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Showing posts with the label #Pray

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

Getting hungry for God. Literally.

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FAST fast verb. Go without food [for God]. 2. noun. A period of going without food [for God]. Whenever I talk to people about fasting, their knee-jerk reaction is “No food? No food? No FOOD? You’re outa your [profane adjective] mind.” After all, this is the United States, where a 20-ounce soda is called a “small.” In this nation, the stomach rules. This is why so many Christians are quick to redefine the word “fast.” My church, fr’instance, does this 21-day “Daniel fast.” I’ll explain what that is elsewhere; for now I’ll just point out it’s not an actual fast. Nobody’s going without food. They’re going without certain kinds of food. No meat, no sweets. But no hunger pains either. Fasting, actual fasting, is a hardcore Christian practice. The only things which go into our mouths are air and water. In an “absolute fast” you even skip the water. Now, we need food and water. If we don’t eat, we die. And that’s the point: Push this practice too far and we die . But God

Thanksgiving. The prayer, not the day.

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In the United States, on November’s fourth Thursday, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving. Today I’m not talking about the day itself though. I’m talking about the act. Americans don’t always remember there’s such a thing as an act of thanksgiving. Our fixation is usually on the food, football, maybe the parade, maybe the dog show. If you’re pagan, you seldom even think to thank God… or anyone. Instead you conjure up some feeling of thankfulness. You have a nice life, a decent job, good health, some loved ones, and got that [insert coveted bling] you’ve always wanted. Or you might not, but you’re thankful for the few things you do have. Or you’re not thankful at all, and bitter… and in a few minutes, drunk. But this feeling of thankfulness isn’t directed anywhere. Shouldn’t you be thankful to someone or something? Shouldn’t there be some being to thank? And that’s a question many a pagan never asks themselves. I know of one family who thanks one other. But paga

When you fast, keep it private.

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Matthew 6.16-18. Believe it or don’t, some Evangelicals have no tradition of fasting. I run into ’em from time to time, and when I talk fasting, they’re quick to reject it: “That’s an Old Testament thing,” and “Jesus never told us to fast.” True to both. The L ORD never commanded fasting in all of scripture. Fasting has always been voluntary; nobody has to fast. But certain churches do promote it. Might be a Daniel fast at the beginning of the year, a Lenten fast before Easter, an Advent fast before Christmas, a partisan fast before Election Day. And peer pressure aside, nobody has to fast. They’re voluntary customs. You can opt out. Don’t even need special permission from the clergy… although every year when St. Patrick’s Day falls in mid-Lent, many a Catholic who wants to get plowed will beg their bishop for a one-day pass. But the way Jesus talks in his Sermon on the Mount, he totally expects his followers to fast. Bear in mind his audience was full of Pharis

Prayer’s one prerequisite: Forgiveness.

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Mark 11.25, Matthew 6.14-15, 18.21-35. Jesus told us in the Lord’s Prayer we gotta pray, Matthew 6.12 BCP And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. He elaborated on this in his Sermon on the Mount : Matthew 6.14-15 KWL 14 “When you forgive people their misdeeds, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 When you can’t forgive people, your Father won’t forgive your misdeeds either.” And in Mark’s variant of the same teaching: Mark 11.25 KWL “Whenever you stand up to pray, forgive whatever you have against anyone. Thus your Father, who’s in heaven, can forgive you your misdeeds.” He elaborated on it even more in his Unforgiving Slave story. Matthew 18.21-35 KWL 21 Simon Peter came and told Jesus , “Master, how often will my fellow Christian sin against me, and I’ll have to forgive them? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus told him, “I don’t say ‘as many as seven times,’ but as many as seven by seventy tim

For thine is the kingdom…

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Matthew 6.13. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, in both the well-known Book of Common Prayer version and the King James Version, it ends with this line: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen. It comes from the Didache , an instruction manual for new Christians written in the first century. Yep, around the same time the New Testament was written. Its version of the Lord’s Prayer includes that line, whereas the oldest copies of Matthew do not. But because a lot of ancient Christians used the Didache to instruct new Christians, a lot of ’em were taught the Didache version of the Lord’s Prayer… and that last line gradually worked its way into ancient copies of Matthew . And from there into the Vulgate, the Textus Receptus , the Lutherbibel, the Geneva Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the King James Version. So it’s not from the bible? No it actually is from the bible. But it’s from Daniel , not Jesus. Comes from this vers