The Inward Part of Prayer

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“But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.” Matthew 6:6

I saw “War Room” last week and it was a wonderful movie.  But that’s not what is moving me to meditate on prayer.  Lord, You were already at work at that and this is just where You have brought me today.  With all the other truths You’ve been having me mull over and meditate on, this has been something that’s been floating around in my thoughts and heart and today is the day to begin putting it into words and solidifying it.

I think there is a lot more to Your idea of prayer than meets the eye.  It was the same thing with Your idea of giving.  But before I even talk about that, I just want to understand Your perspective on pray, because maybe my perspective and Your perspective don’t line up like they ought to, like they need to.  So give me open eyes and an open heart to understand Your perspective.

If I google the types of prayer, I see lists that range from the four types of prayer to twenty-one.  I see things like thanksgiving, worship, fasting, intercession, faith, corporate prayer, consecration, and more.  Here in Matthew, Jesus tells us, “But you, when you pray…”  This is for me and this is for when I pray.  It’s the word “proseuchomai” and it’s all about praying to God, about supplication, sharing our needs, and worship.  It’s not just one kind of praying.  It’s the whole gamut.

But here’s the problem.  We’re feeble, we’re weak.  Paul knew it.  He shared, “[l]ikewise the Spirit also helps our weaknesses: ‘because what we may pray as we ought, we do not know’: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And He that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  (Romans 8:26-27)  It’s not that we don’t know how to pray; it’s a problem of not knowing what to pray.  The problem is that I think finitely.  I only see the little picture in front of me, not the big picture.  Therefore, I don’t know on my own how to pray for and after Your will, God.  So, I don’t know the best way to pray in unison with You unless You show me.

I wonder if learning this is the beginning of praying in faith.  I mean, what if I learned to just worship You and lift You up and recall in prayer Your word and Your promises and Your Youness.  I wonder If I just lifted You up more and commended every situation and need to You and didn’t worry so much about asking You how to fix them, but I just trusted You to do the right thing in every situation and just focussed on You, if that might open the door to my drawing nearer to the Spirit and if my heart wouldn’t line up more closely with Yours.  Maybe even that way, I would be less effected by my circumstances because I wouldn’t be thinking about them so much.  That way, I wouldn’t be upset because You didn’t work things out my way.  That way, I might really just submit to You and basque in the beauty and wonder of who You are instead of basquing in the difficulties.

I mean I already know that I have a problem with my heart being decietful and desperately wicked.  It’s part of our humanness.  But I also know that there is Someone who knows the depths of my heart and can make me aware of it’s deceit.  And I know that this Someone who has the power to search my heart and test my heart and change my heart and teach me about my heart, has placed His Spirit there within my heart to give me the mind of Christ instead of my own mind.  So the One who searches my heart and knows the mind of the Spirit within my heart, allows Him to pray for me, and allows me to learn to be unified in that prayer.  I may not always understand the words, but the heart of the prayer is faith, by trusting the One who loves me so greatly.  So I make my prayer all about Him and He takes care of the rest.

So when I pray, it’s not for public scrutiny, it’s personal to and about God whether I pray corporately or in my own private nook.  My time with God is truly my time with You, Lord.  I get away, alone with You.  You even did that as an example when You were with Your disciples.  You took them to a dessert place and You withdrew from them to be with Your Heavenly Father.  I need to do the same.  I need to get alone and shut the door to shut the world out, to shut others momentarily out.  Why?  I need to be wholly under Your influence.  In a sense, I need to shut myself out because I need to set myself aside and open myself to You.  I need to worship You, my Father.  I need to get private and personal.  I need to get in You and I need You to get in me.  I need to get so personal that it reaches my inward parts and that I reach Your inward parts.  I need to throw all superficiallity away.

You see the inward parts of me, every one,  no matter the condition.  And when I see the inward parts of You and Your condition of holiness, I absolutely know how much I need You and how utterly dependent I am upon You and upon Your working in me.  And You promise that when I come to You like this, You see into the inward parts, the secret depths of me I can’t reach and fathom, the secret depths of You I can’t reach and fathom on my own, and You “reward me openly.”  That means You give it up to me.  When I worship You, You bring Your truths to pass.  When I worship You, I see You.  When I worship You, I experience You, I come to know You and see through Your perspective.  You make the secret known.  You reveal Your inward Self.  And You reveal Yourself openly.

The beauty of that word is that it means “shining.”  You shine Yourself on me, over me, in me, through me.  You make Yourself and Your ways apparent.  You reveal the internal You, externally to me.  You appear.  I come to know.   You make Yourself manifest.  The inward is seen outwardly.  The secret is revealed.

See, my Father already knows what I need, and my Father, You have it under control.  What I need to do when I pray is remember who You are.  I need to remind myself and revel in the fact that You are not only my Father, but the Father of those I’m praying for.  We are in this faith together.  I need to remember that You alone are holy and all that that means.  I need to remember that it’s all about Your kingdom and that Your kingdom is coming and You have invited me to be a part of bringing that to pass.  Your will is everything.  I must pray to know it and to do it and to be united with You in it.  I need to be reminded in worship that You are the one providing all my daily needs.  I need to be reminded as I worship that You are the One who has forgiven me so greatly, therefore I am to forgive others so greatly.  I need to be reminded as I worship You that I need You to keep me holy and to lead me in Your ways and away from sin and evil.  I need to be continually reminded through worshipping You and being alone with You that the kingdom is and was and always will be Yours, that all power belongs to You and falls under You, and that You are the only truly glorious One, and that You are all that You are forever and ever without end. Amen.

This is prayer.  This is what I’m called to find a quiet place to sit alone with You in and pursue.  This is worship.  This is trust.  This is faith.  This is how I’m constantly reminded of who You are so that my feeble mind and my feeble body won’t stray like a silly sheep.  This is prayer.

Do I know what I worship?  Really, do I know Who I worship?  Jesus said, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know…But the hour is coming, and is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:22-24)  Lord, teach me.  I need You desperately and inwardly and outwardly.  I need You.  I need to be reminded.  I need to be refilled.  I need to understand Your perpective.   I’m in desperate need to worship You in spirit and truth.  Lead me there and hold me there as I commit to seek You there in the secret inward place where You are found.

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For Christ’s Sake!

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“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

How can you be weak and strong at the same time, Paul?   How can you take pleasure in being sick?  How can you take pleasure in being reproached?  How can you take pleasure in being in need?  How can you take pleasure when you are persecuted?  How can you take pleasure when you are in distress?  How does Jesus enable you to do that?  I need to know.  Because the same way Jesus enables you, is the way Jesus will enable me.

This is pretty strong stuff here.  This pleasure is from the Greek word “eudokeo.”  It means to think well of, approve, to take pleasure in, to delight in.  It’s the same word family that God used to say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  So how do I learn to delight in all this hard stuff to the extent of God’s delight in Christ?  Is that possible?

Well, Jesus, You say that the answer is a loud, “Yes!”  You tell me that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)  You tell me that if I “can believe, all things are possible” to the one that believes. (Mark 9:23)  And in Mark 14:36 when You were preparing to go through these kinds of things Yourself to the worst degree, You affirmed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto You.” But to that You added the clincher that I need to remember.  It’s not about my will, but all about Your will.

Sickness is a tough thing, especially debilitating diseases.  But You are telling me that even if I have a debilitating disease, I can delight in the midst of it.  What in the world am I delighting in?  Can I really delight in my disease? I can do it for Christ’s sake.  But what does that mean?

Can I do it because I’m suffering for Christ?  Is that what that means?  The Greek words are actually “huper Christos” and when I look at Strong’s it tells me that “huper” is about being over, above, beyond, or casually for the sake of.  But I don’t think this is casual stuff here.  But that “huper” part, that above and beyond,  in Christ, well that intrigues me.

I mean, what if I’m not doing these things for the sake of Christ in the english sense?  What if Christ is doing this in me?  What if, in the middle of all these negative situations, He is rising above the situation, ruling over me and my heart and my mind and the circumstances?  What if I am allowing Him to stretch me beyond my limits because there are no limits in Him?  I don’t think this is a casual thing and I don’t think it’s about me and my power.  I think it’s all about hupos Christos, that my Jesus is above and over and beyond everything.  And when I come to submit and surrender to that reality, to Him in every situation good or bad, then I get to delight in the hupos Christos Himself as He raises me above each situation even in the midst of the situation.

I can take pleasure in my debilitating disease because Jesus is there doing wonderful things in my life despite the ravaging of the disease.  I can delight in the reproaches of others when I am walking firmly in His way because He rises above the reproaches and speaks more loudly and lovingly in my ears.  When I am in need, I can delight, because I know that You, Lord, will meet my need, You will rise above it and provide.  When I’m persecuted for standing for You, You will stand for me because I am Yours.  I can delight in waiting on You and on seeing and experiencing Your fellowship and vindication because my joy is in You and not the physical deliverance.  See, You are my Deliverance.  And when distresses and calamaties and hard pressing rise against me, You raise higher.

See, it’s not about what Paul did.  It’s not about what I do.  Well, we both have to rely on You and depend on You and expect You to be You.  But this hupos Christos is all about You being You in our lives.  It’s all about me having the right expectations, knowing that these tough things are coming.  But as tough as they are, You will always be above them.

Therefore, when I am weak, because, in the midst of these things I am very weak, then I am strong.  Why?  Well, it’s not because of me at all just as it wasn’t due to Paul.  It’s because You are right there with us.  You were with Paul every step of the way.  You never leave us nor forsake us.  And if we don’t leave You or forsake You then we know we can depend on hupos Christos.  When I am weak, then I am strong because You are always strong and You are always there in me and for me.

I have to confess, I’ve been thinking about weakness a lot lately.  It’s been in my thoughts over the last couple of years and recently.  And maybe I’ve been focussing on my weakness and it makes me feel wearier.  And I think that when I focus on my weakness, I have a tendency to use it as an excuse and I become weaker.  But then that’s lying about my relationship in You.  And I don’t want to believe that lie any more.

The fact of the matter is that on my own I am utterly weak.  But I’ve placed my trust in You; You own my life, my everything.  I’m not weak any more because I am in hupos Christos.  You are my strength.  And though I’m weak and when I’m weak, I’m really not so weak any more because You are strong in me.  So my prayer is that I would never forget that truth.  I want to always live in the truth that You inhabit me with Your strength.  And it’s just a matter of me continually surrendering to You.  I want to be strong.  I need to be strong for my sake so that I don’t fall into temptation and into sin.  But I’m also learning that I must be strong for the sake of others.  Because if I hold on to my weakness and fall, I will take others with me.  I don’t want to do that.  That would break my heart.

So, Lord, give me a heart, mind, and spirit that continually trust in and rely on Your strength in me.  Teach me how to be strong in You that I may teach others how to be strong in You.  Take my eyes off of me, and firmly and forever rivet them on You.  Because of Who You Are, because of Your strength, I can be strong like Paul.  I will trust in You, my sword and my shield, my forever deliverer.

Everyone Needs an Advocate

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“But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'”  Mark 10:14

If there is one story that has impacted my life more than any other story in the world, this is that story.  These are my first thoughts and memories of You, Jesus.  The day I heard this story was the day I started to understand who You are.  I didn’t totally get it yet, but the day I heard this, was the day that You imprinted Your love in my heart, and over the years, I couldn’t shake it and it couldn’t be shaken.

I don’t have any memories of church or hearing about You, Jesus, until I turned about five years old.  And we started attending a small Lutheran church and I attended the Lutheran elementary school.  It’s funny how most of my memories start at this point in life.  There is this richness of thinking on You and meditating on You as a small child.  Of peacefully soaking in the stained glass picture on the church wall where the Good Shepherd was gathering the children to Him.  Then there’s the memory of Christmas and laying on the pew and soaking in the love of Jesus and knowing it was just good and right to be near You and that You thought it was good to be near me.  I think I could breathe in Your goodness and love. Funny thing was that I never thought I had to do anything to receive it.  Jesus loved me.  Period.  I could just basque in that love.  I was welcome to receive it.  I was welcome to live in it.

So how do we lose that as we grow older?  How do we forget what we once knew?  Or is it maybe that we get hindered when held back from the full truth?

Now, here You are Jesus, teaching other adults Your way, Your thinking, God’s thinking.  And this group of parents comes to bring their children to you so that You could just touch them, so You could bless them.  Who knows, maybe some of them needed healing.  But don’t we all need to be touched by You?  And as they come near, the disciples set up a roadblock, what You called a hindrance.  They rebuked the parents.  I think that meant they forbid them and probably gave them a piece of their mind.  But that’s just it.  They were giving a piece of their mind and not of Christ’s mind.  And Jesus, You wound up correcting Your disciples.

Now, I don’t think this was gentle correction.  The disciples were making You appear, Lord, as someone You are not.  That’s a big deal.  And Scripture tells me that You were “much displeased.”  You didn’t just say, “Oh, cut it out, Guys.  Just let me see them.”  Absolutely not.  Your “displeasure” is expressed with the Greek word “aganakteo.”  It signifies “much grief,” being “greatly affflicted,” “indignant.”  Now, what does “indignant” really mean?  It means “anger or extreme anger, mingled with contempt, disgust or abhorrence.”  Whoa!  That’s pretty strong, isn’t it, Lord?  This is the same way that Haman felt about Mordecai.  Only Your indignation is righteous and well-deserved.

What’s the problem with turning the kids away?  Maybe the problem lies in our thinking that we have the capability to judge who is ready to come to the Lord and who is not?  How can I ever know that?  How do I know that drunk person can’t hear something from God even in the midst of his drunkenness?  How do I know that the obnoxious teen in the back isn’t being touched even though I can’t see it?  How do I know that these children won’t understand and be impacted?

“Let these vulnerable little ones come to me.  They don’t have to offer me anything.  I have everything they need.  Same as you.  What can you offer me?  Come unto Me.  Let them come.  Don’t get in the way of anyone who wants to come, of anyone who is coming.”  For “of such is the kingdom of God.”  Now, I have to stop there.  “Of such.”  What does that mean?  Is that just that we have to be like a little child in trusting faith?  Or is something more going on here?  What if “of such” is referring to the whole situation?

What was the whole situation?  Parents were advocating before God for their children.   Here were their children, too weak and small and unnoticed to get to Jesus on their own.  So what did they do?  They wanted their children to come near to this Jesus who was close to God.  They wanted their children to experience this.  Why?  They wanted their children to draw close to God even if they didn’t realize yet who You, Jesus, wholly were.  But they knew You were a man of God.  And they were doing what You call parents to do, drawing their children near You.  And the disciples were hindering not only the children, but the parents’ God ordained function in the family.  They were breaking down God’s design for discipleship.  They were standing in the face of God’s design for spiritual growth, for strengthening the weak and helpless.

Now, I didn’t come to think this because I read Skip Moen’s blog today.  First I thought about it with You, Lord, and then I searched about it.  But I have to admit, I love how Skip expressed it.  “These are not just any kind of children.  These are children who carry a critically important role.  They are representatives of God’s plan for communicating the covenant.  Their status – dependent, unimportant and vulnerable – represents all of those who would enter into the covenant.  No one comes to God carrying a glowing resume.  We come dragging life’s ashes.  We come without self-sufficiency, or we do not come at all.  God’s plan was always to use the family to bring His grace to those who were most vulnerable.  The enemy goes after the powerful, holding them up as icons of human success.  God looks the other way, to the ones who gently rest in His sufficiency, who think nothing of tomorrow because they want to play today.”

Isn’t this what the family of God is supposed to be about?  If I’m a “mature” believer, shouldn’t I be advocating for the weak, bringing them to meet Jesus and be exposed to His presence?  I have a great responsibility to the dependent, unimportant, and vulnerable.  Oh, heck, who do I think I am anyways?  I’m one of them, only I’ve come to learn that You, Jesus, are my Chief Advocate!  And I want to keep carrying on what You started in me.

Now, what about me as a parent?  I’m a physical parent to four beautiful, lovely girls.  With what intensity do I draw them to You, Jesus?  Lord, even if I’m rebuked, don’t ever let me walk away from that responsibility.  I want to always advocate whole heartedly for them before You.

Lord, I want to live out life Your way.  I want to truly advocate for the weak, the vulnerable, the helpless, the ones that are classified as worthless.  Lord, I can empathize.  I am weak, vulnerable, helpless, and worthless outside of You.  But You have always advocated for me.  Even before I realized it.  Lord, I know what it is to have no advocate for myself except You.  So let me join in with You.  Let me obey Your command.  Let me advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, because this is the kingdom of God.