Christianity 201

June 3, 2012

The Great Empowerment for The Great Commission as Prayer Pattern

Okay, a long title today…

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Growing up in Toronto, Canada in Sunday School, our teachers tried to make this somewhat applicable by changing it to, “You will be witnesses… in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the uttermost parts of the earth.”  If you grew up in Chicago, it would be “…in Chicago, in Illinois, in the United States, and the farthest parts of the world.”  Then they would draw concentric circles showing the geographic destinations; and perhaps, maybe in the upper grades, a more astute teacher would reconfigure the verse to suggest that the first destination is the people only you can reach: Your immediate and extended family, your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend.

But as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the verse wouldn’t be interpreted that way by the audience that heard it spoken.  Samaria, would mean the place you don’t want to go to.

But Samaria would not be seen that way by those receiving the great commission. In Judea they will like me and receive but in Samaria we have a mutual distrust and dislike for each other. Samaria is the place you don’t want to go to. Your Samaria may be geographically intertwined in your Jerusalem or your Judea. Your Samaria may be at the remotest part the earth and it’s your Samaria because it’s at the ends of the earth.

Your Samaria may be the guy in the next cubicle that you just don’t want to talk to about your faith, but feel a strong conviction both that you need to and he needs you to. Your Samaria may be the next door neighbor whose dogs run all over your lawn doing things that dogs do. Your Samaria may be the family that runs the convenience store where you rent DVDs who are of a faith background that you associate with hatred and violence. Your Samaria may be atheists, abortionists, gays, or just simply people who are on the opposite side of the fence politically. Your Samaritan might just be someone who was sitting across the aisle in Church this weekend.

[At this point I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek Scott Wesley Brown song, Please Don’t Send Me To Africa.]

…This morning however it occurred to me that there is a place where it would be appropriate to use the concentric circles: In our prayer lives. Most of our prayer petitions are so centered on our family; I believe the phrase is “Us four, no more.”

We need to make the needs of the greater world part of our prayer life.  I want to use the phrase, we need to “pray big,” but Will Davis has already used that phrase for his series of books.  Here’s the publisher’s precis of the first book:

Do we test the Holy Spirit’s patience with prayer that asks nothing of him? This might sound surprising at first blush, but most people have experienced being at a prayer meeting, in church, or (gasp!) in their own personal prayer time and hearing prayers like this: “God, bless Tom” or “God, just be with Sue in her need.” Will Davis Jr… calls believers to a more risky and rewarding practice of prayer. Pray Big teaches readers how to pray with biblical, pinpoint accuracy. In other words, it teaches them prayers that get things done. From audacious prayers for miracles to mundane prayers about lost car keys, Davis takes the reader from a point of weakness to one of boldness. As a result, readers will want to pray more, they will see more results from their prayers, and they will be emboldened to ask God for everything he has promised them.

There have been several recent books written about “praying big,” and I’ve referred to three of them on this blog and at Thinking out Loud:  Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala.

But as important as it is to ask God to increase our faith, I think we need to think about the concentric circles and pray wide.  (Or for you American football players, pray long.)  We need to take the verse above from Acts, the verse that tells us we will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the command to “go into all the world and share the gospel;” and use its geographic model — JJSR, where R=rest of the world — and use it as our prayer pattern.

I’ll be the first to admit that we struggle with this as a family, but help is available through websites that will keep us abreast of what’s going on in areas of hunger and persecution.

We need to broaden our prayer horizons.  We need to pray wide.

~Paul Wilkinson

December 16, 2010

A Different Kind of Prayer

Prayer is something I really struggle with.

We pray together as a family each night, and I am in touch with God many times throughout the day, though I would hardly characterize it as “without ceasing.”   And I am more than willing to pray with people at my job on a moment’s notice; “praying on a dime,” I call it.

But I’ve been reading a lot lately about prayer and feel that this is one area of my Christian life that while it exists in measurable quantity, it is seriously lacking.

For example, I’ve never been big on prayer meetings.    I’ve been reading lately about the way God intends for us to bring our needs to him corporately; and in fact I’ve been challenged on this subject three different ways in the last 48 hours.   It’s been a long time since I’ve prayed with people outside the family in any significant way, or for any significant length of time.

In the middle of all this I’ve been thinking about something else…

God wants me to pour out my heart to him, but sometimes I feel like I can’t find the words.   Yet there are other places in my life where I am never at a loss for words — at my computer.

So I’ve been thinking about writing e-mails to God.   This is something anybody reading this right now can do, because you’re all online to read this which means 99% of you probably have e-mail.  And you probably write many — perhaps dozens — of e-mails and/or Facebook status updates and/or Tweets every single day.

So why not pour out your heart to God in an e-mail?

(You could address it to yourself if you feel the need to actually hit the “send” button, or save it as a draft when you’re done, or simply read it over a few times and then delete it.   Just don’t type “God” in the “To” field or your auto-complete might just send it to your good friend Godfrey Smith, or your sister’s daughter who you have tagged as “Godchild.”)

Writing an e-mail is the most natural form of communication known to many of us, and usually the words flow without hesitation.  It’s also a great way of organizing your thoughts.

And don’t think for a minute that God isn’t “hearing” that kind of prayer. Or that He can’t. Or that it counts less because you didn’t verbalize it audibly.

Willing to join me in a prayer experiment?

October 28, 2010

Some People Get Paid for Being Anxious, and Some People Are Anxious For Nothing

The post title is a play on the King James Version’s rendering, “Be anxious for nothing.”   …I know, it’s a bad pun…

…Some of us might get defensive if we were challenged concerning the depth of our faith by any one of a number of criteria; but if you challenged my faith on the basis of worry and anxiety, I would often concede spiritual defeat.   Worry is my Achilles’ heel.  Can you relate?  So I really appreciated Jon Swanson’s paraphrase of a well-known verse from Phil. 4 today at his blog, 300 Words a Day

I understand being anxious.

Not in the “looking forward to” sense or the “can hardly wait” sense but in the “aaaiiieee” sense. And I understand that what I’m about to write is easier to say than to do. But that isn’t a reason to not write it.

Paul makes a very simple statement in Philippians 4. He says, “Don’t be anxious about anything.”

That sounds like scolding, a little bit. “Buck up. Everything will be okay.” Or, “Quit yer whinin’, ya wimp.” Or, “If you really were a Christian, a good Christian, you wouldn’t be anxious.”

I’ve been told things like that. I’ve probably been understood to say them.  But Paul’s not saying those things.

He says,

“You know how it helps sometimes to have someone to talk to? You know how saying things out loud clarifies them? You know how asking the right person often means that something can be done? You know how when you finally quit trying to fix everything and ask for help, you might get help? You know how when you take one little step of trusting, sometimes everything changes?

Take everything you are thinking about and everything you are keeping inside your head and heart and tell God about them. Out loud. However it comes out: incoherently and angrily and passionately and stream of consciously and interspersed with laughter and incredulity that you are talking to God about huge and tiny things all together.”

Okay, technically he says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

But I’m pretty sure that what he means is what I said. Because that’s what it looks like when I actually stop running and troubleshooting long enough to find a soundproof room and do what he says.

~Jon at 300 Words a Day

October 12, 2010

Righteous Desires

Today’s devotional, by Ferrum, VA pastor Terry Covey at the blog Seeds of Faith, reminded me that the Lord will give the righteous the desires of their heart because the desires of the righteous are righteous desires.

Devotional: ‘The Desires of Your Heart’

Psalm 37: Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Some interpret this passage to mean – “Show some affection to the LORD and He will reward you by giving you whatever you want.” But that is not at all what the Psalmist is saying. He is not suggesting that God can be tricked out of His blessings. No, not at all. Instead the Psalmist is saying – “Make your relationship with the LORD the delight of your heart, and He will share Himself with you to your heart’s content.”

Jesus said something very similar –

Luke 11:9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

13 If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Note – what we are to ask, seek, and knock for is not the riches of this world. Jesus is not saying – ‘Want something really bad and you’ll get it.’ Instead Jesus is referring to a deeper relationship with God. Note – ‘your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.’

The reason so many of us are so dissatisfied in life is because we are looking in all the wrong places for all the wrong pleasures. We believe that something new from this world will finally bring us satisfaction. Yet it never will. It may give some momentary pleasure, but as soon as the newness has worn off, the pleasure will be gone. Instead we should be searching for something deeper and more lasting. That is found in our relationship with the LORD. “Make your relationship with the LORD the delight of your heart, and He will share Himself with you to your heart’s content.”

September 18, 2010

We Pray to Him; He Prays for Us

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Here’s a great post from Chin chin at the blog, Inspirational Life Quotes that really speaks for itself… I hope you enjoy this as I did today…

Whenever I ask Janel, my 4-year old daughter, to pray at night before going to bed, she happily says “Lord, i-pray Nyo po si mommy, daddy, Ate Kristel…. (Lord, please pray for mommy, daddy, Ate Kristel…)  I always tell her (maybe more than 10 times already) that we are the ones praying so we should say “Lord, we pray ….”  But, then, she continues to pray using such words.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about it and I believe she is right in some sense to pray using those words.  There are 3 instances in the Scripture which I have found saying that Jesus or the Holy Spirit is praying on our behalf.

The first is in 1 John 2:1-2 which says

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

This passage says that when we sin and we confess our sins, we receive forgiveness because Jesus, the Righteous One, speaks to the Father on our behalf.  Being the one sacrifice who atoned for our sins, Jesus turns aside God’s wrath taking away our sins.

The second is in Hebrews 7:24-25 which says

…but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Cindy Trimm, the author of The Art of War for Spiritual Battle, mentioned  that we should always remember that “Christ died for us and He ever lives to make intercession for us.  We cannot beat the devil, but Christ has already defeated him.”  So,  when we come to God in prayer, He is always able to save us because Jesus, acting as high priest, is always on the job to speak up for us.

The third passage is in Romans 8:26-27 which says

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 with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

Have you experienced times when you feel overwhelmed that you don’t know what to pray for? Have there been times when you suddenly, out of the blue, remember someone and you feel that you need to pray for him but you don’t know what to pray for?

This passage says that during these times, the Spirit is able to help us in our prayers, interceding for us with wordless sighs and groans that words cannot express. It’s like a pregnant woman travailing from the onset of contractions to the birth of the child.  Though we may not be sure at all what we are groaning about, the Spirit searches our hearts and mind and intercedes for us the way God wants him to. I have read of many testimonials of people praying this way that led to miracles in the lives of people they love.

It is amazing what a right relationship with Jesus can do in our prayer lives.  We are assured that He is forever interceding for us so that we may always live a victorious life.  The thief [devil] may have come to steal, kill and destroy, but because of Jesus, we experience life to its fullness.

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