Monday, April 30, 2012


"Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn't act the way we want God to, and why I don't act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge." Yancey continues, "Deep down I believed that contact with God should be fulfilling and even transforming, yet I rarely found it so. I assumed I must be doing something wrong."

Deep to begin again writing about this subject of prayer. This question nails it pretty well for me although I tend to spend more time on the second half: Why I don't act the way God wants me to. In the work of Christ on the cross including his resurrection, which I believe despite my doubts, I am told that my "old man" has died and my "new man" is alive; that I have been transformed, changed, remade, born again. Many who challenge the Christian faith snicker at that last one, born again, at least in part because of the trivial way it has been used by some who profess it. Some who have professed it the loudest have ended up making a mockery of themselves and the faith, but nevertheless, that's what is supposed to happen.

So when I don't feel transformed, changed, remade or born again, I assume it's me, not God. And since God does not change, I'm the one who needs adjusting. But how? In the book Birthright by David Needham, he challenges the reader to look at infinity. As we've all done at one time or another, venture out on a moonless, clear night and stare deeply into the cosmos, not just to pick out the Big Dipper but to begin to imagine the breadth, depth, height and heart of God Almighty. Stay in that moment until you know you simply cannot comprehend it all, or in all honesty, even a little. In our ultimate smallness and finiteness, we see His enormity and endlessness, and for the briefest of moments, as more questions and doubts flood our consciousness, we get it. He did this. He IS this. And as small as I am, He cares for me.

(View this in full-screen with as much amplitude possible)
Opening Scene from the movie Contact

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why Pray?

Yancey writes: If I had to answer the question "Why pray?" in one sentence, it would be "Because Jesus did."

Actually Mr. Yancey, "Because Jesus did" is not a complete sentence. It's a dependent clause...but I digress.

WWJD? During the last decade we've all seen this question on t-shirts or discussed on talk shows. What would Jesus do? Seems like Jesus--son of God and lamb of God, creator, sustainer, mediator, advocate and very God of very God--thought it was very important to pray when he was co-mingled for a brief time directly with humanity. Some of his prayers were instructive, like the one we call the Lord's prayer. Sometimes it was intercessory as in John 17:20 where he says “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." He prayed in a solitary place in Mark 1:35. He spoke directly to his Father in John 17:1 that he might be "glorified" and in that glorify the Father. But the prayer he spoke that I identify with the most is from Mark 14:36, “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Emphasis added.)

I don't mean to be disrespectful but Jesus really had to be tuned into his Father. In some cosmic mystery, they were One and yet separate. Many believe that separation was even total for a brief time when he cried out from the cross “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Why have you forsaken me? suggesting even Jesus must have felt abandoned, out of his Father's will and alone.

Of course, nothing I've endured in this life comes close to the Cross. In fact those words look silly to me as I write them. More than silly...ludicrous. But I have felt abandoned, out of my Father's will and alone--alone with my cup of trials, guilt and shame. And in those greatest moments of despair when I am most alone and at the end of my "self," I've pleaded with Him to take my cup from me, suspecting in my heart that He may not and instead ask of me to take up His cross and follow Him.

Thank you for the Cross, thank you for the Cross, 
Lord, thank you for the price you paid.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

God, You know...

How would you finish this sentence? "Prayer is not a matter of giving God information about our needs. Instead, prayer is ________________________."

Yes, that's it. Prayer IS. Really, it's that simple. Remember back in elementary school (grammar school for us really old ones) when you first learned about "is"? "Is" is the present tense "state of being." State of being? Talk about a definition being more confusing than the word itself. Maybe Bill Clinton had it right. "That depends on what you happen to believe 'is' is" or something like that.

Prayer offers the same kind of Bill Clinton-ish conundrum for me. It may be easier to define what it is not rather than what it is.  I've read before from Philip Yancey where he says, "Prayer is not a matter of giving God new information." I can even see him saying that with a little grin and modest chiding mixed in.  How silly we humans are. In our attempt to bare our souls to the one who made our souls, we act like we're on a long distance phone call talking about the weather rather than speaking to and expecting to hear from the One who already knows our darkest secrets, deepest pain and illusive dreams. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus says, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." But James says in James 4:2, "You have not because you ask not." We're told elsewhere to pray without ceasing and in another place that even our groans can be taken as prayer.

When I hear about a new school shooting or how a Nigerian immigrant was murdered on the streets of Charlotte by her pimp boyfriend, how else can I respond? I groan, sometimes audibly, sometimes silently. I don't need words. God knows. I'm just finding out. He's known all along. He's writing the drama; I am merely a player learning my lines...or forgetting my lines...or mixing up my lines.

So I am back to the beginning. Prayer IS. A state of being. Our constancy with him. Our recognition of his direction at all times. Our willingness to respond to his ever-present prompts.