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Abra Kadabra … Whamo! You’re a Christian

There is a type of thinking that is popular among Christians that says you become a Christian simply by repeating the words of a prayer to God. This prayer varies in exact wording among different denominations and branches of the Christian Church, however the basic elements are all the same. Say the prayer, and hey presto you’re now a Christian. If you ever struggle with your faith in the future or fall away completely, that’s OK, because once upon a time, you prayed a prayer so you have a spiritual insurance policy against fire damage.

One of the problems with that idea is there are no examples of it in the Bible. Another is that it is not a common practice throughout Church history until very recently (last century). But, the biggest problem is when you base your spiritual confidence in something you do instead of something God has done in the person of Jesus then you are “placing all bets” on your own personal worth and accomplishments. If that’s the case, you had better make sure your record is completely, 100%, perfect.

I prayed a prayer, therefore I am going to heaven. In other words, I’ve paid my dues, so God owes me one.
Christianity is never presented this way in the Bible. Instead what we see is Jesus calling people to repent of self-confidence and self accomplishment and instead trust in his accomplishment on their behalf. i.e. to trust in his completely, 100%, perfect record and perfect offering of himself to satisfy the justice of God on your behalf.

My self-confidence and sense of personal peace or enjoyment of my faith will vary all the time, but the accomplishment of Jesus stands and remains consistent. If I doubt my sincerity when I prayed such and such a prayer, my confidence could waver. But, if I doubt, or am discouraged, defeated, depressed or disillusioned in myself Jesus has called me to look away from myself and look to him. I am not a Christian because of something I have done or haven’t done. Rather I am a Christian because I am relying and trusting in what the Bible says Jesus has done on my behalf.

J.D. Greear has written a little book called “Stop asking Jesus into your heart”. He explains the difference between relying upon Jesus and “praying a special prayer”.

“Repentance and faith are heart postures you take toward the finished work of Christ. You might express the beginning of that posture in a prayer. But don’t make the mistake of equating that prayer with the posture. The sinner’s prayer is not a magic incantation or a recipe you follow to get a salvation cake. The real stuff—the stuff that matters—is the posture of repentance and faith behind the words you speak. The prayer is good only insofar as it verbalizes the posture.

we might express our assumption of that new posture in a “sinner’s prayer”—or by “asking Jesus into our hearts,” or some equivalent thereof—but just because we’ve prayed that prayer doesn’t necessarily mean we have repented and believed. The flip side is also true: just because we haven’t prayed that prayer (or can’t remember praying it) doesn’t mean we haven’t repented and believed. “Repentance and belief” and “asking Jesus into our hearts” are not always interchangeable.”

~ Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J.D. Greear

Are you repenting of your sin and trusting in Jesus or are you trusting in some words you once recited as a prayer?

 

 

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A Minister’s Strength

A prayer copied from Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett courtesy of Banner of Truth Devotionals.

Unchangeable Jehovah

When I am discouraged in my ministry

and full of doubts of my self,

fasten me upon the rock of thy eternal election,

then my hands will not hang down,

and I shall have hope for myself and others.

Thou dost know thy people by name,

and wilt at the appointed season

lead them out of a natural to a gracious state

by thy effectual calling.

This is the ground of my salvation,

the object of my desire,

the motive of my ministry.

Keep me from high thoughts of myself

or my work,

for I am nothing but sin and weakness;

in me no good dwells,

and my best works are but sin.

Humble me to the dust before thee.

Root and tear out the poisonous weed

of self-righteousness,

and show me my utter nothingness;

Keep me sensible of my sinnership;

Sink me deeper into penitence and self-abhorrence;

Break the Dagon of pride in pieces

before the ark of thy presence;

Demolish the Babel of self-opinion,

and scatter it to the wind;

Level to the ground my Jericho walls

of a rebel heart;

Then grace, grace, will be my experience and cry.

I am a poor, feeble creature when faith

is not in exercise,

like an eagle with pinioned wings;

Grant me to rest on thy power and faithfulness,

and to know that there are two things

worth living for:

to further thy cause in the world,

and to do good to the souls and bodies of men;

This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end.

Grant me grace that I shall not fail.

 
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Posted by on 10/02/2012 in General

 

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Of course I’m right, I prayed about it

Continued from yesterday.

This habit of attributing “prayer” to something we might think about or something that is nothing more than an empty response to someones situation becomes a form of self deception. If anything at all, what probably happens is the Christian is presented news about a situation or problem – they respond with the prayer, “Dear God, I don’t know what to do about that” and then they proceed to do or say whatever occurs to them. Then, when asked about their response, why they did/said that/etc, “Well, I prayed about it”.

How often have you heard someone say, “I prayed about it” as an explanation for their actions or attitude?

We make a multitude of decisions everyday. Some good, some bad. Some inconsequential, some are very significant and will affect us and others for a lifetime. This post is not about your decision making process, rather, your defence of your decision.

Very often you will decide something based on a combination of factors and numerous influences will come into play. However, if you’re a Christian, there’s a certain language that gets used when telling others about your decisions that gives a better impression then simply saying, “This is what I decided”.

The reason I said above, you are deceiving yourself is that you assume that your act of prayer is some sort of equivalent to waving a magic wand and making everything you do perfectly ok. It’s a little bit like those old computer arcade games where your character eats a invincibility pill and can’t be killed or damaged for a few seconds until the effects of the pill wear off. The Christian assumes, because I have prayed, I can’t possibly be wrong about this.

Be very careful. If you haven’t prayed, you are lying to say you did. If you did pray (long, short or otherwise) you could be co-opting God into your bad decision. You are still a sinner and you are not immune to mistakes, errors in judgment and outright wrong thinking. Don’t get me wrong, you should still pray! But it should be a habit of life, not a one off attempt to blame God for your life.

It is better for you to say instead, “I prayed about this and here is what I decided to do”. Then be prepared that one way God might answer your prayer is for scripture to show you or someone else to tell you that you are dead wrong about your decision. When that happens, stop what you are doing, right there and then, bow your head and pray on the spot and ask God to have mercy on you, grant you repentance and give you the courage to do what is right.

 
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Posted by on 25/01/2012 in Prayer

 

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I prayed about it – Did you?

Prayer is, in the Christian and Biblical sense, talking to God and asking him something. The English word “pray” comes from a root that means to make a petition or entreat someone, not just God. The words translated in the Bible as “pray” have similar root meanings. “Pray”, though popular usage has come to include all manner of talking to, praising, confessing, adoring God in speech. But the basic idea is that by praying to God, you are asking him for something.

You might be asking for healing, safety, forgiveness or protection or any number of different things, but most often when a Christian prays they are usually seeking something for themselves. Interestingly when Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said the first thing they should ask for, is that God’s reputation, splendour and renown would be made known. After that, Jesus taught about asking for things for yourself and others.

Prayer, unfortunately is something far too many Christians talk about more than they carry out. When hearing of someone who is troubled, hurt or upset, the response is, “I’m praying for you”. When faced with a challenge or difficulty, “I’ll pray about it”. It comes up in conversation a lot. Two Christians will be talking about a problem or another thing and one will say, “I’ve been praying for you” or “I’ve been praying about that”.

Here’s the problem with all that. Most often, when someone says they prayed or will pray, what they sometimes mean is they will “think about it”. Very often, it doesn’t even mean that, it’s just a polite way to express concern or compassion. No prayer takes place and there is no intention to talk to God and ask his help with anything.

So, the next time you hear someone say, “I will pray about it” or “I prayed about it”, ask them, “What did you pray?” “When did you pray?” “With whom, to whom, for how long?”. And if they baulk, and are honest and admit they didn’t pray after all. Stop what you’re doing, bow your head on the spot and pray with them, right there, right then. You might find, once you really, actually do pray, that you’ll like it and develop a true habit of prayer. Especially when you notice that God answers prayers, not your intentions.

 
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Posted by on 24/01/2012 in Prayer

 

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How do I get out of this mess?

Psalm 142 is titled “A Maskil of David when he was within a cave. A prayer.”

It was written of a time when David was in a helpless situation. He describes his feelings of isolation and desperation. It seems to refer to a time when he was being hunted by Saul (intent on killing him) and he seeks a hiding place, of sorts, in some sort of cave.

This is not something that clever strategy or negotiations will enable him to resolve. His life is in jeopardy – this is a problem.

When you get yourself into a situation or through no fault of your own, you are backed into a corner – financially, medically, vocationally, relationally, or spiritually – what do you do? Where do you turn?

In Kenya, we repeatedly found ourselves in seemingly impossible situations, that threatened our safety and were beyond our means, our knowledge and experience. We were “punching above our weight.” We came to learn that God alone is our refuge.

Attacked by a swarm of African Killer Bees – covered in stings, resulting infections.
Constantly sick with stomach and bowl infections, urinary infections from the water.
Narrowly escaping marauders – armed escorts.
Taunts and attacks from witch doctors and shamans.

Back in the 1st world, we have problems to deal with every day.Which shirt will I wear? Will I eat at home or have breakfast at the cafe? Shall I shop in Changi, Bangkok or Hong Kong? Red shoes or black shoes? Motorway or back streets?

But then, we hit PROBLEMS – what do we do? Where do our thoughts turn to? At what point does prayer become more than “God get me out of this mess?

 
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Posted by on 30/11/2011 in Prayer

 

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The voice of your tears

… the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer ~ Psalm 6:8-9

Our confidence before God in prayer – our boldness to dare enter his presence at all – has to be based on his mercy. We could never hope to be accepted based on our inadequate performance.

As he approaches God thus, David is overwhelmed at God’s mercy and his tears of remorse bring a flood of relief.

The NIV leaves untranslated the word “voice/sound” in verse 8. We need to know that our tears and our weeping have a voice – that is universally translated and interpreted in heaven.

Spurgeon: Weeping is the eloquence of sorrow… Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail. Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers.

 
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Posted by on 25/11/2011 in Prayer, worship

 

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