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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

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To be faith-full is to believe. . . . in something or someone.

What do I believe? Or you?

Essentially, there is always something people fall back on. For some folks, it’s an amorphous universe while for others, it’s ego alone, and for still others, it’s God or Allah or Buddha. In any these cases, there is still prayer and there is communication that materializes out of a core of understanding or a set of assumptions about the created world and/or the spirit realm.

Through scripture, those who follow and believe in the One God and ultimately, in the Christ who came from that God to complete a covenant/contract, we are given some ways to discover where we land on the continuum of faith and belief. For instance:

FaithLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. [Romans 12:9-18, NIV]

Prayer manifests more readily out of one of these practices or attitudes. In fact, prayer comes naturally as a by-product of these behaviors. But if this is not our characteristic way, then we may have to be more intentional and more conscious of choosing to pray, of asking for transformation into a man or woman of faith.

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underwater with godHow can I get better at prayer? I know the answer, more or less. Nike gives me a hint: “Just Do It!”

But what makes a good pray-er? What makes my prayer better than yours or even better than the one I prayed yesterday? It’s not just quantitative. But, if I pray more often or longer, will that make me a prayer warrior? God forbid if I’m back to navigating the challenges “praying continually.” On one website, I read that a prayer warrior is one who prays continually (sigh) AND prays effectively!

Now, that’s another challenge. Unfortunately, I’m most people might assume that the primary measure would be answered prayers or well-timed prayers. No surprise, there are websites that have the “12 secrets to praying effectively” or “15 steps (with pictures) to pray effectively” and so on.

But then I read these words:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, God, are holy.

    What god is as great as our God? [Psalm 77:11-13, NIV]

It’s not about me and what I say or do. Effective prayer is connecting with a Holy God, surrendering to the Presence of God within, conversing with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, by calling on the mediation of Jesus, the Christ, who makes it all possible.

God is Holy. I cannot “move” God or convince God or manipulate God. I am, however, invited to learn of God and to delight in God.

Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me.  I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.” [John 17:25-26, CEB]

Just so.

Right now, prayer feels like I’m trying to sit on the bottom of the pool. I’m holding my breath. I’m treading water. I’m working hard. But the goal is to float and eventually, even breathe (total trust). Easy does it.

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holy_spiritFellowship has become a worn out word in Christian circles. Mostly, I am reminded of the 3 F’s: food, fun & fellowship. This was, for many years, the promise of the church. Fellowship meant talking and sharing and hanging out together. Then, in the eighties and nineties, believers started using “fellowship” as part of their new church names: Word of Life Fellowship, Bible Fellowship, Grace Fellowship, and Christ Fellowship, just to name a few. In more recent years, the word “Community” has replaced “Fellowship.” But the intent is the same, but now it’s Casseroles, Crusades, and Community at Christ Community Church, Grace Community Church, Bible Community Church, and so on. And why? To communicate how friendly we are, accessible, and inviting.

But the real fellowship, the one that counts, is the one we have within and with the Holy Spirit through Christ Jesus. You want authentic fellowship with others, then you’d better have fellowship with God in Christ.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. [I John 1:3-4, NIV]

This relationship is deeper and more intimate than the 3 F’s. It’s familiarity through undivided attention and conversation. It’s intentional. It’s persistent. It’s a priority.

Some people realize it’s prayer. But you can call it fellowship if you like. You can also call it meditation, or centering, or contemplation. As long as it’s the Holy Spirit that’s been invited into the core of yourself.

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stars of the soulAnd there is the language of thanksgiving, for prayer is what Washington calls “an attempt to count the stars of our souls.” The words “Thank you…Thank you…Thank you” are a way of calling to mind, one after another, the gifts of God, the stars of the soul.– James M. Washington, Conversations with God.

In my Lent 2015 Devotional, I found this excerpt from Washington’s book and I have been touched by the phrase, “stars of the soul” ever since. Naturally, I’ve ordered the book from the library. I must know more.

On the heels of praying continually, I am also directed to give thanks in all circumstances [I Thessalonians 5:16-21]. Can I imagine those prayers, those utterances of thanksgiving to be as plenteous as the stars of heaven. Or have I been stingy in that regard, focusing on that single morning star or worse, allowing the lights of the city to outshine the stars. Those artificial lights are the cares of this world.

Lord forgive me. For my life is rich with grace of You.

Throughout scripture, humans ask for God to “hear” our cries and to answer our prayers and to heal us. But I see now I have been like one of the nine lepers who were healed along the way but kept on going the way they started;  only one, the tenth, turned around and ran back to Jesus to give thanks [Luke 17:11-19].

I am running to you tonight. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am alive and although this day is nearly done, a new day is rising and anything can happen. Thank you.

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prayer bwPray continually. Are you kidding? Who can do that?

Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. [I Thessalonians 5:16-21, CEB]

I mean it! Outside of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite “lay brother” (not even a monk because he did not have the necessary education), who does that? It was Brother’s Lawrence’s words, maxims, and prayers that were compiled after his death into the Christian classic, The Practice of the Presence of God. And what does Brother Lawrence “do” most of any day? He was the cook and bottle washer in the monastery, and all the while, he practiced awareness of God and ultimately, prayer. He prayed continually. Yay Larry.

But what about you and me? I can barely manage to remember to pray the hours, that’s one prayer every 4 hours during the day.

So, just to get a little break from this guilt-producing mandate, I googled it. And there might be a reprieve of sorts. One writer suggested that this passage could have more to do with consistency than non-stop talking (although, I have been known to do the latter under certain circumstances). Another writer advanced that the passage could mean a “ready response” to circumstances, so that the first comeback is a prayer instead of a smart remark. And yet another writer proposed that the verse could refer to an awareness of the beauty around us, thereby giving thanks or when tragedy strikes, ask for mercy, etc. Or, perhaps all of these together make for continually?

Or, perhaps, it’s the goal. Is this verse any more difficult (or easier) than this one, “ Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48, NIV]

And for this reason, I pray this prayer willingly. Join me. Daily.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

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Under His Wings

Sometimes I just need to know that I am safe.

He will cover you with his feathers,  and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. [Psalm 91:4, NIV]

under wingsI remember a story about a woman who loved this psalm in particular and memorized it but when the time came, when she was grabbed by a man who wanted to hurt her, all she could think of and imagine were the feathers of God as a great bird protecting her young. And so this woman cried out, “feathers, feathers, feathers.” But God knew and the man, inexplicably, let her go, almost as though a force field was drawn about her.

This is my cry today, my prayer.

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askgodIn the same way, you have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and you will be overjoyed. No one takes away your joy. In that day, you won’t ask me anything. I assure you that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Up to now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete. [John 16:22-24, CEB]

Won’t ask, ask, not asked, ask. What a strange passage with its combination of not asking and asking. Here’s my simple take on this: in the day of Christ’s return, we will not need to ask (we will get it), but until then, we can, not only ask, but ask with the name of Jesus as our co-requestor. Before Jesus, humans could not invoke His name or His consciousness, but now, we can.

I have had an additional bit of a revelation through the writings of Oswald Chambers on this matter.

We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. . . . To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature. –Oswald Chambers [My Utmost for His Highest, Aug 28 entry]

In the days of “blab it and grab it” teachings, this selected verse in John was often used to encourage people to pray, in faith, for anything, including a new car, a job, a mate, etc. All was possible, as long as we believed and prayed this scripture. But now I see, most clearly, what is offered–a life within, one completely surrounded by the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus through the Holy Spirit (for it was the Spirit that given to us at His resurrection). How different the ask becomes then. What would God withhold? Nothing.

  • Create in me a clean heart, O God. [Psalm 51:10]
  • Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. [Psalm 4:1]
  • Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. [Psalm 86:11]
  • Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. [Psalm 119:34]
  • Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. [Psalm 30:2]

All for the asking.

To participate in an ongoing 2015 Lenten devotional, download the PDF here.

 

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