Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Because a good Bible study (and the time spent writing it up for a friend) shouldn’t go to waste:

Passage: Genesis 18:16-33 (you should re-read it!)

Why did God feel the need to tell Abraham about what would happen to Sodom and Gomorrah?  I believe there’s a sense in which Abraham’s chosenness has now affected the way that God will act toward him.  In order to be the God that Abraham and his descendants will worship, God wants to prove that he is just and righteous in his dealings with humanity, that his character is good.

This relationship between God and Abraham (and implicitly Abraham’s descendants) is not a static one in which God would demand mindless obedience.  Rather, it is one in which God’s people will have a voice in the way God will ultimately work in the world (think also of Moses’ and Joshua’s intercession for their people when God’s wrath was against them).

Isn’t it amazing that God doesn’t just presuppose that humans do not know that justice and righteousness is?  Even if our concept of justice is not to the standard of God’s justice, we are not given the excuse to simply shrug away our moral beliefs as being ultimately flawed.  We do not know as well as God (that is a given), but we should still be in the process of working out what justice means in relation to what God says, to God’s character, to the sense of “oughtness” that we all have.

Wrestling with God just seems like a risky thing to do at times.  And it is!  We open ourselves to being vulnerable or wounded.  Abraham’s insistence that God will be just and not kill the righteous with the unrighteous did cause him some hesitation and uncertainty.  And yet it was effective (and this is the kind of risk-taking that I would encourage).  He was honest with God with his intercession.  Though the prayer did not ultimately change the outcome of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham would undoubtedly be changed by his experience and relationship with God.  God heard him and responded positively to him.

Why stop at ten?  I suggested that when we say that Abraham should have gone down to one (any number smaller than ten), we are looking at it from an individualistic society.  While that’s not completely wrong, they would have understood faith in a communal context.  Ten is large enough to be considered a community of believers, and an effective presence in the city.  In the Jewish tradition, they have the minyan, the presence of the minimum of ten to be considered an official gathering.  Perhaps this concept is loosely correlated?  But perhaps the number isn’t the main issue here at all, and the point is simply that God has heard Abraham and has responded.

What would have happened if God did not include Abraham in this dialogue?  How would Abraham have reacted to the news of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed knowing that his nephew is there as well?  As strange as it sounds, God’s reputation was on the line.  If ever an attack against God’s character was thrown at Abraham, he now can say that God is indeed righteous. God did not just destroy the cities because of whim or cruelty or malice, but because the cities were indeed so wicked that not even ten righteous could be found.

How does this story affect your perception of how you should pray? How have your past experiences with prayer changed?  What works for you now?

As for me and my own wrestling with God, I’ve found that no matter how angry or hurt or upset I am with God, it is good to know that he is big enough to carry all the weight of my accusations and pain.  That he listens and that he does not strike us down for our audacity and wayward behavior is a testament to the amount of intimacy that he will allow.  Without the direct confrontations I’ve had with God, my relationship with him would not be as straightforward and heartfelt.  After all, we serve a God who wants our honesty, who wishes us to speak to him about where we are and what we desire, and who is able to respond to us when we come to him with that honesty.  I think that’s worth a lot.  🙂

Anyway, I hope you have found this to be a good source of reflection and encouragement.  Peace.

Read Full Post »

To the One who created the heavens and the earth
To the One who is holy, pure, without blemish
To the One who does not change like shifting shadows
To the One who is without limit or end
To the One who is light and love
To the One who is just and judges accordingly
To the One who knows our innermost thoughts
To the One whose wisdom far exceeds our own
To the One who abounds in mercy and patience
To the One who cuts enduring covenants with his people
To the One who came to relate to us in the incarnation
To the One who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Spirit
To the One who is deserving of glory and honor and praise
To the One who has redeemed us through the cross
To Him we lift up our eyes in supplication.
We know that He does all things well. Through times of crises, though everything else may fall apart, He is still there. He is readily accessible to us, and through the cross He will be found. There is no fear where there is the Cross. There is no condemnation while Christ stands on our behalf. If we were to prove ourselves unfaithful, God would still show himself all the more faithful. Because God is God, he is strong in our weakness, he turns meaninglessness into meaningfulness, and he redeems us from our brokenness. And at the end of the day, his work is all that really matters.

Read Full Post »

the power of prayer?

I have a friend who God has been putting into my mind of late. I’m not quite sure what to do with it sometimes. 🙂 Well, obviously, I can pray, and I have, but it’s strange that God puts seasons in our life where he calls us to pray for particular persons.

I have wondered in the past about the efficacy of my prayers. I know that he does and always has heard my prayers and I know that he is able to fulfill my prayers, but it’s more a question of whether he is willing to respond. So, part of me would like to think that my prayers are not in vain, but even asking and giving things over to God doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will go the way you see it or would like. I’m caught in a tension of being a little skeptical of the effects during my more cynical moments with the propensity to take it too mystically in my more hopeful times. But where’s the in-between of it? Is it that I always ask wrongly? I don’t think that’s the case. Is it that I don’t accept his answers? That is more likely, though his answers are not always clear to me, even when I have supposed that it was. Maybe I’m just not in tune with the will of God. 😉

My friend says that prayer to him is linked to communal worship. The identity of the faith community is united through praying and through putting their focus upon the same God. Also, he mentioned that it serves as a reminder for him as a servant of God. He does not, however, see any cause and effect relationship in prayer. And while I can sympathize with what he says, I can’t honestly say that if I thought there were no cause-effect relationship to prayer (even in the less direct and obvious way) that I would bother with prayer. I can’t overlook verses that say that things like, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15), and “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins'” (Mark 11:22-25).

If our prayers are not effective for other areas of our life, can we be confident that the same can be said about when we pray to confess sin? Obviously, I don’t think that the realm of our prayer should be limited to supplication; that would just be a distortion of our prayer life. We do it to seek God’s guidance, to give him thanks, to be close to the divine. I would probably argue that prayer for supplication is secondary to the intimacy to God that is fostered through it. But that still doesn’t negate my belief that prayer for ourselves or for others can be effective, and that it has to necessarily be that way because it stems from a relationship with a God who directly works into human history.

Read Full Post »

I am happy. If this sounds somewhat simplistic to you, it is. The sort of peace that I have been experiencing is truly inexpressible. It comes from a sense of simply knowing and loving, in finding joy in the fact that I live and breathe, and that this breath comes from God. The filling of my lungs with air make me think of God’s breath breathing in life for the first time into Adam. And I realize, I really like my life. There’s so much intrinsic good in it and in my relationship to my God. How can I ever give him enough gratitude for that?

Holy Father,
I thank you that you are Yahweh, the Creator, the Master, the Covenant-Maker. I thank you for the shalom you have been working into my life. I have peace even when everything and everyone around me may be in turmoil because I am founded in you. There is something great and special when your presence is so tangible that I can feel you and your holiness and your Spirit through creation, in the air, surrounding me. When I look at the stars at night, I know you have created the great expanse of the universe and that you can make even greater things, but that you chose in the midst of that to single out mankind to love. Why do you, when you don’t need us, still call us? I cannot understand that mystery of your love. I ask that you would give me direction for the next season of my life, and that in it, I will find an even greater love for you.

Read Full Post »

One thing I really enjoy about Dr. Bird’s class is that he does a pretty good job at integrating the information he gives us with critical thinking and application of the Christian life. Or, to say it in Taylor terms, there’s an “integration of faith and learning.” I don’t always appreciate this as much as I should, I suppose. Sometimes, it seems shallow at best. But when it’s done well, it can be a wonderful thing. With Bird, he has such a desire to push students to where they’re uncomfortable. And I really like that.

The topic of this class revolved around the biblical concepts of justice and relating them to the countries which we are learning about. My country of study is Sri Lanka, and learning about the human rights violations going on there is surprising. Things that we Americans don’t even have to think about… We had prayer time in class for the different countries to address directly some issues that pertain to each. It was actually very moving for me, and it was a challenge for me to pray for things beyond my individual scope of life. I’m so selfish that I always pray for me or for things pertaining to me. Our “individualized” and “personal” Christianity is cheap when we realize Christ gave himself for the whole world. If we claim that missions and evangelism is important to us, what better place is there to start than just to pray?

It must be hard for him. To know so much, to have those types of things on your mind, to feel very limited in our individual ability to act against such systematic types of oppression. I’m at a loss because I do care, because I know that God cares, because I believe scripture tells us to look beyond ourselves, and because I believe that the Gospel carries along with it freedom in its Kingdom concept, not only from personal sin but from injustices as well.

I honestly get a little annoyed when people speak of things such as disallowing homosexuals to marry as the greatest form of societal oppression. Give me a break! Even when I grant that there are some oppression and discrimination that shouldn’t be there, it pales in comparison to…. human trafficking, torture, female genital mutilation, genocide, child soldiers, etc… So why then do people spend so much time on more minor issues when they turn a blind eye to the much more serious injustices? That’s not at all to say that we should ignore the other issues because there are still injustices around us. But comparatively, the suffering caused by these other issues are are significantly greater in scope and individual harm than, say, the “deterioration of the family” in America (Sorry, I can’t pick on one side without jabbing at the other. At least now we’re all offended). It’s funny that some things that people often crusade for become just as much a source of oppression or alienation to others as the things which they claim are the “oppressors.” Just something to think about…

What types of injustices are particularly important to you and how do you go about doing your part as your work of faith?

Read Full Post »

Easter Sunday

This is what I wrote for Easter Sunday.  Hope you guys enjoy it:

My Lord and Master,

Who can comprehend your worth?  Who is righteous enough to look upon your face?  Surely you transcend all things, you permeate the very fabric of space and time, you know our substance.  Who can hide from you?

Let us cling upon your hope, the victory of the cross, the knowledge of your return.  Let us come to you with undefiled hearts.

You overwhelm us with your presence; who can bear it?  Your being has changed our very nature.  Do upon your people as you have said through your prophet: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).

Teach us how to partake in your presence, to believe and eat of your flesh and blood, that we may live.  As you claim, “I am the Bread of Life.”  By taking in your death and your resurrection, we have now seen that you make life possible — Be glorified in the Father.

Take our lives and consecrate it to your service.  Our lives, though small, are not passed over by you.  Fill our hearts with the power of your Spirit, that in the fullness of your presence, we may do what is right in your eyes.  Open our hearts and our minds to your will we pray.


Read Full Post »