The Lord, He is God [Prayer part 2]

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Good afternoon!

How was your week? Were you able to fall into a consistent praying pattern this week? Keep it up! If not, keep working on praying at meal times or setting aside time morning or evening for prayer. Start with a ten-minute, uninterrupted window of time in a quiet place and spend time in prayer with God.

You can read about the importance of regular communication with God here.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is in the middle of what we refer to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” He is teaching the people how to establish their lives in such a way as to be pleasing to God. At the end of the sermon on the mount, he concludes “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” In the midst of his lesson [chapter 6.5-15], he instructs the people how to pray. This would imply that prayer is part of what Jesus expects us to do in order to build our lives on the rock.

I’d like to focus specifically on the beginning of His prayer:

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” [verse 9]

Hallowed? That’s not a term that is often used in our vernacular. It means “to honor as holy” or “venerated, sacred.” So when Jesus says, “hallowed be your name” He is reminding us that God, and His very name, are to be held in honor and treated as sacred.

Each portion of this prayer in Matthew 6 shows us an important aspect of prayer. God wants us to acknowledge that He is God and to honor Him as such. He isn’t just another man; he doesn’t want to be treated in a casual, common way. He wants us to honor and adore Him.

I have found that many people are not comfortable with this idea of reverence and honor. There is a tendency to think that if we get too formal, it will diminish our relationship with God the Father. One way of looking at this is through a parent-child relationship. A parent typically expects their child to call them “mother/mom/mommy/ma” or “father/dad/daddy/papa.” Most parents do not want their children to call them by their first names. The title of mother or father (and its variations) is an acknowledgement of authority. The child is in essence saying, “You are the father/mother. You are in charge of me.” In some places, children are expected to respond with “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” to their parents. Does that mean that they love their parents less because they use formality? Does it mean that their parents are domineering, overbearing, unapproachable people? On occasion, perhaps. More often than not, there is a lot of love in families where the parents and children perform their roles appropriately. There is comfort and certainty in having a solid authority. God is a solid authority and deserves respect; he concurrently wants us to love Him.

Take some time before you pray this week and write down attributes of God.

For example:

  • holy
  • creator
  • loving father
  • omniscient (all-knowing)
  • omnipresent (always everywhere)
  • omnipotent (all-powerful)
  • just
  • wise

When you pray, praise God for being one or two of those attributes; tell Him in your prayer how much you love Him and respect Him. This isn’t about getting verbose in your prayers–God doesn’t want us to pile on the words–it is about honoring God with the praise He is due. It will enhance our relationship with Him and increase the effectiveness of our prayers. People appreciate genuine praise from their friends; how much more does God appreciate the honor we show Him?

In our next post, we will look at praying according God’s will.

Be diligent in prayer and God be with you!

Prayer: Our Communication to God

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Communication is an essential factor in any relationship.

In our modern society we communicate with people via text message, phone, face time, Skype, Facebook posts, Twitter and even the old-fashioned form of face-to-face. It is impossible to have a solid relationship without some form of communication from time to time.

Imagine having a friend that you don’t see regularly. They don’t live next door, they don’t work with you ,and day-to-day encounters are infrequent. You make a regular effort to stay in touch with a call/text/email and invite them to your house or out to coffee or dinner so you can spend time with them. How long would that relationship last if they never returned a text or call, never came over and basically never said a word back?

Consider also the value of a friendship or relationship in which the only time you contacted your friend or loved one was when you had a need? Do you think that friend would feel valued? Respected? Or would they simply feel used?

God communicates with us through His Word. We communicate with God through prayer. It’s a two way street. If you cut off either line of communication, you won’t have much to work with in your relationship with God. How many movies show people about die or lose a loved one and the first words are, “I know I haven’t prayed in a while…” Followed by, “do this for me…” How do you think God looks on such requests?

The Bible records that Jesus would go off alone and pray for hours at a time (Mark 1:35). There were even times recorded when He would pray all night (Luke 6:12). I have prayed intermittently through a difficult night when sleep has been elusive or troubled, but I don’t think I have ever spent an entire night praying. Can you think of the last time you spent an hour praying? I never keep track of time, but I can’t think of too many times I’ve spent more than one dedicated hour in prayer at a time.

[Now, before I go further, I want to emphasize that the things I write here are for your consideration. These are things I am working to improve in my own relationship with God. In other words, I am not pointing fingers in criticism or condescension; these are things I observe in the Word that I need to consider in my walk and I hope that they will help you on your journey with the Lord.]

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells the Christians to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). What does that mean? How can one pray ceaselessly? We should pray as often as we have opportunity and with regularity. We eat 3 times a day. I would say that’s eating regularly, wouldn’t you? I see prayer as having a similar regularity and then some. It should be daily and not just when a desperate need arises. Pray at any moment you are sorrowful, joyful, thankful, thoughtful, frightened. When I am facing conflict throughout the day, I fire off short prayers throughout the day for help with attitude, self-control and thankfulness when things go smoothly. Prayer does not always have to be a prostrate affair; indeed, there are many times when it is not possible. If you are flat on your back in a hospital bed connected to a bunch of tubes and needles, you’ll have an interesting time getting out of bed and kneeling without causing yourself and your nurses significant troubles. So pray–whenever you can and wherever you are.

Each week, I will be encouraging you to pray for specific things or to work on a specific aspect of praying. This will grow our relationship with God, and in some cases, hopefully, strengthen our interpersonal relationships.

Making a new habit often requires a target or goal. Prayer should be as habitual to us as eating or even breathing. James 5.17 says, “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” so why don’t we start praying with focus and consistency to enhance the effectiveness of our prayers?

Here are our three goals:

1) to learn how to pray ceaselessly and do it

2) to have “effective, fervent prayers”

3) most importantly–to grow our relationship with God.

This week, let us draw attention to making time to pray. If you are only praying on rare occasion, I want to encourage you start with one simple goal: pray before each meal. Most people eat regularly (or else they would die of starvation), so it’s safe to say everybody eats! Use this regular activity to build regular communication with the Lord. Give thanks for your food and ask that it will nourish you and strengthen you for the day. Then, consider one acquaintance and ask the Lord to bless them; if they are not a follower of Christ, ask God to lead them to the truth. You may find your prayers growing longer as you have more to bring to God. At that point, it’s time to find another point in the day to have focused time in prayer in addition to praying before you eat.

If you are already praying at meal times, I would encourage you to pray before going about the activities of your day. Set the alarm 10 minutes earlier, climb out of bed so you don’t fall back asleep, and pray.

Are you unsure of what to pray for or how to pray? We’ll dive into more specifics in future posts, but for the present, consider a few points:

1) Reverence. Keep in mind that you are talking to Almighty, All-Powerful God. He isn’t your buddy from down the street. We are so informal with everybody these days. While informality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has caused us treat serious things more lightly than we ought to at times. God is a loving Father and He wants us to have a close relationship with Him, but we need to remember to treat Him with respect for who and what He is.

2) Thanksgiving. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of complaining about all the things going wrong. In your prayers, take time to thank Him for what is good. Do you have a home of some kind–an apartment, trailer, or house? Be thankful to have some protection from extreme heat or cold, hail, rain, snow, or blistering sunshine. Do you have a Bible? Offer thanks that God has revealed so much to us. Many of the righteous longed to have what we have now. Do you have a job that allows you to provide for yourself or others? It might be a lousy job, but if it helps provide for your needs, it’s a blessing. The Bible encourages thanksgiving:

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

“Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Besides the Biblical references to thanksgiving, it’s plain common horse sense. How would you feel if you gave somebody a gift and they looked at it, rolled their eyes and said, “Ugh! I never have anything nice! Can’t you do something for me?” You’d be thinking, “Are you blind?! I just gave you a gift and you didn’t even thank me for it!” Gratitude goes a long way. It’s a show of respect and appreciation. (More on this to come!!)

3) Remember ACTS. This acronym has been floating around for years. It’s not my own invention, but if you are struggling about what to pray for, try keeping this in mind:

A – Adoration (praise God)

C – Confession (confess your faults and sins)

T – Thanksgiving (see above)

S – Supplication (asking for your needs or the needs of others).

4) Chart Your Progress. A year and a half ago, I started walking for exercise. I had a pedometer and I checked my weight and inches once a week. Slowly, I stared seeing the changes. It was great to see how many hundreds of miles I had walked after just a few months. The positive side effects were great too. If it helps, put a little “P” on your calendar for everyday you pray. When teaching children new habits, it can be helpful to chart their progress so they “see” that they’ve accomplished something. We as adults aren’t all that different. The results of regular prayer can take years to become readily apparent to us, and, like a growing child, the changes are subtle and difficult to recognize. Another idea for tracking progress is to start a prayer journal. Write your requests in a prayer journal so they can go back and see at a later time how many of their prayers were answered.

In my next post, I will address a critical aspect of prayer—reverence for the Lord.

May the Lord bless you this week as you endeavor to grow closer to Him!

Infusing the Mind with God’s Word

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Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

nor stands in the path of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of the scornful, 

but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1.1-2

Psalms chapter one contrasts the way of the righteous versus the way of the ungodly.

Within the first two versus of the Psalm it reads, “in [God’s] law [the righteous person] meditates day and night.” I believe that the ongoing meditation carries significance.

How can we be right in God’s sight if we are failing to seek Him with our whole heart? We are so blessed to have a full collection of the scriptures. Many who came before us had only pieces.

My friends, nothing has more sustaining power throughout life than God’s Word.

In the darkest hours, the Word glimmers, shining the light of hope and comfort. It presses against the encroaching despair and keeps the evil one at bay.

On the mountain-top moments of happiness, the Word is the substance of praise.

However, the effectiveness of the Word of God in our lives will be limited or enhanced by how little or how much we infuse it into our mind and heart.

An infusion (in the culinary sense), is the steeping of herbs/roots/bark into water. The combination enhances the water, providing additional properties that can help the one who drinks it. In much the same way, the Word of God, properly infused within us will enhance our lives and the lives of those we share it with.

Why is steeping ourselves in the word so important?

A lot of people prefer a twitter-ish exposure to the Word–a hash-tagged version, with sound bytes, tidbits and toe-dips. Such an approach is feeble and will make one prone to applying the scriptures out of context.

Here are a few reasons to infuse yourself with the Word of God:

1) The Word provides wisdom for all of life’s circumstances.

The Word of God is packed with answers. It’s not going to tell you which specific stock to invest in or whether to buy a pink Cadillac or a grey Honda, but it will give you the wisdom to make sound decisions.

For example:

  • Should I spend time with friends who are leading me away from God? How do I recognize a good friend or a bad friend?
  • Should I get drunk or use drugs? Is alcohol ok in moderation?
  • Should I engage in the gossip by the water cooler? How do I get away from it?
  • Is homosexuality really a sin? Or is that some antiquated viewpoint?
  • Can I sleep around before I get married?

Those are obvious, in-your-face examples. There are other decisions more subtle and complicated. For instance, you need a job to provide for your family, but there are only two choices: one offer requires you to work Sundays and you’ll need to be away from your family quite a bit; the other has less money, you’ll have to give up one of your cars and possibly a few other things, but it will provide the basics and won’t require quite so much time away from your family or church. What do you do?

Or, in another scenario–you are in love with a person that doesn’t believe in God, but you think that true love will conquer all and that person will come around to your way of thinking. I do believe that there is wisdom for these situations in the Bible, but it doesn’t come through cherry-picking scriptures; it comes with constant studying the Word.

2) The Word provides sustenance and support during dark and difficult times.

Most people journey through life on a relatively dull plain. A hill or two here  followed by the a valley over there. We encounter periods in which we are traveling through a dark canyon; light is scarce, the terrain is difficult and we can’t see any way out other than to start climbing straight up that dangerous rocky cliff. This could be the loss of a loved one, betrayal by an unfaithful spouse, a drug-addicted family member, job loss, wasting disease, verbal abuse from a spouse, friend, boss or child…

…I could make a list to wrap around the world.

During those dark and terrible periods, when hope is all but extinguished, what is our  reaction?

Do we shake our fists at the sky?

Do we imitate the Israelites of the who grumbled every time they felt their stomachs growl?

Or…

Do we thank God for what we do have?

Do we come before Him with humility and trust like a child seeking comfort?

If we come to God and cry out in anguish before Him, that infusion of God’s word will be there, recalling to your broken heart His promises that He will be with you always. God speaks through His infallible Word. Are you listening? You can’t hear the Word if you never take the time to read it.

In the lowest moments of your life, pull out the Bible. Look for passages on comfort and God’s unfailing love and commit those to memory. They will be recalled to your mind when you need hope and encouragement.

3) The Word gives us the ability to know the God and Creator we worship.

We learn so much about God through the Bible.

We know that, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Just by observation, we can learn about the wisdom and power of God. Even lawyers and insurance folks refer to earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters as “acts of God” because they are so awesome and powerful.

Yet, observation of the earth doesn’t reveal God’s plan for us, nor does it show us the full extent of God’s divine attributes. Those are things the Word reveals to us.

We see how He dealt with the Israelites; we see the massive orchestration of His plan to bring Jesus to earth to live as a man and die to atone for our sins. No human on earth could ever coordinate such a feat through so many countries and peoples and varying choices. Only God can work everything to His good purpose. We can see that through His Word.

4) The Word helps us defend our faith.

This could be a series of posts in and of itself.

Defending the faith is challenging even with a solid grasp of the scriptures. So many people do not credit the bible as a reliable historical document, but they are in fact quite ignorant of the vast amount of written copies  that make up the bulk of the Bible that we now have today.

The Bible has gone through rigorous scrutiny by secular and religious scholars alike. And guess what? It still comes out ahead of any other historical text the world has discovered to date.

The Bible is a trustworthy source and has brought about positive change to so many nations and people.

As far as how the Bible helps us defend the faith, there are countless times when science has discovered things that were written in the Bible centuries before. The Bible also can undo many erroneous beliefs about who God is and how the church should function.

People over the centuries have skewed the actual context of the Bible it to fit their desires, but a solid study exposes many of these teachings as false.

The Bible also exposes the flaws in many human philosophies. Relativism, existentialism, nihilism, stoicism and even current philosophies like “live for today” or “follow your heart.”

My hope and prayer is that you will begin to see the following:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (1 Timothy 3.16-17, NKJV)

and,

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15.4, NKJV)

God be with you!