Prayer Is…

…the practice of the presence of God.

Borrowed (and slightly adapted) from a book by the title of Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691).

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Contrast =

Have you ever thought about the meaning of (your) life and, before long, ended up feeling insignificant? A feeling that forms when considering yourself with shortcomings, with limited abilities and a short-lived mundane existence leading to nothing more than remains scattered in the wind. Fantastic! 

Consider God in contrast to this and then consider that He invites us to be His children, to be brothers and sisters of His son. We are all of the dreary things mentioned above – we have little meaning, but.. God stooped down and gave us identity, He gave us meaning and holds us in His hand giving us rest from this fleeting reality.

Next time you are awakened to the bleak reality of our existence, be thankful! Then seek to find solace in the contrast of now with the identity found in a holy loving God!

“In Otto’s study of the human experience of the holy, he discovered that the clearest sensation that human beings have when they experience the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness. That is,

    • when we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures.
    • When we meet the Absolute, we know immediately that we are not absolute.
    • When we meet the Infinite, we become acutely conscious that we are finite.
    • When we meet the Eternal, we know we are temporal.

To meet God is a powerful study in contrasts.”

-The Holiness of God, RC Sproul. (formatting added)

EAT HUH? LOVE

Prayer: the means by which Christians sway the will of God to do what they believe is best for them, be it in relation to new possessions, the acquiring of a wife or the end of famine in North-Africa.

OR

Prayer: the means by which Christians ask of an Almighty God that which He will do regardless of the presence of prayer.

OR?

After a long discussion on prayer last night in our small group I decided to consult John Calvin on this part of the Christian belief system. What is it that the Bible tells us about prayer, the use of it and the necessity thereof? Here follows some extracts of what Calvin understands regarding prayer:

The importance of prayer:

  • The Lord’s gospel is a treasure in that we are saved from our desperate selfs and concerning this promise and gift “.. we see that to us nothing is promised to be expected from the Lord, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers.
  • “Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable.”
Is prayer needed?
  • God instructed us to pray “..not so much for his sake as for ours.”
  • Objections to prayer as unneeded:
    • So that we become used to it to run to him as our [sacred] anchor.
    • We fight against wrong desires and twisted thoughts as we are ashamed that he would witness it in us when we show our hearts to him in prayer.
    • It reminds us of the grace given to us and reminds us that it comes from his hands.
    • We delight in the things that were given to us by asking them in prayer.
    • He promises never to fail us and through his will opened a way in which we can call upon him; he extends his hand to help us, not “wet-nursing” us with words but “defending them [us] with present help.”
In short, as I understand it: Prayer is a gift, an aspect of the means in which the Christian can find comfort and confidence in the presence of God. A mere thought, breath away from us is the understanding, the witnessing and acknowledgment of the presence of the ever-present God.

 

*John Calvin (10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) had some free time on his hands after he had fled from the French; he found himself in Basel, Switzerland. As most people tend to turn in early in that region of Switzerland Calvin decided to put together a short piece on what Christians believe, or as I refer to it: Institutio Christianae religionis.

Belief ≠ A Departing Bee

Belief, essentially, is faith in something and, in turn, faith is defined as (Google):

  1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

Alas, here lies the “..rather than proof.” that makes Christians, or people from any other religion for that matter, a bit dumb. If this is true than smart people would not believe in anything.. Or does it?

The statement “I don’t believe in anything” is contradicting. All of us believes something even if you claim to be an atheist the fact is you believe  that there is no God. We all believe something, we all have a framework from which we view the world and try to make sense of things. (Does God exists? – that is not something that I will dwell on, but should you want to have brain workout or want to read up a bit on the rationale of the claim of an existence of God see this post on GotQuestions.)

So what does the Christian believe? As Christian: what is your one-liner answer to that question? Non-Christian: what do you think Christians believe? Firstly, the Christian faith is not the good deeds you do (although “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.”), or the church and people you associate with (although community is a must, see this cliche).. 

According to a pretty smart guy (who happened to be a Christian) from 1700 AD -ish faith is:

“..the soul’s entirely embracing the revelation of Jesus Christ as our Savior.

The expanded version of the above definition:

“It is the soul’s entirely acquiescing (def: something reluctantly but without protest) in this revelation, from a sense of the sufficiency, dignity, glory, and excellency of the author of the revelation. Faith is the whole soul’s active agreeing, according, and symphonizing with this truth: all opposition in judgment and inclination, so far as he believes, being taken away.”

Every now and again all of us should consider and assess what we believe. If you are a Christian do you often think why you call yourself that? If you are not a Christian what is it then that you believe? The thing about faith in something is that it should make sense of the world. Does your beliefs explain famine, death, disasters and pain? Does it explain creation, laughter, marriage and the rainbow? Clear things up for yourself, it should mean contentedness of the soul – if not: maybe rethink your worldview. I know I need to more often than not.

Quotes from Jonathan Edwards, Concerning Faith #24.

Everybody Hurts

Valentine & Aliens (1 Day Late / 364.25 Days Early)

Ever tried explaining love to an alien? Well, I haven’t but if you have how did it go? Valentine’s day might be a good day to invite said alien to earth to show some of what love constitutes. The alien would see people giving without expecting something in return (that is for the anonymous Valentiners). There would be hearts everywhere and balloons and roses and all this would be dimly lit with candles surrounded the smell of rose-lavender-romance-extract incense.

How do I see Valentine’s? I see it as just another day with an emphasis on conveying appreciation. What I do experience as something worth thinking about is the red hearts that we see everywhere. Why hearts and why red? For an explanation I turn to the son of Buzi, a fellow by the name of Ezekiel who was a prophet a while back. In his book he often said: “Thus says the Lord..” and proceeded to scold but also give hope for the nation of Israel who found themselves in a bad space. In this one part he says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  and here I find what I believe lies behind the red (flesh) heart.

How does this influence the way I spend my Valentine’s with the fiancée? I think of her as a gift. In the light of the red heart of Valentine’s representing the new living heart that is a gift from God so do I see her as a gift. Not in a way that she now belongs to me but in the light of God inventing marriage and love and giving it to us as a gift.

If you are in a relationship give it a try: Turn to the one holding your hand or sitting next to you and think of him/her as something that God gives that you don’t deserve. If you are not in a relationship: Turn to your friends or your family and see the camaraderie and love between you as a gift, as something that God orchestrated without you deserving it. Lastly think of a man called Jesus who gave himself (the infinite Creator and Sustainer)  to provide something no one deserves.

Quick Note: Me and the fiancée decided to move Valentine’s one day later due to circumstances. Thus you might find that, for you, this blog is either 1 day late or 364,25 days early.

God (Marriage) not Church (Wife)

Every now and then I hear something along the lines of: “I worship God in my own way” or ” Church was invented by people who wanted to make money” or some other excuse for staying away from church. It might even be that you believe your own reasoning for staying away from – or getting involved in church. This was one of the clichés that Johan addressed a while back (see this link).

You might be thinking, “Hah, I know Svetkale who never went to church because of this sinful reasoning!”. Consider this then: How involved are you in your own church? Do you get up early on Sundays and help with preparation before the service? Do you help clean up afterwards? Do you take food for the couple who recently had a baby and can’t even find the time to take a shower? (Don’t know who they are? They are the ones smelling like they need a shower.) Do you pray for the people in your church? Do you talk to the new visitor? Or are you just riding the wave, quieting your conscious?

Great perspective on this, Ray Ortlund’s blog, My Church or The Kingdom:

“My passion isn’t to build up my church.  My passion is for God’s Kingdom.”

Ever heard someone say that?  I have.  It sounds noble, but it’s unbiblical and wrong.  It can even be destructive.

Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage.  My passion is for Marriage.  I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again.  I’ll work for that.  I’ll pray for that.  I’ll sacrifice for that.  But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani.  I’m aiming at something grander.”

If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”?  Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?

If you care about the Kingdom, good.  Now be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church.  Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, throw yourself into the life of your church with wholehearted passion.

We build great churches the same way we build great marriages — real commitment that makes a positive difference in practical ways.  And thus we build the Kingdom.