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Showing posts with the label #Pray

And now, a word of prayer.

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WORD OF PRAYERwərd ə preɪərnoun. Prayer, usually meant to invoke God before a function.2. Small sermon, disguised as a prayer. Brace yourself.Right before we do something important—like take a meeting, drive someplace, eat lunch, get a really large tattoo on our back, or whatever—Christians frequently say, “Before we do that, let’s have a word of prayer.”By which they never mean one single word; it’s not literal. Neither is this gonna be a short prayer. “Words of prayer” tend to be mighty wordy.Why’s it called “a word of prayer” instead of simply “a prayer,” as in “Before we do that let’s pray”? My guess is it used to mean a short prayer, like saying grace before a meal, but over time it got longer and longer. Just like when your boss tells you, “Can I have a word?” and it’s never just a word. Maybe the intent was for it to be short—or to sound short, so you won’t dismiss it with, “Don’t have time; sorry.” The same is true about words of prayer: It’s supposed to be a brief invocation,…

Having clergy pray for you.

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One of my previous pastors was invited to a birthday party. So was I. So we’re all hanging out, chatting about something irrelevant; probably weather. And the lady of the house came out of the kitchen to tell everyone lunch was ready. So… “Pastor?”Yep. It might be her house, her daughter who was celebrating the birthday, her lunch which she had put together. But Pastor, even though he was a guest, was expected to ask God’s blessings over the food.Which he did, ’cause he knows how it works. It comes with the job.It’s one of the things clergy regularly experience. Bishops, pastors, chaplains, friars, nuns, ministers of every sort: People expect them to lead prayer. They don’t even ask; they just take it as a given. “Pastor?” That’s your cue to pray.I once had a pastor who grew tired of this, so he tried something which he thought was kinda clever: He turned to one of the other people in the room. Sometimes an elder in the church whom he knew could pray; sometimes one of the newbies or t…

Praying like “St. Francis” did.

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You know how when you’re praying in a group, and the prayer leader says something really profound which you wholly agree with, and you can definitely say amen to that?Rote prayers are the very same way. It’s someone else’s prayer, but you’re agreeing with the prayer… and some of ’em just nail it. It’s precisely what you wanna tell God. So go ahead and borrow their words. They don’t mind. God doesn’t either.One of the more popular rote prayers floating around out there is “the peace prayer of St. Francis.” Which, let’s be honest, was never actually written by Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone of Assisi (1181-1226), the Catholic layman-evangelist who founded the Franciscan order. True, those of us who know about Francis’s life can certainly imagine him saying stuff like this, but just like a whole lot of popular internet quotes, ’twasn’t him. The Italians call this la preghiera semplice/“the simple prayer.” I don’t find it all that simple, but it’s still a good one to pray.I prefer trans…

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 KWL7“Ask!—it’ll be given you. Look!—you’ll find it. Knock!—it’ll be unlocked for you.8For all who ask receive, who seek find, who knock God’ll unlock for.9Same as any of you people. Your child will ask you for bread; you won’t give them a cobblestone.10Or they’ll ask you for fish; you won’t give them a snake.11So if you’re evil, yet knew to give good gifts to your children,how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?”Luke 11.9-13 KWL…

Prayer instead of wisdom.

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We see this happen all the time, but the current COVID-19 outbreak is just making it more obvious: We got Christians who ignore science, ignore all medical and professional and government advice, ignore commonsense… because they pray.They have access to the Almighty, and he can stop every potential bad thing from happening to them. “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” and all that. This being the case, it’s okay if they ignore safety warnings. They got faith.You should have faith like they do.Bluntly, no you shouldn’t. They’re fools, and that’s not faith. It’s wishful thinking.Faith is based on a trustworthy person or thing, and Christian faith is of course based on Christ Jesus. Faith is based on evidence, He 11.1 and that evidence is God’s word, whether it comes from the scriptures, from God’s prophets, or from the stuff he tells us when we pray. (All of which oughta jibe with one another.) If it’s not based on any of those things—if it’s based on knowing God is almighty, yet…

Pray like Elijah.

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When our pastors encourage us to pray, sometimes they do it by quoting this particular verse. Maybe not in the NKJV as I’m about to, but all the good translations have the same gist.James 5.16-18 NKJV16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.“See?” they conclude: “Elijah was a person just like us. Bible says so. And when he prayed, it stopped raining for three and a half years; 1Ki 17.1-7 and when he prayed again, it rained like crazy. 1Ki 18.41-46 Your prayers can have just as much effect as his. So pray!”Yeah, but… Elijah wasn’t a person just like us.I mean he’s human like us. James says that, anyway: He has “a nature like ours,” or as …

Memorized any good prayers lately?

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ROTE PRAYERroʊt pr(eɪ)ərnoun. A prayer we’ve memorized.How’d you learn your phone number?Assuming you have; lots of us just trust our phones to remember ’em for us. When I first got my phone number, anytime someone asked for it, I had to look it up. Eventually I got what I thought was a good idea: Convert it to letters! If I couldn’t remember 268-3276, I could sure as heck remember ANT-FARM. (Which is not my actual number; I use it as an example.) Problem is, whenever you sign up for the Starbucks app and tell ’em your phone number is ANT-FARM, they object and demand digits, so now you gotta go through the mental process of “Okay, A is 1…” ’cause you forgot no phone numbers start with 1, ’cause in the early days of telephones they saved 1 for long distance numbers. But here I am digressing again.A blessed few of us have really good memories, and don’t have to resort to silly mental tricks to get phone numbers in our brains. Most of us just go with blunt-force rote memorization: We rec…

Praying for stupid things.

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I realize the title of this piece is gonna bug some people: “There’s no such thing as praying for stupid things! People can pray for anything and everything! People should pray for anything and everything! Stop discouraging Christians from prayer!” And so on.I don’t wanna discourage Christians from prayer. We should all pray, and we should all pray more; most of us honestly don’t pray enough.But yes there are stupid prayer requests. Come on.No I don’t mean praying for ordinary stuff, like for the traffic light to change, or for the spaghetti to not overboil, or for your basketball team to do their best. God’s cool with such prayers. They may seem small and petty and irrelevant to pagans, but only because they don’t care about the little things in our daily lives. God does.No; it’s more like when you’re praying for your basketball team, you happen to pray for the violent death of their rivals. Now we’re getting stupid.Stupid is a synonym for foolish. When we’re being stupid, we’re clea…

When two or three gather in Jesus’s name.

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Matthew 18.20.Matthew 18.20 KJVFor where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.We Christians quote this verse for all sorts of reasons.To point out the importance of group prayer: When two or three of us pray together, Jesus is there, so he must therefore hear our prayers. (Though getting him to answer “Yes” is another thing.)To point out the importance of small groups. Same reason: Two or three of us are together, so Jesus is there, and supposedly his presence blesses our meeting.To avoid church. “You don’t have to go to Sunday morning worship; you just have to gather with two or three fellow Christians and talk Jesus for a few minutes. That counts.” It doesn’t, but I’ll get to that.But in context it refers to church discipline.Matthew 18.15-20 KWL15“When your fellow Christian sins against you,take them aside and reprove them—just you and them alone.When they hear you, you’ve helped your fellow Christian.16When they don’t hear you: Take one or…

When God tells us no.

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If you ever browse books on prayer, you’ll notice most of them are about being successful at prayer: Prayers that work. Prayers that get heard. Prayers which’ll definitely reach God’s ears. How to be persistent at it, and thereby get what we want. How to have the proper prayer attitude, so God’ll be pleased with us and give us what I want. How to pray as God would want, and therefore get us what we ask for. Yada yada yada.What makes prayer “successful”? Clearly, getting all our wishes granted.Of course we won’t always admit this. We’ll try to make our answers sound less greedy, more spiritual, less self-centered. “Um… A successful prayer gets us closer to God.” Yeah, nice try Bubba. Closer to God for why? So now that he knows us, he’ll grant all our wishes.Look, I already pointed out it’s okay to ask God for anything. The Lord’s Prayer entirely consists of prayer requests, and Jesus tells us to pray like that, so clearly God’s not gonna be offended when we tell him we want stuff from …

The bargain with God.

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Probably the most common form of prayer is the bargain with God. It takes the form of, “God, if you do this for me, I’ll [something I may do; no guarantees though].”We fill in the blank with all sorts of things. We promise we’ll reform our behavior: We’ll stop sinning, start some religious practice—or do one of ’em more regularly, be more charitable, perform some act of penance, or pathetically that we’ll even believe in God. ’Cause we don’t really, and this bargain with God is, to completely confound metaphors, our Hail Mary pass.I’ve heard a lot of Christians dismiss, mock, or discourage the bargain with God. They believe it encourages the wrong attitude about prayer: Prayer’s about putting God’s will before ours. Not about working out an exchange of goods and services.True. But the whole putting-God’s-will-first idea? That’s something devout believers know and practice. The bargain-with-God idea? We find it more among pagans, unbelievers, not-yet-believers, and newbies. (And the de…

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 that week.But no matte…