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Shifting Winds

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windmill-dennis-flood-2004Two of the most universally recognized portions of Scripture in the Bible are The Lord’s Prayer, and Psalm 23. The Lord’s Prayer is actually tucked in the middle of Jesus Sermon on the Mount, and it is how Jesus taught folks back then (and those of us today through his teachings in the Bible) how to pray. Jesus’ instructions are found in Matthew 6:5-15 (NKJV):

The Model Prayer

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever.
Amen.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

The key to answered prayer, of course, is held in our ability to forgive those who have done harm to us in some way (as in trespasses or debtors). Trespass is defined as “an unlawful act causing injury to the person, property, or rights of another, committed with force or violence, actual or implied” (quote source here); and debtor is defined as “a person who is in debt or under financial obligation to another” (quote source here).

Psalm 23 is one of the most well known psalms of David, the shepherd boy and the warrior who became Israel’s second king (brief background story is available at this link). Here is Psalm 23 (NKJV):

Psalm 23
(A Psalm of David)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down
in green pastures;

He leads me beside
the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths
of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me

All the days of my life;
And I will dwell
in the house of the Lord

Forever.

Like millions of others down through the ages up through today, I memorized both The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 many years ago, but I have to say that their meaning and power did not become clear to me until these past seven plus years as I have traversed through one of the toughest times in my entire life since I lost my job in Houston back in April 2009. And they have become as much a part of me as breathing.

The other day I ran across a new book, the subject of which happens to be on both The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. The book is titled, 21 Seconds to Change Your World (2016) by Dr. Mark Rutland, who is “a missionary, evangelist, ordained minister of the International Ministerial Fellowship, and founder and president of Global Servants and the National Institute of Christian Leadership. He also currently serves on the preaching team at Jentezen Franklin’s Free Chapel. Dr. Rutland was the third President of Oral Roberts University, and prior to Oral Roberts University he served as President of Southeastern University for ten years. Additionally he has served as Pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida, and as an Associate Pastor at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Rutland is also a New York Times bestselling author and he has written numerous books to include “ReLaunch” (2013) and this latest offering, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” (2016). (Source: here and from the back book cover).

This book describes a ten-year period of time in Dr. Rutland’s life when, as he explains in Chapter 1 titled, “How The Lord’s Prayer Saved My Life,” he had fallen into a well of “fatigue, toxic success, and, subsequently, depression that had subverted my soul” (p. 17). On pages 19-20, Dr. Rutland explains:

Over the course of those painful years, nearly ten years, where I prayed the Lord’s Prayer like a drowning man, I added to my daily saturation in that prayer an ancient song, or perhaps a poem, written not by a Jewish rabbi but by a Jewish king. David, Israel’s greatest and most complicated king, wrote the poem a thousand years before Jesus of Nazareth was born. Today Jews and Gentiles alike still use the poem devotionally. It is called the Twenty-third Psalm.

I began with the Lord’s Prayer, then later mixed in the Twenty-third Psalm. Prayed back to back, over and over and over again, dozens of times a day, they became the lifeline that hauled me up from the pit and put my feet in a broad place. They were medicine and life and health to me. They became the recipe of the divine. Now, all these years later, I still pray them together, time after time, every single day of my life. Praying them together so often, hundreds, perhaps thousands of times over these years, I began to see how beautifully the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 fit together. they are gears that interlock gently, perfectly, never grinding, turning the human soul toward the healing for which it yearns. Seen, prayed, and laid out side by side, the parallel splendor of the two is absolutely miraculous.

Come with me now. Let me introduce you or, more likely, reintroduce you to my beloved friends, the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. Of course, they are not my friends alone. They have brought healing power to millions for centuries. I invite you to meet them, or meet them again, and come to know them more intimately, perhap more fully, then you ever have before. (Quote source: “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” pp. 19-20).

In my own life over these past several years, the combination of praying The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 (not as a matter of rote memory but as an intimate connection to God) just sort of “happened” from the hard place I found myself in after going through a massive job hunt of several years standing, and yet it seemed as if the doors of heaven remained closed to me (actually, slammed shut) as far as finding another job. While in Dr. Rutland’s case it was depression caused from fatigue and toxic success that had all but consumed his life at that time, it has not been a case of depression in my own life. Rather, it is an intense exasperation at not being able to understand what, exactly, was (and still is) standing in the way of me not being able to find another job. After all, I had never had a hard time find working in my entire life until I encountered that job in Houston that I ended up losing in April 2009, a scant seven months after it began in late September 2008. Also, a seven-month job, regardless of any reason for losing it–in and of itself–should not have ended a successful twenty-year career in my professional field of work.

Well, if you’re a regular reader of my blog you know my story. And the point of this blog post is not a recounting of my story. I have to say I was delighted to find this book that combines a heartfelt study of the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 together as I know what it has meant in my own life to pray both in combination more times then I can count over these past several years.

the-lord-is-my-shepherd-i-shall-not-want21 Seconds to Change Your World is a treasure trove of information on the history of the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, and despite what some of my readers may be thinking (possibly “how boring, right?”), Dr. Rutland has a wonderful way of making them come alive in a way that most folks familiar with both passages have never given thought to beyond the cursory or rote reading/praying of each passage.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is titled, “The Journey Begins,” and includes three chapters titled, “How the Lord’s Prayer saved my life,” “Life-changing words: The Rabbi’s Prayer and the King’s Poem,” and “A brief history of Jesus and David.” The second part is titled, “The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23,” and contains Chapters 4-19, where Dr. Rutland takes each passage, line by line and sometimes combined together, using rich histories of both Jesus and David to bring to life each line of both passages in a way I have never read before in other books on this subject.

The third and final part is titled, “To Change Your World,” which contains the final five chapters on saturation prayer, meditational prayer, congregational prayer, inner healing, and benediction, plus Appendix A: One Night With the Good Shepherd; and Appendix B: The Lord’s Prayer in various languages.

Mark Batterson, a New York Times bestselling author and lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC., states the following in his forward at the beginning of Dr. Rutland’s book on pp. 9-11:

If I had to teach one message over and over and over again, it would be how to pray. The good news is that the best teacher in the history of mankind made it really easy for people like me to teach this message. Thousands of years ago Jesus gave us a template; we call it “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Thus “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” with it’s strangely simple and wildly profound message, was born. This book is bold. This book is vulnerable. This book is revolutionary. By combining two ancient poems, Dr. Rutland has given us a compass for our intellect and our spirituality that is both universal and sufficient. In the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, everything that you might feel needs to be said when you pray is said beautifully–whether it’s solitarily or congregationally.

I’ve always said that I believe we are all only one prayer away from a totally different life. But Dr. Rutland has taken it a step further. It’s exactly 21 seconds. That is not a long time to completely revolutionize your world. . . .

It you ask me what I pray for more than anything else, the answer is hands-down the favor of God. While it’s difficult to describe or define, the favor of God is what God can do for you that you cannot do for yourself. Asking for a better way to pray is a prayer that can and should be prayed. It’s funny that prayer is one of the most difficult and simplest things to do every single day. Sometimes, though it might be all we have, it’s hard to find the right words. We can all attest to this. Who hasn’t felt the blush of guilt from having to admit that you don’t pray enough or that you should pray more? But always remember one thing when it comes to prayer–it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. The Bible gave us the words, and this book reinforces and sheds a new and relevant light on them.

You are only 21 second away from living a totally different life. (Quote source: “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” pp. 9-11).

The following is from Chapter 13 titled, “David–Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies” from Psalm 23:5a (pp. 101-103):

How very like David the king this statement is [e.g. Psalm 23:5a]. David knew all about enemies. His whole life he was surrounded by enemies. The ravenous beasts who wanted his sheep were the enemies of his childhood. And what a childhood it was! After the lions and bears came Goliath, then Saul, the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, palace plotters, one of his own sons, and finally, old age. When David wrote of enemies, he knew whereof he spoke. He lived his life in the presence of enemies.

It’s no wonder then that he speaks of God’s loving providence in the midst–not in the absence–of enemies. David never said God would give me a life without enemies. He did say that God has not forsaken me when gossipers and detractors and envious plotters are circling me like hungry wolves.

As a university president and a businessman, I frequently needed cash-flow projections from my chief financial officer. In order to understand those projections I had to know the assumptions they were based on. Likewise, the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 are based on a certain set of assumptions.

Here are the seven assumptions of the Lord’s Prayer:

  1. There is a God and He is our heavenly Father.
  2. He is worthy to be praised.
  3. He is our king and He has a will for our lives now, not just later in heaven.
  4. We must eat to live, and we can trust Him to eat.
  5. We have all sinned and need forgiveness.
  6. We must forgive to be forgiven.
  7. We will face temptation and evil.

Here are the seven assumptions of Psalm 23:

  1. The Lord is a good and caring shepherd-provider, even as I am a needy sheep.
  2. I have needs in my body such as food and water.
  3. My soul also has needs such as restoration.
  4. I live in a confusing world and I need guidance.
  5. I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (The psalmist assumes that it is a matter of when, not if.)
  6. There will be times I need comfort and protection.
  7. I will (not might) have enemies.

This last assumption is probably the most painful to learn. When I was young–and I believe many young folks feel this way–I thought that if I was a nice person I would not have enemies. Now I see that nothing you do can keep someone else from deciding they are your enemy. You may indeed make enemies with your own actions, but you are likely to have enemies regardless of how nice or good or generous or anything you are. It is so hard for those who desire to be no one’s enemy to realize that they themselves have enemies not of their own making. On the other hand, it is a joy to realize that though I may be absolutely surrounded by enemies, I am not abandoned. Even in their mocking presence, I am loved, guarded, and provided for by my Father and Shepherd.

The story of Hadassah, or Esther, is perhaps the prime example in the Bible of the truth about hidden enemies. The young Queen Esther is certainly to be admired, but the real heroic figure in the story in Mordecai. Without Mordecai there is no story of Esther. Indeed, without Mordecai, the slaughter of the Jews would have been an unimaginable horror. Mordecai’s story is also a prime example of God’s blessing in the presence of enemies.

In that story, told in the book of Esther, a man named Haman hates Mordecai, the Jew. Haman’s is an unreasonable and envious hatred, as, by the way, most anti-Semitism is unreasonable and fueled by envy. Haman wants to despoil Mordecai, take all he has, pull him down, and even kill him–and not just Mordecai, but every Jew in Xerxes’ kingdom. Mordecai has no such evil designs on Haman. He does not harbor hatred for Haman, or want him killed, or covet Haman’s position or his possessions. Mordecai is a decent man, a faithful servant of the king, and a loyal citizen, yet Haman hates him bitterly.

It is a dangerous naïveté to think that because you are a decent, God-fearing person who tries to be friendly and fair to everyone, you will have no enemies. Psalm 23 assumes the presence of enemies, not the absence of enemies. Just like Mordecai, you have enemies. And just like Haman, they feel justified, even righteous in their every attempt to bring you down. Haman justified his efforts to destroy Mordecai by wrapping it in the claim that it would be good for Xerxes and his kingdom. You have enemies who assume your destruction might even be good for God and His kingdom. When my soul most needed restoration, I was shocked to discover that some did not want me healed, but instead wanted me strung up.

As in the case of Haman and Mordecai, God will also care for you miraculously. At one point, Mordecai’s archenemy, Haman, must lead Mordecai through the streets of the capital, proclaiming the king’s favor upon the hated Jew. Finally, of course, Esther is used by God to foil the murderous plot, and Haman himself is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.

We can rest in the knowledge that God will protect us and give us victory over those who hate us without cause.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Quote source: “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” pp. 101-104).

I hope this sample reading from Chapter 13 in 21 Seconds to Change Your World has whetted your appetite for more. Click here to find a variety of bookstores where this book can be purchased. I know in my own life, even though my outward circumstances haven’t changed yet, how incredibly meaningful it has been to me in my own relationship with Jesus Christ to combine The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 over and over and over again in prayer. To have found Dr. Rutland’s book the other day was a confirmation to me of just how powerful combining them in prayer can be. And if you haven’t memorized them yet, do so now.

I’d like to end this post with the words from The Lord’s Prayer that are left out in some translations. They are found in the closing of the prayer (NKJV, also found in KJV):

For Yours (thine) is the kingdom and the power . . .

And the glory, forever . . .

Amen . . . .

YouTube Video: “Overcomer” by Mandisa:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

 

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