Tag Archives: spirituality

How we do prayer is really weird. 5 reasons why.

We are the “body” of Christ, in one metaphor. The Biblical precedent (using the OT here, since I don’t buy a lot of the NT) is that praying on behalf of someone else is done only for their healing (God, heal them), or as a part of the group (Lord, help us, give us something). I haven’t read anything that says, the group went around and shared prayer requests. And each person prayed for the person on his left. And God looked down and granted their requests.

“Pray for me.”

Ok, so we’re a family. God is daddy, and my churchmates are my brothers and sisters. When do I ever ask my brother to go talk to Daddy for me? When I did something wrong and I think Daddy will be mad, I send him to give him the news. But God already knows. When I think my brother will be able to get a more favorable response, I send him. But will God fall for that? It might be trying to be selfless, like “I am not worthy to come before the throne and ask God for what I really want / need”? Real relationships don’t work like that.

When I am out of the country and can’t call my dad because he doesn’t have internet and I don’t have a phone, I email my brother to call my dad to send him a message. But we all have the Holy Spirit praying within us. We are all connected to God.

There is a psychological benefit of praying by sharing prayer requests; we share deeper things about us: our struggles, goals, desires, and pain. So, we are forced to grow closer as a group, when we know more about each other. We can work, in this world, through connections and abilities of the group, to provide comfort and support, and sometimes solutions (like, my bike broke. Hey, Mike can fix it! Or, I need a good lawyer. Susan can help!). Then, putting out the prayer request answers the prayer.

But there are also really bad detriments: to our feelings of confidence before God. I can’t pray for myself, I can’t talk to Him myself, I’m not worthy. Or, when people come up with really stupid prayer requests. We’ve all heard them. They may sound super-religious, like for humility or spiritual growth or more love. Or it may be the person who asks for the tenth time for good grades on a test, or the one who babbles in spiritual gobbledygook that’s all but speaking in tongues. They don’t focus on God, but on things that make us unhappy here, or on making themselves look good. It’s prayer that drips with privilege, praying for First World Problems. Yes, they are annoying problems to have. But isn’t there something more to do? If you’re a Christian and you’re not involved with anything bigger than yourself in a tiny world, something is wrong. Even if you just became a Christian, if we truly believe the Bible, shouldn’t we care that billions of people don’t believe, or that somebody a block away is hurt, or that my mom is really, really sick, or that there is bullying in the school, or that oppression on the basis of skin color is still a thing in many places, or that someone is hungry? I don’t mean to judge or shame. If you don’t feel that, take some time to fall in love with God. You walk at your speed when you’re walking with God. But the apostles didn’t keep themselves locked up praying forever. They went out, preaching, ministering to the sick and widows and orphans. They did real work, not just feel good work or self-help work. (Of course, if you’re super-missional, remember to be grounded in prayer. The constant presence and direction of God is your driving force to work.)

So, it’s weird. When we pray, are we family, or One in the Spirit? Why do we act as though there is a greater effect when We pray for you rather than just You pray for you?

Group prayer.

At the close of each Bible study, and the start of every meal with a Christian, I’m practically forced to pray. I had a dinner once where we were sitting down to eat, and one girl prompted me, “Will you say grace?” I said, “No” and she was shocked. Like, you don’t do that. But it’s so weird to me, to even be asked, “Sister, will you talk to Daddy in front of us?” Like, this is really weird. It might kind of be like going as a group to God, and selecting one spokesman to do the honors of saying Thanks. But this is a bad analogy. We all know God very well. Why is it so formal? Something needs to be said, but this method impinges on how I naturally talk to God. Can’t my relationship with God be private? How can I be expected to be called out to pray, or to have a ‘turn’ to pray? (To escape this, I have a rote prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest / and let these gifts, to us be blessed. / Amen.” I still get looks sometimes when I say it, like I’m cheating.)

Interceding is a little bit like tattling. And you know those passive-aggressive prayer lists?  *skin crawl*

In my experience, we routinely pray in groups. Method: chat about the week, share prayer requests, then pray about them. Like, maybe it “works” for some good with certain kinds of people. When in the Bible does anyone ever pray like this? Yes, prophets prayed for people. Kings asked prophets to pray for them. Hannah, in the temple, was approached by Eli the priest. He said, at most, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” He blessed her prayer, but she prayed (silently). Other examples:

Prayer from the prophet on behalf of the people:

“And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.”  Numbers 21:7

Prayer on behalf of the larger group:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

Prayer for healing:

And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” Numbers 12:13.

There are no “prayer request boxes” or the like to be seen. There are no church groups that sit around and pray for other people. No one seeks God on behalf of another. If someone has a real problem, it is conceivable that a group must support them, and that can include intercession. But the person prays for herself, too, and the group must provide more support than simply prayer, if at all possible (and it will always be possible. If someone is sick, you can’t heal them, but you can help them with chores, bring them food, spend time with them, etc.).

Two more bugs in religion:

Why testify? Give testimony, is like telling family stories? This is what God has done in my life. This is who I am in Christ. These can be really cool, and/or scary, or just weird.

People who say: God doesn’t exist, that’s stuuupid! but my horoscopes / ghosts / heaven / something does, for no reason.

Conclusion: I don’t understand prayer. The way my church likes to pray is neither logical nor Biblically based. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to pray?

My most wicked sin comes from how God designed me, and he plans to use my worst for his best.

Come on now, be rational. How can God use my shameful secrets and wicked sin for his glory? His glory can surely only come when I get rid of what’s wrong with me. I’m cleaned and the stains are washed away. The log is taken out of my eye. The sinful hand or foot is cut off and left behind.

And then I remember that God created me. He designed me specifically to be me. He had a purpose in mind for every part of me. How I use myself may be bad or sinful, but what I am is his design, and I must either confess that his design is very good, or reject him as God.

Moses is remembered for bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. In his youth, he had a passionate anger and a love for his people that led him to kill an Egyptian man who was beating an Israelite slave. So his adoptive father, the Pharaoh, sought to kill him, and Moses had to flee. He made a new life with shepherds in another country, Midian, instead of among his people or in the palace in which he was raised. Murder is bad. It’s even one of the Ten Commandments! Moses surely was mad with himself. He had killed a man, he was apart from his people, and his people did not love him. One Israelite had condemned him before he left:

“Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?” (Exodus 2:14)

If I were Moses, I would want to distance myself from the anger that had ruined my life and hopes and dreams. But God wasn’t finished with Moses. And God didn’t plan to make Moses better by removing his anger. What caused Moses much grief early on was shaped by God over Moses’ 40 years of hiding into an essential tool for Moses to lead. As he grew in relationship with God, his maturing spirit developed patience and self-control, turning Moses into the great person we remember him to be (and who God made him to be), driven by his deep passion for his people and his relationship with God, to save God’s people.

Now, the Israelites were a sad bunch. They couldn’t remember freedom, and they were weak. They had little trust in God, and even after they were set free they noisily whined and complained about everything. Having to wander the desert for 40 years didn’t help. Moses needed that consuming love and emotion for Israel, that once drove him to murder for their sake, to be able to lead them tirelessly. What Moses used on his own caused disaster for him, but when God joined his life, it became an essential tool for building God’s kingdom.

This gives me hope.

One of my shameful secrets is that I enjoy rape-themed sexual fantasies. This is something I have struggled to rid myself of, and hidden – it’s never something I would want to admit. I hate it! I hate what it turns me into, like an animal, filthy and repulsive. It has always scared me that I would somehow want to have someone rape me, even in my imagination. Something about that loss of power appeals to a part of me that cannot be denied. I am confused when I hear everyone decrying rape, and then I look inside myself and scold, “How could you want that? What are you? Surely not normal, not human.”

So, three or four times in the last two years, I have started shaking when I was worshipping God for an extended time – either through song (3x) or through listening to someone speak the gospel again in truth (1x). Last night was the third time with song. So I did a Google search to try to find explanations. I have to bring this experience to God in prayer before I can actually read the sites I’ve pulled up, and let him teach me first. Still, I happened to read the line that someone “shakes when the spirit falls on them” and a shiver went through me. This gives me a very small shift in perspective – a partial explanation, and as yet incompletely satisfying. But it’s something.

Maybe, just maybe, this much-hated desire of mine can be transformed. Where it is directed into the world, to have my person overcome is to have a person, a man, rape me. But to direct it into the spiritual realm is to desire for God to overtake me, for his Holy Spirit to fall on me. That makes me a little bit uncomfortable, nervous, because I know God can actually overtake me like that, and if I ask him, he will. It is so strange to think that what I had always wanted, and could only hate that I wanted, I can now have, and have it fully, deeper than it could have been if my greatest fantasies were fulfilled by men. A glass of water has been traded for the sea. Is this part of the meaning of God as my “lover”? I am so excited that what I want (to be consumed) and what God wants (to consume me) can be the same.

I can let this part of myself emerge now. It’s not a weed, but a flower that was growing upside-down. I wonder what it will be like as God continues to transform me into what he has made me to finally become. But the journey is going to be incredible.

I stand in wonder of how God made me. He planned it out this way. He is not replacing me with himself, like I thought for so long. I thought he would go through me and take out what is sinful, and replace it with what he is. I was so mad with him that I needed to be changed so much, that I would lose who I am and become a stereotypical Christian, a Jesus-copy. But instead of switching out my parts that don’t work with his parts, he is just moving pieces around and giving parts new direction. I am still all me, but in a better way. Can I say I’m more me than I was before? And I’m closer to God (more satisfied in him), bless his name.

What can be used for the most good can also be used for the most evil. So the parts of me that I most hate may be one and the same with God’s favorite parts of me, because when they are used wrongly, they cause me the most pain and shame, but when I use them the right way they bring us both the most joy.

I pray that you would be encouraged to seek God’s will for what you feel you have to hide about yourself. I pray that he will guide you on the wild, weird, incredible journey of salvation. And I pray that you will be able to find satisfaction in knowing that every last bit of you was created by God and will be wonderful when used in line with his will. Amen.

God loves me.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me. Praise God, for God loves me.

What more truth do we need?

God – the highest being in the universe and outside it. God is greater that we can ever be, stronger than everything we are, smarter than we can understand, with the kind of power that makes us scared of the dark, scared to offend and inspire him to wrath. If I were to understand the extent of God’s power, I would be crippled with fear. Look at the mountains. God is bigger. Look at the sky. God goes further than the inky blackness ascending to nothing, past the furthest sight of our greatest telescopes. God mocks our guns, our war; he laughs at our weak nuclear weapons. Our ambitions to be as “powerful” as president don’t make sense to him. Our drive to “the top”, to “success” is a game to him. We are dust under his great majesty. We can compare to nothing that He is. Look at our art. God is more beautiful. Our greatest acts of love? Darkest sin compared to God’s pure and holy goodness. God created us. God made Leonardo da Vinci. He made Steve Jobs. He made Barack Obama. He made me. He designed life itself! God is God.

And this God loves. My puppy greets me every day, tail wagging, and follows me everywhere. She forgives me easily when I forget to feed her. She loves me every day with games and attention and licks and cuddles. God loves me more. A mother works two jobs to support her family, spending every waking moment looking after her children. She exhausts herself at work, and then cooks for them, comforts them when they’re scared, and cares for them with everything she is. God loves them more. A soldier loves his country enough to die fighting for its safety. God loves us more. And His love never ends. He loves us even though he knows us perfectly. This mighty God so loved us that He gave up his power and died at our hands to give us healing from every sickness and freedom to live true life. We didn’t deserve it.

God loves me. Of all of the things that he created, God loves me. He calls the bright, shining stars “good”, he calls the oceans and beaches “good”, he calls my puppy “good”, he calls all of the wonder that is around us “good”. But he calls me “very good.” He calls you “very good.” You and I are his focus, and he loves us.

Lord, reveal to me your love for me, that I may love you more in return. Awaken my heart to seek thee.

If my heart has one ambition
If my soul one goal to seek
This my solitary vision
‘Til I only dwell in Thee
That I only dwell in Thee
‘Til I only dwell in Thee
-Brook Fraser

God loves me, and with this I am content. His love is the beacon leading me onward through my life. Unsteady though the storms of life may be, I can rest secure in His guiding light. Every day it satisfies my soul more, and I await the day that it overcomes what I have been and I am transformed into a new creation, born to seek God’s face alone. Lord, hasten that day! I praise your good and holy name. Amen.