Saturday, January 6, 2018
Why Musical Prayers
I wanted to usher you into 2018 with two songs that are on repeat/replay both in my car and in my soul. First, the prayer song by Matt Maher Clean Heart is taken from Psalm 51. I want to invite you to go read that prayer. You can click here for one version (NRSV) or here for another version (The Message)
Seriously, I will wait while you actually read this psalm.
Your first reaction, if it is like mine, is, "Well thanks for that uplifting message, Mr. Donald Downer. Next you are going to tell me that it is time to go see the dentist for a root canal." This psalm is a bit like sandpaper on my soul. It reminds me that we live in a world where religion has been mixed with pop psychology and positivism. I can spend too much time talking about God's love and not about this truth: "If I am alright. And you are alright. Why is the world not alright?" There is brokenness in this world. Matt names it well at the beginning. We woke up this morning and rather than our mind stay on Jesus as the spiritual teaches us, we started yelling and tweeting and trying to cling to power. We woke up this morning not with your mind on Jesus but whether we are winning or losing. This psalm reminds me that I cannot save myself. I do nee to be open to God's work in my life. But that patient, persistent, crafty, and creative will of God is working regardless whether I see/sense it or not. Like water running over a rock, smoothing the rough surface, that is God's grace and presence in our lives.
It is also important to notice and name that Psalm 51 was written as the subtitle suggests: A David Psalm, After He Was Confronted by Nathan (the prophet) About the Affair with Bathsheba. Not only was this psalm written as a confession, but David the King had sent Bathsheba's husband into battle so that David could have the affair! Brokenness often begets brokenness. Which is why I wanted to offer you Matt's song early in the early in the year.
The chances are pretty good at some point in the coming three hundred thirty days you are going to do something you regret or wish you had a rewind button in you life. There are moments when I say something and want to immediately reach out, grasp the words and put them back from whence they came (as if I could do that). There are moments I feel boneheaded or cause brokenness. This isn't about guilt or hanging my head. It is a reality of life. Mistakes happen. And this song from Matt and the psalm help us process the pain so we don't pass it along (which usually sounds like, "Well, if so- and - so hadn't done such-and-such this never wouldn't have happened).
Secondly, the Carrie Newcomer song, A Small Flashlight reminds me that I don't always see as clearly as I like and I don't always get to see the whole forest for the trees. The pastor/poet Thomas Merton put it this way:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
What is that small flashlight for you in the midst of the darkness? Where is God calling you to shine the light...not that you can see all the way down the road to your final destination...but see enough to take the next right step? Do you see the grace upon grace that we have that small flash light to help us with that next step?
I invite you to go back and listen to both songs again (I won't make you re-read the psalm...but know it is there for those moments this year if you need that confessional prayer). Let those words continue to guide you with more than a trace of God's grace.