Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

March 29th, 2010

by Pat Baker

We buried my Uncle Dan last summer. A World War II veteran, he was buried with full military honor in a solemn yet beautiful ceremony. One of the defining events of his life was his service in the war, and it seemed entirely fitting that his funeral and burial took place Memorial Day weekend. That, at least, made sense, though the events leading up to his death did not, humanly speaking.

Six months earlier, he’d suffered a massive stroke at the nursing home where he lived. It robbed my gentle and articulate uncle of the ability to speak or move, and after a month of unsuccessful therapy, the nursing home resigned itself to simply keeping him as comfortable as possible.

In the months that followed, I struggled to comprehend the sovereign wisdom of a God who apparently had a purpose in this type of existence for my uncle. I struggled, too, in prayer. My uncle and I were close, and I prayed fervently for his recovery–but instead, his miseries increased. He developed bedsores that stubbornly refused to heal, despite the attention of a concerned nursing staff. I thought of the testing of Job, and wondered how God was redeeming this experience in my uncle’s life. Lord, I prayed, hasn’t he suffered enough? How could increasing his misery make him any more fit for Your kingdom?

Yet it seemed my prayers went no further than the clouds. Five months after the stroke, it was determined that the tissue around the bedsore on his foot was dying, and that his lower leg would have to be amputated if there was to be any hope of recovery. Overwhelmed with the seemingly senseless futility and cruelty of it all, I now began to simply pray for a release from a painful existence for him. And although he survived the amputation, God granted my request when He finally took him home to be with the Lord two weeks after surgery.

Though relieved that he was now in heaven with the Savior he loved, I was left with a deep sense of loss and many lingering thoughts about the purpose of prayer in the midst of the sovereign outworking of God’s plans. In the weeks that followed, the Holy Spirit not only comforted me, but led me to a rediscovery of Psalm 57.

The psalm records the prayer of David during a time when he would’ve been hard-pressed to see the hand of God at work. King Saul was seeking to kill him, and David was hiding in the deepest part of a cave with a band of outlaws. Saul’s men were so close he could hear their shouts; he must have wondered how this fit in with God’s plans to make him king over Israel one day.

In the heading of Psalm 57, it is referred to as a miktam of David. According to The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, a miktam of David means a secret of David. A closer look at this psalm will reveal some of the secrets concerning prayer during those times when life seems like one big question mark. When nothing David perceived made sense, what gave him assurance and peace concerning God’s sovereign control over all the events of his life? What was the secret of his stability and confidence in the face of daunting circumstances?

God is a Sovereign Refuge. “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psa. 57:1, NIV). In the face of danger and uncertainty, David fled to the refuge of his God. Even as he hid in the innermost recesses of a cave, he sheltered his soul deep in the shadow of his Father’s wings. But where is this place, and how can we find it?

In the phrase “shadow of your wings,” the word for wings is the word which in the original language also meant skirt, or corner of a garment. These words refer to the four-cornered prayer shawl or tallit of the Hebrew man to which highly symbolic tassels are affixed. In Numbers 15, God told the Israelites to attach these tassels so that they might be reminded to obey His commandments. The blue cord symbolized His sovereign authority; the 613 knots in the tassels represented every one of the laws of Moses. Praying under the shawl symbolized yieldedness to the authority of God.

The act of praying under the prayer shawl also symbolized a desire to come into the presence of God. To enter into His presence was to enter into His rest; there one could find peace even when navigating the stormiest of life’s seas. David’s place of refuge was, therefore, both the protective, sovereign authority and presence of his God….”

©2005 by Patricia S. Baker
*Excerpt, first printed in The Breakthrough Intercessor, (Summer 2005, Vol. 26, Number 3, pp. 28-31).

Ode to Seuss

March 29th, 2010

One poem, two poem
Read poem, blue poem
Black poem, blue poem
Old poem, new poem
This one has a little star.
Say! What a lot of
Poems there are.
Some are read
And some are blue.
Some are old
And some are new.
Some are sad.
And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
But I like Seuss
And this is why:
He makes me laugh
Instead of cry.

With Seuss I eat green eggs and ham
With someone nicknamed ‘Sam I Am,’
And while my mom goes out to shop
I’ll play a game of Hop on Pop.
And then I might just go out back
And play a game called Ring the Gak.
Then maybe it will start to rain,
And Cat in the Hat will come again.
And though it’s wet and it’s not sunny,
We’ll have lots of fun that’s funny.
He’ll show me some tricks ’til that fish starts to shout,
“He should not be here when your mother is out!”
Then he’ll balance that fish, and a cake, and some balls
‘Til everything wibbles and wobbles and falls.
Thing One and Thing Two will fly kites in the hall,
Making messes my mom wouldn’t care for at all!
Then after we clean up the last little spill
We’ll all call on Horton who lives in Who-ville,
Where a person’s a person no matter how small–
Their town was once saved by the smallest of all!
And after he hatches his egg we’ll head back
To our home riding high on the back of that Gak.
My mom will come home from her shopping and say,
“It’s time for bed, dear; now how was your day?”
And then in the shower, all soapy I’ll sing
With a musical character someone named ‘Ying.’
All clean and sung out, I’ll hop in a bed
Too short for that long-legged, big-footed Ned.

Yes, Seuss is a poet who’s never a bore,
And reading his poetry’s never a chore,
(Except when you’ve read it ten times in one night,
By the beam of a flickering, faulty flashlight).
So Seuss, I salute you, you’re a master of rhyme,
And a lover of children and fun for all time!

©2007 by Patricia S. Baker
First printed in Kwil Kids, (Autumn 2007)

In the Cleft of the Rock

March 29th, 2010

(Psalm 91)

In the mountain of His majesty
My God has carved a cleft–
A secret place where I might hide
When soul is lost, bereft.

Dwelling in this Most High place
I find a refuge sure;
Abiding in His shade becomes
My resting place secure.

Though cares descend with dark’ning cloud
That Providence may bring,
There is no safer place to dwell
Than the shadow of His wing.

In the shadow of His presence
All dark is filled with light
When saturated by the One
Whose glory shines so bright.

©2007 by Patricia S. Baker
First printed by Live, (Winter 2007-2008)

Pride Comes Knocking

March 29th, 2010

Pride comes knocking at my door,
“Let me in,” smooth voice implores.
Relentlessly he knocks and pounds;
His noise throughout my house resounds.
I stand at peephole and debate,
Should I let him in my gate?
He’s dressed so fine, he’s known quite well,
And with such persistence rings my bell…
Yet I know that once invited in,
This guest is loath to leave again.
He’ll want to stay and sip some tea,
And fill my ear with pleasantry.
He won’t inquire how I have been,
Observing I look fine to him.
And leaning close he will confide
That he belongs here by my side.
He likes to say that we’re the best,
Comparing us to all the rest;
He whispers that we’ve done quite well,
And, oh, the stories he can tell!
His words like sugar in my tea,
At first seem rather sweet to me;
But as he shares these morsels free,
A quiet Voice breaks reverie:
“Whatever goodness you might find
Is dealt by hand of God so kind.
I find our teatime quite a bore–
It’s time to show this guest the door!”

No, I’ll not let Pride in today;
I think we’ll send him on his way…

©2006 by Patricia S. Baker
First printed by The Deronda Review, (Fall/Winter 2007)

Pride Comes Knocking (Again)

Again I heard persistent knock;
I peered through peephole, then turned lock–
For on my porch was wounded Pride,
Pierced through with arrow in his side!
I quickly opened wide the door;
He staggered in, collapsed on floor.
I gasped, and knelt down, horrified,
“Oh, tell me, who has hurt you, Pride?”
And as I tended bleeding wound,
I listened, thoroughly attuned
To tale of woe so sad I cried;
How could they do that to poor Pride?

I asked him if he thought that he
Might like to sip some healing tea.
He, smiling, got up off the floor–
Already he was not so sore.
And as we sat and sipped our tea,
He shared more tales of pain with me.
I wept some more; he sighed, and said,
“You know, I guess I’m better dead.”
“Oh, no!” I answered, “You’ve been wronged!”
And so he bled, with sighs prolonged,
On tablecloth and napkins white
While we both pondered his sad plight.

Then, suddenly a whisper stirred
The silence and these words I heard:
Though wounded, he is still no friend
Who bids your favor without end.
The heart that entertains this guest
Finds neither service nor My rest.
If I would be your focus poor,
We’ll need to show this guest the door.

Pride groaned once more when we got up,
Pointing to his empty cup;
But once again that Voice and I
Showed Pride the door, and bid goodbye.

©2009 Patricia S. Baker

She Loveth Much

March 29th, 2010
(Luke 7)

I crept into the room where they reclined;
Alone I stood as all began to eat.
My weeping eyes were fixed upon His feet,
And kneeling as the men with Jesus dined,
My hair with tears of gratitude entwined
Those feet o’er which I poured my perfume sweet.
With such a gift my worship was complete.
Yet as I rose the Pharisee opined,
“If Jesus were a prophet, He would know
The depths of sin in one who dared to touch,
And He from her would all acquaintance cease.”
My Savior’s answer caused fresh tears to flow:
“She loveth much who’s been forgiven much—
Your faith has healed you, daughter, go in peace.”

©2006 by Patricia S. Baker
Publication pending, Live.

Shepherd Psalm

March 29th, 2010

(Psalm 23)

Oh Lord, how can I tell You
Just what You mean to me?
In every vale I go through,
Your shepherd’s love I see.
When I am lost and helpless,
And stumbling in despair,
You come and gently lift me
With arms of tender care.
You take me to fresh pastures
Where I can lay my head;
You lead me by still waters,
And there my soul is fed.
There is no surer comfort
Than Your protective rod;
No greater joy exists than
The presence of my God!

©2005 by Patricia S. Baker
First printed in The Lutheran Digest, (Summer 2005).