Christianity 201

October 9, 2017

Prayer is not Cathartic

Today we’re paying our second visit with Joe Waller at the blog As I Learn to Walk. Click the title below to read this at the original page or to leave comments.

A Realization

Asking for prayer is not just a sanctified sympathy request (though I often unconsciously see it that way).

Verses such as 1 Peter 5:7, where Peter calls believers to “[cast] all your anxieties on [God], because he cares for you,” bring great comfort to Christians. We revel in the fact that God comforts the downcast, that he cares about us though we are as fleeting mists before him. As the psalmist testifies, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19). God, the creator and the sustainer of all, gives ear to his children. Though infinitely transcendent, God is also beautifully immanent.

In spite of this profound truth, I live like God is only transcendent, separate from my life and experiences. When I find myself struggling, in need of support, I often desire the sympathy of my friends rather than the strengthening of God. I ask those near me for prayer, but, recently, I’ve noticed that I share those requests in part to get attention, not simply to seek the Lord. (To clarify, I don’t mean to say that all of my prayer requests are solely for the sake of attention; I’m simply highlighting a problematic tendency I’ve noticed in my walk.) I’ve noticed the issue extend into my personal prayers as well. I pour out my heart to God, yet I do so in some ways more for catharsis than for the pursuit of God’s help. I pray, but I don’t consider the fact that God may answer, that God may speak.

As I considered this trend, I realized that such a practice is completely bogus. Biblically, God not only cares about our needs, but he responds to our prayers. James writes that God will give wisdom to those who ask him (James 1:5-8). Toward the end of his short book, he calls believers to pray for one another, citing the example of Elijah who “was a man with a nature like ours, [who] prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:16-18). The psalmists also speak of God’s faithfulness to answer prayers. One writes,

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Psalm 66:16-20

Throughout Scripture, we find testimonies of those who prayed and were answered, of those who turned to the Lord and were heard.

I can relate to the disciples who asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). I am no expert on prayer. In fact, I regularly feel inadequate when I pray. Slowly, graciously, God is teaching me to pray, to come before him in humility and in hope. God’s Word changes how I think about prayer and about prayer requests by changing how I think about myself and how I think about God. Meditating on Scripture, mining the depths of God’s self-revelation, turns my gaze away from myself and fixes it upon him. I worry less about feeling better and focus more on honoring him. Suffering becomes an avenue of sanctification (James 1:2-4), and joys become opportunities to praise (1 Thessalonians 5:16). This week, let us live, and pray, for his glory, trusting that our good is found in the pursuit of his kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

March 6, 2015

Living the Lord’s Prayer

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Voice – Matthew 6:5 Likewise, when you pray, do not be as hypocrites who love to pray loudly at synagogue or on street corners—their concern is to be seen by men. They have already earned their reward. When you pray, go into a private room, close the door, and pray unseen to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not go on and on, excessively and strangely like the outsiders; they think their verbosity will let them be heard by their deities. Do not be like them. Your prayers need not be labored or lengthy or grandiose—for your Father knows what you need before you ever ask Him.

Your prayers, rather, should be simple, like this:

    Our Father in heaven,
        let Your name remain holy.
10     Bring about Your kingdom.
    Manifest Your will here on earth,
        as it is manifest in heaven.
11     Give us each day that day’s bread—no more, no less—
12     And forgive us our debts
        as we forgive those who owe us something.
13     Lead us not into temptation,
        but deliver us from evil.
    [But let Your kingdom be,
        and let it be powerful
        and glorious forever. Amen.]

Diane Lindstrom posted this earlier this week on her blog Nice One Nana. Click the link to read at source.

Live the Prayer

I stumbled on this explanation of The Lord’s Prayer and because I’ve been thinking about “passion for Christ” these past few days, I appreciated the breakdown of the words in Matthew 6.9-13.

I like the idea of living the prayer.

Living the Prayer means…
Our Father in Heaven… A Passion to live the LOVE of God.
Hallowed be Your Name… A Passion to live the GLORY of God.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done… A Passion to live the WILL of God.
Give us this day, our daily bread… A Passion to live the CARE of God.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive… A Passion to live the RECONCILIATION of God.
Lead us not into temptation… A Passion to live the TRANSFORMATION of God.
Deliver us from the evil one… A Passion to live the DELIVERANCE of God.

 

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Teach us to pray”, Jesus provided them with a wonderful pattern to follow when they pray.

Here’s some simple observations I made this morning.

“Our Father” confirms a spiritual reality — God has made me His child.  Thank You, Lord. 

As long as I live under heaven, I cannot escape the nearness of God. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145.18) Thank You, Lord. 

God revealed Himself to Moses as “I AM”— that’s His sacred name and He is sufficient and unchanging. Thank You, Lord. 

I am reminded to pray for His will to be done on earth, not mine. He has a divine claim on my life. “He must become greater. I must become less. (John 3.30) Thank You, Lord.

I can’t make it on my own. God gives me breath, strength, hope and purpose. Thank You, Lord.  

I need God’s forgiveness. It’s difficult to confess my sin and to admit my desperate dependence on His grace for forgiveness…but oh, how cleansing. His mercies are new every morning for me. Great is His faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3. 23) Thank You, Lord.

But it goes further – other’s sins against me are miniscule compared to my sin against God. I need to keep short accounts in all my relationships. He forgives completely — “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103.12) He is my model for forgiveness. Thank You, Lord.

Temptation is everywhere – no question, there is an ongoing spiritual battle for my mind. There is such power in prayer. I can talk with God. Imagine…He’s as close as the mention of His name and He is my refuge and my strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46.1)  Thank You, Lord.

“Live the prayer.”   I like that idea.

August 18, 2014

When Your Prayer Request List is Too Long

Post 1600I know there are days in our household when the list of prayer requests seems to be balloon out in size, and we feel we must be exasperating God with so many requests. Additionally, as I type this, to even list the countries of the world that are hotspots right now would take some time, especially if you are aware of key groups or individuals that need an extra blessing from God.

After a person has been around the church for awhile, they are often instructed that prayer is so much more than just asking for things for ourselves or on behalf of others. Using the ACTS model (acknowledgement, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) that would mean that additionally prayer should include:

  • a point of entry into conversation with God that recognizes who He is, His sovereignty over all things, His immense power, His majesty in creation, His knowing of all things, His holiness.
  • a confession of our sin, both individually and corporately
  • spoken recognition of the good things that life brings us as part of the general grace given to all of us, appreciation for blessings that might seem to be extra or undeserved

But then we are back at requests. The list seems so long. Should we do some editing? Just pray for certain people on certain days?

Scripture would seem to suggest not to hold back.  In Ephesians 6:18 we read:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The phrases I want to highlight today are all occasions, all kinds of…requests, always keep on.

Of course sometimes we do not really know what we ought to pray. Should we pray for Mike and Carrie’s relationship to be restored, or is it better that they break the engagement now before they end up in a marriage that may not succeed? Should we pray for Shelley to get the job in Ohio when really, she should look for employment closer to home so she can keep helping her sister who really needs her?

I don’t know, don’t ask me!!

In I Corinthians 14:15 Paul says,

So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding…

This verse bears on the subject of praying in tongues, which I know is controversial; but the Bible does suggest there are times when human words are inadequate. We see this again in Romans 8:26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

The KJV uses, “groanings too deep for words.”

(We hear a lot about speaking in tongues, but not so much about ‘speaking in groans,’ though I’ve been in at least two churches where this was manifested.)

The key in these verses is where Paul says, “What shall I do?” (I Cor. passage) and “We do not know what…to pray for” (Romans passage).

Sometimes we just don’t know. We throw up our hands and surrender our total inadequacy to intercede in these situations.  Should we give up? I think a good place to resolve this is with our key verse again:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  (Matt 7:7 HCSB; all other ref.s NIV)

November 28, 2013

The Jesus Blueprint for Prayer

Today, we’re going to once again invite some of you to be contributors to C201, but first, today’s thoughts are from the blog Digging The Word where they appeared a few days ago under the title, Learning to Pray (click to read)

Luke 11:1Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Hebrews 5:7While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could rescue Him from death. And God heard His prayers because of His deep reverence for God.


Describe your prayer life using one word. You may think of words like exciting, strenuous, frustrating, boring, confusing, intermittent, difficult, struggle. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to have a prayer time?

Jesus’ last prayer time was in the garden just before he was arrested. He knew that his time had come and that he would be tortured and crucified very soon. Of course he had a stressful agonizing time in prayer but I wonder how his other prayer times were. I looked at that verse in Hebrews that said that Jesus “offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears” and I wondered if that prayer in the garden was the only time that he cried out with such intensity in his prayer time.

Jesus agonized in prayer while his disciples calmly fell asleep. But when the test came, Jesus walked through the trials and went all the way to the cross with courage, he never showed any signs of stress but where were his friends that had skipped their prayer time? They proved that they didn’t have the same courage that Jesus had. We often see prayer time as preparation for the battle but for Jesus prayer was the battle ground.

In Luke 11, after Jesus had spent time praying, one of His disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Some things are worth noting from this verse. John the Baptist’s taught his followers to pray and we need to be taught how to pray. Nobody expects us to know how to pray without any instructions on how to do it. The disciples had been with Jesus for over 2 years. They had total access when He taught and preached. They witnessed His miracles. Yet, as far as we know, they never took Him aside and asked, “Lord, teach us to preach,” or “Lord, show us how to minister.” They did come and request, “Teach us to pray.”

Prayer 101

✔ Jesus prayed for others. Matthew 19:13-14, John 17:9
✔ Jesus prayed with others. Luke 9:28,
✔ Jesus prayed alone. Luke 5:16
✔ Jesus prayed regularly. Luke 5:16
✔ Jesus prayed in nature. Luke 6:12
✔ Jesus prayed all night. Luke 6:12
✔ Jesus prayed with passion. Luke 22:39-44
✔ Jesus taught persistence in prayer. Luke 18:1

These basic guidelines show us how, when and where to pray by following Jesus example.



Christianity 201 is part of a blog aggregator called Faithful Bloggers. (Click the icon in the right margin or below to link.) Recently Courtney, the moderator of Faithful Bloggers, wrote a piece guiding writers how to carefully craft a devotional piece. Is it a coincidence that I was holding this article for several days and today’s topic was prayer?

I’m reproducing it here to encourage some of you to consider taking a verse of scripture which is percolating in your hearts, and writing thoughts the rest of us might appreciate. Send it to the address on the submissions page.  To read Courtney’s article at source, click How To Write a Devotional Piece: Be Prayerful.

Writing on a regular basis isn’t always easy.  Coming up with the words you want to use to convey your message isn’t always easy.  Sharing God’s Word and His message of salvation and love isn’t always easy.  When you put writing and sharing God’s message together through devotions, it isn’t always easy.Writing devotions is a very precious and important task.  Anyone who reads your devotional should be able to find the love of Christ of in it and reading your devotional might be the only time they see an example of that kind of love.  That is why we must be prayerful when writing devotions!

Before you put pen to paper, or rather, start typing, pray. Ask God to tell you what He would have you to write about. What message does He want you to impart? Be mindful of what comes to mind as you are praying. Does a particular person come to mind with a specific issue? Does a specific verse pop into your head?

Listen. He will tell you what to write.

Praying before you start writing a devotion will make it so much easier to actual write the devotion.  But that is not where you stop praying.

You need to be prayerful throughout the entire process – before you write, while your write, during the editing and proofreading stage, throughout marketing, etc…

Remember that once you publish your devotion, whether it is on your blog, as an ebook on Kindle or in PDF format, or as a physical book, your job isn’t done.

Be prayerful for your readers.  Pray that your readers will receive the comfort, love, and encourage that you intended when you wrote the devotion.  Be prayerful that your devotion will touch at least one life for the glory of God.

Being prayerful is something so simple that is it often the one step that is forgotten.  Next time you decide write a devotion, don’t forget!

November 10, 2013

Dear God: I’d Like to Order a Medium Pizza

So I pick up the phone and I call the number of the Chinese Food restaurant around the block, and I tell them I’d like to order:

  • dinner for four
  • two extra egg rolls
  • an order of chicken fried rice

I give my name and tell them I’ll come by to pick it up in 30 minutes. And then I hang up.

I have no idea who took my order. I have no idea if they’re busy or if I’m the first customer of the day. I don’t really know if the person who I will be served by is even the same person I just talked to. And honestly, in a busy world, I usually don’t care.

Are our prayers to God any different? People talk about having a “laundry list” of prayer requests, but I prefer to think in terms of ordering Chinese food or a pizza.

Phil 4:19 (NLT) And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

God wants us to bring our needs to Him. He loves it when we ask. He wants us to keep the conversation going. He wants us to be in relationship with Him. He promises to meet us in the area of provision.

But in the model prayer Jesus gave The Twelve, this type of request was only a small part of a bigger prayer picture. The prayer consists of three requests toward God Himself:

  • that His name be honored and reverenced
  • that His will be accomplished
  • the bringing about of His kingdom to earth

And then toward ourselves:

  • for our basic provisions
  • for us to live in, practice, and be agents of grace and mercy
  • for us to be protected from evil, and the temptation to evil

Now, you could say that if each of these is equal that mean each should form 1/6th of our prayer time, or that each one constitutes 17%. (I don’t think we need to be that literal.) Others might argue that in the Hebrew mindset, where there is a list, things are presented in an order of importance. (Some might say the first thing is doubly important.) In a proportionate percentage guide, that might look like this:

  • 28%
  • 24%
  • 18%
  • 14%
  • 10%
  • 6%

The point is, that we don’t spend 70% on concerns that would fit the patter of prayer toward God, in fact we don’t even spend 51% (using the 17% figure above). We tend to spend all our prayer time on ourselves. That a lot more than the 17% that would put things in proportion.

And we often want our order ready for pickup in 30 minutes.

But interestingly enough, God promises us that if we put him first we might need to spend so much time concerned with health and material provision requests.  You find that in a familiar verse in Matthew 6, provided you incorporate the context of a previous verse:

Matt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [i.e. 31..What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’] will be given to you as well.

Do people who honor God in their prayer life get everything they feel they need? I have two answers for that. First of all, if they spend less time preoccupied with provision for needs, it is less of a priority, less of an obsession for them. This in itself will give them greater contentment with what they have. Second, I’ve always believed that ‘the desires of the righteous are righteous desires.” So in a way, the answer is ‘yes.’

Now for the hard part:  Lately we’ve had a number of people voice prayer requests that are not prayers for ourselves. We have friends who need a healing touch. We have friends who need jobs. We have friends whose marriage is in trouble. We’ve sensed — and commented to others — that our prayer list has gotten very long lately.

So surely, this does not apply to altruistic prayers like we’ve been praying, right?

Wrong!

I think the principle still applies. I need to be challenged to spend more time working on the part of the model prayer that concerns thoughts toward God. I need to begin my prayer in worship and reverence. I need to pray for the extension and raising of God’s Kingdom. I need to spend more time praying for God’s will to be done on the earth.

A ‘laundry list’ is a ‘laundry list’ no matter how you frame it. God wants my prayer life to be so much more, even when I feel that bringing needs on behalf of others.

If it looks like a take-out order, and it sounds like a take-out order, it’s probably a take-out order.

God, help me to spend more time letting you know that I love you, and that I am in awe of your greatness and majesty and dominion. Help me to be more concerned that Your Will be carried out on the earth. Make my desire that You build your kingdom.

 

 

October 7, 2013

Do We Pray To Jesus or Through Jesus?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 pm
Tags: , , ,

There are a number of marginal Christian groups that use the Christian Bible but have a different interpretation of it and/or supplement it with other writings that are considered primary with the Bible occupying a secondary role.  Still, even though we disagree on some major doctrines, it’s possible for their exegesis of scripture on a given topic to be helpful and informative. (It’s even more fun if the writer is dissenting from his group’s party line!)

This appeared a few days ago at the blog of Mike Leake. I would think that this question is somewhat colored by the Catholic question of people praying to Mary or through Mary, but I can also see it arising entirely within a non-Catholic context. In this case, the blogger begins with a quotation from The Book of Mormon (that’s a first for us!) so as we prepared this we had to read discerningly but with an open mind.  Click this link to read at source.

…Mormons believe that the pattern of faith is to pray to God the Father only through Jesus Christ. It’s not only the Book of Mormon that they use, though. They also cite the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. Here Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father”. The model prayer has our prayer directed to the Father, and later verses help us to see that our prayer to the Father is mediated through Jesus our Redeemer.

One Mormon commentator boldly refers to praying to Jesus as an “apostate practice”. Today, I want to consider whether or not this is an apostate practice or if it is in fact an apostolic practice.

References to “the Lord”

In the New Testament, references to “the Lord” are almost always a reference to the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 12:8 is one of these instances. Here we see that Paul, “pleaded with the Lord” to remove the thorn in his flesh. The word for “pleaded” is one that refers to praying in earnest. Here, the apostle Paul is praying to the Lord Jesus.

In Acts 7:59-60, Stephen clearly is praying to the Lord Jesus. Here as he is being stoned, Stephen “calls out”. This again is a term that refers to prayer. And who does he pray to? “Lord, Jesus receive my spirit.” And again in verse 60 he refers to the Lord, asking Jesus to forgive his persecutors.

In fact the Bible ends with a prayer to Jesus as the apostle John, seeing this vision and the coming of the holy city, cries out “Come, Lord Jesus!” He is not beseeching the Father to send His Son. The apostle John is praying directly to the Lord Jesus and begging him to come. It is a prayer that is echoed in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “marana tha”.

There are more instances of praying to the Lord, but these will suffice to show that it was indeed apostolic practice to pray to—and not merely through—the Lord Jesus.

What does Jesus say?

While it is true that Jesus’ model prayer is a prayer to the Father, this does not mean that this is the only prayer that we are to pray.

In John 14, Jesus is comforting his disciples upon His departure. After saying that He is “going to the Father”, Jesus tells the disciples, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”. That certainly sounds that we pray through Jesus to the Father. But notice how Jesus continues. “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”.

Now it would be dishonest of me to not mention that some of the earlier manuscripts do not include the word “me”. It is possible that this word is a scribal addition to the text. But even if this were so, I believe it still proves the point that it was apostolic practice to pray to the Lord Jesus. Why else would a scribe have added the word “me”. You don’t add something to make it less clear—you add something to make it more clear.

This leaves us with two options. First, that “me” ought to be part of the text and the issue is settled—the Lord Jesus encouraged the disciples to pray to Him. Or secondly, that this was incorrectly added. But such an addition would not have been welcome or have spread if this was not the early church practice. That alone does not make the practice biblical, but that coupled with the references to Lord helps us to see that the early church did indeed pray to Jesus and not simply through Him to the Father.

Conclusion

In my opinion this is not a hill to die on. If somebody is not convinced that we ought to pray to the Lord Jesus, and by conviction they only pray through Jesus to the Father, I don’t know that I would be overly concerned. The bigger concern with Mormonism is their view of Jesus. If you aren’t praying to Jesus because you don’t think He is God, there are bigger concerns than the One your prayer is directed towards.

For Christians, prayer to Jesus is a practice that holds up in Scripture. So does prayer to the Father through Jesus. For an excellent book on praying in Jesus’ name, I recommend Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell (only $3.99 on the Kindle).

The ultimate answer to the question is actually, “Yes”. You certainly must pray through Jesus and it fits the Scriptures to pray to Jesus as well.

 

 

 

October 21, 2011

Interceding Specifically

This week I returned for a few more chapters of Penetrating the Darkness a book on intercession by Dr. Jack Hayford, who for years was lead pastor at Church on The Way in Van Nuys, California.

In chapter four, Jack indicates that intercession involves three elements:

  • praying for somebody else; praying on behalf of
  • reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and help to pray beyond the intercessor’s knowledge or understanding
  • a challenge to our helplessness to deal with the larger issues of life

Later in the chapter, he teaches three easy-to-remember terms:

  • intersection
  • intervention
  • interception

I might come back to those at another time, and I do want to challenge you to get a copy of this book for your own, especially those of you who have a prayer and intercession ministry.   One couple in Jack’s church was Michael and Stormie Omartian and if you’ve read Stormie’s The Power of a Praying… series of books, this makes an excellent companion. 

…This morning at 5:00 AM, I woke up and felt led to pray for a man we know who has been estranged from his wife for nearly a decade.  As I thought about their situation, I felt led to pray very specifically for a number of things that need to happen.  I prayed that:

  • God would soften her heart
  • she would feel led to reopen communication
  • there would not be a barrier created by pride; that she would be humble
  • that she would be truthful with people to whom she may have painted a one-sided picture of their situation
  • that she would repent of wrongdoing on her part
  • that she would seek reconciliation and restoration of the relationship
  • that the decision she makes would stick over the long-term

I also prayed for him, that:

  • he would be open to receive her forgiveness and accept it at face value, in expectancy of reconciliation over the long-term
  • he would do his best to be the kind of person she needs
  • God would heal the wounds and scars that the last few years have created

Usually, I have great creative and spiritual clarity at that hour, but when I go to the keyboard many hours later, I have forgotten everything.  (I even considered finding a pen at 5:00 AM and making notes; I say that with apologies for those of you who are up at that hour anyway; I’m not!)  However, this time, I have recorded here point-for-point what came to me earlier in the day.

I think it’s important — it’s necessary — to pray specifically like this, and there are probably other aspects of this I could add to the example, but I want to preserve the anonymity of the people involved.

My point today is simply that to pray only, “God, bless__________;” is inadequate and even to pray, “God, bless ____________ and __________ and bring them back together;” is to miss the many barriers that often need to come down before something like that can happen.

Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit,  and I will also pray in words I understand.  ~ I Cor. 14:15 NLT

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.  ~I Tim 2: 1-3 The Message

 

Postscript: Feel free to join us in praying for our friend and his wife.