Marked by Prayer (Part 6 – “Where” Do You Pray)

So where is the “appropriate place” to pray physically?  Let’s go back to our definition of prayer: “a conversation with the Creator.”  So where is it appropriate to have a conversation with your earthly father?  Isn’t it appropriate to have a conversation with your Heavenly Father in the same places?  Within the Bible people prayed in all sorts of places.

Adam and EveAdam and Eve talked with Him when He came into the garden of Eden in the cool evening (Genesis 3).  Noah spoke with Him in the field and outside the ark and at an altar he had set up.  Abraham met God while sitting under the great trees of Mamre in the middle of the afternoon (Genesis 18) and again in Abimilech’s home (Genesis 20) and as you read his story you will find there was no temple or church building, no requirement for special Nehemiahorientation, no special position he had to assume.  Moses seemed to be in frequent conversation where ever he was; David and others prayed on the battlefields; Daniel prayed in his bedroom; Nehemiah had a hasty conversation with God while standing before King Artaxerxes.

So we conclude the physical location is insignificant, as is the physical position or direction you face.  What matters is the conversation with Father.

But “where” do you pray, spiritually?  We have some clear guidance from Jesus and the Apostles on this.  Jesus said very clearly, “No one comes to Father except through me” (John 14:6).  This is not exclusive because anyone may come, no matter what the condition of one’s heart before coming, no matter what history precedes your coming, no matter where you’ve been nor what you’ve done.  Anyone may come.

Yet, it is exclusive, in that coming to Father can only be done through Jesus.  Some would like to suggest all religions show ways to God.  But we must be realistic.  If I told you to come from the mall on Nicholasville Road to my home, but sent you by way of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, you would think I was crazy.  It might get you to my home, but you would have traveled about 25,000 miles (40,000 km) to go a distance of three miles (5 km).

Jesus is the only wayIn the same way, all religions may have good teachings imbedded at some level, but only Jesus makes this claim that the most direct and only way to the Creator is through Him.  You may eventually find Jesus by searching other ways, but why go around the world for a trip that should be short and direct?  In any case, Jesus claim is exclusive in that, even if you start with Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shamanism, or any other faith, eventually you must come to Jesus to get to the Creator.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

Ephesians 5:18-20 describes “praying in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This is not intended as a sweet add-on to tell the listeners to a prayer that it is about to end.  Praying in Jesus’ name is intended to convey a legal standing with Father and whoever else is involved in the situation calling for prayer.  Think of a policeman coming to your door and demanding to see what is in your home.  If the man stands there and simply says he wants in you will not likely let him.  But if he shows a document that reveals he is not coming onPoliceman niceguy his own authority, but rather “in the name of” a judge or the police department he will likely be allowed.

When we “pray in Jesus’ name” we are invoking His authority.  We are claiming to speak as if He was present, in the same way the man at the door is invoking the name of his authority to enter your home.  Invoking the name of Jesus is not something that should be done lightly, just as claiming a legal authority to enter another’s home without really having that authority can get one into a lot of trouble.  The officer at your door can get into serious problems if he comes only “in his own name,” but if he comes “in the name of the Law,” he is on solid footing.

Paul and Jude described “praying in the Spirit” (Ephesian 6:18, Jude 1:20), and Paul has extensive teaching on the Spirit of God in our interactions in I Corinthians 12-14.  This is an important part of learning to converse with the Creator.  A.W.Tozer said, “The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.”   We will address this more in future blogs.

Christians have at times legitimately been accused by some of being polytheists, that is, believing in three gods, as there are two dangerous errors that cloud Christian thought about God:
1) Many Christians seem to believe in a disunity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that results in an actual worship of three separate gods.
2) On the other hand, to counter this error, some fall into an opposite, but equally incorrect idea, and see the three persons as modes of presentation.  For example, a man may be a father in one relationship, a husband in another, and a son in another; one man, but three modes of relationship, only one person.
Both of these errors of understanding reflect our lack of faith [trust] in who He has revealed Himself to be.

We must recognize our limitations in understanding the One True God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We need Him as He is, not who we imagine Him to be.  We may in moments of prayer imagine a grandfatherly white guy watching us from a distant Heaven, or we may see ourselves walking with Jesus to do good as He did, or we may think of the Holy Spirit as a dove, coming to teach us and reveal the Father and Son to us.  But He is One being in three persons, He is not white, and He is not a bird 😉 !

YahwehHowever, in each of these imaginations we must recognize it is our limitation of understanding Who He Is, the I AM THAT I AM, uncreated, first cause, eternally existent Father/Son/Holy Spirit, Creator, the One God.     “Hear, Oh, Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4).  The all capitalized “LORD” is a linguistic device to not use His name, I AM, improperly.  The best translations of this are probably “Yahweh,” a Hebrew word for I AM.  (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/651183/Yahweh).

The difficulty we have with this is our limited experience.  Among us created ones, we experience only one person to each being or soul.  Realize God is so much more than we can understand, we must accept what He has revealed about Himself, and He has not left us in the dark on the matter of His personality.  He is somehow three persons in one being, a mystery that He asks us to believe.  When Jesus says, “I and Father are one” (John 10:30), He is not playing with ideas, but presenting who the Godhead is.

When He promises to send an Advocate, a Spirit of Truth (John 14:26), this in on the heels of his claim to be The Truth, and when viewed with the rest of the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit, it becomes clear that this Spirit is a person of the Godhead.

So we come back to our title question: Where do you pray?  Let me encourage you to begin to come to God through Jesus, called the Messiah or Christ.  Pray to the Father through the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name.  We are not praying to three gods, nor do we pray to one person, but to the Triune God, Father/Son/Holy Spirit, a mystery which we will never fully comprehend, even through the ages of eternity, but we will come to know him better as we pray in this way.

prayer6The important thing is to pray.  As we quoted before, “Just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray.” Max Lucado

Once upon a farm field

IMG_2842Once an open farm field, this area was “contoured” by the developer who put in the roads, electric, water, and sewer lines. The developer established the lot dimensions, street names, the deed restrictions which specify the size and character of the homes, the organization of a Home Owners Association (HOA), and even details, such as the type of mailboxes allowed.

IMG_2822Alliance Builders purchased the lot at 108 Manitoo Place in Ash Tree subdivision in August, 2014. Our intention was to begin building by the fall and get it “under dry” (closed in with roofing on and lockable doors and windows to keep it secure) by the end of the year. But then we ran into a glitch!

We had assumed six-foot (2m) side yards and pulled a house plan that would fit, but then found out Nicholasville has ten-foot (3.3m) side yards. This meant our first plan was too wide to put on the lot without setting it back so far, we would need a code variance either for the sides, or the back as it would extend into the utility easement at the rear of the property.

So it was back to the drawing board, and we hired Frank Culbertson, architect, to design a house that would fit on the property and look congenial with the neighborhood. This also allowed us to designate the roof pitch, and various features to the house to save money on construction, which turned out to be needed as we discovered.

We applied for a variance still, to set the house forward eight feet to avoid lots of fill as we discovered the lot was steeper than we had envisioned for the house. The back of even this smaller house Frank had designed was still over four feet (1.3m) out of the ground. In construction we would say the basement floor was four feet above grade. So another delay, as the Board of Adjustment that makes these decisions only meets once each month. So we waited for their meeting and got denied, so we’re building at the 30’ (10m) Building Line which sets the house way back on the cul de sac lot, but it is what it is, and we broke ground on Saturday, March 21.        

IMG_2847IMG_2857     IMG_2872           Once the initial excavation was done (in less than four hours) we contracted to have the footers dug and installed on Tuesday, March 24.

IMG_2876      IMG_2885     IMG_2891  Unfortunately, this was more of an ordeal than usual. Figure on a house of these dimensions, we would usually use about 14 yards of concrete (a cubic yard is 3’x3’x3’ or about 1M3).We would dig about three feet (1m) down, two foot (0.2m) wide, and put in one foot (0.1m) depth of concrete for the footer which is the “real foundation” on which the “foundation” of the house sits. But the footer must sit on “undisturbed soil” or bedrock, meaning the house will not sink nor shift with ground freezes.

IMG_2897   IMG_2904   IMG_2909   IMG_2914    But since this land was recently contoured by the developer, the ground was “disturbed” about a year ago, and we ran into loose fill and shot-rock at part of our footer dig, up to nine feet (3m) deep!! The result was we had to pour in 70 yards of concrete!!! More than five times the normal amount we would use!!

IMG_2919     IMG_2922     IMG_2923         Our footer team excellent job, digging the trenches and filling them with concrete, and even with the excessive amount, were able to finish the dig and pour in one day, leaving at about 8:00pm.

IMG_2935   IMG_2943   IMG_2937   IMG_2952   IMG_2953 

IMG_2955  IMG_2954  IMG_2956  IMG_2964  The next day, Wednesday, March 25, a man came back to clean up the dirt that had been loaded into the middle of the “rooms” as we had not cleared this during the dig to save time and get the concrete poured in one day.

IMG_2975  IMG_2976  IMG_2992  IMG_2997  So now we decide how much of the walls will be poured in traditional fashion and how much we will use Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) that will provide an R-50 insulation value. As we get closer to assembling the ICF walls, I’ll explain the insulation values and why we use ICFs.

Marked by Prayer (Part 5 –Knowing the God Who Is There)

Over Bregenz2Faith is often used as a term to define a system of belief, e.g. “What faith is he?”  At other times it is used to express wishful thinking, “Oh, I just have faith that I will get the job.”  Most commonly, it is the acceptance of something for which one does not have proof, “Just have faith it will all work out.”  A little boy, once asked to define faith, answered honestly, “Faith is believin’ somethin’ you know just ain’t true!”

But in the Bible these definitions are insufficient.  Certainly, last among them would be believing something which isn’t true.  Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the solid substance of something expected, the evidence of something as yet unseen.  Dictionary.com’s first definition is “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

For an excellent 30 minute word study, do a search by entering “faith” into the text box on Biblegateway.com.  Of interest is that most of the Old Testament references come up with “faithfulness” which suggests that faith is something more than just believing, that is, in terms of mental agreement.  You will find this word study most rewarding if, as you read the references, you replace “faith” with “steadfast trust”, or in the case of “faithful” read “steadily trustworthy.”

This same exercise can be done for “believe” or “belief;” just substitute the word “trust” for greater understanding of the passage.

Why do we make so much of “faith” and “believing” as we come to prayer to the God Who Is There? Because “without faith [steadfast trust] it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.

There is much more we could discuss about faith, but let us move on to Whom we pray, i.e. Who do you trust?  Some skeptics will say it does not matter to whom one prays; it is the mental energy exerted in prayer that moves the “Energy” of the universe on one’s behalf.  But such impersonal efforts are more along the lines of karma as it is found in Buddhism or Hinduism.  We would include here philosophies of Jainism, the Sikhs, Confucianism, or teaching of the Tao.

God has specifically revealed Himself, from the creation of the world to His final revelation in Jesus, called the Christ.  He is not hiding nor silent as some suspect.  He is not an absent landlord who started the “timepiece” of the universe, and then left it to run on its own.  He is not a grandfatherly policeman in the sky, looking for whoever is having fun, so He can yell with a lightning bolt, “Stop that!”

SpaceEPSON MFP imagePaul told the Romans that “what may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” Romans 1:19.  Consider the amazing vastness of the universe and stand in awe of His might and greatness.  Consider the details of DNA or atomic structure and wonder at His brilliance and organization.  Look at a sunset or moonrise or the loveliness of a flower or your wife, or the birth of a child, and worship Him for His gentle tenderness and beauty.

He more clearly revealed Himself in history, first to Noah, then to Abraham, and to his son, Isaac followed by Jacob and the twelve tribes that came from him. He finally revealed Himself in the man called Jesus, who was God in the flesh. Now here is a mystery which we can only begin to understand.  After all, the only way a being could fully understand who God is would be to be God. (Isaiah 40:13-15).

Thus we can only understand what He has taught us about Himself.  To Adam and Eve He was their Companion in the cool of the day, instructing them in gardening and animal care.  To Noah He was the Righteous Judge who came to cleanse the earth from the violence and immorality of mankind.  Burning BushTo Abraham He was the Promise Keeper who was faithful [steadily trustworthy] to give him and Sarah a “child of promise” in their old age, rather than a child born by natural means while he was still virile.  To Moses from the burning bush, He revealed a Name by which He could be called, I AM That I Am.

Now each of us had a beginning.  Each of us is the result of our parents’ actions, all the way back to Adam and Eve.  But He has no beginning!  Even the created universe had a “big bang” for a start, but He was already there! Before anything, He is the I AM, the First Cause.  Is there any question as to why we cannot comprehend Him, when we can barely begin to understand what He has made?

And in Jesus He revealed Himself as the Savior, the one who was the Son of God. His sonship is not something He acquired when He was born from a virgin mother.  Nor do we imagine something as crass as God, who is a spirit, having sex with a woman. (Luke 1:35).

TrinityThe Father, Son and Holy Spirit was the One True God from eternity, existing in a relationship within Himself, somehow three persons in one being.  The difficulty we have in wrapping our minds around this is due to our limited human experience.  Among us, every being is one person and we cannot imagine more than one person to one being.  But when God said, “Let us make man in our image . . .” He was not playing with delusions of importance the way a royal refers to him or herself in the plural, “We are not amused.”  Rather, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was conferring within Himself, among Themselves, to make a new creation.

The significance of this is made clear in Jesus words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6.  He had earlier said, “I and Father are one,” which the Jewish leaders recognized as a claim to be God.  No one in any religion has ever made a claim like this, Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Confucius, nor Hindu.

When you read His biographies there is no opportunity to treat Jesus as a good teacher, a prophet, or a grand example.  In Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis said, “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; else a madman or something worse.  You can call Him a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us now be done with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher.  He has not left that option open to us.  He did not intend to.”

In Prayer, Timothy Keller states, “The implications of the Tri-unity of God for prayer are many.  It means first that God has always had within Himself a perfect friendship.  We know of no joy higher than being loved and loving in return, but a triune God would know that love and joy in unimaginable, infinite dimensions. God is therefore filled with perfect joy, the fierce happiness of dynamic loving relationship.”  This enables us to encounter in the one true God a Fatherhood, a Brotherhood, and a Spirit of adoption, such that when we “believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” we will encounter Him, not as a subject for theology, and not as a ritual of certain positions or times for prayer.  Rather we will meet Him as Moses did on the mountain and know Him for who He is.

So where do we pray?  See you next week, March 29, 2015.

Marked by Prayer (Part 4 – Ready for Prayer)

praying handsThe first consideration when approaching prayer is to have a heart ready to pray.  This means being comfortable enough in a meeting with the Creator of the universe to feel free to express whatever is in your heart.  These words are carefully chosen.

A “meeting with the Creator” is not something to enter into lightly.  If you were meeting a mayor or prime minister, you would likely not go in glib and unconcerned with his/her impression of you.  You would not go in thoughtlessly or act like you do when you are clowning around with friends.  When you pray, you are meeting with the most important mind in existence.

But “comfortable” means that this meeting is not with a mayor or prime minister or some cold official.  It is a meeting to which He welcomes you, and His invitation is for you to come to Him as to a loving Father, even calling Him “Daddy” as opposed to those formal and resonating titles, “O Thou Righteous and Holy God Most High, blah, blah, blah.”  He is your loving Father, and that’s why we can even come into His presence.

As I mentioned before ( Marked By Prayer) “we are free to express whatever is in our hearts,” because He already knows!  There is no getting past this.  He KNOWS.  Whether you are willing to meet Him or not, whether you are willing to be honest to God or not, whatever posture or covering you wear, we are all naked souls before Him.  No fig leaves can cover our sin (Genesis 3:7), no hiding can obscure His understanding (Psalm 139:7-12), no excuses can make us right before Him (Romans 3:10-12).  “He KNOWS. (Psalm 139:1-6).

Steve Elliott says, “A man is not what he thinks he is; he is what he hides.”  But whatever we have hidden from the eyes of family and friends is not hidden from Him, and He loves us anyway (Romans 8:38-39), though not our sinfulness or selfishness.  Just as a father loves a misbehaving son, though he detests the son’s behavior, he will still love his child, and work to teach and guide his son into proper living.

This brings us to how to become comfortable with a Holy God who detests our sinfulness, yet loves us: We must repent.  Repentance is a “turning away.”  He promises to remove our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 104:11-12).  Disneys worldSo how far is the east from the west?  Look toward where the sun comes up at your home.  Now turn around and look at where it goes down!  You have just turned “from the east to the west,” and this is how far He removes your sinfulness from you.  However recent or great your sin may be, He only asks that you turn the other way, into His loving care and let Him take over.

“We can never figure it out ourselves … we are too broken in our fallen state to understand God without His miraculous and loving intervention and revelation. It’s like trying to lift yourself up out of quicksand by pulling up on your own hair…it doesn’t help. God has to reach down and lift you out of the muck.” (Neil Cole).  And He does just that when we begin to turn to Him.

In turning to Him, one other aspect of our hearts must be dealt with when we begin to pray, and this is a difficult task.  We must forgive those who are offensive or hurtful against us.  This is perhaps so difficult because we do not understand the extent of His forgiveness of our sinfulness.  But Jesus stated it in very clear terms: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15).  Do not expect any answers to prayer if you harbor bitterness or hatred in your heart, even if it seems to be justified by how evil an enemy is!

This is how helpless we are to even approach His grace.  We cannot in our own strength forgive those who most need forgiveness, but as Cole has said, God Himself is here to reach down and lift us, to make us more like Him in His love for us.  Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  The issue then becomes understanding just how great His love and forgiveness is for us, in order for us to offer that same forgiveness to others.

We can make all the excuses we want: well, I’m not as bad as that guy; I’m not as evil as she is; I did not intend to hurt someone like he does; I would never do what she did!  But James 4:10-11 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”  We could paraphrase this to say, “if you do not murder, but hate in your heart, you have become a lawbreaker;” or “if you say you do not hate in your heart, but envy another . . ., or lust, or hold greed, or are lazy, or are unjustly proud, or gluttonous . . .” you have sin in your life that is horrible to Him and breaks the relationship Father wants with you.  And yet He loves us, so we must love and forgive even those who offend us, even if the offense is severe.

Then we will be ready to pray, comfortable in a meeting with the Creator, not with doubt or wondering if He will hear us, but with confidence that this Heavenly Father loves us so much that He will not withhold any good that He can do or provide for us . . . even if it appears to be less than loving at the moment.  After all, what child undergoing correction or instruction from a father focuses on the parental love.  Our reactions tend to emphasize our own comfort or ease, and we resist any discomfort as though this cannot be what our Father wants for us.  But He is less interested in our comfort than in our relationship with Him, which may be difficult to develop until we learn to fully trust.

So next week, March 22, 2015, in Marked by Prayer, Knowing the God Who Is There, let’s look at what it means to “trust’ or “believe” in Him and how He has revealed Himself .

Marked by Prayer (Part 3 – A Catalog of Prayer)

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.” –Oswald Chambers

Keep three things in mind as we explore this catalog:
First, prayer is a conversation, that is, a two-way communication.  But we are like babies and tend to babble on as though we are the only ones worth hearing.  So do not do that.  Learn to listen when conversing with Father.
Second, Father is much greater than we are.  “Humans explaining the nature of God is like an ant trying to explain who dropped the sugar.” Trish O’Connor.  So do not be surprised by the difficulty of understanding when and how He speaks.  It will take time.  But trust Him because He is a loving Father.
Third, anticipate opposition to developing a prayer-life.  Not all spirits are from God and there will be those who will not want you to communicate with Father (Ephesians 2:1-2; 6:12).  Yes, He has power over them, but part of our learning to converse is learning to tell the difference between His and “other” voices, and another part is learning to trust Him even when the “other” voices appear to make sense in the moment.  Adam and Eve missed it on this one.

The Catalog of Prayer

Praise1) We begin with Praise.  This is simply the recognition of how wonderful and magnificent Father is, how different He is from us, how great, powerful, merciful, and gentle He is.  Praise is distinct from Thanksgiving, in that Thanx is for what He has done; Praise is for who He is.  Think of looking at a marvelous sunrise.  You do not thank the sunrise for being beautiful; you simply admire it; you are moved by its colors or beams in the clouds,  It is awesome so you simply stand in awe of the beauty before you and think, “How wonderful!”  In the same way, when we approach the Creator, we should recognize that we are in the presence of the ultimate Good, “the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).  And we begin here, because of His promise to “dwell in the praises” of His people (Psalm 22:3 Amplified Bible).

2) Then there is Thanksgiving.  This is clear enough, just too often overlooked in our prayers, as in our lives.  I recall an invalid who had worked all his life at manual labor; his wife and children had endured hardships many of us could not imagine.  Yet in speaking to a small group of college students he said, “I only hope God blesses you as much as He has blessed me and my family. He is so good to us all the time!”  There are always bad things happening around us, and often to us, but Father has promised to be with us in every situation, even when death comes calling.  Paul knew how to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18) as he had suffered in prison and been beaten, and still gave thanx to God.  My friend, Cheri, says “If you count your blessings instead of sheep, you may not get to sleep, but you’ll feel better about being up!”

3) Next in our catalog is Requests. This is where most of us spend the most of our time in prayer to an inappropriate degree, never listening, with too little praise or thanx preceding, but always chattering away like babies that we are.  But there is an appropriate place for requests in our prayers.  The motive of our hearts must be evaluated when we ask, however, so that we can receive what He wants to give, and His gifts are always good (James 4:2-3; 1:17).  Why would a God who knows everything need to hear our requests?  Well, go back to my first blog and read “Pass The Salt.” (January 4, 2015)  He does not need us to ask for healing for our sister, or provision for our friends, or blessing on our enemies, but He invites us to participate in what He is wanting to do.  And there are clearly times He waits for our requests! (Luke 18:1-6).  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9).

4) Intercession takes us into a new level of conversation with Father.  To intercede means “to act in behalf of someone in difficulty.”  This often overlaps with “prayer in the Spirit,” (I Corinthians 14:14-15) as we begin to get a sense of what He is saying needs to be done.  It is much more than simple requests, but investment of our spirits with the Spirit of God to pray for what He wants to accomplish in the lives and world around us.  Due to its deeper character, it is essential to be in the two-way conversation with Father to see answers to intercession; this is never selfish requests, but always focused on others’ needs, but most of all on God’s intentions.  Intercession becomes one of the most rewarding areas of prayer to those who are willing to spend the time and effort to develop in this prayer-life, as you begin to experience what God Himself sees happening around you, as you begin to feel what moves His heart.  It is here that we can learn the most about loving our enemies, about caring for others, about fighting spiritual warfare, not with arms or guns, but with prayers FOR our enemies, not against them (Ephesian 6:10-17).

5) Spirit-Prayer is that level of conversing with Father that allows Him to speak through us.  This may involve  “speaking in tongues” about which Paul taught extensively to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 12-14) as well as mentioned to the Romans, Ephesians and Galatians, (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Galatians 4:6), and which Jude also recommended as a way to persevere when struggling (Jude 1:20).  Or it may be “wordless groans” (Romans 8:26) or it can occur with our understanding, praying in our known language (I Corinthians 14:15), but in any case, it becomes a conversation in which He is leading how and what we pray.  As always in spiritual matters, be aware there is an “enemy” who will try to deceive (I John 4:1), but be careful not be disobedient to direct instruction of Scripture by forbidding the speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:39).

6) Debate may have surprised you if you read the previous blog and noted that this would be in our Catalog of Prayer.  But God created us in His image, i.e. with mind, emotion, and will.  As free-will as God is, so are we.  We can choose to obey or disobey; we can choose to trust or to disbelieve; we can choose to pray or not to pray.  And this free will allows for discussion in this two way communication with Father that reflects a difference of wishes even within His sovereign allowance.  Consider when Moses was leading Israel and the people rebelled against God while Moses was in the Mountain of the LORD.  The Creator was going to destroy the nation, but Moses debated with God and God spared the nation! (Exodus 32).  It appeared God had no intention of giving Hannah a child until she earnestly debated with God and received the blessing of a son (I Samuel 1:1-20).  Hezekiah, one of Israel’s better kings, was told he was going to die . . . until he debated God’s announcement and received a blessing of 15 added years to his life on earth (II Kings 20:1-6).  In Jesus interactions, a Syro-Phoenician woman debated with Him about healing her daughter, and He responded, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:24-30).  She had won the debate!

So start a conversation, or rather respond to His invitations already calling you to talk with Him, to listen to Him, to learn from Him.  Just pray.  “Just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray.” Max Lucado

We’ve talked a little about prayer, and I encourage you to begin, but next week, March 15, 2015, I’ll share some thoughts on: How to Get Ready to Pray.

Surprise; an Intermezzo Blog about Snow of 2/17/15 and 3/4/15

IMG_2762Our street became beautiful when the snow fell. Snow is perhaps one of the most maligned wonders of our world.   Most of the complaints about snow come from people not being used to it.  After all, snow is gentle and harmless, even at -20F (-29C). See the last paragraph for more on this.  We’ve had a great share of the beautiful stuff this past couple weeks. The biggest snowfalls in 20 years fell just two weeks ago and shut the city down for a week (wimps), and then on Monday a deluge rain turned almost instantly to snow as the temperature plummeted and left another foot (30cm) of white powder on top of the ground.

So many factors have to be in just perfect alignment that it boggles the mind if one dismisses the the Divine option.

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?” Job 38:22-23

IMG_2749As difficult as snow can be for auto manipulation or as back-aching as it can make one from shoveling several tons of the stuff, it remains one of the best evidences for God in a muddy world.

“He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
“He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.
“He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?
“He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.” Psalm 147

He compares it to our purity once He has cleansed us:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
“Though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

And the Ancient of Days seated on the throne in Daniel’s and John’s visions had clothing and hair “white as snow.” Daniel 7:14; Revelation 1:14.

IMG_2697  IMG_2698  IMG_2738

So it cannot all be bad. Just be careful when driving in it. Practice in an open parking lot next time; drink lots of water when shoveling to stay hydrated; feel for your fingers and toes whenever you are out, whether working or playing, and go warm up if they start getting numb. Use good sense and snow does not harm or kill any more than bullets by themselves do. It is the foolishness of people that is often more to blame for such injuries, just as it is the shooter to blame for injury, not the bullet.

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IMG_2765So enjoy this blast of winter.                                                                              By the way, has anyone seen Mickey Mouse since the snow started?IMG_2776

 

Marked by Prayer (Part 2 – a conversation)

How do you “catalog” your conversations with a friend?  Dictionary.com defines a conversation as “the interchange through speech of information, ideas, etc; spoken communication,” with obsolete definitions or origins going to “behavior or manner of living,” and “manner of conducting oneself or act of living with another.”

IMG_0348I defined “prayer” in an earlier blog as “a conversation with the Creator” (see January 18, 2015).  If we were to catalog our conversations with friends, we could do so in several different ways. We could list conversations about people, about places, about ideas, about events, etc.  Or we could catalog them based on intimacy, i.e. conversations about the world, about our nation, about our race, about our family, about our spouses.

But recognize that in any catalog of conversations there is an element of the artificial.  We do not sit down to dinner and say, “We will talk about places tonight or about our family after dinner.”  Rather we simply discuss what is important to us, what is on our minds, what links us together in this conversation, based on the fact that we are together.

In the same way, any “cataloging of conversation” with God is somewhat artificial.  It is less than the best way to communicate with each other.  But at our level of understanding of who God is, how He interacts with us, and due to simply the differences in mode of existence there is some value in cataloging our conversations initially, similar to how we would teach a baby to communicate with adults.

galaxy spiralKeep in mind that He is Uncreated, Spirit, Eternal, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Present, and we are . . . well, NOT!  Since our mode of existence is so different, when we do not understand how to communicate with this amazing God, we must realize that we are less than infantile before Him. His is a mind so vastly greater than ours that we could not communicate at all except that He understands us, and loves us!  He is the designer of the universe and it is made consistent with His nature, so by definition everything about Him is good, and all His creation, as He formed it, is good.  And communication begins with Him, and we are the babies trying to learn a new language.

2 Baby SugarSo a father seeing his child looks on him with love, and does not expect to have a discussion on the laws of physics or the latest development in computers.  The communication begins with the father or mother holding the baby in their arms and speaking to him.  The Bible tells us that we are “born again” (John 3:3) when we enter into a relationship with our Creator; it compares us to “newborn babies” (I Peter 2:2) when describing our spiritual growth; James tells us “He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth” (James 1:18).

And we are told of His efforts to communicate with us from the beginning (Genesis 2 and 3).  He revealed Himself through prophets, priests and leaders throughout history, trying to speak to people who wanted to do things their own way (Romans 1:18-21; Hebrews 1:1-2).  But we would not listen, ever.  Only a few would learn to speak with Him and follow His ways (Matthew 7:13-14; Hebrews 12:18-25).

Consider if you ever taught a baby his/her first words.  How did the child learn what you were saying?  Language begins with repetition, so we say over and over and over again, “Momma,” “Daddy,” and every parent’s favorite word “NO!”  Sometimes it is a wonder that a child’s first word is not “NO!” but then, we may not be paying attention when the baby voices this.  Our ears are attuned to hear when he/she calls for us, Momma or Dada.  And what a thrill we experience when we hear this cry in a language we understand!

Whisper of DivineWell, prayer is like this.  We begin by listening to His voice, over and over and over again.  Listen to Him speak in the creation; listen to Him speak through the Bible; listen to Him speak through others who have been listening longer; listen for His voice in your circumstances and in events in your life.  Can you hear Him talking to you?  Can you hear Him whispering to guide you to a wonderful life, full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?  Like a mother gently singing lullabies to her baby, Father is gently singing in your ear, waiting for you to begin The Imitation; to say His words back to Him, to show that you are growing in your understanding; to reveal His character in yours; to realize you are His child and bear His image.

And just as a Mom is thrilled to hear the first time a baby coos back, “Momma,” our Heavenly Father shouts down through the armies of angels, “Hey, Michael, Gabriel, all you hosts, my child is praying!”  And we can imagine all Heaven falling silent to hear your first words coming through its corridors.

So how do we catalog these conversations with Father?  There is praise (or worship), thanksgiving, repentance, requests, intercession, spirit-prayer, and debate.  Yes, even “debate.”   I’ll discuss each of these in detail next week, March 8, 2015, in Marked by Prayer: the Catalog.  But for now, just pray because, “just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray.”  (Max Lucado, in Before Amen)