Based in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Growing in Grace is a blog by Pastor Matthew Molesky. His posts explore the Bible, theology, ecclesiology, culture, books, family, and life.

Don't Excise The Good Shepherd From Your Life

I’m continuing my pursuit of prayer as “the conversation where your life and your God meet” (David Powlison). 

Part of this pursuit is simply remembering that God is omnipresent. He inhabits every second of every day, every heartbeat, and every breath. He is never separated from me, or any of us. And yet it is remarkable how easy it is for me to forget that every moment of my living happens with God there.  This is a dangerous thing. For even though that doesn’t change the reality of his omnipresence, it does change my experience of it, with all its attendant benefits. Many times, without even realizing it, in such forgetting I have excised the Good Shepherd from my life. And this functionally threatens my hope of prayer as the conversation where my life and my God meet, because I have forgotten the truth that God is omnipresently meeting me.

This is not the praying life I’m hoping for. 

Maybe you can relate.

Just what would it look like to excise the Good Shepherd from the praying life we were designed for? Paul Miller imagines it,

(A Praying Life, page 88)

That is a scary picture of life filled with nothing but you.

Instead, our objective in prayer as conversation is a child-like spirit of trust that interprets life through the non-redacted lens of Psalm 23, actively placing the Good Shepherd back into the prayer of David, and using it as a way to bring our lives into the presence of our Father.

Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
he refreshes my soul. 
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake. 
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley, 
I will fear no evil, 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil; 
my cup overflows. 
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh

This kind of praying, modeled by David, infuses our living with the presence of God. Paul Miller bears testimony,

“Years ago I went through a time when my life became so difficult I was unable to pray. I couldn’t concentrate. So I stopped trying to have a coherent prayer time, and for weeks on end…I did nothing but pray through Psalm 23. I was fighting for my life…By praying slowly through a portion of Scripture, I was allowing Scripture to shape my prayers.
As I prayed through Psalm 23, I began to reflect on the previous day and to look for the Shepherd’s presence, for his touches of love. Even on especially hard days, I began to notice him everywhere, setting a table before me in the presence of my enemies, pursuing me with his love. Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadows of death. The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd.” (A Praying Life, page 87)

Which one are you? Cynic, or child?

Let’s do this together. Let’s practice the presence of God moment by moment. Let’s remind ourselves, and each other, that the Good Shepherd is always present, even in the dark valley. Let’s be encouraged by Paul Miller’s testimony, that “as you cling to the Shepherd, the fog of cynicism lifts” and we realize we are not alone living in a world of evil.

Hear Me, And Answer Me, For I Am Poor And Needy

A Sunday Morning Prayer For The Gathering