Desperation Discoveries

First in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer for times of stress"

What is the best prayer to pray when you are discouraged and overwhelmed?

Psalm 102?…

[[A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD.]] Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. (vs 1, KJV)
Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top. (vss 2-7, NIV)

Yes, at times echoing the desperate pleas of the Psalmist exactly expresses our feelings and assures us we are not hopeless; others have felt the same, even others who were greatly loved by God and whose faith must have been much stronger than ours.

Or, what about praying the words of a saint who came to Christ after many battles with the flesh, whose faith was secured four centuries after Pentecost — when the Helper was sent to us? Augustine left us this prayer:

Blessed are all thy Saints, O God and King, who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this mortal life, and have made the harbor of peace and felicity. Watch over us who are still in our dangerous voyage; and remember such as lie exposed to the rough storms of trouble and temptations. Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in thy mercy thou has set our course, so steer the vessel of our life toward the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart's desire, where thou, O our God, are blessed, and livest and reignest for ever and ever.

That one is good. But he seems to have forgotten how DESPERATE one can feel.

This prayer of a man nearer to our generation is a gem. It was written down by Dietrich Bonhoeffer while awaiting execution in a Nazi prison: (from The Oxford Book of Prayer, Oxford U. Press, 1985)

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray.
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me so to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

Sometimes, a very short prayer is helpful: "Lord, save me!" Peter cried as he sank in the waters and felt the boisterous wind. (Mat 14:30)

All heartfelt prayer helps in times of stress, but perhaps the best one is The Lord's Prayer.

Perhaps we would not at first think to pray The Lord's Prayer when anxious and despairing. Yet it points us in right directions to steady ourselves; it encourages discipline while reminding of treasures in heaven and it draws us to ponder eternal mysteries — mysteries that may frighten us away from stress to soberness of spirit!

Here begins a series of posts on that very helpful prayer.

Amalek in Esther

The Amalekites — Tenth and final in a series

My NIV Bible has this note about the book of Esther: "An outstanding feature of this book …is the complete absence of any explicit reference to God, worship, prayer or sacrifice."

Likewise, there is none to the Amalekite, but the book of Esther presents the culmination of God's war against Amalek. Ultimately, the Lord called on all of his inheritance to stand against the attacks rained upon them by the command of Amalek's descendant, Haman, and to defeat the enemy. By this we perceive his call to each Christian to actively defend his life against the adversary.

This story is set in the mid-to-late fifth century B.C. when the Jews still resided throughout the Persian empire that succeeded the Babylonians who had forced the Jews into captivity, but it would not be long before they would begin to return to their land. Xerxes was on the throne in Susa with Queen Esther who was Hadassah the Jewess. Susa was not far from Ur which Abraham departed when called to the Promised Land. Talk about going backward!

Xerxes ruled from Ethiopia to India over 127 provinces, and he was not aware his wife was a Hebrew until it became necessary for him to know. The key people in the book are: Xerxes and Esther; Haman, the king's highest official who was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite; and Mordecai the Jew who was Esther's cousin and guardian.

Even though the king had commanded that all people in his kingdom would honor and bow to Haman, Mordecai refused. This was because God had sworn, "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Ex 17:16), following the Amalekites' unprovoked and prideful attack on Israel when she had just stepped forth from slavery.

An Agagite was a descendant of King Agag who was spared by Saul though the Lord had required that he completely annihilate the tribe. The kingdom was torn from Saul and given to David because Saul did not carry out God's fierce wrath against the Amalekites. (1 Sam 28:17-18) Agag was killed by Samuel, but in Esther we find that some of his family survived.

Haman did not know that Mordecai was a Jew and when he found out, he devised a plan to kill not only him but all Jews throughout the kingdom. He consulted with astrologers to discern the best time to carry out the scheme and gained the King's unwitting approval, even sealing the order to destroy them with the King's ring, given to him for this cause. Now, God began to deliver his people from the Amalekite's scheme.

On discovering the plot, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes and went into the city crying loudly. As the edict went forth to each province, the Jews mourned and wailed. Esther was among the last to hear the news. Mordecai urged her to use her influence with the King but that was not so easy, since no person could come before him uninvited or they would die, unless he held out his scepter to permit their intrusion.

Esther asked Mordecai to gather the Jews of Susa for them to fast three days and nights, and then she would ask King Xerxes for mercy and help. So, though we have no mention of prayer in Esther, we are presented with the importance of fasting when in extreme peril; in this way the Lord draws near as our own strength dies and our hearts are emptied of their own devices.

Esther is a book of literary enjoyment by its well-crafted plot that builds suspense so that the demise of Haman and the salvation of the Jews causes the reader to laugh and rejoice. Of course, it is more than a tale, it is the true account of how the annual Jewish holiday of Purim came into being.

A brief blog post can only encourage a reader to enjoy the entire book at leisure, and to think on some of its important points relating to the Amalekites, to finish our series.

  1. Though King Xerxes' edict could not be revoked, the Jews were permitted to defend themselves against their enemies, and the fear of God fell on their attackers so that they were victorious throughout the kingdom. As God's people fought for their lives assured He was with them, the bitterness of their national disgrace was forgotten. Their successful defense sharpened their instinct for self preservation and enlivened their hearts, making them proud once again of their heritage and their God.
  2. God chose the time when the Jews were scattered among heathens to permit Amalek's terror, to show his people that he was yet with them. Likewise, when we are cast down and forsaken, God shows us his faithful love and help after we have suffered for a time (1 Peter 5:6-10). This was an encouragement to the Jews to yearn for their homeland, and for us, the story beckons our return to the Lord from wandering or bitter isolation.
  3. No matter where we are, how far from home, or by analogy, how distant from our roots of faith, God is watching over us and has a plan to bring us home. You need not be far away to benefit from a reviving touch. How easily we part company with the Lord!
  4. When enemies attack at your lowest point, when you have barely crawled out of a place of agony and oppression, when you least expect it, or when they provoke by their boastful, high handed, hotheaded, lying ways, remember: You are under orders to come against them. You have the right! But the weapons of your warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds — For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
  5. When that discouraging, mean, persistent and ugly thought or feeling descends, agitates or seizes you, remember, it's only an Amalekite, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's. (1 Cor 3:23) Don't forget, take EVERY thought captive! Never let the Amalekite win; you not only have the right to defend against his prideful attack, it is your sacred duty, and glorifies the Lord.

Divided worlds

The Amalekites — Ninth in a series

The Amalekites were agitators, frequently joining in battle with those who opposed Israel (Ps 83:7), or attacking alone. They never learned.

Even though Saul was mortally wounded by the Philistines and then took his own life by falling on his sword (1 Sam 31:4), an Amalekite took credit for killing him. David had been home in Ziklag only three days when the young and boastful Amalekite escaped from Saul's camp and reported the defeat of Israel and the death of Saul to David. He proved it by giving David Saul's crown and bracelet. Imagine, an Amalekite presented David with the crown of Israel's king!

Lying, he explained, "He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life [is] yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that [was] upon his head, and the bracelet that [was] on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord." (2 Sam 1:9, 10)

"How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?" David asked him, and then had one of his men kill him. "Thy blood [be] upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD'S anointed." (2 Sam 1:14, 16)

Had the Amalekite youth hoped to find a home with David, the legendary warrior? Did he think David would admire him for being Saul's assassin? Did he think he could as easily escape David as Saul, and wished to brag about this death of an enemy? He discovered at his last moment that there are loyalties, ideals, and greater loves and goals than he had known.

David, "persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;" (2 Cor 4:9) probably looked like a man who would reward a messenger who reported the death of his adversary, and doubly reward the one who killed him. But under the worn out appearance and downcast heart was a different reality.

There is an unseen world inside even the weakest man of God, and David was by no means the weakest. He had been sustained by God's Word, law, promises, Spirit, guidance, close companionship and strengthening love. He had been obedient to the best of his understanding in most instances and had waited on the Lord for his kingship to materialize. Such ideals as respecting the anointed king, patience and long suffering, setting a godly example for his troops, and practicing humility as a way of life, were ways that the Amalekite could not comprehend.

We later discover that David dedicated the silver and gold he took from Amalek as spoils for the Lord, and this went toward building the temple. (2 Sam 8:10-12; 1 Ch 18:11) The shining obedience of David proved he understood who had won all his battles. This, perhaps, the Amalekites could understand, if they would only think.

The heathen and the godly live worlds apart. There is little beyond what is seen that they can both relate to, for what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord … and I will receive you. (2 Cor 6:17)

Our separation from those who worship false gods and hate the people of the Lord is a principle of our doctrine that was illustrated in the wars of Israel against her enemies. We, too, must war against the Enemy to stand firm in our separate world while living and working in the company of Belial's children.

This means we do not marry or form partnerships with unbelievers, and we are not to "company" with believers who break God's law without repentance. It does not mean we have no friendships or associations with unbelievers. (1 Cor 5:9-13)

................

We are winding down our study of the Amalekites in the Bible, looking at final mentions.

The Lord is entreated in Psalm 83 to save Israel from Amalek who was confederate with other nations determined to destroy God's nation. Chronologically, Psalm 83 was written following the overthrow of Athaliah, Israel's woman king. (2 Ch 23:12-17)

A last mention of the Amalekites is in I Chronicles. A band of them is noted as those "who were escaped," and were killed by the sons of Simeon during the reign of Hezekiah. (1 Ch 4:43) And there is a final story of those who descended from Amalek by way of King Agag whose life was spared by Saul …

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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