Singing The Same Old Song
“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.” – Psalms 96:1
You know the Holy Spirit is on your case when you’re zipping along, joyfully reading Scriptures, feeling good about yourself and your relationship with God, when suddenly you come across a verse that smacks you in the head so hard your feet ache. This verse did that to me about two minutes ago.
How, you may ask, can such a sweet, uplifting, joyful and inspiring verse bring you such misery and pain? Easy. It’s been a while since I’ve sang a new song, and I sense God telling me its time to change my tune.
I feel like my prayer life is in the rut of seeking the same things over and over and over. I’m getting so tired of praying the same old song (“Lord, guide me to our next ministry. Help my book find a publisher. Lead me to a job that pays well enough that my wife won’t have to work. Give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning other than going to work to sell plumbing parts….”) that I’ve mostly given up on prayer.
You’ll notice, of course, that my prayer life is mostly about me. My ministry. My job. My book. I’ve focused so exclusively on my self that I don’t have time to pray for others. Having said that, I believe the cure is one more selfish prayer: “Lord, give me a new song.” And as soon as I said that, I knew the answer. It is time to forget about myself and make my prayer time a time for others.
I once heard a humorist say that the cure for hypochondria is to get your mind off your own body and get interested in someone else’s. Likewise, perhaps the cure for praying the same old prayers is to get my mind off my own problems and pray about the needs of others.
Do I have a Scripture for this idea? Of course. After the Lord had a little discussion with Job about Who He really is, the LORD turned His anger upon Job’s three friends. God says, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly” (42:8). We go on to read, “After Job had prayer for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (42:10).
The Lord instructed Job to get his mind off his own situation and pray for the needs of his friends. It was only after Job prayed for others that the Lord met the needs of Job. Now, before we get the idea that if we’ll just pray for our friends God will give us double for our trouble (a teaching I’ve heard more than once), we may need to check our motives. If we think we can manipulate God into blessing us double just because we blurted out a few prayers for our cousin’s tonsillitis, we need to think again. Until you are willing to lose everything Job lost, you may not be ready to gain everything Job gained.
With this in mind, I’m going to start sincerely praying for others. Will God then meet my own prayer requests? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, praying for others is the right thing to do regardless of the (hopefully beneficial) consequences. Singing the same old song hasn’t gotten me very far. Now I’d like to change my tune and see the way a new song will be a blessing to others. And won’t THAT be a wonderful answer to my prayers?
Previously posted April ’09
Just came across your blog, and must say I like it. We must all think our lives through sometimes, I think, and see if the song we’re singing is new, or starting to get old.. Thank you for reminding me!
GREAT post, Jim. I love it. I’m in a place right now where the Lord is calling me to do likewise… to take my focus off myself and my problems and begin to serve and pray for others. You’ve just been used by the Lord to reinforce that call. Thank you! 🙂
I got halfway through your post and started thinking ‘Why not pray for others?’ then read your conclusion.
Brilliant post, as always, Jim. I’m in the same situation as you — at a crossroads — so I say little prayers throughout the day for my own needs, but pray more formally for others.
Two other things I do, if it’s of help to any of your readers: say the Lord’s Prayer and give thanks everyday, even for the smallest of things.
Thank you for letting me know this post meant something to you.
Didn’t realize that you had spent most of your life in ministry, but the example written above is a typical of the human condition.
Self is predominant and the Preacher’s words are pretty well right on in respect to vanity.
When I talk to God or attempt communication, I don’t ask for anything for myself or anyone else either. I thank God for being alive.
I always assumed everyone on this planet has their own life and what they are going through is meant to be, so why should I ask God to change what God allowed to begin with?
Jesus realized this and I sincerely believe the message was tampered with. Why do I say this?
Jesus promoted doing something. From the Good Samaritan to the Blessed are the peacemakers, give to the hungry and if a person needs a coat, give he or she one.
Many times we are in the position to answer the needs of others and instead we “pray” for them.
There is good and evil on this planet as it applies to people.
I am not leaving this comment to give you a hard time.
I’m 57 and lived a full life. My journey so far has led me to see and experience much on both sides of the fence, the bad and good, like every other human being.
I used to love the bible at one time, except for a few parts that didn’t make sense to me. After discovering through other sources that everything wasn’t what it appeared to be, my love for the much of the bible has grown cold. I can not trust it.
It appears that there is nothing in life that is 100 percent trustworthy.
I am alive, care for other people, am not perfect or not perfect in my own eyes, have grown somewhat cynical over the years in respect to what people claim is or is not.
Being aware of my state makes me realize that there is not much there to sustain vanity.
I am who I am and you are who you are.
And God to me is still mysterious, more so now than at any other time in my life. When I try and wrap up my mind in God, it is impossible.
Today I felt a peace of the type that I would like to think God could provide.
Yet, Mother Theresa who sacrificed her life for others, had doubts about God, as we all do from time to time.
God is a mystery, always has been and always will be, at least to my way of thinking.
I guess we’re both learning q lot about one another. You didn’t know I’ve been a minister for 25 years, and I didn’t picture you as 57. More like 37. We should get together over coffee sometime and introduce ourselves.
I say “AMEN” to the notion we need to move beyond prayer to action when we have the capacity to help someone. I won’t justify myself by listing the times I’ve done just that, but I have. Conversely, I’ll admit to being selfish enough to pray for someone when I could have done something for them. I’m embarrassed to say so, but it is true. My desire and ability to act like Christ in every situation is still a work in progress.
You said, “Being aware of my state makes me realize that there is not much there to sustain vanity.” That is a great perspective, and I quote you sometime. My vanity does not need to be promoted; God’s grace does.
God IS mysterious, and He is so on purpose as He keeps secrets to Himself (see Deuteronomy 29:29). I cannot wrap my mind around God either, and THAT too is the state of human nature. Doubt, questions, hostilities, lack of belief — these are all things He is used to and I cannot offend Him by my limitations. He knows my limitations. He CREATED my limitations. He is the only one who is omniscient; He desires the rest of us trust in His goodness.
Do I not see the human suffering in the world. Of course. Wars, rapes, starvation, good things happening to bad people. I’m not blind to it all. I wrestle with the “If God were a God of love why would He allow…..” questions right along with the rest of humanity. But then at the end of the day I chose to trust in a God who sees the bigger picture, from beginning to end. If I walk into a movie theater one hour after the movie has started, watch it for thirty seconds and walk out, I’ll never understand what the picture was about. I think of my life like that. I’m only one second into eternity, but I want all the answers NOW or I’ll tell God He doesn’t make sense and doesn’t understand my problems. I’ll doubt His goodness, love and even His existence. But He reminds me He’s always been here (a concept I absolutely do not comprehend), He is worthy of my trust (a concept I’m still working on), and in spite of all I see, He loves me (again, a concept I do not completely comprehend.)
Yes, God is a mystery, and always will be. Our finite minds will never comprehend an infinite God. I believe eternity with God will be a time of knowing more and more about Him, and since He is infinite, it will take us an infinite amount of time to know who He is. I wasn’t surprised to hear Mother Teresa had doubts. Every true believer I’ve ever known has seriously doubted. Only the self-righteous religious, or those who have never really engaged their lives in God, claim they’ve never doubted. The rest of us are very aware of our limitations. It is just my limitations that keep me coming back to God and His grace.
Thanks for your comments, they are always welcome. And despite your occasional curmudgeonly ways ;), I have enjoyed our discussions. We respect one another, are not intending to hurt one another (as sometimes happens in some of the comments), and are mature enough to let the other person think differently. I look forward to more comments between us.
I thank you for answering my comment in a truthful and honest way. One aspect of our friendship is that we have different views on occasion, but we are both cognizant no one truly knows everything and we do have limitations being human.
The one thing about life, mine in particular, I wish no one harm. I also know what it feels like to finally realize what I thought for many years may not be right or true, not that I am right or true now 🙂
The truth in the bible that I perceive to be true are humility, love and portions of the Gospels that deal with man dealing with man. I have also come to question other things.
Jesus said, “The Truth shall make you free.” and they tried him for blasphemy.
Every time I used to read Matthew in particular and he teaches what is distasteful, such as vain and precipitous prayer, hypocrisy, worshiping the material things of this world and holding one to be above another, which is predominant today as it was back then, even in a free and democratic country, I see truth based on my experience.
I don’t believe for a second, after Christ said no one is good, not even He, God would condemn anyone for questioning what man holds as true and inspired by God.
I would be a liar to myself and God by not questioning. To go against the grain of what is presented and taking the chance of spiritual abandonment is a frightening experience.
An atheist cannot prove his or her case and a person believing the Bible’s inerrancy cannot prove his or her case either.
As a matter of fact, people can find many writings to support both views.
What do we really know?
Our own lives.
Those who have the courage can look in the mirror and see if the person they are looking at are someone they like or not.
I work hard at being someone I like, and am too aware of my own shortcomings, but I try at least.
In doing so, I have become more disliked by others. I now can understand why Christ’s message was so unpopular. Not his dying on the Cross or what the last two thousand years have evolved Christ to be.
If Christ were alive today, he would probably tell the American people to get involved, stop these wars, get out of the control business and cut down or eliminate much of the military including the WMDs.
You don’t see that happening today.
The Reverend Wright took on a lot of heat during Obama’s campaign.
I don’t know much about him, but when it came down to telling people what he deplored about the actions of people, the little I have read didn’t seem that far off base.
The problem is today, people don’t want to hear any truth or what is perceived as truth.
We only know the truth if it is continually tested and never fails, like gravity.
Human behavior and many written works do not pass the test.
I believe you do try your best to be who you are, that is why I discuss these things with you.
If nothing else, we have the ability to be honest with each other without declaring each other not fit to being a human being. 🙂
Such a simple thought and yet how many years to implement it? It is easy to forget it is not about us, it is all about God. I have a friend who life has dealt a series of horrid events. My suggestion this past week was it was time to take personal inventory of what she had and begin investing in others. Get the focus off herself and place it on others. Please God and expect Him to please you. It is tough to shift focus on others and not return to ones on needs and wants. God bless, Jim!
I do believe that you and Jim are right in that thinking about others will cure a lot of headaches.
Much of what you see and hear today is based on fear of what happens to self.