You have heard my voice and my supplications.
You have inclined your ear to me,
therefore I will call on you as long as I live.
(adapted from Psalm 116:1-2)
After the prophecies of judgment against the aggressors comes the blessing of Israel. And a reminder. The last time that the Lord had provided the people with their own country, they responded badly. They had deserved the punishment they had received, but the Lord forgives them.
This time will be different. The Lord offers this assurance, "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." The gift is free but comes with obligations, "I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances."
The letter to James is written to a congregation that has already heard the basics of the Jesus story. They've heard about Christianity, but they need instruction on how to live out the faith.
Being a Christian may mean taking a more difficult path, but the result could make you stronger, whereas dithering can make you weaker. Riches don't last. Your gifts come from God. Remember that God had something in mind for how you use those gifts.
I can't remember my first prayer. I don't even remember who first told me about prayer or suggested words that might be used. I'm guessing that grace before meals and those bedtime prayers were the first. But, I don't remember who taught me about prayer in time of great difficulty. Somebody must have, because I have been praying that kind of prayer throughout the tough times in my life.
One source of instruction for all of us is, of course, the Psalter.
The psalm for today is a thanksgiving psalm.
And, as a thanksgiving psalm, it also gives the need for the prayer that the Lord has answered.
The psalmist remembers the time of distress and anguish and calling on the Lord for help. And, having received that help, the psalmist then gives thanks.
Notice that the psalmist is not being totally private, but is promising to be a witness to the care and support that the Lord gives.
I will pay my vows to the LordProverbs 27:23-27
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds;
for riches do not last forever,
nor a crown for all generations.
When the grass is gone, and new growth appears,
and the herbage of the mountains is gathered,
the lambs will provide your clothing,
and the goats the price of a field;
there will be enough goats' milk for your food,
for the food of your household
and nourishment for your servant girls.
Prayer for Today: O Lord, we have heard the story, we have received the gifts, and we have informed of the commands; yet, we often behave as if we did not know what you wanted us to do. We ask forgiveness and your continued presence. Amen.