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God, forgive the guilt of your people!

It seems a very large question to me how one could possibly address God with a petition for clemency during these troublesome times when we have been basely neglectful of Him and His ways. Thoughts of “presumption” and “hubris” flash like a blinking neon sign when I wonder how I might approach the throne of the Almighty with a request to aid our failing world, knowing, as G.K. Chesterton himself acknowledged when asked “What is wrong with the world?” and he replied, rightly, “I am.”

Prayer is a magical, slippery thing. Especially prayer that presumes to remind God of what He has already done for our benefit that He might do so again. Yet this is what makes David’s blessing of God in psalm 84 (85) so particularly spectacular:

“Lord, you blessed your land; you forgave the guilt of your people.”

First, David reminds God of the past. He forgave us once. The supplications that follow are that He might continue to treat us in the same way. With that, David lays out for all the manifest mercy of God:

“You looked kindly, O Lord, on your land:

you ended the captivity of Jacob.

You forgave your people’s unrighteousness

and covered over their sins.

You reined back all of your anger

and renounced your indignant fury.”

It seems David is setting God up for a grand fall from glory unless He chooses to relent, yet again, in love with us despite our faults.

“Rescue us, God, our savior,

and turn your anger away from us.

Do not be angry for ever

– or will you let your wrath last from one generation to the next?

Surely you will turn round and give us life

– so that your people can rejoice in you?

Show us, Lord, your kindness

and give us your salvation.”

Then David makes his request personal, promising that he will attend yet more closely to the Lord by sharing with others the goodness that God gloriously manifests:

“I will listen to whatever the Lord God tells me,

for he will speak peace to his people and his chosen ones,

and to those who repent in their hearts.

Truly his salvation is close to those who fear him,

so that glory may dwell in our land.”

And finally he sums up, for all who wish to imitate this process of prayer with that of praise:

“Kindness and faithfulness have met together,

justice and peace have kissed.

Faithfulness has sprung from the earth,

and justice has looked down from heaven.

Truly the Lord will give generously,

and our land will be fruitful.

Justice will walk before him

and place its footsteps on his path.”

The inspired word of God offers this succinct reflection on how to approach the Lord in prayer with ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

All praise and glory to our wonderfully loving and merciful God who has blessed our land and forgiven the sins of His people!

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