Over 60,000 subscribers
Crying Out to the Lord
Many times in my life I have cried out to God for help – either because of my own desperate situation, or on behalf of someone else who was in great need of help. Sometimes God has answered this cry almost immediately. At other times it has only been after a long time that I have been able to look back and see his answer. Sometimes I have not received the answer I had hoped for. Yet, even then, it has always been a great comfort to know that God heard my cry.
God’s desire is for us to have a relationship with him that is real and from the heart.
1. Cry out for hopePsalm 88:9b-18
Rejection is always hurtful – especially when it comes from someone we love or someone very close to us. Broken relationships are painful – particularly when we feel we have been ‘dumped’ by a ‘lover’ or a ‘neighbour’. The psalmist feels that since ‘lover and neighbour alike dump me; the only friend I have left is Darkness’ (v.18, MSG).
He says, ‘For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting’ (v.15, MSG). The situation seems like one of utter hopelessness: darkness (v.12), feeling rejected (v.14), affliction (v.15a), terror and despair (v.15b). ‘I’m bleeding, black-and-blue ... I’m nearly dead’ (v.17, MSG).
Yet there is one note of hope. The hope comes from the fact that in the midst of all this he cries out to God: ‘I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you … But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you’ (vv.9b,13).
However bad our situation may seem, there is always hope if we cry out to the Lord.
Whatever the circumstances, the psalmist sets a good example by starting each day calling on the Lord with hands spread out in prayer: ‘I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help, at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak’ (v.13, MSG).
Thank you, Lord, that however desperate our situation is, we can always come to you and spread out our hands in prayer. Lord, today I cry out to you for help …
2. Cry out for helpRomans 7:7-25
Do you ever find yourself trapped in bad habits or sins that you want to break free from but find yourself unable to do so? Do you ever find yourself deciding that you will not do something and then doing it anyway?
Paul writes, ‘I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise’ (v.15, MSG).
He says, ‘I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time’ (vv.18–20, MSG).
He goes on, ‘It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge’ (vv.21–23, MSG).
In the middle of describing this struggle with sin, Paul says, ‘I obviously need help!’ (v.18, MSG). Towards the end of the chapter he cries out for help. ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ (v.24).
The passage yesterday ended with Paul saying we are totally free. We are free from the law – ‘free to live a new life in the freedom of God’ (v.6, MSG). So was the law bad? Paul anticipates the kind of questions which will be raised about what he is saying. Is he equating the law with sin? ‘Is the law sin?’ (v.7).
He shows that it is not the law that is sin. Quite the reverse. ‘The law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel’ (v.12, MSG). It is we who are sinful. The law shows this by showing what sin is, and that we cannot keep the law. Indeed it even aggravates sin in us.
The next question follows from the previous ones. If the law is so good, why did it lead to my death? (v.13). ‘No,’ says Paul. It was not the law – but my sin – that led to death. If someone is condemned for a crime, it is not the law which causes the penalty. Rather it is the crime. All the law does is to set the standard.
Much ink has been spilled over this passage. The main debate is whether Paul is referring to his Christian or pre-Christian state. It is clearly autobiographical, but he is also talking generally about the condition of human beings living under the law.
Perhaps we should see this passage as describing the Christian not living in the fullness of the Spirit’s power, even though he or she desires to do so. It can be read as the human cry to live in the Spirit, heard again in the lives of Christians through the ages. We know that God’s law is holy, righteous and good (v.12). We know that it is spiritual (v.14). Yet we find ourselves failing; ‘I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’ (vv.14–15).
We find ourselves torn. ‘When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members’ (vv.21–23).
The difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of becoming a Christian is not that before, you sinned, and that after, you are sinless.
No the difference is that before becoming a Christian, sin was in character, it did not really worry you or me. Whereas after becoming a Christian, it is utterly out of character, you do not want to do it. It causes you pain and regret when you do. Not so much because you have let yourself down – although there is that. But because you want to be pleasing Christ – and you have failed him.
If you are like me, you know only too well this battle with sin. Then please realise that that is a key mark of the genuine Christian believer.
As Paul cries out for help he already knows the answer to the question, ‘ “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (v.25).
Perhaps, the key to understanding this passage lies in the two words ‘I myself’ (v.25b). On our own we are slaves to the law of sin but this is not the end of the story. Paul goes on to speak about the great liberation that the Holy Spirit brings to our lives.
As I look at myself as a Christian in terms of belonging to Christ, I realise that I am not free to sin. As I look at myself as a Christian in the world, I realise that I am not free from sin either. But as I look at myself as a Christian empowered by the Spirit, I realise that I am free to overcome sin.
Thank you, Lord, that we are not on our own. Thank you that although we fail all the time in our struggle against sin, you have rescued us through Jesus. ‘Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (v.25). Thank you that you have sent your Holy Spirit to live within us. Lord, I cry out to you for help. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit today. I really need the help of the Holy Spirit to lead the kind of life I know you want me to lead.
3. Cry out for healingHosea 6:1-7:16
God wants to bring healing to our lives. The people knew that if they truly returned to God, he would heal them (6:1). ‘Unless we receive a miracle, all healing is a process that takes time, especially emotional healing. Healing does not come easily and can be quite painful. Sometimes we have wounds that are still infected, and before we can be thoroughly healed, those wounds must be opened and the infection removed. Only God knows how to do this properly. As you seek God for the healing from your hurts, there are two main things you can do to facilitate the process: spend time with God in His Word and wait in His presence. I guarantee you will find healing there!’ writes Joyce Meyer.
If we want God’s healing, we need to cry out to him from our hearts. God’s complaint against his people in this passage is that, ‘Instead of crying out to me in heartfelt prayer, they whoop it up in bed with their whores’ (7:14, MSG).
The first three verses of chapter 6 appear to describe the painful process by which the Lord restores us to himself when we slip away from him. However, there is no acknowledgment of sin or deep repentance.
It may be Hosea putting the people’s shallow confession into words. ‘Your declarations of love last no longer than morning mist and predawn dew’ (6:4, MSG).
What is clear is that God is interested in the heart, not superficial action: ‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings’ (v.6). As The Message translation puts it, ‘I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God.’ He is concerned about a relationship with him that comes from the heart.
His complaint is that ‘none of them calls on me’ (7:7). There is an arrogance, an independent spirit in humankind that refuses to ‘return to the Lord … or search for him’ (v.10). He says, ‘they have strayed from me! … They have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them … but they turn away from me’ (vv.13–14). He longs for them to cry out to him from their hearts’, but they do not turn to the Most High (vv.14,16).
Lord, forgive us for the times when our relationship with you has become superficial. I know that you want us genuinely to return to you so that you can heal us and bind up our wounds. Thank you that if our repentance is genuine you do bind up our wounds, revive us and restore us so that we can live in your presence (6:1–2). Lord, I want not only to know you but also to press on to know you better (v.3).
‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice’
The dictionary says mercy is ‘compassion shown to enemies or offenders in ones power.’ Shakespeare said of mercy: ‘It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’ Our world needs more mercy.