A Life that points to God

To pray for God’s name to be hallowed is to pray for all people to perceive God with accuracy and reverence.  One of the ways this happens is for them to see God in us.  In Romans 2:24, Paul says, “the name of the Lord is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you“.  If our lives can have a negative impact, isn’t a positive impact also possible?  This morning, as you prepare for worship, I hope you will make the words of Horatio Bonar your own.  “Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise, that my whole being may proclaim Thy being and Thy ways.  .  .So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free: But all my life and every step be fellowship with Thee”.  I will look for you his morning as we worship God together.

What do you expect?

When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying about the future as we hope and expect it to be. (If it is to come, it isn’t here yet).  From partial to full, gradually over time,  we ask God to bring His Kingdom into full and glorious expression.  But do we really expect it?  These can be empty words without the confidence of deep faith.  Christian friend, do you really, joyfully expect the future to bring something wonderful? Not just finally but progressively? Do you ask God for justice and truth to triumph, and does a confident expectation flood your heart as a result of your petition?  This morning, I will meet with members of our church to plan the future as the Lord helps us to see it.  My prayer is that God will give us a noble dream, a confident expectation of the future and our part in His Kingdom as it comes.   Will you pray?  Will you expect?

From the evil one

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. (1 Peter 5:8) When Jesus prayed, “Deliver us from evil”, He used an adjective rather than a noun.  He was thinking of an evil person rather than evil itself.  In every situation, there are 2 voices present and persuading.  The evil one (Satan) takes hardship and proposes resentment. “He doesn’t love you.  You will never get through this”, he whispers.  He takes blessing and counsels pride or excess. ” You are the Man!”, he will say. God’s counsels are exactly the opposite.  Jesus was not praying that we would be spared difficulty.  He was praying that in pain or in joy we would be rescued from the one who deceives us and lead us away from God.  On hard or happy days whose voice/counsel do you hear?  Rescue us, O God, from the one who only wants to devour us!

A new me

When Jesus said that I should repent (Mark 1:15),  He used a word that means “to think again”, “to change the way I think and what I think about”.  The most powerful tool for this deep transformation is prayer.   When I say “Father”, I take a new focus into my mind and receive a new sense of belonging.   When I say “forgive me”, I shift from making excuses to asking for help.  When I say “daily bread”, I stop thinking about “more” and start thinking about “enough”.  Every sentence of His prayer is a door to a new way of thinking.  It is also a warning.  Unless I embrace this new life with my mind, I will forever be trapped in the old life.  “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  When Christ teaches me to pray, He teaches me to think.  When He teaches me to think, a new life is the result.

To God be the glory

At the end of His prayer, Jesus taught us to say (and think), “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory”.  None of us have any real power.  In a universe as vast as ours, we are small!!  We can’t claim (or shouldn’t) any glory or credit or significance (other than the fact that we have been loved by God).  The world and it’s history are divinely conceived, divinely created, divinely managed.  Something “healthy” happens in the human heart when it stops competing with God for control and credit, stops demanding or needing the attention and approval of others, starts pointing, instead, to the One who truly deserves such attention and praise.  How wise and kind of the Lord to teach us this life-renewing thought.  It is not about me! The glory and the story belong to God!

I will lift up my eyes

I went for a walk last night.  Cold.  Clear.  Bright stars.  Didn’t say much to the Lord.  Mostly looked up.  Up past the stars.  Thought about God.  Wondered how I can go days, sometimes, and not really look up,  why I get so  locked up in my duties and deadlines that I forget Him.  The Bible says that “two are better than one”, which was certainly true for me last night.  Somehow, I felt reconnected and strenghtened by just looking up for a while and being quiet.  Is it possible to pray with your eyes and not your lips?   I think so.  Sometimes it may be the most important kind of all. What I say is only as important as Who I see.  “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help”. (Psalm 121:1) 

Prayer and Forgiveness

“But I have prayed for you. . .and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  (Luke 22:32)  When Jesus teaches us to forgive , it includes prayer for recovery.  Knowing that Peter would fall away was motivation for Jesus.  Despite His disappointment, He desired God’s best for His friend, and expressed it in prayer.  Full forgiveness (what I need from God and what others need from me)  requires that I move from resentment all the way to love, from distance to honest advocacy.  “Pray for those who despitefully use you” said Jesus in Matthew 5:44.  Perhaps we would all forgive others more completely if we followed His command and example to pray for them as well.

Please and Thank you

“Does it bother you that the Lord doesn’t say please or thank you in His prayer?”  The question came last week from a friend.  Honestly, I had never thought about it.  The answer is that the Lord’s Prayer is not all that the Lord believed about prayer.  In John 6 Jesus says thank you.  Before feeding the 5000, he took the bread and the fish and gave thanks.  Did He thank God that he had 5 loaves?  Did He thank God that the people were gathered and that He had the opportunity to help them?  Was He thankful for the goodness of God that answers such prayers and provides what we need?  Probably all of the above.  This morning(the Sesquicentennial Celebration of First Baptist Church), I will step outside the words of the Lord’s prayer and “thank my God in every remembrance of you”.  I will thank Him for the people and the moments in the past when He has met our needs. I will thank Him for the privilege to be your pastor.  This, too, will be a prayer I learned from Him.

Renewed day by day

Prayer for Christians is a means and moment of daily renewal.  It is a kind of spiritual “recharging” that in the long run is more important than any of the other things that insist on our immediate attention.  Paul describes the experience, “though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day“. (2 Corinthians 4:16)  When we pray, we remember the subjects that ought to be foremost in our minds.  ( Our Father, His kingdom, His help, His forgiveness etc).  When we pray we regain an eternal perspective on life and, as a consequence of this renewed mind, the inflowing power of God that is necessary for living.  My prayer for you today is that you will seek the Lord in prayer.  Do not rush this time!  If we need daily bread, we also need daily renewal.

Why Pray?

“He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7).  The most convincing answer to the question “Why pray?” is Jesus did.  Despite my unresolved questions (If God already knows my needs, why do I need to express them? If God is wise, why should I ask Him to change His plan?) the example of the Lord at prayer convinces me that I am to follow Him into this conversation with the Father.  It isn’t magic.  It is mercy.  It is a friendship that offers to let me stand with Him and look at people and problems from God’s point of view.  Jesus knew that there is power in prayer.   When I ask myself, “Why pray?”, the best answer is “because Jesus did”.