I Pray Not

Have you ever wondered who was the first person to pray? Since prayer is a conversation with God, it makes sense that Adam and Eve were the first humans to speak with God. After all, God walked with them in the Garden. I wonder what those early conversations between Adam and God were like and all the questions Adam must have had that he couldn’t wait to ask his Maker.

In the Old Testament, prayer is much more than the reciting of renowned phrases. We see the patriarchs, like Abraham, and the prophets, like Jeremiah, cry out to God, pouring their hearts and souls out to Him. How I wished that my prayers were more like that more often.

The people of ancient biblical times believed in the power of prayer and in the ability of God to deliver them from their trials and troubles, even before Jesus came on the scene as God on Earth Walking Among Us.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25 (NIV)

Jesus, the son of God, obviously believed in the power of prayer. He prayed often, cherishing the conversations he had with his Father. His prayer in John 17 is one every Christian should read often. Maybe, we should even take time to commit the passage to memory.

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When we pray, we are lifting our voices to God. He hears us, although He may not always give us the response we desire to hear. He delights in us when we seek Him out in prayer. Prayer, is similar to picking up the phone and calling our Mom or Dad and checking in to see how things are going and sharing with them what’s happening in our world. We only have to recall the heartfelt conversations we’ve had with our loved ones to get a glimpse of what it’s like to talk to the God of the Universe. The Lord cares deeply about us. He loves you and me.

 Jerusalem will be told:
    “Don’t be afraid.
Dear Zion,
    don’t despair.
Your God is present among you,
    a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love
    and delight you with his songs.Zephaniah 3:16-17 (The Message)

In our society, many people question, if not outright deny, the power of prayer. This is noteworthy, since people were once considered to be “praying animals.” Growing up as a child, people prayed around the family dinner table, just like they do on TV’s “Blue Bloods.” It was common place to see people praying in public while dining in restaurants. Back then, it was unusual if you didn’t see people praying. Sadly, today, it is far too common seeing people not praying.

Have we become so hardened or so cynical that we no longer believe in the power of prayer or in the value of talking to God?

I pray not.

Blessings.

Check out my conversation with WorshipMinistry.com’s Gary Miller about “Everythingness.”

Like Love, Prayer Is a Verb

The line of men waiting to pray last Friday night after chapel was long. I lead a team from our church that travels down to the Union Gospel Mission once a month on 4th Friday to minister to the 300 or so men at the shelter. Some of them are staying there, participating in the discipleship program. Others are there for the night, while some are bussed in for the evening from other shelters, to have a meal and hear a message. While a group of volunteers and staff are feeding the men physically, our job is to feed them spiritually. Our job is to meet them where they are, much like Jesus did when he sat down next to the Samaritan woman. We worship with them, we share a biblical grounded message with them, and we pray with them, corporately multiple times throughout the service and one-on-one at the close of service.

This past Friday I had the opportunity to experience powerful prayer time with several of the men. I prayed with one man who wasn’t sure that he could trust God. I prayed with another man who was in dire need of physical healing from a disease that may lead to his death. I found myself dumbfounded and nearly speechless as I prayed with a man who confessed to me that he had contemplated suicide and that our being there that night saved his life because he heard us speak of a God who loves him and values him. He understood that even though he was homeless and his life had been turned upside down, he still mattered and God had not forgotten nor forsaken him. I prayed with a young man, full of joy, who prayed Psalm 23–the Lord is my shepherd–in my ear as I prayed for him. These are just a few samplings of the prayers expressed Friday night. It is a glimpse of the prayers we hear each time we go. It is through these prayers, God affirms that He is in control and He is indeed at work in this world.

Prayer Works

Lately, I’ve seen and heard a lot of discourse about acting “apart from prayer” or “instead of prayer.” There are even people who are convinced prayer is a waste of time because it doesn’t work. And I guess if you’re not a believer, that should be the response I expect.

I think that prayer, like faith, should often be accompanied by additional action. But prayer isn’t like an ATM machine either. In fact, it’s more of a conversation between me and the God of the universe. Perhaps you find my belief in God, let alone a powerful, personal God alive and at work in the universe, a fool-hardy endeavor. That’s certainly your right. You don’t have to believe what I believe. You don’t have to agree with what I think. But for me, it’s too hard not to believe that there is a God. I’ve simply seen Him at work too often. I’ve experienced answers to prayers too many times. I’ve witnessed God at work in my life and in the life of others. I’ve found myself in far too many God moments to discount that He exists.

Yes, prayer alone may not end gun violence. But that’s not my prayer. I’m praying for God to transform minds and change hearts. To reduce incidents of gun violence, including mass-shootings, drive-by violence, and domestic disputes, certainly requires we act. I don’t believe locking up everyone’s guns is the answer. I know it’s not. People have been killing each other far longer than we’ve had guns. I grew up when gun laws weren’t as strict as they are today, yet it seemed like we had less gun violence. I agree, something’s changed.

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I think we value our own life more and we value the lives of others less. We are more transactional than we are relational. The only god we worship tends to be the one we see in the mirror.

Personally, I don’t think the effort to decrease the permanence of faith in the various aspects of our lives is unrelated to the outcome that faces us today. As imperfect people, we don’t always express our faith perfectly in our daily walk. Yet, faith values life. All life. The born. The unborn. The living and the dead. The here and now and the eternal hereafter.

Do we need to figure out how to keep weapons out of the hands of madmen? Absolutely. Do we need to improve our outreach to those who find themselves on the fringes of society? Probably. I’m not sure they want to be reached. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Do we need to recognize that our self-identity shouldn’t rest on the opinions of others or measured by our level of celebrity? Damn Skippy. As a believer my identity rests in Christ. I am who he says I am. Redeemed. Forgiven. Free. Servant. Minister. Warrior.

Prayer is an essential part of my life. It serves as a reminder that I have much to be grateful for and it helps me get out of my own narcissistic perspective and train my thoughts on the concerns of others. It helps me work through my own stuff too. Which is good, because I’m a hot mess most days.

When I’m praying, I am doing something. Just ask the people I pray with, pray for, and pray over.

Like love, prayer is a verb. It is one of the most powerful actions I can take. I have personally witnessed prayer change lives, circumvent courses of direction, and alter outcomes. I’ve witnessed the healing power of prayer as well as experienced the comforting solace prayer brings. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a physical component that needs to accompany our prayers, just like love is often accompanied by a smile, a hug, or a kiss. Believe it or not, prayer works. 

Blessings.

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Psalm Saturday: Memorial Day Review

For the past several Saturdays, we’ve looked at what the psalms say about prayer and examined the prayers contained in them. We plan to continue that over the Summer. Since we’re celebrating Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to glance back at the Psalm Saturday series and list the weekly offerings in one post for the convenience of those of you who may have missed one or two… or all (LOL).

I pray you’ll have a happy holiday weekend honoring the sacrifice others made so that we could enjoy the freedoms we cherish today.

Here’s the list:

Psalm Saturday: Psalm One

Psalm Saturday: Psalm 49

Psalm Saturday: Psalm 90

Psalm Saturday: Psalm 104

Psalm Saturday: Prayers in Psalms

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