Monday, January 29, 2007

Is that really you God? Part III

I’m Home Papa
Last week we talked about the blocking paradigm of a ‘me-centered’ prayer life. We need to become aware of this idea and allow ourselves to see that the true center of prayer is relating to God. Most people I talk to easily fall back into default mode of just asking God for stuff. Eventually we find ourselves discouraged, thinking that prayer doesn’t ‘work’, feeling bored with God, and getting disconnected in our hearts.

If in relating to God, His desire is for us to receive His love as a son or daughter, and we can only intellectualize and give up on prayer, we lose our heart and identity in Christ.

When you’re a kid on a hot summer day & the Dickie Dee guy comes through your neighborhood, you might be nice but really counts is the ice cream. When you take your kids to Santa & they sit on his lap they don’t usually ask Santa how he’s doing. They ask for stuff, and then get off the lap and wait for the goodies to arrive. We usually call that prayer.

Paul Harvey story:
"Now you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask."
"Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?"
"I told you not even to ask. You're not going to get any at all."
"Mom. Can I please have done chocolate chip cookies?"
"I told you that you can't have any. Now sit down and be quiet."
At the checkout line, "In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?"
Due to generosity of other shoppers, he left with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies!

Matthew 6:9-13
"This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'

Father, Papa, we’re coming to you. Now normally, if we were to come before the Holy God, it would be a tremendously scary proposition. Perhaps it would feel like a courtroom and we’re wondering what sentence we might ge: ‘Death’.

Jesus has changed all of that. We’re more like the Prime Minister’s kids who get access to sit in Papa’s lap while the affairs of the world are carried on.

From this vantage point, we get to see what the heavenly Father is up to, who He is really. He is bent on seeing His kingdom come to the earth, and we get excited about that happening through the power of love. Yes, Papa, may your kingdom fill the earth.

We cry out to Papa to receive our daily bread to help strengthen us for carrying out this mission from our Father. With His bread and His mission in our minds, we realize that we really don’t need our son to turn his life around or our spouse to love us well. We don’t need our feet to fully recover. We don’t even need a job in order to do our part in showing others the way God relates to people. All we really need is the bread from heaven, daily grace, the voice of the Father that brings life. We want those other blessings too, but they’re all second things. We don’t need them to satisfy the deepest desire of God’s heart and ours, or to achieve our mission.

We don’t always think this way, but when we do we see that second things have become our goal, our love, our idol. When we realize this fact it leads us to purge.

We say to God, “Papa, I’ve not valued You like I should. Like the prodigal son, I’ve wanted Your resources at my disposal as opposed than wanting You. I’m actually willing to not be with You if it means I could have everything else I want and just feel good. That’s awful! Forgive me. I’m not worthy to sit on Your lap."

I’ve also been so intent on filling up my emptiness through others that I’ve been holding grudges against people who haven’t come through for me. Forgive me as I forgive them now.’
We wake up fresh to the realization that there is something in us attracted to building our own kingdom, pursue our own dreams, of doing whatever we can to change our spouse to treat us as we want to be treated, and of protecting ourselves from looking bad in all of our relationships.

So we pray, ‘deliver us from evil’. And now we’re praying with the mind of Christ. That’s what Jesus had in mind when he said,

John 14:23
"If anyone loves me (relationship), he will obey my teaching (the fruit of relationship). My Father will love him (He already does but He’ll make His love felt), and we (both Papa and Jesus by their Spirit) will come to him and make our home with him.

At issue is whether we’ll become a child of God and live in that truth. We usually want more because of our deficits, we want something that works, gives results quickly, that puts us in control that gives us the power to make things happen. We get addicted to ‘fixing things’. Quickly. Or buying something to fix the problem.

If you want control, you’re the prodigal.

I can make my life better God, if you’ll just release your blessings to my charge. I’ll be on my way and then I’ll know the fullest life that you talk about in the Bible.

These second order blessings become so attractive we start thinking they’re really the first things in our life. Listen to what God says though, to Israel about entering the Promised Land:

Deuteronomy 8:10-14
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” In other words, celebrate your blessings. But “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied (when life is going well), then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

In our own lives, the feeling of satisfaction that comes when a marriage improves or a child turns back to God or a special gift solves our financial issue or a church really takes off often feels stronger and brings more pleasure than our experience of God. We shouldn’t deny the pleasure, because the blessings are from God, but we must realize that there is a danger in thinking that the blessings from God satisfy our souls more deeply than God Himself.

We don’t always feel God in our heart. We all need more than head knowledge to survive as a Christ follower. We need experiences, touches of our heart, those times where we know that in the deepest part of our core God loves us. God does let us experience seasons of emptiness and futility. If we are concerned with only being comfortable, we won’t be happy in those seasons.

Jesus faced great temptations when He was alone. In the wilderness with Satan. His surrender to God’s purposes blessed His earthly ministry. His surrender in the garden of Gethsemane enabled Him to go to the cross. He cried out to His Father to change it if possible.

Mark 14:35-36
"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'"

But He was totally surrendered; totally surrendered to His Abba. Abba was an intimate name for father, like Papa.

John 15:7
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.”

What does it mean to remain in God? To abide? To pray in the Spirit?

Jude 20-21
Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love.

Is Jude saying that God could stop loving us if we don’t behave in certain ways? No. We are loved by God; we couldn’t be loved any more and we’ll never be loved any less.

We can choose to leave love’s party. We can move away from our identity as a son or daughter in Christ, to leave His love for us and the way he sees us, because we have a hard time being or feeling loved, and to get stuck in ourselves, self-obsessed and concerned with nothing more than our own experience of fullness and satisfaction.

We do that every time we choose to live for second things. We do it every time we pray harder for our marriage to feel better than we pray to more closely relate to God. We do it when we pray more for personal blessings to make our lives happier than to bear fruit for God’s kingdom.
“Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.” C.S. Lewis

To pray in the Spirit is to say, “God here I am. I know that You love me. I’ve been more concerned with feeling better about myself and wanting life to get better than being with You. I’m coming home. Will You have me?”

We utilize God for the sake of getting peace and joy, that is, we do not realize Jesus Christ, but only our enjoyment of Him; this is the first step in the wrong direction. Oswald Chambers

Sometimes we think we’re worshipping God and praying in the Spirit when all we’re doing is using Him, as a woman who wants a bay might use a man to gain what she believes is her greatest good. The same way a man might marry a beautiful woman but neglect her because she’s more of a trophy for social standing. The fruit of the relationship is more treasured than the relationship itself. That’s definitely not relationship building or relational prayer.

A real test of whether God’s life is getting inside of us is what trickles out to others, especially those closest to us and those difficult to love.

Are you getting more judgmental, or are you feeling more compassion for the lost, hurting and the ones who’ve hurt us?

"Love is the function of faith horizontally just as prayer is the function of faith vertically." Joseph Sittler

If we are in Christ, in Him, (those references are used many times in the Bible), nothing can get at us. Hurts, our past, deficit relationships or lack of things, they no longer have the power to hurt us like they once did. Our identity is with Jesus and the Father through the Holy Spirit. To pray is to grow into that knowledge and experience.

The essence of prayer is love. The biblical heroes of the faith realized that. They all begin their prayers with worship. Unfortunately, we have lost the priority of love in our prayers.

Just what does God expect of me in my prayer life?

He wants a love relationship. He doesn't want a hired servant; he wants a bride. A true love will always find a way. It may not always be the same way, or the prescribed way, but it will be a way that reflects love. That's what God wants from me. And you

Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

The most important thing that ever happens in prayer is letting ourselves be loved by God. Brennan Manning

If our image of God becomes healed, the image we hold of ourselves will likely also be healed. Brennan Manning

“God, I hated you after the rape! How could you let this happen to me? And I hated the people in this church who tried to comfort me. I didn’t want comfort. I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt back. I thank you, God, that you didn’t give up on me, and neither did some of these people. You kept after me, and I come back to you now and ask that you heal the scars in my soul.” a young woman during open prayer time, Phil Yancey, Prayer

"We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us." C.S. Lewis

Revealing Feeling is Healing

Romans 8:15
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"

Papa You have my heart. I'm home now.


Blogger Bob Stenhouse said...

Wonderful and true message ' Let not my will be done but your will be done Lord' is a daily ( hourly, minute by minute) prayer that I have to remind myself to pray... I've found that when we say to someone "be blessed, or blessings" we might not necessarily be thinking of the "blesseds" in the beatitudes ( Matt. 5)If we mean be blessed the way Jesus spoke then those blessings have little to do with personal comfort, material possessions, or a stress free life, and everything to do with reliance, surrender, and recognizing our need for and abiding in the love of the Father.

" Be Blessed !"

12:25 PM  

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