Tag Archives: prayer

Beyond Mere Words — Prayer

Prayer

By George Herbert
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
         God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
         The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
         Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
         The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
         Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
         Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
         Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
         The land of spices; something understood.

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This poem captures well the difficulties in explaining or defining prayer. Prayer is so much more than just giving God our wish list or telling Him what He already knows. Prayer goes beyond recognizing God as God, praising Him for His mighty deeds,  or calling Him to move in the struggles and trials of life. Prayer cannot be broken down to just a simple formula because Scripture is full of many different types of prayers. And each life situation seems to call for something different.

I particularly like the line, “The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,” because I think of prayer more as a journey than anything else. It helps us put to words what is going on inside of us, and more importantly start to imagine what is God’s response. Prayer positions us to explore our true self and identify the areas that most need the power of  the cross. Prayer is not as much about self discovery as it is surrender to Christ and recognition of His higher truth.

We never really “arrive at a final destination” when it comes to mastering prayer. We simply delve deeper and deeper into a treasure that is boundless and difficult to explain. The goal is not knowledge alone but relationship.

Sometimes we may feel that we are doing it wrong — a failure in prayer. But God is not grading our progress as much as He is calling us closer to His point of view. Honestly, we may doubt and feel that we are truly alone. We may wonder if God is really there and start to think that we are merely talking to the wind, but even in this honest admission, we discover God’s grace. The Lord allows the silence because His constant expression might be too much for us to bear. Or He simply may not desire to speak for some reason. He may just want to listen to what His children have to say.

Prayer is based on the reality that we are loved and have access to God. In faith, we must rest assured in the truth that even if He never says another word to us, God has loudly declared His love for us by His sacrifice on the cross and the revelation of His Holy Word. Amen!

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Amazed at Great Faith from the Most Unexpected Place – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 7

Luke 7:9  (NIV)

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

Prayer

Jesus, You have seen it all. There are few things that truly amaze You. Yet, the thing that gets Your attention the most is a life of great faith – the stranger who has no reason to believe and yet does any way. From the most unexpected places comes a man who demonstrates faith beyond reason.

A solider who knows what it means to be in authority and under authority, he knows that You don’t have to be physically present for a miracle to occur. He knows that there is power in your mere words alone. For by Your words, You formed all of the things on the earth. While the religious leaders of Israel rejected Your power, this Roman centurion recognized Your authority and called on You to restore his greatest treasure – his only daughter.

Just like the Roman Centurion, may I live a life of great faith. While all others doubt, may I believe. May I speak words of faith in the face of death and great loss. No matter the circumstances, may I know that You have the power to redeem all things. Like the Centurion, I am a stranger in this world. This is not my homeland. And yet, my I have faith to believe in the impossible despite the wailing cries of others who see no hope. Amen!

Grieved God’s Heart – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 4

Mark 3:5 (NKJV)
And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

Prayer
Jesus, What grieves Your heart? Is it not those who hide behind religious rules and miss the heart of the matter in the process? Is it blind guides who lead others astray? Is it not the Pharisee who thinks he is righteous before God even though he is just as much a sinner as the next person?

May I stretch out my hand in faith to be healed. May I confront those who seek to wrongly accuse You. Help me to know how to live by Your law and the Spirit. Free me from thinking too highly of myself and questioning You.

Lord, You are the maker of each new day. Teach Your people to honor the Sabbath by doing acts of justice, not turning a blind eye to those in need. Help me to see as You see and respond as You would in love. May I not fear those blind guides who follow dead religion. May I be free to live in step with the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Sacred Passion – Praying the Emotions of Jesus

While at a conference last November, I was inspired by a teaching from Michael Card, a respected Christian folk artist and author. He taught on the emotional life of Jesus as explored in the book of Mark. This led me to write a short meditation full of prayers based on the emotions and life of Jesus. Over the next month, I will reveal parts of this mini-book/meditation.

Here is the introduction…

Sacred Passion – Praying the emotions of Jesus

Why Emotions?

Whether people would admit it or not, many think that God, being perfect, does not have nor shows emotion. This view is commonly held by many Christians even though they may not have expressed it. You seldom hear anyone preach or teach on the emotional life of Christ. It seems like a taboo topic – even in the Church. But if we are to be truly free, the power of God must also redeem our emotions as well as our minds.

Why is it so disturbing to think that God can “Get emotional?” Are we scared about what would happen if were to make God angry? Or is it something else? Maybe we find the notion of an emotional God disturbing because we somehow equate emotion to weakness. And if God is God, He certainly doesn’t have a weakness. At the core of this mindset, is a series of lies And I believed these lies for many years.

Mastering my emotions has been such an inner struggle that I couldn’t believe someone like Jesus would wrestle with such conflict. I saw emotions as weakness because they frequently led me to sin and self loathing. Somehow, you start to look at all emotions as a sign of weakness and thereby part of man’s fallen condition. Then, emotions become sinful in and of themselves. The only way to stay strong is to cut off emotions at the root, put them in a box inside your heart, and deny that they exist. But this was futile. They would always break out at the worst time. Then, I would be more resolute to never let emotions control me again. This was the cycle of my life for many years.

I was saved intellectually and bound up emotionally. I was a fairly decent guy morally, but I was a complete wreck on the inside. I was a complete fraud. I displayed a form of godliness but denied Christ’s real power. Jesus came to set us free from the law of sin and death. Jesus came to redeem all of us, including our emotions. Jesus shows us what it means to be perfectly human and to express perfect emotions. As I started to look at this reality, I had to unlearn much of what I thought that I knew.

Embracing Jesus’ emotional life has been part of my road to inner health. Jesus, being both man and God, had emotions and expressed them openly. Emotions are not sin neither are they a sign of weakness. Emotions are part of what it means to be human. What if they really reflect what it means to be created in the image of God? What if God wouldn’t be God unless He had an emotional side to His character?

As a man, I have struggled with the social norm that says, “Men are tough. We aren’t supposed to be emotional.” This is yet another lie that keeps people bound up from experiencing true healing and restoration.

Why emotions? Because we have them, and God desires to redeem them. Because we don’t need to fear them, and God can use them to accomplish His greatest work in us. Because they are frequently the part of our lives that we hold back and don’t release to God.

Why Prayer?
The answer quite simply is that prayer changes things. We can strategize or talk about our struggles as much as we want, and things stay the same. We can make resolutions in our heart and even strive in the flesh to follow what we know God wants us to do, but that can fall short too. The reason is that we can’t change our own hearts. We can’t heal us. If we could do this one thing, we wouldn’t need Jesus. Prayer is the vehicle for change in our hearts and lives. In prayer we invite God to act, surrender closed up areas of our heart, confess sin, declare God’s ability to transform us, and we praise God in advance for what He alone can do.

This little book is a meditation of prayers focused on the emotional life of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels. These prayers have been helpful for me as I am working through surrendering my emotions to God. And I pray that they are useful to you as you allow the Holy Spirit to to a deep work inside your heart.