Tag Archives: prayer

If Only I Didn’t Pray…

I pray quite a bit.

It’s not because I’m especially holy (as you’ll see in a few sentences). It’s not because I have some extraordinary hotline to God which sees all my prayers answered my way. And it’s not because I’m just looking to fill my life with religious activity.

I pray because I’ve made a commitment to pray, because I think this is part of what God is asking me to do in this season of life.

Some days it’s challenging, other days it’s easy. Some days it’s tiring, and on others it’s energizing. Some days it’s encouraging, and others it’s uncertain.

Throughout the varieties of my religious experience, I frequently encounter one thought. (Here’s where you’ll get to see that I’m not especially holy.)

“What could I get done if only I didn’t pray?”

Two or three hours a day, time and energy…what else could I accomplish if I wasn’t spending time sharing thoughts with God, asking for blessing in the lives of others, trying to discern what He thinks, hear what He’s saying?

Undoubtedly, there are other things I could do. Letters I could write, lessons I could prepare, books I could read, phone calls I could make, emails I could respond to.

My thought today, in response to my frequent question, was this: “Is that really what the world needs? Does the world need more of this kind of activity from me? Does it need more letters, emails, and phone calls from me?”

No, I don’t think so.

True enough, if I didn’t pray, I could do more of these things, but the world doesn’t need more of my efforts. What the world needs is more of the activity of God. Lives transformed, wounds healed, brokenness mended, lost things (and people) found, wrongs righted, mistakes forgiven, marginalized people loved.

When I stack up the two lists next to one another–my possible activities compared with the things I could be asking God for–it seems like a no-brainer as to which pursuit has an incredible inherent amount of eternal value.

The thing is, it doesn’t always feel so clear, so cut-and-dry about what’s a good use of my time and energy.

And it’s not to say that I don’t do worthwhile things, but are the two or three hours spent in conversation with God among the worthwhile tasks on my to-do list?

Compared with the other things I’m likely to fill my time with, I have to absolutely answer yes.

And so I continue to pray, sometimes only out of obedience and discipline. Many times, I’m not entirely sure of the outcomes of my words and thoughts.

But I suppose that’s not for me to worry about. God’s a Big Boy, He’s responsible for His own actions, and He knows how best to respond to the things I share with Him. I’m to do my part: I’m responsible for pleading on behalf of others, asking for mercy rather than judgment, seeking blessing.

Despite all the books and quotes that assure me that prayer is worthwhile, that it is work, valuable labor, I don’t expect that my question will ever entirely fade away.

That’s okay though. No harm in asking the question, thinking the thoughts, wondering. So long as the conversations between me and God continue on.

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Prayer


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A Necessary Gift

A Necessary Gift

It’s September. The local newspaper was recently encouraging people to book restaurant space now…for Christmas parties! I thought the season always started a bit early in the US, now that it appears right on the heels of Halloween…but apparently, here in the UK, we are well ahead of America in terms of holiday spirit.

The notion of Christmas parties got me thinking about gifts.

All I want for Christmas is...

All I want for Christmas is…

There are all kinds of gifts. There are generous gifts. There are polite gifts. There are thoughtful gifts. There are extravagant gifts. There are surprise gifts. There are expected gifts. There are wished-for gifts. There are etiquette gifts. There are thank-you gifts. There are thinking-of-you gifts. There are returnable gifts. There are “just because” gifts. There are romantic gifts. There are commemorative gifts. There are collector gifts. There are homemade gifts….

There are also necessary gifts.

Most gifts, in some way, are extra, optional; they can be refused, set aside, or forgotten about without much detriment…except perhaps to your relationship to the giver.

But there are some gifts which are vital, requisite even.

The Bible speaks of sleep as a gift (Ps 127:2).

A quick search on Amazon didn’t reveal sleep as an item on anyone’s wishlist. In fact, it doesn’t even look like you can buy sleep on Amazon…or on eBay…or the Home Shopping Network. Even Costco doesn’t seem to stock any sleep.

I’ve realized that, for all our ability to control our environments and our actions, we actually can’t make ourselves rest. There are times when I find myself in excellent circumstances for resting–no obligations on my time, plenty of physical comfort, little stress…and yet, I still cannot seem to rest.

I’ve come across nights where my body is tired, my mind isn’t racing, and yet still I cannot fall asleep.

For all of my skill at managing life, for all of my learned habits to exert control, sleep and rest are something that we cannot actually manufacture for ourselves. We cannot force them. We cannot create them.

They must be given. As a gift.

And they are necessary.

I’m not sure what the etiquette books say, but I expect that asking for a gift is usually considered a cultural no-no. Such a request would likely come across as rude, greedy, selfish, or as implying that your intended giver wasn’t naturally very generous, or thoughtful, or caring.

But I find myself asking for rest, asking for sleep. Because I need them.

The Bible talks about other gifts as well, and God is identified as the giver of good gifts (James 1:17; Matt 7:11). Some gifts are optional, blessings that aren’t actually needed (Ps 127:3).

But others are crucial. Like salvation. His Word. The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. And faith.

Will God find me rude, demanding, or infantile if I ask for these things?

If He gives them, will I receive them, hang on to them, enjoy them, cherish them? Or will I set them aside, or even try to return them?

What’s my role in the acquisition of a necessary gift?

And what do I do with it once I get it?

And how do I respond to the One who gave it?

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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Life


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I Just Can’t Get Out

I Just Can’t Get Out

It seemed so futile.

While sitting at my desk today, my ears were perked by a frustrated buzzing sound.

As I looked at the window in front of me, I saw the wasp that was desperately trying to get back out doors. He walked up and down the window pane, wings fluttering constantly in case he should finally step off of this invisible barrier and achieve his goal of the great wide open.

So close, but yet so far.

So close, but yet so far.

For 12 minutes he paced the glass, often times wandering farther away from the open window and his only escape to freedom, his only path to achieve his heart’s desire.

I occasionally tried to usher him in the right direction, using the window curtain or a piece of paper. To no avail; he was certain that if he just kept where he was, he would eventually get through. And had he moved 6 inches to the right, he would have succeeded. I wondered if it would ever happen. I considered whether or not I should just crush him against the glass, ending his frustration (and my own).

But I didn’t. After some minutes he made it to the top pane of glass, then shifted so that he sat just above the opened window. I could see that hope was in sight; would he take that final step down and around the window frame obstacle and find freedom?

He did!

While watching this wasp, I realized this was a perfect sermon illustration…5 months too late for a message that I gave earlier this year (which you can listen to from my Writings page; just scroll down to Sermon Audio).

In that talk, I reflected on how we can get distracted, even blockaded, from attaining the very good purposes we may have by becoming fixated upon the means, rather than the goal.

This wasp couldn’t get out the window because he was stuck on dealing with the window.

Similarly, we sometimes may struggle to attain the goal of really walking with God, engaging deeply with Him, because we may get distracted by the very avenues–spiritual disciplines, our own experience, worship, testimony, prayer, even Scripture–that should enable us to encounter God. All of these “windows” are excellent avenues for us to get a vision of relationship with God, and are effective means for us to meet with Him. Or at least they can be. They can also become a distraction to us if we end up obsessing over the means, and set aside the ends.

The wasp got out eventually. I don’t know how bruised he was after bashing himself against the inside of my window for nearly a quarter of an hour. I don’t know what emotions he encountered, what wounds he acquired, but I do know that he wasted a fair bit of time and energy…especially for an insect with a lifespan of just 12 days.

What about us? What are the goals of our own spiritual lives? What avenues do we have for walking those paths? And are we utilizing those avenues well, or are we enabling ourselves to become distracted? Are we caught up in some nuance of Scripture that’s preventing us from hearing God? Are we concerned about the format (or formula) of our prayer, rather than actually having a conversation with God? Are we embarrassed by our singing voice or lack of rhythm, rather than worshiping God? Are we spooked by the labels that others may ascribe to us, rather than enjoying a spiritual discipline as an opportunity to meet with God?

What windows are we butting up against, rather than walking through? In what areas of life are we internally proclaiming, “I just can’t get out”?

In addition to the sermon mentioned above (entitled “Windows & Rainbow Stickers“), another resource I’ve found helpful for this question is a book entitled Designed for Relationship, which looks at various aspects of who we are, and addresses challenges and opportunities for growth in each that can enable us to have the kind of interaction with God that we were intended for. Definitely recommended.

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Life, Prayer, Theology


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