Archives For Prayer

Politicising tragedy for political leverage seems to be the going thing these days.

By the tone on social media, one would not be wrong in assuming that the victims of the shooting which occurred on Sunday at a Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were atheists, and those from the Left side of the political spectrum.

Some decided to use this tragic event to ridicule prayer. Throwing their contempt at anyone who took a second to share their sympathy with those actually caught up in the shooting.

The response from the Left on social media was far from their alleged tolerant embrace of diversity. It was far from the “love” activism the Left say they stand for. Instead of showing solidarity, charity, or real care, in a selfless act of lament and sympathy, they used the real victims of yesterday’s tragedy for selfish gain.

Instead of promoting support for the community involved, the Leftist social media complex decided to add insult to injury. Then sat back to watch their social media stock value rise, as like-minded sycophants padded their stats with like, share, meme, retweet and opportunist comment.

Though prayer bashing has increased in recent years, this isn’t a new phenomenon. What stands out here is the magnified incongruence between a group of people who claim to speak from a platform of diversity and their active prejudice against Christian practice. The question has to be asked, if this were a Mosque and not a Church, would the response have been the same?

One on hand I can understand the suspicion. Saying that you’re praying for someone doesn’t always translate into the act of praying for someone. Christians have from time to time dropped the ball by giving lip service to prayer, rather than actually doing it. Instead of standing with people, prayer has been used as a cop-out.

On the other hand, not every Christian does this. No real Church advocates lazy discipleship or mechanised stoic detachment. Prayer unifies, it brings different people together. It doesn’t divide or distinguish between whether you are holy or not. It’s an invitation to participate with God, and Jesus Christ is the seal on that invitation. Come as you are.

Immediately after the news broke, social media lit up. Instead of offering sympathy and support to the victims, many on the Left attacked Republicans, using America’s cruel obsession with high-powered guns as a moral platform to build support for higher levels of gun control.

This is where the unintentional hilarity XYZ writers talk a lot about, hits the ground running.

The second that tragedies of the same ilk are attributed to Islamic Terrorism, the Left rushes to defend Islam. Attempts are made to suppress the real cause under a thick layer of denial, identity politics and false accusations. Whereby anyone who speaks out against the act in the context of its ideological origins, is accused of being an Islamophobe. All of which are tactics employed to control the narrative, telling you what to think, what to feel, and how you should respond.

The message is clear. Leftists have no problem with condemning an act and its ideological cause, as long as it serves up some form of political gain. In the case of the Texas Church shooting massacre, this means that Republicans and the NRA are legitimate, politically correct targets. Just don’t apply the same rule, the next time there is an “incident attributed to” Islamists and their faithful following of the Quran.

Measuring reactions to the Texas shooting from people on both sides of the political spectrum, it would also seem that offering those suffering sympathy, is now a crime against humanity.

Those who share sympathy through thoughts and prayers with another community is intolerable, making your sympathy useless, antiquated and pointless.

This is a tragedy within a tragedy. People believe that ridiculing sympathy forces people to act. The reality is that sympathy precedes support. It motivates us to care and act on that care. Without sympathy we cannot show support.  It’s that part of our humanity which moves us towards empathy, towards the solidarity of suffering.

Sympathy is a valid emotional connection that leads to empathy.  It motivates us to move from sentiment to action. Only sociopaths are devoid of sympathy. Only psychopaths are devoid of both sympathy and empathy, and would ridicule both as worthless.

Sharing grief with those who are grieving is not a worthless act. It reminds us that we are human because sharing grief acknowledges the vulnerable, and through the vulnerable we are reminded of our own humanity. One worthwhile and traditional element of that sharing is to stand in prayer with those who are suffering or have suffered.

Genuinely offering to pray for someone may be politically incorrect, and loaded with suspicion, but it’s never a useless act.

Christian prayer, is not stoic detachment [i]. Honest prayer requires humility, it precedes responsible action. Prayer is only useless when it’s used to serve self-righteousness; lip service.

It’s ignorant to quickly condemn as Islamophobia, any link made between Islamic terrorist attacks and Islamic ideology. It’s hypocritical to then turn around and quickly condemn Republicans and the NRA, when the tragic event involves guns and not Islamic Terrorism.  It’s ignorant for those same people to condemn others for offering sympathy and moral support to the victims.

Only sociopaths and the ‘malignantly narcissistic’ [ii] would think that offering sympathy and support to the victims of a horrendous crime is useless.

Johann Goethe was right, ‘nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.’ ( Maxims & Reflections, 231)

As anti-Nazi theologian, Karl Barth, rightly said, ‘prayer is the beginning of an uprising, [a revolt] against the disorder of the world.’ [iii]

#prayfor #ourworld #prayfor #SoutherlandSprings


References:

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945, Discerning the Signs of The Times

[ii] George K. Simon Ph.D. In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People (p. 51)

[ii]  Barth, K. CD Fragments IV:4 See also the whole John 14. Verse 13 in particular:Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’ – Jesus.

Image: The Deserter, Boardman Robinson Wikipedia.

This is the closest I might come to writing an old-school, blues influenced, straight-up, Gospel song. It was written in 2013 and still holds an element of relevance.

“Everlasting Father[i], Son and Holy Spirit, divine
You are ‘I am’…Yahweh…pure breath…pure life.

Help me to hear your encouragement and receive
the whispers…that silence my pain

Help me to be set free
From the words that have hurt me
From the wounds and rage that won’t let me go
Help me to see your version of me, not the version I see reflected by others.

Striking healer; mighty God, accept my response

I confess that I have shown you contempt
I confess the pretence of my “worship”, and the self-absorbed pretence that enters my prayers.

Holy One of Israel you are great in our midst,

I acknowledge your complete presence.
“Show me how to kneel” …I surrender my brokenness.
I know you have not abandoned us
I know I need to be more vulnerable. Help me  speak precisely from your heart.

Father God; creator; redeemer; sanctifier
You ‘do not grow weary’ (Is 40:28)

Thank you for ‘good news’ (Is 61:1)
Thank you for ‘uniting the pieces of my broken-heart’ (Is 61:1)
Accept my brokenness and tears
For this, Lord, ‘you do not despise’ (Psalm 52:17, NLT)

Let your blessings that shine through provision bring us to say:

With you, I rise and speak to the calamity in Jesus name ‘peace, be still’ (Psalm 107:29)
With you, I rise and speak to the conflict in Jesus name ‘peace, be still’
With you, I rise and speak to the suffering caused by misunderstanding, in Jesus name ‘peace , be still’ (Matt.8:23/Mk. 4:39/Lk 8:24)

……worthy is the lamb….may the  lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering‘.

Amen.”

[Isaiah and the Gospels speak into our lives. They suggest that rescue  will only come from the ‘serenity that results from Jesus’ intervention’ (Green 1997, p. 331).

This is ‘Jesus acting as God acts’…it is Jesus looking for my ‘faith to show itself in those circumstances’ (ibid 1997, p. 333), by gifting me with the patience and ability to forgive.

A faith that looks to His resurrection, as a signal fire that points me to Isaiah’s Yahweh, as the ‘wounding healer’ (Baer 2010). The one who dynamically responds in grace to my inconsistent gratitude.

‘God gives himself to sinners and sinners cannot escape that gracious decision…the sinner who refuses this election of grace resists that grace and is resisted by it…Humanity is not sheltered from God but exposed to him and bound to him as never before in a bond of forgiveness and reconciliation’
(Torrance, ‘Incarnation’ 2008 pp.110 &113)

References:

[i] ‘He predestined us for adoption as sons & daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph.1:5-7 ESV)

[ii] Green, Joel 1997 NICNT: The Gospel of Luke Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan

[iii]  Baer David, ‘Praying through Isaiah’ lecture notes October 2010, Tabor Adelaide

Knight The Wounded

June 22, 2017 — 2 Comments

Rose At Night

.

Find this level of emptiness.
Forgive my heart’s forgetfulness.

Engulf my worship of sadness.
Embrace this prayer, despite my often awkward reach.

Tear these broken words apart.
Reorder each, so that I may hear,
.             You, my adopted Father speak.

Then accept these groans as prayers without speech.
Grip grace like a vice around our fears
.              and take these shivering hands,

.               that for so many years,
.               were so often drenched in tears.
Enter our darkness, breach the brokenness,
Holy Spirit, teach.

Be the fight, deploy Your word
With one firm sound, crack the violence;
that each stand may be under Your standard.

That all focus will be brought to hear
.               the noise of battle cease.

Seize upon the ashes.
Rejoice at the sight of
minds drawn to fellowship from desolate lands;

.                hearts of substance,
.                because every broken ounce and splinter
.                has been gathered,
.                       and placed gently into Your hands.

Walk through the garden of faithlessness,
.                that Your light will pierce the dark, choices and the consequence.

Then mend the overgrown path,
.        tend to the request for forgiveness.

And as all actions of wounding significance
.        are humbly brought before Your grace.

Knight the wounded,
Raise up the contrite,

Breathe Your life into this place.


(RL2017)

‘Where the grace of God encounters us, where we are led, pulled and made to grow, there, the Bible becomes clear […] He is the redeemer of that sighing creature within us.’

– (Karl Barth, 1917. The New World In The Bible)

#inhaledgraceignites

 

With the start of the new school year we’ve been engineering the tone of homeschool for the rest of the year. So, my focus has been elsewhere. Which means, as far as blog content goes, posts are short and sweet.

Recently, I came across Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation on D-Day. One of THE defining military campaigns of the Second World War. (link to full text)

D-Day did more than symbolise a united stand against totalitarianism, it was a just act against blatant evil.

Hence the value of this document: it is both a humble prayer and political speech. Speculation is a cardinal sin for theologians, (or so I was taught), therefore I find myself holding back (with some difficulty) from thinking about how things would have gone if this act of contrition by the then American President had not happened. Looking at the paradigm of today’s political world, it is hard to imagine a prayer like this being deemed permissible.

For this reason: here is one the most powerful leaders in the free world submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no sentimentalism in it that I can see.This is not cultural Christianity parading the veneer of vaguely remembered Sunday School lessons in order to appeal to popular applause.

Underpinning this prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Excluding the word ‘crusade’, Roosevelt is inadvertently preempting the same considerations made by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1945:

‘Out of the humility of prayer grows the charity for comrade and foe. The recognition that we all stand under a more ultimate bar of judgement mitigates the fury of our self-righteousness and partly dissolves the wickedness of our dishonest pretensions…
We will therefore not be swollen by pride because others think well of us. We will remember that they do not know the secret of our hearts. Neither will we take their disapproval too seriously. The sense of a more ultimate judgement arms us with the courage to defy the false judgements of the community’ [i]

Both are impressive. Each make a unique contribution to how Jesus Christ, just judgement, Christian love and responsibility are valuable to an evangelical ethic that supports life and reaches out in truth. With the understanding that sometimes “no” is given in order to say “yes”; an ethical framework that every responsible parent knows well and practices daily.

Official & original:

With music and a video montage:

Repost: Originally posted 5th Feb, 2015


Updated 24th May 2017:
.
I’m seeing quite a bit of condemnation being thrown about regarding people offering their prayers for those lost and caught up in the tragedy in Manchester.

I’m in agreement with putting an end to sentimentalism and empty gestures like lightshows and hashtags. Prayer, however, shouldn’t be linked in with this.

There’s nothing wrong with prayer. At the end of the day, it all depends on who they’re directed towards and the motivation behind it. True prayer is preparation for action, not a substitute for it. Prayer is an act of true freedom.

When genuine, it rallies people in shared solidarity against arrogance, towards humility. It is a revolt against complacency, appeasement, disorder and gestures filled only with empty sentiment.

Underpinning F.D.R’s D-Day prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Ditch the sentimentalism and empty gestures, such as hashtags and lightshows. Don’t ditch prayer. For, ‘out of the humility of prayer..we will not be swollen by pride’ [ii] in right response to aggression.

‘Even the ”devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’
(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)

References:

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945 Discerning The Signs of The Times, Niebuhr Press Kindle. Ed.

[ii] ibid, 1945

Image: Mine. I cropped it using the first and last page of the transcript in order to draw attention to it.

.

Unlike greed, lies, abuse and false claims,

.           rain falls and doesn’t stain.

Lord, through grace,

as we call upon you in repentance,

teach us to grasp tenderness;

To build upon it a reflection

.          of your love and just benevolence.

.


(RL2017)

bell-spirit-motivationGetting from yawn to, “yes, we can!” isn’t an impossibility. Neither does it require a master’s degree in astrophysics or child psychology.

The overcoming of lag in the school day requires prayer, creativity and effort. Overcoming lag begins by looking at what is possible. It utilises possibility in order to break through the feeling that this period of ‘’yawning’’ is an unnavigable barrier.

With a compass built of prayer, creativity and effort; that which is impossible can points us towards that which is possible. Prayer leads us in humility out from a navigational bearing that keeps us dangerously over focused on ourselves, and our situation.

That new bearing directs our learning. It helps lead us out of an unproductive quagmire.

The parent-teacher who is creative and teachable will have little trouble with this tactical manoeuvre. The only downsides are the side effects of having been slowly caught up in the lag themselves.

With this lag comes a muggy swamp like feeling that is as embracing as fog.

We can end up feeling like we’re part of the scene in Rocky IV, where Rocky Balboa reflecting on how to respond to the loss of Apollo Creed, is met by Robert Tepper singing in the background,

…there’s no easy way out. There’s not short cut home.”

This may seem overly dramatic, but most teachers or Homeschool parents at some stage throughout the school year, would consider it a close analogy to how the lag-of-the-long-big-“yawn” can feel.

Teaching through this can also feel akin to the scene in The Neverending Story where Atreyu battles through the ‘Swamp of Sadness’. With The Nothing pursuing him, Atreyu loses his horse, Artax, and exhausted, almost gives up, tempted to succumb to the swamp himself.

Like Balboa’s prayer, renewed determination, effort and courage, that which was viewed as impossible once more becomes the possible. It may be that “…there’s no easy way out. There’s not short cut home,” but it doesn’t mean that getting from yawning, to “yes, we can!” is unachievable.

Like Atreyu, the brave who are aware of the swamp are ready to counter its effects. The compass of prayer, creativity and effort, along with the ability to discern the possible out of the impossible, finds a way through the fog.

Prayer should accompany creativity and effort because “to pray well is the better half of study”[i]

The act of prayer is an act of faith. Every sigh and every groan directed towards the ears of God lands on the heart of God.

As Friedrich Schleiermacher noted,

“Don’t listen to those who teach that, before you approach God, you must have your mind composed and your heart at peace; that it is unseemly to appear before Him in this agitated state, while the dread of pain and disappointment, the clinging to some good thing which you are on the point of losing, still tosses your heart to and fro, and leaves no room for submission to the Holy will of God. If you waited until submission had won the victory, you would feel neither the need nor the inclination for such a prayer, and the privilege of offering it would be useless to you […] such disquietude should not keep us back from God.[ii]

Paul in his own letter to the church in Rome made it clear that our sighs and groans aren’t wasted on God.

‘The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.’[iii]

In his famous letter to the Ephesians, when Paul calls on Christians with the metaphor, to put on the whole armour of God, he follows on with the instruction to also pray like breathing.[iv] Such is the importance of prayer in the conflict of everyday life.

We’re motivated towards Holy transformation, because the God who is Holy, graciously transforms our motivation.

When the Pharisees came to argue with Jesus, seeking proof of his divinity, Mark’s recount tells us that ‘Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit.’[v] This happened even after Jesus had multiplied bread and fish, to feed a large crowd.

These groans and deep sighs proclaim God’s permission to lean on Him. They proclaim God’s gracious move towards real humanity whereby humanity is empowered by God to learn from God. The acceptance of this life by the Spirit is the out working of His received grace. We have permission to believe; permission and strength to revolt against The Nothing; to walk through and rise above the fog.

Getting from “yawn” to, “yes, we can!” isn’t an impossibility. It might mean breaking routine. An earlier than planned library day or morning tea by the river.

It begins with out-of-the-box solutions grounded in the wisdom of God. It begins with creativity, effort and the ability to discern the possible even while being overshadowed by that which is viewed as impossible. It’s enabled by a counter-cultural determination to start with prayer and involve God in the decisions of the day.

It’s the existence of the possibilities unlocked by prayer, creativity and effort, that moves the schoolroom from “yawn”, to “yes, we can!”

This is practicing the art of dialectic. The hope produced by the existence of impossible possibilities. It is the homeschooler as Atreyu and Balboa. It is Paul writing from prison and it’s Schleiermacher refusing to surrender to the expectations of others.

‘The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your heads be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’

– (John 14:26-27)


Sources:

[i] Commonly attributed to Martin Luther

[ii] Schleiemacher, F. The Power of Prayer in Relation to Outward CircumstancesSelected Sermons (p. 41).

[iii] Romans 8:26, ESV

[iv] Ephesians 6:18, ESV

[v] Mark 8:11, ESV

milada-vigerova-prayer-unsplashPrayer books are too often under read. Where this applies in my own life is ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ and the ‘Moravian Liturgy/Hymnal’. I have both, yet rarely look at them. It’s something I’m attempting to remedy.

My reasons for not throwing myself into them includes a wariness of anything that might enable empty ritual, lifeless chanting or thoughtless routine. All three of which are in some way, shape or form negatively attached to liturgical call and response [order of service instructions], and scripted prayer.

Taking into account that the foundations of my own Christian journey, which begins in Catholic, and ends in reformed Pentecostal and Evangelical-Anglican Churches, I don’t see this aversion as a simple bias. Pentecostal worship tends to also lend itself to repetition. Plus, many a musically gifted Pentecostal brother and sister can turn two minutes worth of words and chords, into ten minutes of singing the same line over and over again.

I’m with lay preacher, A.W. Tozer, who said:

‘I cannot speak for you, but I want to be among those who worship. I do not want just to be part of some great ecclesiastical machine where the Pastor turns the crank and the machine runs […] Can true worship be engineered and manipulated? […]  Engineers do many a great things in their fields, but no mere human force or direction can work the mysteries of God among men. If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile. There will be no worship without the Spirit’ [i]

I don’t want to be part of a detached mechanical process where we try to push the superstitious buttons so as to get God to “show up.” Repetition in this sense, is not only pointless, it’s pagan. We cannot conjure up God as if we have some special power over Him. Though He chooses to receive even sighs as prayer, He is not at our beck and call. We cannot please Him by our performance at church any more than we can impress him by our church attendance records.

For starters, ‘to exist in the Church means to exist by and in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ […] to be in the Church is to believe’ (Barth, 1942:291) [ii]; Jesus: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20, ESV).

In other words: God is there and is willing to be there.

This means that there is a place for liturgy and scripted prayer, just as there is a place for that ten minute extension of a two-minute song.

There is a place for these. When the storm comes, the trained, not the charming, the most entertaining or talented, get the job done. When we’re left speechless, when our mind goes blank, reflexes kick in and that prayer we made an effort to learn by heart is recalled word for word. The repeated words of that worship song are remembered, bringing light into an otherwise dark moment.

The principle is simple. Repetition encourages talent. It sharpens skill. The untrained rescuer poses a danger to others as well as to themselves; the soldier, pilot or sailor acts on that training with great skill because over 90% of their time was dedicated to “boring” drills. The musician recalls notes with precision because of training that involved repetition.

Whilst I’m wary of liturgy and scripted prayer, I need to remind myself that the mechanisms which produce a “zombified” empty ritual, wrongly called worship, is not the full story.

The feasts of Israel, beginning with Passover, are designed to recall-with-precision God’s declaration and liberation of slaves from Egypt. This was to proclaim Good News, the news that recalls ‘God will be our God and we will be His people”. Christmas and Easter, in their purer forms, are repeated annually for much the same reasons. There is a richness in liturgy and scripted prayer that can be mined and utilised for the betterment of an embattled world.

moravian-prayer

If, in our just recoil away from empty repetition, we jettison liturgy and scripted prayer, we jettison its usefulness. If that happens we’re left the poorer for having done so.

 


Sources:

[i] Tozer, A.W 2009, Whatever Happened to Worship? Authentic Media (pp.11, 60-61)

[ii] Barth, K. 1942 The Passing & the Coming of Man, CD II/2 Hendrickson Publishers (p.291)

Image credit: Milada Vigerova Photography. ‘Prayer’ (Sourced from: Unsplash.com)