Why Do I Pray?

Growing up in a Christian home, I learned to pray at a very young age.  Prayer was an important part of my family’s life.  Every meal we took turns thanking God for our food.  As the “baby” in the family my first prayers over meal time were memorized prayers like

God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.

But as I started school it was expected that my prayer would become a “real” one prayed from my heart and not my head.

Before we went to bed at night we would all gather in the living room and pray together as a family.

So prayer to me is just a natural part of my life.

Lately, however, I have asked myself “why do I pray?”  Is there “magic” in prayer?  Does my prayer change God’s mind?  If I did not pray for someone, would their need still be met?  If someone’s request is answered, is it because I prayed?

Prayer is a mystery.  There have been times I believe I prayed and saw immediately a direct answer to that prayer.  There have been times I prayed and wondered if God even heard me.

So, since I have no real answers to these questions about prayer, what do I pray?  Why do I believe in prayer?

First I pray because of the example Jesus gave us.

  • And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
  • In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Even in his greatest moment of anguish He prayed.

  • My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it.

Second, I pray before Jesus told us to.

He gave parables about the importance of continuing to ask and not give up.  He also gave us specific things to pray about.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

This is one prayer I think the church may have forgotten as we hear such hateful language now directed toward those who disagree with us.

Several times in his teachings he used the phrase When you pray.”

Not “if” but “when.”

He told us to pray for laborers to share the gospel.  He told to pray that we would not yield to temptation.  In the Lord’s Prayer He made it clear that praying with unforgiveness toward someone else in our hearts will be a barrier to our prayers being answered.

But perhaps the main reason I pray is that it strengthens my relationship with God.  As I pray to God, I am again reminded of my need for Him.  I am encouraged to know I can talk to the Almighty and that He cares for me and my needs.

I think of my relationship with my husband.  Our closeness would not last long if we never communicated with one another.  A good marriage requires good communication.

As I pray I maintain that relationship with God.  Recognizing that prayer is for me one of the ways to keep my relationship with God thriving, I know my prayers must be more than just a grocery list of “God, do this and God, do that.”

Again, in my communication with my husband if I only spoke to him when I had a list of chores I wanted him to do, our relationship would not be warming and loving.

My praying to God helps me remember all the blessings I have received and to maintain a grateful heart and attitude.

Finally as I pray for others my heart is opened to their needs and I find myself not just praying for God to help them, but I often find ways that God can use me to be that help to them.  It opens my heart to others.

So I pray.  I pray with expectancy that I speak to one who is loving and powerful and that although I do not understand it all, prayer matters.

 

 

 

 

 

The Party’s Over – What Now?

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of a anticlimax.

But I have to wonder:  If we really understood the true meaning of what we just celebrated – that God Himself came to earth to make things right with us – to restore a right relationship with Him – to bring us His peace – why would we experience such a letdown.

Did we not really “get it?”  The real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the family gatherings.  It has everything to do with our relationship with this little baby that grew to a man, died and rose again.

Having just celebrated that fact – should not our hearts be filled with joy?

Perhaps the problem is we hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas.  What we really need to do is keep Christmas in Christ.  Christmas is only a date on the calendar.  Christ is our source of joy year long.

 

 

Have I Got Great News For You!!!

There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.”

 

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

 

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

 

The Complete Story of Christmas

Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas.  How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.

What is the complete story of Christmas?  Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds?  Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?

We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.

Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God.  He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man.   After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross.   Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.  So when the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow down before Him.  And every tongue will say Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will give honor to God the Father.”

The complete Christmas story is summed up in John 3:16:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

The complete story of Christmas is about you.  It’s about how much God loves you.

All about the cross

Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand.  But God keeps on reaching.  Today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us.  Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds.  He is reaching…longing to share with us…the very being of God.

It’s my prayer this Christmas that you see beyond the baby in the manager to the savior on the cross and the empty tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

The beauty of that night was not a calm, serene setting with radiant beams emitting from or around the baby. The beauty of that night was how clearly it showed the love of God – sending His son not to the king’s palace or the rich man’s house, but to a dirty, cold, dark stable.

Grandma's Ramblings

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Silent Night, Holy Night

What a beautiful picture we have of that first Christmas!  Mary and Joseph, dressed in plain, but neat, clothes.  The baby is wrapped in a clean blanket and the shepherds and Wise Men all stand or sit on the clean straw.  And one of our most beloved Christmas carols make it all sound so peaceful and clean.

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright

But was it a silent night?  Was all calm and bright?

According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph had just made a long trip from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem.  This would not be considered a “long” trip today.  It is approximately 100 miles and MapQuest says it can be made in less than two hours.  However, at the time of Jesus’ birth, travel would have been on foot on rough roads with no Holiday Inn or…

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What Have You Done For The Least of These?

According to the National Retail Federation, a group that compiles information about consumer spending for major American holidays and events, an estimated 165.3 million people will shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

They break the numbers down like this:

  • 39.6 million will shop on Thanksgiving day
  • 114.6 million will shop on Black Friday
  • 66.6 million will shop on Small Business Saturday
  • 33.3 million will shop on Sunday
  • 68.7 million will shop on Cyber Monday

When looking at Black Friday, it appears there are two opposing groups.  There is the group that loves finding bargains or just enjoys the social aspect of hanging with family and friends.  For many in this group it has become a family tradition that they look forward to each year.

The other group thinks anyone who will stand in line for hours or jostle with other shoppers just to get a bargain must be a little crazy.

Before I continue I must confess I belong to the later group.  I have never gone shopping on Black Friday.  In fact, I try to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving and avoid the stores as much as possible from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Dealing with crowds is just not my idea of fun.

I certainly understand the many who love to shop and who enjoy the social aspect of the day, but I must confess it bothers me a little to see all the money we spent buying more “stuff” when our homes are already full while so many in other countries do not even have clean water to drink.  Or, in our country so many are homeless.

Think of the number of wells that could be dug in Sierre Leone or other countries for the money spend this weekend.  Think of the food that could be donated to food banks here in our inner cities.

I certainly hope I do not come across as a Scrooge trying to take the joy so many get from Christmas shopping.

I just try it might be good when we start writing down our Christmas shopping list to go beyond thinking of our immediate family or circle of friends and look around to see those in need.  Perhaps we could cut down on our own shopping list and help others.

Just a few suggestions:

  • Check out your local food bank or homeless shelter and see what they could use to help the needy this winter.

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  • Check out https://www.worldhope.org/ and donate to help provide clean water or healthcare to those not fortunate enough to be born in the USA.

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  • Check out https://www.compassion.com/ and sponsor a child so that they can go to school and get nourishing food and healthcare they need.

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  • Check out Mariatu’s Hope on Facebook and give clean water to a village or help for a new born.

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Remember Jesus told us:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!