Prayer

     Every time I pray I am attending a family reunion because my Father and Brother are both there.(Hebrews 2:11) My Father provides the entertainment by singing (Zephaniah 3:17). What song is He likely to sing? What about the lyrics below, sung to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me".
                         Child I love you. This you know.
                         In my Word I've told you so.
                         Little one, to me you belong.
                         You are weak, but I am strong.
                          I'm God. I love you. (3x)
                         My Spirit tells you so.


     Many worship leaders decry the lack of passion and emotion in times of corporate worship (song services). But few seem to be troubled by such absence. 
     James 5:16 says that one requirement for effective prayer is fervency. Can I pray fervent prayers if I don't care about the subject of my prayer?
     If fervent can be understood as "emotional attachment" I need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead me into a more caring attitude.
     This certainly applies to my prayer "Father, make me more like Christ."


     The purpose of my praying must be to converse with God, not convince God. And, like any effective conversation, both parties must listen. After I am done talking in my prayers I must sit and continue to meditate on the things the Holy Spirit brings to my mind. 
     Prayer that is the most pleasing to Him is prayer that is Holy Spirit initiated and guided. Being Spirit sensitive will increase the effectiveness of my prayers. How should I judge the effectiveness of these prayers? By how much I am changed by my prayers. There is truth to the saying that "Prayer changes things", but the things that should be the most changed is the person doing the praying.
     

Burden Sharing

One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.

And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.

Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.

But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.

We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which  strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.

We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.

Christians and Social Media

Has Twitter replaced prayer? Has Facebook replaced intimacy with God? Have cell phones replaced prayer closets?

The attraction of social networking comes from the fact that we all want to feel needed and need to feel wanted. We are comforted when we believe (accurately or not) someone is interested in what we like, where we go and what we do.

We want to “reach out and touch” across the city, state, nation and world. Our sense of worth is enhanced if we have a lot of “friends.” We value the fact that we can express our feelings, fears and victories to people who are significant to us. We hope they read our messages, understand our feelings and respond with sympathy and support.

For the Christian an intimate relationship with God provides all this and more. We can reach out to Him from any place, any time, across any distance. Prayer is that 24-7, no-limit, instantly received Tweet to the best friend we can ever have. We are never in a “no-service” area.

Our spiritual Facebook includes the friend that loves us like a brother and has the love and power to solve our problems. When our need for earthly relationships becomes greater than our need for God we are missing the joy, peace and power that Jesus, our best Friend, died to provide for us.

Alone With God

Being alone with God is more than being isolated from others, reading the Bible and praying, sitting quietly and meditating on spiritual things and trying for a few minutes to strengthen the relationship we have with Him.

Being alone with God means being without our “stuff,” entering his presence emotionally, intellectually and spiritually naked. Then allowing Him to change us as He sees fit.

It is possible to be alone with God even when in a crowd, but such intimacy is more likely when there is no one else around. We must cease to be concerned with family relationships, vocational success, recreational pleasure, health, prosperity and all else we consider important in this life. Until we reach this degree of trust these things go with us when we enter his presence. They are unnecessary baggage.

Each time we pray, we should begin with the request for the Holy Spirit to empty us of everything except an awareness of His presence.

Importance of Intercessory Prayer

How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?

Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.

But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.

And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.

All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.

Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?

Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.

My Part in Corporate Prayer

Corporate prayer, when one person leads a group by offering an audible prayer, is the spiritual equivalent of elevator music. In both cases there is a sound that can be heard by each person present, but it is ignored by most of them.

Usually a time of corporate prayer on Sunday morning begins with an announcement that Brother So and So will lead in prayer. Then Brother So and So intones something like “Let us pray” or “Please bow with me.”

And just what are the rest of us supposed to do?

Therein lies the problem. Exactly what are those of us in the pews expected to do while the good brother is praying aloud? There seems to be three courses of action available.

(1) Listen carefully to the audible prayer and in our minds say “amen.” (This is the equivalent of “I second the motion.”)

(2) Listen to the topics mentioned aloud and then personalize them to our own situation. (When the audible prayer asks for healing for the sick, we silently ask God to heal Uncle George or Cousin Betty.)

(3) Completely ignore the audible prayer and pray for our own specific, private concerns as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

No matter which of these we choose, it requires us to intentionally enter into our spiritual closet and communicate with God. It requires that we make the effort necessary to shut out competing thoughts and focus on what He wants to hear. After all, prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue.

To do anything else is to have a form of godliness but not truly be as spiritual as we want people to think we are. And wasn’t that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11)

Am I Willing To Wait?

As Christians, most of us have made some sort of dedication pledge giving our lives to God. We have given Him permission to send us and use as as He sees fit.

The servant’s attitude inherent in such a pledge often prompts us to be active in service to others. We act and give in order to relieve the suffering of others and aid in the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

We take seriously the message of the Good Samaritan parable. Our hands, feet, arms and legs are always available to be used by the Father. In moments of peak dedication we might even be willing to wash feet. 

Such activity gives us moments of satisfaction, knowing we are serving God by helping others. We revel in Christ’s words “unto one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). We build ministries on “Pure religion….before God…is this, to visit the fatherless and widows (James 1:27).

But are we willing to sit quietly and do nothing if that is what He directs? Are we content to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10)? Do we allow God to give us times of restoration and relaxation so we will be able to serve more effectively later?

God knows when we need to be pulled aside and have our batteries recharged. He knows when we need to sit and study, rather than strive and serve. He knows there are times when we need to rest rather than minister. We need to accept his decision for us to “sit on the bench” until He puts us “back in the game.”

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 12

What does God most want to give me? Himself. Is that what I most want to receive?

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Sometimes God’s provision for hungry people gets stuck in the pockets of middle-class Christians.

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In the operation of a church, efficiency and respectability must never over-shadow compassion.

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Where will obedience to God today lead me tomorrow? I don’t know. If I  trust Him enough I won’t care.

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The cross is the proof of God’s love. The empty tomb is the proof of God’s power. The invitation to enter his kingdom is proof of God’s mercy and grace. Do I really need to know any more about Him?

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The way Peter talked (Matthew 26:73) convinced strangers he was a disciple of Jesus.  Does the way I talk tell people the same about me?

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The main goal of prayer should not be “God, hear me.” It should be “God, help me hear you.” I am not praying effectively if I am not hearing God clearly.

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Are praise and meditation mutually exclusive? Is “…shout to the Lord…”(Psalm 32:11) permission, a suggestion  or a command?

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Jesus was the Father’s translator and interpreter. He heard a voice men could not hear in a language they could not speak. His actions and miracles were the audio-visuals of his teaching ministry.

Gratitude for the Privilege of Prayer

When I start to pray I am being granted entrance into the very throne room of heaven, into the presence of the Creator of the universe. I have the undivided attention of the Almighty.

I am not worthy of such a privilege even once in my lifetime, let alone every moment of every day.

What if God limited the times I could pray to Him. For instance, what if I could pray only one hour per year, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. on my birthday. Would I then enter His presence lightly, with scattered focus, interrupted thoughts and glib phrases? I don’t think so.

If such were the case, my prayers would be intense and organized and full of passion. I would be aware of the tremendous responsibility and privilege, determined to make the best of my hour with God.

Why should my current prayer times be any different? Even though my Father grants me constant entrance into His presence, I need to be always aware of the magnitude of this privilege. I should not enter His presence without the proper respect and gratitude simply for the privilege of going there.

This should be my attitude even before I make petitions and receive blessings.