How To Not Pray

Barbara has knocked one out of the park with her most recent post titled "How To Not Pray". Here is her list:
    1. Sometimes prayer is used as a means of proof to your church or others that you are a "good Christian".
    2. Read all the books you can find on prayer so that you can pray "right".
    3. Base your prayer on a request that you don't understand because it would take a semester long course to learn what it means.
    4. Try to impress others by using all the prayer buzzwords.
    5. Be forced to pray out loud in a group.
I recommend that you visit her post to read some of the most insightful stuff about the dynamics of group prayer and the silly rules that people make up about praying. It is good stuff and might just set you free J

Wait Until the End

I wasn't sure I liked this one at first ... it paints a troubling picture of the prodigal's journey ... especially the journey of a prodigal teen ... it was causing me to dial back into my past pain and fears ... hang on until the end and you might like it.

The Second Coming

Watching this reminded me of the Left Behind series of books. What is your perspective on the second coming of Jesus? Do you believe in a rapture of the saints?

Prayer is Universal

As you watch this video please join me in prayer for the hungry, hurting, lonely and broken people of the world.

Prayer is Worship

This morning I awoke and, I have to admit, I was sore - physically, emotionally and spiritually. It has been a difficult week. Then I began listening to some worship songs on YouTube ... you can catch them on my sidebar. As I listened and sang along with the music something wonderful began to happen ... I began to feel refreshed and encouraged. As I listened to the words of the song 'On Eagles Wings' I began to break and cry, pouring out my heart to God. As I sang along with 'Shout to the Lord' my spirit began to rise up in me. I began to sense God in me as I sang along with 'Blessed Be Your Name'. By the time I got to 'Everlasting God' I was doing so much better.

I think that prayer is sometimes about experiencing God's presence in our lives. Thinking about this reminds me of this scripture:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
I often experience a sweet closeness with God as I draw near to Him in worship ... it is a cleansing experience ... one that seemingly sets my heart in alignment with His ... helps me see life through His eyes. When Jesus taught on prayer He taught us to begin with worship: "Hallowed be Thy name". He offered us this invitation:
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
I think that this is a picture of what happens when we come to Him in worship - we find rest for our souls and our burdens are lifted. Take a few minutes today ... watch one of those YouTube worship videos ... sing along ... enter His rest.

Prayer is Therapeutic

Another brief thought on prayer. I think that the rise of secular psychology and Christian counseling over the past decades speaks volumes of our need to express ourselves verbally. There is often a psychological and/or emotional and release that happens when we talk about our stuff. Expressing our pain and frustrations verbally can often release us bringing new freedom. When I think about talking to God I often think about the dialog we often see in the book of Psalms ... I think about this verse:
Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. (Psalms 62:8)
Trust is often fully manifested when we get to that place where we our heart is laid bare before the Lord in prayer. Getting to that transparent and vulnerable place is not as easy as one might think it to be because we get there with our heart and not our head.

Prayer is an Invitation

Just a quick thought for your day (or night). Sometimes, I think that prayer is an invitation ... an inviting of God's presence into our life ... inviting Him to walk with us ... an invitation to experience His power when ours has run out ... inviting Him to intervene on our behalf and on the behalf of those who we love so much. Often I think that God is just waiting for a simple invitation to be involved - even saying something like: I can't do it ... God help me.

Offended By Jesus

This week I once again had the honor of sharing with a few inmates at our city jail. I spoke to them about how we can take offense when God does not act the way we expect him to ... how we can respond with offense when he doesn't answer our prayers. As an example I asked them (and you) to consider this passage:
Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." (Matthew 11:2-6)
Life in jail must have been pretty discouraging for John the Baptist. After all it was not that long ago that John was baptising many and experiencing so much success in his ministry. John was even the one that introduced Jesus to the world as the Lamb of God. John certainly thought that Jesus would free him from Herod's jail but he never did. You can almost feel John's disappointment when he asks Jesus "are you the One?" What do you make of it when Jesus answers John talking about not taking offense. It is like Jesus is saying "Don't be upset that I am not answering your prayer". I wonder how John took it when his disciples returned to him with Jesus' answer. How would you have reacted? Would you have been offended?

The issue of unanswered prayer is a difficult one. It is like the question of why God allows evil in the world. When our hearts are broken ... when we see pain all around us ... when it seems that God just doesn't care - these are times when it is easy to become offended by Jesus' lack of action. This offense can be strong when, like John, we haven't done anything wrong. We see this offense spoken by Job when he dialogs with his friends. He says:
"For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, Their poison my spirit drinks; The terrors of God are arrayed against me." (Job 6:4)

"If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?" (Job 7:20)

"I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called upon God and he answered— a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!" (Job 12:4)

"Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household." (Job 12:4)
Job is surfacing a deep offense as he speaks of poisoned arrows, burden, laughingstock and family devastation. God appears in the midst of Job's grief and confronts Job saying:
The LORD said to Job: "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" Then Job answered the LORD: "I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more." Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? (Job 40:1-8)
God's response to Job sounds a lot like Jesus' response to John. I think that the last verse speaks to how life really is when things get rough. Out of our deep offense at God we cast dispersion over his justice. Out of the pain of our hurt we seek to blame God for the pain. Oh that we would have Job's final response:
Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." 'Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.' "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6)
In the end Job ... and I think John ... understood the error of being offended by God. I asked the inmates this week to consider Job's response and to retract their offense and repent. I ask you all to consider doing likewise.