When I was a young boy every year about this time we would begin gathering firewood for the coming winter.
A large tree would be cut down and cut into rounds, then with the use of a wedge and a maul I would split those into smaller pieces.
Then I would take an ax and split those into even smaller pieces that would fit the fireplace.
This process would go on for days and days until we had enough wood to last the winter.
It was a lot of work and the tools I used would cause thick callouses to grow on my hands to protect them.
At first, my hands would be bloody and blistered from swinging the tools, but soon the callouses would grow over those wounds and I no longer felt any pain from the ax.
The callouses were good and necessary protection from the work I had to do.
We also grow spiritual callouses and those are not so good, but they still function to save us from pain.
Sometimes our problem isn’t that we don’t believe the Word of God, it’s that we believe it all too deeply.
When our experiences don’t match what we read and believe, we begin to grow callouses.
When we read and believe that people we know and love may spend eternity in a place terrible beyond words, we grow callouses.
When those who we thought represented God betray and wound us, we grow callouses.
When our faith causes painful friction with our souls, we grow callouses to protect ourselves from that pain.
I’m growing a few myself.
I’ll confess that I’ve given up on prayer.
I read the word and believe the word, but too many years of silence and pain have choked my voice.
It just doesn’t seem to work and I’m tired of trying.
The callous grows thicker every day.
That’s a hard confession to make, especially when you carry the label “pastor”.
I make it because a great many people reading this morning have grown callouses as well and none of them befit the label “Christian”.
Yet, you are still Christians and maybe even pastors with a thick callous over some part of your heart.
Sometimes callouses appear as aberrant doctrines, sometimes as doubt, sometimes as isolation, sometimes as arguments, sometimes as prayerlessness, and sometimes as an absolute certainty that if challenged might rip through a carefully built callous.
God has not given up on us even if other Christians have.
Because I know that God has not given up on me or you I purposed long ago to not poke at other believers callouses, lest I tear them off and expose a wound again.
That privilege belongs to God alone and when He does so, He is also preparing to heal.
When we do so, it’s because other peoples callouses are ugly to us or are pricking at our own.
We always do so in the name of ‘orthodoxy’ and “defending the faith”.
Mostly, we’re just protecting ourselves.
God isn’t though with people who do that either.
His grace and love are bigger than our callouses and someday He will heal what’s under them all.
Make your own application…
hmmm. I must have some pretty bionic callouses, b/c I don’t feel pain and don’t really care what others think, as long as my conscience and reason and intellectually honesty are in tact applied to religion, metaphysics, reality, etc.
We can rest because HE does the work in us. Philippians 2:13 ” it is God who works in you, both to will and to work His good pleasure .” So thankful for that promise .
I’ll confess that I’ve given up on prayer.<<<
Are you serious? Are you saying you have little confidence that your prayers will be answered or are you saying that you simply don't spend time in prayer every day?
If either one is true…. How to put this politely….. Should you be a pastor?
Maybe not, Xenia.
Maybe I should consider resigning if my pastorate depends on a good prayer life.
My inclination has been that if I was faithfully loving and teaching the people God has entrusted me with that my own pain was irrelevant.
Perhaps I should think again.
Michael, you know I love you and I don’t want to be cruel but maybe you do need to attend a local church where you can worship God and hear faithful teaching. You can still love and care for the people of your present flock, you don’t have to abandon them as a friend. But I fear for them because you are entering a downward spiral of despondency and unbelief (refusal to pray is evidence of rebellion and unbelief) and in these perilous times (as in all times) they deserve a leader who is a man of prayer, someone with the faith to pray.
I know most of the people here will be angry with me for saying this because they love you (I love you too) and they are sometimes given to flattery and will tell you that you have a heart of gold (you do) and are a wonderful pastor. But you can’t give what you don’t have. You yourself need a time of refreshment.
To answer your question directly, yes, I’m serious.
I will pray for others when requested to do so.
Years of prayers for myself that have gone unanswered as the problems have grown deeper and deeper have worn me out in regard to personal prayer.
The last few years have been very difficult.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the faith or on God or on the doctrines associated with prayer.
It means I’m hurting…for myself and others.
I suspect I’m not alone.
If I am, God will deal with me about that as well.
Michael, I truly believe that God has heard your prayers and that He knows and cares. The way things have worked out….well, that is where we walk by faith and not by sight. It is clearly evident that He is using you for His glory and to minister to His church.
I am not angry with you at all, nor should anyone else be.
I don’t know how anyone could be angry with Xenia. It is evident she loves and cares for you.
I didn’t write this to be about me.
i wrote it because so many I know are covering pain…and sometimes in less than acceptable ways.
This is an appeal to grace…for me, for each other, for our pastors and elders, and for the person who irritates you the most.
I hear and receive all the criticism…some given in love, some not so loving.
God isn’t done with me yet and I hope that all will be as patient with me and each other as God is with us.
To use the wood-chopping analogy, if you keep chopping wood the calluses will grow thicker and thicker. They will never go away and will become a permanent feature of your hands.
To lose the calluses, something has to change.
Michael, I think you simply misunderstand what “prayer” is…if God is real and if he is truly with you (in some sense) at all times, then you are talking to God in your conscience, constantly.
I’ve always thought the Evangelical (and Mainline) “prayer” concept, as if you have to call a time-out and usher yourself into a closet and get on your knees or something…is “prayer”. I think that’s a caricature.
You are in a constant dialogue with “God” (in whatever form he truly is) when you simply interact within your conscience and reason with that “still small voice” that we all believe is “God” working within our conscience and reason.
Xenia, if I knew what that something was I’d do it twice to make sure I got it right. 🙂
X’s input comes from a belief system that has a Works Righteousness world-view and as such her response is expected. You must make “prayer” some sort of effort and special act, when if fact, prayer is simply dialogue (we assume) with God in our spirit/mind…which is ongoing and continual and not something you can really turn on or off if you truly believe that inner “still small voice” is God (in whatever form).
Michael, my guess is you are having an honest dialogue with “God” by expressing your doubt in praying specific prayers in the Quid Pro Quo gospel manner and are getting tired of not seeing God give you the cookies you ask for.
Well, here’s my remedy for prayerlessness, which is sin:
1. Get a good prayerbook.
2. Set your alarm half an hour earlier than usual
3. Get up and start reading the morning prayers with as much sincerity as you can muster.
4. Ask God to help you pray
Do this every morning until it becomes a habit. Turn off the smart phone and the computer until after your prayer time. Prayer is more important than Bible study or reading Christian literature.
Additionally, you can read the evening prayers before bedtime.
Force yourself to do this. It is the devil who is resisting your efforts to prayer. Fight him. Don’t let him win.
Again, the bible present a paradox with regards to “prayer”…
“Pray without ceasing” vs. “Go into your prayer closet” as if it’s some sort of ritual
Hmm, should I take prayer advice from Xenia or Ricky Bobby…hmmm. Tough one 🙂
You’re partially correct.
We do have an ongoing dialog with God.
However, the bible speaks of a sovereign God who can and does change circumstances and hearts in reaction to specific prayer.
as a believer in the word of God, I believe that word is true…my frustration is that it has not been true in many of my own circumstances.
Hmm, should I take prayer advice from Xenia or “The one that can’t be named”…hmmm. Tough one
And ignore the faithless words of “Ricky Bobby.”
Josh, you should rely on your own conscience and reason and that “still small voice” and not look to any man or woman to make up your mind for you.
Prayer is the act of getting my will in line with God’s will.
When the two line up, my prayers will seem very effective.
You can have the ongoing dialogue, too. However, I have found that this can easily degenerate in to “talking to myself” if I am not very careful.
X, I would assert your “faith” is in your sect’s Dogma and not necessarily “God”
I was joking, I would always take the council of a person who is faithful and obviously bathed in prayer over one who is not. But, I cannot continue this dialog. I am not allowed to say your name.
I believe that my relationship with Christ and faith can grow by what Xenia has suggested in her number 15….at that same time, I believe that nothing can change my position in Christ. HE choose me and I am His Beloved, all by His grace.
And if I am merely talking to myself and call that prayer, who is my god?
X, what makes “prayer” officially prayer? Folding your hands, getting on your knees, some special chant or conjuring? Can you give me your official prayer ritual that makes it “prayer” vs. talking to yourself?
By the way, I am not saying everyone needs to use a prayerbook but I have found them very helpful in kick-starting a moribund prayer life. Sometimes we just can’t think of anything to say to God, especially if it has been a long time. A prayerbook, which mostly consists of Psalms, is very helpful.
“Force yourself to do this. It is the devil who is resisting your efforts to prayer.”
This is the key. I remember reading Brother Laurence talking about 30+ years of praying to no effect, and then one day…poof, God’s presence. So many times I wonder if we give up on our prayers too quickly because we are conditioned in our society to have everything instantaneously.
Is it the will of God that I am able to work and pay my bills?
I think so…yet I’ve been out of work most of the last four years.
Others have the same problem…and they are weary too.
There is mystery here beyond formulas…and we must walk by faith, not by sight when sometimes we just want to lay down and give up.
I think prayer books are very helpful.
I have the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and find it beautiful.
Michael, believe God honours an honest heart. Just like He did with the man who cried out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” When I am weary and my faith is weak, I hold on to the knowledge that He knows, He hears, He cares, and all things are in His hands.
…personally, I simply acknowledge that God may in fact be real and present and that that innate “still small voice” is God’s spirit interacting with my conscience and reason…but that’s just me.
In my past Selective Fundamentalist life, I never really found “God” by doing the ritual thing, it seemed forced and fake…especially public prayers over dinner or at church etc.
I offered no formula. Getting my will in line with God’s will is close to impossible. I haven’t figured out any formula to make this happen. I think it is a lifetime process.
I Don’t think you want me to answer the question about your job. I do care that you have been out of work, and have prayed for you in that area as well.
Walking by faith means that we keep walking, ya know?
You can’t answer the question, nor can I answer all the questions that others have.
I didn’t write this to get answers to me personal grief, but to encourage people who are walking in discouragement to know that they are neither unique or alone.
I wrote it that we may try to give grace, not answers…for those reside in God alone.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
(2 Corinthians 4:7–12 ESV)
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
(2 Corinthians 4:13–5:10 ESV)
Yes, the light of precious treasure shines out of cracked pots. Nothing can separate us from His love.
Not sure it is necessary to make an obvious point believed by all here but one, however, given possible readers…
Jesus Himself most definitely took time to specifically engage in prayer with His Father in heaven. The Gospels are filled with examples. In fact, it made such an impression on the disciples that they asked Him to teach them how to pray.
If Jesus did it…I suggest it is wise for us to do the same.
And it most definitely is something very hard to do, and something Satan would want to keep us from as much as possible. I doubt there are many Christians who feel their prayer life is perfect, including yours truly.
Which is why I didn’t answer the question.
Grace is a beautiful thing, but I don’t think grace means “I’m Ok, you’re OK”.
Look, I haven’t given answers or formulas or anything. I’ve just talked a little about my view of prayer.
What does it mean that prayer doesn’t “work”
That you aren’t seeing the results you expect?
Steve, do you think Jesus had to dial up God on a telephone through some sort of ritual? I thought they are one Essence, both are God and as such would know each others thoughts etc? Or are they separate entities who have to talk to each other physically?
…it’s story-telling and metaphor and if I hashed it out to its extreme I could prove it, and make your position look rather silly, but it would only harden the hearts of the dogmatists and cause them to cry foul and burn me at the blog stake.
““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
(Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)
So when Trey asks me for something he needs (and sometimes what he wants) I answer him.
When possible, I answer him in the affirmative by providing what it is he asked for.
That’s what fathers do.
Sometimes I know better than he does and I say no…but it’s often yes.
When you hear nothing and things keep getting worse…year after year…you stop asking.
“RB” is the mocking voice of unbelief. I suggest we not answer him.
1. If we answer him according to his folly, we will become embroiled in an endless, pointless debate that is not god-pleasing.
2. If we don’t answer him, he will claim it’s because we have no answers, even though we have given him answers aplenty.
Just ignore him and pray for his repentance and salvation.
Michael, again, paradox.
Supposedly part of the bible narrative says your heart is wicked and deceitful above all else and doesn’t know what it really needs, part of the bible narrative says you’re good and you should ask for stuff.
The reality is, the Quid Pro Gospel says if you do something for God, he’ll give you the cookies…and if your prayers aren’t being answered, you aren’t doing enough for God and not being a good boy or girl.
Yet, other parts of the bible say God rains on the just and unjust and that stuff is pretty much random.
Empirically, there seems to be no direct correlation to your efforts at prayer and God giving you the cookies. This is explained by many who don’t take their kids to doctors as “well you didn’t have enough faith!”…ya, okey dokey.
Seems that sometimes it seems prayers get answered in a way that we seek and the vast majority of the time, they get answered in a way we don’t like (or not at all).
Michael, if you want to see your prayers answered in the affirmative, pray for easier more probably things like, “God I pray the sun will come up tomorrow, I pray I will have food to eat today, I pray you will help me be more patient with my son” etc.
If you pray for God to make you taller, you’re probably in for a lot of disappointment 🙂 😆
X, on the contrary, more a voice of reason and someone who offers some sanity to the nonsense of some of these ridiculous assumptions that are largely based upon dogma and faulty man-made reasoning and the product of old flawed belief systems.
Now, in all of this, I affirm that the Bible is true and God is good.
That’s the gift of faith…and I’m thankful for it.
I affirm God is truly Good and truly Love and truly Mercy and truly Forgiveness, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Self-Control etc.
I am reminded of Wormtongue and King Theoden.
I’m with Xenia. How can one interpret the Bible in such a way to make it look “rather silly” to teach that Jesus spent time in prayer.
Anyone who does interpret Scripture that way, is someone not to listen to as to their interpretations of Scripture.
And it is quite simple to ask whose water is such a person carrying – when discouraging specific, active prayer? Certainly not God’s.
Ricky Bobby & Michael,
I’m with both of you regarding prayer.
I think it’s about consciousness, and focus, and the opportunity to pay attention, to acknowledge.
I reject anyone’s call to ignore you, Ricky Bobby.
I reject anyone having the temerity to say you shouldn’t continue on as a pastor, Michael.
“Now, in all of this, I affirm that the Bible is true and God is good.
That’s the gift of faith…and I’m thankful for it.”
YEs! and I am not correcting you, I only wish to encourage you. Keep praying. Keep submitting. Keep walking the darkened halls. God is good, and His plans for you are magnificent.
I just prayed that I’d be able to post here without starting an argument.
I view prayer in a way that might be considered odd. I don’t think that you’re guilty of prayerlessness at all, because you talk to God. I’ll bet you thank Him often. I also think you seek wisdom during study. You pray for others.
I think perhaps, like myself, you’ve grown weary of praying for yourself in some matters, because, heck…what’s the use? God’s not going to heal my ever-worsening spine, and you’re not going to get a new job today. Well, He might, but I have no reason to believe He will. I will praise Him for who He is anyway, and I bet you do too.
I’m not keeping score, and I think that if my guesstimate is correct, I need to change the ratio, but I think I’m probably 40% thanksgiving, 30% requests for others, and 30% request for wisdom, or just plain “help!”.
I’m not going to tell you what you already know about God’s sovereignty and goodness and specific care and control over our circumstances, because you already know this.
“I am reminded of Wormtongue and King Theoden.”
I have retyped a comment and rethought a comment I don’t know how many times.
Prayer is this slippery thing…it is intimate and yet corporate, as is most of our spiritual life.
I remember being so struck by the description of Bonhoeffer in Metaxas’ biography. He wrote about how Bonhoeffer prayed with a great confidence…and that there was no apathy or giving up…there was this sense that prayer was a “strong activity.” The line I remember was that he prayed “knowing that God heard.”
In the midst of all these men trying to find a way to stop Hitler, in the midst of all that emotion, in the midst of all that fear and all that horror…in the midst of all that uncertainty and all that courage…he prayed with confidence. And he never saw the end.
We all know he had doubts, but he also had such a huge testimony of knowing God.
Michael..I have no idea how to tell you to work out where you are at. I know that we all go through seasons, and some seem interminably long.
Some of us will not see the end of the season we are in.
But God does hear.
I think that is part of why we immerse ourselves in the story, the testimony, of our family. We can be mocked and told we are just reinforcing the foolishness of our own delusions…fine. I honestly don’t care.
God has worked in the midst of those I know…and He has worked in the midst of many I have read. Their testimony has born His hand. Their prayers have been recorded…and their prayers have been answered sometimes years later.
The working out of our souls happens in the midst of the muck and the mire…and the wonder and the mystery. Sometimes we get caught up in the debate and the attempt to line up all our answers. There is merit to working out our salvation and thinking through our faith…but when we are caught in these moments of finding the callouses so thick that we cannot move forward, I think we need to seek the mystery and the wonder more than the answers.
Go ahead and call me foolish, I don’t mind.
Michael has known me through some of my seasons of deep pain. Not all of them…but some of them. The thing is…as I look back, sometimes I think I needed to relax a little. I needed to worship. I needed to listen and not try so hard to fix it.
That is my experience…and there were other times I needed to press in toward God and work hard. I needed the discipline Xenia is talking about and I needed the words of prayers that have been lifted through the ages…I needed the gift of those words to share from my weary heart.
God hears, though, Michael…I wish I knew answers as do all of us. The thing is…it is different for each of us as God works in each of us slightly differently.
He does hear you, though. You are not forgotten. I wish I had more I could say…know that I am praying for you….
I just teared up, but thank you.
That’s my life in a nutshell.
I completely disagree.
Not really, but it didn’t seem right not saying that 🙂
I love what Sarah just said.
That was beautiful.
It always is when you write it.
Thank you for sharing your gifts and yourself with me and this place for all these years.
Thanks for the response Michael.
I get what you are saying now. It is frustrating when it seems that we are not being heard and scary when it seems that we are not cared for.
I envy people who seem to be “good” at praying, whose immediate response to something is to pray about it,
That’s not me, though I wish it were.
I’m not good at scheduling time to pray it feels more like a chore and when I skip it, I just feel guilty.
I’ve never done a prayer journal that was anything more than a list of people I’m thinking about.
I tried it again the other day, mostly cause I had to spend $5 on something at the office supply store and found a pretty notebook.
I just started writing and praying for very specific things, not long writing but more like the writing was the launching place for the prayer.
It felt different, like there was some “depth” or “connection” or something. Not sure what the difference is, except that I have been asking to learn how to pray.
Also, had a weird experience (for me) where I “heard) not audibly, but clearly directive instead of my own wackadoodle thought…that something I was about to do was in direct contradiction to something is been asking help for…it was easy to not do it this time (nothing major) because it wasn’t guilt driven, more like a reminder of what I’d asked for
Only saying all this, which is way more than I normally reveal online, to say don’t give up
Thank you…that wasn’t easy for you to write, but it mattered.
Everyone who has commented here to encourage me has written a word of encouragement to someone else who is lurking…that’s why I wrote this in the first place.
In each of your comments there is wisdom for someone…there is hope for someone…someone you may never know until we get home.
The diversity of answers reflects the diversity of readers who God may send here today.
Thank you all.
And Michael, that is why I love this place. That diversity of opinions that has been redeemed by Christ. We are a diverse group of broken people, but we have placed our (broken) lives in the hands of the One who is more than able to keep us in His loving care.
Josh…thanks. Michael…I wish I had more time to just talk around here these days.
London…I really like your point that the writing was the launching place for the prayer. That’s perfect.
I think one of the things that has happened in our culture is we have made prayer something unattainable. Unless it is done in a specific way it is not considered appropriate prayer. But then, people are just not sure how to go about praying..people feel awkward and are not sure where to start.
So we read books. And then we still feel awkward putting into practice the self-help type ideas.
The best advice I ever received was to find someone comfortable praying and hang out with them.
Our pastor’s wife prays at the beginning of the service for nearly 15 minutes. She is comfortable and she is eloquent…and yet she is disarming and childlike. She is likable and she is sincere.
She is teaching people to pray. And we desperately need that. After the service there is an area where two of us hang out and pray for anyone who wants it. I usually have two or three people come back on the Sundays I am there.
But I wholeheartedly agree with the other comments that we pray when we are not even thinking about it…we pray when we breathe a thank you for the sunset…for the meal, for our family. We pray in so many ways.
I know your post was not about prayer only, but it seems to have touched a nerve with everyone. When we are calloused, we close ourselves off to so many things. We desensitize ourselves to wonder and to mystery…and to the tenderness of the conversation of prayer in everyday. We cloak ourselves in that silence that can keep us so focused on our pain.
Praying for each today…as these conversations can spark so many things. Hoping they bring desire to pray…desire to heal…desire to be known by God and not simply to parse arguments.
Blessings on y’all…off to keep educating the kiddos!!
Is it the will of God that I am able to work and pay my bills?
I think so…yet I’ve been out of work most of the last four years.
Others have the same problem…and they are weary too.
This is very sad. These are some hard times for lots of people. My husband and I are retired and have been able to work from home for some extra money and with plenty of opportunity to make more if desired. You need a up-to-date PC, a separate POTS (plain old telephone service) phone line, headset to take calls and a quiet area to work from. All training and work is done from home. I’m not trying to sell or push anything, just hoping to help.
I pray with no expectation – I can take no or silence as an answer. Heck, I’ve been married almost 45 yrs … I have practice. 🙂
Ever since I saw that photo of the Coptic Christians standing in their burnt out church, something in me changed. Terrible things are happening to Christians in other parts of the world and it’s coming to the USA soon enough. Last week one of our Orthodox churches in San Francisco was picketed for calling homosexuality a sin. Our parish here in town had a special prayer service to pray for their protection. The police came and guarded the parishioners. How long before “Those who practice perversion” (as we refer to them in our prayers) start setting fires? This is not the time for people who call themselves Christians to be ambivalent about prayer. If you don’t pray, you are throwing away the best weapon God has given you.
hmmm… i don’t know if Xenia is correct in her assessment of Michael’s calling … perhaps…
we do want hand holders – which we all can be to some extent – but, if that is the definition of a pastor, it will keep us all immature – we want flesh and blood giants of the Faith out in front of us, but that is not enough – what we need is to be in the grip of God, Himself and for that we need the renewing of our minds and that calls for teachers and discipling – today the Church needs teachers more than we need pastors – IMHO … renewing our minds isn’t an understood nor desired path today
we need to grow – innocence and immaturity are not synomous … i read 2 items yesterday here that, IMV, oddly dovetailed …one, a mocking of oversanitizing by Bible translators of old: “privy member” or some such reference to that unique male appendage (it is kind of funny today) and two, Miley (sp?) Cyrus’s attempt to act out her understanding of s*x
we need to be taught – to learn the mind of Christ has strengthening result, not a hobbling, artificiality
i thank those dear souls (some of them are Phxp folk) who remembered me in their prayers these last few months – they have been wearing and rough, but so many subtle, strong blessings have followed me through it all – i smile as i remember
Thank you, Xenia!
The Orthodox Church that was picketed by “those who practice perversion” was a very old parish in the Castro district. It takes courage to preach the truth in such an environment, courage backed up by prayer.
This is hard to read sometimes. Jim, you spoke from your heart and I hope that Michael and others meditate on what you said. There is one prayer, one specific prayer that I know God answers for me every time I ask and that is to reveal Himself in some way. It may be with a kiss from my wife, an unexpected phone call or even by His creation but this prayer He is faithful to answer. I will ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a way that you know that you are in His presence. It may not be with a job but I know that He will answer that prayer. The day this doesn’t happen will be the day He takes me home when I can speak directly to His face.
While my fear is more about living under a beast government, that point still stands.
Trust me, you were never forgotten…and we’re glad you’re back.
I never doubt His presence…but that doesn’t change the circumstances.
It makes them bearable.
thank you, Michael – i’m enjoying my week of internet access and, BTW, you’re remembering the calouses? … don’t forget the muscles
Here’s the holy method to my madness.
In writing about something I recognize it’s existence.
Before you can deal with a problem, you must identify it.
In recognizing my own callouses the process to remove them begins.
My hope…my prayer…is that by doing it in front of God and everyone here that some may find the courage and strength in this to begin their own spiritual surgery.
Some have already of spoken this to me privately.
We all have them…
Em, we have missed you so much. I’m so blessed you have internet this week.
I’m off to pick up Trey…blessings on all.
Em!!! Love seeing you here!!! I’m just about as scarce as you are these days…so glad I had a chance to see you, though.
Xenia @71 – Amen.
As to prayer as our weapon. One reminder we need is that with all the spiritual warfare and armor of Ephesians 6, most of the time when I hear the passage they stop at v.17 -(the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God) and don’t go to the very next verse which says praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.
It’s how we go on offense. The rest of it, including in large part the sword, is all defensive protection.
Michael, thanks for being so open. Sometimes I need to remind myself that prayer is far more than just petitioning for my needs or interceding for others. It is also adoration, thanksgiving, and confession. I remember one fellow believer I knew (a tough truck driver) who used to pray simple thanks, including once “God, thank you for the color gray.” There is always something to thank Him for, even if its just gray.
Maybe its time for a season without petition or intercession. Concentrate on loving Him, no matter the circumstances or your pain and confusion. Thank him for family, for life, for a coming eternity in His presence, and (if nothing else) for the color gray…
Michael, thank you. For honesty, courage and truth. Thank you.
Callouses can be good. St. James the Just, the brother of the Lord, had so many callouses on his knees from praying that he was called “Old Camel-Knees.”
I pray more than St. James, as I have an ongoing dialogue with “God”…I still don’t get the mythology that getting on your knees makes it easier for God to hear you…
In fact, God just told me your position is quite silly and that he hears you all the time, whether you’re on your knees, in a closet or not.
Why should anyone listen or believe anything you say. There are many thousands of opinions on anything you say. Surely, you voice cannot be correct with all those odds.
for many years i shied away from private prayer because i “knew” that my faith was too small to “get” God to do anything … then one day i realized that i needed to pray in the same way that one might when they hear a dear one say, “can we talk?”
Our Lord, didn’t want to go to the cross – to become sin for us … He prayed for the possible removal of His destiny to do so … the pain and humiliation of the crucifixion wasn’t something He wanted in some twisted mindset of martyrdom glory – the glory came later
BUT He did desire the will of the Father above all – that’s the goal. and a hard place for us to reach, i think … it is for me anyway – lip service is easy: “Thy will be done…” and all the while i’m thinking, “but please don’t let it be painful…”
MLD, my belief system has a barometer that is much more consistent and accurate than yours: Reason.
Even so, the point you make is a key part of an intellectually honest belief system as it illustrates the fact that much of Truth is Relative…as exampled by the fact the “God” of the Old Testament at one time permitted and even commanded things like slavery, concubines, execution of children with stones, slaughtering of women and children and infants, etc…and now, not so much.
Well, I will be praying for your prayer life, Michael.
As for Wormtongue, I agree with Xenia, don’t listen to him.
The wise speak only of what they know, Grima son of Galmod. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth.
Michael, is name-calling now OK? Am I held to a different standard and can’t call names in return?
I’m not at home. No name calling.
X and Derek, I just disagree strongly with your positions and I think your name-calling is more a cover for your lack of ability to be able to refute my positions and defend yours.
Oh, you are just mad cause Xenia nailed you with that one.
Very fitting indeed.
No, not at all, it just illustrates a double-standard and exposes your insecurity in your position.
The back and forth ends now.
on your knees? truth be told it’s your heart that needs bending and most of us just aren’t humbled enough to take that position – physically or mentally … some day you will fall on your knees, if you live long enough … at least most of us will … IMO, it doesn’t so much impress God as it impresses us with our own impotence and, just maybe it happens when we have become impressed with His omnipotence and glory
Praying on your knees: perfectly ok:
Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.
Standing to pray: perfectly ok:
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions…
Lying in bed to pray: perfectly ok:
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
Praying at a particular time of the day everyday? Perfectly ok:
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
Very well stated Em!
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace
Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence…
Hebrews 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…
“Boldness”, “Confidence” etc. Not necessarily the picture painted above…
Once again, the bible presents different narratives….”Boldness and Confidence!” vs. what Em was saying that makes me picture a whimpering dog cowering in his own urine
You truly have no clue what you’re talking about and I’m tired of reading this drivel.
You’re done for the night.
Those who defend the Faith are castigated.
Those who seek to tear apart the truth are protected.
RB, what you say about boldness has merit – but you are using a hard over argument of extremes … humility is not fear, nor is its opposite cowardice … i aplogize for the picture i painted for you and now i’m trying to erase the picture you’ve created in my mind – i’m glad that the Lutherans are not losing control of their sphincters at the kneeling rail?
I too, as a young boy, had to go out with the sledge hammer and the wedge, and split wood. Our little shack had only a wood burning stove for heat. It was an Ashley stove.
Actually, I love my prayer life. I walk out in the open area at night and decree life and health and strength and peace upon those I love: family, extended family, coworkers, neighbors, friends, church leaders, and others who come to mind. I speak with authority from my standing in the heavenly realm. Again and again I speak and decree blessing over my children. Out there I walk with Jesus and I sense Him very acutely.
i really owe an apology to my Lutheran brethern for my #110 before calling it a day … i fear i got sucked too far into the absurdity of rb’s example … the beauty of kneeling as a Believer before the Lord should not be denigrated in any way – i’d like to claim that “he who argues with a fool …” this time that fool is me, so all arguments are off, eh? IMHO
if i don’t get back to visit here … know that prayer continues as so many of you come to mind during my days … God keep
I think this link best describes some of my “prayer” life.
The other part is often prayers begging God not to unleash His wrath against me for my sins. There are a few times of intimacy and peace, I see some of you talk about those times, I personally try to avoid them. I know I have a very unhealthy and even twisted view of God that is becoming more reveled to me.Much of it is my pride laced with many years of resentment and real / perceived hurts.
I have taken up meditation the last few weeks. It is spiritually based more then Christian and the whole Yogi think I dont get nor do I wish to. They make no judgements at this place, they are fine with one having a bible open and meditating on scripture or what ever one wishes.
Why all the wood chopping. You can buy cords of wood at the store.
All this breast beating about the lack of a prayer life is ridiculous. Did Jesus call us to quality standards so we could beat ourselves up? His standard is perfection … wow beat yourself up about that one.
When we see a lack in our :christian life: what are we to do about it? We could handle it like the catholics do – beat ourselves up.Much of Evangelical preaching is all about that – the to do list.
Or, as Luther said, in the first of the 99 theses (see folks this is not new) he said that we should repent and live a life of repentance.
Em brought up a point (welcome back Em) ” i’m glad that the Lutherans are not losing control of their sphincters at the kneeling rail?”
Who knows, we may have that image, but…I have NEVER been in an evangelical churchthat participated in corporate confession or corporate prayer.
Are you Theist ?
“What everyone who would fain pray more faithfully and effectually must learn is this, that his whole spiritual life is in a sickly state, and needs restoration. It is as he comes to look, not only at his shortcomings in prayer, but at the lack in the life of faith, of which this is the symptom, that he will become fully alive to the serious nature of the disease. He will then see the need of a radical change in his whole life and walk, if his prayer-life, which is simply the pulse of the spiritual system, is to indicate health and vigour. God has so created us that the exercise of every healthy function causes joy. Prayer is meant to be as simple and natural as breathing or working to a healthy man. The reluctance we feel, and the failure we confess, are Gods own voice calling us to acknowledge our disease, and to come to Him for the healing He has promised.” Andrew Murray “The Ministry of Intercession: A Call for More Prayer”
I highly recommend this book and Andrew Murray’s other book “WIth Christ in the School of Prayer.” It in these writings that I have realized what a sickly state my spiritual life has been in and my need for radical change in my whole life and walk.
“Feebleness in prayer is the mark of disease. Impotence to walk is, in the Christian, as in the natural life, a terrible proof of some evil in the system that needs a physician. The lack of power to walk joyfully in the new and living way that leads to the Father and the throne of grace is specially grievous. Christ is the great Physician, who comes to every Bethesda where impotent folk are gathered, and speaks out his loving, searching question, Wilt thou be made whole? For all who are still clinging to their hope in the pool, or are looking for some man to put them in, who are hoping, in course of time, somehow to be helped by just continuing in the use of the ordinary means of grace, His question points to a better way. He offers them healing in a way of power they have never understood. And to all who are willing to confess, not only their own impotence, but their failure to find any man to help them, His question brings the sure and certain hope of a near deliverance. We have seen that our weakness in prayer is part of a life smitten with spiritual impotence. Let us listen to our Lord as He offers to restore our spiritual strength, to fit us for walking like healthy, strong men in all the ways of the Lord, and so be fit rightly to fill our place in the great work of intercession.” Andrew Murray
Another sample from Andrew Murray’s books: ” ‘What things soever ye desire’. And so desire is the soul of prayer, and the cause of insufficient or unsuccessful prayer is very much to be found in the lack or feebleness of desire. Some may doubt this: they are sure that they have very earnestly desired what they ask. But if they consider whether their desire has indeed been as whole-hearted as God would have it, as the heavenly worth of these blessings demands, they may come to see that it was indeed the lack of desire that was the cause of failure…
A Christian may often have very earnest desires for spiritual blessings. But alongside of these there are other desires in his daily life occupying a large place in his interests and affections. The spiritual desires are not all-absorbing. He wonders that his prayer is not heard. It is simply that God wants the whole heart…
The law is unchangeable: God offers Himself, gives Himself away, to the whole-hearted who give themselves wholly away to Him. He always gives us according to our hearts desire. But not as we think it, but as He sees it…
Our hearts must be drawn away from other desires: we must give ourselves wholly to this one…” The Ministry of Intercession, Andrew Murray
When I enter the throne room, I must consider the holiness of the request I bring before Him. Am I so immersed in the presence of my Lord that I know His heart on this request? As Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, ever interceding for us, is HE praying this prayer? Is my request in harmony with His? Is this request truly brought that HE might be glorified? (Jesus said He would do whatever we asked in His name so His Father MIGHT BE GLORIFIED). Is this request truly the desire of my heart–so great a desire that I am willing to persevere my entire life for the answer? Is the desire so great that I am willing to sacrifice the other desires of my daily life that are occupying my interests and affections?
These are just some of the questions I wrestle with now, before bringing my requests before God. Intercession is a holy privilege and responsibility and I cannot take it lightly any more. Spurgeon said we should come boldly before the throne, but not with impertinence. I need to approach this command (prayer IS a command) with all seriousness. I must be willing to obediently do whatever He asks in order to see this prayer request fulfilled. Am I willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING to see the answer to this prayer? This has caused me to wrestle with the sanctification of every prayer request before I bring it to my Father. Each prayer request must be brought to Him knowing that, to the best of my ability, I have brought it with my WHOLE HEART. And if my whole heart is not in it, He will reveal that to me soon enough. No more rattling off long lists of prayer requests…each request is wrestled with, to discover if it is a holy and righteous thing to bring before Him, and if I am willing to do my part (no matter the cost) in bringing the answer to fruition.
Prayer is a serious thing, indeed.
Well, Michael, when I first read your post and before I read the comments, my thought was to thank you for being honest and for writing something profound. You’ve challenged me to examine my own callouses, which are thick in some respects.
I’ve had different seasons of prayer in my walk– Sarah alluded to our misguided training on prayer, and that has certainly contributed to the seasonal nature of my prayer life. Truthfully, I’ve asked God for things, He’s answered, and I’ve forgotten I’ve asked him (usually these are things I’ve asked reluctantly for myself, like patience 🙂 ) Other times, prayers seem to go unanswered. I remember laying hands on a woman who was severely diabetic and sick, and feeling like God had given me a word that she would be healed. A few months later, she was dead. That shook me, and made me distrust my ability to hear from Him.
I do love talking to the Lord, though, because He is the one who understands me and and the whole of situations. I like to see prayer as a conversation with Him. I realize that a conversation doesn’t meet the structure of a prayer book, doesn’t have all the components of ACTS, isn’t for public consumption and is raw and honest. But it ministers to me, and I think God doesn’t mind it either, because it’s an expression of the fellowship He created us for.
before i go this morning, i want to be sure that i was clear on one thing – when i said that Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross… He wanted to do – to stay in – the will of the Father – even buckling under the weight of the cross He stood – humility is strong
and my wording in #110 was the result of posting on the fly… cowardice? a whole different topic (certainly not an “opposite” of or in any other way connected with humility)