Saturday, February 18, 2017

PRAYER IMPERSONATORS

The animal kingdom is filled with many examples of creatures with strange dances and behaviours to attract the attention of a potential mate.  Often, the male species will be endowed with more colourful feathers, skin colours or mighty horns to show off.


Power struggles occur between competitive males to beat off the weaker ones.

This is characteristic behaviour for animals, but what about humans? Have you seen the way some people act to try and attract a potential mate? While the posturing may be colourful and funny, it has little to do with the integrity of the one acting out. 

Many religions also are filled with examples of followers with strange dances and behaviours to attract the attention of their god. The prophets of Baal shouted, cut themselves with knives and worked themselves into a frenzy trying to get Baal’s attention.

Jesus saw the exaggerations of religion around him and taught by example and teaching how we should approach God.  Jesus’ words on prayer are as relevant today as in the first century when vanity was just as prevalent.

Jesus teaches his followers how to be real.  You do not need to impersonate or act dramatically to engage in prayer. The goal is to be your self before God.  What can we learn from Jesus about being ourselves when we pray?

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ACTION PRAYER

Have you heard the cliché that a person is ‘all talk and no action’? They talk about big ideas and make proclamations of how they believe things are supposed to be, but they do not carry through with steps that back their speech.

If you pray to be a better husband, but do not demonstrate tangible loving actions to your wife, you are all talk and no action. It is much better when we make humble proclamations and follow through with steps of action.

Jesus taught us to take action by coming to God in prayer. Prayer is a first step in problem solving. Yes, God knows everything and we’re not really informing Him; but we need to take action by initiating communication with the Lord.


Matthew 7:
7   " Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8   "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.


Look at the three action words—ask, seek, knock. Prayer is not passive nor is its outcome fatalistic. We ask, seek and knock because we believe that God can respond. God can influence, alter and reply to us when we approach Him. Let’s look more closely at these modes of prayer.

What does Jesus mean by ‘ask and it will be given to you’? First of all, what is ‘it’? The ‘it’ we ask for is specific. ‘It’ is something that God can give us. Whatever ‘it’ is, Jesus is convinced that ‘it’ will be given to us. And most importantly, we can develop an attitude that believes God wants to provide answers and supply us with all that is required to live in His Kingdom. The ‘it’ we ask for is something that comes from God’s Kingdom.

Jesus is telling us that God is approachable for the things we need. How specific can you be in asking God? Maybe the question can be turned—how specific of an answer are you looking for? God will respond to specifics, but we need to ask in a single-minded way. Do not ask for anything that you are not willing to accept. Understand that God wants to equip you to live in His Kingdom.

Seek and you will find. When do we seek? We search when we are looking for something that has value to us.

In the Kingdom of God, there are many valuable resources that we need. This is more than simply asking; the seeker explores and searches for that which is desired. Starting in prayer, we initiate a search for the solution.

If you are sick, pray first and then initiate a search for all of the action steps that can make you well. If you need money, start by praying for provision and then search for ways that you can earn, sell or ask for help. The first step in seeking is asking God to show you where to search. God is a Father who not only gives provision but also, teaches sons and daughters how to be resourceful. In prayer, God becomes our coach and consultant.

There may be times when God leads you to ask and then wait quietly.  But the principle of ‘seeking’ takes us to a new level of looking and awareness.

Knock and the door will be opened. I notice that we are not asked to knock on walls. You do not need to bang your head on a wall. Jesus invites us to find a door. It may be a closed door, but your action of knocking will lead to opening if this is where you are supposed to go.

You do not knock on a door if you own the house and have the ‘right of passage’.  No, you knock on doors when you want entry to someone else’s environment. Let us suppose that there is someone you need to lovingly confront or make amends to. You can pray that it happens, but you likely need to go knock on their door after you pray about it.

If you approach a person or opportunity and the door is closed, don’t just walk away. Some answers to prayer require us to knock on closed doors as part of our search for the answer.  If the door opens, then you have the thing you came seeking.  If the door doesn’t open, you have been active in prayer and you can move on.  Don’t kick down the doors that don’t open, just knock.

Prayer is more than a few words; it is active!  It is an appeal and request to God that says, “I’m willing to participate in any way I can to see this prayer answered.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

JUST PRAYING


Have you ever noticed how many of us have little quirks and sayings that accompany our prayers? Some people with ordinary talking voices will suddenly change tone when they pray. Others rock back and forth on their toes.


One of the prayer habits I often hear is using the word ‘just’.  For some strange reason, many of us have learned to insert the word ‘just’ in our prayers.  I’m sure that it is mostly a habitual word that we reserve for our prayers.  Lord, we just pray that…’

Come to think of it, prayer is an activity that needs to be ‘just’ or centered in God’s justice.  When we ‘just’ pray, perhaps we need to be conscious of the fact that we usually asking God for his justice in the answer.

What do justice and prayer have to do with each other?

Justice is all about the right treatment of people in relationship to the Law. The good news of Jesus Christ has to do with God providing a just way for lawbreakers to be pardoned. The mercy of God is mingled with the justice of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

So what does prayer have to do with the justice of God?  Prayer is the way that we get an audience with God the Judge. Prayer is the method with which we can make an appeal and present our requests to God. 

Going before a judge is necessary when we need clarity about right and wrong. A judge weighs all the facts presented and makes a decision about what must happen to settle an injustice. Injustice always involves another party that must be considered. Both parties need clarity and judgment.

Are there times when you need a hearing with the Merciful Judge? Do you need to present your case and appeal for a wise decision? In God we find that righteousness and mercy hang in balance. While the Old Testament prophets and poets prayed for God to bring revenge on enemies, Jesus teaches a new Law. Love your enemy and pray for the one who spitefully uses you.

In your PSL classes, learn to pray with the language of God’s justice and mercy. Ask God that the intentions of the Law be fulfilled; the Law of Love.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

PRAYER AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

I do not know what it is like to move to another country and be immersed in a culture that does not speak English. What I have noticed is the tendency of people to stay close to those who speak their mother tongue. Until people are comfortable to understand and speak a new language clearly, most will save the most important conversations and messages for those who understand them.  

As people come from another country, many enrol in ESL classes to increase their ability to communicate and function in a new culture.  E.S.L. classes are held to teach people English as a 2nd language.  Without this, they are only able to share their thoughts, enjoy company and get answers from their members of their own language group.

But even if a new language is mastered, what language do they think and dream in? Usually, the mother tongue is foundational to their self-talk and thinking.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very much about leaving one country and becoming the citizen of a new nation. Paul described it as moving from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. Think about it as moving from a war torn nation to a peaceful and safe place; from a place of persecution and danger to new realities.


Colossians 1:
12Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.


When we enter the Kingdom of God, we learn to pray.  Communicating with God was not part of the Kingdom of darkness, so we must learn about the new Kingdom language and culture. We need to enrol in ‘PSL – Prayer as a Second Language’.

We are often more comfortable communicating in the mother tongue of darkness, so our understanding of God needs to translated. We are now citizens, not outsiders. So with all of our funny accents and limited vocabulary, we begin speaking to God and listening with finely tuned ears.

Then, after a long time in the new country learning the language, we find that we can also think and dream with new words that we were not born with. This is how prayer changes us on the inside.


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