- Samson knew his gifts. He wasn’t out trying to sing or put on shows. He smashed stuff. His accomplishments are legendary because he acted in faith with the tools God provided him. Bare hands, donkey jaw, pillars, etc.
- Samson was pretty smart. He loved riddles. He did stupid things but he wasn’t stupid.
- Samson put himself in temptation’s path. Look at how obvious Delilah was and how each time she tried the very thing he suggested. He knew… but he didn’t want to know.
- Samson believed that even though God had left, he would return when asked.
- Samson prayed for a mighty miracle. Something supernatural that could not be confused for something a mere human could do.
- Delilah is never mentioned in the Bible again after she is paid for her betrayal. We do not know her fate. In other words, when you serve the enemy, your story is over the second he is done with you. She was given an ENORMOUS sum of money and lived free… yet we never hear of her again, however, Samson, who was blinded and imprisoned still had amazing moments left to tell about as he served God.
- The more we fall away from God’s plan for us, the more difficult it will be to carry out the tasks assigned to us. Ponder how different life would be for Pharaoh if when Moses said, “let my people go!” the very first time, Pharaoh said, “sure, you may leave, have a safe trip!”. God’s plan was to set the Israelites free, but Pharaoh had to adjust to his own disobedience before it happened. Samson did something similar. He was set aside to free God’s people from the Philistines. Due to his disobedience, God still used him to accomplish this task, but at a much greater cost. When God was with him, he freely conquered on the battlefields. When He left God, he had to operate within prison walls and with no sight. Disobedience reduces our own options to work within God’s plan.
- Samson’s prayer aligned with God’s plans and gifts to him. It wasn’t selfish, it wasn’t a deviation from the path. It was exactly what God called him to do. It was almost like Samson said, “I accept and I’m ready”. It’s difficult to think through this at times, but we aren’t the only ones God is working with. Asking for something that someone else is set aside for, might yield more ‘no’s’ than we would like. Knowing our calling and asking for opportunities within God’s plan yields holy and unbelievable results.
- Samson did not know that God’s powers had left him. This plays into point 10 quite a bit, but it also makes me wonder… how many of us are functioning off a call that we received years ago, yet we do not live the life called out of or into? How many of us think God is with us when He has no reason to be? How many of us think He is just sitting back, watching us play Nintendo, when He is really waiting for repentance and renewal before He will work within us?
- Samson, now knowing that God’s powers had left him, prayed for a mighty miracle and then pushed on the pillars. This is faith. Praying and then pushing. Believing that there is power within a faithful God. If he did not feel God leave, did he feel Him come back? How did He know God returned? Because a called man asked a faithful God to fulfill His will through faith, mercy, and obedience. He prayed… and then he pushed.
The sound of the buzzer was deafening. It had to be to over come the uproarious noise of the crowd. But the gasp of the fans wasn’t anticipated. The shrill of the clock sounding zero echoed through a vacuum of silence. And after the lengthy, blaring siren ended… you couldn’t hear a pin drop. Because no one would move enough to cause one to fall.
The ball floated in the air for moments. Had it taken any longer to reach the basket some of the spectators would have needed to breath again. The fate of all things basketball hung on this rubber sphere gliding over the court.
Watching with breath held and heart clinched, the young man that launched the ball said a quick prayer. “God, please, please, please, make it go in!” He wanted to close his eyes and let the crowd’s reaction tell the story… but he couldn’t stand to miss history happen. Even if he were responsible for the bitter defeat.
This player prayed the way many of us do today. Let’s say what he was really praying:
“Lord, I have already planted my feet, aimed, and taken my shot. Now that I can’t possibly control it any longer, I want you to intervene and change the dimensions of gravity. I want you to adjust the natural order of things. I want you to fix my mistake in midair. I want you to overcome my lack of training, I need you to erase the days I gave up, I’d prefer a do over on how I handled my conditioning. I chucked this thing in the general direction of the goal set before me and now that time has ran out, I realize I should have taken this more seriously… so can you help a sinner out? Oh, and by the way, if it doesn’t go in… you will have let me down. Amen”– Desperate Player
Instead of going into all the issues with the mentality that goes with praying this kind of prayer. Lets just back it up a few seconds and consider a different prayer: “Lord, not my will but yours!” What is this one saying?
“Lord if this ball goes in I will be forever grateful. You are a mighty God and I am your servant happy to do your will. If this ball does not go in, I will be forever grateful. You are a mighty God and I am your servant happy to do your will. I will follow the path you have for my life whether it be a spectacular basketball career or as a traveling accountant. I will acknowledge the grace I have received that has no bearing on the trivial moments of life. I will honor you in all things. Like a wedding vow, my relationship with you will not waver on successes or failures. Each one will draw me in and remind me of your faithfulness and love. Whether ‘swoosh’ or ‘brick’ I will do my best to be your example. This game will not undo the sacrifice you made for me or its many promises that remain.– Thankful Pray-er
The difference is spelled out plainly in the second prayer. Jesus prayed it in the garden before His sacrifice. The first prayer is about what I want. The second prayer is about what God wants. The first prayer is about what I have done, the second prayer is about what God will do.
The first prayer is all to common. Whether it is a relationship, a job, financial struggles or just bad luck. We want God to press the easy button and fix everything for us. The second prayer is very rare. It says, even if I have to suffer torture and death I will not lose faith and I will continue to follow you.
The first prayer makes God a genie while the second prayer makes us His servants. The first prayer grasps onto worldly things, statuses, situations, and titles while the second prayer looks to the real and eternal future… where none of those things have any value.
The second prayer was spoken by Jesus. Can we pray that prayer? It doesn’t matter if I win. I don’t care if I’m broke. I don’t mind being alone. The unbearable pain doesn’t define me. All I care about is what God wants. All I’m living for is the life that doesn’t really begin until Jesus returns.
One final question: Does your lifestyle match your prayer life? When you desperately need God… do you have to introduce yourself first? Or is He already your friend, companion, and Father nurtured through worn knees and moist eyes? As Jesus can attest to, simply praying for God’s will doesn’t automatically get you the answer you want. But if you want what God wants… you will get it every time.
Driving to work this morning I managed to make someone very angry. I honestly can’t tell you what I did, though I can guess. I was getting on an interstate using the on-ramp. I was safely following the car in front of me. We weren’t speeding and we weren’t going unbearably slow either. But I think I have already described the problem… we weren’t speeding. I was in… ‘his way’.
A car that wasn’t even in my mirror the last time I looked was swerving back and forth behind me while driving painfully close to my rear bumper. He swerved so widely, I thought he might pass on either side on the shoulder. I looked around a little confused and realized I was already driving as fast as the car in front allowed and couldn’t see anything that I could have done differently.
I looked up in the mirror again and the man behind proceeded to gesture that I was number 1 in his book. A pose that he held for several seconds before trying to swerve again and shake both hands at me. This was raw, pure, rage. As soon as the pavement allowed he zoomed passed, driving over the crosshatch section (meaning no cars should use that space) and very promptly disappeared over the horizon. I was driving about 70 (The speed limit), and as quickly as he moved passed he had to have exceeded triple digits.
I’m tempted in several ways. I was tempted to return some gestures of my own. I was not doing anything conceivably or inherently wrong. Not only was I obeying the law, there was a physical barrier preventing me from doing otherwise. This person’s expectations were completely unreasonable AND he misunderstood a basic principle my 5 year old understands… there are cars in front of other people… and only one car can occupy that space at any given time.
I was tempted to be livid. I wanted to speed up and not let him pass. I wanted to take a picture and call the police. Not only was he dangerous on the road, he was a lunatic! Yet another person that thinks hes better than everyone else, rules don’t apply to him, and he expects me to get out of his way and let him trample all over my life…
Two thoughts slowly entered my mind:
- I have no idea what this person is going through. On the way to the hospital? Just got fired? Wife just left him? Kids in jail? Perhaps, its a combination of multiple things. Maybe life just added up on him? Maybe he doesn’t know God? Can we even imagine what it must be like to live in THIS world… without any hope?
- If his actions have ANY impact on me, I’m not as deeply rooted in Christ as I need to be. (and they did impact me). If anyone has the ability to alter my behavior or my choices or my personality, then I am not what I have been called to be. I am not about the Father’s business if some stranger’s temper tantrum can deter me.
One of God’s characteristics is to be immovable. He is unchanging. He is our Rock. Steadfast. I wanted to be immovable too… and not let that driver be so reckless. I wanted to teach him some patience. I wanted to put him in his place. I wanted to dig in… in this world. I wanted to stand my earthly ground. God is immovable for us. He is constant and unchanging. I need to be that for Him. But I choose to only be that when it benefits my many moods and constantly changing desires.
I did something today that I’ve never done before. I prayed for that guy. When it set in that he could be having the worst day of his life, and I’ll never know what he is feeling in the pit of his soul, I just wanted to pray for him. And this isn’t to brag, I could go on endlessly about the horrible ways I usually react to this type of person (and I’m being kind to even give them people status… they are definitely my hot button).
This isn’t a brag because I realized how desperately I need to do this for everyone. For every jerk, for every greedy person, for every misunderstood individual, for every person having a bad day… for everyone. I need to love them the way I want God to love me. If I need forgiveness… and I need a lot, I need to pray for them to have it too. To find peace in their life. To meet the master. To gain perspective. To have some hope.
If anyone needs prayer, its those that don’t know they have a Father to help with their struggles. They don’t need self professed Christians like myself making their lives worse. They don’t need judgement from other sinners, they don’t need retaliation, they don’t need worldly justice (as much as I have truly desired exactly that!).
What they need is to be treated like children. The ones that were ushered through the disciples, who tried to shew them away, and led safely to the Lord who sees them for who they truly are. We may not always have a ministry opportunity with people filled with hate, depression or despair. But we can choose to not pile on more. We could, maybe, be the first kind person they have met.
Jesus constantly found people in the middle of their mess. Prostitutes, tax collectors, murderers, thieves… and yet they saw compassion and love when they deserved nothing but a taste of their own medicine. Forever longing to be more like Jesus, I think prayer is the first thing we can do when we run across these people. Prayer followed by a firm understanding of where we come from and who we serve.
I want to pray for the jerks… because I can be one of them. And I can be down in my moments of discouragement. And, its not my place to judge them. I don’t have to reinforce their decisions, or appreciate their methods, or condone their behavior… I just have to love them and bring them to the Father as children that need Him. And if I can do this honestly and repeatedly, perhaps I can climb off my pedestal and realize that we are all sinners in search of a King willing to save us.
If we have found that Savior, how much MORE should we love and have compassion for those still searching? Tragedy is when souls seek forgiveness and find judgement from others who have found grace for themselves.
I just returned from a trip to New York where I was privileged to attend a Hillsong conference. Upon return, the questions are very similar:
“Wasn’t the worship just amazing?”
“That was a completely different experience, wasn’t it?”
“It’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ church after that, isn’t it?”
They aren’t necessarily bad questions. I understand the intent. I would ask the same. But I think it tends to mask an inherent misunderstanding of how worship works.
First of all, I should mention the obvious, and the reason for the questions. It was amazing. It was in the Brooklyn Barclays Center. So several thousand voices were lifted in unison to our God. How could that not be awesome? With such an arena comes logistical niceties. The sound was impressive.
Each time the drums kicked I could feel it in my chest. With a steady beat, it felt like I had an involuntary pacemaker keeping me going. I wondered if, when the next song ended, would my heart continue on its own, or would it just give up and let the sound system do the work for it?
Seeing people throw off man-made divisions in both humanity and in the scriptures and rally behind the name of Jesus alone was something I wont soon forget.
But there is a temptation to think that worship, actual worship… was better, or different, or deeper than it was at any other location in the world at that given time.
The Spirit of God was there. But He didn’t ride on the subway all by Himself. He didn’t hail a taxi. He didn’t descend through the rafters into the midst of a special venue. He wasn’t there waiting on believers to show up.
He walked in through the doors wearing bluejeans, leather jackets, baseball caps, and monogrammed t shirts.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
All over the world the Spirit entered sanctuaries, synagogues, churches, living rooms, coffee shops, and with the voice of man praised God the Father and Jesus Christ, our victorious sacrifice. Did it mean more in one location? Was the price of salvation less in Texas? Did the Prince of Peace suffer less for Canadians? Do Egyptians have less to be thankful for?
There is one God. There is one King. There is one Savior. There is one Christ.
He is worthy of honor, glory and praise. It might sound different. It might look different. But the power behind the worship… The impact of the lowering of ourselves while lifting Him up… That happens on another level, and everyone, everywhere has access to that.
Crying out, “God I need you!” means the same in Brooklyn, Nashville, Albuquerque, or on your knees in the closet of your home. It involves the heart. It includes the soul. It’s communication to God bypassing all third parties. The power behind prayer… The awe of worship… the humility of self reflection… the honoring of God… those are tied to the cross.
The cross happened once. It is finished. It does not happen again in Detroit on a Tuesday because someone planned for it to. It’s eternal. It’s all reaching. It’s for everyone. And it means the same everyday. It’s power is not diminishing, nor is it enhanced by the works of man. And how that affects you, is not based on your location or your event, or your titles. It’s only impact is a direct result of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Was the conference amazing? Yes it was. Will worship be any less next Sunday? Not a chance. The same God, made the same sacrifice with the same Son, and even though I’m a sinful and unworthy person, I will call on that same trinity to accept the gift of forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life with a living God.
It was awesome to see thousands of believers singing to God. In truth, millions do it every day. I love to imagine the angels roaring in cheers over baptisms and souls gained. What I can’t wait for is the worship with all believers united in song. All of us. Together. The whole world over. We don’t need to travel to a sports arena to make this happen. It happens every moment when we reject the flesh and tune in to the Spirit.
It’s nice to have New York experiences. It’s nice to have mega churches. It’s nice to have thumping sound systems. It’s nice to have tons of space for lots of seats. But none of that changes worship. The Spirit doesn’t change with your budget. The Spirit doesn’t change with location. The Spirit doesn’t change to be what we want. The Spirit is ready for worship. Any time you are ready. And the magic… the miracle… the awesome… That already happened. Our thankfulness for it, our praise, it should reflect the gifts received the same every morning day and evening.
The enemy wants you to wait for the right song. He will tell you the building isn’t ready. He is known to whisper about quality, volume, people sitting near you, leadership issues, tittles, and all manor of reasons to not worship. Excuses. Delays. Lies. We have a direct connection to God and a life changing eternal experience awaits our choice to properly use it. Bluntly put, if coming before the Lord and worshiping is a ‘downer’, or it isn’t ‘fun’, or it’s not quite ‘awesome’ enough… you haven’t been worshiping.
Thinking of worship in terms of quality is like thinking of God in terms of quality. It’s our direct praise to Him. It’s our level of appreciation for Him. It’s positioning ourselves in the correct place in direct relation to His place. So can He waver in terms of God-likeness? Is God in HD one day and SD the next? Does God sour? Was the cross an 8 out of 10 because it was cloudy and too many people showed up? Very, very bluntly put… worship is either everything we have from us to God all of the time… or its sacrilege.
You want a New York experience? Do you want a Jordan River experience? Do you long for something powerful and life-changing? For most of us, its about 3 feet lower than we stand. Those things happen on our knees… and nothing challenges their ‘amazing’.
She really did. I guess if I were to tell “her” side of the story, she was trimming hair around my ears (which makes her a saint… again, her side of the story).
Well, whichever side you believe, there was blood. Lots of it. I didn’t even feel it when she nicked my ear. It was like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Way too much blood for such a tiny incident. It was so over the top ridiculous, I was scared to sneeze.
We tried cleaning and holding tissues to it. I gave it a good 15 minutes of holding things to it, applying pressure, etc. and figured it was good enough to jump in the shower.
When drying off, I must of grazed my ear with the towel as it was half full of blood. I cleaned it up again and tried peroxide, bandaids, tissues, weird head angles. For about 45 minutes, the blood flowed.
What started as a laughing matter began to concern me a little. We also had a clock ticking against us, we had to leave the house in 3 minutes at this point.
I started to panic. My wife was helping to try and figure out new ways of stopping the bleeding and every time she would come back in the room I would exclaim in exasperation that the bleeding hadn’t stopped yet. Each time the pitch of my voice would get higher and higher as worry and fear began to settle in.
With 3 minutes to go, I was pacing and panicked, and out of ideas. She really is a saint. She kept checking on me, trying new things, and coming up with new ideas. Finally she stopped in front of me, put her hand over my ear and began to pray.
If I’m honest, it felt silly. A tiny little nick that didn’t hurt… at worst a mild inconvenience of being late. And here we were engaging the Lord and creator of the universe.
While she poured out a heartfelt and sincere prayer, I’m thinking, “hey, I know you are dealing with wars, plagues, starving people, riots, diseases, and the devil, but if you could put all that aside for a second I’ve got this ear thing…”
What is sad to me is that I’ll be the first person to tell anyone else that no problem is too small for God. He wants to know our fears, concerns, crushes, frustrations. He is our brother and our friend. But when it comes to my own mess, I just can’t seem to get on board with it. We do the same thing in the other direction. We claim overwhelmingly that no problem is too big for God… except for what I’m dealing with right now.
Not only did I fail to follow my own advice, which I know to be true, it also never occurred to me to pray at all. Why? On multiple levels I failed. This is why psychologists can’t diagnose themselves. It’s why we can’t use ourselves as references, and it’s why mirrors are the cruelest inventions in the world.
We can’t accurately see inward. Our eyes only see in one direction. This is one of many reason why we have a church. A community of believers to help each other remember the small stuff, withstand the big stuff and to pray through all of it.
The last little bit may make some feel uncomfortable. My ear stopped bleeding. Immediately. Not even a little dried up bubble where the clot formed. There was no clot. It just stopped and dry clean skin remained. No wound. No scab. Like it never happened.
For myself, I have two questions, and I hope my lapse in judgement will help to serve as a good example for you.
1. Why didn’t I pray first?
2. Why not bring EVERYTHING before God? I firmly believe He wants us to.
For you, I have one question. Do you believe God can heal us here, now, and today? If not, ask yourself why you pray at all. Examine your prayers. Dig into the scriptures. I know an awful lot of people who pray everyday for God to be with sick, be with doctors, give comfort, etc. if you don’t believe God has power in this world, why are you praying those prayers? The very prayers Jesus taught us to pray.
“Give us bread, deliver us from evil, forgive our trespasses”. Those are actions that we request God to make in a world that we believe God is bound to be action less in. If He has the power to “guide guard and direct us” as so many of us have prayed verbatim… He has the power to remove a mass, reduce a fever, clean a blood stream, and even stop an ear from bleeding.
Or do we really believe that God can change the hearts and minds of mankind, but he can’t heal hearts and brains? Did your God flunk out of medical school and settle for bachelor’s in psychology?
I’m thankful to a God that forgives me over and over and over again. I’m thankful for His patience while I pray as a last resort when He intended it to be my first. And I’m thankful that He cares about me enough to care about what I care about, even if it would make most of us shrug.
I keep seeing it. Someone calls us out. All of us. Our prayer lives are not what God intended. We all shake our heads. It’s sad. We are sad. It’s not that we choose failure specifically… it just keeps turning out that way.
We see how bad we need to fix it. In our hearts we want to fix it. And yet we go to our heads to try and fix it. Logically, we will attempt to put plans into action when it makes the most sense. When I’m healthy. When I have more time. When I finish this class. When I fix other issues. We let the brain try and fix a fault that lies in our hearts and souls.
This is not God helping us to better our spiritual life, this is THE devil actively destroying our relationship with God. To concoct a plan that implements any form of waiting is in direct contradiction to the call to pray without ceasing. Time and time again, I see this. It’s a two part answer from two different enemies at odds with one another. (part 1), “I need to fix this!” This is the good and Godly part (part 2 comes immediately after without pause and usually in the same sentence), “as soon as I get back on my feet.”
I’m going to pray better tomorrow after I get some rest.
I’m going to pray more once I get the job with fewer hours.
I’m going to spend quiet time with God once I get a bigger house.
I’m going to be more obedient once the kids move out.
I’m going to start reading more during the summer.
I’m going to pray more earnestly when its not so crowded.
I’ll pray deeper once I get healthier, I can pray when I go running.
Do you see what we do? We take the will of the Father and the will of the enemy and merge them into a single thought. This is how the devil works. We see the truth in the will to do right and we think we are being good sons and daughters. Rarely do we realize we carry out the will of the enemy in our tasks. His will (that of the enemies) is that we wait. Postpone. Prolong. See if we can get distracted. Forget. Get busy doing other things.
The issue? It’s the timing. There is only one time we should attempt to fix our relationship with God, which greatly includes fixing our prayer life. Rather than try and pick a less than perfect word, allow me an example.
Last week I received a bill from my doctor. This has happened before. I recognized the envelope. I paid him in full, up front. Yet another bill has come. It’s an injustice. At best, they are letting me pay for their accounting errors. At worst, they are a fraudulent and crooked organization. I didn’t care which it was. I was not going to let them do this to me! Who do they think they are dealing with!!???
I tore open the envelope and jerked the thrice folded and neatly perforated paperwork out. Just undoing one fold was all I needed to get the full story. This was indeed another errant bill against my favor. One hand clinched the bill while the other had already started dialing billing services. A young lady answered the phone and this is when I noticed the envelope was just settling down on the counter from when I ripped it open and flung it out of the way.
Ok, maybe I can’t dial THAT fast, but you get the image? Like a cartoon I felt capable of reaching through the phone cord and smacking someone across the back of their head. I felt like I could still see a faint outline of myself as I made my way in from the mailbox. I was that fast. This issue was urgent. It was dire. It was all about me!!!!
And this continues the pattern I’ve seen before. When it affects me, I manage to blur the lines of priority a bit. I’ve learned to take care of myself very well. Or my loved ones. I can justify giving them priority over everything. Everything. Sadly, that sometimes includes our God.
I believe most of us. Quite honestly, all of us… need to start attacking our prayer life the same way I attacked that errant bill. And with the same concern and urgency. But it needs to be all about Him!!!!
When we let Satan have access to our priority structure, we will never be able to get our relationship together with God. When we can see His schemes and attempts to keep us apart, our priorities can be realigned. What could be more important than spending a moment with the Father right now? The brain doesn’t understand, ‘now’. The enemy has too much access to that space. ‘Now’ is a term of the soul. It’s immediate, and yet its deeply routed into eternal.
When should we pray? When should we read? When should we repair that relationship with God? Drop to your knees and be speaking to the Father before your legs hit the ground. That is when. Not just now… super-now! Faster than that even. Am I being too silly, or too demanding? Not really. You see, every moment you ponder your next move, adds more red text to the statements above. When you drop to pray and include God in your next decision, you yank the reigns out of the enemies hand (while hopefully leaving a bit of a mark) 😉
If you think, “I really do need to start…” you have already let the enemy in. If your next thought is, “God and Father in Heaven…” you have already boxed the enemy out.
How about a little nudge…
[God and Father in Heaven, I need You. Oh how deep and how wide do I need You. I desire a relationship with You. A very true, meaningful, and reciprocated journey that You and I will walk together…. ]
Keep it going (and if possible, don’t stop until we reach the throne of God).
Luke 18 tells the story of a whiny, annoying, tattletale. The woman is seeking justice so I assume she recounts her entire story including names and locations with grisly details abounding.
This, of course, is from the point of view of the ruler who had to hear her testimony day after day. Because the scriptures tell us she kept coming back, we can assume he told her, “no”, more than once.
After all, he did not care what she, or even God, thought about his ruling decisions. But something happened. An M. Night Shyamalan style plot twist occurred. The ruler grew tired of the repetition. He thought, ‘can I afford more enemies’? And for the most selfish reasons afforded to him, he chose to answer her plea…. eventually.
You don’t have to ponder for long what the moral is here. The Bible follows with it bluntly. If an evil, selfish ruler will grant your requests, how much more so would a loving Father? And if you combine this scripture with my very favorite, “Pray without ceasing.” You get a pretty good picture of what prayer life is supposed to look like.
Don’t stop praying. God does not tire of the monotony. He has an entirely different perspective than that. His children are sharing with Him what is most important to them. Those who have children will understand that its in our nature to jump from one fad to the next. So when the kids break down the door after a long school day and shout out their most current, favorite thing in the world… veteran moms and dads will wait it out and see just how precious this new interest is. Sometimes it lasts only a day. Some can be interested for a few weeks before tossing it out for the next big thing.
Praying for the same thing every day lets God know where you are vested. It’s a conversation with your Father. He doesn’t answer out of frustration, or even pity. When He answers a prayer, its out of love. I imagine the dialogue is not like that of the evil ruler who gave in selfishly to protect his own time and interests. I believe its more like:
‘You have wanted this for a long time. You have shown to be faithful. It pleases me to do this for you’.
Many will point out that God does not need our prayers to do His will. Some will argue our prayers are ineffective against the plans of our Lord. While I feel that contradicts scriptures in several ways, perhaps its better to try and look at it a different way.
Suppose we decide to go skydiving today. When we jump out of the plane, our abilities really have nothing to do with the experience. In fact, anyone can go skydiving. The plane takes us up to a height that allows the jump, and the parachute allows us to safely return to the ground. So when we say, “I’m going skydiving!”, we are really just taking a ride. The true power is everywhere but within us.
Even as it is, we still have to make the choice to skydive. We still have to get ready that day and get to and on the plane. Most importantly… we have to be willing to and decide to jump. Those are our actions even if we need the plane and the chute to make everything else happen.
And if we choose not to jump… perhaps someone else will. But they will be the ones in the embrace of the chute. They will be the ones climbing into the warmth of the sky. They will be the ones experiencing the presence of adventure. We will have missed out on the whole experience. Perhaps the parachute opens anyway? But its a chute meant for everyone… and only a few chose it.
When we pray, the power comes from God, but we have to act out some faith and time on our end. God designed prayer for us to be along for the ride. So it can take us to wonderful places and allow us to experience fantastic things. Will the world keep moving without us asking God for it to? Most likely. But, He desires our communion with Him. And He has proven on more than one occasion to alter His plans for those that love Him and pray accordingly.
Never stop praying. Pray for miracles. Pray for healing. Pray for rain. Pray for insight. Pray for tacos. God desires to hear from you… and every single day at that. Is your aunt still sick? Pray again. Still? Pray again. This isn’t questioning God, His will or His power. It’s communicating your constant desires to your creator. My cats tell me every single day they are hungry in the morning, lonely in the afternoon, and frisky in the evening. Without fail, they make their case known plainly. Does it bother me? Not at all, I’m happy they know I’m the one to come to for such things.
Now imagine a loving, daddy anxious to hear what is on your heart. Even if He’s heard it a million times… He wants to hear it once more, every day, as long as that is what consumes your heart. Someone you know need prayer? Stop your world and pray for them. Pray the way God created you and prayer to work together. Never ceasing, never withholding, always giving God the glory, faithfully that He intends to use that power as He promised, when you ask.
There really isn’t a third group. Jesus ate with sinners. He spoke to those that followed Him (fishermen, children, diseased, depressed, hopeless). They took one glance at this man and followed Him. Then there were the religious elite, the pharisees. He often rebuked them as their judgement was in error and had no place in a gospel built on love and forgiveness.
So where is the third group? Where is the group we all think we belong in? Where would we be sitting if Jesus walked into the mall today and there we are? Most of us admit we have sinned at one time way back when, but we really dislike the connotation of ‘sinner’. The pharisees were far worse. Hypocrites, self righteous, pious. We don’t want to be lumped in with them… but we certainly don’t find ourselves at the tax collector’s table either.
So who are we? Maybe we could argue we fit in the middle? That almost sounds like being lukewarm, which promises we will be spat out of grace should that be the case. I can tell you who you are, but you may not like it. It’s both good news and bad. Lets start with the bad.
You are the sinner. We all are. We are human. We have fallen. We have a diabolical enemy with an army of demons that literally want to drag us to Hell fighting over our souls. We make mistakes, we goof, and sometimes we just plain choose to do dumb things. We are actively sinners. All of us. The pharisees are simply the group of us that lives in denial.
So, the good news? We are the ones Jesus came to save. We would find Him at our table. He would come into our home. He will heal us. He will free us. He will forgive us. He will lift us up and allow us to join with Him in the place He has prepared for His children.
Two groups of people. One followed Him, touched Him in faith, carried their sick to Him, washed His feet. Sinners, all of them. The other group nailed Him to the cross because they felt superior to Him and those He came to save. They also feared Him. Jesus came to us in our mess. He meets us where we are. He did it before and it cost His life. He does it still.
Why did the pharisees hate Him? He came to save us. Our group. The little guy. They thought he belonged at the cool table. But He choose the outcast, the lonely, the forgotten. The pharisees pass judgement and then claim they are holier than any other. Do you recall the simple scripture that addresses judgement? Here it is in all its tricky, complicated, pieces for us to sort out and argue over… “Do not judge.”.
Sounds like a wonderful test to me. Which group do you belong? Whose sins are you worried about? Yours? Or those of another? Does Jesus live in your home? Or do you grind your teeth at the thought of others worshiping Him? Those people who do it all wrong. They meet on the wrong day, they sing the wrong songs, they interpret God’s word differently than you. How dare they enjoy His presence… His blessing… His gift!
The good news about being in the ‘sinners’ group is that we have each other. All of us, in it together, needing grace, knowing what stumbling is like, knowing what shame feels like, knowing what judgement feels like. And as we yearn to be more like Jesus, we can sense what forgiveness feels like as we embrace each other, sinners all the same, and love each other the way He taught us to. There is simply no room for judgement. We do not wish to be judged and we do not judge.
What replaces judgement? Prayer. We pray for each other. We pray for the pharisees. We pray for our enemies, for those who wrong us. We pray for those who need grace, love, healing, and hope. We do life together. Helping each other. We embrace the words spoken as Jesus prepared to return to heaven. “let them be one”. We unite in our sin (not as a badge of honor, but as a common ground of understanding). And much more so, we unite in our need for grace and humility.
I’m not proud of my sin, but I love those traveling with me who withhold judgement. We have a common enemy that would use that against us if we let him. Something great happens when we accept what group we are in. It’s not giving up… we always strive to improve and make God proud every chance we can. But knowing our place disarms the enemy. He can’t hold our past hostage over us any longer. When we know our place, we know we are forgiven.
When we know our place, we know we are loved and the lies of the enemy sounds as hypocritical as the judgement cast down from those told to not judge. We all need forgiveness. Some of us need to forgive. Some of us need to invite God into our mess. He will come. Just as you are. Just where you are. One of Satan’s biggest lies is that we have to meet some criteria to be worthy of forgiveness. What a tremendous lie that is!
Don’t be that monkey in the middle who thinks that only the other two sides get to play. Jump out and claim your place at the sinners table filled with grace, love, forgiveness, hope, eternal promises, and have a seat next to our heavenly brother, Jesus. He has been waiting for you.
College was fun. I remember days when walking across the campus I felt like I knew almost everyone. I went to a small school and most of us enjoyed large friendship circles. The manner in which we greeted varied from person to person. Hugs, handshakes, high fives, shouts from too far away, running up and scaring the unsuspecting person, waving, etc.
The greeting depended on the person and the mood. With most people, they would ask, “how was your weekend?”. And the general consensus is that they didn’t really want to know but it would be rude not to ask. So the universal answer was, “fine, how was yours?”. They too were obligated to answer in one positive or up beat word and move on.
The exception were your true friends. These were much rarer. When asked how your weekend was, you could freely answer… and then some. And we would often joke about the silly social structure where everyone asked but most didn’t care. My friends and I decided that, just for fun, we would unload all of our deepest, darkest, most terrifying secrets, hopes and dreams on the next person to insincerely ask.
We never did… but we laughed out loud every time someone brought it up. “hey! how was your weekend?”… “sit down, this will take a while… you don’t have any plans, right? Where should I start…” Can you imagine? 😉
How do we greet God? Public prayers are interesting. It seems a very popular opening is the “Dear God…”. Which to me, sounds like a letter. And the last time I used “Dear anything” in a letter the contents were equivalent of a “to whom it may concern” document.
It just doesn’t seem right, if I’m addressing my friend, I would not say, “dear friend” as an opening. I usually just call them by name. Then we get the formal prayers. “Almighty God in Heaven….” Nothing wrong with that either. But how natural feeling is that? Do we greet anyone else with a name, descriptor AND location?
My starting point of choice is, “Father”. But if I’m honest with myself, that stands out too. I don’t call my father on earth, ‘father’… I call him dad. Most times, I just start talking and don’t really call anyone anything.
The point is that I think its a good exercise to think about our relationship with God. In short, have you prepared enough during the good and restful times, that you can communicate properly during the desperate and painful times? Do you struggle sometimes to address Him at all? Perhaps nothing important is going on? Maybe you feel like you bug Him too much? You have already asked for this once before?
The quick Bible reference for today is, “pray without ceasing”. I’m going to take that literally. Your next sentence to God shouldn’t start with a long proclamation and greeting… because you should have been talking to him just a few minutes ago. Building God up is part of any good prayer, but I hope you get the point in that we should always have the phone off hook (so to speak).
I was talking to my wife on the phone. She put me on hold when someone else called and when she came back to me… we just kept talking. She didn’t have to identify herself again or undergo any assumed pleasantries. Is God different? Allow me to share one way that I approach God when things are not going well…
I throw myself at God. Not because I need to. Not because I deduce it logically. But, because it is the only option my body, mind, and soul instinctually know.
Red light and danger signs with alarms start going off… what is our instinct when that happens? I need safety. I need comfort. I need love. I need compassion. I need someone that understands my side… my perspective.
I leap straight up and into His arms and do not let go.
This is like falling to your knees, crying or laughing… You don’t plan on it, you respond to the momentum in your heart.
Do you know what God does when you jump into His arms? He holds you tight and protects you. (2 Samuel 22: 3-4). When you shout God’s name, there is never the chance of an awkward moment where He doesn’t hear you but everyone else does. When you approach with an arm up in the air… He won’t leave you hanging. That is right. I firmly believe God is a high fiving type of Lord. Sacrilegious? Not according to the Bible.
We are made in the image of God. Our traits come from Him. His joy is in us. He went to great lengths to save us. Maybe a high five is too specific. Perhaps He will have a secret handshake involving the chicken wing or a 3 pointer fade away? Silly? I think its silly to think that God loves us enough to give up His Son and then wouldn’t physically and visibly welcome us to the Kingdom with an expression of affection.
In all seriousness, I think the high fives and other expressions will come later. When I first meet my Lord, I believe we are going to hug. We are going to shed tears. He is going to claim that I was worth it, and I am going to thank Him and praise Him.
God is God and He deserves reverence. God is also Jesus. Man. And He understands weddings. He attends parties. He laughs. He loves. He has joy. How is your relationship with Him? I’m not at all asking anyone to drop the reverence from their relationship… but I also think that we are family. Our God Father and Jesus Brother know us on an intimate and personal level. Lets get to know them. Lets speak to them with love.
Lets speak to them often. Consistently. Thoroughly. Without ceasing. Talk to God about your dreams, your sins, your life. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. And then… talk about basketball. Talk about boys. Talk about women. Discuss politics. Facebook Him. Tweet Him. Instagram with Him. He is most certainly a rare and good friend worthy of your full story.
If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. – ‘The Circle Maker’
Consider a few scenarios:
Someone in a wheelchair approaches and asks if you could open a door for them. No problem, right? Most of us would be happy to. What if a healthy adult man stopped short of the door and asked for the same help?
What if a child asked for help tying their shoes? No problem, right? What if they keep asking when they are 16 years old?
How about when a beggar asks for money? While this may not be as black and white of an issue, lets contrast that to someone who clearly doesn’t need money. If the man on the street corner wore a suit, held a briefcase, cell phone attached to one hip and designer sunglasses snugly donned across the bridge of his nose. Would you give your money to the second man?
We don’t mind helping people who can’t help themselves. In fact, for many of us, we enjoy helping them. But all that changes when people ask for things they can do for themselves. Consider your prayers to God. The almighty God. The maker of the world. The creator of mankind. The superior being who allowed His Son to die on the cross. God. You have His attention. You have approached His throne and He allows you to ask for your heart’s desire. What would you ask?
Perhaps lets look at it from another direction. What miracles did Jesus perform? Were any of them trivial? Did Jesus change deserved test scores? Did He snap His fingers and change His clothes? Did money grow from trees? Jesus didn’t conjure up mediocrity. He didn’t see fit to perform underwhelming miracles. No flying and no light shows. Jesus fed, healed, restored, resurrected, and created faith with hope. He did the impossible. At least for us.
We don’t have that power. But God does. My favorite conversation between God and man in our Bible can be found in Genesis 18: 16 – 33. God informs Abraham that He is going to destroy the evil and corrupt towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham asks God, essentially, if He thought this through: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?” God agrees to spare the entire city if only 50 good people are found. But Abraham doesn’t stop. He wants to know how specific God is being. ‘what if only 45 righteous are found…. would you kill all those people for just being 5 short?’ 6 times, Abraham asks God to reduce the number down to 10.
And God agrees that if only 10 righteous people are found, that He will spare the entire city. Abraham approached God, spoke boldly, and changed the thoughts of our maker. This is how we should pray. We are to pray with faith. Faith isn’t found in the easy or the common. Faith is born in the impossible. Faith is knowing God can make things happen that His creation isn’t capable of doing. When you combine creation’s faith with the creator’s love… impossible happens.
There are many reasons why prayers go unanswered. Asking God for something that He already blessed you with the ability to obtain is one of them. Look at our examples in the Bible. Consider Abraham. Remember Jesus, His son, with whom He was pleased! Pray big! Pray bold! The fight isn’t over yet. The war for souls wages on. God is listening. What would you ask of Him?