slight digression: riding the bus

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So we’ve moved to Tucson, Arizona in the last six months, and obviously a lot has changed!  We have a new house, a new climate, I have a new job, and we are going to a new church.  Still the same denomination, but a much more grace-based pastor and church family than I’ve experienced, certainly in the last nine years in Minnesota, and probably in my life (although I wasn’t always listening, so I can’t be sure –shh!).

I’m home from church today with the flu, and I was listening to some of the pastor’s past sermons.  This fall he was preaching a series on the pillars of the church, and I missed a few, so I thought this would be a good time to catch up. Did I mention this is a MUCH more grace-based church?  I (unfortunately) have tended to lean toward the legalistic side, which stresses me out and makes me feel horrible, and I may have to go back and take a look at a few of my past posts in light of what I’ve been learning and realizing over these last six months.

Today I got to thinking about grace-based salvation versus All The Other Varieties out there.  See, the problem with this whole question of grace salvation versus works salvation is that if you lean a little toward one side or the other, you get off on a tangent. I think it can be compared to quilting.  When you cut out the pieces, if you scant a little every time, or cut too much every time, eventually your quilt is skewed and you have a Big Issue (I may or may not have had this happen to me…)!  In our quest to understand a Person who is not human, we tend to veer off in one direction or another, which doesn’t seem too far off, so we’re ok; but then if we keep going, all of a sudden we’re way off and in big trouble.  It’s much too easy to do, in pretty much everything we do as humans, actually.  I suppose it’s why Jesus called it the straight and *narrow* way.

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The pastor keeps talking about how the core of the gospel is that God saves us; nothing we do saves us.  And I think that all the Christian denominations out there would agree with that statement, at least at face value.  It’s trumpeted all over the New Testament, for one, so it’s kind of hard to call yourself a Christian and then say you don’t agree with that statement.  At face value.  But what ends up happening is that we fall off on one side or another, usually toward the works side (because we just.can’t.not.do.ANYTHING), and we lose the freedom of being saved by grace.  Yes, I know there are people out there who think “cheap grace” is a real thing, and those people are in the other ditch on the other side of the road!  But most of us (in my experience) tend to be in the other ditch, at least if we take our religion seriously.  *If* we still go to church; the curse of my generation — works-oriented religion — having chased a lot of my peers out of the church.

The important issue, the core value, seems to be that once God has saved us, it is all about the relationship after that.  That all the lists in Leviticus and elsewhere are not rules “you have to follow or you’ll be killed”, but guidelines to help people navigate being a Godly people in a pagan world.  How to be safe, healthy, happy; not bound up with lists of dos and don’ts.  Yes, some of them seem silly to us, and no one is saying we should take all of them seriously.  In fact, unless we feel that God is asking us to do or not do something, we shouldn’t worry about it! And especially not try to make others do it or not do it!!

The salvation we receive is by grace ALONE, through faith ALONE, in Christ ALONE. Not some list of things To Do or Not To Do.  It’s odd that we try to do anything at all; Isaiah says our righteousness is “as filthy rags“, so anything we do smells and looks terrible to God.  Of course, He loves us, so He accepts us anyway.  Which is The Point.  He accepts us no matter what we do or don’t do.  So we need to stop worrying about whether we’re doing the right thing and start enjoying the “thing” we’ve got — salvation in Jesus.

We have only one car (thanks to MN drivers), and in Minnesota I was having to take the city bus from our condo in the suburbs to school and home every day.  About an hour ride to travel 8 miles.  I would get up every morning at 4:30 in order to leave the house at 5:30, walk ten minutes to the nearest bus stop and arrive at school by 6:30.  School started at 7:30, and in the afternoon I would reverse the process.  I did not like riding the bus, because when it was windy or snowy the ten-minute walk would sometimes take longer, even though I walked as fast as I could, and I would sometimes miss the bus.  Then I would have to frantically call my sleeping husband, have him drive to the bus stop and take me either to the next place to catch the bus (which usually didn’t work), or all the way to school, which would be about an hour’s round trip for him, because he’d usually get stuck in traffic on the way back.

So I had this huge pressure every morning to get out of the door on time and go FAST and not miss the bus, and not miss my stop downtown, and not miss the next bus downtown, and not miss my stop by my school because the bus then went into a neighborhood I didn’t want to be in at 6:30 on a Minnesota winter morning! (This is to the point; hang on!) I could have gotten up a little earlier, but when you don’t get home till 6:30 or even later (remember the hour bus ride home too), it’s very hard to get supper, exercise, a little bit of grading, all done and you in bed ready for sweet dreams by 9 PM! Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  So 4:30 was as early as I wanted to make it.

When I came to Tucson, we still only have one car, but the city bus doesn’t come anywhere near where we live, so I have to use the car.  (Kent borrows his mom’s car when he needs to go somewhere.)  I can still get out of the house in an hour after I wake up (I usually don’t, so I get up earlier), but the frantic rush isn’t there.  The car will be waiting for me in the garage when I am ready to leave, and I can drive straight to my destination with no stops, no waiting around, no changes, and no walks between the stop and either end of my trip.  Then when I’m ready to leave school, the car is there waiting for me, and I can drive straight home or to wherever else I need to go, without checking schedules, changing buses, and seeing if the bus even goes remotely near where I need to go.

(This probably sounds a little silly to be excited about if you’ve never had to depend on public transportation, or if you have, but actually lived and worked *in* the city.  Since we didn’t live in the city, everything became immensely more complicated.)

I got to thinking that this was like grace-oriented salvation versus the various other tangents we tend to get off onto.  Riding the bus is the works-oriented version.  There are innumerable variables that can keep me from getting quickly to my destination: bathroom breaks (because there was nowhere to go to the bathroom until I got to school over an hour later — believe me, that could cause a problem!), not finding certain things, taking a little (and I mean, a LITTLE) too long to shower or get dressed, forgetting to get my lunch ready the night before, snow on my walk to the stop, becoming immersed in my book and forgetting to get off downtown, not seeing the next bus coming and missing it, etc.  There were so many points where I could slip up and mess my journey up completely.  Sometimes it inconvenienced me, sometimes Kent, sometimes it might not get me to work on time or actually put me in danger!

This is what your Christian experience is if you don’t accept salvation by grace ALONE.  So many times, places, people, events where you can slip up, screw up, and just Not Do It Right.  So many lists of what you should and shouldn’t do at this time, on this day, first thing in the morning, before you go to bed, where you should go, what you should think about.  Worrying all the time — Am I saved?  Is this the time where I’ve finally grieved the Holy Spirit and lost my salvation? (Someone said, “If you’re worrying about that, then you haven’t done it.” So should I worry about it or stop worrying about it? And what does that mean if I stop?)  I knew Jesus had saved me and all I had to do was accept it, but it was the “what do I do after that to live my life?” that really confused me and made me worry I was missing the bus.  Stressing out about your salvation isn’t something you want to add to your plate of daily stress.  (My husband can tell you I can manufacture something to worry about out of thin air.  Thin air is a big deal. You can die without enough air!)

I started reading Christian (non-SDA) women’s blogs about five years ago because I was trying to figure out how to be a Christian woman.  The churches I had been going to didn’t talk much about how to live a Christian life, at least not in a way that made sense to me as a professional in the 21st century.  It seemed like everything was geared toward staying “out of the world” and spending great quantities of time gardening, reading the Bible for hours and praying even longer than that.  Remember the schedule above? I was going to lose my salvation for sure!  I’m being a little bit flippant, but it was a real concern.  How do I do this Christian thing?  How do I be a Christian wife? How do I be a Christian professional?  How do I do the outreach my church was always trying to get us to do? What is my mission? What am I supposed to do for God?  I still have not answered all of these questions, by the way!  Working on that!

But the non-SDA blogs seemed to talk more about the nitty-gritty of living your faith in the real world.  Not the world of the SDA “ghetto”, where everyone around you speaks the same language, understands the same core concepts, and makes the same assumptions about life, but the world of Other People.  People who don’t believe in God, people who believe in Allah or Buddha, people who believe in God but not the doctrines of your church, and, most of all, people who don’t want to hear about your particular brand of crazy.  How do you navigate life as a committed Christian woman in real-life society?

The non-SDA blogs actually gave me something to hang on to in the swirl of bus/work/bus/sleep I was in all week long.  Lists of “what you should be doing for God” or “what you shouldn’t do or else” are not fun if you’re already exhausted and have piles of lists already, headed “what I need to do at work”, “what I need to do at home”, and “what I’d like to do but I’m too tired to do” (which pretty much encompassed the rest of the lists) — these aren’t helpful in making you feel like anything other than a failure.  A bus-misser.  But every time I slipped up in reading the Bible (which was hard to do early in the morning, and just as hard in bed at night), praying, or anything else, I could see the bus roaring away down the street with me standing in the snow, panting from running.

The car. The car is grace. The car is there when I need it, and as long as I leave in enough time to actually traverse the distance between home and work, I won’t be late.  I can work until I finish, and the car will be waiting to take me home.  The car will not roar away and leave me standing on the curb in a not-so-nice part of town, and I can go anywhere and get my errands done, without consulting bus schedules and routes.  The car is grace.

Salvation by grace allows me to be who I am — human. Mistake-laden.  Screwing up every time I turn around, but always coming back to Someone who is waiting for me.  In fact, it’s even better than the car.  I can walk down the street, away from the car, and I’ll have to come back and get it at some point.  But God follows me down the street.  He’s right behind me, waiting for me to realize I went the wrong direction.  Forget bus stops and routes.  He’s constantly where I am, and where I need to go.

Now that “cheap grace”? That works with the analogy too.  I can’t drive my car off the road, fail to follow street signs, or ignore traffic.  There are certain guidelines I have to follow in order to have a safe, peaceful driving experience.  But overall, salvation by works is so guideline-full that I am jittery, worrying, can’t relax for fear I might miss the stop.  Salvation by grace meets me where I am and takes me where I need to be.

And prayer and Bible study? It’s about building a picture of God.  Spending time with Him isn’t about the have-to; it’s about building that picture.  If you don’t read the Bible, you run the risk of veering off on a tangent and building a picture of God that will take you right back to the bus stop in the cold and dark.  Even if you do read the Bible, but you pick and choose certain parts, and don’t have an actual conversation with God, you can veer off.  If you find yourself ignoring parts of the Bible because they don’t agree with your picture of God (Leviticus anyone?), then you need to go back and look for salvation, even in that list of dos and don’ts (I’m told grace is there — maybe I need to reread it yet again).  It’s a conversation with God.  Like driving the car, it’s not brainless.  You have to pay attention.  But you don’t have to be so on-edge about it.  You won’t miss the bus.  Just stay in the car.

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progress of prayer

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Bit of a hiatus here.  I finished summer school, spent a week in Maine, and then spent this last week cleaning up the mess in my study resulting from the school year and summer school.  In three days I have to get back to teacher meetings, and school starts again the 25th.  Short summer.  It’s probably a good thing, because I tend to drift and lose focus with a longer break, but now I am just feeling like I can breathe and then I have to go start it all again.  Hopefully this year I will be better planned and organized (I started teaching last year two weeks before Christmas, so there was a lot of running in place involved), so my life won’t be so nuts.  I do want to get back to posting regularly on here, and not just cookie recipes either!  🙂 Although I know that’s important too. 😉

Last post I talked about the politics of prayer and why, if God knows everything, we need to pray and ask Him for things anyway.  I mentioned that there were two reasons we should pray: politics and progress.  Today’s post, of course, will be about the progress of prayer.

First off, we’ve probably already realized that we are creatures of necessity. Habit. Mostly selfish, and certainly usually self-serving.  At the same time, we look for and desire something better than ourselves, something bigger or more, something that, as popular newsy blogs say, “This Restored My Faith in Humanity”.  (Insert other catchy title to draw readers in...)  This desire, says C.S. Lewis, shows us that we aren’t made for this world. We wouldn’t want something better if there weren’t something better, and if the knowledge weren’t buried deep at the core of each one of us.

However, although we are drawn to and deeply desire better for ourselves, we tend to simultaneously sabotage our progress towards real, lasting improvement.  Whether consciously or subconsciously, we diverge, detour, or completely regress, and then collapse in a metaphysical heap, angry at ourselves and a world that would cause us to lose the progress we’d gained. (Not that I’d know about this…)

Here’s where the progress of prayer comes in.  No matter how faltering our baby steps toward personal goals might be, prayer can’t help but shore up our teetering selves and provide an anchor point to draw on.  Ellen White says, “Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (Steps to Christ, chapter 11).  Sounds obvious, but think about it a little more.  The reason the Greek and Roman gods seemed so accessible is because they were only larger-than-life copies of humans; superhumans if you will, with all the foibles and issues the real humans had.  The Judeo-Christian God, on the other hand, was omniscient and perfect — a daunting Being to believe in when you belong to a race of imperfect self-saboteurs!

If we continue to try to meet God on our level, we will always fail.  If we try to clamber up to His on our own, we will also fail.  It isn’t till we join our own efforts with prayer — gaining divine assistance — that we will succeed.  Again from the chapter The Privilege of Prayer: “Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence?” (White).  Even Jesus (especially Jesus) spent hours and whole nights in prayer, struggling not only against Satan, but against His own inclinations — “Let this cup pass from Me…but not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).  If He, who was God in human form, felt the need for these long, close communions with God, how much more so should we, who are so very, very human indeed?

Prayer isn’t, then, the means just of talking with God, or asking Him for things.  It isn’t a spiritual vending machine or phone conversation.  Prayer is meant to be transformative.  

We’re familiar with the idea of intercessory prayer, praying for God to intervene in events or in people’s decisions.  We pray this type of prayer all the time.  “Please heal…” “Help me on this test…”  “Bless so-and-so…”  Less frequently, we pray in gratitude for something, whether it is blessing a meal, noticing a bird or flower, or in response to having had a previous prayer answered.  Another type of prayer is the prayer of worship, where we praise God for who He is, in the world and in our lives.  This is less common still.  For good examples of this, check the Psalms. There is nothing wrong with these types of prayers. 

But the type of prayer that I mean, transformative prayer for our lives, is the scariest type of prayer to pray, and we seldom pray it — and mean it.  This type of prayer requires true, deep soul-searching, looking for flawed areas and not only noticing them (as we do tend to pick at ourselves!), but praying that God will change us!  Truly, when was the last time you realized something awful about yourself, some major character flaw, and threw yourself at God’s feet to beg Him to change you?  And if you did that, did you keep praying, keep trying to change, until you really did?

I can say for myself, it’s easier to notice something wrong with myself than really work and pray to change it.  Yeah, I complain about who I am, but it’s comfortable.  I’m used to myself.  I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t occasionally lose my temper, for example.  “People wouldn’t listen to me”, “I don’t think I can control myself”, “Things just get so…”  And that goes for any of a number of issues or flaws I notice about myself.  It’s easier to notice flaws, easier to accept flaws (even while bemoaning them), easier to fail, than to change the inner self.

It takes grueling effort, near-constant prayer, and an honest self-evaluation to pinpoint areas to change and change them.  It’s not possible without God.  Benjamin Franklin famously attempted to change his personality traits, one at a time.  He focused on each one for a time until he felt he’d conquered it, then focused on another.  But what he found was that as he added new habits or good traits, he started to slip on the ones he thought he’d mastered.  He eventually gave it up as a bad job and concluded that people couldn’t really change.  But Franklin was a Deist who believed that God created the universe and then just left it to run.  He didn’t believe in a personal God or transformative prayer.  Think of what he could have accomplished if he had surrendered himself and his faults to God’s power!

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 Now, obviously if you’re reading closely you’ll realize there’s a bit of “Physician, heal thyself” in this post, because I have many flaws and don’t always take the time, the effort, or the thought to even try to change myself, let alone encompass that full surrender that is necessary.

[And I do think the surrender is necessary.  We cannot change if we are not willing to cast anything away that might be potentially hindering.  The beginning of the verse above speaks about running a race and putting aside anything that might “easily entangle” us (Hebrews 12:1, 2).]

But, for all of us who profess Christianity, we are not perfect.  We are definitely “works in progress”, some more so than others!  And there is nothing inherently wrong with that, so long as we remain in progress.  Trouble comes when we stagnate or regress, while still claiming to follow Jesus.  All the complaints from non-Christians about hypocritical Christians, hateful Christians, etc., come from viewing someone who has stopped following Jesus and is either standing still or (more likely) moving away from Him.

So that progress in prayer?  Vital.  It should be our most-prayed prayer, rather than our half-hearted, hope-He-doesn’t-really-hear-me mumble buried in the litany of “please”, “praise”, or “thanks”.  The transformative prayer is what is going to cause us to grow up to the “measure of the stature of the perfect man” (Eph. 4:13).  It is the only thing that will erase our sinful selves and recreate a character worthy of heaven.  It is the way to the “mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5).

Take a challenge with me?  Pick a character trait you don’t like about yourself, just as Franklin did.  But instead of relying on a little notebook, fix your eyes on Jesus. Pray.  Surrender.  Immerse yourself in transformative prayer.  Let’s see what happens.  I can promise you it’ll be scary, but you can’t imagine where He will take you if you do!

politics of prayer

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So prayer is the breath of the soul, and too often I say instead of pray.  Too often I say I’ll pray for someone or about something and then forget to do it.  Does that mean God won’t answer prayer then?  Is the intention enough?  If He wants our good, then why should we bother to pray at all?  Shouldn’t we just depend on Him to do what He wants to do best?

It all boils down to two things — politics and progress.  To understand the politics of prayer, we have to skip back a few millennia and explore prehistoric Heaven.  We’ll get to the progress next post.


Long ago in a galaxy far, far, away…the shining angel Lucifer was unparalleled in glory among the created beings of Heaven.  Known as the “covering cherub” and installed amid the “stones of fire”, he was “perfect in his ways” until his “heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty” (Ezekiel 28:10).  He became jealous of the praise and adulation rightly given to Jesus Christ, and began a whisper campaign against God. That ended in an attempted coup and the banishment of Lucifer and a third of the heavenly host (Revelation 12:7-9).  He was bound to this earth, and we must know the rest — all sadness, wickedness, and everything evil comes from his continuing rebellion against the authority of God.

The politics of prayer come from Satan’s accusation that God is unfair.  God allowed the tree in the Garden of Eden as a chance for Adam and Eve to make a choice.  They chose to disobey.  Through the rest of history, we all have this same choice.  Job chose to obey, Judas to disobey, and so on to our day.  

Prayer comes into it by God not giving us unfair advantage.  That is, God cannot interfere in our lives unduly.  Satan’s complaint in the book of Job gives us an example of his lawyering:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:8-11).

God does allow Satan more-or-less free reign in Job’s life to the extent that he loses everything but his life (and his cranky wife), but still does not curse God.  He eventually is blessed by God and gets back everything he lost.  

All of this was to prove that God’s followers do not only follow Him because they receive benefits from doing so.  Of course we do, but often it seems like those who follow God fare worse than those who ignore Him.  It would not be fair if God was continuously interfering in the lives of His followers to help them out of trouble just because they had pledged to Him.  Nepotism, cronyism; I’m sure we can think of other less-than-savory business practices that apply.

But.

But there is this verse that says, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14).  Sort of a blank check, really.  Within reason, of course, but that is the verse that opens up the widest realms of possibilities when it comes to the blessings of God on those who pray.

Said a Christian writer,

“Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God. What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God’s heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith?” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, ch. 11).

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like God gives us as much as He fairly can, and then is waiting to pour out more if we ask!  The same author, in another book, says, 

Were not miracles wrought by Christ and His apostles? The same compassionate Savior lives today, and He is as willing to listen to the prayer of faith as when He walked visibly among men. The natural cooperates with the supernatural. It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow, did we not thus ask (The Spirit of Prophecy, v. 4, p. 348).

Did you catch that? “It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow, did we not thus ask.” Wow. That is amazing.  A whole Heaven’s worth of blessings going wasted just because we don’t ask!  

It’s kind of like what I tell my students when they complain I didn’t help them.  “I will help you if you ask for it.”  Now that’s usually coupled with “I’m not God; I can’t read your mind,” or another similar comment.  God does know our minds, our hearts, and, most importantly, what is best for us, but we have to ask. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).

I am resolved to ask more.  

just breathe

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A sermon I heard once compared the letters of the Hebrew name for God — YHWH — to the sound of our breathing.  In…out…in…out…  Breathing the name of God, the Breath-giver.  From our first breath to our last, the name of Life is on our lips.  Even if we deny He exists, with that very breath we unknowingly affirm Him.

And when we are pulled to the end of our ropes we should just breathe…and pray. Breathe deeply and slowly. Be still…and know.  Deliberately affirm His ability to give life, to give all that we need just for that moment. Prayer is the breath of the soul, and God is the breath of our life — how can we so often forget to join the two when we are so pushed and tugged, compressed and stretched — so twisted by life that we can’t even think to breathe?

Romans 8-28 thoughts

 

 

meet inRL on the bench

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BmK7APgCUAEpgGwI just got back from a Christian women’s meetup in Edina, sponsored by (in)courage.  It’s called #inRL and it’s meant to help women connect in community, both on- and off-line.  To create a network of support and mutual growth. Most of all, to remind us we’re not alone in this mess called life, dealing with all our “stuff” in a vacuum.

So we met, with snacks and a craft, music and videos and stories of how people just like us are walking through life with their hands in each other’s, and in God’s hands.

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We shared tears and stories of our own, finding out that we’re not so very different after all, and that each of us has a story to tell.  They’re not all finished, neatly tied up and pretty, but just the fact of sharing our stories ties us together and helps something beautiful grow.

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One of the women said, in talking about her group of friends from many different churches, “If all we have in common is Jesus, it’s enough.” It’s what I’ve found the last two years in going to Set Apart Conference, and what I hope to find here at (in)RLMN in the next months.

1384162_10152425247658674_6256847136998615295_nI don’t underestimate the power of any group to reach out in Jesus’ name, but something about a cross-denominational fellowship makes it that much more powerful, because we’ve already decided to put aside any differences in the cause of advancing the gospel in our sisters’ lives and in our own.  Only then can we have the extra necessary to reach out to others who don’t have that gospel and draw them into fellowship with us.

This is what I’ve been hoping to do with Prayer and Cookies, though I’ve gotten off to a (very) slow start.  I hope to improve that in the next few months, maybe with the help of some of the new friends I made today.

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Here’s to (in)couraging each other and reaching out hands of fellowship, both online and #inRL.

caring

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I am seeing again how prayer is one of the best ways to let someone know you care about them.  I know in the past when I’ve been going through a tough time, just knowing someone is praying for me makes a big difference. Sometimes, I’ve felt peace during a difficult day and later found out someone was praying for me at that time, which is always wonderful to realize!

I was thinking about this a little yesterday.  We had school canceled here in the Twin Cities again because of the cold (-19 F) and wind chill, and I had a student who had told me they might not be in school anyway because of a parent’s medical issues.  I made sure to pray for the student and family, and today in school I let the student know I’d prayed.  I have no idea whether the student even cared, or if the day had been as scary for the family as anticipated, but I found myself with a feeling of love for the student as a result of knowing I had prayed for them and that God had answered.

Often, in our spread-out world, friends and family are so far away that prayer is the only thing you can do for a situation, barring spending hours on the phone or a plane.  Sometimes it feels like it’s a last-ditch, feeble effort, but I believe that if we put effort and time into praying that it is so much more than that.  The Bible is full of stories, as is history, of times when a believer prayed, not just an off-the-cuff prayer, but a heart-felt, faith-filled prayer, and God answered in such an outpouring of mercy and blessings.

james5_16Of course, any time spent in prayer changes the person praying as well.  I have spent extra time praying for others in times past, and I always felt like a better person — more peaceful, more loving, more interested in others — because of the time I spent praying.

It’s like the parenting advice to spend time with your children instead of spending lots of money on them.  When someone says they will pray for you, they are committing time and energy to you at some point when you aren’t around to remind them of your need.  They are promising to remember that you need God’s help and “go boldly before the throne” on your behalf. It’s one of the best gifts you can give someone, one of the most loving things you can do, to place someone gently, but fervently, into God’s hands and ask for His blessing.

May we remember to pray more for others in our lives.

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the Amen

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So after writing the last poem in my Lord’s Prayer set, I was thinking about the Amen of the prayer.  It really should have its own poem, probably. Amen is such a tying-up sort of word. Like you’ve laid all of your problems out on unstained linen, wrapped them up with a scarlet ribbon, sealed it with the signet Amen, and offered it, lumpy and heartfelt, to an all-loving God.

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And He doesn’t take it in finger and thumb like the dirty, earth-bound set of issues it is, but because of who He is and who we are in Him, He tenderly unwraps it, looks at what’s inside, and holds it in His heart. To answer yes or no, or maybe or wait — but never to throw away.  Because the trust of His children is precious.

In fact we have a promise — the cap of promises, in fact.  The promise to end all promises:

Picture3_thumbAll the promises of God are Yes in Jesus! How can we read that and not rejoice in our hearts? Because of that white linen, that scarlet ribbon — that righteousness and heart’s blood of Jesus, we have a Yes from God! And so we can send our prayers, fumbling, tearful, but sure. Sealed with the Amen, the “so be it”, the trust in the trustworthy God, the faith in the risen Jesus — the Amen to God for His glory*. And how can He not answer our prayers?

since-he-did-not-spare-even-his-own-son-but-gave-him-up-for-us-all-wont-he-also-give-us-everything-else-bible-quoteSo take that battered faith you’ve got tucked away somewhere, reach for that cord of scarlet, claim the white-scrubbed linen, lay your prayers inside and seal it with a confident Amen.  And know you are heard.

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*In Revelation 3:14 Jesus refers to Himself as “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”