christian Not Christian

Exploring Contemporary Christianity

Month: March 2017

Is Your Prayer Drawing People To God, or Pushing Them Away?

Prayer Unites, Prayer Divides

Some Christians wield prayer like a weapon. I had a friend who liked to pray before every meal. At the coffee shop, at lunch out at a restaurant, with a group of Christians or non Christians, didn’t matter. I didn’t really begrudge her this, though I was not much of a Christian at the time, but one of our common friends, also a believer, got sooo frustrated with this behavior!

Thing is, Sister Super Christian would always wait til someone took a bite of food to say “hey, how about if we pray first?” Thus embarrassing and annoying the diner with her mouth full of food. This one woman had this happen to her one too many times and  threw her fork down and folded her hands, definitely Not in a prayerful way.

It’s kind of funny now, but it really illustrates how we can make prayer something that comes between even fellow Christians, let alone non believers.

And then there’s the kind of prayer that I experienced last Wednesday and again yesterday. A group of humble, servants of God, praying sincere and fervent prayers with a faith that is palpable, and fills the room. I will say, there is nothing more beautiful than being a part of that. Feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence and love, with people praying for you…it’s indescribable and powerful. When we unite in prayer for a common purpose,  it’s like the very air in the room changes.

Closer to God Through Prayer

Praying together can bring us closer as brothers and sisters in Christ, but also is vital to building a close, intimate relationship with God.

I never feel nearer to God than when I am praying, honestly and openly, from my heart. To a God who is always there, always listening, always straining to hear what we have to pray. And hoping we will take just a minute to listen to what He has to say back to us. We don’t always think of prayer as a two-way street, but if what you want with God is a relationship, not just a sounding board, then listening needs to be part of the equation.

It’s great to have a friend who listens to you, but if you never listen to them, the relationship can only go so far. It’s really no different with God.  We start out turning to God with our laundry list of complaints, requests and laments –  pleading for help. And that’s an okay place to start.  I think many, if not most of us, start our faith journey this way.

But going deeper in relationship with God necessitates that you give Him a chance to speak into your situation. I mean, it’s what we want, right?  Ultimately, anyway.  I don’t think, deep down, we really just want to pray and have everything  ‘magically’  made right in our life, with no real sense of knowing God better or feeling closer to him.  Listening for God’s response after we pray can make all the difference!

For some great ideas on different ways to pray check out these websites  http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/hottopics/faithvalues/8-ways-to-pray.html and http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/prayer/2009/10/21-ways-to-pray.aspx?

What If God Was One of Us?

 

Fully God, Fully Human

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Mt 14:13

Jesus is told by John the Baptist’s friends that he has been beheaded in a bizarre and surreal scene at Herod’s birthday party. (Check out Matthew 14:3-12 here  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+14   )

 When Jesus hears this news, he goes to the mountainside to pray. Some think he left to avoid a similar fate by Herod’s men. Some say he retreated to pray to his Father;  about what to do next, or perhaps concerning the care of his weary apostles, or even about  feeding  the 5000 disciples who had followed him.

We don’t actually know what he consulted the Father about, we are not told in scripture. But we do know that Jesus was a compassionate, caring man, every bit as human as you and me. I like to think he may have been praying out of sadness and grief over the loss of his cousin, his friend, the man who heralded his coming, John the Baptizer.

If we read too quickly, it doesn’t even occur to us that Jesus might pause to grieve. We sort of think he should just accept the death of this important person in his life and move on.  Because we see the story in context of the big picture. And in hindsight, it seems like a fairly small point in the story.

But imagine it!  A friend, a supporter, a disciple being murdered in this horrific way. Of course he must have grieved! Jesus was fully human. He lived like us,  he felt like us,  he related like us.  When the bible says ‘fully human’ it means  Fully.  Human.

Jesus was upset,  bewildered, distraught and sad – most likely.  We don’t know what he felt, but those are all likely because he was fully human.  We see him display very human emotions of compassion, love, and even anger at various times in his ministry.

Fully Human in the Garden

We see him in the garden of Gethsemane, nearing the end of his life on earth, where Jesus asks his Father to save him.  Just as we would have done. He knows what’s coming. He knows he has to go through this terrible thing  that will end his life.  It has to be done.   It was part of the plan and  Jesus  knew it.  Anticipated it.  Agreed to it.

But at the last moment – he asked for a reprieve. He sweated blood.  He agonized.  He cried out.

Fully Human.

Of course, ultimately, he accepted that which was the agreed upon plan all along. Where would we be if he hadn’t?

But we forget that he was fully human.  We forget that what Jesus went through was as hard for him as it would have been for us.  We think it was easy for him because he was fully God too.  

But in the dichotomy of fully God and fully human, they don’t cancel each other out. They magnify the Being of Christ.

Being God didn’t make it any easier for him to be human, than it is for us.  What Jesus went through, the temptation he experienced, the isolation he felt, the fear, the loneliness…he struggled through it all so he could have the perspective, so he could know  what it feels like to suffer.

So that when we struggle, when we suffer, we know he can comfort us with the comfort of someone who has been there. This is our God,  communicating His great love for us.  Showing us the lengths He was willing to go for us.

You see, we’ve never been through anything that Jesus can’t relate to – that he can’t pull us through, with empathy, comfort, and understanding.

And that’s why fully human is such an important part of who Jesus was.

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…Heb 4:15
…rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Ph 2:7