Do you ever lament the consistent or occasional impurity of a dream?
At some point in our life, we learn what triggers nighttime temptations. For some it is the Facebook scroll through that one person’s profile. For another it might be flirting through text or phone conversations or Snapchat. For someone else it might be his or her simple and straight-up susceptibility to look at bad stuff after dark. For more than a few of us, there is a kind of loneliness or longing that wells up within. There is one meme out there names the loneliness: “existential dread.” Whatever the case, the trigger can either catch us off guard or hit in a way that, while it may not hurt at first, it lingers and it persists; it wins. If you can identify you own trigger or susceptibility, give thanks to God for that clarity. If you know your weakness with some certainty, be glad. It’s a grace really; that self-knowledge is a precious and vivid interior light.
Now what? How do you move from self-knowledge to some kind of action or game plan? How do you “fix” the problem? Knowledge is cool, but knowledge is not power. If knowledge is divorced from action or some kind of real-life follow through, knowledge will serve your downfall. The self-knowledge you bring to prayer is the matter and the “stuff” needed for God to do work and make your dreams holy. Don’t you ever deny the importance of self-knowledge. If you do, you might as well throw out the concept of free will with it. The point is, bring self-knowledge of that trigger or susceptibility with you and into prayer. Keep it close to you, as scary as that may be. You’ll need it for the conversation you have with God about this. God has this way of using what is going in our hearts to mediate his grace and love. It’s as if he wants us totally involved in dialogue with him. It’s as if he wants us to participate in the relationship too!
Let’s bring Scripture into this place, now that we are all self-knowledge experts. The application of Scripture to one’s self-knowledge is a sweet and sure way to encounter the Lord. Call to mind the truth that God’s Word is living and effective. It is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of your heart (Hebrews 4:12). It has this power because the Word of God is living; it is (spiritually) sharper than any two-edged sword. Scripture is more powerful than any new-age devotion or spirituality you could conjure up on your own. It is more precise and helpful than any horoscope, whether online or newspaper.
Admittedly, there may be fear when bringing our “stuff” to God. Indeed, no creature or person is hidden from God, but all of us are “open and laid bare” before Him, the Lord (4:13). We have the option to run and hide, sure. But, hiding is not the most effective way to deal with our mess or mistake or sin (reference to Genesis 3:8-10). I hope we are willing to come before the Lord and approach his throne of mercy. It is important that we use Scripture and our self-knowledge to seek him and pursue him in prayer. This self-knowledge is meant to act as a way for God to enter a little more into our hearts.
Consider now Psalm 92. One bible titles this prayer, Thanksgiving for Vindication. I wonder what could be in store for us. What kind of vindication? What was gained or won back? There is a lot of praise in this psalm. Read it for yourself and see how expressive and vivid is this prayer of thanksgiving. The psalm begins by saying, “it is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to thy name, O Most High” (verse 1). David gives thanks; he sings praise. Rightly, we can ask, how is it he gives thanks and sings praise? Verse 2 answers that for us. Verse 2 also has the key to making our dreams holy. It involves the action and game plan that will correct and renew the content of our dreams. The verse may not seem so life changing at first, so let’s take time with it:
To declare thy steadfast love in the morning, / and thy faithfulness by night,
Ask again, how is it David gives thanks and sings praise? He declares or proclaims the Lord’s steadfast (enduring, persevering) love in the morning. He also proclaims and announces somehow God’s faithfulness at night or during the nighttime. Simple enough, eh? The rest of the psalm is kind of like an exposition on verse 2. The rest of the psalm includes the content of his thanks and praise. A portion of the psalm also identifies the dull person who does not give thanks or praise.
Declare love in the morn, talk about faithfulness at night. Really? One translation says truth instead of faithfulness, by the way. Does that really fix my nasty nighttime images? How?
Well, look at how intentional and practical of an action this is. To declare His steadfast love may involve praying psalms, singing spiritual songs, or calling to mind the real ways that God has worked in your life before this morning. Proclaiming His love may be as real as singing that song you like, or writing on a sticky note something good and holy. At night, or in the late evening, declaring the truth and faithfulness of God is not a thing of graduate-level theology. No, to declare the truth of God is to declare openly that you are his son or daughter. To declare the truth of God means to vocalize interiorly or exteriorly something like, “Jesus is Lord,” “You are here with me,” “You are my Father.”
Can you hear how personal and close to you this truth of God is? Declaring his truth is not meant to distance you from the Lord, but draw you closer. This closeness happens when we pray like David and with the content of Psalm 92:1-2. Does the goal of pure dreams seem too simple? Well, it doesn’t happen over night. It does, however, really happen. Consider Philippians 4:8,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
What happens when we “think about these things?” The God of peace will be with us (verse 9)! Further, our perseverance in this practice will bear bruit. Consider the way St. Paul exhorts the Romans,
suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
(verses 3-5). It will get tough sometimes, sure. This remains more true: our endurance in soaking in God’s truth and love at the beginning and end of the day will renew our mind and memory. Even further, our endurance effects character, and character hope. This hope, he says, will not disappoint. It is the gift of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.
One last verse to encourage this practice: In 1 John 3:1-3 you see John in awe that we are called children of God by God himself. He points and directs us to hope in God instead of the world, because the world does not know us. How does he end that little encouragement? Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Our hope in God purifies us. Our practical and daily declaration of God’s faithfulness and love restores our integrity and purity. Our consistent and persistent proclaiming, musing and meditating on, and remembering God’s truth and love can make our dreams holy.
Bigger than that, our minds will be renewed in Christ and conformed to him. When we practice this kind of prayer, we will know what it is to put on the mind of Christ, to take every thought captive to him. Maturity in Christ is accessible and possible with his grace and our cooperation. I hope this little practice of making one’s dreams holy offers a way for the Body to be rooted and built up in Christ the Lord.