Wird Geladen

Lessons from my own bible study

Archive for the tag “prayer”

“I Have Crossed The Jordan With Only This Stick”

Jacob prayed: Oh God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant. For with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.
                                                                                                        Genesis 32:9 & 10

25-second context: Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, took advantage of him for 20 years of indentured servitude. In that time Jacob amassed vast wealth and a huge household. After getting tired of being scammed he fled with his wives, 11 children, slaves, cohorts, and vast herds back to Canaan.

This is my new favorite verse of the Bible! An encouraging prayer for the power of God even when we are unable or unwilling to accept it. He is in power, not we. And isn’t that a comforting thought; that we should reap the benefits of His goodness, steadfastness, wisdom, and love even though we don’t think we ought to.

Jacob’s feeling of unworthiness didn’t come from sin, or lacking righteousness. He’s talking about the feelings of inadequacy, doubt, unworthiness that come from being limited by our own lack of skill. I don’t deserve these blessings because I am not wise enough, smart enough, skilled enough, hard-working enough, nice enough, liked enough to go out and get them on my own. I don’t deserve these blessings because they don’t represent the achievements I’m capable of. I don’t deserve these blessings because I’m literally not good enough at life to earn them.

By myself all I have is this one stick. By your love alone, Oh Lord, it has become two companies of men!

We have a God who does not operate on the do-earn basis. He pays wages to his laborers based on the faith and love with which they do their work. Sometimes I think that God can see love the way moths see ultraviolet light. We have a God who happily gives out the prizes of our hearts based purely on His love for us, and the joy He expects us to get from it, and the trust that we will put our gifts to good use and do them justice.

Jacob was clearly not a savvy business man! He got cheated by his boss for over 20 years. But God saw that Jacob’s heart yearned to lead wisdom into control, and to feel his power gifted into his whole company. He took care of Jacob, knowing that his desire for such things came not for his own benefit but from their desire to see God worshiped.

Take heart! Go out into the world with just your stick in your hand! Do whatever it is that comes to you with all love and faith in God. Work hard and always let your life glorify God. If you do this, God will turn your stick into two enormous companies of men!

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Mealtime Prayer

Praying before we eat is one of the simplest ways I can think of for getting God into the center of our lives.

It waters our relationship with God

Paul is referring to the Corinthians’ failure to pray before eating when he says:

For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Paul1 Corinthians 11:30

He implies that praying before every meal builds us up and makes us strong, both in faith and life.  Just as food is central to our lives, culture, and survival, so is the prayer that comes before it.  If we let God bless our food, we let Him also bless our lives, culture, and survival.

Mealtime prayer is an act of worship

Food sits before us, our appetite tells us to eat, eat, eat!  By sacrificing these impulses for just a few seconds to consider God and thank Him for his goodness, we affirm that we choose God first (I wrote earlier that we worship whatever we sacrifice to).  Mealtime prayer is an exercise of obedience through which we display our love and appreciation for Him who loves and appreciates us.

Meals offer us built-in check points with God throughout our day

Praying before each meal is the perfect opportunity to align ourselves with God’s peace, joy, and love.  Three times a day, they’re an opportunity/reminder to thank Him for our blessings, as well as invite Him into our hearts.  Through mealtime prayers we can celebrate God’s gift to us in short, positive bursts.

(I’d like to add here that a few weeks ago I put an alarm in my phone to ring at 3:00 every day- when it goes off and I stop whatever I’m doing and just say a short thanksgiving for letting me be where I am, doing what I’m doing, safe and sound.  I call it “Hour of Prayer”, and it has really be uplifting for me, so I recommend it to my readers as well!)

We must understand that sacrificing a few seconds before each meal is only going to be done, and thankful prayers only going to be prayed, if we truly delight in God’s warmth.  Thus mealtime prayer also allows us to constantly consider where our hearts lie.

“Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup.”
  Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:28

Is God important enough to my heart that He comes before food?  Am I fully aware of the wonderful miracles Jesus has wrought in my life that brought me to this table here and now?  Do I understand what those miracles mean for me eternally?  Do I care?  Asking ourselves these questions three times a day will certainly yield answers, and quickly too.

Mealtime prayer nourishes our relationship with God.  We worship Him by sacrificing the time.  We remind ourselves what good things He’s done for us over the course of the day.  We consider our position in Him.  These three acts together bring us out of ourselves and focus our minds on God instead- both in the long and short term.  When we pray before we eat, we scoot closer to God in ten-second bursts.  It’s a powerful habit that will very quickly put Him at the center of our lives.

Tip #3- Make a point to pray before every meal, giving thanks to Jesus for His gift of freedom to us, and assuring God that we want Him to be at the center of our lives. 

The problem I have with all of this is that I can never remember to actually do it!  Praying before I eat is not a habit of mine yet, so I always end up sitting there after I’m finished thinking “Oh man, I should have prayed first!  I’ll get it next time.”  How do you remember to pray before meals?  What kinds of tips can you offer other readers to improve their (and my!) consistency in mealtime prayer?  Your comments will add huge value to this series!

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This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring God to the center of our lives.  You can read the previous two posts:  Worshiping God By Worshiping Our BodiesWe Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To, as well as the project directive.  Stay tuned for the next installment, and please comment, like, and share!

Sitting On Top Of The Train

Last Friday, after months and months of ardent prayer, God gave me something I have been asking for.  I always said to Him “I’m ready, Dad.  What are you waiting for?”  Once it was in my hand, unfortunately, the thing brought me no joy because I found I had no idea what to do with it.  Has that ever happened to you?  In a quandary over what to do with this fish that had jumped into my boat I sat down in quiet and asked God for guidance.  Now I’m all for providence and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and whatever, but the thing that happened next was so blatant, so incredulously “convenient” that I’m truly hard pressed to think it was God’s invisible hand, and not just a funny little coincidence.  I sat down and asked God for an answer and a voice in my head said “pick up your Bible.”  So I did.  Then it said “Turn to Lamentations.”  Never read Lamentations in my life.  I opened my Bible, wondering where Lamentations might even be, and immediately found myself right in the middle of it.  There on the page I had randomly turned to was a highlighted section, literally glowing out yellow; waiting.  Here’s what it said:

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.

To the soul that seeks Him.

I read it again with a particular emphasis:

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.

To the soul that seeks Him.

Seek HIM.  Wait for HIM.  Right then and there I knew I had prayed for the wrong thing.  I had been asking for a piece of the world thinking it would satisfy me, but my time would have been better spent just asking for God.  This answered prayer is nothing.  As with anything of this world it is absolutely nothing that I should to concern my mind with.  Rather I ought to always and only seek God.  What will come of that is right action in all Earthly matters.  That’s huge!  That concept touches every aspect of my life!  It nullifies all concerns, needs, worries, requests.  “The Lord is good to those who wait for HIM.”  Not “to those who wait for Him…to give them what they’re asking for.”  It’s nothing to do with patience.  God is the reward, and if you seek only God- and see that everything else is nothingness- then you begin to operate alongside God, and your waiting becomes less of a chore, and more of a prep-time.  I had been seeking this blessing instead of seeking God, and as a result I had to turn around and go back in order to catch up with my Lord.  (Apparently He had sat down in Lamentations to wait for me.)  Waiting on HIM has nothing to do with patience, it means recognizing that God is the true source, the true power, the true good, from which all flows.  Seeking HIM means praying for more God in your life, not more stuff.  That’s streamlined prayer.  I prayed to God for a thing, got it, and all it did was circle me back round to God.

At a time in my life when everything is up in the air, the urge to obsess over plans and success is maddening.  After reading this passage I got the idea that anytime I start to turn an idea over and over in my head- to focus on a thing or an outcome I want- I will stop myself and think about God instead.  This has proven to be much harder in practice than in theory (damn near impossible, actually).  The mental image I get is of sitting on top of a train rolling through a beautiful valley.  I see the green hills rolling past and the brown mountain ledges moving aside as we chug forward.   This pacifies me because it makes me see how much easier it is to keep up with the train if I’m on top of it instead of running along beside it.  In time the exercise will begin to align my mind with God’s, and since every external situation is simply a manifestation of the mind, my life will necessarily follow God’s path and no longer my own.  I will be allowing Him to lead, waiting on Him, instead of charging ahead and start-stopping.   That just seems easier to me, and if I can master the technique I see enormous ROI potential.

God answered my prayer, but then told me straight up that it is worthless and not important.  I should not get distracted by the good thing he gave me and forget where it came from.  If someone invites you to dinner you don’t stop paying attention to them the moment the food comes; the food is not why you two are eating together.  Everything is nothing.  Everything but God.  Even the things he gives us in answer to our prayers.

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