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Showing posts with the label #Pray

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…

People who love angry prayer.

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Θυμοί/thymí, “anger,” is a work of the flesh.Ga 5.19 Period.I know: For a lot of Christians there is no such period; anger is okay in various circumstances. ’Cause the LORD gets angry, Dt 4.21, 1Ki 11.9, 2Ch 25.15, Ps 60,1, Jr 10.10 and Jesus got angry that one time, Mk 3.5 and if God can get angry, we presume we can indulge our anger.Forgetting, of course, God is absolutely in control of his emotions. Whereas we suck at it. We get angry, then forget all about loving people, take our revenge, get our satisfaction. We get murdery.There are a lot of angry people in the world, and as a result there are a lot of angry Christians. And rather than get hold of their anger, fight it, and eliminate it by the time the sun goes down, Ep 4.26 angry Christians wanna embrace that anger, make it part of their character and lifestyle, and justify it as “righteous anger.” Even though there’s nothing at all righteous about how they wanna express their anger. They’re not seeking anyone’s good, nor God’s…

Angry prayers.

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IMPRECATE'ɪm.prə.keɪtverb. Call down evil upon.[Imprecation ɪm.prə'keɪ.ʃənnoun, imprecatory ɪm'prək.ə.tɔ.riadjective]Yep, there’s a whole category of prayer which is all about people letting loose their rage as they pray. Not because they’re angry with God—although sometimes they might be! But commonly they’re furious at other people, at human behavior, or at Satan itself. So they call down God’s wrath, or put curses on people and things, or otherwise condemn ’em.I started with a definition of the old-timey word Christians use to describe such things: Imprecatory prayer. (Not everyone knows how to pronounce it properly.) It’s a nicer way of saying “angry prayer.”And lest you think God doesn’t allow, or listen to, angry prayer: Nope, he permits it. Angry prayers are in the bible. There’s a bunch of ’em in Psalms. ’Cause sometimes King David’s enemies would piss him off, so he’d declare God was gonna do all sorts of savage things to ’em. God didn’t necessarily, because God’s…

How often ought we pray?

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Ask any Christian, and we’ll likely admit we don’t pray as often as we ought.Well, nuns, monks, and the people who staff prayer rooms, might be exceptions. Yet even some of them will admit they oughta pray more. Why is this? Well, some of it is because it’s true: We could pray more than we do.For a lot of folks, other than saying grace, they don’t pray daily. Or they pray maybe two or three minutes a day… then beat themselves up for not praying 10 minutes a day. Or 30. Or an hour. Or even longer.Okay. For a moment, let’s stop doing that and seriously think: How long does God reasonably expect us to talk with him?Why should every Christian prayer become as long as the longest phone conversations you could possibly have with your friends? (And considering how much of these conversations consist of really dumb, frivolous, irrelevant stuff, should our prayers ever become that dumb?)Much of the reason a lot of Christians have this idea of prayer as a marathon race, comes from this simple l…

“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 make sure they’re not fasting for the wrong 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” when we obey; that’s our duty. Lk 17.10 What, did you not receive enough trophies for partic…

God doesn’t owe us anything for fasting.

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I’ve pointed out fasting is a great way to focus our attention on God so we can pray better, hear him better, and develop our self-control.But no, I don’t guarantee you’ll grow in all these ways when you fast.All things being equal, you probably will. But as you know, there are lots of ways people can bollix our own growth. If we’re fasting, yet the rest of our lives are just as sinful as ever, why should we expect anything to change whatsoever? And yet Christians do: “I’m fasting! That should count for something.”The Hebrews did it too, y’know. They’d fast, then make prayer requests ’cause they believed fasting would show the LORD they were serious, and it’d move him a little faster. It’s why Jehoshaphat told Jerusalem to fast so God might rescue them from invaders, 2Ch 20.3 and why Esther asked the Persian Jews to fast before she petitioned the king. Es 4.16 Since God apparently acted on the petitioners’ behalf in these stories, Christians get the idea fasting makes God move. They’l…