Knit My Heart To You, O Lord
 - Psalm 86:11-17; I Peter 3:9; Luke 9:54,55

A family was about to dig into their meal at a fast food restaurant, when the father said, "Wait a minute. We have to say grace. It's your turn, Jimmie." "GRACE," shouted the 6 year old boy. "No, let's say the longer kind of 'grace' son," the father said. "But Dad," Jimmie replied, "this is FAST food." Whether it's a regular meal or a 'fast food' meal, we should always take a few moments to thank God for our food, every time we eat, no matter where we eat. It doesn't have to be prayed aloud, but you do need to remember to do it. Our food is so often a blessing that we take for granted.

Three farmers were discussing the proper position and attitude for prayer. The first one said, "You should be on your knees with your head bowed in reverence." The second one said, "No, we were created in God's image, so when we pray we should stand up and look into the heavens." The third farmer thought for a moment, then said, "I don't know about the positions, but the finest praying I ever did was hanging by one foot upside down in a well."

There indeed are many positions for prayer. But it's what's in your heart in your conversation with God that counts. Jesus not only teaches us positively about prayer, but he also pointed out carefully what it should NOT be. Two of those are: It shouldn't be a sham. That is, it shouldn't be done for show or pretense so that someone else will think you are a pious or religious person. Once when I was in a restaurant, I was watching a man, dining alone, who, after he was served his food, bowed his head and prayed out loud. I couldn't figure out why he was praying out loud since he was by himself. Then I noticed that as he was praying, he was glancing out of the corner of his eye to see who was watching him. Jesus has a wonderful teaching on this with regard to the Pharisees and their long, loud prayers.

A second thing a prayer should NOT be is it shouldn't be with the attitude of a vengeful spirit. Jesus teaches about this with two of his disciples. In Luke he sends messengers ahead who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him, but there people there did not welcome him hospitably because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples, James and John saw this they said, "Lord, do you want us to call a bolt of lightening down out of the sky and incinerate them?" Jesus turned on them and rebuked them, "Of course not!" You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. (Luke 9:52-55-NIV [with footnote to older manuscript] and THE MESSAGE)

In the Psalm today, in the first line that was read, it said, "teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you…" The best way to continually learn from the Lord is through prayer. Through prayer that is genuine, not contrived. Through prayer that is from the heart, not something rattled of routinely from memory.

In our prayer life, our intimate communication with God, we knit ourselves to the presence of God in our lives. God is woven into the fabric or our daily life. But when we pray, it should never be from a vengeful spirit. We can see examples of this in the Psalms. David wrote many beautiful Psalms, but he also wrote some that are extremely vindictive, revengeful also. We know a great deal about David, but we don't know every detail of how God answered those Psalms that are prayers in that they petition God to do horrible things to David's enemies. God is not revengeful and doesn't respond to revengeful prayers. So, it can only be that what David asked God for he got back for himself.

In I Peter, chapter 3, verses 8 and 9 we read, "Summing up: Be agreeable, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Instead, bless-that's your job, to bless. That's what you were called to do. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing." (NIV and THE MESSAGE)

It's so easy to fall into the trap of praying from a vengeful spirit. It's not easy to remain positive when we are constantly bombarded with negativity. We get it on TV, on the radio (especially some talk shows on the radio) in the newspaper, magazines, and from family, friends and neighbors.

There's a line in a song that says, "You couldn't wait to bring all that bad news to my door." That's so true. Some of the most negative news comes from family and friends and neighbors. It's almost as though they can't wait to tell you the latest negative news they have heard. And maybe you are like that too. If you ARE going to do that, then at the very least, when you bring that negative news, ALSO say "it's something we should pray about." And if someone brings you negative news, say the same thing-we need to pray about that. And what will really shock the person, and maybe even stop them from constantly bringing you negative news, is to suggest that the two of you pray about it right then and there! It's a good way, too, to keep yourself from holding on to negative thoughts about a person or situation. When you pray about something, you have the opportunity to turn that negativity over to God. You let go of it and protect yourself from slipping into a vengeful spirit, and also protect your health. Holding on to negativity has a terrible effect on the emotional and physical self.

We are called to be a blessing to others. And in doing that, we receive a blessing ourselves.

Sometimes we don't even realize we have slipped into a vengeful attitude and spirit because the world teaches us to have such. The devil invites us constantly to be vengeful, to retaliate. Even if we don't act out ourselves, when we hold on to that negative, vengeful attitude, we just give energy to the actions of others who WILL act out in revenge.

In a book entitled PRAYERS FROM THE HEART, a prayer written based on I Peter 3:9, is a beautiful prayer. I share it with you here.

Loving Father, I come to you for help in understanding my world. So many people live by a code of revenge. It's frightening to see a driver cut someone off in traffic and hear the exchange of angry words. Even in our homes, arguments often turn into shouting matches as insult follows insult. How sad for you to witness the ways in which we corrupt our world with negative responses.

Help me to be an agent of change in my world, to make a commitment to dispel angry behavior and positively affect people around me. You have given me all I need to be happy, Lord. Teach me to smile and offer a helping hand instead of angry words. Guide me so my behavior reflects your love rather than my selfishness.

Loving Father, in your mercy, teach me that I can't control others, but I can initiate the healing process with what I say and do. Healing must start with me. Help me to be a shining light. Teach me how I can ease the anguish of those whose souls remain shrouded in darkness. Give me the grace to be better than I am, more forgiving, more loving, more caring. Amen.

When I am driving and someone cuts me off or some such move like that, I immediately say a prayer for that person. "Lord, don't let them injure themselves or anyone else with their careless driving." "Lord, don't let them anger anyone to provoke aggressive driving." It took me a while to learn to do this as an immediate response, but it's wonderful; so freeing. It makes me turn over to God any negative energy that arises in me because of careless or aggressive drivers. I don't focus on that negative energy and it doesn't hurt me, churning away inside of me unresolved and ultimately affecting my health and well-being. I am being a blessing. Being what I was called to do, as we all are. Just as we read in Scripture today.

So, my prayer benefits both the careless driver and myself. And at some point you will also get to being thankful that the person cut YOU off rather than someone else. "Thank you, God, for letting me be the person that driver cut off." Why? Because you are not perpetuating the negativity. You are not turning to aggressive driving, whereas someone else might have that response and thereby end up causing an accident.

We are called to be a blessing to others. You have been called to be a blessing to others. You are given opportunity after opportunity to do this. Every day you encounter people who can change your outlook. For instance a clerk at the Post Office or the Supermarket can change your outlook, your mood. If you are having a difficult day, a bright and cheery smile from a clerk can raise your spirits. If your negative attitude continues a clerk can lift your outlook if the clerk does not enter into your negative mood.

And if the clerk is in a 'bad' mood, and you aren't, you have the choice to be drawn into their negative mood, or you can help lift their spirits. It's your choice.

It's your choice. Perpetuate anger and hate and retaliation with a negative attitude, or be a blessing to others. It's up to each one of us.

But whatever you choose, know that God is watching and listening. God cannot hear prayers from a vengeful heart and spirit because in truth they really aren't prayers. Instead, those prayers are returned to us and therefore, rather than have vengeance be served upon another, it is served upon ourselves. Our prayer is answered, but not the way we thought.

So be a blessing to others. Pray at every opportunity you get. Especially pray when you are in a car and careless drivers rile you up. Immediately turn that over to God and pray for the person that they won't injure themselves or anyone else. And also, pray for yourself when YOU do something careless or in anger when you are in a car.

Be a blessing. Receive a blessing. Fill your life with moments of prayer.


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