Even Though

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

Dear Lord,

When I started through this journey of praying through the 23rd Psalm, I knew that I would not like getting to this part.

I’m glad that this wasn’t the first sentence of this Psalm. I needed to know what kind of Shepherd You are, how good You are. My awareness of Your guidance, Your desire to lead me to still and quiet places, is where my  heart wants to be.

Even though…

I suppose that for the rest of my earthly trek I will continue to ponder the significance of the loss of our son in relation to your presence and power. My mind drifts back over David’s sweet and calm lyrics.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want … even though.

He makes me lie down in green pastures… even though.

He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul … even though.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake … even though.

Those two words reflect the subtext of grief in my life. It doesn’t make sense. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – MUST I?

Is Your leading and guiding taking me through the most treacherous place my  heart has ever been? Do You have to drag me through the hell of suffering in order to get me to the calm and quiet? Is Your ability somehow limited in some way that I do not know? What else will You allow me to suffer along this journey? Didn’t You know that this crushing loss would be more fierce to me than the most ravenous wolf? Wasn’t there another way? And weren’t You my son’s Shepherd too? While I am confident that he is now resting near quiet waters where we all long to be, I am left behind with questions and pain.

In the blackest of shadows, Shepherd, please take my hand. This valley of death is frightening beyond words. Yes, I have questions. Yes, my faith has some holes. Yes, I’ve questioned everything. But dear God, would You please continue to be my Shepherd…

Even though.

~John

He Guides Me in Paths of Righteousness

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Dear Lord, Trustworthy Shepherd who would never lead me into the wrong direction, I love You. As I experience following in Your ways, I am surprised at every path. I forget that these are well worn paths that You have traveled many times with many others.  They are pathways created through uncertain hillsides where You know every step, every rock, every branch, every danger, and every spring. When I walk in Your ways I am assured You have selected for me the most advantageous trails.

I love You for Your insight into who I really am, what I really need. I love You for your foresight, which has – before I was born – worn dirt grooves throughout the earth for me to follow. I love You because You knew that my path would not head in the right direction without Your intervention. I love You for the cross…and the empty tomb.

Lord I’ve already confessed that I’m not a very good listener. I am convinced that Your way is better than mine. Your will is more important than mine. Your guidance is more dependable than my own. Stronger than my own stubborn heart is Your inexhaustible love. You call me to paths of righteousness and I remain in a continuing spirit of penitence for walking down paths of unrighteousness.

Lord, I confess that You are my Chief Shepherd. I never want to walk away from your path. I desperately want the righteousness that only you can give. I need Your forgiveness, grace, but more. I desire what only Jesus can give… His righteousness. Mine is too damaged to repair. His is pure and holy and fit for Your presence. So cover me in His righteousness Lord. When You hear this prayer, would You hear His voice first? Would You see His blood covering my weakness and sin? Would You accept me because I wear His name? And then Lord would You help me remember that I am completely accepted in Your arms, hearing Your voice, obeying Your gentle admonitions, and giving You my heart?

And my loving Abba, please give me opportunities along the paths to bring honor to Your name.

~John

He Restores My Soul

He restores my soul.

Dear Lord,

In all of the ways that I am touched and blessed by Your grace, nothing is as meaningful as the restoration You bring to my soul. That part of me that seems unreachable and sometimes unteachable, is easily within Your grasp. Your desire to give my soul the life it once knew is incredible to me.

After all, it is due to my wandering that I need to be restored. I’ve been whipped by the cruel rod of the Wolf and left for dead. I’ve tried to find my own way to green pastures and quiet waters, and gotten discouraged that I couldn’t find them without You. I’ve been hurt by others in the flock, surprised by their treachery. I’ve sometimes blamed others for things I’ve done. And I have walked outside of your paths into dangerous pastures filled with snares.

Yes, Shepherd, I need Your gentle restoration. I’m much too confident in Your shepherd’s heart to doubt your desire to save me. I know that with one word you are at my side. With no ability to fix the mess I’ve made, and as I begin to breathe the first words of sorrow, You are already mending the torn places in my heart. Gentle Shepherd I can sense your compassion and mercy. I’m quite familiar with them because, as You know, I so frequently need them.

Restore the joy of my salvation.

Restore the vigor of the faith I had when I was young.

Restore the wisdom of my faith I often neglect.

Restore the trust I had before the Enemy tore it from me.

Restore the love for your will and word when it fades.

Restore the commitment my heart made in the past, makes daily, and will make forever.

Lord restore my awareness of your presence.

Restore my soul.

~John

He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters

He leads me beside quiet waters.

Dear Lord,

My Great Shepherd, who could I ever expect to know my deepest needs but You? Beyond knowing, Your care and guidance always bring strength to my soul. Though I have never served you perfectly, you have never failed to Shepherd perfectly. I know that my heart can have peace without measure in your presence as you take me to quiet places.

Quiet places make me crazy. When I am at rest I wonder what I ought to be doing. When there is no noise I bring it into existence…TV…Radio…iPod…going places… going nowhere… creating the noisy environment. The world I create is not nearly as serene as the one You created. Yes, the one You created that best suited Your creation.

I’m almost afraid of the quiet. In the silence I have time to think clearly. I am able to see my reflection and wonder how this has happened to me. In the quiet moments The Enemy brings my regrets, my mistakes, my disobedience, my losses … he elegantly places them around me so that no matter which direction I look I am reminded of the failure of my trek. But this is not the quiet to which You lead me.

You lead me to quiet waters that allow me to drink without fear. I see my reflection in the waters and do not see failure but redemption. I see You. Standing beside me, giving me assurance. Near these quiet waters of my heart, I understand why You have led me here. No amount of noise, confusion, crisis, or thunder can rise above the holy  din of Your peace.

Lord, when I’m running through my days … would you remind me to come back to this place? As  You already knew, I needed to come here.

~John

He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures

He makes me lie down in green pastures …

Dear Lord,

That sounds so peaceful. You, the Great Shepherd who provides for me with all sufficiency also brings me to rest. You know me better than anyone. Your concern for mind, spirit, soul, and body is the source of my true wholeness. You want me to experience rest, peace, calm, serenity. Shalom.

I’d really like to pray through this magnificent Psalm without so much confession. However, whenever I sense Your presence, I am overwhelmed by my flaws as I stand in your light. The truth is that I do not want to rest. I desire Shalom without time for calm. At times I feel frantic, trying to meet all of my obligations and self-placed self-paced and self-centered activities.

I confess that while I was writing this prayer I checked email and Facebook. Several times. I thought about breakfast. I thought about the trip I’m taking today. I thought about the things I have yet to do before Sunday comes. I thought about how I can’t seem to stop thinking about all the things I think. Then I thought that You know all of my thoughts.

So I’m not sure what I’m asking when I say, Lord, “make me lie down in green pastures” … but please do. I am not always certain that I know what I need – but without sabbath rest I become so weary.

It is when lying down in green pastures that I can finally become more aware of Your presence. I will be able to hear your voice. I will contemplate the riches of your grace. I will relinquish control and busyness to you. It is then that the thirst of my spirit is sparked. The more I am near You, the more I want You.

So yes, Lord, please… make me to lie down in your green pastures.

~John

I Shall Not Be In Want

I shall not be in want.

Dear Lord,

Of all of the important and essential things in this life, I do not have any lack. You created me, sustain me, have saved me, and will love me forever. Nothing can separate me from your love. Everything else is just lagniappe.

Perhaps if I keep affirming that, my  heart will also believe it. I know it to be true, but Dear Shepherd, when does my will catch up with my knowledge?

I am addicted to new and improved. Acquisitions thrill me, make my heart race, steal my money, captivate my time. When I’m bored I go to stores and walk around looking for something to catch my eye. Discontent with what I already have, I am willing to become indebted in order to have right now something I do not really need.

I wish that was all. But the want within seems to never calm…it exercises itself in a hundred different directions without rest.

Still, Lord, I do know that your provision is enough. I do know that I am hearing the call of another shepherd who does not have my health and heart as his main concern. I know because I have followed him before, and in his pasture there is no rest, no satisfaction, nothing but … want.

So I need your Shepherd’s heart to lead me, protect me, correct me, remind me, feed me, forgive me, and save me. You give me so many gifts that I do not deserve. What I do deserve, you withhold. Yes, your grace and mercy forever keep me safe.

Until such time as my wandering heart is convinced, I will continue to affirm and know that as long as You are my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.

~John