Category: Prayer (page 1 of 20)

Daylight from the Lord

When Joshua defeated the Amorites, he prayed to God in the middle of the battle. He was running out of daylight, they were needing more time, and he prayed to God to make the sun stand still.

Joshua didn’t know the sun doesn’t move. If you’re going to get more daylight, you need to ask God to make the earth stand still, not the sun. Joshua didn’t know. He prayed for the wrong thing. He prayed with mistaken assumptions. He didn’t have all the information.

But God still gave him more daylight.

Today, we pray with mistaken assumptions. We don’t have all the information. We ask for the wrong things. But God still gives us daylight.

We engage our neighbors with the Good News, we talk to our friends at work about Christ, and we don’t have all the information. We don’t know the half of everything that’s really happening around us and inside that conversation. We speak with mistaken assumptions. But God still gives us daylight.

Peace,

Allan

Everybody’s a Christian

Another of the things we must stop believing if we are to become more faithful proclaimers of the Good News in our communities is this feeling that Everybody We Know is Already a Christian. We think that everybody we meet in our town — this is especially difficult for us in the Bible Belt South and Southwest — is a Christian. We must stop believing that everybody in our city goes to church. Because they don’t. And we also need to stop believing that people who don’t follow Christ  have all heard the Good News about Jesus and thought it through and made the decision to reject it. That’ s not true, either.

Census research in Randall and Potter Counties here in our Texas panhandle and surveys done recently by our local newspaper reveal that almost 50% of the people in Amarillo do not have a church home. One out of every two people we run into at work or at the store doesn’t go to church.

And there’s an increasing number of people who don’t know very much at all about Jesus. Over the last couple of decades, kids in this country are being raised differently than the ways most of us were raised. And there are lots of men and women in their 20s and 30s who have never heard the Good News. That’s difficult for us to believe — they’ve never heard it! We’ve got to stop believing everybody already has. It shuts down our desire to witness. It tempers the urgency to share the Gospel.

Our culture today is a lot more like the first century of Acts than it is the United States of the 1940s and 1950s. We can learn a lot by reading and re-reading Acts.

In the face of serious opposition, when the culture opposed them, when society ridiculed them, when the government threatened them, the Church did not pray for wisdom or protection or favor with the authorities. They don’t ask God to change any of the circumstances. They pray for two things. They ask for strength to obey, to have the nerve and guts and faith to continue to speak boldly about the Christ. And they ask for God to act in his mighty power, to do what he needs to do to advance the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” ~Acts 4:29

The prayer is not about numbers or relevancy or new laws or positive press. The concern of the Church is for the Word to go forth and for Christ Jesus to be glorified. To speak more boldly about the Good News in a culture that isn’t Christian and to praise God when he does amazing things.

Peace,

Allan

Thoughts and Prayers

The people who are criticizing Christians and politicians for sending their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida but aren’t doing anything tangible or practical, are exactly right. Such is the backlash against supposed followers of Jesus in this country who offer their prayers but no real work toward real solutions that “thoughts and prayers” is trending. It’s a hashtag.

And they’re right.

When we pray to God we pray through the name of our Lord Jesus.  And we are ordained by God’s Holy Spirit to act as our Lord’s body — his representatives, his ambassadors — on this earth. We are the Body of Christ and it’s on us, Christians, to do something. That’s how prayer works. We ask God for the boldness, courage, and power to do what needs to be done. And then, by his grace, we do it.

I think about Jesus telling his disciples to pray for workers. In Matthew 9 and Luke 10 he tells his followers “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest , therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” And then the very next word is “Go!” Jesus says in the very next verse, “Go! I am sending you!”

Pray for God to raise up workers. Oh, by the way, YOU ARE THE WORKERS!

I think about the inspiring prayer of Paul at the end of Ephesians 3. The apostle prays to our God who, yes, “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” But how does God accomplish his will? How does God work in the world? “…according to his power that is at work within us!”

As part of the curriculum for the Transforming Community experience I’m in, I’m finishing up a book this week by Ronald Rolheiser called “The Holy Longing.” He addresses this near the beginning of a chapter on Consequences of the Incarnation:

“Not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

We must put skin on our “thoughts and prayers.”

If I pray that more young people would be involved in our church, but I don’t seek out any young people for friendship or don’t give young people any opportunities for service or leadership, I’m not praying like a Christian. I’m not concretely involving myself in trying to bring about what I’m asking God to do. If my daughter is sick and I pray that she gets well but I don’t drive her to the doctor, I’m not praying like a Christian.

So, it is good to pray for the victims of the shooting and their families. It is good to ask our Father to bless those children and their loved ones with his merciful healing, comfort, and peace. It is good to lament the tragedy and it is good to pray for the soul of the shooter. But we’re not praying like Christians, and we deserve the criticism from non-Christians, if we’re not attempting to do something about the problem.

I understand it can seem hopeless. We live in a sick society with a fetish for guns. We drink the water and breathe the air of violence in the U.S. — it’s “our thing.” But Christians are a people of peace, not violence.  Followers of Jesus are reconcilers, not dividers. What does that look like in your context as it relates to what happened at Douglas High School on Ash Wednesday and what keeps happening every week in this country?

This is not meant for prescription, but for discussion. And reflection.

If you vote, maybe you cast a ballot for politicians who might change some gun laws. Maybe you stop giving money to organizations that promote the easy access to and proliferation of assault weapons in our cities and neighborhoods. Take the violent and divisive bumper sticker off your car.

If you don’t vote, maybe you stop going to violent movies. Maybe you destroy your own guns. You might speak against violence when the conversation at work turns to war or crime. If you’re praying for peace in the world, maybe you can start doing something real by forgiving your own enemies in your family or at church, being kind to people who are different from you, reaching out to the lonely and depressed people around you with love and grace and friendship.

Thoughts and prayers are good. To be Christian, though, it cannot stop there.

Peace,

Allan

Rising and Dying

Ash Wednesday begins the period of Lent, the forty days followers of Jesus use to prepare their hearts and souls in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is typically a day of fasting and prayer, a day for renewing vows and making promises. Lent is generally a period of fasting and prayer, six weeks of focusing on purity and cleanliness.  A putting away. A taking off. A solemn burial of the habits and issues that get between us and a complete commitment to our crucified and risen Lord.

I’ve suggested in the past that if Lent is for putting things away, then Easter is for taking up new activities in service of Christ. You shouldn’t rid your life of damaging attitudes and practices and not replace them with helpful habits and perspectives. If Lent is dying with Christ, Easter is certainly rising with Christ.

But, I’d like to revise my recommendation.

Don’t wait until Easter to start those new habits. Don’t wait until Resurrection Day to take up that new something that will draw you closer to our Lord.

Every day is a dying and rising with Christ. Every day is a taking off and putting on with Jesus. Living under his exclusive lordship  requires that we die to ourselves and rise to walk with him every hour. It’s the rhythm of the Christian life. It begins with our baptisms — dying and rising with Christ — and continues as our habit, our daily routine. Clothe yourselves with Christ. Put off and take on. Be buried and rise again. Every morning and throughout your day.

In unity with all my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, I’m fasting and praying today. I’ll attend the Ash Wednesday service down the street at Polk Street United Methodist Church this evening. And I’ll not wait until Easter to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus who gives us new life today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

Peace,

Allan

“In the World, Not Of the World”

The man comes up to Jesus and he’s covered with leprosy. He falls with his face to the ground and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus say, “If I’m willing?!? Of course, I’m willing!!! That’s why I’m here! Be clean!!” And he healed him immediately.

A widow is wailing over the death of her only Son. Jesus says to her, “Don’t cry.” He raises the young man from the dead and gives him back to his mother. All the crowd is filled with awe and they praise God saying, “God has come to help his people!”

Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness, he brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. People are blessed and the world is changed.

And then on that last night, around the table with his followers, our Lord Jesus prays. He prays for all people “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He tells the Father “they know I came from you, they believe you sent me” (John 17:8). He tells God “everybody knows you sent me” (John 17:25). And he prays for his disciples:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” ~John 17:15-18

Then Jesus is arrested and crucified. Out of his deep love for us and his commitment to our forgiveness and righteousness and peace, he gives his life. On the third day, God’s Holy Spirit brings our Lord out of the grave. That evening the risen and reigning Jesus eats dinner with his followers and says:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” ~John 20:21

When Jesus says we’re not of this world, that’s not a final destination or a future goal — it’s a starting point. By our baptisms and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are members of the family of God, we are citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, like Jesus. And, like Jesus, being not of this world is so we can be sent into this world.

I’ve heard it said all my life — you and I have probably both said this many times: “We’re in this world but we’re not of this world.” The way we say it implies that being in the world is a temporary accident we have to endure or, at worst, a really bad circumstance we must fight. We’ve paraphrased Jesus’ words into an isolationists slogan. We make it sound like we’re above everything and we need to take care of ourselves first and be separate from the world.

No, we’ve got it backwards!

Jesus says we’re not of this world precisely so we can be sent into the world. In the world is intentional, it’s the very core of God’s eternal plans. The Church is not a community of cautious isolation, we’re a group committed to courageous transformation! We don’t run from the world or rail against the world; we are racing into the world with the amazing story of God’s love that has captured our hearts and commissioned our lives! God gathers us together in his Church so we can better be on point for his mission in the world!

Peace,

Allan

Praying Like Petty

There’s a dream I keep having where my mama comes to me
and kneels down over by the window and says a prayer for me;
got my own way of prayin,’
but every one’s begun
with a southern accent
where I come from.

~Tom Petty

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