Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is often the first bit of Bible that folks commit to memory. And rightly so. It’s brought comfort to countless numbers of folks throughout the ages.

When I was a new believer, I didn’t really know how to pray or what to pray for. In fact, I struggled with prayer for years…because I didn’t know what to say and my prayers always seemed to be the same. I figured that until I had something new to tell God or something new to ask from Him, we were good. I wouldn’t have said it out loud, but my attitude toward God in prayer was I ask and You give. I should apologize when I mess up, but I mess up a lot…and let’s be honest, most of my mess ups are the same. That way of thinking crippled my prayer life for years.

It really wasn’t until I graduated from seminary and landed my first job in ministry that I felt like I learned to pray. I was preparing to teach a class on the spiritual life, and I realized that I had no idea what I would say about it. I was spending time in the Word. I was spending time with other believers. But I wasn’t really spending time in prayer, and I felt kind of far from God. And so I went on a quest to find out what the spiritual life, what the abundant life, was all about. Prayer was a huge part of that.

The more I read about prayer and intentionally began to practice praying, the more I enjoyed it. And the more easily it came. I started with praying Scripture. I would use the language that the Bible used when I talked to God. I asked Him for the things that the Bible said He wanted for me…to be more like Jesus. I began to pray the Bible for my family and friends. And I freed myself up from whatever preconceived expectations I might have had about what prayer was supposed to be.

One of the books that I read on prayer was by a monk named Brother Lawerence called Practicing the Presence of God. What a great book! His goal was to figure out how to pray without ceasing. If the Bible calls us to that, surely there must be a way. Anyway, that book helped me see that prayer can happen at anytime…when I’m on the step mill at the gym, when I’m driving my car (eyes open please!), when sitting in my office or wherever I am. I am always in God’s presence. Prayer reminds me of that. It also redeems the mundane moments in my life. “He who has learned to pray, has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.” (William Law (1686-1761), Christian Perfection [1726], London: W. Baynes, 1807, p. 290)

Someone asked me, “Is prayer for us or for God?” Interesting question, isn’t it? When you have a conversation with your spouse or your kids, with your parents, or friends, or co-workers, or neighbors…who is the conversation for? When we pray, we share our hopes and dreams, our fears and concerns, our failures…our lives with our Father who cares about all of those things and who walks with us, leading and guiding us through both the good and bad times, if we will let Him. It’s not that He needs us to tell Him those things…He already knows, but we need to tell Him.

But what if prayer doesn’t work? Still sick. Still in pain. Loved one still hasn’t accepted Jesus. Another interesting question. God is not a divine Vending Machine. He’s a Person. Better yet He’s our Father. We won’t always know the why of the things that happen to us…we live in a fallen world where my sin and/or the sin of others and/or the cosmic effects of the fall can combine to create some pretty nasty circumstances…, but if we believe that the LORD is our Shepherd…then we know that He that He is leading us and never leaves us alone in the midst of our darkest times. He will see us through, whatever the storm.

Another interesting question that I was asked, “Does it matter what I ask God? Isn’t He going to do what He wants anyway?” What I appreciate about all of these questions is that they reflected my own thinking at some point in time. I do think what we ask God is important, but primarily for this reason…it reveals where we are with Him, where we are on our spiritual journey. God wants to conform us to the image of His Son. He wants to make us like Jesus. The more we grow spiritually, the more we will want the same things He does. The details of our circumstances begin to become less important…it’s how can I best represent Jesus in this particular circumstance. That takes time and time spent in prayer just talking to your Father.

Psalm 23 reminds me of who God is. So when I come to Him in prayer, I can thank Him for taking care of me…guiding me, directing me, providing for my needs, protecting me, His presence with me.

I want us to practice praying. We’re going to use Psalm 23 as a guide. You can pray right where you are. Start with… “The LORD is my shepherd…” Take each part of that statement and emphasize a different word. Thank Him for being your Shepherd. 

Ask God to provide for your needs.

Ask God to direct your paths.

Thank God for being with you in both green pastures and dark valleys, in both good and bad times. If you are in a bad time right now, ask Him to remind you often of His presence with you and for His help to weather the storm.

Thank God for His goodness and His lovingkindness that pursues you…for His abundant grace in your life.

Thank God for the promise of the kingdom and eternal life that is yours.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our Central Summer Series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Easter Devotional – March 22

Psalm 23

The LORD Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (

Hear My Prayer, O Lord!


Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

One of the most vivid memories in my life happened in the spring of 2005.  My wife, Barb, and I traveled to Israel as a part of a guided tour.  Each night at the hotel, the guide would walk us through the expected tour for the following morning.

At this point in the tour we had arrived in Jerusalem for a few days and I was ready to see the grand old city!

This particular night, the guide explained we would be going to the temple mount area the next day – the location of the famous Western Wall and the Southern Steps to the Temple area.

I knew the temple had been destroyed in the year 70, but I was excited about visiting the Southern Steps, as I knew Jesus would have been in that area accessing the Temple and tradition holds He taught from those steps.

The other site, the Western Wall, is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount.

Parts of the wall are remnants of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple‘s courtyard, and is considered by the many the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself.

Our guide explained that it was the custom to write a prayer out on a scrap of paper when visiting and praying at the wall, then roll up the prayer and stick it in the crevice in the wall.  Periodically the slips of paper were collected and buried in Israel because it was against Jewish religious law to destroy them.

So Barb and I jointly prepared a prayer for the next day.

Our guide told me that many of the Jewish people read and pray over Psalms when at the Wall.  So, I decided I would read our prayer out loud from the piece of paper and bring my Bible to read out loud the 23rd Psalm.

The next morning, we came to the Southern Steps and I was in awe. I was walking and standing where Jesus stood!

We were given some quiet time at the steps and, as is my custom, I grabbed my journal and Bible for a little quiet time.  I was following a reading plan much like we are doing today in the church and my regular reading for the day was a few chapters in I Kings.

As I turned to I Kings Chapter 8, I came to the section of scripture where King Solomon dedicated the Temple.  The reading was not pre-planned by me but ordained, I believe, by God.  For here in this passage I read through Solomon’s prayer.

As I turned to verses 41-43, my heart skipped, for in this section Solomon prays for the foreigner, not of the people of Israel, who has come from a distant land, because of His great name – Solomon cries out to God to hear the foreigner’s prayer!

That was me!  I was the foreigner who was about to go to the Western Wall and pray to my God and leave my prayer there in the wall.

I trembled as I prayed at the Wall, read aloud the Psalm and placed the prayer Barb and I had written out the night before in a crevice in the wall. We had written out a prayer for our family – mainly our children.

I still watch the working out of that prayer today.

It is said in Jerusalem that all prayers are local calls, everywhere else it is long distance!

If you have already read through Solomon’s prayer in I Kings Chapter 8 when you read this, I encourage you to read it again.  This is a prayer you can turn to over and over again as I have.  It is a perfect model of how and what to pray for.

Until next time…  Keep reading!