Category Archives: Prayer

Praying for Rocky’s Boo Boos

Don't worry Rocky. Ethan's praying for you.

Several days ago, Ethan (my 4 year old) and I watched a YouTube clip from Rocky III. Rocky was fighting James “Clubber” Lang (played by Mr. T) and he took quite a pounding. Of course, Rocky came back to win and Ethan and I cheered him on.

Later that night, we sat down to eat dinner* and Ethan wanted to do what has become a family tradition. We all say pray one thing that we’re either thankful for or we ask God to do. He also gets to pick who starts.

This night, his mom got to start, she thanked God for the beautiful day, and then Ethan displayed such a tender heart. His prayer went something like this:

Dear God, please help Rocky’s boo boos get better from the fight.

What a sweet kid. I absolutely love that prayer. He identified someone hurting and remembered to pray for them.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

1 Peter 3:8

My son reminded me that, if I’m not careful, my prayers can turn into selfish, routine acts. Today, as you pray, I hope you’ll remember people in your life who are hurting and need help, love, and hope from God.

* Please don’t picture an ideal family sitting down perfectly to dinner. I use “sit down to dinner” merely as an expression. Chaos is often a more accurate picture. Thankfully, I have an awesome wife. 🙂

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Get into the Game

My son loves sports. Only four, he thrives on hitting a baseball, dribbling a basketball, or kicking a soccer ball. Consequently, we signed him up for soccer this spring and he loves everything about it…except…the game.

The coach divides the kids into groups and my son will run through the drills, always looking back at my wife and I, with the biggest smile on his face. The team lines up on one line and races toward the other end and he sprints his heart out. He’s won 6 0f 7 races! He’ll get together with a friend and kick the ball back and forth just for fun.

But then comes the game…

Within five seconds, my little guy gets this distraught look on his face and hightails it over to us. I’m not quite sure what scares him, but for some reason, he has the hardest time getting used to playing the actual game. He’ll do the drills, he’ll do the racing, he’ll practice his heart out, but he struggles with getting into the game.

I wonder if we do that too.

Most of us excel at wanting to practice. We want rules, we want guidelines. 20 minute quiet times? We can do that. Pray for a few minutes? Sure, why not? Attend church fairly regularly? No problem, I like the people. Give some money away? Tougher, but o.k.

We have mastered these drills, but when it comes to getting into the game, we’re often unsure, scared, or both.

Maybe we’ll fail.

Maybe people won’t like us.

Maybe I don’t know enough.

Maybe certain things are for “higher up” Christians.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

We create these barriers in our hearts and minds and find ourselves playing the majority of the game on the sideline. We’ll cheer for the success of missionaries, pastors, or “stronger” Christians, but never do much more than practice or watch.

Some may ask, “What exactly is this game you refer to?”

Valid question. I think it involves many things: sharing our faith, serving others, encouraging others in the faith, etc.

I’m not intending to denigrate discipline and “practices”, but I’m reminded of Psalm 67 .

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

We are saved by grace, through faith. Our relationship with God is essential. Prayer and scripture should permeate our lives. However, as they do, they motivate us to action. “May God be gracious to us…so that your ways may be know on earth.” Israel was meant to be a light to the nations. In the same vein, we are God’s ambassadors.

Paul, in Ephesians 2, right after he gives the Gospel, says we were created for good works which God has prepared for us to do. We practice, we run drills, we discipline ourselves, so that we are prepared to play the game.

As you study Scripture this week, as you pray, and as you attend your local church, ask yourself:

Have I been faithfully sharing my faith this month?
Have I looked for opportunities to serve in Christ’s name?
Have I built up another brother or sister in their faith?

Let us not practice for practice sake. We “practice” so that our lives may make much of Him.

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Ignorance, Indifference, or Unbelief: Why Don’t We Pray?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

John 14:13-14

Ignorance, indifference, or unbelief. I can only think of three options.

The disconnect between these verses and our lives expands like a great canyon. The mark of our churches includes many good, even great things, but rarely desperate, concerted prayer. We have the power of heaven at our disposal, yet, if your life looks anything like mine, we live as if we have plenty of power on our own.

Three reasons why we may not pray:

  1. Ignorance: I’m not calling anyone stupid. Ignorance is simply not knowing any better. Sure, people know verses about prayer exist. They even know they should pray. However, many Christians have not grown up in churches where there are men and women with a heart for prayer. Prayer is generally assigned to a Sunday or a morning devotional and so people treat it that way. We need leaders who will mentor the next generation. We need churches where families gather to pray not because they were told to, but because they have a passion for prayer. Church leaders, we must begin to live out biblical preaching on prayer!
  2. Indifference: Indifference is an epidemic that plagues the church today. Unfortunately, our convictions are such that we act as if our beliefs are no more significant than choosing which shirt to wear. Jesus directly tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Yet, when it comes to the many people in our sphere of influence who do not know the Good News, we hardly feel the need to pray for them. I have begun to pray that I would feel Paul’s urgency when he wrote:  “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…we implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  3. Unbelief: I have the hardest time with this one. I want to say we all believe God answers prayer, but do we? I feel like we sometimes try to cover for God by not praying. We just aren’t sure if He will answer the way we want. I don’t know. One of my best friends in the world was going through a difficult time recently and there were days I would neglect to pray for him. Sure, we’ll never be perfect, but I think there is also a time when we have to be real with ourselves and ask: Is what I believe just up in my head or has it sunk into my heart?

Ignorance, indifference, and unbelief. Which one do you struggle with?

 

 

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We Are All Tiger Woods

Take a deep breath. Relax. And say it with me now: “My name is _____ and I am Tiger Woods.”

In no way do I want to condone or legitimize what Tiger did. I’m not his apologist. He failed his wife. Big time.

But, I’m more concerned about our reactions to events like this. Sure, there is disappointment. I bet there are many kids who looked up to him. There may even be some anger. No one likes cheaters or repeat offenders (and he was both).

At some point though, shouldn’t we eventually get to a place where we say, “I am Tiger Woods.”

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Jesus (Matthew 5:27-29)

I’m sure many of us have read those verses. We probably felt good about reading them and said, “Yup, Jesus is right. He’s so smart.” But when a situation like the one with Tiger Woods becomes news, our hearts rage against verses like these.

We think, “Jesus didn’t really mean that!” But He did. I figure He probably even chose His words carefully considering He knew they would be recorded for all time. The principle is there:

Looking lustfully = Committing Adultery

Tiger Woods is an adulterer and unless one of us claims to have never, ever looked lustfully at someone, we are adulterers too. But that grates at our pride. It’s one thing to admit we’re flawed. It’s another thing altogether to admit we’ve screwed up just as much as Tiger. We want to weigh all our sin/junk/screw ups and come out lighter and holier than him. We want to pretend we’re better. But we’re not…unless Jesus was joking.

Shortly after the scandal broke, a buddy of mine sent an email to a bunch of folks. I can’t remember his exact words, but essentially he said, “Without the Holy Spirit and God’s grace, we are all Tiger Woods.”

His point is not to justify what Tiger did. He’s saying, given the right circumstances, we could find ourselves in Tiger’s shoes. Most likely, he made small decisions over time that steamrolled into larger, more destructive decisions. If we just count on ourselves being really good, we could very well end up in his situation.

Maybe it’s not adultery, but maybe it’s gluttony. Maybe it’s gossiping. Maybe it’s pride. Again, we want to have this hierarchy of sin where we can say ours isn’t as bad, but it all comes from the same place: a defiant heart.

Would it be unchristian of us to love the guy? He doesn’t “deserve” it, but again, do we really deserve God’s love? Who are we to have been given unmerited, unlimited grace and mercy to deny extending the same?

There are consequences to actions and rightly so, but as I said, I’m more concerned with our response as Christians than what he did. Did Christ not befriend prostitutes? Did he not dine with “sinners”?

There is a Tiger Woods in all of our lives: someone who has messed up big time in a public way. I believe it’s our job to help them through it. Not condone it, but be there unconditionally to help them make the right decisions. It’s easy to love people when they are perfect. It’s Christlike to love people when they aren’t.

And when we hear news of someone failing that we’re not closed to…shouldn’t we be the place where the gossip stops? No matter who we hear about that screwed up, shouldn’t we be the wall that puts out the wildfire of “news”? I once heard that “Christians don’t gossip, they share prayer requests.” How true.

When we hear the latest failure of _____(fill in anyone’s name), it’s right to pray for them. We should. But we don’t have to tell everyone, “Did you hear what so and so did? Imagine that. Terrible. Oh, we should pray for them.” I know there is a way to share a request legitimately, but where’s the line between gossip and sharing? It’s probably more prudent to leave it anonymous unless you really trust the person and you will actually pray for the “offender” right then.

It’s the times when someone screws up the most that they need prayer and a rock-solid friend. If someone at your church was making destructive decisions, would they feel good about confessing and receiving help, support, and prayer or would they be afraid they’d be kicked out, shunned, or slandered behind their back? Again, I’m not saying there is no time for discipline or consequences, but those should never be done without a healthy portion of grace, love, faith, and mercy.

Remember, we are all Tiger Woods.

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Doing Nothing is Easier – Day 12

Sometimes it’s easier just to do nothing.

I’ve had numerous times over the last few days, and this morning in particular, where I’ve really struggled with doing nothing. By nothing, I mean either wasting time or not wanting to respond to people’s needs. Maybe you’ve been there with me before?

Take this morning for example. There’s one guy I meet from time to time who’s very hard to love. I would tell you why, but I feel like I’d be bashing him and I want to avoid that. Anyway, we talked this morning and I just had a really hard time engaging him like I should. It’s just easier to end the conversation, to give short answers, and do nothing than to really give the guy time. But I’m not called to love just the really awesome people of the world. I’m called to love everyone. So, he’s going on my prayer list but not in the way you might think. Yes, I’ll pray for him, but I’m mainly pray for my attitude towards him and that I would be open to serving him in some way.

The second part of doing nothing I’ve struggled with this morning is wasting time. I was a little tongue tied earlier and couldn’t quite figure out how to write the post I wanted to write (still haven’t!). There’s also a couple of other small tasks I’m avoiding, but it’s much easier to kill time on mindless things and I’m a pro at turning minutes into hours on the Internet.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not wallowing in guilt. I don’t think I should be. I think there’s a healthy way of recognizing when we aren’t using the time God gives us to the fullest. So I think it’s good to evaluate from time to time and ask God, “Does my life look remotely like what you want it to look like?” In the case of my morning, probably not completely, but I’m learning. And now I’m off to do some collecting!

Have you Become Last today?

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Becoming Last – Day 11 – Great Afternoon

It’s been a great afternoon. I’ve started a study of 2 Corinthians today and it’s been blowing me away. First off, I’ve found a phrase that has to go into my Top Five favorites. When describing the Apostle Paul, the commentator called his life “permanently redirected.” Is that not awesome? Permanently redirected.

Does that describe our lives as Christians? Have we been permanently redirected? It’s not that our lives are supposed to look better than others or that we’re supposed to be nicer people or do so many church things. That’s not what it’s about. Christ comes into our lives and permanently redirects them. He changes the hard-drive. He rewires us. He gives us a new vision for why we exist. I told you that’s an awesome phrase. Permanently redirected.

The only other part of my study that I’ll share for now is the part on prayer. Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 1:11 that he believes prayer helps. What if this conviction were to take root in my heart? If we really believed prayer changes things, how much more would we be people of prayer? Talk about Becoming Last! How much more of my time could be used petitioning God on behalf of others. I think about my friend’s brother who is having a tough time in his marriage. Where is the burden on my heart to labor in prayer for him and his wife? I think about the woman I heard who lost her partner. Should I not be praying steadfastly for her in her time of grief? What of the many I know who don’t know God’s love or of the people suffering throughout the world. I pray God would give me a much greater burden and desire to be in prayer.

Finally, the last part of my great afternoon deals with our challenge for the week. I had an amazing conversation with my apartment complex manager. She was pumped about the idea of gathering food. She asked me if I could make flyers and put them around the complex. Um, YES! Then, we had a great talk about other ways to serve and love people. Is that not awesome? And to think I almost forgot to go over there this afternoon because I was too busy! You can bet I’ll be making some flyers tonight. I’m excited to see if her passion is contagious throughout our apartments.

Have you Become Last today?

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Becoming Last – Day 4 – 9:42am – False Start

On Friday, I confessed my typical morning routine could be put to better use. I discovered that if I just used my 15 minutes in prayer, instead of the Internet, then I would have 39 more hours of time to pray for people each year. 

Although, technically, today isn’t one of those days I was referring to, I’m beginning to notice how much I “run” to the Internet. It’s just second nature now and I can’t but feel as if that’s a bit out of line.

That’s why this post must be short this morning. My wife is at Target, my son is at his granddad’s and so this a prime opportunity to play Play Station 2 pray. I’ll report back on my time later.

How can you Become Last today?

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