Prayer and Grace


Grace

Reposted from The Life Project

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

This is a really neat little passage; there’s so much to see.  As Paul closes out his letter, he reminds the people to be devoted to prayer, and while this may seem routine, after all, Apostles talk about prayer a lot, Paul here seems to bring it to life.  I’m always struck by the idea of prayer being “watchful and thankful.”  Maybe thankful, as in giving thanks isn’t so surprising, but watchful!  How often do you hear someone say that we should be watchful in our prayers?

Watchful for what?  Things you want God to give you, like little favors?  “Oh yes, and Father please send me that new Lexus…” something like that?  Somehow I doubt it. Maybe watchful for someone who needs intercession, maybe an opening for the Gospel, maybe something that is within God’s priority system− yes that seems more like the kind of “watchful” that Paul has in mind.  He continues by asking for the people to pray for him, but again, not in the way we might expect.  Notice, that even though he is in prison, he didn’t ask them to pray for his release, he asked them to pray that he might preach the Gospel effectively.

I don’t know about you, but that gets my attention every time!  When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:5. He taught us to pray for God’s priorities. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”  Do we remember to do that? Are we watchful for specifics that fit into this category?  Well, I can only speak for myself, but truth be told, I forget or overlook this more often than I’d care to admit. Paul seems to continue in this line of thinking when he advises us to be wise when speaking to “outsiders,” non-Christians.  We are to be ready to make the most of every opportunity, to show them the love of Jesus Christ: Maybe we should pray for those opportunities.  We are to speak to them “with grace, seasoned with salt…” Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” meaning that we are to deal with them in love; more love than they might deserve.

I have a little secret for you to consider:  Speaking to someone with grace is not telling them that they are wrong, even if they are.  It doesn’t mean calling them names, or being critical of the way they live.  Yes, there is a fair chance that they live as unbelievers, but guess what? They are unbelievers, and that may be just how they are supposed to live.  Our job isn’t to correct the world, it is to save the world for Christ.  This requires grace, not criticism.  Salt is an interesting metaphor; I’ve heard many different explanations for this, so I’ll throw out my thoughts.  When we season food with salt, we add it to bring out the full flavor of the ingredients, and when we speak with grace, seasoned with salt, we are sharing the full love of God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to die to save it.  We need our speech to be so full of His grace, that nobody hears the slightest little bit of condemnation come from our lips!

So, when you put this all together, maybe I should remember to pray that God will bring me opportunities, and give me the words to share, so that some may be saved.  What do you think; do you need to join me in praying this way? If not, I’d love to hear why that is.

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Christian or Disciple


cordReposted from Radical Mentoring

About 173 million Americans identify themselves as Christians. If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re one of them. Now I’m neither smart nor well-read enough to explain the various criteria used to validate one’s claim to being identified as a Christian. The theology is thick. Are you a John 3:16 kind of Christian, betting the farm that Christianity is just about believing? That might be risky in light of James 2:19 which says, You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Is baptism a requirement? Does childhood baptism count or do you have to be passed ‘the age of accountability’ (I’m still looking for those words in a verse!). Do you have to belong to a church and attend regularly? Must we do ‘Christian work’? James seems to say so. In chapter 2, verse 17, he says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Is ‘Christian’ a noun or a verb?

The word “Christian” has undoubtedly become a brand in today’s culture, with Christian movies, Christian music and Christian food (that’d be Chick-Fil-A!). Is Christianity a value system that guides a lifestyle? Or could it be a ‘tribe’ of people who salute the same ideals?

Oddly enough, the word “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible. And each time it shows up, it’s used in reference to Jesus’ disciples.

But the word “disciple shows up 269 times in the Scriptures. 269 times! Clearly, God’s Word puts a lot of weight on being a disciple of Jesus.

Somewhere back in time, someone told me that a disciple is a learner and follower of Christ. For me, that means learning everything I can about Jesus, His life, His message and His Father. It means learning from my mistakes . . . looking back at my screw-ups and asking God to teach me better ways for the future . . . turning those mistakes into evaluated experience. That’s learning.

But following Jesus may be more important than learning about Him. Sometimes, I know how to follow Him by knowing Scriptures and how He handled similar circumstances. But sometimes I need more. I need special instructions . . . personal guidance and direction. For example, in navigating parenthood and grandparenthood, I need the leadership of the Holy Spirit because Jesus didn’t model that part for me.

Now, while I still think that understanding of a disciple is accurate, I’ve come to see that being a disciple is more than just “learning and following Jesus.” I like the National Discipleship Forum’s definition . . .

disciple is “a person who is following Christ, being changed by Christ, and is committed to the mission of Christ.”

“Following Christ” . . . we just talked about that. “Being changed by Christ” says a disciple is a learner but not just head learner. He’s a heart learner, opening himself up so God can change him from the inside out. It means transparency and vulnerability. It means introspection, repentance, and a continuous pursuit of Godliness. It means living out the ‘Platinum Rule’ . . . loving others the way God loves you and me.

And the last phrase . . . “committed to the mission of Christ” resonates deeply with me and all of Radical Mentoring. Jesus’ instruction to “go out and train everyone . . . in this way of life” (Matthew 28:19 MSG) is the mantra of mentoring.

As we move into 2018, let’s commit to being true disciples of Jesus. Who’s with me?

Scripture: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

Whats Your Watts


wattReposted fromRadical Mentoring

Walk into a dark room and flip the light switch. Darkness disappears, replaced by light. In fact, darkness isn’t really a ‘thing’ in and of itself.  Just something that happens when there’s no light.

Genesis 1:4 recounts the creation of light . . . “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” Sometimes, we think of someone as bright. Every now and then, we’ll run into a Jesus-follower whose spirit shines. In church world, we want people to plug in. I guess it’s easy to compare spirituality to electricity because both are invisible and somewhat hard to understand.

The reality is that some people seem to be ‘15-watt’ people, others are ‘60-watt,’ while a few seem to glow naturally like ‘100-watt’ bulbs. If that happens to be you, you’re going to inevitably attract people (and maybe a few moths!). But what if you’re a ‘15-watt’ person? Or ‘30-watt’? Maybe you’re diligent about your faith walk but kind of private and quiet. Should you aspire to more light? And for what purpose?

I see three reasons we should aspire to have higher ‘wattage’ . . .

  1. Our personal peace deepens– When the Holy Spirit shines brightly within us, we’re more confident. When we trust God with outcomes, we deal better with our circumstances and we’re affirmed that Jesus is real and He’s right here with us and for us.
  2. Our influence grows – When we go public with our faith in Christ, others watch our lives in a special way. The cynics are waiting for us to fail so their lack of faith can be confirmed. The doubters will pay attention because our lives will enter into their decision to follow Jesus or not. And true believers will want to celebrate our faithfulness; they’re encouraged by our ‘bright light.’
  3. Our sin becomes more apparent – It is so easy to be dumbed down by the world, the flesh and the devil. “Hey, I know I’m not the best Christian in the world, but I’m not the worst either.” When our wattage is higher, we’re more sensitive to the sin that tempts us . . . our conscience quickens, and we’re more apt to turn away from bad stuff and ask forgiveness, both from God and from each other.

So how can we increase our wattage?

Through prayer. For over two years, I’ve told people about the strength and confidence I felt going in for my lung transplant. It was supernatural! I truly believe James 5:16 which says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,” whether that prayer comes from you, a few or a multitude. I’m convinced the more people who pray and the more fervent the prayer, the higher the wattage of the person prayed for.

Let’s pray for each other in 2018, but don’t forget to pray for yourself. Ask God to raise your wattage for your good, the good of those around you, and for His glory.

Scripture: Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

How to Pray for Physical Healing


Reposted from The Word Among Us

Of all the kinds of healing, physical healing is perhaps the hardest for us to really believe in; it is far easier to believe that prayer can lead to repentance or can change a person psychologically.

Yet real physical healings take place regularly in the prayer groups I know. Often, a dozen or more occur at conferences when we take the time to pray for the sick.

So if you have the faith that the Lord still heals people as he did two thousand years ago, launch out and learn to pray for the sick. For, although physical healing may stretch your faith (have you ever prayed for a blind person?), it is also the simplest kind of prayer.

The Confidence to Launch Out. To pray for the first time requires courage. I used to feel very foolish, as if I were pretending to be someone special when I knew I was just an ordinary person. Who was I to pretend to be a great healer, to act like Christ? All this was, of course, merely false humility since, as we know, Christ himself instructed his followers to pray for the sick. Sometimes healing requires more courage than faith.

What a joy when we find that God really answers our prayers and heals the people we love! The praise of God spontaneously rises from our hearts. If you have confidence that Jesus might use your prayers to heal the sick, then there are just a few simple steps to learn. They are easy enough to remember; we do not need a graduate degree to learn to pray for physical healing.

I have missionary friends who are teaching the poor people of the barrios of Latin America to pray for the sick, and they report that about eighty percent of these unlettered people are healed or notably improved. There is no one method or technique that always produces results; God wants us to depend on him—not upon a technique. But there are some simple steps that flow out of the very nature of prayer for healing, and these I want to share with you.

Listening. The first step is always to listen in order to find out what to pray for. Just as the first step for a doctor when he meets a patient is to find out what to treat, so we need to find out what we are meant to pray for. A doctor is looking for a right diagnosis. In prayer for healing, we are looking for the right discernment.

We are really listening to two things: to the person who asks for prayer and tells us what seems to be wrong; and to God, who from time to time shares with us the true diagnosis whenever the person isn’t sure what is wrong.

When we listen in this way, the Spirit comes to enlighten us when we are in the dark about what to pray for. To some people this special knowledge seems to come in a very special way in the form of definite mental images or verbal impressions. To many of us, however, the knowledge of what to pray for comes in a very natural way, more like a simple intuition.

We may not be sure whether we are inspired by God or not; we learn by experience to sift out our intuitions and to find what works out in practice. Often, after I have followed what seemed to me a simple intuition about what to pray for, the person I was praying for has told me that I touched on those very things he had not directly mentioned but had hoped that I would pray for. When these intuitions work out time after time, you learn to trust that God is working through them.

In addition to listening to the person, we should also be alert to the promptings of the Spirit who may enlighten us, especially when we don’t know what to pray for. It is not healthy for us to be unduly problem-oriented and symptom-centered. In the abundance of Christ’s health and life, sickness will be overcome, in the brilliance of that light, darkness and ignorance will be dispersed.

Laying on of Hands. In actual praying for the sick, the laying on of hands is a traditional Christian practice: “They will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover” (Mark 16:18). Certainly it is not essential; if you feel that the person you are praying for would be embarrassed or would feel more comfortable if you stay at a distance, then by all means be sensitive to his feelings. But if it does seem right, there are several advantages that explain the New Testament practice of the laying on of hands.

In the first place, there does seem to be a warm current of healing power that often flows from the minister of healing to the sick person. Precisely what happens when we feel this current we are not sure, but it seems like a transfer of life-giving power. Jesus himself experienced this flow of power in such a way that he could sense it:

Now there was a woman suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, whom no one had been able to cure. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak; and the hemorrhage stopped at that instant. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” when they all denied that they had, Peter and his companions said, “Master, it is the crowds round you, pushing.” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched me. I felt that power had gone out from me.” (Luke 8:43-46)

Often we experience this same transfer of power, occasionally like a gentle electric current, but more often like a flow of warmth. Whatever it is, it is often connected with healing. It almost seems like a transfer of life.

Some with the gift of healing talk about “soaking prayer” in which you just soak the person in a prayer of God’s love. In thirty years of praying for the sick, we have discovered that this soaking prayer where we spend time with a person and pray with the laying on of hands helps immeasurably. It’s like God’s radiation treatment: The longer the sickness is held in the force-field of God’s love, the more it shrinks, until it finally disappears.

The Actual Prayer. In praying for the sick person, we can be spontaneous and improvise prayer for healing. We can assume any posture that is most comfortable for us—sitting, kneeling, or standing—where we can best forget ourselves and relax and concentrate on the presence of God. We turn our hearts and minds to the Father, or to Jesus; we know that it is only through their love that anything will happen. After welcoming their presence and praising God, we then turn to the petition itself.

Most ministers of healing suggest that we be specific in our prayer, that we visualize as clearly as possible what we are asking God to heal. For instance, if we are praying for the healing of a broken bone we can ask the Father (or Jesus) to take away every infection, to stimulate the growth of the cells needed to restore the bone, and to fill in any breaks. Such a specific request seems to enliven our own faith, as we see in our imagination what we are praying for. It also stimulates the faith of the sick person as he listens and pictures in his own mind what we are asking God to accomplish in reality. This helps him become more actively involved in the prayer, even if he says nothing.

On the other hand, some of us—that includes me—are by temperament not very good at imagining things; it is much easier to leave the imagination out and just ask God—but in a very specific way—to heal the person.

With Confidence and Thanksgiving. For a long time, there has been a kind of tradition which led most of us to end all our prayers with the phrase, “if it be your will.” The idea behind it, of course, is that we don’t know God’s will, so we don’t have the confidence that everything we ask for will be given us. This is true. Yet, this addition—”if it be your will”—can weaken our prayer if it really means “I don’t believe anything is going to happen.” This is a far cry from the words of Jesus, “Everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).

If we believe that God answers our prayers always (not always as we think he will, but nevertheless always), we naturally will have a heartfelt desire to thank him. We can thank him even during the prayer: “I thank you, Lord, that even now you are sending you healing love and power into Bill and are answering our prayer.” Our attitude should be that of St. Paul: “There is no need to worry but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).