Prayer

Poem by George Herbert

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Read this poem this morning and wanted to share it…

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin,
But quick-ey’d love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d any thing.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “you should be he.” “I, the unkind, the ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says love, “Who bore the blame?” “My dear, then I will serve.”

“You must sit down”, says love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

FINIS
Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer.

The season I currently reside in is one of discomfort, and difficulty. I would categorize it as it a type of suffering, and in this difficult season, I have found it more difficult to pray than I have before. Now, believe me when I say, that prayer is a discipline that can easily become a strenuous act for me, as I believe it is for many people, and it calls us to personal devotion and commitment, which flows in the face of our culture today. Prayer can be easily avoided because it brings us a certain intimacy that we are not used to. It is also a discipline that can reveal a lot about a person. For instance, how they pray, and what they pray for are alleyways into their hearts. Prayer can be communal but it is also deeply personal. Jesus usually only prayed by himself, and it was perhaps in Jesus’ prayers that were recorded that we get a better picture of who he was than anywhere else. One of the prayers recorded in the New Testament is one that Jesus did say, but he uttered it only in order to teach his disciples how to pray. They asked him, and he gladly showed them. Jesus was opening them up to the reality that prayer was not just for the religious leaders of their day, but for all humanity. We have heard the prayer many times, and so much so that its profound meaning has maintained but a dull voice in our ears and in our hearts. Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy has helped me reflect on this passage with a clearer vision for what it was that Jesus was saying in this short but ageless prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this daily bread, and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

This is the greatest prayer of all. It depicts exactly what Jesus would have us pray. Perhaps not with the same words but indeed with the same principles and meaning behind each word.

First, God is the one who is there. The first line is a declaration, for God of course knows who he is and where he resides, but do we and do others? It is a proclamation that God exists! He is not far from us, but he is indeed in heaven where his glory dwells. We have misinterpreted heaven to mean “far off” for far too long. It was never meant to mean such a thing, and how can it! Heaven has made its first steps into this world through Christ. Heaven is in the process of fully coming, and it is indeed nearer than it ever has been. Does it matter then if we pray with our eyes open or closed? Some of the earliest Christians prayed eyes wide open, and even Jesus usually prayer standing up with his face pointed upward. God is real, and he exists.

Have you ever felt misunderstood? I know I did just today. Whenever I feel misunderstood there is always the temptation to simply move on from the people who misunderstood me. At times, whether it is actually true or not, we all feel misunderstood. The one who is truly most misunderstood though is God himself. Hallowed. What is hallowed? Holy? Sanctified? Yeah, it is certainly those things, but above all of that is God’s inherent worthiness. God is the greatest, the most Holy, the one who deserves our affections, and our love. He is ALL of these things, but how often is his attributes or characteristics misunderstood, even by those who follow Him! Whenever we feel misunderstood we should realize that it is nothing in comparison to our God whose name is Holy. He knows misunderstanding better than any of us. It is a tragedy that not all see our Father as greatest and best, and such a misunderstanding should cause us to mourn. Why doesn’t it?

I am not content with who I am. I am not content with the way this world is. In this prayer Jesus prompts us to ask for His Kingdom and His rule to come to this earth. His Kingdom, which is ultimately glorious and perfect, is somehow going to collide with this earth, and he is prompting us to continually ask for that collision to be apart of our personal lives. This is not some general abstraction that we can really know nothing of, but something he is asking we pray in order that we may see and witness this collision happening in our relationships, neighborhoods, and countries. The Kingdom will one day come as it states elsewhere in the New Testament, and Jesus is asking us to be agents of His will being done on earth. Notice that this comes after worship, and knowing our place before God.

I have more than what I absolutely need. In America, that seems to be the way it is. The majority of us have what we need for our daily doings, and there isn’t much of a struggle to get by. What then comes of asking God for what we need today? It does not say that we should ask God for anything past today. It is not that we should not have anything that we will use tomorrow, but rather that Jesus is calling us to trust in him for what we know we will need for today. God is asking us to give him our need for future security, for if we have him then our provisions can be met. Bonhoeffer says that receiving today liberates us from the worry of tomorrow.

Forgiveness is at the very heart of the gospel. We of course pray to God in order to confess our sins, and to ask for healing, but here Jesus asks us to pray for pity. Dallas Willard uses this word in regard to this passage because it makes us wince a little bit. It does not sound as noble as mercy or forgiveness. Here we are asking for pity. Yes, it is humbling and demeaning. This request gives us no room for pride or self-rightousness, for it is a plea that The Lord of the universe would show some pity on us, and feel bad for our lowly and abused state. We certainly need all the pity he can offer.

The temptation uttered here is not just to sin but trials in general. Willard says it best in saying, “Trials always tempt us to sin, however. And temptation to sin is always a trial”. Suffering is something that can be used for good by God. Trials are not arbitrary. Certainly we feel weak both in suffering and in temptation, and it is simply not a comfortable place to be. Could it be that trials always result in something better on the other side? Paul states that it is in suffering and weakness that he remains strong. That makes no sense unless he means that he experiences God strength working through him.

Which section of this prayer do you need most in your life currently? And how can we better meditate on these words? Have you ever tried rewriting the Lord’s Prayer? Here is an example that comes from Willard’s book:

Dear Father always near us,
may your name be treasured and loved,
may your rule be completed in us-
may your will be done here on earth
in just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today,
and forgive of us our sins and impositions on you
as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don’t put us through trials,
but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are the one in charge,
and you have all the power,
and the glory too is all your yours-forever-
which is just the way we want it!

What if God doesn’t provide?

I guarantee there are some people who will see the title of this blog post and wonder whether or not I am a heretic. Well, hopefully this blog post will clear that conundrum up for some of you.

As some of you may know, I am in the process of raising support to be a missionary through Great Commission Ministries on the Kent State University campus at h2o church. The process for me began about three weeks ago when I got back from Orlando for new staff training. The process has been an emotionally and spiritually (sometimes physically) trying one. I prayed at the beginning of this process (about a month ago) that God would help me to make this about Him and not about me. I prayed that he would expose things in my life that I needed to submit to Him and trust Him with. I can now tell you with full assurance that he has begun to answer these. Truly…

There are tons of things that God is bringing to my attention that He wants to change about me. He is no doubt drawing me into a greater and deeper intimacy with Him. For those of you who get jacked by hearing about how close someone is to reaching their financial goal, right now I am actually at about 25% of my monthly goal. It is indeed amazing and there are many times that I forget how incredible that is. This reality can only be attributed to a God who cares for the needs of His people and provides in miraculous and in the most winsome of ways. All of this is undoubtedly true, but there is indeed something that I have been wrestling with all the while. I have struggled with the reality that it is possible that by the end of this summer I may not have met my goal. What I mean is that it is possible that God could not provide my need by the end of this summer.

So, give me a chance before you start getting out your bible to show me Matthew 7:7-11 or Ephesians 3:20-21 to prove that I am indeed a heretic. It may seem strange that this has been a struggle point for me since God has provided graciously thus far, but I am continually finding it necessary to be dealt with. My question is this: how do we reconcile (is it even possible?) seeing God as Father and He who “gives every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) with the fact that God could not always provide what we need (or what we think we need)? This is the main question but there are some sub-questions that echo in my mind often like, “What if God wants to provide something different than monetary support?”, or “Is the provision of Gods one and only son enough for me even if God doesn’t provide in any other way?”. I have yet to find any one answer for these questions.

Look at the apostle Paul. Here is a man who understood the provision of God yet if you take a look at 2 Corinthians 11 it might be difficult to understand how Paul was able to trust Gods provision. Paul went through a ton of crap (evidenced in 2 Corinthians 11) in his life yet he says that he would boast in those miserable experiences and that Gods power was made perfect in his weaknesses. Paul was proclaiming the lack of control he had over his life and was even boasting over it! I think it is safe to say that Gods provision does not always present itself as we like to think.

We need to be honest and acknowledge that trusting God is risky. When you begin to trust God with all that you are and all that you have you enter into a world unknown. The reality is that I know that God CAN provide but whether he WILL provide is a different story. That is the tension that I feel like I am living in and it is possibly a tension we all need to live in when trusting God. I don’t know, perhaps I am wrong in all of this. I war against the all to often token Christian answers to Gods provision because to be frank I think they are often rooted in an American prosperity gospel rather than the biblical gospel. God doesn’t just provide us with a Ferrari or a girlfriend simply because we want one. God cares for us too much to merely provide us with what we think we need. He knows what we need and we often take a stab at what we think we need, but we are just too short-sighted to see how God sees. I think he does want to “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”, but we need to rest in the fact that that is going to look so much different than what we are dreaming it up to be.

So, I would love to hear thoughts on this, because I do not have the full-proof theology on this matter. Any comments welcome, even if you are to disagree. This is my life right now, and I would love to be in conversation about this with those who choose to do so.

Re-created Relationship

I wanted to write this blog to simply the story of my parents and I. I wanted to share of the wonder that has taken place within our relationship by the grace of God. I think it is often easy to write of a story of redemption and reconciliation without understanding the support of the gospel itself. I think that in the gospels Jesus gives us a beautiful picture of how recreated relationships come about, and what they look like. God had in mind something more glorious than we could have ever imagined when he created us in the image of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

My story begins when I was a senior in high school. I became a Christian at the beginning of this school year and was seventeen years old at the time. My parents and I had a good relationship before this, even though here and there we experienced some bumps and bruises(as most relationships do when in the teenage stage). Little did I know that in receiving Christ’s free gift, God would reveal what had been building in my heart for many years-that being pride leading to a superiority complex and judgmental attitude. Only now do I realize this; that God was working in my sin, to recreate it into something I could not take credit for. Proverbs says that he who slanders reveals secrets and this is exactly what God did through my scoffing heart.

I was on the eve of a continual war with my parents for that year. I thank God that he was working in me despite my sin and even in the midst of this seeming tragedy. I continued to judge them for things I did not understand, and our relationship eventually turned into a hostile one.

Only now am I able to comprehend all of this now that I am able to witness the continual mending God is doing within our relationship.

I understand (as many Christians do) that we were created for relationships, this is obvious. We were also created for a particular form of relationships-namely one’s that reflect the glory of our God. When we sinned our relationships along with all creation was fractured in the purpose that they were fashioned to fulfill. In Jesus, our relationship with God is redeemed, and thus our relationships with others have what they need to experience redemption.

This brings us to the question; how do these relationships come about? Relationships, as they were meant to be, come into existence through living under the rule and reign of Christ. This concept seems so simple. Only when one has claimed Christ as Lord and Savior can we see redemption and reconciliation-first in our relationship with God, and then physical relationships. When we yield to Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to experience Christ in us, thus new life and new relationships.

Relationships under the rule and reign of Christ are to be as Jesus prayed in John 17. He prayed that we may be one even as he is one. The trinity is where we begin to learn what redeemed relationship is to model. The trinity in its purity is the image we were created in and created to reflect in relationship. The trinity is the ultimate illustration of unity, and this is merely one facet of the relationships we were meant to have.

My parents an I have grown so much together, and I enjoy the newness of our relationship. Thankful to God for his apparent faithfulness in all this.