MY PRAYER

Lord Jesus I come to you because I need some good serious learning from my God.

I am thinking about violence today, Lord. It’s overwhelming. It’s ubiquitous- in families, on the streets, in churches, at concerts and against all kinds of people. It’s on an international scale. We are fearful, anxious and angry.

I am thinking of you Lord who had every reason to be violent against your enemies, against those who were so set against you. Paul wrote somewhere that vengeance belongs to you but you never exercised it. Oh maybe against a few tables in the Temple but not against your adversaries. You wept over those who resisted you. You forgave a thief in his dying moments. You pardoned all your accusers and executioners. Somehow you are even going to restore your whole creation, the good, bad and ugly. Please give us some of your spirit to know how you are doing this.

When we consider your life it doesn’t seem that you were afraid. If anything, you looked evil in the eye and took it to the cross with you. You even let it take you to the cross. That was your own loving scheme to destroy the power of evil to hurt us. With just a word you drove the demonic powers to their ruin.

How is it that we have moved so far away from you? We’ve taken to protect our own little kingdoms instead of trusting yours first. Fear has caused us to amass more weapons of violence than ever. How did things get so bad?

Certainly there are ‘bad’ people out there but it seems that your goal was not to destroy them but to create a community that would be able to influence them, be agents of change for good in this world.

How often, Lord, did you tell us ‘fear not’ even for the people out to kill our bodies but couldn’t harm our souls. I’m not sure that assurance is planted in my own soul never mind taking it to the world. Have we gotten to the pointe of protecting ourselves so well that we think or act like we don’t need you?

And Lord, what about all this family abuse, sexual and otherwise. It’s rampant and now every day someone is being accused of assaulting others. Can we not find loving ways to combat this and other forms of evil? Is your church become impotent, prayer less, and loveless?

You know, Lord, that much of it starts with anger- plain ole simple egotistical anger. It’s in my own heart so I’m not judging others. Even conversations about violence bring anger to a boil in conversations that become heated arguments.

I feel like there are two kinds of people going into the Temple again to pray. One is standing and praying. Thank you Lord that I have this all figured out. Thank you for my righteous ways of violence against those who are my and your enemies. And the other person is simply praying, ‘Lord Jesus have mercy upon me, a sinner.’

Jesus, wasn’t there a time when you could have called 10,000 angels to come and rescue you and destroy your enemies but somehow you would rather trust you life to your Father. How did you do that? Can I do that?

Lord you could have come and taken the world by storm and simply destroyed your enemies but instead we are told you gave up all you power, your equal standing with God and humbled yourself to the point of becoming a servant and even further- to the place where you gave up your life. And in that same place we are told to have YOUR attitude, YOUR mind. Why does that make so many of us afraid? Why are we ruled by fear? Have we needed to replace the crucifix with some sort of gun or a tank or a nuclear bomb? That would look ridiculous and maybe that’s how it does look to you.

I fear Lord that you will leave us to ourselves with our greed, our boasts and guns and you will go to the poor, the vulnerable, the people who most trust you. Maybe you have already? Please don’t abandon us. There are many trusting people right here in our own nation, in our communities of faith who really want to know you and know your ways and know how you love so well. You are our fortress, our rock.

And Jesus, you tell us not to try to overcome evil with evil but rather with good. How can such good infiltrate the masses of terrorists seeking to destroy us? Maybe, just maybe we’ve not tried the good enough. The loving way seems weak and we have to entrust its results to you. Please help us towards that way, to beat our swords and egos into plowshares and instruments of peace and righteousness. It’s not about being strong is it? It’s about the power of love, isn’t it?

Jesus, I fear we have created a culture of violence that is hard to reverse and our little attempts seem so futile and risky. Violence seems to be our choice to resolve conflicts everywhere. Please help us all, perpetrators and victims to see this is not the way you set before us. We are to choose life, not death.

Lord, we need you grace to be sufficient in our weakness. I want to trust you more, be more expressive of your world conquering love, seek you more, plead with you more to be present to those involved in violence.

And all the while I want to pray for those who mourn, those who are too weak to even speak for themselves, like the little 18-month-old child and the unborn, those whose countries are on the brink of annihilation because the big nations are preparing for war.

And Lord please have mercy upon all your people in all your creation that they may have a resurrection to eternal peaceful life with you that they couldn’t have on this earth.

And Jesus, my own confession is that I am not all that peaceful. I think to live in your love but my first impulse at any kind of hurt is to be angry inside and on the outside. Please help me to establish your life in my life that I may speak and act as one who walks with the Prince of Peace.

What Is God Waiting For?

Sometimes I think that God wants to lavish God’s goodness on us more than we want to seek God out but God withholds such extended grace until we are ready to receive that grace as individuals and as the corporate people of God, until that grace works effectively in God’s world for God’s glory and for our good.

I refer you to Jeremiah 29 where God says to the people, ‘if you seek me with all your heart you shall find me.’ That’s a big ‘if’. It seems to be a condition as when God tells the people:  2 Chronicles 7 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.”

I wonder if that was what was going on when Jesus would not answer the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7) who asked for help for her daughter. Was he helping her and the disciples to understand that God waits for us all to be ‘ready’ to receive from God?

Is that perhaps why Jesus told the crowds of people to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else needed would be added? (Matthew 6)

I’m just not sure even about my own faithfulness in seeking, desiring, longing for God. I am striving to be better but I see how weak my longing is unless I am perhaps desperate in a crisis situation, but I should always be desperate for God. Isn’t that a line in a contemporary Christian song, ‘I’m desperate for you.’ Yes, I just looked it up. ‘Breathe’ is the name of the song.

I remember Keith Green’s song where he sings, ‘My flesh is tired of seeking God but on my knees I’ll stay, I want to be His pleasing child until that final day.’ The bolded type is the title of the song.

I must admit that indeed the flesh is tired. Even too tired at times to start let alone to continue our prayers. I found myself this morning just spending time praying, God I want to know your will and do your will even if I don’t know it. (Thomas Merton wrote a great prayer about that.) I do think we can know God’s will. That’s what Paul writes in Romans 12:2. But how much do we really want to know? How much do we want to seek?

Wow, here’s a prayer for all of us from Psalm 27: …Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”  Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!”

But let’s see if it is true. Let us all implore God more. Seek God more intensely and see if we don’t ‘FIND’.

Let me close with a quote from John Chrysostom (Archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th Century):

Our soul should be directed in God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else.  If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and the remembrance of God.  Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a sweet dish for the Lord.  If we are generous in giving time to prayer, we will experience its benefits throughout our life.

DOES PRAYER MOVE THE HEART AND ACTIONS OF GOD?

There is more to say about prayer but this question begs a response. And here are my initial thoughts.

Perhaps God desires to be moved, to be affected by our prayers, by our communion with God. God’s will includes being in cooperative loving relationship with us. Like a father and mother with their child, waiting to be ‘asked’ so that he or she may be given, is the loving God who waits for us. This is not to say that every prayer uttered to God will bring an affirmative response and when a ‘no’ comes I believe, for myself anyway, that I need to stay in that communion.

See we don’t know what the ultimate will of God is and therefore it might be presumptuous to think we cannot change what we do not know. But according to the Bible God desires us to pray effectively for a ‘good’ response. So I would say that prayer affects God.

I think we read in Scripture how Moses pleaded with God to spare the Israelites and God changed his mind. Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (Exodus 32:14.) Or this in Hosea 11:8: My heart is turned within me: my compassion is aroused. There is also the story of King Hezekiah who, when told by God that he was going to die, pleaded for more years to live and God gave him those years. (Isaiah 38) You might say that this was already God’s intention and will but then I think that my own will as a dad with children is somehow affected in real-time by the requests of my children.

I realize there are passages in the Bible where it is said of God that God cannot or does not change but since we find both there in some kind of dialectical tension let’s consider that in some sense, that we may not fully understand, God allows God’s self to be changed in whatever human like attributes we may understand that concept.

God wants us to pray to God as in the parable of the wicked judge and the widow. In Luke 18 Jesus tells that story in order to encourage the disciples to pray and not give up. And he concludes by saying ‘will the son of man find faith when he returns?’ So faith therefore is asking, seeking, knocking for a response.

Recall the parable of the ‘friend at midnight’ from Luke 11. Jesus tells this parable to encourage his followers to keep asking God, seeking God and knocking on the gates of heaven for an answer. He concludes by saying God really wants to give his presence to us and I take it to thereby mean that in some way in prayer God and we are cooperating or relating.

See what Karl Barth has to write concerning our prayers affecting God. This quote comes from Philip Yancey in his book on Prayer.

“[Karl Barth, the 20th-century theologian who pounded home the theme of God’s sovereignty, saw no contradiction at all in a God who chooses to let prayers affect him.] He is a not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts. He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence. That is what the word ‘answer’ means. … The fact that God yields to man’s petitions, changing his intentions in response to man’s prayer, is not a sign of weakness. He himself, in the glory of his majesty and power, has so willed it.”

Perhaps we might conclude that love always surrenders to the other. Love hears the other and connects with the other through heart and mind. If God is love God knows how best to relate to his people and this involves perhaps altering one’s plans. But first and foremost what I want to change is ME. I want God to change me more and more into his likeness so that what I request from God aligns so well with God’s will. At the very least we can say that prayer changes something and if that is the case the let us boldly approach God as our Sovereign Creator, Provider, and Friend.

Jesus told us that if we see him we see the Father. And in Jesus we see our God whose delight perhaps is to change circumstances in response to the sincere, heartfelt and unceasing prayers of his people. Why all things aren’t changed is in some respects a mystery  I surmise that some of us already know why God says ‘no’.

 

 

 

 

 

PRAYER- FIRST THOUGHTS

So begins some thoughts on prayer which is probably best understood by doing it rather than talking too much about it but since there are so many questions surrounding the idea of prayer some conversation is needed. This arises from speaking with my son, Josh, about praying for a friend of his who has cancer. Many people are praying for this young man and many are wondering what kind of prayer and how many people are needed to pray effectively.

One of the first questions surrounding prayer is the nature of the One to whom we are praying whether in praise or in petition. If I am talking with someone I want to get to know them, know about them and know how best we can communicate together. And in the case of God I want to know God which means intimately understanding God and how it is that God communes with his creation and how God relates to his people. There are thousands of books on prayer. Right now I am reading Calvin, Foster, Bounds and C.S. Lewis as well as understanding more about Father, Son and Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. I would like my better understanding of prayer to be dialectic by which I mean a dialogue, a conversation, and an investigation if you will of the matter of prayer.

To the issue at hand. First of all I begin by the assumption that God is good, that God’s mercy, love, and kindness are everlasting. I believe that God’s love for us is at best revealed on the cross where Jesus died for us because ‘God so loved the world.’ I believe that God is sovereign which means that God’s reign, or rule extends to wherever God wants it to throughout God’s creation for his will and pleasure and for our good.  So we have a sovereign and loving heavenly Father whom Jesus himself said cares infinitely for his children. How did the old song go? “His eye is on the sparrow”. (see Matthew 10)

So when I commune, communicate, converse or just talk with God I believe the above to best describe the One to whom I am praying. Am I making contact? How should I feel? How does God view me? What is God up to in my life and in his creation and how do I join God in that work? I believe that when Jesus prayed to his Father it was concerning the will of his Father. That’s what I want to know. What is the will of God? In my life and in this world. See there is much to know about prayer.

You might not know this but the longest section on any one topic in John Calvin’s ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ is on prayer.

On my mind as I write is the story Jesus tells of the Pharisee (religious ruler) and the Tax Collector (publican and thief) who go before God to pray. The ‘religious’ one prays to God so self-righteously and the tax man simply says, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’ You can read this story in Luke 18. Jesus concludes by saying that when the two guys were finished praying it was the tax collector who was in ‘right relationship’ with God. All this helps me to know that I need to be in a right relationship with God before I think to really plumb the depths of prayer. And being in a right relationship doesn’t mean I have it all together. By no means. It is Jesus who has it all together and it is Jesus who by his love and sacrifice and resurrection makes a way for me to God. Even if I feel far away from God I know that through my confession of my sins and my distance from God that God is as ready to wrap his arms around me as the Father was in the story of the Prodigal Son, which you can read in Luke 15.

I read that story and realize that the Son had to come back to the Father to receive that love. While the Father was looking ‘for’ the Son, he did not go after the Son but waited for him to come back home.(perhaps I am reading too much into this parable) In prayer that is what I am doing, hopefully, coming home to God, my Father. And I may come tentatively like the ‘prodigal’ but come home nonetheless. And for me to return home is to know that I have a Father who, as I said in the beginning, is loving and sovereign. The God whom I worship is forgiving; removing my sin away from me and from God as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103) And the great thing is that God is looking for the ‘lost’ like those parables indicate in Luke 15. Jesus said that his mission on earth was, among other things, to ‘seek and save the lost’. So there is no doubt in my mind that I can come to God in prayer.

I know that some people say in reference to the healing of the blind man in John 9, that God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners, which I think might mean people who are obstinately opposed to being faithful to God but using God more as a vending machine. However I do think that God listens to sinners and people of various religious persuasions who want to draw closer to God in the best way they know how. They too are coming humbly to God as that tax collector and as that ‘prodigal’ son.

So in conclusion for this time I should like to say that the God of the Bible is One who wants a relationship with us, so much that he paid the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile the world to God’s self. He loves us. While we don’t understand God’s mind we understand God’s heart and it is towards that heart that we draw when we pray. And as we draw closer, practicing this discipline of prayer we will more fully understand “our Father” as Jesus refers to God in the Lord’s Prayer.

I said to my son that as we talk ‘about’ prayer, one of the things we have to do together is pray. Good place to begin. And then write the questions you have. Let’s have a dialogue for I too am trying to understand how we go about this.

A Blessed Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday to all.

 

Looking for Humility

So during prayer this morning I confessed to God that I had been feeling kind of self-righteous during a recent conflict and I asked His forgiveness. And as I am praying I start thinking, ‘Isn’t this nice that I am being so humble before my God.’ And that got me to thinking that I was again being self-righteous and not like ‘other people’. Wow what a vicious cycle I was getting myself into. And then I thought I would write about it and felt guilty that I was feeling like it was a good piece to write. Finally I had to just stop, thank God for loving me and ask for His will to be done. 

Sometimes I just think toooo much.

Blessings to you all

george

What is Prayer?

So I have been thinking recently on the meaning of prayer and the point of such an exercise. Let me first define prayer as ‘the communion and conversation between us and the Trinity.’ I realized that some people pray to the Father and some to the Son and some to the Holy Spirit. For the purpose of this conversation I refer to the Father to whom Jesus spoke.

Recall that Jesus said not to use a lot of words because God already knows what our needs are. And yet Jesus offered to his disciples the model of the Lord’s Prayer, which is a beautiful expression to God of our praise, our daily needs and desire for his will.

Conversation with God is an expression of love as conversation is in all human relationships and since we are created in the image of God it makes sense that God would want such fellowship with us. Prayer is how we express our most basic needs and how we find strength and comfort from God.

It seems from the bible that God wants our cooperation in his work in his world. Jesus teaches his disciples how to ask for anything in his name, that is, in his nature. And sometimes it seems that our relationship to God is like a child’s to a parent where the greatest thrill for a parent is to enjoy the relationship with his or her child and grow in that relationship of love, and trust. God asks for our trust just like a child’s. This is probably why Jesus said that unless we become like children we couldn’t enter the Kingdom of God. I believe Jesus means right now because the Kingdom of God is begun through Christ and when we place our confidence in God through prayer we are within that Kingdom life. Recall that Paul said the Kingdom is joy and righteousness. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 14)

And there is no better place to know that life than in prayer, in communion, in love with God. Sometimes prayer can be in agony but that heartbreak is always surrounded with God’s love and assurance. This is why in Romans 8 Paul says that by the Spirit we call God ‘Abba’, the most intimate expression of loving address. You and I can tell God anything, anything. And we are assured that his listening to us is not in judgment but through Christ his love for us is filled with pardon, strength, healing and comfort. And if we listen carefully, which means being still, we will hear God speak to us, urge us, guide us and when we rise up from prayer we will know we have been with the Father, the Son and The Spirit.

That we can even pray is evidence of a loving God’s invitation into a relationship. So carve out a space and time for prayer. I remember when my children were young there was no greater joy than to have one of them climb up into my lap and just talk about anything, joys or troubles in the day. And at night what a thrill it was to lie in bed with one of them and recount the day’s events.

So may our hearts be given to God in prayer. If you know no other prayer then look at Matthew 6 for the Lord’s Prayer and let it soak into you. Just tell God you love him and let him love you. Reflect in these next weeks what Jesus did for you and me because of God’s great love. And may God bless richly that time you spend with him. I think I will go now and do what I have suggested.

 

TO PRAY OR NOT TO PRAY

The idea of public education comes from the church, the Christian church. It was started back in the day of Martin Luther in Germany. Eventually that idea found its way to America through the Pilgrims.

And wouldn’t you know that with education came the idea of praying to the one who ultimately gives knowledge, even the God of all creation. And what a privilege you might think to be able in concert to offer a prayer of thanks to the God above an within through the name of his most wise son Jesus, in fact the wisest man who ever lived on this earth. Wise by almost all human evaluation.

I wonder if in our institutions of learning do teachers ever teach on the history of prayer. Jesus certainly did. He was forever telling his disciples, his apprentices the importance and the effects of prayer for the Kingdom of God on earth.

And while reading about the recent Supreme Court decision to allow forms of public prayer I couldn’t help but smile to think how the real SUPREME COURT regards all this mess. If I am not mistaken the original congress probably had a chaplain to lead in prayer.

I like how Benjamin Franklin put it back in 1787:

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel . . . I therefore beg leave to move— that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.”

Make no mistake about it. Prayer if one of the highest forms of stewardship, the stewardship of God’s love, his daily grace and his wisdom so necessary in these days for all ages.

And it is through the Messiah Jesus that our prayers reach the ears of God to his glory and our good. So thank you Supreme Court for doing your duty. Let’s keep on praying.

 

 

THE KNEE IS CONNECTED TO THE HAMSTRING

SO after tearing my meniscus playing basketball I went to the therapist to get my knee fixed. I thought.
She began by saying, “We need to work on your hamstring and your quad and then your calf muscle and then your balance.” Whoa, I thought to myself. What about my knee? Seems that if you work on  discipline to other parts of your leg your knee will actually be better. Yeah, even the balance thing, standing on one leg, helps to strengthen all the parts around your knee and the outcome is a healthier, stronger knee.
Can you see where this is going? People want stronger faith and yet so often don’t want to go through the disciplines to get there. People want to love more and yet are hard pressed to discipline their lives towards love.
So that’s why we are told to read the Scriptures, memorize them, practice them to the end that our faith and our love are built up. That’s why we have the gift and discipline of prayer, to work on our faith and our love to the end that after much conversation with our God we will be strengthened. The discipline of prayer may start out as hard work. Being still before God is often hard work for busy people. But do it as much as you would do physical exercise knowing you will be better for it. You will understand the work of God, and much more the grace of God.I don’t mean a shout out to God once in a while but an intentional approach to God in quiet prayer or just sitting intentionally in silence before God knowing that such silence is a benefit to your spirit.
And then nothing beats practicing love. Forgiving someone, share a kind word with someone, giving up yourself for another who would not necessarily do the same for you. The more we call all practice that kind of grace in this world the closer we will grow to our Master, Jesus. And that is a therapy worth its weight in gold.
So here’s to the spiritual disciplines. I have mentioned but a few.  There are many more.
Blessings.