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What Does It Mean To Pray?

What is prayer? When I was a boy I thought I knew what prayer was. Each night as I laid my head down on the pillow I would begin to list all of the people that were closest to me. I would ask the Lord to bless them and then slowly drift off to sleep. I was careful not to miss a night because I was afraid of what would happen to these people if I did not pray for them. I saw to it that they were protected by my prayers and believed that without me these friends and family members would be in a rough place.

Over the years my understanding of prayer has changed. While I still believe in petitioning to the Lord on behalf of family and friends, I have come to adopt a definition of prayer that I first learned from Henry Nouwen: Being with God and God alone. As I have considered a lifestyle of prayer, I have had to honestly ask myself if there was space for that in my life.   After all, this was Jesus’ model of prayer, and if I was seeking to pattern my life after Him, then I had to begin to create space in my life for God to get at me. If Jesus often spent time in solitude, I believe that He is asking us to do that as well.

The most significant thing that we can do in our time with the Lord is listen to His voice. What??? Come on??? What does that even mean, listen to His voice?   Beginning to develop the discipline of listening did not come easy for me. In the early days I would get distracted by a thousand different things. I was annoyed, impatient, and constantly looked at my watch to see when the pain was going to end. Slowly, as I returned to this place of listening I began to hear the voice of the Lord. Sometimes through Scripture or a book I was reading, sometimes through journaling, and sometimes in the still calmness that overcame me in the moment. Somewhere along the way of consistently showing up to listen the Lord over the past fifteen years, He has given me the ability to hear Him. He gives direction for my day, wisdom in decisions, discernment in the moment, and assurance that I am loved by Him.

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The Lord Will Provide

My oldest daughter turned 10 last week, what?! Without trying to sound too spiritual or freaky, her name came from the Lord. I was in a seminar one evening when my wife was pregnant, and the teacher was sharing about the story of Abraham and Isaac. What stood out to me in the story that day is that it took place on Mt. Moriah. The speaker finished the telling of the story by saying, “Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord will provide. In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” (Gen 22:14) As that section of teaching came to a close I heard from the Lord, “This is to be your daughter’s name.” You can imagine the scene at home later that night with my wife. First of all, Moriah wasn’t on the short list of names we were considering. Second, how was I supposed to tell Anna that the Lord told me our daughter’s name? I went home, gave Anna the play-by-play and she responded very graciously, “If that is what the Lord told you then Moriah it is.”

Moriah means, “the Lord will provide.” This week I wrote this to my little girl in her 10th birthday card.

MORIAH:

  • it’s who you are in so many ways! I don’t know if we have ever told you, but your Mom and I had a hard time getting pregnant. It took almost three years and we wondered if we were going to need to adopt. Then one day we found out your Mom was pregnant and we were so thrilled!!! The Lord provided you as our first daughter.
  • Twenty years ago your Mom and I both left our jobs that we were doing, she was selling shoes to athletes and I was working for a business counting money. The Lord told us both to leave our jobs and work with teenagers. We went to work for Young Life and He has provided the money we need to live every day since. Your name is a reminder of how God always takes care of our family.
  • Your name teaches you and us to put our relationship with God first above everything else. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son because he loved God most. God the Father was willing to sacrifice Jesus on the cross because he loved YOU MOST!

Did you know Moriah that you are God’s favorite! He is your true Father and he loves you so much. I get to love you too and be your Dad here on earth. I get to provide for you and teach you, but most of all I get to point you to your real Father. You are loved Moriah, so so loved by Him and by me. You are His daughter and you are my daughter and I get to love you along with Him. I love it and I love you!

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl.

Love,

You Dad

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The Lord’s Prayer Got Cut Short

The Lord’s Prayer does not end with, “For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever.”   It’s just not in the text.   Not only does it not end there, but it doesn’t end. I’m not sure why we have cut it short, but according to Luke, Jesus kept right on speaking when the one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11: 1) The rest of Jesus’ answer to the question goes like this:

5       Then He (Jesus) said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;

6          for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;

7          and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.

8          “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9          “So I say to you, aask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10          “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

11          “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?

12          “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

13          “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

If I am reading this passage correctly Jesus is telling his disciples to be persistent, very, very persistent in their praying. Kenneth Wuest in The New Testament: An Expanded Version explains verses 8-10 this way:

I (Jesus) am saying to you, though he will not give to him, having arisen, because of being his friend, yet on account of his persistence, having arisen, he will give him as many as he is needing. And as for myself, I am saying to you, Keep on asking for something to be given, and it shall be given you. Keep on seeking and you shall find. Keep on reverently knocking, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking for something to be given, keeps on receiving, and he that keeps on seeking, keeps on finding, and to the one who keeps on reverently knocking, it shall be opened.

This consistent Asking, Seeking, Knocking requires belief, active belief, confident belief that Jesus will and wants to respond to your needs today.