Saturday, June 28, 2014

Praying Through Ps 23

Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: June 28th, 2014

A sister in Christ went home to the Lord yesterday at 4.55pm. There is much grief. There is much sorrow. Joy, where art thou? Hope, please show yourself. Comfort, please give generous portions. Happiness is a foreign word. Sadness is the preface to a long and winding road, with chapters after chapters of struggling, questioning, and lamenting.

During this time, I did a mental sprint toward Psalm 23, the famous Shepherd Psalm, having memorized it in my earlier years. The words are close to my heart. In times of sorrow, I cling to the Lord, and pray for the people. I am aware of many emotions but wary of saying too many words. Here is my prayer through Ps 23 this week, in remembrance of Sarah, beloved sister in Christ.

The LORD is my Shepherd. Not just mine, but for all God's people. Black, white, yellow, or whatever complexion, God shepherds them all. God walks with all. God loves all. The Shepherd is kind, big, loving, and gentle. He knows what is in our heart, and our hearts long to know what is in His heart.

I shall not be in want. Yes, I do not want to remain needy after my own strength. We are a world in need. That is not the point. The point is, so what if our needs now are met? Will that dilute our need for God? Surely not, for when we long for God, we will gradually realize that with the LORD, everything else will take their appropriate places. The priorities will be set aright. The imperfect needs will be arranged according to the perfect God's will.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. Yes, we are a busy lot. The more we think we are able, the more we become busy, sometimes busybodies. Truth is, busyness is pride in disguise. If we can run, we run everywhere, sometimes not knowing the reason or the destination for running. God has to "make" us lie down especially when the sheep behave out of line. Even sheep will grow tired. The Shepherd who knows His sheep will force them to rest, despite their stubbornness. That is love in action.

He leads me besides the still waters. What better way than to let us commune with nature, God's creation. God created the world and prepared the environment before creating man. That is love. The love of preparation. He knows the healing prowess of natural beauty and calm.

He restores my soul. Our modern world teaches us how to run fast and how to act efficiently. It is a poor teacher when it comes to resting and pacing ourselves. Even exercise regimens require hard work. What will all work and no rest do to the human body? I remember hearing about a research that proves how people who rest once in seven days fare better than those who rested only once in every ten days. The human body is optimized for seven days: six days work and one day rest. As we rest in God, we are restored.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. Sheep can run, yes. They can run astray too. They need direction where to run. Here, we pray for God to guide us through paths of righteousness. The best route for godliness. The best way toward living a life for God. The reason we walk, is for the sake of Christ. We walk not in our own name, but in the Name and Glory of God.

Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Who does not have dark moments. We all do. Death is one big black blot in anyone's life. Dark corners do bring out the fear in us. What lurks behind? Will it harm us? When we cannot see what is ahead of us, the whole mood can be scary. The point is, it is not the darkness or the valley that brings out the courage. It is the knowledge of the One walking next to us: The Shepherd.

For You are with me. Whenever we walk with anyone, we are essentially promising our presence. The ministry of presence is much needed for the human soul. In our world of mobile devices and Internet communications, it is easy to say that we are contactable anytime and anywhere. But hey, can the cell phone hug us physically? Can the computer provide us the warmth of the human touch? Can the digital devices sense all of our senses? No.

Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. The presence of the Lord is so remarkable that mere sight of the instruments the Shepherd uses will bring immense comfort. In a pre-GPS world, whenever I drive in a foreign land, I often have to depend on signs to tell me where I am heading. Strange roads and strange driving conditions can be rather intimidating. All it takes is a familiar sign, a clear pointer to confirm our directions and the anxiety will diminish. Show us Your presence, Lord.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. We know of David who himself had been pursued by enemies. He had to flee for his life. Imagine having a table set before us and seated opposite is our enemy! That is scary. Yet, the scene is surreal. Enemies who want to kill us have to receive permission from the One setting the table for a meal.

You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over. This scene shows that we the children of God are anointed people, precious and protected. Whoever dares to harm us will have to suffer the Lord's wrath. The anointment runs over shows the generosity and the overflowing goodness of God to empower us. As far as the Lord is concerned, the oil is never seen as wasted. It is generous love. Come to think of it, love in itself is generous.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. The word 'follow' is not exactly reflective of the mood of the word. The better word should be "hound." Goodness and mercy will pursue us like a hound, never giving up on ensuring that we receive the goodness and the mercy the Lord wants to shower upon.

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. This is the best summation. There is no better place than to be in the arms of Jesus. As I think about believers who die, they are entering into the spiritual bliss with God. The dwelling is eternal. The experience is exhilarating. The beauty and the glory will surround all who are with the Lord. Always.

THOUGHT: "God is closest to those with broken hearts." (Jewish saying)


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