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Showing posts with the label #Pray

The rosary: Meditation… oh, and prayers to Mary.

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Some years ago a reader asked me about rosaries. I gotta admit I don’t have a lot of experience with ’em. Rosaries are a Roman Catholic tradition, and I grew up Fundamentalist —and Fundies are hugely anti-Catholic, so any Catholic traditions are looked at with suspicion and fear. Many Evangelical Protestants are likewise wary of Catholic practices. Very few do rosaries. Evangelicals assume a rosary is a string of prayer beads. Actually it’s not. The rosary is the super-long string of rote prayers you recite, and how you keep track of which prayer you’re on, and how many you have left, is with the beads. Each bead represents one prayer. And most of these prayers are the Ave Maria /“Hail Mary.” It’s prayed from 50 to 150 times. Goes like so. Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee. Lk 1.28 Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Lk 1.42 Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Tongues build up the individual.

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1 Corinthians 14.1-4. Most of the time when Christians quote this particular passage about speaking in tongues, they quote verse 4 thisaway. 1 Corinthians 14.4 KWL Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. Yeah, tongues are okay, but . But but but. Except the word but isn’t in the original text of this verse. The word which gets translated but in nearly every English-language bible, is δέ / de . It’s a conjunction which indicates the speaker just started a new sentence, and the new sentence is logically connected to the old sentence. You can, as bibles do most of the time, just leave it untranslated. Or, if you really, really wanna connect it to the previous sentence ’cause they fit together just so well, a semicolon will work. Thing is, whenever translators think there’s a contrast between the two sentences, they can’t just translate de as a new sentence, a semicolon, or even “and.” They gotta turn it into a

Forbidding tongues.

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Certain Christians are terrified of tongues. Afraid of other people speaking tongues, afraid of themselves speaking tongues, afraid of the very idea. For all sorts of reasons, but most of of the time it’s one of these four: They think it’s devilish, and are afraid of evil spirits. They think it’s madness, and are afraid of crazy people. They think tongues-speakers are out of control, and don’t wanna surrender or lose control of themselves… nor of course be around out-of-control people. They realize it’s empowered by the Holy Spirit … and of all people, they’re afraid of him . All of them are wrong ideas and false views, and people need to be taught otherwise. But whenever someone starts speaking in tongues around them, their fight-or-flight instinct gets triggered, and at that point there’s no teaching them anything . They’re having a panic attack, or they’re getting out of the building as fast as they can, or they’re furious that someone’s put them in that unc

Praying too loud—in tongues.

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Likely you know what Jesus taught about showing off when we pray. If you need a reminder, here ya go. Matthew 6.5-6 KJV 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Betcha you’ve never heard this teaching applied to speaking in tongues. Because when you’re in one of those churches which don’t stifle tongues, you’re gonna notice whenever there’s a prayer group, those who pray in tongues tend to do so at a very audible level. Sometimes at the volume of an ordinary speaking voice. Often even louder. If they were praying in English, would this be appropriate behavior? Only if they were leading the group,

Speaking in tongues.

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1 Corinthians 14.39 KJV Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. The technical term for tongues-speaking is glossolalia . (Greek γλωσσολαλία ɡloʊ.soʊ.la'li.a , which Americans re-pronounce ɡlɑ.sə'leɪ.li.ə and just means “tongues-speaking.”) Theologians, psychologists, historians, and anthropologists call it this. ’Cause Christians aren’t the only ones who do it. Lots of people do. Including—and this fact tends to startle certain Pentecostals—lots of other religions. Yep. Christians tend to assume only we do tongues. But plenty of pagans do. Actual tongues, not just muttering in foreign languages, like when you’re watching a bad horror movie and magicians suddenly start incanting in Latin. (’Cause somehow Latin has become the devil’s favorite language; Satan’s existed for millions of years, yet none of the other human languages did it for him until Etruscan evolved into Latin, and then it said, “Oh wait guys, we gotta learn thi

Keep (most of) your prayers private.

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Matthew 6.5-6. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, Matthew 6.5-6 KJV 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Which is why we don’t see the streets of our nation lined with Christians, their arms raised and heads to the sky, praying as loud as possible so as to let everyone know we’re devout, and that we’re praying for our land. Well… we don’t usually see this. Although I remember this one trip I made to Washington D.C. where we saw it all the time . I was chaperoning some kids on a civics tour, where we went to the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian,

The sinner’s prayer isn’t proof of your salvation.

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Back in grad school I heard this ridiculous story from a preacher. I’ve shared it before; now again. Goes like so. There once was this Christian who felt unsure of his salvation. He hoped he was saved, but he was just so full of doubts. A little voice inside his head kept telling him, “Oh you’re not saved. Not really.” Of course the preacher assumed this voice was Satan, but considering how such baiting will simply drive us Christians to make certain we’re saved, I’m pretty sure Satan abandoned this tactic long ago as stupid. But I digress. This uncertain Christian came up with a clever plan: First he said the sinner’s prayer again. (He no doubt said it ages ago, but bear with me.) Next he made a sign with that day’s date on it, fixed it to a stake, and pounded the stake into his backyard. Now every time the voice in his head told him, “ You’re not saved,” he could look out the back window at his sign, and say, “I am so saved, devil. Get thee behind me.” Followed by a r

When the sinner’s prayer doesn’t work.

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Imagine you share Jesus with someone. (Hope you do share Jesus with people. But anyway.) Imagine they respond well: They express an interest in this Jesus whom you speak of. They believe you when you tell ’em Jesus saved them. They wanna become a Christian right here and now. So you say the sinner’s prayer with them. They recite all the words right after you. They feel happy about it. You feel happy about it. And there was much rejoicing. Yea! Okay, now imagine it’s a year later and you meet up with that person again… and you find their life hasn’t changed. At all. They don’t go to church; they don’t see the point. They don’t read the bible; they don’t see the point. They don’t pray; no more than usual, which is the occasional “God, get me out of this and I promise I’ll…” and nothing more. Not even religious feelings , which I admit are usually self-manufactured, but they don’t even have that . No fruit of the Spirit. They’re not any happier, any more joyful. They

The “sinner’s prayer.” And how to lead one.

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In the scriptures, whenever someone wanted to become Christian, how’d they get initiated? Simple: They got baptized. Right away: They found some water and baptized ’em right then and there. Acts 8.35-38 KJV 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 [And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Splash, and you’re Christian. But by the end of the first century, ancient Christians got it into their heads there oughta be more delay than this: Too many people were getting baptized, yet didn’t continue to follow Jesus. And baptism is a sacrame

Does God listen to pagans when they pray?

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I’ll answer the question in the title right away: Yes. God listens to pagans when they pray. And, well, duh . Of course he listens to them! He listens to everyone. He knows what everyone’s saying, what everyone’s thinking, and whether what we’re saying and what we’re thinking line up. (And when they aren’t, he knows we’re being hypocrites. ) He knows what our needs are; he hears us express ’em to him; he knows whether we’re sincere. True of everybody. Not just Christians. Why’s this even a question? Because of course there are Christians who claim he doesn’t. Only we get access to the Almighty; only true believers. (And maybe Jews… depending on whether they like Jews. If they like Jews, they always manage to find an exception to the “no pagans” rule; they’re God’s chosen people so he has to listen to them, doesn’t he? And if they’re antisemites, either Jews are simply another type of pagan he dismisses; or God’s rejected the Jews ’cause of the sins antisemites claim are

Do we really get whatever we ask in Jesus’s name?

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While the idea of “God’ll give us whatever we ask in Jesus’s name” has been largely misunderstood, misinterpreted, and abused, by Christians who wanna depict God as if he’s a magic genie who grants way more than three wishes—or like Santa Claus, who will only give you presents if you’re good, so be good for goodness’ sake—the reality is Jesus does hear prayer requests. And isn’t just willing, but eager , to answer the good requests. John 16.23-24 KJV 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Here’s the context of this scripture; it’s important, y’know. At the time Jesus was speaking with his students about leaving them; about returning to his Father. Once he’d done so, they’d be miserable. But once he comes back in victory, having conquered sin and death, they’ll be ov

“In Jesus name”—and why it doesn’t always work.

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Jesus told us, more than once, we can use his name whenever we ask the Father for things. John 14.12-15 KJV 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.   John 15.16 KJV Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.   John 16.23-24 KJV 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Usually Christians are fully aware o

Christians who don’t want you to fast.

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As I elsewhere said, if fasting weren’t in the bible, it’d nonetheless be a fad. One Christians still frequently use as a spiritual exercise, because it does strengthen our self-control. When seeking God in prayer takes priority over sustaining our very lives, it’s this kind of hardcore behavior which makes us less likely to give in to the many temptations which comfort offers us. So what keeps Christians from fasting? Usually it’s those very same comforts. Years ago I was in a prayer meeting where the leader challenged us to fast for a week. Really, diet. He wasn’t telling us to utterly go without food. Just go vegan for a week, and set aside sweets and coffee. Set aside a few comforts so we can focus better on God. And my knee-jerk reaction was, “I just went to the grocery store yesterday and bought a bunch of yogurt. I don’t want it to go bad …” as if we were gonna be dieting that long. Wasn’t really about the expiration date either. It’s ’cause I love yogurt. So as

Lenten fasting. (It’s optional, you know.)

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Lent is the English term for the 40-day period before Easter in which Christians fast, abstain, and otherwise practice self-control. (Assuming we practice such things at all.) In Latin it’s called quadragesima and in Greek it’s σαρακοστή / sarakostí , short for τεσσαρκοστή / tessarkostí —both of which mean “fortieth,” ’cause 40 days. It starts Ash Wednesday, which isn’t 40 precise days before Easter; it’s 46. That’s because the six Sundays before Easter aren’t included. You don’t fast on feast days, and Sabbath is a feast day; it’s when we take a weekly break from our Lenten fasts. Many Christians don’t realize this, and wind up fasting Sundays too—since they’ve got that abstention momentum going anyway. And for eastern Christians, Lent begins the week before Ash Wednesday, on Clean Monday. Partly because they don’t skip Sundays, and fast that day too; and partly ’cause their Lenten fast consists of the 40 days before Holy Week. Then they have a whole different fast for t

“Fasting” from one thing at a time.

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When it comes to fasting, many Christians wanna know what’s the very least we can fast for it to “count.” Two thoughts. First of all I gotta ask them whether they’re fasting for the right reasons. We’re not obligated to fast: God never commanded it, and we’re not disobeying him when we skip a fast, break a fast, “cheat” on a fast, or diet instead of fasting. True, our churches might want us to fast, and legalistic churches will even require it. But unless you swore to God you’d fast along with ’em, you’re not sinning if you don’t fast. (And of course lying about it, or pretending you’re fasting when you’re not, is always wrong.) Likewise I don’t want people to think we fast so we can earn karmic points with God. Again, he never obligates us to fast. It’s a practice we do. It helps us focus on him in prayer, and helps us develop self-control. (And even if God did order us to fast, he doesn’t “owe us” once we obey; obedience is our duty . Lk 17.10 What, did you no

Can we really ask God for anything we want?

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Matthew 7.7-11, Luke 11.9-13, John 14.13-14, 15.7, 16.24. These passages are found in the middle of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, in Jesus’s teaching on prayer requests in Luke , and as part of Jesus’s Last Supper lesson in John . Obviously the Matthew and Luke bits line up more neatly than the John bits, but the same idea is found in the John verses. I tend to summarize this idea as “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” If we want something from Jesus, ask! It’s okay for us to do that. He does take prayer requests. Matthew 7.7-11 KWL 7 “Ask!—it’ll be given you. Look!—you’ll find it. Knock!—it’ll be unlocked for you. 8 For all who ask receive, who seek find, who knock God ’ll unlock for. 9 Same as any of you people. Your child will ask you for bread; you won’t give them a cobblestone. 10 Or they ’ll ask you for fish; you won’t give them a snake. 11 So if you’re evil, yet knew to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good