Private Prayer

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.6.hcsb

I wonder if God has had enough of our public prayers? This scripture seems to run counter to popular culture. I run into folks who ask for prayer and seem content to let someone else pray for them. I don’t think that is what this verse is talking about. I think what God is addressing in this text is the kind of prayers said by people who want to be known to their prayers, or their holiness, or some other pretentious piety. I can imagine God is really sick of that kind of praying. To keep us from that temptation He sends us to the closet to keep us out of the spotlight and in the Spirit. God has so much more reserved for those that are earnest in prayer.

This is not a verse to say to keep our faith private. A recent change in language is a freedom of religion to a freedom of worship. The intent is to put our worship behind closed doors, to make our practice of faith private, and many Christians are content to do so. That is a misapplication if this verse. Faith is to be practiced and public. Christians should never have to apologize for being Christians. In fact, we should expect persecution for practicing our faith in the public sphere. And so it goes.

God bless you today!

Advertisements

Entitled?

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.11.hcsb

There is a sentiment among our younger generations that we are entitled to three squares a day, a home to live in, free education, and a job when you graduate college. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not probably shows how old you are or what your political persuasion is. It doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person, but it does affect your attitude towards the providence of God.

In this verse, we come to closest to the idea of entitlement when it comes to daily needs. Hear me out. Asking for daily bread (or if you read it in a certain voice, it sounds like a demand), was a simple request, but it called for a great deal of faith. You see when Jesus uttered these words, people lived from day to day. We may live paycheck to paycheck, but they didn’t know for certain that tomorrow would bring a meal. Among the poor and often hungry people He ministered too, asking for “daily bread” was a pipe dream. It requires extraordinary faith to trust in a God Who would provide daily needs like that. They didn’t doubt they would need to work for it, so this Prayer included the idea that the work needed to pay for the bread would also be requested. Also then the health to be able to work, and the ability to do the work. Daily bread was about God’s provision. They didn’t think God would drop manna from heaven, but that He would provide the circumstances so that they could get their bread as they needed.

We have often expanded this to include all daily provisions, and provisions for the day, as we have no assurance of tomorrow. But for these hearers it meant a lot to have the assurance that today God is looking out for me. We have that assurance too. God is looking out for your needs today. And yes, we need to be praying that dependence upon Him. When we pray this prayer, we remind ourselves both of His provision and our need for it. God honors such humility. Don’t be afraid to ask.

God bless you today!

Effective Prayer

www.bible.com/72/jas.5.16.hcsb

Ever feel like your prayers are ineffective. I know I do. I heard a long time ago that God offers three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait. It’s hard to tell the difference between the third and the first two sometimes. I know there are many who feel like their prayers don’t reach past the ceiling, that God isn’t listening at all. I do know from 1 Peter 5 that sometimes God leaves us alone for a while in order to test our resolve. But there are others who don’t pray enough or at all.

This verse stresses righteousness for powerful and effective prayer. It presents this in the context of forgiveness for sin. Here is a definite contrast between sin and righteousness. Those who have sin, confess it to a fellow Christian. Allow that Christian to pray for you (this is in light of the previous verse about being physically ill). And pray for one another. James poses here that physical illness may in fact have something to do with spiritual sin. And that confession and prayer have the power to effect healing.

There are some illnesses, we call them psychosomatic, that directly link one’s emotional state to their physical well-being. When you feel uneasy, your stomach starts to churn. When you are under stress, you get a headache. Tell what guilt does? Tell me what shame does to the body? Sometimes, extended shame and guilt lead to unexplainable physical illnesses. When the doctor can’t figure it out, maybe it calls for confession and prayer. That’s why we include Chaplains in our healthcare system, just to make sure all of our bases are covered. Include your pastor and your church in your health care. It might make a difference.

Just s thought for a Wednesday.

Just Ask

bible.com/72/jas.1.5.hcsb

I hate asking anyone for anything. I hate to be a bother, or to inconvenience someone else. If I can’t do it myself, I feel really uncomfortable and pushed out of my comfort zone.

So when I come across a verse like this, it is uncomfortable. My prayer life isn’t the best anyway, but here is God calling me to talk to Him and ask for something, wisdom. Granted, I have taken him up in His offer and asked for wisdom, for I find as I’m getting older, I don’t know everything, not like when I was a teenager. Maybe that’s wisdom, and proof that God has been answering my prayer all along.

But asking for help usually isn’t in my vocabulary. I’ve found that this is an act of humility, as admission that I cannot do this on my own. I struggle with pride, and get down on myself when I discover again that I am not all that I think I need to be. Asking God for help is humility, admission of fault, but absolutely necessary for our growth in Christ. So I recommend you ask of God early and often, before you’ve decided that you can handle it. Even if you can, you invite God the event, and He will help you see things you are blind too, bring others alongside whom you will need. Simply acknowledging that you are not sufficient for a task, even if you think you are, is an invitation to God to work alongside you. And God seeks to work out His good, pleasing and perfect will in you as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2)

When I post these, I try to do it first thing in the morning, when my thoughts are fresh with the assistance of a hot cup of coffee. If you are reading this, I hope it has been a benefit to you. These little nuggets are a journal of sorts, for my part anyway. I find just sitting down and distilling thoughts into words very helpful. I would encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already. It has been helpful to my faith as I hope it has been to yours.

God bless you all this morning.

Ready to Listen

bible.com/72/1jn.5.14.hcsb

Ever feel like you are talking to a brick wall with some people? You are talking and they are nodding, but they aren’t really hearing you. We suffer from isolation because of this. We feel like no one listens to us, to our wants and fears. We feel alone because no one truly understands us or gets who we really are.

It doesn’t help that the cell phone has become the medium of choice for conversation. Whether people prefer to type out their conversations with others, or a person sitting next to you is too busy with their phone to listen to your words, phones have helped to isolate us further. Ironically it is the phone which is taking away our ability to communicate.

This verse tells us that God is always ready to listen. I know the difference between hearing and listening. It’s a distinction we have in the English language between hearing the sound and listening to the content. But I don’t think that God ever just hears us talking. I believe God listens, both to our words and the murmurings of the spirit within us. He knows us better than our closest friend. He knows us better than our wives.

And this is the confidence we have. We know that when we talk to God, He has the time to listen to us. This ought to be an encouragement to prayer. I hope it is for you. As Christians we are never alone. His presence goes with us everywhere. As the Psalmist attests, if I go to the depths of the sea, you are there. He will never leave us.

So may I offer this: make time for God today as he has made time for you. It’s ok to put down the phone. Speak to the One who listens to you. You will feel better.

God bless you today.

Drawing to God

bible.com/72/jas.4.8.hcsb

“Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to thy precious bleeding side.”

So the words of that precious hymn roll through my mind this morning after reading this passage. I noticed as I looked down to the shareable pics that Youversion presented me with, that all of them dropped the last half of the verse. I suppose it is more comfortable to see God as one of invitation only without preparation on our part.

It leads some to believe that God accepts you just as you are. That you don’t really need to change, but just believe and arrive in God’s presence as a dignitary of some kind, and it is you gracing God with your dignified presence.

I know this is unpopular to say, but we are sinners. He is perfect and righteous, blameless and holy. Something we don’t talk about much in Christian circles any more is holiness. It seems that modern Christians are all about grace and love and peace, but ignore God’s demands on personal holiness. “Be holy as I am holy.” This is what the whole verse more striking. Certainly we want to draw near to God, but rarely do we hear there is a dress code to visit the Almighty. This isn’t about wearing a tie to church, but about appearing before Him wearing be garments of righteousness provided by Jesus Christ. Jesus tells a parable about a man thrown out of a wedding banquet because he is not wearing the wedding garment. He is thrown out because he was not prepared for the occasion.

Now, I don’t think we need to employ the holiness police at the church door. That’s not what this is about. This is about preparing the heart when we intend to enter the Lord’s presence, either by public worship or private prayer. Hands are cleansed with water. Hearts are cleansed by the blood of Christ. There is an “holy attire” when entering the Lord’s presence and we need to prepare for it.

For today and everyday, cleanse your hands and purify your heart. You are in the Lord’s presence.

God bless you today!

Can’t Get Away

bible.com/72/psa.145.18.hcsb

Have you ever tried to run away from God? Jonah tried it once, ended up in a huge fish. He remembered something David had said, “even though I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” and prayed to the Lord. Guess what, God heard him. You are never too far from God that He cannot bear you. You cannot run so far that He isn’t there. And God is always attentive to the prayers of those who earnestly seek Him. Do you feel like you are far from God this morning? Open your lips and speak His name, “Jesus, I need you today.” He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”