Short Praises to God for Practicing God’s Presence

Introduction: In an effort to practice God’s presence and pray without ceasing, I have compiled a list of praises/prayers to God from the Psalms. These are purposefully short phrases that can be easily remembered and recited. This list is by no means exhaustive, as I have selected phrases for their clarity and brevity, as well as trying to avoid repeat entries. Since the Psalms are the praise and prayer book of the Bible, I began my survey in the Psalter.

Rationale: In the Western context, praise seems to be the most neglected area of prayer. This neglect especially hinders our prayer life because recognizing and praising God for who He is provides the foundation for prayer. Jesus seemed to point out the importance of beginning prayer with an acknowledgement of God’s character in His model prayer. He begins: “Our Father in heaven hallowed be your name, . . .”  This short phrase both acknowledges God as the one to be revered and yet one who can be approached like a father. The next lines of the model prayer are further built off God’s nature: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .”  As the Heavenly Father who is to be revered, His kingdom and will take precedence over our own. From this acknowledgement of who God is, thanks, confessions, and requests flow.

    Our problems with prayer stem from skipping over the “hallowing” or praising part of prayer. This neglect is even more problematic when we are trying to develop an inner life of constant connection to God (a.k.a. “Practicing God’s presence,” prayer without ceasing, or constantly inclining our hearts towards God).  For this reason, I am focusing on short scriptural praises that rightly orient us towards who God is–His character. When we see God as both a loving Father and Almighty creator, that understanding provides the proper relational foundation for further conversations with God. It’s not that we shouldn’t ask for stuff, but that our requests should be based on the character of the Giver. Jesus says as much when he was teaching on prayer in Luke 11:10-13: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Using a lesser to greater argument, Jesus wants His followers’ prayers to be empowered by a proper understanding of God’s character as heavenly Father. That relationship with the Father provides the foundation for transforming the disciples and the world. For this reason, the short praises listed below focus on the qualities, character, or names of God.

    Although there is considerable scriptural overlap between praise and thanks, I reserve the word “praise” for extolling God for who He is. On the other hand, “thanks” is expressing gratitude for what God has done or given. Certainly, praise and thanks are related; for instance we see God’s gracious character though His free gift of salvation. We praise God for His grace, but we thank Him for our salvation. While thanking God for all that He gives would be a welcome improvement over just asking for stuff, we can still look at prayer through a transactional lens instead of a transformational lens. A transformational lens views prayer as a relationship with God that is meant to transform me and my agenda to be more in line with Christ’s character and agenda (see Ephesians 4:15). Praise shines the spotlight on the character of God so that we can clearly see God for who He is and who we are in relationship to Him.  God is our highest good and the one we are striving towards—even that statement is a statement of praise, which re-orients us towards a transformational mindset to prayer.

    The transformational relationship approach to prayer also beckons us to pursue a life of constant prayer and connection to the one we worship. Prayer does not have to be a distinct religious activity, but a way of relating to God. This constant inclination, awareness, and connection with God is how many view the command “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Brother Lawrence eloquently described this type of living as “practicing God’s presence” and other Christian writers like Frank Laubach and Thomas Kelly have continued to urge us on towards a constant connection to God that transforms our lives.[1]  That transforming connection strengthens when we bring to mind the One we are connecting to. The short praises/verses included below are meant to be reminders of God’s character that help us constantly incline our hearts towards Him.[2]

Memorable, but biblical units: In most cases, I have taken the exact wording from the English Standard Version of the Bible, but limit the selections to a verse or phrase to aid in memory. When there are lots of praise phrases all crammed together, I often include a couple of verses so that the reader can choose how much of the verse to hold in mind.

     Each of these phrases and verses have contexts that should also be studied, so I have included at least one Biblical reference for deeper study. We strive for the concepts in our minds to match the Biblical writers’ concepts, but our different historical context means that an attribute of God may conjure different images. This difference does not mean that our praise of God is wrong. Rather, we acknowledge and seek a deepening of our understanding that, at the very least, includes the original intention of Spirit-inspired writer.

    For brevity’s sake, I sometimes include multiple references after one phrase even if the phrase is slightly different in each reference. I have also grouped some similar phrases together under an underlined heading. This topical arrangement makes locating a phrase that fits your need for the day easier as well as enhances memorization. Arranging and grouping the verses really was my own subjective choice. A different arrangement may work better for you, and I hope that this list inspires you to build your own!

Suggested methods: Select one of these phrases and throughout the day, lift it up as a praise to God. In most cases, I have included a whole verse that can be broken down into even smaller units. For example, Psalm 54:4 says, “God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” You may only be able to hold in your mind “God is my helper” or “The Lord upholds my life.” Whichever phrase you feel best suits your needs, no matter how short, is your connection line for a time. You may use the same phrase for weeks, or switch them up hour by hour, or build up phrases into one whole verse over the course of the day. Consider these phrases as means of connecting to God—to help us in transformational prayer. Focusing on memorization of the whole verse can be counterproductive. The phrase is meant to focus us upon God, not to focus on specific wording or memory capabilities.

     Another consideration is feel free to modify the pronouns when using this list. Although all the Psalms are directed towards God, some refer to God in the third person (He, The Lord, Him, etc). You may want to change the pronouns so it feels more like a God-directed prayer. For instance, Psalm 4:3 states. “The Lord hears when I call to Him.” You could modify the phrase to say, “You, Lord, hear when I call to you.” If you feel like you need to address God directly to praise Him, then by all means modify the pronouns.

   Finally, you may find these phrases helpful in making meditation an avenue of transformation and not just a relaxation technique. Try breathing in the character quality of God (as if you are trying to take that quality into yourself) and then breathe out a praise or thanks. For example, Psalm 103:8 says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  As I breathe in I could say in my mind, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” As I breathe out I could say, “I praise you Lord for you are merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  If I wanted to add an attitude of thanks, I could instead breathe out saying, “I thank you Lord for Your grace, mercy and steadfast love towards me.”

   At the end of the praise list, I do include an epilogue of short prayers for help (just from the Psalms). One naturally wants to cry out for help from this gracious God who abounds in steadfast love and lifts up the oppressed! I place these prayers for help at the end so that any requests for help will spring up from a deep praise and encounter with God.

   I hope this list of scriptural praises and verses helps you to grow in praise, prayer, and practicing of God’s presence. From a place of praise may we be transformed toward the object of our praise!

Short Praises and Prayers from the Psalms:

God is Near, Hears and Cares for His People

The LORD hears when I call to him (Ps. 4:3)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1; 80:1)

God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. (Ps. 54:4)

Lord, you hear prayer, (Ps. 65:2; 77:1)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps. 103:2-5)

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! (Ps. 139:1)

The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. (Ps. 126:3)

He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, (Ps. 105:8; 111:5)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Ps. 145:18)


The Lord is Holy and Just

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. (Ps. 5:4)

For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Ps. 5:12)

God is a righteous judge (Ps. 7:11)

The Lord loves justice (Psalm 37:28)

For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Ps. 11:7)

The LORD our God is holy (Ps. 99:9)

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.( Ps. 145:17)


The Lord is my Highest Good and Joy

You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Ps. 3:3)

You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. (Ps. 16:2)

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:11)

You, Lord, satisfy my soul (Psalm 63:5; 73:25)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:26)


God is my Salvation

Salvation belongs to the LORD; God is my Salvation (Ps. 3:8; 38:22; 68:20)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)

The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation (Ps. 18:46)


The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress, Refuge, & Shield

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:2; 31:3; 62:6; 94:2)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; (Ps. 28:7)

The Lord is my fortress (Psalm 46:7; 91:2)

The Lord is my refuge (Psalm 25:20; 31:4; 46:1; 71:7; 91:2)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. (Ps. 90:1)

For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—32 the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. (Ps. 18:28-32)

He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. (Ps. 144:2)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.  (Ps. 84:11)


The Lord Abounds in Grace, Mercy, and Steadfast Love

(Psalm 89; 103; also 36:5; 40:11; 59:17)

Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. (Ps. 25:6)

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Ps. 103:8; 145:8) 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 117:2; 118:1; 136)

For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Ps. 108:4)

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Ps. 100:5)

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. (Ps. 116:5)

The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Ps. 145:9)


The Lord is Eternal and Above All

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:9 )

The LORD is king forever and ever; He is everlasting (Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 93:2)

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof (Ps. 24:1)

The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Ps. 24:10)

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Ps. 33:10-11)

God reigns over the nations; (Ps. 47:8)

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Ps. 57:5)

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim. (Ps. 80:1; 99:1)

LORD God of hosts! (Ps. 80:19)

You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Ps. 83:18; 86:10)

The Lord is high above all other gods. (Ps. 86:8; 95:3; 97:9)

For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Ps. 135:5-6)

But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. (Ps. 102:12)

But you are the same, and your years have no end. (Ps. 102:27)

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Ps. 108:5)

The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! (Ps. 113:4)


The Lord is Powerful

The Lord is awesome in power (Ps. 66:3)

He gives power and strength to his people (Ps. 68:35)

You are the God who works wonders (Ps. 77:14; 86:10; 92:5)

Lord, you are maker of all things (Ps. 95:5; 96:5)

O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. (Ps. 104:1-2)

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Ps. 147:5)


The Lord is Worthy of Praise

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! (Ps. 113:3)

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; (Ps. 138:1)

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3)

Psalms 148-150 all call to various parts of creation to praise God loudly and with instruments. These are calls to praise more than praises themselves. Even though I don’t pull from these Psalms, you can shape them into Go-directed praises with a little bit of modification.   .


The Lord Helps the Needy and Oppressed.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Ps. 9:9)

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18)

He is the Father of the fatherless and protector of widows (Ps. 68:5)

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. (Ps. 103:6)

For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. (Ps. 109:31)

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, (Ps. 113:7)

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. (Ps. 146:8)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)


Epilogue: Short Prayers for Help to our Praiseworthy God:

Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! (Ps. 109:26)

Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! (Ps. 118:25)

Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! (Ps. 119:12)

I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. (Ps. 119:146-147)

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1-2)

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us. (Ps. 123:2)

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; (Ps. 130:5)

Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge. 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!  (Ps. 143:9-10)

The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Ps. 145:14-16)


End Notes

[1] Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach, Practicing His Presence (Library of Spiritual Classics, vol. 1. Sargent, GA: Seed Sowers, 1973)

[2] As I was thinking about making a list of praises to aid myself in practicing God’s presence, I read  A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). In this work he suggests “seizing upon a fragment of a Psalm” as an aid to constant connection. God seemed to be confirming to me that I needed to stop thinking about making a list, and actually make this list.

Invasion of the Prayer Snatchers

For the month of January 2021 my church is focusing on prayer. Through intentional prayer we give ourselves a “time out” to hear God’s voice and draw closer to Him. Hearing God’s voice can be difficult. Thoughts and distractions often invade our minds and snatch away our prayers. In this post, I share a chapter from my out of print book, When God Gives a Time Out, that deals with this issue.

(Click here: “An Introduction to Time Outs” if you want to start with chapter 1 of When God Gives a Time Out.)

There is a wonderful spot in New Salem, Massachusetts called Bear’s Den. Two small waterfalls cascade around a large boulder, and built into the boulder is a natural granite chair. When I lived in New Salem I would sit in that granite chair and listen for God.  That place was full of natural beauty but I especially liked the sound of the rushing water.  When I first arrived at the waterfalls, I always was surprised at how loud the water sounded. By the time I was ready to leave I had become so accustomed to the sound of the water that I no longer heard it. At first, I heard the sound of the water whether I tried or not.  Later, I had to focus my hearing to be able to hear the sound of the water. 

This “disappearing water sound” reminds me of how easily the voice of God gets tuned out in my life.  For those of you who are not the outdoorsy type just think about how loud your dishwasher sounds when you first turn it on. After a while, you go about the house and don’t even realize when it stops running. 

 We stop hearing the falling water or the dishwasher partly because that is how the human brain works. Our brains (specifically, a part of our brains known as the reticular activating system) screen out background noise so we can focus on the task at hand. Screening out falling water and dishwashers can be handy, but screening out the ever-present God is always a tragedy.  Because God can, and usually does, speak past our physical ears, our brains’ reticular activating system is not really the problem.  The real culprit is our short attention span and our spiritual attention deficit disorder.  We have trouble staying focused on one thing for very long, even things we need or enjoy, like the falling water or the voice of our Heavenly Father.  Our attention shifts so easily. 

Marketing firms have made a science out of catching people’s attention.  Research indicates that Americans are getting shorter attention spans and marketers know this.  Commercials are becoming more image-driven as so many companies strive to make an impression before the remote control goes “click.”  Americans and their children are being conditioned to take in an image or information quickly and move on.  Not only are we consumers, we are now super efficient consumers who take in as much as possible in a short time.  No wonder we have an attention deficit problem. 

This pattern affects our relationship with God.  In fact, you probably have felt the effects of our attention deficit culture during your prayer time. Does the following sound familiar: One day, you are actually disciplined enough to have an hour of “time out.”  You take a few minutes to open your Bible and ask God to speak to you through His word. You read a chapter of scripture and see a couple of interesting verses after which you ask God to help your children, your spouse and your church (Most people stop their time out here). Feeling you want to really hear from God you leave your prayer line open and sit quietly, waiting for whatever God may say.  About ten minutes later you realize that you haven’t been open to God, you’ve been thinking about whatever task you need to begin after your prayer time concludes. A little disappointed with yourself, you press on with the remaining thirty minutes and let God know that you are listening again. 

Twenty minutes later the following thought fills your mind: “I wonder what happened to the credit card bill that I misplaced the other day.  Can I get another one issued?  Did I check under the pile of papers on the counter?”  Once more you realize that you are not praying, listening, or connecting to God in any way.   Frustrated that you were not praying or listening to God, you leave your quiet time early so you can at least get something done.  

 Oh yes, another devotional time ruined by an invasion of the prayer snatchers.  Although the prayer snatchers have invaded Christian minds for centuries,[i] the American way of life leaves us particularly vulnerable to an invasion of these life-draining aliens.  We want to listen to God and when we actually carve out some time to connect with Him, thoughts, alien to God and the purpose at hand, invade our heads and take our prayer time captive. Our devotional “time out” may have started well as God spoke to us through our Bible reading, but before God could elaborate and clarify what this word meant for our lives we are thinking about finding that lost credit card bill! With a short attention span, these prayer snatchers invade our mind and distract us from hearing God’s voice. 

 How do we turn the invasion back?  Prevention through a good defense is probably the best answer.  Actively trying to cultivate a regular Sabbath time as written about in the previous post acclimatizes our minds to being open for an extended period of time.  It is harder for the prayer snatcher to invade when our minds are in the habit of focusing on God.  This habit doesn’t develop if we give up on a time out because we were invaded the first several times we tried. No, habits take a while to develop and eventually the invasions become more infrequent (However, these prayer snatchers are a tricky sort so we are always susceptible to a surprise attack).

Meditation is a helpful discipline to train our minds to have a longer attention span.  I don’t mean emptying your mind in an eastern religious sense, but readying your mind to receive what God may say to you.  Meditation is intentionally focusing your mind to train your attention span. Meditating on a scripture, promise, or attribute of God to get your mind accustomed to extended focus may be helpful. Meditation may starts out feeling very unnatural-like an extended forced thinking.  With practice you may develop a general ability to open your mind to God for an extended period of time. As with all habits, building up an acute and extended focus through practicing meditation takes time.  This focus is also a means to an end.  I know many non-believers who can focus their minds on the word “Ohm” for hours.  They may have more attention span and more ability to focus than most people, but they do not have more of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Meditation in a Christian sense builds our minds’ defenses against the thought invasions and towards extended focus on God. 

Another preventive measure is using your short attention span and thirst for novelty to help instead of hinder.  Go to a new or inspiring place for a time out.  For instance, after going three straight weeks to my waterfall I went to a scenic lookout. The overlook impressed me with the power and transcendence of God.  Another time, I may go into my room and be impressed with the closeness and intimacy of God.  I also like to read a chapter of a Christian book or listen to a podcast during my time out so that I can get a fresh perspective as God speaks through a fellow believer.  By trying new places or things in our quiet times we are attempting to walk up to the river anew so we can hear the water as we did at first. Of course I don’t mean new in a heretical sense, I mean new as in looking at the same diamond from a different angle. The market research gurus tell us that attention spans are slightly longer for new things.  We can focus on God longer, and prevent the invasion of the prayer snatchers, if we shake away from the same old routine.  This change up may entail not journaling for a while because it has become ritual.  We may need to fast to break free from our routine or pray with someone as part of our time out. “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” and that is why sometimes we need to trick our flesh. When we break free from our routine, it is harder for the prayer snatchers to invade and easier to keep our focus on God. 

 What is one to do in the middle of an invasion? Is there any way to turn back these pernicious thoughts once the invasion starts? A method that works for me (recommended by Richard Foster)[ii] is lifting up the invading thoughts to God. Here’s how it works:  You are praying or listening for God and you start thinking about that credit card bill.  As soon as you realize that you are being invaded, turn the invasion over to God.  Pray about what you are thinking or feeling.  Your prayer may sound something like this: “God, I keep thinking about this bill.  I know my finances are in your hand.  Help me to find this bill and turn over the problem to you. Take this thought from my mind and hold it for now.  Bring it back when I can deal with it effectively.  As for now speak because your servant is listening.”  

You have engaged the invading thought. You have lifted it up to God, and now you are ready for whatever comes next. This method is effective for several reasons. Because you have actually engaged the thought, it doesn’t just keep banging on the door in the background of your mind. However, aliens in your house are very distracting if they stay; so you ask for God’s help in dealing with the problem. Not only does lifting the thought up to God keep your focus on God, but it actually asks God to bring His power to bear on the problem.  Lastly, this method leaves us open to more possibilities. Perhaps God is the one bringing this thought into your head.  He often speaks to me in this manner. If you give an invading thought to God to hold and He keeps returning it to you, perhaps He is speaking to you.  If you continue to be invaded by credit card thoughts, then meditate on that thought.  Ask God what about the bill is really getting you worried.  Is the bill itself the issue or finances as a whole?  Perhaps God brought the invading thought as a goad to speak to you about the larger issue.  Perhaps He wants to guide you in that area.  By lifting up the invading prayer snatcher to God, you can discern if the thought is a distraction or if it comes in peace (or from the Prince of Peace to be exact). 

 What frustrates us all is when we actually show discipline in our life and carve out a Sabbath time, or monkishly practice God’s presence, or journal, and that time out gets invaded and wasted on thoughts alien to our God connection.  We are not helpless, however.  We can build up our defenses to prevent the invasion of our time outs, and we can call in God’s heavy artillery.  Whatever method we decide to employ is a means to an end–hearing God’s still small voice.  Instead of invasion, we will enjoy a time when God’s voice is just as clear and soothing as when we first walked up to that cascade of living water.        

Questions to Ponder

How often do the prayer snatchers invade your quite time? 

Can you identify certain situations that invite invasion?

How do you think you could best train your mind to prevent invasion and stay open to God?


Invasion of the Prayer Snatchers-Endnotes

[i] William of St. Thierry, The Golden Epistle, trans. by Theodore Berkeley(Kalamazoo, MI.: Cistercian Publications, 1980) p. 34.

[ii] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988) p30.

When God Gives a Time Out. Chapter 6. The Chemical Rush.

For the last few weeks I have been posting devotional material from my out-of-print book (2006), “When God Gives a Time Out.” Today’s post contains chapter 6, but you can read chapter 1 here: “An Introduction to Time Outs” and then catch up on the other chapters. Today’s chapter focuses on our compulsion to do things because of the chemical rush it gives us.

The Chemical Rush

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  God has made our bodies so that we can survive and thrive in this world.  But humans have a knack for turning things meant for good into something harmful.  Just a few examples of turning the good into bad: sex, fire, gunpowder, nuclear energy, and fast food.  We have been given a wonderful brain with all sorts of chemicals that help us thrive in our environment.  When there is danger or something larger than ourselves that must be accomplished, our brains give us a nice shot of adrenaline to give us a boost in this important situation.  It is like Popeye on spinach, but to a lesser degree.  We feel strong and confident and say, “Bring it on Brutus!”  We enjoy feeling strong.  We like when our hearts race.  We enjoy it so much that we seek out situations that will produce this rush.  Teenagers play chicken with Mack trucks.  Day traders play the stock market. Senior citizens play bingo.  In all these situations there is uncertainty or danger in losing something valuable.  Like a well-oiled machine, the body senses this uncertainty and gives us adrenaline.  We feel alive.  People can seek the adrenaline rush in ways that are looked down on: gambling, racing trains, etc. or in ways that are actually encouraged by our society.  Doing job-oriented tasks, playing sports, and building stuff are all endorsed by our culture.  The Bible agrees that it is good to perform on the job, exercise, and make things.  The danger is when we do these things for the sake of getting a rush.  If we work for the rush then we are no different in principle than a compulsive gambler or a daredevil.  When “doing” becomes compulsive in this way it leads to burnout and strained relationships with those close to us (God included). Continue reading

A father’s faith: “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

Father’s Day always falls on a Sunday, and over the years I have discovered that in any given church Father’s Day brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is gratefulness and a desire to give thanks and honor dads because fathers have a tremendous impact on their children, on families, and on the nation. Not to mention “Honor your father and mother” made Moses’ top ten list of commandments. On the other hand, observing Father’s Day can be very difficult for those who are mourning a father’s death or for those who are dealing with an abusive or absent father. The pain of those experiences highlights the significance of fathers. For me, being a father has been one of the mostIsaiah, me, fish difficult and spiritually enlightening tasks I have ever been given. Integrating my faith with fatherhood has been both rewarding and heart wrenching. Whether as a father or relating to our fathers, fatherhood affects our faith journeys. Fatherhood can lead us into a better understanding of faith, of God, and ourselves.

To see how fatherhood can lead us into a deeper understanding of faith, we will examine one father’s journey described in Mark 9:17-27. This unnamed father was struggling. He was dealing with a son who was very troubled and no one had been able to help him. This situation, of course, also raised many faith questions for the father. With raw emotion and real faith struggles, this father sought out someone who made bold claims and performed miraculous deeds. This father sought out Jesus. Continue reading