What do you tend to keep out of sight of others? I imagine they are things that you would not want most people to know about. Most people tend to keep their vices to themselves. They can’t handle the scrutiny of others’ eyes. As a rule, folks hide stuff that they don’t want other people to know about. Funny thing is, it seems that exactly what Jesus is telling about our prayer life.

Now if you are like me, you grew up in church, and offering a public prayer was just part of the service. Leaders in the church offered prayer and they tended to ask for the Lord’s blessing on the service, or a blessing on the sick and so forth. Growing up in church taught me that prayer, when offered, ought to be offered as part of a service where others could see and hear it (and get bored by it if it went too long).

But Jesus offers an alternative here. He counters the then-public notion that prayer was to be offered in public, on the street corners, where others could see and hear. His reasoning is that when prayers are offered in such a fashion, they are offered to get the attention of others, to point to the holiness of the one praying, and to receive praise at such holiness. I doubt that’s a problem today. We are hard-pressed to get people to pray today at all.

But in both those days and today, Jesus is calling us to a fervent prayer life. I think it might be comparable to the intimacy we share with our spouse. With the degree of intimacy we have, and the passion we share with out spouse, Jesus is calling us to have such a passionate prayer life. We ought to have such fervent prayer and intimacy in our passionate seeking the Lord’s presence that the tears and the sighing and all of our deep soul’s emanations that we just don’t want others to see it for embarrassment. I have had that kind of prayer. It is the kind of prayer where your soul both aches and yet is strangely warmed.

Lord Jesus, I need that kind of prayer life. May my prayers be so passionate for You that I can’t bear to share them in public, but that in my prayer closet, I honor and lift up You. Lead me to real, soul-filled prayer, that I won’t be surprised when I see you face to face. In You Name I pray, Amen!

If You Then I


I know when I read this verse, my mind emphasizes the last part more than the first. And it is a great promise we have from God here through His Son. It is a powerful promise, but it is also conditional. I may ask whatever I wish, and it will be done for me, but it does have one teeny-tiny condition attached to it. The Lord must abide in me and I do in Him. It is comparatively easy to ask than to abide.

For abiding means that God is living in You, taking up residence, eating out of your fridge and sitting on your couch. You and God are roommates. And few people carry that off well. It means God has the right to override your decisions. It means God can rightfully tell you what to do, as He is both Creator and Lord. Allowing Him to move calls for a profound change in your life and habits.

But that’s what it means to be able to ask for anything, because what you ask for is something you both want. When you and God agree, it’s a done deal.

Lord Jesus, help me to want what You want, and ask after Your will, so that we may work together to satisfy the will of God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thoughts and Prayers


Recently, some on social media have taken issue with those who share “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of national disaster or tragedy. They argue that thoughts and prayers don’t do anything, because they aren’t active, they aren’t helpful, and don’t help anyone put their lives back together. I will admit, “thoughts and prayers” do feel like extremely passive responses to tragedy. To someone in a car accident,  a passersby saying, “I will be thinking about you” as they drive away seems apathetic and cold. To have another say “I will be praying for you” seems to make a mockery of Christian faith. James once remarked,

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
(Jas 2:15-16)

I think James would agree with the naysayers above. He goes on to say:

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
(Jas 2:17-18)

Though we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works, there ought to be some works to reveal that that saving faith is real. There ought to be evidence of transformation. You ought to be able to show, “Yes, my life has changed, and here’ what’s different.”

So when we go about helping others, it ought not to be only in “thoughts and prayers” but also in listening, in caring, in showing that care by helping them in tangible, physical ways. A pat on the back, and helping hand, there are many ways, even little ways to show you care.

But let me return to “thoughts and prayers” for a moment. There are some of us where prayer for the ailing and needy is the most powerful thing we can do. The naysayers believe they are referring the anemic powerless prayers of nomial Christian when they ridicule us. They give no credit to prayer because they’ve never seen the powerful and effective prayer of righteous men. Prove them wrong. Show them what prayer is and how powerful a tool it is to combatting evil, both moral and natural. Show them the effect powerful prayer has on your life. Show them that prayer isn’t weak, but strong. Prayer isn’t for the anemic, but for the humble. Inviting God into a situation is the most powerful thing you can do. Don’t neglect the helping of physical needs, but neither neglect the power you have on your knees.

Let your light shine. Don’t hide it under a bushel. But let it shine so that the whole world knows whom you serve.

Dear Lord, I am sorry we have made such a mess of things down here. There are so many things we do the wrong way, all because we thought we could do it better. But we are wrong. Teach us again the good and right way. Lead again to the closet of prayer so that we may emerge transformed. Thank You Jesus for showing us the way. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

Directed to Heaven


What would a lifetime of practice in these attitudes engender? If you took to rejoicing at every opportunity, keeping in prayer, and giving thanks at all times, what kind of person would you be?

I can’t stand those who take these verse, especially “praying constantly” and make them into Law. Christianity has never been about Law, but about Grace. We do not live in Christ by keeping rules. That was the error of the Jews, and to some extent still is. There is not a list of rules on this earth that will get you into heaven. Why? Because no one can keep them. If you were to say that a person must pray constantly to get into heaven, well, you’ve already been condemned, because you took the time to read this. Were you praying as you read this? No? Well, guess what, you just committed a sin and need to repent. Yet that is the mentality of many who read this and many of passages. They want to turn it into laws so that they can stand over someone else and accuse them. That sounds like Satan’s work (the Accuser of our brethren) to me.

Rather (and this is why I quoted this trio of verses, rather than just the one) these verses indicate an attitude of our life. God would not tell us to do something that we cannot do. I for one know that I cannot pray constantly. I don’t have that kind of focus, and my mind is fairly healthy. What about those who have short-term memory loss, or dementia, or a host of other mental ailments? Can they pray constantly? And would God condemn them because they can’t?

When we read these verses together, they sound more like this: As often as you can, rejoice, pray and give thanks. Always have an attitude where your life is characterized by them. It’s like when we say, “I could eat chocolate all the time.” First, we know that’s not a good idea, and second, it’s just not possible. But it does convey the idea that as often as it is appropriate and available, I would like to eat chocolate. When Paul writes these words, He is not laying down a new commandment, but an attitude of Christian worship and holiness. Always be in this mind, always be aware of your presence before the Lord. Those practicing such will find themselves in good standing with God, especially when their mind and body fail them.

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Because gatherings are banned, may I ask that you make some time today to be in physical and spiritual prayer. But do not think that you should only pray today. Today may be a mountain peak of prayer, but we don’t always climb the peaks. Sometimes we trudge through the valleys. Enjoy time with God.

Heavenly Lord, what a great privilege we have today to be in Your presence. You have made us and adopted us into Your amazing family of believers. I come before You today as one in awe. I don’t deserve to be in Your Presence. I find it difficult to believe that One such as Yourself would love one such as me. But Your word makes it clear. You love me, and can’t stand an eternity spent without me in it. I have never felt such love, and I need that. Father, let that love flow through me today to others. Help me to share that peace and privilege with those who don’t know it today. Thank You God in Jesus. Amen.

This Confidence


I have always been amazed at the audacity of the faith healers and the “name it and claim it” folks who just lay hands and pronounce the name of Jesus over people as if it’s some kind of magic formula. I can understand such confidence if In fact Jesus does want to heal a person. In fact, if Jesus wants to heal a person, does He really wait until some human being comes around to pray a prayer of healing?

This is bothers me about faith healers and those who claim to have the gift of healing. They always say they can hear from Jesus or the Spirit and know what God wants them to do or where to go. I have a hard time with it because that is an awful lot of inside information. Would God take us into His confidence, and only those equipped to hear Him? Why would God choose only certain people? Why not everyone And remove all doubt as to what He wants? Why speak to only a few? Is that how God works? God works in secret? No one can challenge the faith healer because he alone has heard the word. No one should doubt him because God spoke to him. I have trouble with this.

Maybe I am confessing my lack of faith. Or I just don’t get it. I thought God spoke to the prophets and the apostles and completed His revelation to them. I thought that completed revelation was compiled into one book, and that book was sufficient in itself to equip the man of God for every good work. Why is there a need for new revelations? Why does God need to continue to speak when He has already spoken? Am I missing something?

Is God’s word true or not? Is God’s will sufficiently revealed in the Bible, or does there need to be something more? Did the miraculous gifts end with the Apostles, or do they continue to this day? Can God choose to heal someone? Absolutely. Does He? Yes! But can I demand that God heal? Can I put myself in the place of God and say someone is healed? May it never be. I don’t know if the person is suffering because of unrepented sin, because of God’s punishment, because that person is being tested, or some other reason. How can I put myself in His place when it is His will they be tested for a time?

We see suffering as inherently bad. But it is suffering that produces endurance, and that is a gift of God. Should I go an pronounce healing and deny someone the blessing of endurance through suffering? Perhaps God has something better in mind that healing. We have such a skewed view of suffering. It isn’t evil. It just is. And it is a tool, especially for those of us in this privileged nation, for God to use to purify us and produce in us jewels worthy for His kingdom. When we see a slight headache as suffering, maybe we need to endure for a while, instead of asking for the healing.

Something you may notice in the Scriptures. Healing is almost never for the sole benefit of the ailing. It is most often a benefit and a sign to the community, who see the power of God at work and come to faith. Yet today, healings are rarely done outside the community of believers. Outsiders can only hear about the lame who walk again, and only rarely come to faith because of it. What changed? Do believers still need to be convinced? Hmmm.

If your faith depends on seeing signs and wonders performed in your midst, then you don’t really have faith. Faith is believing is something unseen, not something you see everyday. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Pray for healing, be confident that God wants the best for you, but leave it up to God to work out His will in you. As the Lord wills, so we will do. Stop demanding things from Him, and let Him work in you to the pleasure of His will. That is a mature faith. If God says it, we trust in it and believe in it. But always give room for God in your prayers.

Lord, I know many of us would like to be advisors rather than followers. In our limited vision, we think we know what’s best. Help us to see things as You do, help is to grow in our faith. For we walk by faith and not by sight. Help us follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

On Things Above, Not Below


There is a favored saying among New Age and occult religions, “as above, so below.” That is to say that the patterns of heavens are echoed on earth, and if you can manipulate the patterns here on earth, they can be manipulated in the spiritual realms. New age and occult practices are about power and control, especially of things that “normal” people cannot control, like fate and luck. Sometimes people misapply this standard of reasoning to Christianity, thinking that things like prayer are a means to power, or “if I believe it strongly enough, it will happen.” But that’s not Christianity. That’s heresy. God will not be manipulated. Anything who things they can or have been they can has been taught a false teaching. “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

So how does it work? We might persuade God to act in our best interests. God has been known to change His mind on things. But the change is illusory, as God is watching us to see how much prayer and effort we pour into prayer. God does not change, but He sees your effort before you start. He knows your passion. But He will also wait until you have it to Him. God sees your prayer. He always has your best interest in mind. Just because God doesn’t give you what you wanted, doesn’t mean it wasn’t the best for you. God takes the long view. He sees the hundred little things that affect you as a person. He sees every twist and bend of your life’s decisions before you make them. And yet God waits for your impassioned prayer, proof that you carry out on your internal faith into your life and actions, before He acts.

But this verse shows us our guiding principle. Things above and below are very different. And instead of trying to make our life below as good as it can be, let us try to focus on things above. Such focus will inevitably lead to blessing below because God loves us and loves to bless us. Just be reminded those blessings aren’t about a fat bank a account of a big house. They are salvation and peace in Him in the name of Jesus. Everything else is gravy. No amount of money on earth can give you peace.

Lord please help me focus on things above today. Remind me that my mind and heart are better spent on heavenly truths, than earthly pleasures. Thank You Lord for my salvation in Jesus Christ. It is truly the best blessing of all. Show me those today that I can encourage with this same blessing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thoughts and Prayers


While it is always in vogue to mock Christians, non- Christians were unusually brutal in mocking the Christian habit of sending “thoughts and prayers” when disaster happens. Yesterday saw the death of a celebrity basketball player. Though I have not seen then, I have no doubt that many sent “thoughts and prayers” to the family. Is there anything wrong with that?

That is the subject of today’s text, for the Psalmist asked the Lord about it. He was concerned both for the words of his mouth (prayers) and the meditations of his heart (thoughts) would be acceptable to God. As a Christian, we better be sure that the thoughts and prayers we send are likewise.

What the non-Christians mock is hypocrisy. It is very easy to type “thoughts and prayers” and go on about your day. It would be a sad thing to offer both and do neither. To which the non-Christian rightly responds that you have done nothing. In fact, it is worse than nothing. Because you have offered to intervene before the King of the Universe on their behalf, praying for their comfort and peace, and done neither. It is akin to apathy to say such a thing of love and compassion and then forget it. Words mean things. If your words are empty, then your faith is hollow.

If you offer thoughts and prayers for the hurt and grieving, then follow through. Pray for that family. Put their needs before you and meditate on them. What if it was you. What would you need right now? Pray for that if you cannot offer it yourself.

Dear Father, if we have been hypocrites when it comes to interceding for others, please extend Your grace to us, but also with our repentance the reminder of this lesson. We have an important role in this world. From our lips the world hears the gospel message. Let that message be pure and undefiled. Let it be free from denominational dogmatism. Let it flow purely from Your grace into the hearts of men. Help us to be more like You dear Father. Help us today we pray, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Stubborn Neighbor


When Jesus gives this statement in Luke 11, He precedes it with a short story about neighbors and hospitality. As Jesus tells it, a man has a late-night visitor from a far country and wants to offer him traditional hospitality by feeding him after such a journey. But it is now on him to find food at such a late hour. He goes to his neighbor’s house and knocks on the door. He continues knocking despite his neighbor’s protests of being in bed and his family being in bed. Nevertheless, the first man’s persistence gets the door open and the bread transferred.

Then Jesus tells us this short statement about persistence in prayer. Since Matthew doesn’t include the short story about the door, it is a bit of a mystery. What door is He talking about? With Luke’s addition, it seems obvious that the door is a reference to the door in the parable. This is a door that is shut to you and will only be opened with persistent knocking. However, I don’t think there are any similarities intended between God and the sleeping neighbor. Psalm 121:4 says He does not sleep. The point here is persistence in prayer.

There will be times where it will seem God is not hearing your prayers because He is not answering them right away. Jesus is not condemning the nature of the requests here. In fact, Jesus is encouraging the continued asking, knocking and seeking. Your request may not be something God wants to fulfill right now. It may not even be something He intends to fulfill, but you are encouraged to present it with persistence anyway. We are to be an everpresent Sheldon knocking on God’s door because when we pray, we don’t have time for sin, temptation, or anything that will trip up our walk with God. God intends for us to pray without ceasing, even if our prayers are petty, tiny, or lame.

As parents, we can get annoyed with our children because of their constant requests for things and activities. As parents, we need to work, have projects that we are working on and so forth. But with God, we are His agenda. We are His work, His project, His world. If every waking moment was spent asking God, He wouldn’t mind. He loves spending that time with us, even if we are angry with Him, for even then, every moment we spend with Him makes us more like Him.

Father God, coming to you today and every day is a special appointment. You make our world, our whole life meaningful. And when we come to you with a request once or a thousand times, You still listen. You care what we have to say, no matter how silly we think it is. We learn to talk by talking to our parents. Surely it is the same with you, that the more we pray, the better we are able to speak to You and listen to Your words. Would you listen again to Your people this day? Would You listen to our every petty word and silly request? Would You help us to be more like You Lord because You are awesome and full of majesty? Would you please hear Your people pray today? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer and Petition


Need something? Ask. That’s basically what God is saying here. Just ask for it. Have a problem? Lift it up to God. He will hear your request. There is no promise here of satisfying that need, but in every request there is surrendering your right to worry about it when you ask God about it.

Is it any wonder that we have an epidemic of anxiety in this world? Did you wake up this morning worrying about something? Are you anxious about today? As much as depends on you, you do what you can. But we trust in an Almighty God. He sees around the corners. He looks ahead in time and can see what’s coming. He knows what the circumstances will be and prepares ahead of time for what you will face. There is nothing that catches God by surprise.

So if God prepares the future for your arrival, then He knows what you will need before you do. If you are going through a test right now, it is because you are being tested for something in the future that you will need today’s lessons for. My hope and prayer for you is that you will learn on the first try.

We were not put on this earth to be happy. That is not our purpose. Sorry. Our purpose is to be joyful followers of Him, finding our true joy in obedience to His will. We were made to conform to the image of His Son. We are most happy when we see His face in the mirror. God is the highest and and best good, the standard of beauty, and the epitome of joy. If you are striving to be happy in this world, you will fail. You can only be truly happy when you are fulfilled in Him.

Dear Father, we come to you this morning with heaviness in our hearts. We come upon another Monday, with the worship of Heaven still fresh in our ears. We pray Father that you would look upon our downcast faces and grant us joy. Show us a glimpse of hope for the joy You posses so that we may long for that true joy. May You fill us Lord today with that hope and direct our steps to walk in Your direction. May we lift up to you today our prayers and petitions of our ordinary life that You May transform our everyday tasks into works of eternal significance. We ask these things today in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Faith and Strength


If I only had enough faith. Then I would be as strong as … who? Whose faith do you envy? Whose faith do you look upon as better than yours? I’ve seen a lot of people who say they have great faith, but much of it is misplaced. I was called a few years ago to the ER where a family stood waiting. When I arrived, they promptly asked me to raise the dead. Their loved one had just passed and they expected this particular representative of God to raise their deceased loved one. I think they were of the delusion that all one needs to do is ask, and God will give whatever you ask for for, if you ask for it in faith. Sadly, neither my prayers nor theirs were enough to raise the dead that day.

There is a popular notion in our area that faith merely needs to be claimed, merely apprehended by a word of faith and it will become reality. It is a poor understanding of God’s purpose. As Han Solo once said, “That’s not how the Force works.” That’s not how faith works either.

If we have have a request of God, we make it known to Him. We lift it up in prayer. We can pray for as often as we like. He is not obligated to satisfy that which does not fit into His will. His chief goal is that all come to the knowledge of the truth. How does your prayer fit into that? Not every prayer will fit. Some have to be “No” and others may be “wait.” But none will be “Yes sir, right away sir.” God is not at our beck and call. We ought to be at His, and He just might be more likely to answer if we are.

In fact this verse and it surrounding passage fees more like the latter. If we are serving God in all that we do and say, our will is more like His. And the things we ask for are more in line with what He wants, and He is more likely to answer as we ask. Faith is just asking God for stuff when you want. It is living your life as He wants, so that as you are carrying out His will, He is more likely to supply you with the strength you need to carry it out.

Lord, help me today to live my life according to Your will. Help me recognize in my own life those things I need to be rid of so that I can fill those places with You. Lord I am but human. I can’t see and know all things as You do. Help me Lord each day to make my life more in line with Your blessed will do that I will have that strength to carry it out. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.