A Private Sanctuary

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

Psalm 63:2  

I find some of the psalms to be so rich.  I think of psalms like Psalms 23, 27, 34, 46, 86, 103, 121 and 145.  But of all psalms, my favorite would have to be Psalm 63.  Where else in the Bible do you find such a passionate heart for God as you do in Psalm 63, especially in the first five or six verses?  

Verse 2 is a bit surprising.  What does David mean, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary”?  David is in the Judean desert, fleeing for his life from his own son.  There is no sanctuary in the desert.  Is David referring to the tabernacle back in Jerusalem?  

I don’t think so.  A sanctuary is a place to meet God and David would have to find a sanctuary in the desert, a private sanctuary beneath the stars, a place where he could meet with his God and worship.  

Above all, David was a worshipper.  He could not wait to worship.  He could not not worship.  He would have to find a sanctuary in the desert, a place where he would encounter God, a place to see the power and glory of God.  

What about you?  Are you a worshipper?  Wherever you are, at home, in the car, in an airport, on a golf course, in a hotel room, do you find a sanctuary, a place to worship and pray and sing and listen?  Do you seek a place to draw close in holy wonder and meet with your God?

Love Affair

O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Do you hear the heart for God?  The passion, the longing, the desire for God?  Does it stir you?  Does it awaken something deep in your heart?  

What makes this psalm especially remarkable is the life situation behind it.  David is on the run, fleeing from his own son, fleeing for his own life.  Can you imagine his broken, grief-stricken heart?  His own son!  

Yet here he is pursuing God with all his heart.  “O God, you are my God.”  David is saying,My whole world has unraveled, but you are still my God.  You are the Almighty God.  You are my Shepherd.  You are my God and you will see me through!  

“Earnestly I seek you.”  Not casually.  Not half-heartedly.  But passionately, fervently, wholeheartedly.  This is not religious ritual.  This is not duty.  This is a love affair.  The whole kingdom is at stake, including David’s very life.  And yet here he is, seeking God with all his heart.  Is this not David’s greatness, this passionate heart for God?  

“My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  There is no water in the dry, desolate Judean desert, where David is as he writes.  David’s physical thirst for water is a picture of his spiritual thirst for God.  He is saying,Lord, only you, only you, can satisfy the deepest longings of my soul.  

I think of Mother Teresa, who was going through a dry period in her spiritual life and yet still had such a passion for Christ that she prayed this prayer:  “I want to love you, Jesus, like you have never been loved before.”  

What hearts for God!  

Why do some people have such unusual passion for Christ?  I don’t know.  Ultimately, this kind of heart for God is a gift.  Every good thing is a gift from God.  But you can ask for the gift. Lord give me this kind of heart for you!  This thirst for you!  This love for you!

My Burdens

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22    

There are times when the burdens of life are so heavy, so difficult, so onerous, that it feels like I just might suffocate.  The burden is overwhelming.  I don’t know if I will survive.  

All I can do is cry out to God in desperation.  

This promise in Psalm 55 has been a source of unending strength and encouragement over the years.  For problems of all kinds, big and small, I have gone to this passage.  How many times have I gone over this verse before the Lord!  

“Cast your burden on the Lord.”  Here it is, Lord!  You take it!  I cannot carry it!  It’s too big for me!  

And he will sustain you.”  Yes, Lord,you will hold me up.  You alone.  Without you I’m sunk.  

“He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”  Lord, I have no righteousness of my own, but by your grace, I am righteous in Jesus.  By your grace, you have made me righteous, right with you.  I am one of your holy people and I want to live for you.  This promise is for me, Lord.  And what a promise it is!  Never moved. You will hold me tight,you will hold me up,you will hold me steady.  

Do you have a burden?  

When burdens come, don’t carry them.  Cast them upon the Lord.  Let God carry your burdens.  

This is a promise to memorize.  This is a promise to claim.  This is a promise to cling to.

Be Still

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Psalm 46:10    

Psalm 46 speaks to a time of turbulence and upheaval, a time of fear and uncertainty.  The Psalm begins:  

God is our refuge and strength,    

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,    

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,   

and the mountains tremble at its swelling.

(Psalm 46:1-3)  

Perhaps this is a time of national calamity – a terrorist attack, a devastating hurricane, widespread financial collapse.  

Or it might be a time of personal calamity – the loss of a job, betrayal by a spouse, the death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis.  

At all of those times, hear the voice of God to you:  “Be still, and know that I am God.”  

This is not a time for activity and noise.  This is a time for stillness and silence.  This is time to be quiet enough to hear the still, small voice.  

At these times, be still and hear the voice of God:  

Know that I am God.
Know that I am the Almighty.
Know that I am the infinite and eternal.
Know that I am God and I rule the universe.
Know that I am the sovereign God and nothing touches you that does not first pass through my hands.
Know that I am God and I am bigger than your disaster.
Know that I am God and I can see you through the valley.
Know that I am God and I will be with you, right there beside you.
Know that I am God and I will have the final word.
Know that I am God.  

When the earth collapses, or your world falls apart, be still and know that God is an ever-present help in trouble.  Be still and know that God is God.


As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

Psalm 42:1

The deer is desperate for drink.  In the dry, arid Middle East, perhaps with drought, the deer searches and searches for a stream.  The thirsty deer is so desperate for water that it pants for water. Intense thirst!

The psalmist relies upon this vivid imagery: Lord, that’s the way I feel about you.  Lord, I long for you.  I thirst for you.  I yearn for you.  Lord, let me meet with you.  Let me draw close to you.

The story of the Bible is a love story.  It’s a story that begins in the heart of God with a deep, unbounded, unstoppable love for his people.  It’s a love that pursues us and woos us and wins us.  It’s a love that awakens a responsive love in our hearts.  

Never forget:  It’s not duty.  It’s not discipline.  It’s not philosophy.  It’s love.  

Writer David Bryant was once in Calcutta talking with Mother Teresa.  There were great needs and pain and suffering everywhere.  At one point, Bryant asked Mother Teresa, “With the crying needs of Calcutta, how do you keep going?”  Mother Teresa replied, “I get up and spend four hours with the Lord every day because he is the deep well and I need to drop my bucket into the well every day.”  

Four hours may be a bit intimidating for most of us, nearly all of us.  But we too need time, unhurried time, with the Lord every morning.  “Jesus is the deep well and I need to drop my bucket into the well every day.”

Come Near

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

Psalm 27:8    

It is important to seek God’s hand.  In fact, it is essential.  We seek God’s hand to provide the things that we need.  “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).  

We seek God’s hand because we need him.  Because we are dependent upon him.  Because we are desperate for him.  

This dependence pleases God.  It is the opposite of proud self-reliance.  Over and over, the Bible tells us:  “Ask.  Ask.  Ask.”  We seek God’s hand.  

But there is something even more important than seeking God’s hand:  seeking God’s face.  That is, seeking God himself.  We seek God first not for what he can do for us, but just for himself.  We seek him in order to know him, to love him, to draw close to him, to be intimate with him.  

We worship.  We adore.  We give thanks.  We sing to him.  We tell him we love him.  We pour out all that’s on our heart.  A.W. Tozer once wrote:  “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.”  

Stuart Sacks tell this story:   

While I was serving in Paraguay, a Maka Indian named Rafael came to sit on my porch.  I was eating and went out to see what he wanted.  He responded, “Ham, henek met.”  Again I asked what I could do for him, but the answer was the same.  I understood what he was saying but not its significance:  “I don’t want anything; I have just come near.”  I later shared the incident with a local veteran missionary.  He explained that it was Rafael’s way of honoring me.  He really didn’t want anything; he just wanted to sit on my porch.  He found satisfaction and pleasure just being near me.  ‘”What brings you here, my child?” the Lord asks.  “Ham, henek met.”  Doesn’t that reveal the heart of true worship?  

Yes, we seek God’s hand.  But first and foremost we seek God’s face.

Unhurried Time

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4    

This is David’s heart for God.  This is David’s passion for God.  

Lord, this is the one thing I long for, the one thing I yearn for. More than anything else, more than everything else, I want you.  Lord, may I be with you.  May I gaze at you.  May I draw close to you.  

David had this enormous passion for God and so David longed to meet with God, to be with God.  

Take time with God.  Take plenty of time with God.  Take unhurried time with God.  Take unhurried time with God daily.  

Why should believers do this?  This is why I do it.  Firstly, I want to.  I love getting alone with the Lord and drawing close.  It’s the highlight of my day.  It’s the highest privilege of my life.  

Second, God wants it.  Whether or not I want to be with God, God wants to be with me!  Any parent of a teenager can relate.  God wants to be with us because he loves us.  

Third, I need it.  Desperately.  For my sanity, for my emotional health, for my spiritual health, for my soul’s restoration, I need it.  Or I will run dry.  

Fourth, because the purpose of human life is to know God and love God.  And this won’t happen apart from unhurried time with God, daily.  

Finally, I need to be changed.  I need to be rescued from pride, jealousy, self-centeredness, unbelief, hurry, worry and much more.  This won’t happen without plenty of time with God.  

A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, The Divine Conquest: 

May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridors of the kingdom like children through the market place, chattering about everything but pausing to learn the true value of nothing.  In my creature impatience I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short easy lessons.  But such wishes are vain – no short cut exists.  God has not bowed to our nervous haste, nor embraced the methods of our machine age.  It is well that we accept the hard truth now.  The man who would know God must give time to him.  

O Lord, stir my heart.  Move in my heart.  Give me a passion for you.  Give me a heart for you.  The kind of heart for you that David had.  Amen.

God Owns It

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.

Psalm 24:1    

Wise people understand the difference between the owner and the manager, the owner and the steward.  Wise people understand that the manager owns nothing, that everything belongs to the owner, that the manager is only there to take care of the owner’s property.  

When it comes to things in my charge, things in my possession, things in my life, I am manager not owner.  It all belongs to God.  

It all belongs to God for a very simple reason:  He made it.  He made it all.  He made the world and everything in it.  He made the universe.  

It all belongs to God.  Sun and stars.  Oceans and mountains.  Trees and flowers.  Birds and fish.  You and me.  It all belongs to God.  

All that I have does not actually belong to me.  It belongs to God.  I am steward, not owner.  God’s the boss; I’m the servant.  I take care of God’s things, not my things.  Money, house, car, retirement account, health, body, abilities – all that I have belongs to God.  

I am God’s servant, holding things lightly, living for eternity, representing my King, desiring only to please him, traveling light and free.  

Wise people understand the difference between the owner and the manager.

Song of Trust

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6

The Mount Everest of Psalm 23 is verse 6.  What kind of person makes a statement like this:  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”?  Only a person who knows his Shepherd.  

David is not naïve.  He is not too young to understand.  He knows, all too well, that life can be tough.  Life can be unfair.  Life can be cruel. He lost three kids!  

But David knows that God is not life.  God is never unfair or cruel.  

Others may hurt us and do us harm.  We may hurt ourselves with our own sin.  But not God.  God will pursue us in love.  

God’s goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.  Not just some of the days, but all the days.  Every single day we will experience God’s bounty.  We will drink it in like refreshing water.  

And beyond that, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  There is no doubt about our future.  No uncertainty or insecurity.  We have a secure destiny – with God!  

What an expression of trust!  Every phrase of this final verse oozes trust.  David had walked with God a long time.  All his life.  He had learned, often through painful experience, that God was good, that God could be trusted, that God’s goodness and love would follow him all his life.  Surely,surely, this would take place.  

What kind of person talks this way?  Only a person who knows his God.


You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5b  

God loves a grateful heart.  

David had such a heart.  He could look at his life and smile at God’s goodness to him, God’s blessing to him.  Yes, life had been hard.  At times life had been excruciating.  But God had been good to him.  So good.  God had filled his cup to the brim and it was overflowing.  

David had a grateful heart.  

What about you?  Has your life been hard and at times excruciating?  Probably it has.  It’s the way life is this side of heaven.  But God has been good to you.  So good.  Your cup overflows.  

Could you not pray this prayer?  

Lord, you have been a Shepherd to me.

You have cared for me and provided for me.

You have loved me even when I ignored you.

Your eye has always been upon me.

You have offered me unlimited grace.

You have sent your own Son to die for me.

You have freely given your Spirit to live in me.

You give me access to you at any time.

You have given me life and breath.

You have brought wonderful people in my life who care about me.

You freely forgive me when I fail you.

You strengthen me when I am weak and needy.

You hear my prayers.

You delight in my love.

You have given me a secure and eternal future with you.

You have rescued me from the pit of hell.

You have chosen me.

You have gifted me.

You have called me to a meaningful place in the great cosmic battle against the enemy.

You have protected me.

You want me.

You have given me food and shelter.

You have been so good to me.

My cup overflows.

The Dark Valley

Even though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4  

In this classic expression of childlike trust, what is David saying to his God?  

Lord, because you are my shepherd, I will not fear.  Lord, because you are watching over me, because you will protect me, because you will defend me, because you will fight for me, because you will take care of me, I will not fear.

Lord, no matter if the valley is filled with darkness or difficulty or danger or death, I will not fear.  

Lord, because you will be right there with me in that valley, I will not fear.  Because you are beside me, behind me, above me, in front of me, under me, over me, in me, because you are right there beside me, invisible and yet more real than life, I will not fear.  

Lord, I will rest in you.  I will not surrender to the fears that assail me.  I will not fret myself and worry myself sick.  I will not be afraid.  Because you are right there with me in the valley.  

Are you in the valley right now?  A valley of loneliness?  Rejection?  Failure?  Divorce?  Unemployment?  Cancer?  Depression?  Addiction?  Physical pain?  Financial ruin?  Overwhelming grief?  Conflict?  Mistreatment?  

If so, then hear the voice of the Shepherd: I will be with you.  Whatever you are going through, I will be there.  No matter how dark the valley, I am right there beside you.  I will not leave you.  Do not be afraid.  I will see you through.

Hear the voice of your Shepherd.

Only God

He restores my soul.

Psalm 23:3a  

God says to you,I will restore your soul.  I will reach into the deepest part of your soul, to the place that nothing else can touch, and I will restore your soul.  I will heal your heart.  I will refresh your spirit.

You need that, don’t you?  

When you are weary and burdened, you need your soul restored.  

When you are overwhelmed and undone, you need your soul restored.  

When you feel guilt and shame, you need your soul restored.   

When you are assailed by fear and worry, you need your soul restored.  

When you feel wounded and hurt, you need your soul restored.   

When you feel alone and rejected, you need your soul restored.  

When you feel angry and rejected, you need your soul restored.  

At all of these times and more, you need God to do for you what you cannot do for yourself:  heal your soul.  
Nothing else can do it.  Not entertainment.  Not a weekend off.  Not sports.  Not exercise.  Not television.  Not a vacation.  Not shopping.  Not your hobby.  Nothing else can restore your soul.  

But the God who created the universe, the God who breathed life into Adam, he can do it.  He can breathe life into your soul.  He can make you alive again.  

It happens when you meet with God.  When you connect with God.  When you draw close to God.  When you get alone with God.  When you gather with God’s people and worship.  

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says to you even now, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  

Christ can restore your soul.

Green Pastures

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Psalm 23:2

God is a good God!  

God is like the shepherd who takes care of his sheep.  He is like the shepherd who takes his sheep to lush, green meadows so they can eat to their hearts’ content.  He takes them to the green meadow so they can lie down and rest.  

God is like the shepherd who leads his sheep to the quiet stream so they can drink the clear, cool mountain water.  

That’s what God is like.  He’s the good shepherd!  He’s the shepherd who provides for us, who nourishes us, who takes care of us, who gives us what we really need.  He’s the shepherd who refreshes us, restores us, replenishes us.  

The only question for us is:  Do we follow our shepherd?  Do we follow him faithfully?  Do we follow him even when the path is hard and the way is dark?  Do we follow him even if we cannot see where we are going?  Do we follow our shepherd no matter what, because we see him as shepherd?  Because we see him as the good shepherd and we trust him?  

God is the God of the lush green meadow. 

He is the God of the clear mountain stream.  

Do you see God the way David saw him?  He is my shepherd and he is good to me.  So good to me.

My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23 is the best-loved Psalm because it is the stunningly beautiful and powerful example of David’s childlike trust in his God.  We all long for this kind of trust.  

It begins with the very first line.  David sees the Lord, the almighty, infinite, holy and sovereign God, as his shepherd.  Though he is the great and awesome God, David knew that God tenderly watched over him like a shepherd caring for his sheep.  The Lord is a shepherd.  In fact, David was more personal:  “The Lord is my shepherd.”  

What was David saying about God?  He was saying that God cares about me.  He knows me.  He understands me.  He watches over me.  He protects me.  He guides me.  He is gentle with me.  He nourishes me.  He comforts me.  He fights for me.  He is attentive to me.  He is for me.  He stays near me.  He will never leave me.  He would die for me.  He’s my shepherd!  

Whatever the need is, he can meet it.  Whatever the burden is, he can carry it.  Whatever the decision is, he can guide it.  Whatever the problem is, he can handle it.  Whatever the hurt is, he can heal it.  He’s my shepherd!  

When the Lord is your shepherd, you can rest in God no matter what happens.  He is watching over you.  He is right there with you.   He will see you through.  He’s your shepherd!  

You won’t lack anything you really need.  If it is a good thing for you, you will get it.  You will not be in want of anything, when the Lord is your shepherd.  

Perhaps David’s greatness was the way he saw God.  “The Lord is my shepherd!”  

A.W. Tozer taught us that how we see God is the crucial thing about us, shaping our entire life.  Do you see God this way?  “The Lord is my shepherd.”

When God Is Silent

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 22:1  

Psalm 22 describes a time of intense suffering in the life of David.  He is on the run.  Perhaps Saul is pursuing him.  David is desperate and he cries out to God.  

Little did David know that the Holy Spirit put these words on the tongue of David to describe the crucifixion of God’s own Son a thousand years in the future.  What’s more remarkable is that David describes crucifixion, which he had never seen, which had not even been invented as a form of execution.  Notice David’s language for his own suffering and then how it is vividly echoed in the Gospels to describe the crucifixion of Jesus.  

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Jesus would utter these same words from the cross.  When he took our sin, he was separated from the Father, for the first time in all eternity.  Their perfect oneness and community was shattered, and it was incredibly painful for Jesus.  

All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads (22:7).  Matthew 27:39 describes Jesus: And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads.  

He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him (22:8).  In Matthew 27:43 we read: He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.  For he said, “I am the Son of God.”  

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint (22:14). This describes the physical collapse of Jesus’ body on a cross.  

They have pierced my hands and feet (22:16). For David this was figurative language for attack.  For Jesus, this was literally true on the cross.  

They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots (22:18).  This was fulfilled exactly at the cross.  

Psalm 22 is the Psalm of the cross, figuratively true of David and literally true of the Son of David.  It was true of David in a limited sense, but true of the Son of David in an ultimate sense. 

What a remarkable portrait of Christ’s suffering on the cross, given a thousand years before Christ even came, given before crucifixion was even used.  God is the Sovereign God and he is working his plan, a plan that culminates with a Savior dying for sinners.

In God We Trust?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:7  

Lurking within us is the persistent tendency to trust in other things besides God.  

We all encounter a steady stream of challenges and burdens.  Sometimes, these problems feel overwhelming. Unemployment, financial pressure, depression, a rebellious teenager, the death of a loved one, a difficult decision, a feeling of failure, debilitating back pain, the dream of a marriage, a big project at work, and so much more.  Jesus taught us that in this world we will face tribulations (John 16:33).   

When we face these challenges, do we trust in God or do we trust in other things?  Do we trust our own efforts, our own resources, our own thinking?  Do we look first to other people to guide us or rescue us or protect us?  Do we rely upon our careful research, our diligent efforts, our network, our abilities?  Is our reliance upon the best doctors and wisest counselors?  

God can use any of these things of course, and he frequently does.  But, in our heart of hearts, where is our trust?  Where is our confidence?  Is our trust in God to guide us and deliver us, or is our trust in ourselves or other people?  Do we feel a deep sense of dependence on the Lord?  Do we recognize that God may use some of these resources, but our ultimate trust is in God alone?  Do we feel, deeply, that we need the Lord?  

God delights in the man or the woman who chooses to trust in him.  God loves it.  

It would have been easy for a powerful king like David to trust in his chariots and his horses.  It would be expected for a brilliant general like David to trust in his strategy and in his cunning.  It would be easy for a mighty ruler like David to look to his officers and his army.  

But that was not the way David lived.  Others might trust in their own resources, but not David.  Not the man after God’s own heart.  As for David, he would trust his God:  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  

May it be so for you and me!

Your Rock and Your Refuge

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

David faced some fearful situations.  He fought the lion and the bear when he was a shepherd.  He faced the giant Goliath who wanted to crush him.  King Saul wanted him dead.  His own son plotted against him.  David faced foes of all sorts.  

We too face fearful situations at times.  The giants in our life may be different than David’s, but our giants are fearsome too.  Unemployment, debt, divorce, discouragement, depression, despair, cancer, a rebellious teenager, addiction, cancer, back pain, loneliness and more.  

Life can be so hard, so difficult, and at times, overwhelming.  Do what David did.  Depend upon the Lord.  Run to the Lord.  Call out to the Lord.  

Look again at this remarkable testimony of trust and see God the way David saw him:  

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 
Psalm 18:2    

It is amazing how many expressions David uses to make his point about the faithfulness of God to deliver us.  Seven times in one verse:  my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my rock (maybe he needed to hear it again!), my refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  

David exclaims for all the world to hear:  “That’s God!  That’s my God!  That’s what my God has been to me!”  And that’s what God can be for you.  Run to him.  Call to him.  Depend upon him.  

When troubled, cry out: The Lord is my rock.  

When discouraged, cry out: The Lord is my stronghold.

When weary, cry out: The Lord is my strength.  

When fearful, cry out: The Lord is my deliverer.

When overwhelmed, cry out: The Lord is my fortress.  

When worried, cry out: The Lord is my refuge.

When alone, cry out: The Lord is the horn of my salvation.

When tempted, cry out: The Lord is my rock.  

For every need, on every occasion, cry out to God, your rock and your refuge.

The Essence of Prayer

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

Psalm 18:1  

What is prayer all about?  What is the essence of prayer?  

Is the essence of prayer talking to God?  Asking things of God?  Praising God?  Giving thanks to God?  Listening to God?  Confessing our sin to God?  

All of these things are important, but I could not say that any of them is the essence of prayer.  

Prayer, at its core, is all about loving God.  Prayer is connecting with God, drawing close to God, communing with God.  

Prayer is all about a love relationship, a love relationship between you and – get this – the God of the universe!  He already loves you perfectly, infinitely, outlandishly.  And you, ideally, are falling in love with him more and more.  You have fallen for him.  

Prayer is the overflow of this love.  Right here we come to the essence of prayer:  the overflow of a love relationship between you and your God.  

Lovers talk.  Lovers hang out together.  Lovers enjoy each other’s presence.  

David felt this love.  Oh, did he ever!  “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”  

What about you?  Do you feel this love?  Deep within your heart, do you sense the stirrings of love?  This thirst for God, this hunger for God, this spontaneous outburst of your soul, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”  
This is prayer.  Not religious duty.  Not checking a box.  Not clocking in.  Not ritual or liturgy.  Not talking God into something.  

Prayer is the overflow of love.  

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

The Hedonist

You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11

Life.  Joy.  Pleasures.  

That’s what God wants for you.  That’s the kind of God he is.  

Not in small measure, mind you.  No, God wants you to experience life in all its richness, joy in all its fullness, pleasures in all their abundance.  

The God of the Bible, the God of all creation, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, is the happiest person in the universe, and he is out for your happiness as well.  A deep and abiding and lasting happiness, no matter the circumstances of life or the storms that assail you.  

He is the life-giving, joy-exuding, pleasure-delighting God!  He is indeed the ultimate hedonist!   God is all about joy, both his and yours.  

In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, pastor and writer John Ortberg wrote:  

Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for human beings.  The reason for this is worth pondering awhile:  Joy is at the heart of God himself.  We will never understand the significance of joy in human life until we understand its importance to God.  I suspect that most of us seriously underestimate God’s capacity for joy (p. 65).  

Do you see God this way?  Or have you bought into Satan’s lie that God is a cosmic Scrooge and out to get you?  Be careful of that lie.  It can ruin your life and your eternity.  

God aims to fill you with joy.  He does not seek to drip a little joy in your life or sprinkle some joy upon you.  No, he aims to flood your soul with as much joy as you can hold.  

The closer you get to God the more you experience joy, and the farther you go from God the less you experience joy.  For joy, deep and lasting joy, is found only in God himself.  

It has been well-stated:  “Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God.”  The presence of God is the presence of joy.  The absence of God is the absence of joy.  

What does this tell us about our vain pursuit of happiness in other things, in houses or cars, in money or investments, in careers or retirement, in marriage or kids, in sports or hobbies, in beauty or fitness?  Can joy be found there?  It cannot.  Only if we first find our delight in God himself can we find any real delight in the gifts of God.  

C.S. Lewis taught us:  “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing.”  

I ask you again:  Do you see your God this way?  Do you see him as the joy-delighting, joy-giving, joy-bursting God, as the one who longs to fill you with joy?  As the only source of real happiness in the universe?  

See your God!

Stand and Wonder

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4    

It must have been a clear night in Palestine when David looked up at the sky full of stars and wondered.  Humbled by what he saw above (nothing in creation is as humbling as the stars), he wondered at God’s handiwork, the work of his fingers.  He wondered at the glory and the greatness of God reflected in the night sky.  But mostly, he wondered how a God so big could care about us.  

If David only knew the half of it!  If David had some grasp of the size of the universe, if he had some notion that there are billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, how much more amazed he would be!  

If you grabbed a handful of sand, you would pick up around 10,000 grains of sand.  That’s a lot of grains of sand.  Then think about all the sand on all the beaches around the world, and all the sand in all the deserts of our planet.  That is one big number!  Now think that there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on our planet.  In fact, there are ten times more stars than grains of sand.  

When we contemplate the size of our universe, our minds reel.  The God who created all of that, with his mere command, is so big.  He is, indeed, without any limits whatsoever to his greatness and power.  He is the infinite God!  

But how can a God so great care for mere humans?  How could a God so big even notice those odd creatures living on one tiny planet in one medium-sized galaxy?  

God, do you really take notice of me?  Are you mindful of me?  Do you care about me?  The entire Bible shouts “Yes!  A thousand times, yes!”  In fact, David goes on to say:  

Yet you have made him a little lower 
than the heavenly beings  
and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; 
you have put all things under his feet. 
Psalm 8:5-6    

God has bestowed upon us dignity, majesty, glory and honor.  God has given us authority over the earth, the animals, the birds, the fish.  We bear God’s image.  We reflect his glory.  He has placed eternity in our hearts.  We will live forever.  

We mean so much to the infinite God that he sent his own eternal Son to become one of us, so that he could die on a cross and win our salvation.  So great is God’s love for us.  So great is God’s love for you.  

Stand back and wonder!