A Prayer Primer

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

We don’t pick up on it in the English, but this psalm is an acrostic poem. Each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Admittedly, the acrostic is not perfect. The letter for verse 2 is missing, two letters are skipped, and the last verse is not part of the acrostic at all. However, it is clear that this psalm is anchored in the Hebrew alphabet. It seems the author of this psalm wanted to make it memorable. He wanted it passed down from the priests to the populace, from father to son, and from mother to daughter to aid in worship and prayer for generations to come. In fact, this may explain that very last verse which seems to be tacked on out of left field. It may be true that some later editor of the psalms added that line about redeeming all of Israel out of troubles. However, it seems just as likely to me that the author broke from the acrostic to call attention to the desire for this psalm to not just be personal but to be passed around the nation so that everyone would learn about prayer and meditation from it. And now it is included in the book of Israel’s Psalms and has come to us. We too can learn to pray to God and meditate on God from it. Since it doesn’t match our alphabet, it may be harder for us to remember, but we can learn great things about prayer from it. Keep reading. Keep learning. We’ll talk more about prayer over the next couple of days.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 25.

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Making Myself Look Good

Today’s reading is Acts 23.

“Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen.”

Wait! What? Is that how it happened? Nope. The tribune had simply noticed some trouble, mistakenly thought Paul was the cause of it, arrested him, and was going to then interrogate him unlawfully. Only then did he learn Paul was a Roman. What is going on here? Claudius is lying. Well, we might not like to think of it as lying. Rather, he is rearranging the facts. He is manipulating the story to make himself look good. Here is the amazing thing. It should not surprise us at all if Claudius fully believes this account of the events. Before we throw him completely under the bus, we need to know that this is how memory works for all of us. We all look back and remember our own involvement in every situation in the best possible light. We make ourselves look good not only in our reporting of events but in our memory of those events. In other words, it may not be that Claudius is lying, he may truly not remember the events as they actually happened. And this drives home a really important point for us. We need to do our dead level best in every moment to actually behave the way we want to remember that we behaved. We may lie about how we behaved. We may even begin to believe our lies. But God knows the truth.

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