Monday, June 05, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Prayer

Prayer helps us to continually attend to Jesus & His way of life. To be a disciple is to be one who sits at His feet in the posture of a humble learner living in dependence. In many ways it is a Silent Transformation.

“Sometimes praying is like eating dry lima beans in a dry mouth on a dry day.”

Praying can often be hard. Prayer demands time from our schedules. Prayer can be frustrating. Prayer can be dull and dry. Many great Christ followers have confessed that they have struggled and been perplexed with their prayer lives.

There are times, though, that prayer brings us much joy, peace and satisfaction.

Richard Foster says, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life and is the central avenue God uses to transform us.”

Prayer is really quite simple. It is communication with God. All that is required for prayer is a willing, open heart.

You can begin the journey, or continue to become the person God wants you to be by allowing the Lord’s Prayer to channel God’s desires into the chambers of your mind.

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

We talked a great deal last week about the idea of ‘choosing to trust’. Trust and peace usually accompany each other in character formation and behavior. ‘No peace’ usually means ‘no trust’.

‘Thoughts fixed on you’ is a synonym for prayer. Quite regularly, though, we have this in mind when we go to prayer,
“God, we need to talk” (a.k.a.): I need to talk, you need to listen, and then you need to change everything you are doing, thinking and feeling to what I think you should be doing, thinking and feeling. And you need to do it with a smile and then thank me... because it’s all for your own good as I know better. (Maybe I really am God?)

Matthew 6:9-13
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Luke 11:1-2
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."Jesus said, "This is how you should pray: (this is how you should say it)

There are six Greek words in the New Testament translated as “say”. They can mean anything from breaking a period of silence, speaking on and on and on to where the listener gets weary, or it can mean to simply speak words. The Greek word Jesus used, in this context is a familiar one to all of us, “Lego”, and it means – to lay forth (relate in words) a systematic or set discourse. It literally means, “repeat”.

That’s why it was chosen as the name for one of the worlds’ most popular toys!

In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves. Richard Foster

Foster further relates that one of the most liberating experiences of his life was when he learned to pray, “so that my experience conformed to the words of Jesus rather than trying to make his words conform to my impoverished experience.”

O Lord, You know what’s good and bad, what’s better and worse, what’s best and worst-may my prayer be as You wish it to be. Thomas a Kempis

The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer most used and least understood prayer. People think they are asking God for something. They are not-they are offering God something.

…the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer to God to do something we want done. It is more nearly God’s prayer to us, to help him do what he wants done…He wanted that entire prayer answered before we prayed it…The Lord’s Prayer is not intercession. It is enlistment
. Frank Laubach

In the Lord’s Prayer is comprised an epitome (a summary) of the whole gospel. Tertullian

The Lord’s Prayer is a gift to us to guide our prayers, to nurture our prayers, to rub the Habits of Jesus deep into our being.

The Lord’s Prayer is solid rock; it provides structure; it helps us avoid selfishness; and these simple words quietly create a little miracle of transformation in us.

It begins with, “Abba, Father”. Every recorded prayer of Jesus in the gospels begins with, “Abba, Father,” except the famous “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

What’s the big deal about ‘Abba’, except that they played good music to dance to? All the other ancient names the Jews used for God either invoked mystery, or saw him as a distant authority figure or king. Jesus chooses a name to show us his unconditional, unlimited, unstoppable love as a daddy for his kids. God loves us and we are his children. Abbalove Church!

Now none of us have perfect parents so we often cringe at the thought of God as father, because our own Father, or mother for that matter, was anything but a great memory for us. Some of us have rusted shut heart openings because of the way our parents didn’t love us, or did love us. Those of us with that kind of past need reeducation of our hearts and a new vision of the beauty of God’s love as taught and revealed by Jesus.

In his book, Crying For my Mother: The Intimate Life Of A Minister, Wesley Nelson recalls an experience of being outside of his farmhouse as a child, realizing his mom had left his side, and he started crying and screaming. His father had grown tired of his being a crybaby and said to him, “Mother is gone. She’s tired of your yelling. She’s left for good. She’ll never come back.”

While Nelson realized his mom did come back, he never recalled it as so. In his own words he writes, “I’m sure she must have come back and taken me in her arms, but that was blotted from my memory. What my father had said made such an impression on me that I had to make it come true. I know that she continued to care for me, but for me the emotional ties were broken, and her love and care were no longer even a memory to me…for fifty years I cried for her.” Many years later while reading and meditating on a hill overlooking the Golden gate Bridge, Nelson heard the words, “I love you.”

He was never the same.

"The difference was that I had for once really heard with my own soul the word that God loved me just as I was, with all my anxieties, defeats, frustrations and problems.” Wesley Nelson

The solvent of our Abba, father, our daddy can dissolve any rusty heart. Once we can allow God access to our heart we can learn what He really wants. We know that when we love someone we love what he or she loves. What does the Lord’s Prayer reveal?

First it reveals the love of God, he’s our daddy, he’s holy; second, that we desire His purposes: ‘May your kingdom come’; ‘May your will be done’.

That will is our getting focused on bringing God’s radical upside down kingdom to pass here in Edmonton. Whether as a child, a mother at home with children or a realtor or a framer.

The next thing revealed is the communal orientation: We look to God for all that we need. The ‘us’ is crucial. ‘give us’; forgive us’; ‘who sin against us’; ‘lead us’; and ‘deliver us’. We learn that we pray not as individuals but as a community. We think of others!

It mirrors the Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22 that we call God For Dummies: Love God with everything & love others the same way!

Prayer is changing me from someone who knew a lot about God into someone who's experiencing God in deep, though sometimes difficult, ways.

Mark Palmer's Story:

In August 2003, Mark and his young son (Micah) lost their young wife/mother Jennifer to a swiftly-developing case of stomach cancer. On November 6, 2004, Palmer was remarried to Amy Smith. Two months later, in January 2005, Mark was diagnosed with rectal cancer and was set upon a course of treatment.Then in April 2005, the Palmers discovered that Mark's insurance would not cover his cancer treatment because of a preexisting condition. Thus, the Palmers would haveto bear the cost of Mark's treatment.

After a couple months of chemotherapy, Palmer went into surgery to have the tumor removed. During the operation, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver. About six weeks later, Mark underwent surgery to remove 75% of his liver, his lymph-nodes and another tumor discovered during the operation. The surgery lasted eleven hours. About 2 weeks after that surgery, Mark went under the knife yet again to try and get his incisions to stay closed and heal properly. So in less than 8 weeks he had 3 surgeries, never really giving his body enough time to heal from the first surgery. And finally, 33 days later, Mark was released from the hospital.

Currently, Mark's medical bills exceed $200,000 US.

I'm a bit disappointed that we haven't seen more results on the prayer end of things, but I say we just keep working it, see what happens.

I guess what I really want to say is just this: be hopeful. Don't stop fighting. On some level this thing is bigger than all of us. It's not about having a wife die of cancer at 26, and then 2 years later getting the same terminal illness. It's not about me and how I fight this disease or how our little family walks through it. The bigger picture is the battle against sickness and death that we all face because we live in a broken world. But it's even more about the Kingdom that has broken in and offers us a chance at relief from that disease. It offers health and victory where before there was none. There is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Death is not where we lose; the onset of hopelessness is the great defeater. So allow hope to rise up within you. And when it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed.
Mark Palmer

He wrote that on October 3rd of last year and died about 6 months later (March 27, 2006).

That hope Mark Palmer was speaking of is contained in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘your kingdom come; your will be done.’ It was God’s will that His son Jesus die to bring new life for us. Even today through the death of folks like Mark Palmer God brings new life to others. He did that through a young pastor in Texas named Kyle Lake who died last fall baptizing some people at church. Listen to a quote from Kyle,

"My experience of life outgrew my understanding of God. Pure and simple. At some point, I was overcome by the realization that the God I was raised worshiping could not handle the complexities of real life. He was perfectly fit to deal with lollipops, candy canes, and sugerplums, but avalanches, wildfires, and tsunamis He was not. Literally and metaphorically. What's odd about this realization is not it's ridiculous nature but my response to this realization. The next few years I shifted into a defensive posture. I became protective of God, like an older brother watching out for his diminutive little sister who couldn't hold her weight on the school playground. And this posture eventually seemed odd to me. Why did God need defending? Who was I really protecting?" Kyle Lake

Once again the Lord’s Prayer helps us understand God’s place in an increasingly complex world. It harkens us back to what life is all about, and life is about a few Simple Truths:

His will, not yours.

Building His kingdom, not my own.

The need to find some folks to journey through the ups and downs of life with-to celebrate the victories and to weep together the defeats and passings of loved ones.

The need to know God’s love as daddy.

The need to live a life completely committed to forgiveness.

Do you have a personal vision? Take that & simply apply it to your life. Wonder what the vsion at Community of Hope is? Take that & work out what your unique contribution to it could be. Simple Church.

Let’s close reading the Lord’s Prayer together. Jesus said this is how we should pray…

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, Now and forever. Amen.


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