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Archive for the ‘God’s Intimacy’ Category

How a Heavy Heart Gives Thanks

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

We are, for the most part, troubled people.

We are troubled within, and troubled without. We are troubled in our bodies, and in our families. We are troubled in our workplaces, and in our churches. We are troubled in our neighborhoods, and across our nation.

We welcome trouble with our sin, but we are plagued by trouble even in our best efforts. Job’s friend, Eliphaz, while not the best counselor, got it right when he said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).

“Jesus’s thankfulness to the Father as he went to the cross expressed like nothing else his trust in the Father.”

Therefore, we, for the most part, are burdened people, because troubled hearts carry heavy burdens with them.

And in the midst of all our nearly constant and complex trouble, Jesus says to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). And Paul, who knew more constant and complex trouble than most of us will know, says to us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

How are these commands possible? Most of what troubles us springs from moral, spiritual, or natural evil and corruption — and yet we’re to give thanks?

Heaviest Heart in History

No one in the history of the world was burdened in his soul like Jesus on Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

No one — no grieving spouse in a solitary house, no weeping parent beside a child’s grave, no heart shattered by a love betrayed, no wordless ache for a wandering prodigal, no desolate soul staring at a terminal test result, no felon in an isolated cell of relentless shame knows the burden that pressed upon Jesus as he walked up the stairs to share the final meal of his mortal life on this earth.

It was the Passover, and Jesus was the Lamb. Like the ancient Father Abraham leading his trusting son up the slope of Mount Moriah, the Ancient of Days was leading his trusting Son of Man to a sacrificial altar (Genesis 22; Daniel 7:13). But unlike Isaac, the Son of Man fully knew what lay in store and he went willingly. He knew no angel would stay his Father’s hand; no substitute lamb would be provided. He was the substitute Lamb. And his Father was leading him to slaughter where he would be crushed and put to grief (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

“If we trust God in the worst, darkest, most horrible troubles we face, he will make us more than conquerors.”

And oh, what grief and sorrow he bore (Isaiah 53:3)! Jesus fully knew the price he must pay to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). He knew the nature, scope, and weight of his Father’s righteous wrath. “Crushed” was not a metaphor; it was a spiritual reality. The Son of Man (John 3:14), God the Son (Hebrews 1:1–3), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the great I Am (John 8:58), the Lord himself (Philippians 2:11), who came into the world for this very moment, would plead in bloody terror for the Father’s deliverance before the end (John 12:27; Matthew 26:39).

Broken and Thankful

His burdens in body and soul would exceed every humanly conceivable measure. He would be despised and rejected by those in heaven and earth and under the earth. Yet he took bread — bread representing the breakable body holding it — and gave thanks and he broke it (Luke 22:19). With an incomparably heavy heart, the anticipated horror relentlessly pressing in on all sides of his consciousness, Jesus gave thanks to his Father — the very Father leading him into the deepest valley ever experienced by a human — and then he broke the bread.

We should not quickly or lightly overlook Jesus’s gratitude because he’s Jesus, as if knowing it was going to be all right in the end made it any easier. He was thankful because he did believe it would be all right (Hebrews 12:2). But we know little of the agony he felt or the spiritual assault he endured. What we do know is that he “in every respect [was] tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So, in our difficulty to see past our troubles to the joy God promises us, we get an inkling of the infinitely greater difficulty he faced.

Learn from His Heavy Heart

When Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled, and to give thanks in all circumstances, we can know that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15), and that he has left us an example, so that we might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).

“Every troubled tear we shed in this life is kept and counted by God, and one day he will wipe away every single one.”

What is this example? In the face of unquantifiable, inexpressible evil — the worst trouble that has ever tortured a human soul — Jesus believed in God the Father’s promise that his work on the cross would overcome the worst, hellish evil in the world (John 3:16–17). He believed that “out of the anguish of his soul” he would “see his offspring” and “prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:10–11). He believed that if he humbled himself under God’s mighty hand, his Father would exalt him at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6), and that every knee would bow and tongue confess that he was Lord to the glory of his Father (Philippians 2:11).

It was that future grace of joy set before Jesus that enabled him to endure the cross, and to give thanks as he was being brought there to be crucified. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith because he believed the Father’s promise was surer than the doom that lay before him (Hebrews 12:2). His giving thanks was a supreme form of worship, for it expressed like nothing else his trust in the Father.

We Can Give Thanks

Therefore, Jesus is able to say to us in our trouble, “Believe in God; believe also in me” and, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:1; 16:33). We who believe in him have every reason to “be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). For an empty cross and empty tomb speak this to us:

  • In all our trouble, God makes known the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
  • He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
  • He will complete the good work he began in us despite how things look now (Philippians 1:6).
  • If we trust the Father in the worst, darkest, most horrible troubles we face, he will make us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37–39).
  • Every troubled tear we shed over the effects of the fall are kept in God’s bottle (Psalm 56:8) and will be wiped away forever (Revelation 21:4).

It is possible to give thanks with heavy hearts in the midst of trouble. Trusting the Father by looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), and remembering every promise is now “Yes” to us in him (2 Corinthians 1:20), will lighten our burden (Matthew 11:30). It will pour hope and joy into our hurting hearts, giving rise to faith-fueled, worshipful thanksgiving.

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Will I Be Single Forever?

SOURCE:  Stephen Witmer/Desiring God

I was single all through my twenties, and I enjoyed it a lot of the time. When I wanted a particular food for dinner, I ate it. When I wanted to take a week to hike a one-hundred-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it. When I felt called to pursue graduate work in another country, I went. And there were other, less selfish benefits, including more time and energy for building deep friendships and fruitful ministry.

But, all in all, I found singleness pretty tough. There were seasons of terrible loneliness when I wondered if God would ever give me a lifelong companion. At times I was like a severed powerline, the voltage of unfulfilled longing causing me to thrash about in ways that hurt others. I was sometimes jealous of married friends. I did not always navigate singleness with grace, poise, deep faith, and steadfast joy. Instead, I blundered between enjoyment and regret, happiness and longing, purity and sin.

I wish someone had helped me understand, and then live, my singleness in the light of eternity. I think it would have helped me to enjoy a godlier, more productive, more contented life during those years.

A Stable Ground for Soaring Hope

Eternity changes everything, including our singleness. By “eternity” I mean the future new creation God describes in the Bible. This is a future beyond our wildest imaginings and most fervent hopes. It’s this present world renewed, restored, and remade into a perfect place with no more sin, suffering, brokenness, tears, pain, or death.

The new creation will be far better even than the original Eden, because 1) Jesus will be physically present there (Revelation 22:1) and 2) it will last forever, with its inhabitants never falling into sin — unlike Adam and Eve. In other words, the world’s perfect future will be better than its perfect past. Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

We’re imperfect people living in an imperfect world, but this perfect future becomes our future when we’re united to a perfect Savior through faith. We can then be completely assured that this future is ours. In the Bible, that firm assurance is called “hope.”

Christian hope is the confidence that an amazingly good future is securely ours, and this hope changes the way we view our present. It strengthens and equips us in every life situation, including singleness. It heightens our restlessness for the new creation, and that restlessness makes us more content.

To Grow More Content, Get More Restless

One of the feelings I often experienced as a single person was lack of contentment. Even some of my most enjoyable adventures and sweetest experiences were shot through with a longing to share them with someone else.

A robust longing for eternity helps us with our discontentment by increasing our restlessness. That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. The apostle Paul was a tremendously restless person, one who said he strained forward and yearned for God’s final future (Philippians 3:13–14). And yet he also said that he had learned the secret of contentment in any circumstance (Philippians 4:12). The two are intimately related after all.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

Your Marital Status in Heaven

The problem with this way of living is that it leads to perpetual discontentment. If God gives us a better job but we’re still seeing our job as bigger, more important, and more meaningful than the new creation, we’ll either sacrifice everything to excel at it, or be destroyed if we lose it.

If we’re single and all we can see is our longing for a spouse rather than eternity with Christ, we’ll load down a God-sent spouse with the crushing weight of needy expectation, or become a resentful or cynical or broken-hearted single. A discontented single person will become a discontented spouse and then a discontented parent . . . until eternity breaks in and moves to the center.

God is more concerned with a change in our perspective than a change in our marital status. If eternity is at the center, and a husband or wife or child fails us — or if we don’t have the husband, wife, or children we’re longing for — it will be painful but we’ll be okay, because we know a perfect eternity is still ours. There’s ballast in our boat, and it will hold us steady through the disappointments, missed opportunities, and tragedies of this life.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

Perhaps if you’re a single person, your identity as a “single” has moved to the center of how you think about yourself. But it appears from Jesus’s teaching that in eternity we’ll all be single. There won’t be marriage in the new creation. What will define us forever will not be our marital status, but our enjoyment of the perfect presence of Christ.

That means a single person who loves Jesus is much more like a married person who loves Jesus than like a single person who doesn’t know him. We’ll know Jesus forever and be loved by him for eternity. This is way more central to our identity than our marital status. Don’t think of yourself as unwanted by any prospective spouses. Know yourself as loved forever by Jesus.

It’s likely that for many (not all) singles, there will be moments and seasons of loneliness and longing — times when it feels awkward to be the only single person at the table or the party. That was certainly my experience. But knowing our God and his final future for us plus knowing ourselves in light of that future can produce a profound contentment in our present.

Anxiety: UNDER PRESSURE

SOURCE: Cameron Lawrence/InTouch Ministries

We might be people of faith, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to anxiety.

It’s a weekday morning, and the coffee shop fills quickly, a line snaking around tables from the counter to the door. The machines answer back to their handlers—hissing steam, grinding beans—in a kind of waking song. I watch patrons sip from the day’s first cup, souls once again easing into their bodies.

And yet, I am drinking decaf—an unpardonable sin, I realize—just as I have for a decade. Not as a demonstration of dietary conviction or some obscure religious observance, but because of how years ago caffeine became a destructive force in my life. No, let me try again: I gave up caffeine because it revealed a destructive force already latent within me—a propensity toward anxiety of the sort that overtakes the mind.

It started in the weeks leading up to my wedding and then intensified after the honeymoon. Beneath my usual calm demeanor, irrational thoughts were inexplicably taking over my interior life. It was as if I had been walking through the familiar landscape of my existence, when suddenly I discovered a solitary door in the middle of an open field. I walked through, and at first nothing seemed different. But then I sensed them—specters creeping among the tall grasses, rustling the high branches. The world of my mind had become populated with shadows of my hidden fears. I looked for an exit, but the door had disappeared.

I prayed. I read the Bible. I went to church and talked with my pastors. Still, the anxiety persisted, affecting my work, relationships, and faith in God.

After several months of this, my wife had an idea. “Why not try giving up caffeine?” I’d been drinking a lot of coffee, and it hadn’t occurred to me that the daily intake might be exacerbating my condition. As a solution, it seemed too simple, too small to matter. But what did I have to lose?

I cut out caffeine, and within a week something was different. My mind was becoming clearer. After two weeks, thought patterns that had possessed me were weakening. In a few months, I felt more myself than I had in a long, long time. Since then, I can’t say I’ve ever been quite the same, having by grace passed through terror and found what I didn’t know lived in me. In truth, it lives in me still, even if not in the same ways. I feel anxiety flare up from time to time, trying to intrude. Trying to push me out of my own life. And what I’ve learned is that I’m not alone.

Just the other day, I was having dinner with a friend, when he confessed that he’d been suffering from panic attacks. Work had been tough—tougher than ever—but the anxiety he was experiencing transcended typical job stress. This easy-going, happy guy had found himself crippled by fear that had come with a suddenness and severity that left him sobbing in the morning’s wee hours. Medication has been helping, but the fear is still there, lurking. And a few months ago, I was on a retreat with some fellow writers, only to discover that due to all manner of hardships, several of the group were taking pills of their own.

No, this isn’t about coffee. This isn’t about caffeine or whether I think you should consume it. This is about the simultaneous strength and fragility of the human mind, and how powerful it is in shaping our lives for better or worse. This is about the problem of anxiety we each face in our own way. This is a conversation about faith.

Yet I hesitate to write that last line, because far too many Christians have abused their brothers and sisters struggling with anxiety. “Just have more faith,” people say, not comprehending the complexity of fear. Faith is more than the mental assent to a tidy system of beliefs. It requires more than a list of affirmations we repeat to ourselves, as if mantras can overcome our deepest existential crises. These fears, these anxieties, often lurk beneath the veneers of our theological systems and churchly behavior. We can’t always identify them, but they’re shaping our lives, guiding our reactions and decisions, whether we realize it or not.

Faith is an encounter—sometimes with a presence, and sometimes with an absence. Underneath all our apprehensions is one fundamental fear: that there is no God, or that if there is one, He isn’t good—despite our biblical training or the inspiring testimonies we’ve heard. Despite our own mysterious experiences, even if intermittent, of Love Himself. Deep down, we are often still afraid. So what to do?

Praying, reading Scripture, confessing sin, attending services, speaking with professionals—and yes, even taking medication—can all be redemptive. And we should submit ourselves to wise counsel, whether pastoral or medical. But in the end, the ultimate solution must be an encounter with God Himself, an ongoing communion we struggle toward—not through works that any man should boast, but through a humble, repentant heart.

This is how we open our hearts and minds to Him: We call out from within our desperation, and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and wait for Him, who in due time will come shining in—liberating our plains and forests, rivers and oceans, of every haunting ghost.

The Savior’s Tears Shed for Yours

SOURCE:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

Once during morning devotions, I asked my children, “What are some verses in the Bible that give you hope?”

One of them squirmed, “I don’t know . . . ” Then a silly grin spread across his face. “Wait,” he said. “Jesus wept.”

“You are right,” I said. He was surprised. The shortest verse in all of Scripture — just two words, eleven characters — does give us great hope.

Jesus Wept

Jesus’s good friend Lazarus has died (John 11:14). Before his death, Jesus received word that Lazarus was seriously ill. Then he delayed going for two days. When he finally arrived, Lazarus’s sister Martha came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21–22).

Then Mary came to him and said the same thing. John writes, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept” (John 11:33–35).

Jesus delayed his journey on purpose. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:15). So why did he cry?

A Savior Affected by Our Grief

John Calvin says this about John 11:

[Jesus] gives proof that he has sympathy. For the cause of this feeling is, in my opinion, expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Christ saw Mary and the rest weeping yet I have no doubt that Christ contemplated something higher, namely, the general misery of the whole human race; for he knew well what had been enjoined on him by the Father, and why he was sent into the world, namely, to free us from all evils.

As he has actually done this, so he intended to show that he accomplished it with warmth and earnestness. Accordingly, when he is about to raise Lazarus, before granting deliverance or aid, by the groaning of his spirit, by a strong feeling of grief, and by tears, he shows that he is as much affected by our distresses as if he had endured them in his own person. (Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries)

John 11 isn’t the only passage that tells us about Jesus’s tears. Isaiah describes the Messiah as a man of sorrows: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Hebrews tells us, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). In Matthew, Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).

He Will Wipe Away Every Tear

The fact that Jesus wept means that our Savior knows and understands our grief. He experienced the agony of this dark world firsthand. He was rejected, abused, abandoned, mocked, cursed, tempted, and scorned. As Hebrews 2:18 tells us, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Our Lord is also compassionate toward us. He cares about our sorrow. He hears our cries and listens to us when we call out to him (Psalm 116:1). He keeps track of all our tears: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8).

Because Jesus was perfect, the expressions of his grief — his tears — were also perfect. Our emotions bear the curse of sin but his did not. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And because Jesus’s perfect righteousness has now been credited to us, his perfect sorrows have become ours as well. Jesus’s sinless sorrows are redeeming even our sorrows.

In the story of Lazarus, we see a God who not only cares about the sorrows of his people, but a God who is also able to resurrect joy from the grave of despair — to bring life from death. The story of Lazarus points to the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection and ultimately to the final resurrection when all our tears will be wiped away forever. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

“Jesus wept.” These two words, though brief, are filled with great hope. Because Jesus wept, we know he understands and cares about our tears. Because Jesus wept, his perfect, sinless tears have become our own. And because Jesus wept, we have hope that one day, our tears will be no more.

Failure: This is not the time to give up and run from God

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dan Strickland

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14 NLT

Many people begin the Christian life with excitement, expecting that everything will be different immediately! They think that they will not have any desire to walk in the negative patterns they used to enjoy … but that is just not the way it works.

Becoming a Christian means you are forgiven—not perfect.

Receiving Jesus is not a “quick fix” for old habits and their consequences. Change takes time, and we can’t rely on ourselves to make these changes. If we try to transform ourselves, we will always be disappointed. Transformation can only take place as we build our relationship with God by spending quality time with him praying and studying the Bible.

Are you a new Christian and still struggling with old habits and their consequences? Or maybe you have been a Christian a long time but things from your past seem to be pressing in on you.

Perhaps you have tried and tried to overcome, but nothing seems to work. You might feel like a failure. You’ve let yourself, others and God down time and time again

This is not the time to give up and run from God, ashamed and embarrassed.

Instead, run to him.

Ask for his forgiveness and his help. Follow the apostle Paul’s example. He knew he hadn’t achieved perfection, but he put the past behind and pressed on—focusing on becoming and doing all God had called him to. Learn from your past, leave it behind … and press on.

Father, I thank you for continuing to love me, even when I let you down. Forgive me for all those times. Help me to learn from past mistakes, but not to dwell on them. Help me to look ahead and to press on to become all you have designed me to be and to accomplish the purpose of my journey. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

Is Trauma Terminal?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Matthew 11:28–30

The definition reflects devastation:

Trauma: An injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent . . . a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress.

Like potatoes in a pressure cooker, we twenty-first century creatures understand the meaning of stress.

A week doesn’t pass without a few skirmishes with those “extrinsic agents” that beat upon our fragile frames. They may be as mild as making lunches for our kids before 7:30 in the morning (mild?) or as severe as a collision with another car . . . or another person.

Makes no difference.

The result is “trauma”—a two-bit word for nervous. You know, the bottom-line reason Valium remains a top seller. Our emotional wounds are often deep. They don’t hemorrhage like a stabbing victim’s, but they are just as real and just as painful . . . sometimes more.

Years ago, a stress test carried on by Dr. Thomas Holmes and his colleagues concluded that an accumulation of two hundred or more “life change units” in any year may mean more disruption—more trauma—than an individual can stand. On their scale, death of a spouse equals one hundred units, divorce represents seventy-three units . . . and Christmas equals twelve units! That helps explain the idea behind “something snapping” inside certain people when the final straw falls on them. Our capacity for trauma has its limits.

Joseph Bayly could certainly understand. He and his wife lost three of their children—one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident plus hemophilia). In my wildest imagination, I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. In the backwash of such deep trauma, the Bayly couple stood sometimes strong, sometimes weak, as they watched God place a period before the end of the sentence on three of their children’s lives. And their anguish was not relieved when well-meaning people offered shallow, simple answers amidst their grief.

Eyes that read these words might very well be near tears. You are trying to cope without hope. You are stretched dangerously close to the “200-unit” limit . . . and there’s no relief on the horizon. You’re bleeding and you’ve run out of bandages. You have moved from mild tension to advanced trauma.

Be careful! You are in the danger zone, emotionally. You’re a sitting duck, and the adversary is taking aim with both barrels loaded, hoping to open fire while you are vulnerable. Bam! “Run!” Boom! “Think suicide.”

Listen carefully! Jesus Christ opens the gate, gently looks at you and says:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28–30 MSG)

Nothing complicated. No big fanfare, no trip to Mecca, no hypnotic trance, no fee, no special password. Just come. Meaning? Unload. Unhook the pack and drop it in His lap . . . now. Allow Him to take your stress as you take His rest. Does He know what trauma is all about? Remember, He’s the One whose sweat became like drops of blood in the agony of Gethsemane. If anybody understands trauma, He does. Completely.

His provision is profound, attainable, and right. He’s a master at turning devastation into restoration.

Look again at His invitation in Matthew 11:28–30, and accept it with all your heart.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

Be Yourself in Prayer

SOURCE:  Desiring God/Stephen Miller

Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.

I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.

You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.

1. Slow Down and Be Okay with Silence

There is no need to use filler language to take up every ounce of space in prayer, as if the Lord can’t handle the silence or doesn’t have time to listen. You don’t have to speed through like an auctioneer. I can’t imagine how I would react if someone came up to talk to me like, “Stephen Miller, just… just Stephen, we should just go to lunch together, Stephen Miller. Just let’s just go grab… just a burger, Stephen. Stephen, I know you like a good burger from time to time, Stephen Miller. Stephen, just then we could just grab a frozen custard, Stephen Miller.” I know that I am not God, but in my flesh, I might be too weirded out to get a burger with that guy. If we would naturally react to someone talking to us that way, why do we feel the need to speak that way to God? He knows our hearts. Slow down. Be okay with pauses. Perhaps God wants to speak to you in the silence.

2. Pray to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

God is Trinity. One God, three distinct persons, each person fully God. It is truly a great mystery, and I don’t know that we will ever understand it this side of Heaven. Yet each person within the Trinity is distinct. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit. We rightly relate to God as a Trinity, adoring and thanking and pleading with Father, Son, and Spirit in our prayers. Yet while doing this, it can be easy to get confused and begin to thank the Father for dying on the cross and so on and so forth.

While God knows what we mean and sees past our broken prayers, this has got to confuse people who are listening to our prayers, trying to pray along in agreement. When you pray, consider the person of the Trinity to whom you are praying. The Father sends the Son to be the Savior of the world. The Son came obediently, died in our place, rose from the dead, then sent his Spirit to convict of sin, to convince of truth, and to equip and empower us. So as we pray, pray with that in mind.

3. Use Normal Language

My great Grandpa was a firm believer that the only inspired word of Scripture was the King James Version. When he quoted scripture (and he could quote most of the Bible I think), it was always KJV. While he was one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life, it was odd to me when he began to pray out loud, because he prayed in old English. “Our Gracious Heavenly Father, Thou hast bestowed upon us this bountiful feast and the glory belongest to Thou and Thou alone. Wouldst Thou blesseth this meal by Thine own good pleasure…” Then, once he said amen, he would resume speaking in modern language. When you pray, there is no need to speak like someone from a bygone era in order to sound more spiritual or reverent. Use normal language, and pray like yourself.

4. Use Your Normal Voice

We have all heard the hyped-up emotional vocal inflections of a man trying to sell a prayer the way a voice-over actor sells a product. He may talk like Ron Burgundy in real life, but as soon as he begins praying, his voice takes on a reflective Enrique Iglesias whisper that sounds a bit like being on the verge of tears while trying to woo someone into making an emotional decision. We should pray with all of our emotions and affections, but it must be sincere and authentic. If you’re moved, be moved, but be real about it. No need to alter your voice or manufacture emotion. God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.

5. Keep It Short and Simple

Our prayers can be simple and still faith-filled. I often say that God can use a three-minute worship song as much as a nine-minute worship song. The same is true of prayer. God won’t hear us any more because of our long-windedness. Prayer isn’t a love bank where many words equal a more substantive deposit. Our prayers don’t have to be long or eloquent. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them a short prayer that exemplified the vertical (glorifying God) and the horizontal (edifying others) aspects of prayer. When praying with others, aim to build them up with short, thoughtful prayers, and if you feel the need to pray longer, go to God “in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

It’s never too late to be yourself. God is looking for a relationship with us, not whomever it is that we are trying to act like when we come to him. Prayer starts with our adoption in Christ. That’s why Jesus taught us to begin with God as “Our Father.” There is an intimate reverence there — a humble familiarity.

Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.

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