Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

When I came upon this meme, I immediately saw two inferences: (1) only people who our culture considers “weak” go to church and, (2) church (or any kind of faith, for that matter) cannot help us get through life’s challenges.

From my perspective, these broad generalizations entirely miss the point of faith.

Most importantly, when hard times smack you in the face, do you want to face them alone? As my pastor friend Ross Carkner points out, “church isn’t a place that you go to, but a people you do life with. And life isn’t an individual sport; it’s often a war and we do battle together.”

Ross’s point is significant because unlike, say, a wine-tasting group or a book club, church deals with the most important matters of life. And because of that, churches are uniquely equipped to help you deal with disappointments and bad news.

Are people of faith weak and incapable of standing tall when setbacks strike like a hurricane? Some folks might think so, but those of us who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) know that He’s the one who makes us strong.

We are strengthened through His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do) and His resurrection. We are made capable of forgiving even the most heinous crimes because through Jesus, we are totally forgiven.

That might make us seem weak to some, but there’s no point in living life angry and bitter. Before deciding to follow Jesus, that’s what I was like and it made me unpleasant to be around.

When Jesus followers encounter hard times, we absolutely want to fall to our knees and start praying. I know many critics of faith believe prayer is an eye-rolling waste of time, but for us, it:

  • connects us to Jesus
  • helps us to discern how He wants us to respond to the challenges before us
  • gives us the willpower to stand tall

Just as important as these points, connecting to Jesus helps us to understand that life isn’t just about our needs, our hopes and our struggles. It’s about seeing – and responding to – the pain and suffering around us.

Because of our faith in Jesus, we become God’s ambassadors in a world that even the most optimistic person will admit isn’t doing very well. Out of that has come Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Compassion Canada, Christian Blind Mission, International Justice Mission and many other charities that are helping people in crisis to get back on their feet and stand tall.

So let me end by making a suggestion that ties directly into the meme: if you have young kids, take them to church, even if you don’t fully understand what’s going on and even if you’re not sure what you believe. When you take that step, you keep the door of faith open for your children to explore. If you’re a person open to spirituality, I believe that would be important to you.

Agree? Disagree? Post your response below and let’s have a conversation. 🙂

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Have you noticed the stereotyping that guides pretty much every thought in this meme?

Yes, famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair (1919-95) was doing a whole lot of spiritual profiling when she made this statement. Let me break it down for you:

1. The clear inference is people of faith will always construct a church before a hospital. Where on earth does this strange viewpoint come from?

I’m sure there are a few misguided followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the divine Son of God) who think this way, but most are smart enough to realize “church” is NOT a building; it’s a body of believers who are doing their imperfect best to live for their creator and be part of the work He is doing in this very broken world.

This accurate definition means a “church” can meet in a school gym (and many do), a community centre or even someone’s living room.

So, I’m glad to conclude that just like Madalyn, I’d rather have a hospital constructed before a church.

2. Why must a deed be done before a prayer said? Why can’t the two happen at the same time? Believe it or not, prayer is often a catalyst to doing deeds.

Through prayer, people who follow Jesus communicate with the creator and master of time, space and the universe. Through prayer, we discern what God wants us to do. Then we get out into the world and do it.

Evidence? check out the websites of groups like Samaritan’s Purse, Christian Blind Mission, World Vision, Compassion Canada, International Justice Mission and many more. All the amazing work these aid organizations do is before, during and after prayer.

3. I guess I need to undertake a search because so far, I’ve yet to encounter even one Jesus follower who strives to “escape into death”. Followers of Jesus are deeply involved in life.

In my family, two stepchildren are parents. While my stepson is being a father, he’s deeply involved in his church, sings in a community choir and performs in local musicals. Can anyone credibly tell me he’s striving to “escape into death”?

4. I’m happy to report that Jesus followers are absolutely in agreement with Madalyn Murray O’Hair: we, too, want disease conquered, poverty banished and war eliminated.

We want this because not only will it make the world a better place, it’s what God wants. That’s why there are Jesus-following doctors, anti-poverty groups and advocates for peace.

So, now that you know some facts about the people who follow Jesus, are you more open to checking out what it means to follow Him? Our culture says don’t waste your time, but this is important stuff — now and after this life ends.

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Prayer-doubt 2.16No doubt about it: prayer is often a mystery, even to people who believe in it and practise it.

So I was intrigued by this graphic (found in an atheist internet community) because it asserts a viewpoint I haven’t seen before.

Indeed, doing a Google search of the question “Is prayer an act of doubt?” brought up almost no links. Apparently, most people (even those who doubt God’s existence) have never thought to pose the question.

So is praying an act of doubt? Blogger Juanita Ryan (www.JuanitaRyan.com) puts it very well when she writes: “We want to trust God. We want to have faith. But we have so many questions. So many things are unclear and uncertain.”

In western culture, doubting there even is a creator is common. So wondering if God is watching over everything is hardly rare.

But watching over everything is not the same as arranging everything. If you believe in God, then you probably believe in freewill. And that’s part of the mystery. How, when and where does freewill mix with God’s will? And how does all that work in His plan for this planet, for you and for me?

There are no definitive, truly satisfactory answers to those questions  And I’m fine with that. Questions like these are a powerful and necessary reminder that God is God. And I am NOT.

So are my prayers an act of doubt? Sometimes. Remember, as a man of faith (I follow Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s divine Son), I’m surrounded by people — including my parents and brothers — who think praying to our creator is a joke, a quaint throwback to a time when Jesus was influential in my country (Canada).

Then I think about this point made by Juanita Ryan: “Where do we take our doubts if not to God? Where do we voice our uncertainties if not to God?”

Exactly. Just hours before Jesus was arrested on trumped-up charges, one of the original source documents of Jesus’ physical life on earth records that He spent anguished time on His own, praying to His Father about His fears and uncertainties.

“Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me drink from this cup [of betrayal, torture and death on a Roman cross]. But do what you want, not what I want”.

Right there is the biggest reason I can think of for praying. Jesus prayed. A lot. And he prayed about his uncertainties. And as a result, He was strengthened for the hard road ahead, so much so that He willingly carried out His Father’s plan to reconnect us defiant, sinful people to Him.

By trusting and believing in Jesus — His physical life and work, His death and resurrection — God no longer sees all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. Jesus has paid the price for it all. So when this life is finished, those who trust and believe in Jesus will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Sound intriguing? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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praying-hands-rt-hiPrayer is a big part of my life and I can easily construct and speak a tour-de-force that will tickle your ears and touch your emotions.

But do my prayers, and the prayers of everyone else, make any difference? For me, the answer is this simple: it depends.

Am I praying to obtain something? Is it something I need or something I want – and do I really know the difference?

Am I trying to change God or me?

Am I praying for someone? If yes, am I framing my prayer with the presumption I know what’s best for this person?

How am I approaching prayer? Am I desperate? Sad? Angry? Going through the motions?

Do I subconsciously think God is grading my effort – and His response (or lack thereof) depends on how I do?

When you consider just these questions, it’s no surprise that, in his wonderful book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey, writes “We who barely comprehend ourselves are approaching a God we cannot possibly comprehend. No wonder some Christians through the centuries have felt more comfortable praying to saints or relying on intermediaries.”

So why pray? For serious followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God), one answer is easy and simple: because prayer was a foundation of Jesus’s life. In the four original-source biographies of His life, more than a dozen prayers by Jesus are recorded. And if you read those prayers, you’ll quickly realize Jesus prayed like it made a huge difference.

Here’s another good reason: when we pray, we open ourselves up to hearing or sensing what God wants to tell us. The website allaboutprayer.org puts it this way:  “Prayer not only establishes a relationship with God, it is vital to maintaining our relationship with him.”

A relationship developed in prayer can have immense ramifications. According to the late author and Jesus follower Henri Noewen, “One of the discoveries we make in prayer is the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.”

Of course, this can be scary because the potential is there to shake us out of our placid, comfortable lives. As Philip Yancey put it in another of his books, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.” And once we see that reality, we may never be the same.

In fact, if our praying is sincere, we can be transformed into more generous, loving and forgiving people who have a truer picture of who God is and what He wants to accomplish in this world.

And that means we can be more like Jesus.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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devotedI found an essay called “10 Signs You’re a Devoted Christian” on the Internet and, as I read it, I realized it presented an excellent opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about people of faith. Read these highlights and see if you’ve had any of these opinions:

Christians deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your god.

Well, lots of Christians I know are not the least bit “outraged”. In fact, some of us are happy to talk with anyone who denies the existence of a creator. It usually makes for very interesting conversation.

  • You feel insulted and ‘dehumanized’ when scientists say people evolved from lesser life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

Um, no. I don’t know for absolute certain how we were created, other than it was God who did it. What else do I need to know on this subject?

  • You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a trinity god.

Maybe some Christians laugh at people who believe in more than one god. But most of us don’t. Does that mean we’re not “devoted” Christians?

  • Your face turns purple when you hear of atrocities attributed to Allah, but you don’t even flinch when hearing about how God slaughtered all the babies in Egypt in ‘Exodus’ or ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in ‘Joshua’.

Lots of Christians, including me, DO flinch when we read about these things in the Bible. No one can claim to understand all the Bible. But I suggest you check out the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (http://carm.org/) to thoroughly investigate the things you find so objectionable.

  • You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life, then ascended into the sky.

You must have encountered a few Christians who ridiculed other faiths and decided this is what ‘devoted’  Christians are like. I hope my responses open your mind to other possibilities.

  • You believe that the entire population of this planet, except those who share your beliefs, will spend eternity in Hell. Yet you consider your religion tolerant and loving.

I believe God gives the gift of choice to all people who have been accurately told about who He is and the gift He’s offered to everyone on this planet – Jesus Christ. If people choose to reject Christ and spend eternity separated from God, then that’s their free will.

  • You define 0.01% as a ‘high success rate’ when it comes to answered prayers, and you think the remaining 99.99% failure was simply God’s will.

Where did these percentages come from? Who did the research and how? Prayer is a mystery because it involves a mix of God’s will and our very imperfect will. But does that make it useless? Hardly.

  • You know less about the Bible, Christianity and church history than most atheists and agnostics, but still call yourself a “Christian”.

This is an enormous generalization. I think it’s safe to say that most agnostics know nothing about the Bible because they just don’t care about spirituality. That said, the lack of knowledge about the Bible and church history on the part of many Christians is sad.

So, are you surprised at the responses to these assertions? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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