Posts Tagged ‘prayer

29
Jul
09

All Those Unanswered Prayers

So, I haven’t had much in the way of ideas lately (the blog will go on; just not sure if it will get updated more than a few times a week though…we’ll see) so I decided to pray for a little guidance.

And the answer I got was to, well, talk about prayer. Fitting, eh? Also, with this tiny revelation came the thought to link my topic with something another blogger, BlackGirlInMaine, had posted about recently at her place.

In her post “The follow-up” she reprints a column she wrote on the topic of race and more specifically perceived racism. In it, she notes that when she suspects racism against her, white people are often quick to come up with alternate scenarios, invalidating both her instincts and a lifetime of experience she had with something they have never had to deal with personally.

This is the way I feel when, for example, someone like The Word of Me (and I love you, TWOM, and want you to keep commenting; I’m not knocking you) comes into the comments and questions the validity of prayer, as he did for this post here in comment #10.

I could go on all day about what Jesus meant when he said anything asked in his name would be given, why God couldn’t possibly grant all prayers since some would be in direct conflict, the difference between a proper prayer and a selfish one, etc. etc. etc.

But I won’t.

What I will do is ask this: Why must some huge prayer-fulfillment event be the proof that prayer works? Why must most prayers be answered to prove there is a purpose and place for prayer? Why must I provide outside evidence of the power of prayer?

Much like racism, it’s something that one experiences quite personally. I believe in the power of prayer because prayers have been answered for me.

I pray for strength, and I usually get just enough fortitude to get me through what was previously crushing me.

I pray for help when a financial crisis rocks my family, and before long, I get a gift or an opportunity that provides me with just enough money to get past that crisis.

I pray guidance in writing a blog post, and when I open my Bible, a highlighted passage is staring me in the face (and I don’t highlight very many passages in my Bible) and I almost immediately know what I am supposed to say about that passage.

No, not all my prayers are answered. But many of them don’t deserve to be, and I know that in many cases once I’ve had time to think about it. Hell, I know that a lot of the times when I’m doing the praying.

The point is, I have a very personal experience with prayer. To require me to seek out some proof of its power is to essentially tell me I’m delusional to some degree. Because you’re saying that the proof in my own life isn’t enough. That I cannot trust my own experiences.

I’m not the kind of guy who ever looked for a savior, you know. I’m not the kind of guy who ever wanted a God who expects me to answer for my sins. I’m really not. It would be much easier to pick a religion that is less demanding of my spirit or to pick no religion at all. But I am a Christian because I feel the truth in it, not because I chose it. Likewise, I have experienced what prayer can do.

I’m not saying that I can prove to you prayer has power simply based on my own anecdotal experience. I’m just saying that you cannot demand that I offer up proof it works and that in the absence of statistics and correlations and visible proof I must reject that it has any value.

I can’t prove that I really love my wife or that she loves me. I can’t provide hard evidence that love exists between us. I can only say that I feel it and know it is there. But it would be easy to say it’s just a delusion based on neurotransmitters or that it’s something that only has short-term value and really never lasts.

And, as I noted before by referencing BGIM’s post, you can invalidate a person’s claims of racism by simply saying, “Well, how can you be sure?”

But that’s just a way to tear the other person down a little, whether you intend it or not. Because it’s easy to pick apart subtle or ephemeral things when you aren’t in the midst of them.

Prayer works for me. And so I know it’s real and powerful.

That’s may not be good enough for some of you out there. But it’s good enough for me.

11
Feb
09

Drive-by Scripture: James 5:16

Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James chapter 5, verse 16, International Standard Version)

I sometimes wonder if this is where the Roman Catholic Church went so wrong with confession. We’re supposed to bring our sins straight to God, which is possible through hands_raised_upJesus’ life and death and resurrection. And yet the Vatican decided, “Hey, let’s make our people confess to a priest who will figure out the appropriate punishment before you can be considered forgiven.”

Bullcrap.

But I digress, as I so often do.

Confessing our sins to one another is to be honest about our failings. This is necessary to keep us honest and humble among our Christian brethren, and it is necessary to show those who aren’t Christian that while we may not be perfect, we also aren’t going to be hypocritically lying that we’re better people than they are.

A pity that so many Christians fail at that.

Admitting our failings and offenses is also important to keep healthy and honest communication going, with Christians or non-Chrisitians. It doesn’t mean giving a laundry list of every little sin or misstep but it does mean stepping up and saying, “I’ve been guilty of this kind of behavior.” Next step, of course, is to try to improve on that behavior.

As for the second part of James’ quote above, praying is important. We may not see the results of our prayers for ourselves or others in any immediate sense, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Most things in life aren’t a quick fix.

07
Aug
08

Please God Let Me Score

So often, athletes pray, singly or together, and so often, athletes thank God for a big win. I touched on this theme of God picking sides a little in my post God Doesn’t Do Wings, and I even mentioned the thing about sports teams thinking God is maybe on their side in How Would Jesus Vote?, but the point bears repeating for those who try to drag the Almighty into their sporting world.

God does not give a shit who wins an athletic competition.

I am not saying this to dissuade prayer among athletes. By all means, pray that you do well and that you and your teammates continue to be able to work and support your families and be healthy. Pray that at the end of the game, no one has to go to the hospital. Pray that the fans on both sides enjoy the game and get home safely.

But don’t pray to win. Don’t pray to complete the next play or drive or at-bat successfully.

God doesn’t care.

Not even during the World Series or the Super Bowl.

Yeah, I know this doesn’t qualify for a truly substantive post, but it may satisfy any guys who thought the previous post today just wasn’t testosterone-laden enough for them.

20
May
08

Put yer dang hand down by Miz Pink

So, what’s a pregnant woman gotta do to get some play around here? LOL. I mean, along comes Big Man last week, and then Mrs. Blue yesterday…all these guests and I get shoved out of my weekly spot.

 😉

Okay, it didn’t reaaaaallly play out that way. I mean, the first trimester or so of pregnancy ain’t too bad, particularly having been through it before, but there’s all that shopping to do and baby name books to buy and making Sir Pink re-learn how to rub my feet. Frankly, I was happy to take last week off and let some other people do the work of writing. But I’m back even if it is just a quick comment. And here it is:

Hey, you there in church! Put your arm down! Pleeeeze!

Seriously, folks, some churches have this bad. People all swaying back and forth during prayers and choir singing with their right hand held high and sometimes even forgoing the traditional head-down style by lifting their faces up to heaven while they’re waving their arm back and forth (even though most of them have their eyes closed…what the heck are they looking to heaven with?). And some people go all full monty with both arms out like God is gonna throw down a huge beach ball or something for them to catch.

It’s not that I’m against this arm-raising any more than I’m against anything else, like shouting out an occasional “amen” or “hallelujah“. But can we have some moderation? You don’t need to put your arm up all the time. If the mood really strikes you, go for it, but don’t make it a habit. Think of it the same way you would dancing in public when you’re not actually in a dance club. I mean sure some catchy tune at a restaurant or even in an elevator might get you to dance a few steps every one in a while but you don’t do it all the time.

I mean, what? Do you think sticking up an antenna is going to make your prayers get to God faster?

05
May
08

Never promised you a rose garden

I’ve ranted before and will certainly rant again about how pointless it is to try to give people a hard-sell about Jesus. Because if you have to push him that hard to people, those people aren’t ready for him. But along with that particular misstep that so many Christians make, there is perhaps an even more terrible  thing done to folks in the name of conversion and salvation, because it is so very insidious: Telling them that God will fix everything.

Being born again is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong. Even when you factor out the peace of mind that your soul is going someplace worthwhile for eternity, there is the very real comfort of being able to call upon God in times of trouble, and being able to find peace and strength in doing so.

But that doesn’t mean God is going to bail you out of all the crap life hands out.

Reading passages in the Bible about how God rewards fervent prayer and how we can ask anything in Jesus’ name and mindlessly parroting those words to non-Christians and new believers—or even to people who’ve been in Christ a while—is just wrong. Too often, people are promised a perfect rose garden, and they often get mostly thorns. And when they complain, they are told they didn’t pray enough or are praying for selfish things or that maybe they aren’t really in God’s grace and the depths of Hell still await them.

God doesn’t just go around, or send His angels out, to make sure our lives are smooth paths. No one learns much of anything or grows into maturity if their parents pay for all their problems to go away and give them endless gifts for no particular reason. The sad fact is that some people will draw the short straw in life and get a bunch of bad stuff. God may be interested in everything that we do, but He’s not a micromanager. He can and will allow events in our lives to play out, sometimes allowing bad things to happen to good people.

That’s because we live in a world that, quite frankly, we messed up. God can deliver people from their problems, but when He does, it is usually in subtle ways and usually over time, and by working through other people. Rarely is He just going to wave His hand and make your problems disappear.

And despite the fact that God is a great source of strength for us, we don’t always ask for Him to grant us that strength, and sometimes, when we do, what we’re really looking for is complete relief from our responsibilities or the pains and scars we sometimes need. He can give us relief, but that doesn’t mean He will always take away our pains. Diminish them, yes. Give us the ability not to be utterly crushed, sure. But be our panacea? No way.

The faith walk is a battlefield. We are in a war, make no mistake. And to think that a walk in faith will always be pretty is short-sighted. It’s about making the right choices and being in something for the long-term gains and the personal growth and the ability to help others.

When Christians highlight only the good stuff or when pastors preach about blessings and rewards and prosperity without regard for the realities of life, many believers are left in a bind. They have been told that God will deliver them from everything, and they assume that means He will deliver them from everything in this world, and when He doesn’t, they lose faith.

To guide someone to Christ by only painting the bright and happy picture is, frankly, deceptive. It’s not an honest way to help people find salvation. Failing to prepare people for the travails of being Christian is neglectful. You don’t adequately equip someone to put on the whole armor of God. Letting people think that no harm can come to them is madness. People die, some sicknesses drag on, jobs are lost, children become runaways, and so on and so on and so on.

The world is not always—or even often—a pretty place. That’s one of many reasons why we are not supposed to be of the world, even though we are required to be in it for some time.

We need to deal with people straight early on when they express an interest in Christ so that they don’t develop false expectations that faith always equals comfort. We need more pastors to talk about how to survive the battles now and not just how to cash in on the victory in the end.

In real life, we can strip roses of their thorns at the florist shop. We can admire the roses in gardens without having to touch them. But in life, the metaphorical roses are all around us, and they are wild and uncultivated. Christian or not, we are surrounded by gorgeous colors but also wicked briars, and we are going to be cut sometimes.

15
Apr
08

God and the couch

Every so often, the media gets a nice, juicy story about some numbnut parent or parents who let their kid die by relying on prayer for healing and keeping the child away from any kind of actual medical attention. Chez over at Deus Ex Malcontent posted a link to one such story in his Dial 911, Ask for Jesus post in late March.

It’s not the kind of crap that really makes devoted believers look good. Instead, it leaves people with the distinct impression that if you are a fundamentalist believer (that is, you actually believe in most of what the Bible tells you) then you must have several screws loose.

Still, it’s rare that you see this kind of story. The bulk of Christians know to get their kids and themselves to a hospital when the shite hits the fan. What is sadly too common, though, is an attitude among some Christians that mental health issues are matters to be solved through prayer and only prayer. Therapists, antipsychotic medications and the likes, as far as these folks are concerned, are counter to God.

It would be easy to blame this attitude on too much religion and not enough common sense, but let’s face facts: Most people in general view mental health problems as a personal flaw. So even without Christ in the picture, plenty of folks don’t see mental illness as an illness in the same way they would a heart attack, or pneumonia or even a really big frickin’ splinter sticking out of your finger. If the problem is in your head, it’s not a real problem, they assume.

Man, that’s sad. Sure, we don’t know as much about the human brain as we’d like to, but it’s pretty clear that mental issues often arise from biochemical imbalances. And even when they don’t, the fact that the problem is “in your head” doesn’t make it any less of a problem. It also doesn’t make it any more of a stigma. At least, it shouldn’t.

There are a lot of Christians who vaccinate their kids, get regular checkups, take medicine when they are sick and undergo surgeries who would also look at someone with mental illness and say, “You simply need Jesus.” And this pisses me off more than people who tell people with mental illness to “Just get over it” because as Christians, we are supposed to have compassion for others.

Sure, the person probably does need Jesus. Most people do. And I’m not knocking prayer. I’ve seen many prayers answered (not always the way I expected or wanted, but answered nonetheless) and I have no doubt that prayer can put you on the path to healing, whether physically or psychologically.

But the Bible doesn’t exhort us to avoid physicians. It urges us to pray for ourselves and for others in matters of health, but God lifts people up in the world to be healers (physicians, dentists, psychologists, whatever) for a reason. We need them. One of the gospel authors, Luke, was a physician. If one of the main men of early Christianity could practice medicine, why assume that God wants us only to pray when we are sick?

And frankly, telling a schizophrenic who isn’t on his meds to pray more isn’t exactly a recipe for success. If the man is hearing voices telling him the CIA is out to get him with a mind control ray, he isn’t in a position to be making rational, worldly decisions, much less faith-based, spiritual ones.

God is fine with therapy. God is fine with medications, as long as you don’t abuse them. God is fine with you seeking healing. Just pray for the people who are caring for you, even as you pray for yourself. And make sure you remain educated in your own care and don’t simply allow yourself to be spoon-fed (about your care or your religion).

I think the biggest problem God probably has with mental health care these days is the way we don’t go out of our way to give it to people who need it. Instead, we ship them off to the streets to be homeless, or send them home to wallow in despair and drag their families down, and we marginalize them as whiners.

What the world needs isn’t less mental healthcare and more prayer. What it needs is more mental health professionals who will not only use therapy and medications for their patients, but also pray for them.

26
Mar
08

Less is more by Miz Pink

mizpink03.jpgSure, I believe in God but that doesn’t mean I can’t see the beauty in the words and sentiments of doubters and outright atheists. Some of the most moving things I’ve read have been by those folks.

I found a blog recently called The Word of Me and I read two posts there that really got me thinking about stuff. Didn’t knock me off my faith or nothing, but it did get me thinking. I don’t want to invade the author’s blog by commenting there and sounding all self-righteous, but I did want to respond in some way to others who may have similar concerns. So taking a page from the to-do between Deacon Blue and Nsangoma, I’m going to pull some quotes out of the posts over there and comment on them here. Except I’m gonna be sweeter than Deke was. 😉 You can view the original posts here and here.

Yes, the universe and all in it would seem to have come from somewhere or something. But religion cannot have it both ways; to say the universe had to have a creator and a God does not, is like having your cake and eating it too, it makes no logical sense. I cannot seem to wrap my mind around a spirit being that is supposed to have always existed, and is everywhere, and in all humans brains at the same time.

I’ll just refer you to the Deke’s post here folks. If the universe has always existed in some form without a creator or came out of nowhere that’s just as illogical. Right? Even if the creator wasn’t God the universe still had to be created by something or you have to believe that it always existed, and then you kinda lose your credibility about ridiculing the God-always-existed thing.

He spoke to the Hebrews, how about giving a modern world that has much better linguistic and comprehension skills something to work with here. What would it hurt to materialize above earth and speak to the Pope or Billy Graham, or Pat Robertson?

I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t speak to us directly, too. But then I thought back to the Bible and realized God never talked directly to the Hebrews. He talked to specific people like Abraham, Moses, Isaiah. He chose the Hebrews to be his Chosen People because he needed one group through which to show himself and to work toward the birth of the savior but he didn’t just show up in the sky to all of them. Even with the parting of the sea and the pillar of fire and all that they never saw God himself and they could have simply written it off as Moses being some kind of sorcerer if they wanted. That’s what the faith thing is about.

And it makes free will a little tricky if he gets in our faces about stuff. If you see God up in the sky all the time and he lets you know in no uncertain terms that he’s there and you need to do what he says or else, that would make him a dictator, wouldn’t it? Our big bad ruler looking down on us like hamsters in a cage. He make things based on faith so that we will seek him with our hearts and with love. Otherwise we’re just being whipped around.

Do some people pray in earnestness? Yes, of course they do, well lets have some perceivable, tangible proof that there is someone listening. Many honest God-fearing people (and even me) have prayed down through the centuries for the end of pain and suffering, the end to child abuse, the end of evil men hurting people, the end of hunger, the end of war, the end of everything bad…Never happened….Not even once. Why?

Oh sweetie. Do you really want God to just fix all our screw ups so we never have any accountability for our actions as a race or as individuals? No responsbility for our actions. Just give us all a cushy life even though we don’t act right much of the time. I left home because I didn’t want my parents controlling my every move and trying to fix my life for me. We aren’t babies.

A real, loving God, would not subject untold billions of people to the misery that this world has dished out before modern times…and still does to third world countries. There is no apologetics in existence that can make this right-No God works this way; unless he is a Dark God. Can you imagine yourself being born into Darfur, or any of a dozen or more countries in Africa, and sitting in the desert as a child, starving to death? Now imagine tens of thousands or millions of your brother and sisters starving right along with you. A God, who sits back, sees this and does nothing, is not a competent God.

But why should God fix our messes? Doesn’t the U.S. get slammed often enough for trying to fix other countries’ problems? We have free will and that comes with consequences because of that fact we don’t put our faith in God and walk the path he waned for us.

It’s easy to point to wars or child abuse or genocide and say God should fix this if he exists. But what are the things that are big enough he should fix and what isn’t? Something one person might think is terrible is something someone else thinks is good. Let’s take it down to the personal level. I was devastated that Kevin Klotz wouldn’t date me in high school. Should God have made him love me to make me feel better? I turned away the immensely freaky-seeming Andy Parker but what if my rejecting him really screwed up his life? Do you think I’d want God taking away my free will to make me be with him? Even if it was the right thing?

People want God to fix things, but what it really comes down to is they want him to fix what they don’t like and give them what they want. People criticize the idea of a loving God who allows suffering in the world for the same reason that they won’t admit that people are inherently sinful and that God might send people to hell. They want it both ways. Give me everything and let me do whatever I want but don’t let anything bad happen to me or expect me to be responsible.

My folks weren’t the sweetest people. They let me lie in the beds I made many a time. They did it because they figured I should fix my messes and because I might learn something from them if I didn’t fix them. They they were right most of the time.

God has a bigger view of things. He’s looking at eternity. Much as he loves us, he also knows what happens here in a single lifetime or even hundreds of generations is still a drop in the bucket. He doesn’t want us to suffer but we made our bed and sometimes we need to lie in it.

God wants me to do things in certain ways. But I am oh so thankful that he doesn’t make me do them. I’d rather be a difficult child than a slave any day of the week.

(Ok, folks. This time the image really is of me. Stars and flowers flying out of my hair and everything. I’m just that magical.)

20
Mar
08

To arms

armor-of-god01.jpgWe’re at war. And I’m not talking about Iraq, folks.

Satan is alive and well and still pissing in God’s general direction, and he isn’t interested in taking prisoners.

If you don’t have Christ as your lord and savior, Satan wants you to stay that way and die that way and never find salvation. If you do have Christ, he wants to render you impotent to bring another single soul to God. Spiritual though it may be, it is war all the same.

I believe in seeking God’s blessings and graces. I believe in the fact that God comforts us and strengthens us. I believe many good things can come to us. But I worry when churches and individuals lead people to Jesus simply by talking about all the good stuff. They promise a bed of roses and tell people to roll around in it, but they forget to mention all the thorns.

My Shit List post ranted a bit about the Word of Faith movement and that should tell you how much I value ministries that focus only on prosperity or health.  The cool-sounding stuff. No ministry, either within the church walls or without, should ever get tunnel vision. And that means the other side of the debate needs to watch out, too. Preaching only salvation, for example, is nearly as bad as going the Word of Faith route because it means you may prepare people poorly to deal with the challenges of being born again. You may lose them before they accept Christ or you may get them to salvation only to have them go limping into Heaven.

Giving your soul to God pisses Satan off to no end. And he’s not going to let your ass get away with that and not hurt you for it. And he’ll hurt you not only out of revenge but to wear you down so that you either seem so pathetic that no one will want to give your path of Jesus a try or so that you are too damned tired to do anything for God.

As a Christian, if you know you are at war, though, you can prepare yourself. If you know you have an enemy who’s out to get you, you can keep an eye out for him. And if you’re going to be going into battle, you need to do so with intelligence. That means in prayer. Lean on God to give you strength and give you victory. You’ll have challenges, but you cannot be utterly torn down unless you leave God out of the equation.

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18

So, what’s the message if you haven’t accepted Jesus as lord and savior?

Wake the hell up.

Look at this world and see what a mess we’ve made of it. Look inside yourselves and realize there is something more in there than viscera and bones. You have more even than a complex mind. You have a soul. You aren’t a random collection of atoms and molecules. You aren’t an accident.

There is a war on for your soul, and the sooner you realize it, the sooner you can decide to choose a side or simply give up and hope for the best. But wandering through the battleground and being ignorant of what is going on is even worse than accepting God’s way and thinking it will all be sunshine and good times.

War isn’t just hell, folks. Hell is at war with us.

(Image from Hellgate: London video game from Flagship Studios)




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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