Prayerless Praying

Praying under compulsion is a superficial performance of religiosity. When one turns prayer into an automated habit of detached verbiage, prayerless praying occurs.
It is no different than a conversation to oneself, or rehearsing a speech without an audience – or presenting a rehearsed speech without consideration of its impact on the audience.

I suspect that there are many roots to this practice: the appeal of religion and tradition to the flesh, a desire to appear righteous to others, or belief in a demanding yet aloof God.

I think that one remedy to prayerless praying is to restore, if one once possessed a relational view of God and man. If one reads Isaiah 1 where God calls Judah to come and reason with Him, rather than practice outward, heartless rituals, this conviction should rise. We are reminded of the obvious, yet often forgotten fact that God can see our acts of devotion for what they truly are. He knows if we are praying in faith based on who He is, or if our thanks and confessions re sincere.

Another remedy to prayerless praying, is to lose the fear of man. Often people do outwardly pious acts for the validation of others. I would say that would be strongly the case in relation to spiritual leaders and peers in Christ. The praise of man does not always equal praise from God. And good deeds done in the open, have their reward limited to the present. When one catches them self doing this, even accidentally, it might be wise to confess it to someone to avoid this pitfall. One might be surprised by how common this is!

Times where one can fall into this trap, could include the habit of working through excessively long prayer lists accompanied by a misguided fear that missing a name would leave a person/cause without aid or blessing, another time could be during a prayer meeting when a person feels the need to fill up the prescribed time allotment with speaking, rather than silently reflecting or hearing from God.

If this bothers your conscience, bring it up to God! He will help you.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Psalm 51:17

The Armour of God vs Garment of Self Righteousness

 

Vs The Garment of Self Righteousness

Noose Necklace -Die on any hill of secondary issues. Kills fellowship and humility.

Straight Jacket of Strictness – To give an appearance of righteousness, well at least to yourself.

Cleats of Circumspection: ready to stand firm, even when completely off course. Everywhere else could be dangerous! Hard to run in these though.

Shield of Tradition – Helps shield eyes from truth, and heart from correction.

Tinfoil hat of paranoia – Makes you believe that everything is worldly, satanic, and needs to be exposed.

Sword of Slander – As sharp and deadly as the tongue.

Sectarianism is Foolish/Forbid him not!

Sectarianism 

adj. 1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a sect.                                                                             2. Adhering or confined to the dogmatic limits of a sect or denomination; partisan.  FreeDictionary.com

header-sectarian-slide1
Bibletruths.org

“… sectarianism does not spring full grown from the ground. It is sown as a seed of self-chosen opinion, which grows into a division, and ultimately reaps, sectarianism. The sin of sectarianism is one of the worst sins. The Apostle Paul told us to “look at, regard attentively, take heed, beware, consider” those who behaved this way and “refuse, reject, decline, shun, avoid” them.”Bibletruths.org

Here is an example in the 9th Chapter of the Book of Mark …

….What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?”
34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them,
37 Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.
40 For he who is not against us is on our side.
41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Insight from a couple commentaries …

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:
“The disciple desired to show, as in self-vindication, that he not only “received” his Master, but that he was unwilling to “receive” any who did not openly follow Him as a disciple. The fact of which he speaks is significant historically as indicating that one of the effects of our Lord’s work had been to stir up and quicken the spiritual powers of men outside the range of the company of disciples that gathered round Him. They believed in Him, or they would not have used His Name. They were fellow-workers with Him, for they were seeking to rescue the souls of men from frenzy and despair. Their faith was effective, for, as the narrative implies, they not only claimed the power to cast out demons, but did cast them out.”
…..
The true disciples of Christ are to hinder no one who is really doing His work. The very fact that they do it will bring with it reverence and sympathy.”
…..
“St. Paul rejoiced that every way Christ was preached”
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. Philippians 1:18
Benson Commentary
“But to confine religion to them that follow us, is a narrowness of spirit which we should avoid and abhor.”
 “Forbid him not — Neither directly nor indirectly discourage or hinder any man, who brings sinners from the power of Satan to God, because he followeth not us, in opinions, modes of worship, or any thing else which does not affect the essence of religion. For he that is not against us, is for us — Our Lord had formerly said, He that is not with me, is against me…”
Also, previously the disciples were not able to cast out a demon, so it must have been a real dissonance to them that they were Jesus chosen disciples–which they were likely proud of — but couldn’t cast out a demon like another person, who likely heard the gospel, but wasn’t as ‘set apart’ as them, or still a ‘child in christ.’ I wonder how often churches today who are proud of their status (historical, traditions, size) notice what the Lord is doing through smaller, less ‘impressive’ churches? (or smaller stricter, elitist churches towards the larger ‘liberal’ ones)
And speaking of churches, notice how ‘factions’ are seen as a deed of the flesh?
(factions: a small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics)
19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Just a thought, but I feel that Jesus is humorously upping the ante here (below), He speaks previously of the pride of sectarianism, and deals with the envy of wanting to be best in the kingdom,  followed by suggesting that they amputate their limbs to avoid sin! The Lord knows that even our hearts are deceitfully wicked and our minds can have wicked thoughts – so the only way that we could avoid sin on our own accord is to be a maimed vegetable at best, but more likely dead. He reveals to them their lunacy of their self vindication.  But since we know that that is not the route to salvation, the main point he’s getting at us  …..“Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 46 where

‘Their worm does not die,
And the fire is not quenched.’

47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— 48 where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

Now all this brings me to my final/foundational thought of this blog – the Doctrine of Separation, which is apparently based on 2 Corinthians:

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? [15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate [emphasis added], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:14-17 KJV).”

“Unfortunately, some churches and individuals use it bolster a sectarian mindset which excludes from fellowship any that differ, even in the slightest way, and have gone to great lengths to separate from others who do not strictly observe certain “fundamentals” of the faith.” TheRecoveringLegalist/Separation

It is as though we forget that they were born again of the same spirit, washed in the same blood, and in also written in the Book of Life!

So in closing, whenever we are tempted to not welcome a fellow believer because of a difference in denomination or preference, remember the words of Jesus: “Forbid Him Not!”

Mini Evangelism (attempt) Story – Rhetorical Questions

I’ll be honest, when I try to engage people on the street, what typically happens is that people like to ask us rhetorical questions or questions that are really just statements, or insults under the poor guise of a question, so that they can try to put us in our place. These are usually based upon false prejudgements and assumptions about our character, what Christianity is, and what the Bible says.

Sometimes it feels like people take the worst example of a person who calls themself a Christian, i.e. Westboro Baptist Church member, an internet troll, a scandalized preacher, or a Christian they’ve personally encountered and had a bad experience with, and they place all those attributes on us. They expect us to scream at them, slander them, be self-righteous, be wildly out of our minds, etc –and when we don’t react as the devil they want us to be, they reach for another angle or provocation that they hope will stir us up enough to snap. Thankfully we don’t act that way, but we do offend people by speaking the truth, no matter how gently.

Here is an example of an conversation my husband and I had with a group of twenty-something people, with a ‘Rhetorical-Question-Statement’.

Person 1: “Excuse me? I just have a question for you.”

Me: “Sure, I’ll try my best to answer it.”

Person 1: “As a Christian, what to do you think about homophobia?” (smugly asked)

Me: “I don’t think I understand your question (I do), and that’s kind of a strange thing to talk about, because I don’t think most people are intensely afraid of gay people.”

Person 1: “oh c’mon you know what I’m talking about”

Me: “If your asking me if we hate gay people, then the answer is no.”

My Husband: “But with that said, the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin, and a man should not lie with a man as he would with a woman.”

crowd: (laughs) “The bible.” (said derisively)

Person 1: “So you hate gay people.”

Me: “no, we don’t. But the primary reason we are out here, is to share the good news of…”

Person 2: (cuts me off as I’m about to share the gospel) “So would you be friends with a gay person. Do you have gay friends?”

My Husband: “My brother is gay.”

Person 2: “And you still think that it’s a sin? What if he got married, would you go to his wedding?”

My Husband: “It’s not that this is just my opinion that I’ve made up. The Bible says that it is a sin or an abomination. And no, I would not go to my brother’s wedding.”

Crowd: (looks offended, then satisfied that they got my husband to say something that coincides with their picture of an intolerant Christian) “Wow”

Person 1: “So you don’t love your brother enough to support him in marrying the one he loves. Can’t you just put your religion aside for him?” (going back to rhetorical)

My Husband and I: “Of course we love him.”

Person 1: “Thats all we needed to know” (they all walk away)

So there you have it. I’m sure that any believer who just read that, especially those who are experienced with evangelism of any kind can speculate as to what we could have done differently, or could appreciate the challenge of speaking to this group.

It is really easy to get sidetracked or dragged into conversations about specific sin, and never get to talking about the penalty of sin, and the grace of salvation. I usually answer these types of questions as briefly as possible, so that I can move on to the gospel. This could be a great error or a wise choice – sometimes it depends on the conversation, and how much time you have with said person.It is important to listen, but also important to make sure that you’re not letting one person take over the conversation. But overall, it is of great importance to speak the truth in love.

Conversations like these usually make me feel defeated in the end. Like I just wasted my time, and was made the fool. But even when I do get the opportunity to share the gospel, in a fuller conversation, often times it ultimately goes back to the other person not being able to let go of a specific sin, or the approval of it in others. Sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse.

But when these brief exchanges do happen, they are only a blip in the larger scene, where we continue to share with other people, through a tract, open-air preaching, etc and the Word of God might just plant into good soil, or be watered.

 

Jesus is dear to me

 

Jesus is dear to me, and I’m growing in love for Him more each day, but sometimes I forget that He is not dear to others. On my personal Facebook account I have many old friends and acquaintances that I made before I knew the Lord, therefore Most of them do not know him still.  It breaks my heart to see how they speak about Him with such contempt, while denying His existence. It is different when I evangelize strangers, and they mock Him, because the hurt does not reach as deep.

I will admit that I am slack in praying for them, so maybe this is the push I need to do so. In my heart I fear the seemingly inevitable loss of them all, and I wonder how much longer will they ‘tolerate’ me before they see me as an ‘undesirable.’ And as I pray, (just moments ago), it came to mind that instead of focusing on my possible loss of them, that I should focus on their lostness, and pray for their Salvation,in love.

Lord, help me to take the focus off my pain, and instead, help me to attend to the needs of others. Bring to mind your power to convict of sin and save sinners. Help me to not distance myself from those need you desperately! Spur me on to pray more. May you receive the reward of your suffering.