Over the last couple months I've been praying earnestly.
Sometimes my prayers seem repetitive and too simple, "Lord heal my wife!" "Take this away Lord!"
You see my wife is battling brain and lung cancer. I've cried alone sitting in my car, "Lord, help us! Why this? Why now?!" "I know you hear me Lord and that you can respond and heal her in an instant. Lord please move and glorify Your Name by healing my wife!"
I have so many questions. There are many uncertainties. We pray and we wait. We take one day at a time. We take one step at a time. I know that the Lord is good and that He does respond to us with love and grace in our times of need.
As we continue this journey there are many people praying for Laina and our family. Some people are experienced and gifted in intercession. They wake up in the night and pray for us and other people the Lord lays on their hearts. Other people are fasting for Laina's healing. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that directs our attention to the Lord as we pray. And other people say a quick prayer here and there throughout the day. And still others mean well and offer a prayer to something/someone out there or offer good thoughts, or positive energy or maybe they are just uncertain but want to help somehow. I am thankful for all of you and I hope to shed some light on the issue of prayer today.
Did you know that Jesus's disciples asked Jesus a question that some of you are asking? "How do I pray?"
Read this short section of the account in the gospel of Luke.
Luke 11New International Version (NIV) (Bible Gateway)
Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer: "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
This prayer is often referred to as the Lord's Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) also has another version of this prayer. Jesus gave us an example by praying himself early in the morning alone. His disciples wanted to know how He prayed too. I can imagine as they followed him daily, they saw miracles, healings, the dead being raised and were in awe of the compassion and power of Jesus. They must have had some idea that prayer was somehow involved in Jesus' life and they wanted to pray like He did.
The Lord's prayer is a common prayer that most mainline denominations pray on a regular basis. It's often read in unison as a part of a liturgy. As a child I'd hear this prayer in service. I loved the words and appreciated participating in and being a part of the community. Yet something bothered me about the way many people were praying. Their voices sounded monotone, without much emotion or heart in their praying. Some people seemed to have blank stares and knew the prayer so well that I'm not sure they put much thought into it either. I watched and observed and I made up my mind that I would pray with all of my heart and mind.
Think of Jesus for a minute. He was praying on his own and one of his students (that's his disciples) approached him. "Teach us to pray..." he said. Let's consider Jesus' response.
"When you pray, say: Father..."
Jesus' generation and those prior thought of God as so Holy that they often wouldn't even say all of the letters in G-d's name. God is in fact Holy, yet Jesus started His teaching on prayer by referring to God as Father (Abba). Yes, God is to be looked at as our Father. He loves us and gave us life and desires the best for us. We talk to Him as though we talk to our Daddy.
"Hollowed be Your Name."
God's name is indeed Holy! He is set apart and without sin. We need to recognize this as we talk with Him. Can sinful man put ourselves over a Holy Sovereign God? Certainly not. Yet we approach Him with reverence and respect. In the book of Esther, if anyone approached a king unannounced in his throne room the king had the power to raise his scepter and allow the person to be heard or to have the person put to death. Through our faith in Jesus, we have the privilege to approach God's throne in prayer, not just as a subject of His kingdom but as His children. (Look at Hebrews 4:12-14).
"Your kingdom come (your will be done on earth as it is in heaven)."
God's kingdom, His rule, His authority is present now, has already come and will come and we should pray as such. Jesus often preached "repent for the kingdom of heaven is near." And there are many parables about the kingdom of heaven and what it is like. God is sovereign in heaven and on earth. We should pray that His will be done in our lives too. In Mark 14:35-36 Jesus was in a time of grief and praying as His time to head to the cross came near.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
I'll be honest, I've prayed this as we have been going through this cancer journey again. The first part of the prayer was easy. "Father, Daddy, all things are possible for you. Heal my wife of all cancer!" Yet the second part of the prayer took me a while to be able to actually say the words. My soul wrestled and still wrestles saying, "Yet not what I will, but what you will."
As I wrote this, I just sat and stared at my screen for a few moments. To let those words sink in... it hurts. God is loving, compassionate and can heal. He may answer my heart's desire. Yet He may not answer the way I want Him to. It's sobering and we just won't have answers on this side of heaven. However, His will is always good.
"Give us our daily bread."
Simply stated, God gives us what we need for each day. He gave the Hebrew people that He delivered out of Egypt manna (bread from heaven) as they traveled through the desert for 40 years. He gave us Jesus who is the "bread of life." And he gives us each day what we need for food, shelter and life. He's a good Father.
"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us."
God is a Holy Father. We are not holy. Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They fell into sin (disobedience) which leads to death and separation from a Holy God. We cannot earn forgiveness. We cannot take our own sin away and clean ourselves up. Yes, we do some good things. But the bad things we do corrupts the whole man. We need forgiveness!
We can receive forgiveness through Jesus. Take a look at John 3 and Exodus. The Hebrew people were in the desert and they were bitten by snakes and were dying! They couldn't heal themselves! Moses cried out to God and God responded, "Make a bronze snake and put it on a stick. Have the Hebrews look at it and they will be healed." Moses did as God instructed. To those who obeyed the instructions they were healed. But for those who thought it was foolish and wouldn't take the simple act of at least looking at the bronze snake on a stick, they died.
Jesus went to the cross to take our snake bites (sins) upon himself. He died so that we would be forgiven and live with Him forever. This is our hope! So if we have been forgiven we also should forgive others. We need to look to the cross. It's simple, yet difficult for many of us to humble ourselves to respond to God's call to us in Jesus.
I've known this good news for a long time now. But it's still difficult to forgive some of the crummy things people have done to me.
I've been wrestling with forgiveness in regard to a couple people that treated me unjustly many years ago. As we go through this cancer journey again, God is confronting me with these people. In some ways I need them in our time of need. But also, I don't want anything to hinder my prayers to our Father who is Holy and Just. He has forgiven me and so I need to forgive them. Who knows perhaps they will believe in Jesus too?!
"And lead us not into temptation."
God does not lead us into temptation. We are tempted when enticed by our own sinful nature. However we can pray and ask God to help us in our spiritual battle of will and nature. By His indwelling Spirit, He will guide us not into temptation but into His will. Our lives may not always be easy, but God is a loving, holy Father who gives us what we need each day, including forgiveness or strength to forgive. Most of all He is with us always.
How do we pray?
As Jesus taught, use the Lord's prayer as an outline. Read a word, pause, think. Go meditate just on that word and talk to God. Look at other scripture passages that help us to know God more deeply. Don't settle for a mundane prayer that is repeated without thought or heart. Seek the face and heart of a loving Father who already knows what you need. He desires us to seek Him, to need Him and to ask Him.
Will you approach the throne boldly with me on behalf of Laina? Pray with all earnestness knowing Daddy will answer!
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