Tag Archives: prayer

Daddy (Dad, Part II)

God is our Father. Jesus said so.  He taught us to address Him in prayer as “Our Father.”  He modeled that relationship, almost always calling God His Father.  Except once.  One time, as it is recorded in the Gospels, Jesus called God by a different Name.  He called Him “Daddy” (literally, the Aramaic, “Abba”).  The one time He switched from “Father” to “Daddy” was in His time of deepest struggle and need, in Gethsemane, on the night before His arrest and crucifixion.  

 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  –  (Mark 14:36)
There is a lesson here.  In our own times of deep distress, even in those times when you feel God would not be inclined to draw near and listen, remember Who He is.  Not only your Father but also your Daddy. Let your lowest moments of struggle become your deepest moments of childlike intimacy.  Imitate Jesus in how He honestly cried out to “Daddy,” saying, in effect, “I really don’t want to do this; isn’t there some other way?”  And also, “I know you are my Daddy and would not assign anything to me that was not the best.”

Who’s your Daddy?

Getting Through

How freaked out would you be if God sent you a messenger to tell you, “I heard you when you prayed about…. (fill in the blank with some private prayer)?  I was thinking about that when I read about the angel telling Zechariah,

…“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. ( Luke 1:13b)

Would you pray any differently if you were sure God was listening?  When you send an email you might question if it will be received and read.  But when you pick up the phone and actually speak to someone you can be more sure they are hearing what you say.  Better yet with Skype when you can tell they are actually paying attention.  But how can you know God is listening?

If we want to be heard by God, Jesus taught us to pray privately, simply and sincerely.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  –  ( Mat 6:6-7)

He also taught His disciples to pray directly to God because their prayers would get though without any intercession on His part.  He said:

“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  (John 16:26-27)

Jesus assured us of a direct line to the Father Who loves us.  Next time you pause to pray, remember:  “your prayers have been heard!”

No Small Thing

If I told you how God intervened in my life a couple of days ago, you might think I was gullible or naive.  It was a simple little thing – (OK, it had something to do with hubcaps) – nothing like parting the Red Sea.  But I know Who pulled it off.  I call those brief encounters with God’s grace, winks.  He winks at me and lets me know He’s there and He cares.

Have you ever thought a situation you faced was too small to trouble God with, too silly for prayer?  Consider: Is there anything you face that isn’t small to God?  Check out these words of Jesus:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.   So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  –  (Matthew 10:29-31)

God invites us, through Jesus, into an intimate relationship, in which we walk together through the circumstances of life. As we do, we are humbled to discover God cares about how we are doing – even about the “little” things

Knowing He cares makes the tough experiences more “doable.”  Jesus spoke those words as He told His followers not to be afraid to tell people about Him, even in the face of physical violence.  Because God cares and He intervenes or not, depending on what is best.

The Right Words

If you want entry into the secret cave, where 40 thieves hid the treasure, you need to say the right words: “Open Sesame!”  Are there right words to say if you want to open a connection with God?  I used to think so as a kid.  The man in the robe up front would look all serious and intone, “Let us pray…”  Did that do it, kind of like a religious “Breaker 19?”  What if, instead, he said, “Lettuce spray?”  Would that work?

Amazingly, no opening of the connection is needed; it’s already open and working.  At least, it is working from God’s end:

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139:1-4)

How does that make you feel?  Maybe sheepish, thinking, “You mean He knows about that time I was thinking about (Here is a blank for you to fill in…)?”  Does it make you want to hide?  (I’m reminded of how babies will try to hide from their parents by putting their hands over their eyes.)  Does knowing God knows what you are thinking and doing inhibit you?  I suppose those kinds of reactions are normal, but that’s not the response God was looking for when He revealed those truths to David.  He was trying to reassure us and fill us with awe.

If you were deep sea diving, it would be mighty nice to know that someone on the surface was monitoring how you were doing.  If you were sneaking around behind enemy lines, knowing that your commanders were watching, were tracking you with drones or satellites – that would be a warm fuzzy.  Your situation here on earth is similar; God wants to reassure us with the knowledge that He is aware of who you are, what you are thinking and how you are doing.

But when we try to make sense of how that might work, we run into the limits of what our minds will handle.  David wrote:

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:6)

To paraphrase: David is saying, “When I try to think about how You, God, know me, it fills me with wonder and awe.  There’s no way I can fully understand it; it’s too high, too mysterious.”

Once you know that God loves you, you personally, and know that He knows how it is going with you right now, then you can open your end of the connection and communicate with Him.  You don’t even need the right words.  You don’t have to say, “Lettuce spray…”


[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

More than You Can Imagine

You prayed for me last week and I felt it.  Thank you.  Your prayers lifted my heart and sustained me more than any of us could have imagined.  I don’t know how prayer works, but it does.  I don’t know how gravity works, either, but I have learned to trust it.  In truth it is not the prayer that works, but God, Who hears and acts.  It is a great mystery that the God Who could speak light into existence, invites us to join Him in His work by speaking with Him.  I cannot wrap my mind fully around that.  But I am grateful that you didn’t let the mystery of it stop you.  You prayed for me.  It helped.

When Paul needed prayer, he wasn’t just grieving, he was pursued daily by people who were trying to kill him.  He called his situation “deadly peril” – an understatement.  He wrote:

“He [God] has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)

If you ever wonder if it matters when you pray, then take this expression of thanks as an encouragement.  It does matter; it matters more than you can imagine.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

When the Lines are Down

Well, it happened again.  I was saying something heartfelt and important to someone on my cellphone, not realizing that the connection had died.  After a few seconds of silence, “Hello… hello… Are you there?”  Feels kind of stupid and helpless, talking to a dead phone, right?  Do you ever feel as though your prayers aren’t getting through?  Like you are trying to talk to God and the connection is broken?  Don’t sweat it, it happens to everyone, even to a guy considered to be so good at praying, he wrote many of the prayers in the Bible.

David felt disconnected and cried out,  “Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”  And“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.  Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” (excerpts of Psalm 86:1-4).

You’ve probably felt like that, too, right?  What do you do then?  (“Who you gonna call?”)  Consider two things David asked God for when he felt that his connection was down:

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

David knew God could hear him, even when he felt disconnected.  But he also knew he, David, needed to change in order to “hear” God.  So he asked God to teach him the right way, so he could walk on the path of truth.  David sensed that the disconnect he was feeling happened in part because he had wandered off the path of truth and into the weeds of ideas and attitudes that were not true.

It’s kind of like when an adolescent gets the false idea his parents don’t love him, as so frequently happens, even when they really do.  All their attempts to communicate become disrupted. It is not until he accepts what is true about their love that their relationship can be really restored.  So David says, show me what’s true, show me your way.  Smart man.

But he also asks God to give him “an undivided heart.”  David recognizes his heart goes back and forth between the ways of God and the pull of the world.  Perhaps you, like me, yearn for a heart that is undivided by all the stuff that clamors for our attention in the world.  David knew to ask God to fix his heart, that self-help wasn’t going to work.  When he asks “that I may fear your name,” he doesn’t mean that he will be scared by God’s name.  He means that he will live with an awareness of God and a reverence that keeps their lines of communication intact.

My guess is that David’s prayers were answered on the spot, because one of the next things he says is this:

“For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” (Psalm 86:13)

Next time you feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, try David’s approach.  Ask God to show you where you’ve gotten off the path of truth and the way you should go.  Ask Him to fix your heart so it is undivided.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Wise Up

She was alone and afraid.  The night before, she had made a tough but courageous medical decision but now, as early daylight began to seep into her hospital room, fear came with it.  She prayed, asking God to send her something to encourage her.  Almost immediately a doctor came into her room and sat by her side.  “I was not scheduled to see you until later today, but something prompted me to come now,” he said.   He was literally Heaven-sent!

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

There are times when it is appropriate to pray for rescue, for healing, for money, for material things.  It is always appropriate to pray for wisdom.  When we ask God for wisdom, He gives generously, not grudgingly and He doesn’t hold it against us that we need to ask.

But what is wisdom?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10)

Fear of the Lord is not like fear of spiders.  This kind of fear is an attitude of profound respect and reverence, combined with humility.  The captain of a nuclear submarine isn’t afraid of the sub, but must “fear” it; he must maintain a humble awareness of her power and a respect for doing things the right way.  Or else!   Fear of the Lord is similar.  It’s a profound respect for the power, sovereignty of God, a humble attitude that acknowledges His unlimited understanding.  When you come with that attitude before God, asking Him for wisdom, it is a prayer to understand what He sees, a prayer for guidance to do things the right way.

God hears a prayer like that and answers it generously, without finding fault.  Sometimes He simply shows us, giving us new insight and peace.  Sometimes He sends a doctor.

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Buying God

A few days before Christmas, “[Pope] Francis issued a blistering indictment of the Vatican bureaucracy Monday, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who serve him of using their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living “hypocritical” double lives and forgetting that they’re supposed to be joyful men of God.  “Vatican watchers said they had never heard such a powerful, violent speech from a pope…” (excerpts from Associated Press – 12/22/14)

The top leaders of the Roman Catholic church must have been pretty shocked.  What they expected to hear were some mild, innocuous, typical Christmas greetings.  But WHAM!  Stay tuned for how this plays out; it’s going to be very interesting.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem, receiving enthusiastic cheers and cries from a gathering crowd, most of whom expected Him to go into the city and begin setting up a kingdom in opposition to the Romans.  Those nasty, pagan, oppressive Romans were about to get their just desserts; Israel would become free at last.  But not so fast…   When Jesus entered the city, He turned against His own people, the leaders and bureaucrats in the Temple, not the Romans.

” Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”” (Matthew 21:12-13)

The buying and selling at the Temple had gradually been put in place as a matter of convenience for traveling pilgrims.  Instead of bringing their livestock for the sacrifice, they could purchase an appropriate animal.  If they did not have the right currency for the Temple offering, they could exchange what they had when they got there.  All of this sounds reasonable, as does the need for those providing the service to make a profit.  So what was Jesus so worked up over?

There were a lot of problems represented there, including a form of racism.  But, the main problem was that the Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer (“for all nations,” according to this quote from Isaiah).  Not commerce.  Even so-called “religious” commerce transforms the mysterious and powerful process of communicating with God into a business transaction.  It is true that the “robbers” were charging exorbitant rates.  But the main problem was exchanging what was supposed to be a humble, personal interaction with God for an impersonal ritual involving money.

It’s as though the Temple leaders were encouraging the people to relate to God by saying, “Here, God, here’s a couple of bucks; go buy yourself something nice.”  Instead of reaching out to Him in heartfelt prayer.  Do we make the same mistake today?  To often, I think.  No doubt that’s part of what had the Pope so upset, too.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
AP quote:


The next time you are running low on food and 5000 men show up for dinner with their wives and kids, you might want to review how Jesus showed His disciples to handle it (You can read it in Matthew 14:13-21).  But most of us won’t ever be in that situation; is there anything in this episode for us?  Anything that we can apply to life as we experience it, one ordinary day after another?

When preachers deal with this passage, their points typically go something like:

–   “When Jesus gives you something impossible to do, He will make it possible.”

–   “Don’t worry about what you don’t have; bring what you do have to Jesus and give it to Him”

Those are great principles and make compelling sermons, but how do they apply to us in our every day circumstances?    Another way to ask that question is, “Can you think of any example in your own life where these principles were applied?”    We all know stories of great missionaries who lived like this, but what about the rest of us “Joe the Plumber” kind of people?

The lessons that Jesus demonstrated that night, feeding 5000 families, were not simply for the disciples.  All those people in the crowd were fed, too.  Jesus was showing them something, too.  But what?

As you ponder those questions, consider this:  Jesus taught us, every day, as we pray, to ask God, for bread – daily bread.  Enough for the day.  In that prayer, Jesus was building on God’s training protocol for the Israelites, as they faced starvation in the desert.  Each day, He provided just enough manna for their needs that day.  No more, no less, except the day before the Sabbath.  On that day He provided a double portion, so they could rest on the following day.  “Give us today, our daily bread.”

As you face today, there is no way for you to know what the day holds, or how much “daily bread” you will need.  But God does.  Just before Jesus told us to pray, “give us today our daily bread,” He said:

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8, NIV)

Maybe your daily bread today will include food for 5000.  Maybe it will be strength and courage to make it through the day.  He knows.

Quote: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

How to Pray Like Jesus

When you screw up while leaving a recorded phone message, you usually can’t erase it,  I know a guy who ended a message with “…in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”.   He was so used to saying that at the end of a prayer that he just did it without thinking.

Sometimes our prayers get said without thinking, too.  You can probably recite the Lord’s Prayer without thinking about it.  For many, saying the “Our Father” is a ritual, like the Pledge of Allegiance, done by rote so we can all sit down and get on to the next thing.  The irony of that is that Jesus taught that prayer as a way to help us avoid meaningless, empty prayer.  He warned us, “Don’t think you get brownie points from God by special words and a religious tone of voice.”

But, that raises the question: When you dare to speak with the Creator of the universe, what should you say?  How should you pray?

Jesus answered those questions with a profound but simple outline for prayer.  He said, not, pray this, but “pray like this:”

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
( Matthew 6:9-13 – ESV)

Begin your prayer, He said, by acknowledging the majesty and awesome holiness of the One you are addressing.  At the same time, remember His love for us, His children.  “Our Father, Who exists in Heaven, may Who You are, fill me and everyone else with a sense of reverence, wonder and humility.” Use words that have that effect on your heart.

Secondly, as you pray, intentionally align your heart with God’s purpose and plan.  Pray for the eventual establishment of His Kingdom on earth, the day in which everyone naturally and gracefully lives in harmony with the will of God, their King.  Tell God how you yearn for Heaven’s conditions to be lived out here on earth.

After these important attitude adjustments in prayer, Jesus taught us to pray for our needs.  We don’t say, “God, gimme this…”  but rather, we are to pray with gratitude, knowing God already knows our needs.  We pray for our daily needs – bread for the day.  There is a childlike trust and surrender reflected in such a prayer. 

Our prayers for forgiveness from God are soaked in the awareness that such forgiveness can only be received by those with forgiving hearts.  Read that again and ponder the truth of it. 

Jesus taught us to pray for protection from Satan and from the many ways we are tempted by him.  Because our battle with sin is spiritual in nature, we need more than willpower; we need spiritual armament.

And that’s it.  That’s the outline for prayer.  All that other business about “For Thine is the… ” is the kind of religious ritualistic verbiage Jesus was teaching us to avoid.

Next time you pause to talk with God, try Jesus’ outline, putting each idea into the words that flow from your own heart. 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  🙂