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How To Hate Prayer - Part 2

So you heard a great sermon on prayer and committed to praying for 30 minutes a day. We've all been there. As your alarm sounded the next morning, you leapt from your bed to your Keurig like a gazelle on the Serengeti. You set your iPhone timer to 30 minutes and thus began the greatest moment of personal revival since the Journey Reborn tour...

God please help me to be a good [mom/dad/husband/wife/child] today. Help me to be a good witness at work. We're struggling with [insert financial situation here]..... Um.... Help all the starving children in Africa... And also help the thunder in the 4th quarter.

Pretending not to look, you glance at your phone... 29 minutes 14 seconds to go. Crap.

This is one of the easiest ways to hate prayer that I know of:

Center Your Prayer Life Around Petitions

The problem with the above approach is it's centered on prayer as a medium for supplication (asking God for stuff.) This is not bad, in fact, it's biblical. However, making this the primary task of prayer doesn't end well. Focusing solely on petition is the fastest way I know of, for you to view prayer, and ultimately God, as boring. 

Why? because requests are inherently "me" centered. And no one approaches the God of the universe to spend the whole time talking about themselves (we've all been on a date with THAT person.) In any moment, prayer or otherwise, that we have the opportunity to focus on Jesus or ourselves we should always, always, choose the former.

In contrast, the giants of prayer in the scriptures and in history, seem to be fascinated with the beauty and nature of Jesus, not their finite problems.

Let's look at David...

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple ~Psalms 27:4

Dude had one request - to pray every day his whole life, and stare at the beauty of Jesus. 

Let's look at 2 more:

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand. ~Psalms 16:11
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. ~Psalms 36:8

Listen to the pathos in these texts. Pleasure, river of delights, beauty, happiness. Is this the kind of language that we use to describe our own times in the presence of God? 

So how do we do this?  The two easiest ways to center your prayer life around God are worship and listening, and then you can land on your requests. If you turn on your favorite worship song and sing the words TO him, its communicating with God... So it counts towards your 30 minutes! Listening is another topic we could spend a great deal of time on, but I'll defer at the moment.

I'm a big fan of praying about your prayer life like the disciples did - Jesus, teach us to pray - so the first thing I would do with these truths, is go to the One who promised "I will give them Joy in my house of prayer", and cling to that. Go over some of these texts with him, ask him for insight... When we look at the God that we see in the scriptures, and then look at our own experience of him, it's healthy to wrestle with the tension that lies in between. If you don't know how to do that, that's fine... Just pray about it.

 

 

 

Help! I'm 30 And I'm Still Figuring Out Who I Am

A couple times a month we have some of our student leaders and interns over to our home. I was feeling brave the other night, so we tackled the always messy, always liberating subject of identity... 

I stole an exercise from Steven Furtick's new book, UNQUALIFIED which can be purchased here. The exercise was simple, transformative, and to the point: On one side of the paper you write your "I Am" statements: I am insecure. I am good at sports. I am a leader. I am a failure.

We shared our lists each other - which were pretty raw - and then on the other side of our paper we transformed our list to a different kind of I am statement. The "With Christ I am" list. With Christ I am confident. With Christ I more than a conqueror. With Christ I am made in the image and beauty of God.

The most fascinating thing was this: As vulnerable as it fell to share the first list, it was significantly harder for most of us to share the second. These positive statements felt awkward, untrue, and disingenuous. I realized I've gotten so cozy with the lies about myself, that they feel more authentic than the truth. So yeah I guess I've got a ways to go...

We discussed Moses who encounters I AM at Mt. Horeb. When God tells him what to do, Moses answers with these words: "Who Am I?" It's a rhetorical question meant to communicate that he's the wrong guy for the job, but God answers it anyway:

We pick up right after Moses asks God 'Who am I?',

“I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have BROUGHT THE PEOPLE OUT OF EGYPT, you will worship God on this mountain." Exodus 3:12

At first glance it sounds like God dodges the question... Unless you know what Moses' name means. Moshe meant "Brought out", because pharaoh's daughter "brought him out" or "delivered him out" of the waters. In other words, it was a play on words:  As God restated the directive he was simultaneously telling him his name - Moshe, that's who you are, that's who you've been from the beginning, the one who would bring my people out.

This seems to be a pattern in the scriptures. Whenever someone figures out who God is - that's when they figure out who they are. Look at Saul on the road to damascus, another conversation in the desert by the way. It begins with Saul saying "Who are you Lord?" and ends with God telling Paul who he is - an Apostle to kings and gentiles. With that in mind, I left our students with this thought: If I want to know who I am, I have to know who I AM is.

The point is, we find Moshe wandering around in the wilderness at 80 years old not really having a clue who he is. It's a tension we've all felt at some point or another - the place in between not knowing who we are, and feeling like we should have had that figured that out by now. We think we're waiting on God in this endeavor, when in actuality, he is waiting on us. He awaits our presence in a desert and wilderness all our own with Him. He waits for you to, through prayer and devotion, engage his heart and ask him to tell you your name. To hear his Words echoing in our hearts, saying what we certainly must have known deep down... That we were sons and daughters all along.

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