pathways of prayer
Week 1 - The path of holiness
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your Holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Holiness Tradition emphasises the need to have our hearts and motives 'holy' and right with God. This is something that takes effort - we have to work at it. The Puritans called it "heart work". But paradoxically, we can't achieve 'right-heartedness' by our own efforts. Instead, as we offer our lives and intentions to God and God meets us at our point of effort.
- In the middle of the busyness of life, stop. At the beginning of this Lenten journey, make some time to listen to God. Before you do anything else, do nothing. Spend a few minutes in quiet. If it helps, play some gentle music. In the quietness, try to picture yourself in front of God. What do you see?
- 21st Century life is full of distractions - things that divert our attention from God. What are the biggest distractions in your life?
King David was the leader of the people of Israel. He was heroic, gifted, godly...and deeply flawed. As a child he was brave enough to save his sheep from lions and took on the giant Goliath in mortal combat. But as an adult he sent his Generals into battle while he stayed at home. While they were away fighting he was distracted by seeing his neighbour's wife taking a bath on the roof. He slept with her, then covered up his sin by arranging for the man to be killed in battle. The whole sorry story is recorded in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25.
Then, in a dramatic turn, God sent the prophet Nathan to call David to account. In a moment of revelation David realised the enormity of what he had done - and how badly he had failed God. This is his prayer...
Read Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
- How do you picture David as he prays this prayer?
- List the things that David asks God to do for him.
- In this prayer David is returning to a God whom he knows well, but from whom he has strayed. What characteristics of God does David call upon here?
- In verses 12-15 David makes various promises to God. What does he feel he can offer to God that God will accept?
- Look again at verses 16 and 17. What kind of sacrifice does God not want from us? What does God want from us? What do you think is meant by "a broken spirit"?
- What do you imagine David did after he prayed this prayer?
Moving onTry to identify one thing that regularly distracts you from having your heart focussed on God. Decide to give it up between now and Easter. Each time that distraction arises (and it will!) focus instead on God. You could use David's prayer Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
If you are using these studies as part of a group you may want to tell the others in the group what you are giving up.
If you are using these studies alone, make yourself a note to remind you. You could write the words Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me, and put them in the place where your distraction usually occurs - on the bathroom mirror or even the front of your TV set.
Contact: BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship
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Text © BBC 2007. Web site © CTBI 2007.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
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