’s strength. He would be treading the path of suffering in the midst of the extremes of human hostility and supernatural opposition.

Yet throughout this first part of his prayer he reveals that his central concern is the glory of God.

This surely gives us pause. As beneficiaries of the events that reveal the true glory of God, surely we too will want to thank the Lord from the bottom of our heart and, in turn, want to glorify God in our every thought, word and act.

Jesus did not just pray for himself and the dark hours he faced. He prayed that God would be glorified through his death, resurrection and exaltation. He further prayed that God would restore him to the glory he had put aside when he came amongst us in person.

Prayer. Lord God, the unfailing helper and guide of those whom you bring up in your steadfast fear and love, keep us, we pray, under the protection of your good providence, and give us a continual reverence and love for your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

You may want to listen to In Christ Alone from Keith and Kristyn Getty.

© John G. Mason

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‘Daniel’s Prayer: Heart-Felt Petition’ Tue, 11 Jun 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Daniel’s Prayer: Heart-Felt Petition’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


I have a question: how often are your prayers prompted by your meditation on God’s Word?

In Daniel chapter 9 we read: In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans – in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication …

Around 539BC, Daniel was amongst the elite of Jewish society who had been in exile in Babylon for over 50 years. During that time his abilities and his faith had shone when, at significant moments, his advice had been sought by Kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius.

Now in his 80s Daniel had lost neither his intellectual sharpness nor his faith. And because he was a man who consistently read and meditated on God’s Word, he was very aware of God’s promise that Jerusalem and its people would be restored.

He knew of Jeremiah’s prophesy: Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words … this whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jeremiah 25:8,11).

And he also knew that Jeremiah had spoken of the restoration of God’s people: ‘Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity’ Jeremiah (29:12).

Daniel was certain God would not forget his promise. But he didn’t just sit around, enjoying life, waiting for God to step in. With the Scriptures open before him, he turned his face to the Lord and prayed. God’s sovereignty is not fatalistic determinism. Rather, he invites us to partner with him in the implementation of his plans. The 17th century French mathematician, physicist and philosopher, Blaise Pascal observed, ‘God instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality’.

Daniel knew the Lord and understood that the secret to addressing concerns and fears in life is found in heart-felt confession and petition.

Confession. Consider key elements of Daniel’s prayer. ‘O God, we have turned away from your commands and your laws’ (9:5); ‘we have not listened to your servants the prophets; we have not obeyed the laws you gave’ (9:10); ‘we have broken your law’ (9:11); ‘we have not looked for your mercy by turning away from our sins and paying attention to your truth’ (9:13). Significantly, Daniel reflects on God’s law, given to Moses, and identifies himself with the sin of God’s people. All Israel had sinned, including Daniel.

Throughout his prayer Daniel acknowledges the personal relationship that exists between God and his people. A covenant exists between them – a covenant with commands and laws which God himself has revealed.

It’s easy to think of God’s judgement simply falling on the godless and the perpetrators of evil. But Daniel’s prayer identifies sin as breaking God’s commands. How often we forget this today – in part because when we gather as God’s people we are not specifically reminded of God’s commands. Our understanding of sin in God’s sight becomes vague and subjective.

How important it is that we consistently open up and meditate on God’s Word. God delights in us growing in our relationship with him as the almighty Lord whose glory transcends the universe and speaks of his awesome power and purity. God wants us to understand his plan and purpose for us whom he has created in his image. Yet too often we succumb to the attractions of the world and our lives are compromised by the spirit of the age. And so we daily need to confess our own sin before the Lord, and when we gather as a church.

To follow Daniel’s example, it’s essential that we confess our broken relationship with the Lord before we petition him with our requests. Indeed, it is a pattern that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer put into the liturgies he developed in the Book of Common Prayer.

Petition. Daniel’s confession turns to petition with: Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away

Daniel didn’t ask God to set aside his righteousness and overlook the sins of his people. Instead, he asked God to act because of his righteousness. Paradoxically this was Israel’s only hope.

Like Moses, Daniel appealed to God on the basis of God’s character: Now therefore,… Incline your ear, O my God, and hear… We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies.

At the heart of Daniel’s petition is the glory of God’s name. He did not hesitate to remind God of what he’d already revealed in his Word and urged him to roll up his sleeves and act.

Daniel was not presumptuous. Rather, he was humble, honest and contrite about his own sin and the sin of God’s people. But this didn’t prevent him praying on the basis of God’s character and God’s promises.

At the center of Daniel’s prayer is confidence that God is a God of mercy. The glorious and gracious thing about God is that he is always willing to receive people back when they repent and are committed to start afresh with him.

The New Testament knows of this type of faith and prayer. We see it in the faith of four men that brought forgiveness of sin and healing when they lowered their paralyzed friend through a roof.

With the coming of Jesus Christ and his commitment to build his church, how much more should we speak frankly and humbly to God, asking him to honor and glorify his name by acting with mercy towards our sinful world?

Do you regularly ask for God’s forgiveness, not just for your own sin, but the sin of others? Do you pray that for the sake of God’s name and reputation, he will act with mercy, softening hard hearts and awakening many to the truth of his good news? God has promised!

Prayer. Almighty God, creator of all things and giver of every good and perfect gift, hear with favor the prayers of your people, so that we who are justly punished for our offences may mercifully be delivered by your goodness, for the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lord Christ, eternal Word and Light of the Father’s glory, have mercy on our broken and divided world; send your light and your truth so that as we proclaim your word of life many will turn to you; for you now live and reign, God for all eternity. Amen.

You might like to listen to The Perfect Wisdom of Our God from Keith and Kristyn Getty.

© John G. Mason

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‘David’s Prayer: Confession’ Tue, 04 Jun 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘David’s Prayer: Confession’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Let me ask, do you have any regrets? You may regret words you let rip and can’t take back, or a relationship you should never have started.

Second Samuel, chapter 11 tells us of the occasion when King David was relaxing on the roof of the palace when he saw a woman bathing. Attracted by her beauty he invited her over. But she was the wife of one of his officers. He’s away, he may have thought. And after all, I am the king.

But Bathsheba became pregnant, and David’s attempts to arrange for her husband, Uriah to return home and sleep with her, failed. So he developed a more devious plan. Uriah was sent back to the battlefield and positioned so that he would die. Like the ophthalmologist who had an affair and then arranged a murder in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, King David seemed to have committed the perfect crime. But David had forgotten God.

In Second Samuel, chapter 12 we learn that Nathan the prophet arranged to meet the King.

Knowing the power of kings, Nathan told a story of a wealthy man who had many sheep and a poor man who had just one little lamb. When the rich man needed a sheep for a meal to entertain a guest, instead of taking a sheep from his own flock, he took the poor man’s lamb. David, a former shepherd, was furious: ‘The man should be brought to justice,’ he said. Nathan’s response? ‘You are the man!’

The heading of Psalm 51 reveals that David wrote it following his affair. It is a complex, very personal psalm, but it is timeless in its application as it also speaks to us about ourselves and about God.

Have mercy on me, O God, David begins. His cry for mercy reveals that he understood he had no right to expect God’s favor. But because God had sent the prophet Nathan to speak to him, David knew God had not forgotten his promise. So, he not only cries for mercy but also appeals to God’s covenant love and compassion: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. Have me mercy on me, O God, according to your abundant mercy (51:3).

Confession. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me, David continues (51:3). Fully aware of his guilt before God, he didn’t just regret what he had done. He truly repented of his actions.

It’s important to think about this. David had tried to cover up and even excuse what he had done. It’s something we’re all tempted to do at times. Over the last 100 years or so academia has provided us with more and more excuses for what we do. Freud taught us to blame our parents. Marx taught us to blame the capitalist system. And 21st century medicine tells us to blame our DNA. But our guilt can fester and re-appear in ways that are usually not obviously related to the original failure. It’s sometimes why we can’t sleep.

We need to do as David did: speak to the Lord. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, he said. But what about Bathsheba and Uriah? With his words David is voicing something we all have to reckon with: our sin is first and foremost against God. Adultery and murder are second commandment issues. But when we break the second commandment – love your neighbor as yourself – we are in fact breaking the first, for the second is consequent upon the first. Sin against our neighbour is primarily sin against God.

Contrary to what psychology and psychiatry might tell us guilt is not just a psychological hang-up. It is something objective, something real, that stands between us and our Maker. The God who rules the universe is not just some impersonal force. He is a moral being, a holy judge. When we do wrong things, we offend him. As David recognizes, God’s anger towards him – as it is towards us – is justified.

The pricks of conscience we feel, reflect our awareness of an objective moral order and the existence of God. It’s not enough for the psychotherapist to help us come to terms with our guilt. It’s not even enough for the human beings we have hurt to tell us they forgive us. We are all accountable to God.

See how David puts it: You are justified, God, in your judgment, for against you alone, have I sinned… And, he adds, Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me (51:5).

David knows that his sins are the outcome of a self-centered nature. He’s not speaking against his mother nor the nature of his conception; nor is he blaming her for his actions. Rather he makes a chilling statement about human nature: no one of us is intrinsically good. As Paul the Apostle writes in Romans, chapter 3: We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3:23).

Yet human wisdom today fails to recognize this reality. It is something that impacts every arena of life – politics and the courts, economics and education, family, local community and international relations. Malcolm Muggeridge, one-time editor of the English Punch magazine wrote: The depravity of humanity is at once the most unpopular of all dogmas, but the most empirically verifiable.

Cleansing: You desire truth in the inward being, David continues; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart (51:6). If we are going to find peace of mind and heart, it’s in our minds and hearts that the process of acquiring God’s wisdom must begin. What’s buried in our thoughts needs to be exposed before God.

Consider David’s further words:  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities (51:7-10).

We need more than the band-aid of education or more laws. It’s not just isolated acts of sin we need to be cleansed from, but the powerful grip of our self-centredness.

It is not until we come to the New Testament that we learn the true cost for God to cleanse us. In Colossians 2:13 we read: And you who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Heart-Change. Create in me a pure heart, O God, David continues (51:10). Too often our problem is that we don’t want to pray this prayer. Indeed, unless God’s mercy and grace are at work within us, we won’t want to change. But he also knows that he can’t presume on God’s mercy. That is why he also says, take not your Holy Spirit from me (51:11).

How we need to pray with David: Restore to me the joy of your salvation (51:12) Restore reminds us that God was no stranger to David. He could recall times when things were different, when he had enjoyed an intimate close communion with God. Now, more than anything else he wanted to experience again the joy of that relationship.

‘All I can bring, Lord,’ David continues, is a broken and contrite heart (51:17). He knew that as well as being pure and just, God is also willing to forgive us and set us on a new course of life that is good for us and honors him. How often do we need to meditate on this.

There it is. A very personal, complex psalm with many layers. King David’s cry for God’s mercy is not so much a psalm for a General Confession in the gathering of God’s people, but a psalm for our own personal reflection and prayer in the privacy of our own relationship with the Lord.

Before you go to sleep tonight, let me encourage you to reflect on your own relationship with the Lord with this psalm open before you. Be honest with him, asking him to forgive you for failing to honor him at all times in your life. Pray that his Word and his Spirit will bring about the changes that God in his perfect wisdom knows are for your best, so you may know the joy of his love. Pray further that the Lord will give you the opportunities and the courage to share the joy you have found in him with family and friends.

Where is our hope in life? It is in Christ alone because of God’s amazing grace.

A prayer. Lord God, without you we are not able to please you; mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You may like to listen to the Keith and Kristyn Getty and Matt Papa song, What is Our Hope in Life and Death.

© John G. Mason

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‘Moses’ Prayer: The Honor of God’s Name’ Tue, 28 May 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Moses’ Prayer: The Honor of God’s Name’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


Many of us are concerned with the issues of justice and peace, divisions and conflict. Is there anything we can do that might make a difference in our world where daily the news seems to get worse?

Come with me to a prayer of Moses that we find in Numbers, chapter 14.

A little over three millennia ago, God’s people were on the southern border of ancient Canaan – a land peopled from different regions. Moses had sent twelve spies to bring a report on the land. And, in their report they were all were agreed on the prosperity of the land: they had grapes to prove it! (Numbers 13:25ff)

However, the report was divided: ten said the cities were well defended and that the legendary sons of Anak – the giant Nephilim – were in the Canaanite armies. But two of the group, Caleb and Joshua, provided a minority report: ‘Let’s act now,’ they said, ‘we can overcome it’ (13:30).

But no one listened. Rather, they raised a hue and cry about Moses and Aaron, saying that they would have preferred to have died in Egypt or in the wilderness (14:2). “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land only to die by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey… Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (14:3f).

In Numbers 14:11f we read God’s chilling words: “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them…”

God went on to make an offer to Moses: “I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

This must have seemed extraordinarily attractive to Moses. He would be rid of this fickle crowd. However, his response was to pray to the Lord: “Then the Egyptians will hear of it! (Numbers 14:13).

Moses didn’t make excuses for Israel, pleading mitigating circumstances. Rather, he appealed to the character of God: “In your might or power you brought these people from Egypt…” he said. Aren’t you a God of your word?’

‘What will the nations think?’ he continued. “If you kill this people all at one time, then the nations who have heard about you will say, ‘It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them that he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’”

Most of all, Moses appealed to God’s unchangeable love: “And now, therefore, let the power of the Lord be great in the way that you promised when you spoke, saying, ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty…”

What a moving prayer this is. Here is a single individual praying, and the fate of God’s people hinges on it. How can the prayer of any man or woman possibly have such significance?

Moses’ prayer shows us that it is because of God’s character we can be very confident when we pray. Moses knew that God is a God of his word. Furthermore, he knew that God is a God of mercy.

And the outcome of Moses’ prayer? God tempered his judgment with mercy. The people were forgiven. But they were destined to die without seeing the promise themselves.

So what can we learn from this today? With the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ we live under another, very different covenant. God’s promise now is not just to a specific race of people but to all people. Nor is it about a promised land, or material wealth.

In Matthew chapter 16, verse 18 we read Jesus’ words: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Furthermore, Mark records Jesus’ words, “For the Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). When he was dying on the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). And following his resurrection from the dead he commissioned his disciples with, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s easy to forget in the busy-ness of life that God is committed to drawing men and women from all peoples and nations to himself through the Lord Jesus Christ.

And indeed, with influential voices opposing Christianity we can lose confidence in the power of prayer. Not that prayer of itself is powerful. Rather, the One to whom we pray is all-powerful.

In the light of Moses’ prayer, let’s ask God to have mercy on family and friends, colleagues and people in the wider community and world, for the honor of his Name and the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ! After all, Jesus himself taught us to pray, ‘Father, hallowed (or honored) be your name,… (Luke 11:2).

Let me ask: what if everyone who reads this Word on Wednesday were to commit to pray for three people? You may want to invite others to join you. Will our prayers make a difference? Moses knew that his prayer would, because of who God is and the honor of his Name.

Do you have this confidence? Do you pray earnestly and consistently that God will act with mercy today – opening blind eyes and softening hard hearts so that people will respond to and grow under the gospel – for the honor of his name?

Prayer. Preserve your people, Lord God, with your continual mercy, for without you we will fall because of our frailty; keep us always under your protection and lead us to everything that makes for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lord God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: mercifully accept our prayers, and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do nothing good without you, grant us the help of your grace, so that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in word and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You may also want to listen to the song from Keith and Kristyn Getty, By Faith.

© John G. Mason

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‘Never Alone!’ Tue, 21 May 2024 15:00:00 +0000 The post ‘Never Alone!’ appeared first on The Anglican Connection.


One of the ironies of today’s highly connected world is the personal isolation that many feel. Indeed, an extreme sense of personal isolation can lead to despair and even suicide.

And there are times when a sense of isolation can overwhelm God’s people: prayer is difficult, and any talk of joy and peace seems empty. God feels more like a distant relative than a heavenly Father.

Psalm 42 begins: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?

My tears have been my food day and night, he continues, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” (42:3).

The writer of Psalms 42 and 43, removed from his home city of Jerusalem and the temple, asks three times, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me? (42:5,11; 43:5).

Alone. The psalmist felt he had no-one to confide in. Indeed, those around him taunted: ‘where is your God?’ It’s easy to trust God in the security of a good home and church. But now the song writer who seems to have led the Temple worship was alone, without personal encouragement and emotional support. Loneliness can make us feel distressed. We are social creatures made for personal relationships, and when we lose our support networks it can really impact us.

He also experienced physical isolation: These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival (42:4). We sense his grief for the time he was part of a joyful throng. Now he was alone.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how separation might lead to loneliness. Even in the large cities of the world people can experience personal isolation.

Disturbed and downcast the psalm-writer lacked energy; he felt anxious and overwhelmed: Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your waterfalls; all your waves and your billows have gone over me, he writes (42:7).

He felt alone from God: I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” (42:9). Torn with a sense of loss, he was like a jilted lover or a widow grieving for her husband.

‘I believe’ he is saying, ‘What’s happened to me?’ As we dig into this psalm we realize that here is a man of spiritual integrity who is willing to ask questions.

Which leads to his significant question: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? (42:5,11 and 43:5).

Many who feel lonely, sad and depressed try to find escape by turning to alcohol or drugs, online gambling or pornography. It’s important to notice what this psalmist does: he admits his feelings. We need to do the same. And we need to encourage others to do so as well.

It takes courage. If we’re feeling lonely or depressed we need to acknowledge it. If we feel guilty about something, we need to own up to it before God. If we’ve lost someone we loved, we also need to articulate our loss. There’s nothing to be gained by running away.

Look at the way the psalm writer responds in v.9:  I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” ‘God, where are you? God, you have let me down. Why?’

It’s an important question to ask. Not because there’s always an answer, but because we need to express our frustration. We need to tell God what we feel.

There’s a very moving incident in Pieter de Vries’ novel, The Blood of the Lamb. The main character has a daughter who dies of leukaemia on her 12th birthday. Her father is devastated. Holding a birthday cake he was taking to her in the hospital he looked up at a crucifix on a church wall. Suddenly he exploded and hurled the cake at the face of Christ.

In one sense it was a blasphemous act. Yet in another sense it expressed the very reason why Christ was once on that cross. For there Christ is the representation of God’s just anger against all the injustices, sin and evil in the world. In one supreme act, Christ on the cross perfectly satisfied God’s just anger and, once and for all time, making it possible for him to be reconciled with a sinful world.

When we feel angry with God we need to remember this. God is no stranger to pain. He knows what it is like to feel alone in an unjust world. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” the dying Jesus had said (Matthew 27:46).

With the psalm writer we need to question ourselves when we feel alone: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? (43:5) The greatest danger when we are feeling alone and ‘down’ is self-pity and to become self-preoccupied. ‘Speak to your soul, your inner self’ the psalm advises, ‘and ask questions’.

And there is something else: prayer. Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people… (43:1); and Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me… (43:3). The psalm writer is confident in God’s love and light. He is assured of the day when, again filled with joy, he will sing songs of praise to God.

Indeed, through the lens of the New Testament we can see this more fully. God, who exists in three persons, has been and is fully involved in serving us through his work of restoring men and women everywhere into relationship with him. “For the Son of Man came,” Jesus said, “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Furthermore, God is not only building us back into relationship with him, but also with one another as his offspring. Church is a special gift from God. When we are part of a community of God’s people we can find support and encouragement. God’s delight is that we find and enjoy relationship with him and with one another.

Whoever we are, whatever our situation in life, when we belong to Christ, we are never alone.

Prayer. Almighty God, who taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: so enable us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and always to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and by your divine power to worship you as One: we pray that you would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

© John G. Mason

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