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Posts Tagged ‘What is 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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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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