Let’s Get Excited (Part 1)

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.” (Psalm 100:1)

I want to spend a couple of days talking about Psalm 100. If you are like me, this is probably one of your favorite passages of Scripture. Many of my favorite passages come from the Psalms. They are so uplifting! I don’t know about you — but it gets depressing sometimes because of all the bad news we hear. The Psalms always seem to lift my spirits. So let’s consider these five verses under the heading of “Let’s Get Excited.”

Think about the first verse of Psalm 100. The very first thing I notice is this is a command – “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.” Why does God desire that I shout joyfully to Him? I think there is a simple reason. When I shout joyfully to the Lord — I draw attention where it should be — ON THE LORD!

Have you noticed all the things people make noise over? I’m continually amazed at how many things there are that people get excited about. I love this time of year — FOOTBALL SEASON! Whether it’s college football, professional football, high school football or Pop Warner football — it seems everybody gets excited about it. When I lived in Knoxville, we started getting excited about the first of August when radio stations would start say, “Only 30 more days until FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!” I learned very quickly that people in East Tennessee take their football seriously. There is nothing like gathering with 110,00 of your closest friends at Neyland Stadium and hearing the Pride of the Southland Band break out in Rocky Top! I get excited just thinking about it.

Now…think about this. Have you ever been to a football game where the cheerleaders turned to the crowd and held their fingers to their lips and said, “Please be quiet. You are making entirely too much noise”? Of course you haven’t and do you know why? It is because the cheerleaders know the encouragement of the fans helps the team work harder to win the game and when our team wins — we get so excited that we make even more noise.

When we are excited about something, we are going to make some noise. That is what I think the Psalmist is saying in verse 1. God wants us to get excited about Him. I asked a Sunday school teacher once about what she was trying to accomplish in her class. Her answer impacted me greatly. She said, “Pastor Keith, I’m just trying to get my class excited about the Lord.” This teacher recognized something about people today — they are excited about many things, but many times the Lord isn’t one of them.

It is absolutely amazing what I see as I look around the worship center on Sunday morning. There are people sitting, staring off into space — their minds a million miles away. Some folks sit there and look like somebody just gave them a dose of castor oil and they are about to be sick any minute. And then there are always those who constantly look at the clock as if they are bored to death with God’s Word.

We call our services “worship services,” but I’m afraid for many people, worship never takes place. Do you know why? The reason many people are not excited about the Lord is because they really don’t know the Lord. When you meet somebody who really loves the Lord, you can’t help but notice. They want to “make a joyful noise.”

We need to get hold of ourselves and fall in love with Jesus — and get excited about Him and our salvation! Let’s continue this discussion tomorrow.

Living Unselfishly Every Day

“Isn’t it enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of the pasture with your feet? Or isn’t it enough that you drink the clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Yet My flock has to feed on what your feet have trampled, and drink what your feet have muddied.” (Ezekiel 34:18-19)

Here’s the problem…the leaders and well-to-do citizens of Israel were selfish. They actually went so far as to “trample” the unused pastures so nobody else could benefit from what was grown there. The result was that many people had to drink polluted water and eat food that these rich, greedy people had trampled down with their feet. Whenever you and I look at life solely from our own selfish point of view, we inevitably take advantage of other people.

Here’s an example. A fellow went in to see his boss and ask for a raise. His boss just exploded. He said, “If truth be told, I should not be paying you at all. Just look at your record. You are supposed to work 8 hours a day. That’s 1/3 of a 24-hour period. Even in leap year that means you would work only 122 days. Since you don’t put in any time on Saturdays or Sundays subtract 104 days. I give you 14 days of vacation time and 4 paid holidays. When you do the math, that means that you are actually working zero hours for me. And you want a raise?”

That is certainly  a distortion of the truth along with some bad logic — but the result is exactly the same — no raise! When we distort the facts in order to serve our own purpose, we many times take advantage of other people. Maybe we don’t do it on purpose, but we still do it. We should strive every day to be unselfish — to be thoughtful and considerate so that we are not accused of trampling down the extra food with our feet. Christians should never be greedy and we should strive every day to reign in that selfish nature we all possess.

Pray that God will give you an unselfish attitude not only today — but every day!


Sometimes the Best Advice is — KEEP QUIET

“The people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord. Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here?'” (Numbers 20:3-4)

You know — from a purely human perspective — I think Moses had every right to be mad at these people! I’ve concluded that they surely must have been Baptists because I have never seen any one group complain so much about the least little thing. Ever since they left Egypt, they felt sorry for themselves. Every time there was the least little bit of trouble, they started whining and complaining. I’m sure Moses must have thought on many day that he was running a daycare and that he was in charge of the complaint department. I wonder how many times Moses wanted to say, “You want me to call the WHAMBULANCE?” I imagine that Moses got tired of hearing all their murmuring day in and day out. What did they expect Moses to do? It wasn’t his fault. Moses wasn’t the one telling the cloud that led them where to go!

Now — Moses didn’t handle his problem correctly as you know. Moses should have simply taken his problem to the Lord. Instead, he got mad. He took matters into his own hands and disobeyed the Lord by striking the rock to get water instead of speaking to it like God had said. As a result of his anger and disobedience, Moses forfeited the privilege of entering the Promised Land.

While I understand Moses’ frustration all too well — I also know that uncontrolled anger is a very dangerous thing. The person who loses his temper hurts himself as well as others. Even though there may be a good reason for getting angry, we must learn to control our anger. Don’t be like the woman who put the following ad in the classified section of the paper: “For sale: Wedding dress — never worn. Will trade for a .38 caliber pistol.”

Thomas Jefferson believed, “When angry count to ten, if very angry count to a hundred.” Years later, Mark Twain said, “When angry count to four, if very angry swear!” When we take Twain’s attitude, we end up doing or saying things that we later regret. We actually become our own worst enemy. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated — it can only bring harm.”

Take the advice of the Psalmist instead of Twain! Sometimes the best advice is simply to KEEP QUIET!

Like It Or Not — Judgment IS Coming

“But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works.” (Romans 2:5-6)

Nobody like to talk about judgment. In fact, when you bring up the subject, people often accuse you of being intolerant and insensitive. I don’t know how many times I have had someone say to me — “But Pastor, how can a loving God punish people for their sins?” Other times I’ve actually had people say to me, “Pastor, I believe God will just overlook those things that we have done, and everybody will get into heaven.”

The Bible however paints a very different picture. In Proverbs 29:1, the Bible says, “One who becomes stiff-necked, after many reprimands will be shattered instantly — beyond recovery.” The verses from Romans 2 and this verse from Proverbs paint a vivid picture of the divine wrath that will occur. When an individual lives in continual disobedience to God, he/she offends the holiness of God. I can only imagine that our sin puts a tremendous strain on God’s patience. The fact of the matter is that although God is patient, there will come a day eventually when judgment must come.

Let me illustrate.

There is an old story about a fellow in the community who was simply a wicked man. Once he rented a horse from a neighbor, and either through accident or ill-usage, he killed the horse. Naturally the owner insisted on being paid the value of the horse, plus some compensation for the loss of the use of the animal in the future. The man who rented the animal acknowledged his liability, and said he was perfectly willing to pay, but at the moment he was a little low on cash. Would the neighbor accept a promissory note? The neighbor agreed.

The man further stipulated that he would need a long date for the note to be due. The neighbor agreed again and simply said, “That’s find. You stipulate the day.” The wicked man drew up the note, making it payable at the Day of Judgment. Eventually the creditor took the matter to court, and there, in defense, the man asked the judge to look at the note. The judge looked at the note and said, “This promissory note is perfectly good and legal.” The wicked man thought he had won his case. But the judge wasn’t finished. He continued, “TODAY is judgment day. I decree that you pay the full amount owed TODAY.”

My friend, eventually that is what is going to happen to people who continually put aside the call of the Holy Spirit. The moral of that little story is that we should never presume upon grace. God’s wrath against us is steadily growing and it may come thundering down at any moment with the words — “TODAY is judgment day. Pay up!” The only way to avoid having to pay at the judgment is to confess and repent of your sins and trust Jesus Christ today.

I heard about a young fellow who sent the following text message to his mother from college. He said: “I failed everything. Prepare daddy.” In just a few minutes, mom texted her son back and said, “Daddy prepared. Prepare YOURSELF.”

That’s my message for you today — PREPARE YOURSELF! Prepare yourself today by accepting God’s gift of grace through His Son, Jesus Christ!


Hold On to the WHOLE Thing

“The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9)

There is a story about a preacher who was called to a new church to be the pastor. This pastor was educated in a time when he strongly influenced by critical scholarship that downgraded the authenticity and trustworthiness of the Bible. About two years after his coming, the pastor visited one of his members who was very sick. When he learned that the man had a terminal illness, the pastor said, “Perhaps you would like me to read the Bible and pray for you.” 

The sick man said, “Sure that would be fine.” He took his Bible and handed it to the pastor. When the pastor opened the man’s Bible, he was shocked by what he saw. Many of the pages were torn away, some of the chapters were missing, and a number of verses were actually cut out. It was a terribly mangled volume. 

The pastor looked at the man and said, “What in the world happened to this Bible? Don’t you have a better one than this?”

The dying man said, “Well, when you became my pastor, I believed the entire Book. But as soon as you told us that certain sections were not true, I removed them. When you said that some stories were probably fiction and referred to them as fables, I tore them out. I think if I had another year or two under your teaching, I would have nothing but two covers left.”

People may not literally take a pair of scissors and cut out parts of the Bible, but through their unbelief and denial of God’s Word, they eliminate from the Bible those truths that bother them. Others fail to practice what the Bible clearly teaches and write “void” over its pages. Paul said that the early Christians received the Gospel, “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” (I Thessalonians 2:12)

The great evangelist, D.L. Moody said, “Cling to the whole Bible, not part of it; a man is not going to do much with a broken sword!”

My dear friend — be careful that you don’t mangle your Bible by selecting what parts you are going to disregard as “not true.” Over the past 30 years of being the pastor in Baptist churches, I have discovered — both in my ministry and in my personal life — that if part of the Bible is false, then the whole thing becomes suspect. I’ll take my chances by accepting the authority and accuracy of God’s Word. 

I remember when I was seminary that one professor in particular told me that parts of the Bible were inspired and parts were not. He told me there was errors in the Bible. I knew right then I was in trouble! You see, I’m just not smart enough to figure out which parts of the Bible are inspired and which aren’t. I’ll just take God at His Word and I’m going to Hold on to the WHOLE thing!

Have a great day.


Serve the Lord and Leave the RESULTS to Him!

“He said, O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’ — may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.” (Genesis 24:12-14)

The title of my message today is a variation on my favorite words from Dr. Charles Stanley. He says, “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.” I seek every day to live my life by that admonition. Today, I want to put just a little different spin on the same thought. Do you remember this story?

The servant of Abraham referred to in this passage is most likely a man named Eliezer (Genesis 15:2). Abraham trusted Eliezer and wanted him to go out and find a wife for his son Isaac. This was not an easy job! However, Eliezer took this job very seriously. Early in chapter 24, Abraham made Eliezer promise that he would not choose a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites. In fact, Abraham made Eliezer “swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth.” This is serious business!

Eliezer loaded up with all kinds of stuff and headed out to find Isaac a wife. Eliezer didn’t just go checking out all the girls in town. He viewed this as a spiritual task. He opened his spiritual eyes and asked God to help him to find a suitable wife for Isaac. Eliezer showed that he trusted God completely and he knew his mission would be successful if he allowed God to lead him.

In typical fashion, before he even finished praying, Rebekah came along to get some water. Eliezer was specific in his prayer. Not only should the girl offer him water, but she should also be willing to give water to his camels as well. Rebekah came out and sure enough offered Eliezer water AND then said, “I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking” (v. 19). Can you imagine the smile that must have come across the face of Eliezer? One more time, God had answered the prayer of a righteous man.

So…what are the lessons you and I should learn from this? I think there are many — but let’s concentrate on two.

First…if you are a parent, you should be praying for your child’s future mate — right now. Pray that God will prepare the person with whom your son or daughter will spend their adult married life. Edna and I not only have prayed for Danielle and Dustin every day — but we prayed and continue to pray for their future mates. We have witnessed first-hand how God sent our daughter-in-law, Emily into Dustin’s life and she is an answer to prayer! 

Something else I strongly believe is this —  Christian young people should not date non-Christians and Christian parents should discourage their children from dating “just anybody.” Teach your children the importance of being “equally yoked.” Teach them the importance of allowing God to lead them to their mate.

Second…all of us can learn a special lesson from Eliezer. When you pray — BE SPECIFIC! Eliezer was a faithful servant of Abraham and he wanted to do the best job he could do. But he knew he couldn’t do it without the help of God. Eliezer was just an ordinary man who was helped by God. When you have a job to do — be specific with God. Take your requests to Him and then wait as He shows you the answer. When He answers, be sure to give praise and thanks and glory to Him. I want to be like Eliezer — I want to serve the Lord and depend on Him for the results. When we do that, we will truly make an eternal difference in the lives of those we meet.

Seeing As God Sees

“Yahweh, if You considered sins, Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be revered.” (Psalm 130:3-4)

How many of you remember the story of Nicky Cruz? Cruz was a gang member on the streets of New York City in the late 1950s and early 60s. He was known all over the city for his vicious knife fighting. In fact, he had — by his own admission — stabbed 16 people. Nicky Cruz was not the kind of kid you wanted to mess with.

In a small town in Pennsylvania, there lived a preacher named David Wilkerson. David believed that God had called him to go to New York City and minister to inner-city young people. Upon his arrival in New York City, one of the first people David met was Nicky Cruz. Their first conversation was very short. It consisted of Cruz saying, “If you come near me, preacher, I’ll kill you!”

Fortunately, that didn’t deter David Wilkerson. He continued to befriend Cruz and in a few months, Nicky’s heart softened. During an evangelistic rally some time later, Nicky Cruz came forward to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Nicky eventually went on to study at a Bible school and became a part of David Wilkerson’s ministry to the gangs.

What a TRANSFORMATION! You can read more about David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz in Wilkerson’s book The Cross and the Switchblade available at Amazon.com.

It’s hard to imagine someone like Nicky Cruz repenting of sin and coming to Christ — but it truly happens all the time. The Lord delights in such repentance and forgiveness is extended to ANYONE who truly repents.

My point in retelling this story today however is to ask you about the attitude of David Wilkerson. After YOU met Nicky Cruz and he threatened to kill you — would YOU have continued to go back and tell him about Jesus day after day? What if God brought some person into YOUR life this week of “questionable reputation” or appearance? What kind of response would they get from YOU and ME?

I love the story of Nicky Cruz and it challenges me to pray that God might allow me to see others the way He sees them. You see, God only sees two kinds of people — those who are lost and those who are saved. And that’s the way I want to look at the world. The verse I chose for today (Psalm 130:3-4) reminds me that none of us — including YOU and ME — could stand before God if He kept a running total of our sins. You see — whether you are guilty of murder or gossip — ALL sin separates us from God. And of course — you know what all means — right?


I am thankful today that there is forgiveness for ALL sin. I believe that new worth sharing with every person I meet today.

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Are You Listening?

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.'” (Genesis 12:1)

The twelfth chapter of Genesis is one of my favorites in the Bible. It is also one of the most remarkable chapters in the Bible. Abram lived in Ur and was a prosperous man. He had no reason to leave everything to follow the call of God — especially when you consider he would be following a God his fathers did not know! Abram was certainly in his “comfort zone” living the life in Ur. He had it made and was comfortable just doing what he had always done.

But one day — GOD CALLED. And when God calls, you better be listening. He told Abram to leave his country and his relatives and to travel to…wait for it…God didn’t say where — He just said GO “to the land that I will show you.” What do you do when you get a call like that? If I had been Abram, I probably would have said, “Lord, where am I going? How long will I be gone? What am I going to be doing there?” If Abram asked those question, the Bible doesn’t record that. In fact — I don’t believe he asked those questions at all. You see, when it REALLY is God who calls — you know it. Abram did what a true man of faith should do — he put a “for sale” sign in the front yard and told Sarai to start packing.

I imagine THAT was an interesting conversation…

Abram: “Honey, start packing. We’re moving.”

Sarai: “Where are we going?”

Abram: “I don’t know.”

Sarai: “What are you going to do when you get there?”

Abram: “I don’t know.”

Sarai: “Abram, have you been in the hot sun too long? Where did you come up with this crazy idea?”

Abram: “GOD CALLED.”

Abram acted on faith every step of the way on this journey. He and Sarai believed God for promises that seemed humanly impossible. The Abraham family moved out of the “comfort zone” and followed God — and they were greatly blessed.

“What the point, Pastor Keith?”

Well, maybe it’s time for YOU to move out of that place where you are. Maybe you have erected boundaries around your world to protect yourself from risk and rejection. I believe it is time for God’s people to knock down the walls and move on. For some, this will mean sharing Christ with a co-worker who is lost. For others, God may be calling you to pack your bags and head half-way around the world. But this is what I know — whatever He calls you to do — He will provide everything necessarily to accomplish the job. When God calls — LISTEN — because there is only one appropriate answer — “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” 

Remember my favorite words from Dr. Charles Stanley — “OBEY God and leave the consequences to Him.” You’ll never get better advice than that!

Just Keep Swimming…

“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” (II Thessalonians 3:13)

OK — I’ll admit it. I like Disney movies. And one of my favorites has to be Finding Nemo. My favorite character? DORY! I think I like her so much because she reminds me of ME! At one point in the movie Dory has a little conversation with Marlin (Nemo’s father).

Dory: Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do?

Marlin: No I don’t wanna know.

Dory: [singing] Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.

Marlin: Dory, no singing.

Dory: [continuing] Ha, ha, ha, ha, ho. I love to swim. When you want to swim you want to swim.

Marlin: Now I’m stuck with that song…Now it’s in my head.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” I think that is what our verse today is reminding us to do. How many times have you ever become discouraged because you were rejected when you tried to share your testimony of faith in Christ with someone else? How many times have you felt defeated because you thought other people treated you unfairly? Probably more times than you like to remember.

I have noticed that when I have felt that way in my own life (more times than I care to remember) — my sinful nature wants to retaliate against the people who have made me feel that way. I’ve learned that God is not pleased with that kind of attitude. When you and I give in to that spirit of retaliation, it destroys our peace and ruins our testimony. God wants you and me to keep on doing right even when others mistreat us or ridicule us. 

In other words — “Just keep swimming!”

I saw a card once that made an impression on me and illustrates the point I’m trying to make. It said:

“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

If you do well, some will accuse you of selfish motives. Do well anyway.

If you succeed, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest anyway.

What takes years to build may be destroyed overnight. Build well anyway.”

Maybe we could add one more line — People don’t always want to hear the truth of the Gospel message. Love them and tell them about Jesus anyway!

It’s Monday, September 16, 2013 — MONDAY!


Experience the Blessings of God

“The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. The Israelites set out whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle throughout all the stages of their journey. If the cloud was not taken up, they did not set out until the day it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.” (Exodus 40:34-38)

G. Campbell Morgan said, “I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.”

As a Christian, one of the things I most want to understand is how I can experience the blessings of God on my life so I can glorify God and serve others. How can I take those promises and literally apply them to my life and situation so that God will use me for His glory? If you study the Exodus experience, you see that Moses and the Israelites found out exactly how important the presence of God really is. After the people built the tent of meeting, the presence of the Lord came upon that place in a very powerful way. I think there are some important lessons we can learn from studying this experience. What do you and I have to do today in order experience God’s blessings in our lives?

1. Do things God’s way. If you study the book of Exodus and God’s instructions for the building of the tabernacle, the care of the ark of the covenant, the altar and the sacrifices — you will quickly discover that God was very specific in how the people were to carry out those tasks. When the people received these instructions, they obeyed and did exactly what God told them to do. In the same way, when you and I are willing to carry out our mission according to God’s instructions, we will receive the blessing of God on our lives. We make too many decisions today based on circumstances, society, money and personal tastes. Our decisions should be determined through prayer and the study of God’s Word. If you want to be blessed by God, then DO THINGS ACCORDING TO GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS.

2. Give cheerfully. Again, if you study the Scripture passages about the building and furnishing of the tabernacle, you discover that the people gave so that this project could be completed. But not only did they provide the money for the tabernacle, but they used their God-given talents as well. I think one of the tragedies of the modern church is that we think we have to hire somebody to do everything. Anything that has to be done, we find somebody to pay to do it. When we hire somebody to do our work and our ministry, we miss out on the blessing God has for us. The Bible says that the people of Israel gave to the extent that far more than enough was given and the offering actually had to be stopped. 

I have been a pastor now for 30 years. At no time in that 30 years have I ever had to tell my church folk to stop giving because we had too much! The Israelites were faithful in their giving and they gave out of their love for the Lord. I can’t even begin to imagine the blessings that God would have for us if we would simply follow the rule of cheerful giving. Remember this passage of Scripture (II Corinthians 9:6-8) — “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart — not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful given. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.”

People ask me — “Pastor, I just want God’s will, but I’m afraid He will ask me to do something I can’t do.” Let me tell you this — God’s will is exactly what you would want for yourself IF you had sense enough to want it! You want the blessing of God on your life? Then follow His instructions and give cheerfully. One more thing…

3. Be willing to go when God goes and stay when God stays. There is a very important lesson to be learned in Exodus 40. You and I NEED to be where God is. We need to refuse to go one inch ahead of God or to stay one inch behind God. “Well, Pastor, that sounds great but how do we do it?” There are two keys — prayer and preaching. Let me explain.

Find you a church where the Bible is preached without apology. Find a pastor who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture. Find a ministry that makes prayer and solid Biblical preaching a priority — then start learning. When we pray and when we are under good, solid Biblical preaching — God will bless you. Too many people want to go to church to get some kind of “feeling.” I go to the local Mexican restaurant to get a “feeling!” I go to church to hear a Word from God! We need to go when He goes and we need to stay when He stays. Rather than trying to get a feeling — we better start yearning for a Word!

The person who experiences God’s blessings in their life is the person who determines they will do things God’s way, they will give cheerfully and when God says GO — they GO and when God says STAY — they STAY. 

Bless me O Lord, I pray!