Friday, January 30, 2015

#7 The Conclusion of Why Pray


#7 Conclusion of "why" pray?


We have started things here with some “why should we pray” chapters and we could conclude that topic with a few recaps and a few new reasons. First, you and I are motivated by the fact that prayer works. I started with the Jenny story as a good example. When you ask and God answers that is a great motivator.

Some other reasons to pray are because we were told to in the Bible and we have great examples in that book that we will look at later. Some models from Daniel, Paul and some from Jesus Himself.

The Bible also says to devote yourselves to prayer or in another translation it says “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it.” Col 4:2. We also pray because Jesus used terminology like “When” you pray, not “if” you pray. And then there are those 100 verses in the Bible that teach us all about prayer.

Let me give just a few: “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind [your thoughts] through Christ Jesus.” That was a lot. We could write an entire book on those words alone. For now, allow me to say “anxious” as in anxiety? A quick check from a reputable website writes that 40 million Americans suffer with anxiety. I could start quoting statistics about how much we spend on antianxiety medications and all kinds of facts here. And peace? Isn’t peace the number one thing we are chasing? I believe drug abusers are and so are many other people are trying everything from Yoga to cruises.

Then we have I Thessalonians 5:17, a very famous verse on prayer, “pray without ceasing.” Let’s talk about that quickly. It is one of the methods of prayer that I will cover in another chapter and it can mean a few different things. It can mean that you literally never stop praying no matter what you are doing or perhaps Paul was trying to say in my own words, “keep it up, keep going, and do not stop. Pray, pray, pray.” I lean toward that one. I don’t necessarily pray while I clean the cat litter. I could, but I think that the Creator of the Universe deserves a little more respect than that and I have 24 hours every day. While I’m scooping through the sand looking for Kitty’s droppings may not be the best moment to pray. Again, it all overlaps. Unceasing prayer is a type of prayer but it also falls under “when” to pray.

Ephesians 6:10-20 is a great teaching on prayer. This is the famous “Armor of God” teaching from Paul but we won’t get into all that right now. Let’s only look at verse 18 “Praying always with all prayer.” Goes nicely with our “pray without ceasing verse” doesn’t it?

My personal favorite is when Jesus teaches us about the persistent widow that we talked about already with the Jenny story but look at how that teaching is introduced, [Jesus] “…spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…” Wow, I love that so much.

But before you start to devote yourself to prayer you need to know “who” you are praying to. Read your Bible so that you will KNOW Him. That’s the only way. I can tell you all about the Lord and write you a Bible study and tell you which verses to go read but the best way is to do this on your own, with YOUR Bible and your time. If you want to become “cult proof” then please read and understand Genesis, the four gospels and the book of Romans. Add to that a dedication to knowing what Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians say. That’s the beginning. I’m a huge believer in every kind of Bible reading but I firmly believe that every Christian should read the entire Bible from front to back every year of their lives. You really do need to know it, all of it. After you feel you have reached a certain point of familiarity then you can explore all the others ways to read it. Slow and meditatively or involve yourself in deep and difficult studies while learning some Greek and some Hebrew so that YOU will not be at the mercy of the translations. You can learn to read the Bible in its original languages. Sometimes it is soothing to the soul to just read passages at random but when you are new to the faith it is vital to get the basics correct.

Why is this important? Because you can’t just make up a Jesus and pray to that made up Jesus and expect your prayers to be answered or expect a good result in the afterlife. If you really know the God of the Bible you will not make up features of God that are not true or take on a fake view of Him. Do not add to the Bible. Don’t make it harder than He taught us. Don’t make up rituals and rules that the Bible doesn’t teach you. What do I always say? “Let’s go with what God clearly taught us and do those things and not guess about what He did not say.”

The Bible will teach you precisely everything you need to know if you will read it faithfully. Do NOT take other people’s word for it. That is how cults begin (many times) and there are a lot of cults and false teachers out there.

God said that in the Old Testament (many, many times) and Jesus said it in the New Testament. In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus’ disciples asked Him three questions: “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” This was a private conversation involving only Jesus and His very closest followers. The very first thing He said when He answered was, “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” And He went on to detail how things will end here on earth for the rest of the chapter. (Side note: It is a hugely important chapter about the end and probably the best starting place for that entire topic.) As He continued to teach on this He says again in the 24th verse, “24For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”

Or for now, while you are learning, keep it simple. Consider this, the early believers met by the river and prayed and if you only knew one verse of the bible a good one would be, “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Jesus taught us that in Matthew 6:33 and we usually refer to this in the short version of, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” Sometimes it helps just to keep repeating that to yourself.

Isaiah is the best book to read God’s word in the first person. He is pouring out His heart in the book. It’s large and it’s complicated and very thorough so read it more than once, study it and it will help you to know our Creator’s heart and a lot about what is going to happen in the future that is important too.

I believe the first example of who God is can be found right at the beginning of Genesis. You can learn a lot about His power in a very short amount of time. I also think that you can see the first example of prayer right there too. It appears from Genesis 3:8 that Adam, the first man, used to walk with God in the cool of the evening. I’ll take a night of that myself. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? I would love that. Adam had it made as far as fellowship with God goes. But then Adam sinned with his wife’s assistance and mankind fell. The two of them were cast out of the Garden of Eden and things changed. Curses were given to people from God Himself. But I still think that is our first glimpse of praying in the Bible. Like a friendship, walking around just talking, spending time together. The biggest difference is the Almighty God is in conversation with you and He is just that, Almighty, very powerful…not quite the same as having a small talk with your neighbor. There needs to be some reference as to who He is.

The verse, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” is not exactly a teaching on prayer, I will concede that. But it gives us such a good backdrop to how we live, how often we pray and what our priorities are. It struck me the first time I ever read it which must have been within days of becoming a Christian. At that time, 1982, having a T-shirt made for you with what you wanted said on it was very popular. You could find a store like that in every little shopping center. I ran out and bought a plain white one with light blue raglan sleeves. It was blank on the front and the back I had the store owner write, “Seek Ye First” in black letters. The idea was that people would stop me and ask what it meant and then I would tell them the rest of the verse.

I did not just wear a shirt though. I took that verse to heart and lived it. And we need the beginning of it right now in order for my next story to make better sense.

Jesus is speaking, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Very clear, isn’t it? Seek God first and because He knows what you need He will add these other things to your life, such as food and clothing. You do not have to put pursuing anything else ahead of God. It is the opposite of how many of us live before we are believing Christians and sometimes after. There are things we seek, that we want, like jobs and good apartments, a family and all the stuff the department store sells. But I decided it was literally true so you think I’m going to tell you I gave away all my stuff, right? No, I gave away a person. Within one, two or perhaps three days (of becoming a Christian) I called my boyfriend on the phone. I broke up with him on that call. I have no recollection of what he said but I know what I said as if it had happened yesterday, “Hi. I became a Christian and even though I don’t know what all that means I do know one thing. I don’t think that Jesus is going to want us doing what we have been doing and I don’t think I can take the temptation and I am not going to be the same. I can tell I am going to be different. So, I can’t be around you.”

That breakup worked with very few glitches. He did try to contact me by leaving notes on my car and calling sometimes. You also need to know that I moved from where I lived right away even though he and I did not live together at the time. We had a rental together earlier but when I accepted Jesus and started to follow Him I had a little one bedroom apartment and he did not live with me.

However you need just a little bit more background. I’ll be brief. I had a fulltime job in downtown Seattle but could not afford to rent a place in Seattle so I lived outside of the city by the airport (not a nice neighborhood). I had a horrible, cheap car with a big V 8 engine and one child in daycare. So picture this, the first week I am a Christian I go into work where I’ve been for almost two years and my boss said he loved me and it broke his heart but he could not afford my wages anymore. He could only have me work six hours a day instead of eight. I told him, “But my rent will not go down, and neither will my daycare bill so I won’t be able to work here.” I could not even afford to park in downtown Seattle. I drove my “beater” car to a bus station and took public transportation into the city five days a week.

I caught the bus home, in the rain, and picked up my car and knocked on the door of the lady who was running a home daycare. At the door, on the same day as my boss’ bad news she announced that she was no longer going to be a daycare owner. She was returning to her regular job. I take my toddler (whose father had committed suicide earlier that year but he and I had been apart for her entire life—two years) and I put her in her car seat. We drove about 2 miles and my engine threw a rod I think they called it, so it was totaled, meaning that fixing it was not worth the money because its overall worth was less than two hundred dollars.

I do not even remember how I got home. Maybe I carried my two year old the rest of the way, I just don’t know.

I was pretty helpless but not at all despondent because I was “seeking first” God, the Almighty, the creator who saved me from my sins by sending His only son here to earth to die for me. So that I would never have to go into the lake of fire myself and I could have Jesus’ righteousness instead of my own…and that was a good thing because I KNEW I had no righteousness at all. I was okay because a God that powerful must have a plan for me. That is how the first week of Christianity played out for me. Suddenly, I did not have a boyfriend, a proper job, a daycare or a car.

Obviously, the Lord provided a place to live and I got a different fulltime job and a different daycare and my boyfriend moved hundreds of miles away because he said he would not be able to leave me alone unless he left.

He was gone for five years. On occasion I would pray that he would become a Christian too for his own sake. I did not expect to ever see him again. I prayed about 20 or 25 times for him over the five years. I prayed that no matter where he went someone would give him the gospel. I prayed that everywhere he turned another person would give him the gospel.

I was single for those five years except for one brief time that I won’t go into now because it doesn’t serve any purpose to do that. But, when I woke up one morning in early 1987 I said to myself and to God quite emphatically and frequently that I wanted to get married that year. I asked Him repeatedly to pick out the right husband for me. I asked God to help me change so that I could be a good wife and boy oh boy did I ever get persistent about it.

Men started lining up around the block. All of sudden everyone wanted to marry me. There were all kinds of men asking but it felt a lot like the time Adam named every animal and none of them proved to be a proper mate for him. While my social calendar was going crazy the phone rang one night and my old boyfriend was on the line asking to come over. I remember that like it was just yesterday too. I didn’t know what to say at all. In a spilt second I was going back and forth between yes and no in my mind and then I thought, why not? I gave him my address and he came right over.

He asked me what I was up to and I let him know, I am getting married, I don’t know who to but I am getting married this year. He told me that he had got on a plane with nothing with him and his plan was to come to Seattle and try to find me. I have no idea how he did get my phone number, but he did.

Was he a Christian though? For five years I had been reading in my Bible that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian so he was out of the question if he wasn’t a believer.

He told me his conversion story and it goes like this. He said, “Everywhere I went people told me the gospel. I would join a basketball team only to find out they were Christians and they would tell me the gospel.” He went on and on and said everywhere he turned people were popping up telling him about salvation through Jesus Christ. It happened at work, it happened at soccer teams, it just kept happening.

That is not the only time I’ve heard my own words, said alone in prayer, repeated to me verbatim. No, that has happened many times now.

We married late that summer and it’s been happily ever after since then. He and I have had fights and gone through some major issues at times but everyone knows we are a happy couple and the Lord did add unto me all the things I needed.

I tell that story sometimes to ladies who are living with their boyfriends and trying to live the Christian life at the same time. I can’t promise them anything but I can tell them that my sacrifice to break up with my boyfriend changed my whole life. I should say it was God who changed my whole life and he prospered us and I am not sure there is another man anywhere that loves his wife as much as my husband loves me. I could write a whole book on all of his sacrifices for me and things he has given me. He is the most selfless man I’ve ever met and I thank God that out of all the men he could have paired me with he chose the husband that I have. I am blessed and God answers prayers.
Clevsea copyright 2015

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