Sunday, March 12, 2017

Article: The Prayer Jesus Taught Us


The Prayer Jesus Taught Us by Victor Hoagland, C.P., based on the New Catholic Catechism 2759-2865 (source link here)

"Teach us how to pray," the disciples said to Jesus. (Luke 11, 1) He answered by teaching them the prayer we call the Our Father or The Lord's Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer is a basic Christian prayer. As a model of prayer, every Christian learns it by heart. It appears everywhere in the church's life: in its liturgy and sacraments, in public and private prayer. It 's a prayer Christians treasure.

Though we memorize it as a set formula, the Lord's Prayer shouldn't be repeated mechanically or without thought. Its purpose is to awaken and stimulate our faith. Through this prayer Jesus invites us to approach God as Father. Indeed, the Lord's Prayer has been called a summary of the gospel.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.

God and MosesWhen Moses approached God on Mount Sinai, he heard a voice saying, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." An infinite chasm separates us from the transcendent God.

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus invites us to draw near to God who is beyond human understanding, who dwells in mystery, who is all holy. We can call God "our Father".

Calling God "Father" does not mean that God is masculine. God is beyond the categories of gender, of masculine or feminine. None of our descriptions of God is adequate. God, who is "in heaven", whose name is holy, cannot be fully known by us.

By calling God "Father" we are more rightly describing ourselves and our relationship with God. Jesus teaches that we have a filial relationship with God; God sees us as if we were a daughter or a son. And we, on our part, can approach God in the familiar confident way a child approaches a loving parent. What is more, we approach God through God's only Son, Jesus Christ, who unites us to himself .

Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

God's kingdom. Jesus often said that God's power would appear and renew all creation. God like a mighty king would rule over the earth according to a plan that unfolds from the beginning of the world. God's kingdom would be marked by peace and justice. Good would be rewarded and evil punished. The kingdom, according to Jesus, is not far off, but already present in our midst, though not yet revealed.

In the Lord's prayer we pray that God's kingdom come, that God's will, which is for our good, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

We are God's children. What can be more childlike than this petition in which we pray for our daily bread, a word that describes all those physical, human and spiritual gifts we need to live. With the confidence of children we say: "Give us this day what we need."

Forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This petition of the Lord's Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God's forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God's forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. Forgiving others is not always easy to do. We need God's help to do it. But it must be done or we ourselves cannot receive God's mercy.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Life is not easy. It is a daily battle. Trials like sickness and failure can crush our spirits. False values and easy promises can entice us and even destroy our souls. And so we ask God to keep us from failing when we are tested, to help us to know the right thing to do, to deliver us from the evil which awaits us in life.

The Lord's Prayer sums up the teaching of Jesus. It is also a prayer that offers the grace of Jesus: his reverence for God, his childlike confidence in his Father, and his power to go bravely through life no matter what comes. When we pray his prayer, his spirit becomes our own.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

St. Jude Thaddeus by Georges de La Tour


It is important to see how art is applied to religious or historical icons. The perspectives of artists tells us much about how these figures are viewed in and over time. Last week, I presented a painting of St. Jude by Sir Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish Baroque artist.

This week, I present a painting of the saint by Georges de La Tour (1593–1652), a painter who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which became part of France the year before his death. He painted mostly religious scenes lit by candlelight, and after centuries of posthumous obscurity became one of the most highly regarded of French 17th century artists in the 20th century.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Blog Post: When You Can't Pray


From Striving for 31 by Amber (source link here).

Romans 8:26-27
"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will."

Have you ever been to the point where you just couldn't pray anymore? Have you tried a million times to petition the Father, only to feel your mind floating into paralysis as no words seem adequate?

I'm there.

A few weeks ago, a precious friend of mine told me she was in that place. She said, "I just can't pray anymore. I can pray for others, but not for myself."

Despite her inability to verbalize her heart, God saw her. And He answered her in a marvelous way this very day. Praise God!

I think God allowed me to stand witness to her journey to encourage me out of my own pit. I have reached the point where I can't seem to pray. Don't get me wrong... I try... a lot. I start to pray. Sometimes I get words out. Sometimes I make sense in my prayers. But most of the time, the darkness and confusion just chokes the words right out of my mouth. Girls, I've gotta confess... I'm in a pit.

I'm not depressed. I'm not having a nervous breakdown. I'm just walking through a spiritual wilderness. Nothing seems certain and I feel very alone. Satan has worked overtime around here and I'm struggling to get through it.

Why do I share this? I want to ask you to pray when I can't. Many of you are pastor's wives and you know the struggle I'm speaking of. The out-of-control, desperate feeling where you have no voice in the direction your life will take. The longing for God's will more than breath. The deep love for your man when he is so defeated that he can't see outside his own discouragement. The moment when you realize you've been in the pit for so long, that you don't know how to get out.

Girls, please pray for deliverance. Please pray for Josh. Please pray for me.

I take comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit is interceeding for us, according to God's perfect will which seems so impossible to discern. I absolutely believe that God has brought this about for a purpose. I believe He is refining us. I believe He is tugging at the most uncomfortable places in my heart, requiring surrender, requiring everything.

He is good. I will never sway from that. I don't question His goodness or His plan. I just question my inability to make heads or tails out of anything anymore.

Please pray that I will thirst for His Word and that it will bring new life to my soul.

I am sending my children to stay with their grandparents tonight. I originally intended to work. But instead, I believe I am going to sit before the Lord, for as long as it takes, to see Him. To feel Him. And to be able to talk with Him again.

We're going to get through this and have such an amazing story to share in the end. I just pray that we're in the final paragraphs of this chapter in our lives.

Until Tomorrow,
Amber

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Prayers for Those in Despair


Heavenly Father, I know I am close to despair. I feel so tempted to give up, to withdraw from life and religion and let the world simply carry me along.

Everything seems so meaningless and nothing appeals to my better instincts.

Help me to remember that Jesus gave meaning to everything in the world.

Let me bank on that fact and get over this time of despair, to really believe in the depths of my being that there is a reason for living.

Show me the reason for my life and tell me what I must do.

Bring home to me that I am never alone, but that You are with me even in the depths of despair. Remind me that no matter what I may endure now, an unending joy awaits me in the future if I but cling tightly to You and your Son Jesus in the unity of the Spirit.

Amen.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Painting: Saint Thadée (or Saint Jude) by James Tissot

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 15, 1836 – August 8, 1902) was a French painter. Tissot was born at Nantes. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Ingres, Flandrin and Lamothe, and exhibited in the Paris Salon for the first time at the age of twenty-three.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Article: Burden to Pray


A web article from BibleHelp.org (source link here)...

"You better call home because you wife and kids are dead!" a large prisoner said with a glazed look in his eyes. My Sergeant, who was stunned by the announcement, rose slowly to protect himself from this strange acting prisoner. Suddenly, the prisoner attacked him with a desk lamp. My natural response was to jump on the prisoner’s back to help subdue him. In the violent struggle, my back was gouged by a piece of metal, which caused a 2" x 10" cut. After the prisoner was subdued, I was taken to the hospital for treatment.

This incident happened during my fourth week of working in the prison. Being a Correction Officer is difficult enough as it is, but it is even more difficult for new officers. Since new officers were rare before the massive prison buildup in the mid-1980s, the prisoners had more time to test the new officers to see if they could be intimidated. Unfortunately, this testing often lasted for months.

Since I was getting tired of this testing, I was hoping something unusual would happen that would cause the prisoners to respect me. In fact, the morning of the attack, I made such a prayer request. Of course, I was thinking of something a little less violent, such as making a major drug bust. As it turned out, I got the prisoner's attention by coming to the aid of the Sergeant. Word spread quickly in the prison, "… don’t mess with the new cop. He’s not afraid to fight." As a result, all of the prisoners left me alone.

In reality, my help in the fight had nothing to do with my being brave. It was simply a natural reaction. It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to be scared. If I'd had a couple of minutes to think about it beforehand, I would have been scared to be in a fight inside a prison surrounded by several hundred prisoners. Nevertheless, I didn’t bother explaining this to the prisoners. If they wanted to believe I was a fearless cop, who was I to correct them?

I have found it a little bit unnerving that the only day I prayed for this was the day the fight took place. Personally, I feel God put this prayer request in my heart because He wanted to do a special work in my life. I have found God often prompts people to pray when He is doing a unique task.

One day as I was driving down the highway, I decided to pray for a while. One of the things I prayed for was protection from getting a speeding ticket. This really surprised me because I had never prayed for that before, or since. There are two reasons I wouldn’t normally pray for something like this. First, if I am driving the speed limit there isn’t much risk of getting a ticket. Second, if I am deliberately speeding and I have the audacity to ask God to protect me while I break the law, my prayers may prompt Him to cause me to get a ticket. Since I try to adhere to the speed limit, I really couldn’t understand why I would even consider such a prayer. It just came out.

However, a couple minutes later I reached over in the car to pick up something from the floor and my foot pushed the gas pedal down. As I straightened up, I saw I was going 80 mph in a 55-mph zone. Also, at the same moment, I saw a State Police car in the median. He, of course, pulled out onto the highway and began to follow me. After three grueling miles, he stopped following me. I believe God foresaw what was going to happen and put that prayer request in my heart.

The salvation of the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, is another example of God’s prompting. Hudson became a Christian while his mom was away on a trip. Wanting to surprise his mom, he instructed everyone in his family to keep quiet about his experience. However, when he approached her about the good news, she said she already knew what he was going to say. She said, "You became a Christian about two weeks ago, didn’t you?" She even knew the exact day and time.

On the day he became a Christian, his mom had a tremendous burden for him, so she got out of her bed and started to pray for him. Although it seemed like a short period of time, her prayer session lasted several hours. When she was finished, she had such joy. She knew God had answered her prayers.

Another example of God prompting someone to pray is the salvation of a girl named Beth. I discussed this incident elsewhere in this book, but I feel it is important to include this example here. During a church service, I suddenly had a strong burden to pray for the salvation of a lifeguard (Beth) who happened to be attending the service. After praying for her, I wrote the phrase, "God, please save Beth" on a piece of paper. After the service she came up to me and told me she had become a Christian. Of course, she was very surprised to see the note I had written to God.

This prompting of God is quite common and a person could fill several large books with examples. Yet, I think it is natural to ask, "Why does God do this. Does He need our prayers? If God were all-powerful and all knowing, why would He need to prompt someone to pray in order to carry out His desired task?" Quite frankly, I don’t know. There are many things I don’t understand about prayer and our all-powerful God. I do know, however, God desires our prayers and is pleased when we put our full reliance on Him. Maybe the reason He occasionally reveals these unique promptings to us, is to reveal His power and bring us closer to His presence.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Painting: St. Jude Thaddeus by El Greco


El Greco (1541–1614) was a painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" (The Greek) was a nickname, a reference to his Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos).

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Article: Prayer: The Unsung Hero

A web article from BibleHelp.org (source link here)...

Prayer has not received the recognition that it deserves. Many people feel that since God already knows about our need, there isn't any need to tell God about them. This is a very costly mistake.

On my desk there is a little card that reads, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life." I have come to a gripping realization that prayer is probably one of the greatest contributions we can make to advance the Kingdom of Christ. Yet, we as Christians, seldom capitalize on this resource. Surveys show the average Christian prays 15 to 30 minutes a week. If the statement, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life," is true, then it would explain, in part, why so much of the world is still not evangelized.

Why do we spend so little time in prayer? Why is prayer one of the first things we neglect as we drift away from God? Many pastors have preached sermons condemning us for spending up to 3 hours a day in front of a television set while we pray less than 30 minutes a week. Although there is a need for such sermons, I have no intention of pointing out something for which you are probably already painfully aware. It is my desire to encourage you, to share with you what I have learned from my struggles in this area.

We, as Christians, often condemn ourselves because we do not pray as much as we think we should. Often, the simple task of praying only 15 minutes a day seems almost impossible! Of course, we can understand why it is easier to sit in front of the TV than devote time to prayer. TV is relaxing and prayer is work. I do believe energy is drained from us when we pray.

I am convinced, though, the main reason we do not pray as much as we should is not because it is too much work. There are many sincere and dedicated lay-Christians who spend as many as 15 hours a week working on Christian projects, yet find it difficult to spend a significant amount of time in prayer. With all this time spent on Christian projects, their lack of prayer cannot be considered laziness.

Satan understands the power of prayer, and I believe he is fighting fiercely to reduce its impact. An obvious military strategy is to concentrate attacks on the targets, which are the greatest threats. For example, in war, primary targets are radar installations, ammunition depots and weapons factories. Limited military resources are not used on non-strategic targets such as the officers’ dining hall (although many soldiers would probably welcome the relief from military food). It is my conviction that Satan knows the biggest spiritual battles are won or lost because of our prayers. Therefore, why would Satan not try to blind our eyes to the need and urgency of prayer?

The story of the disciples at the time of the resurrection is a good example of how capable Satan is of blinding our eyes to important truths. Jesus told his disciples on several occasions that He was going to be killed and would rise again on the third day. Yet, on the third day, where were His disciples? Why were they not waiting at His tomb? They were not even looking for His resurrection.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, remembered Jesus talking about His resurrection. This is why they requested a guard be placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64). It appears Satan, the author of deception and distraction, had blinded, or at least distracted the disciples to this very important truth. If the disciples, the very men who walked with Jesus, could miss something as important as the resurrection, isn’t it reasonable to believe Satan could blind us to the power of prayer?

The attitude with which we as non-Christians first approached God is what released the dynamic power of salvation through Jesus Christ. It was essential when we came to God, we recognized Jesus Christ as our total redemption. Our human abilities played no part in the salvation process. We had to trust God fully.

Likewise, when we as Christians approach God, He still wants us to trust Him fully and understand that the solutions to our problems lie beyond our abilities. It is this recognition that releases the power of God. Prayer is an expression of the commitment and trust we have in God.

When we come before God in prayer and give Him full control of a situation, we are acknowledging His sovereignty in that area. As a result, God begins to work on the problem with His mighty power. God desires to be involved in every area of our life. He wants us to specifically commit each of our concerns to Him. I have found the more specific we are in our prayers, the more direct and effective will be the answers. For example, the prayer, "God, please bless the missionaries," will not be nearly as effective as naming specific missionaries and their particular needs.

Although we are in a Space Age of high-tech transportation and communication, we still go further on our knees. We will never have a true appreciation of how powerful and effective our prayers are until we enter God’s presence and He unfolds the completed story. At that time we will see how people were saved and lives changed as a direct result of our prayers.

God is continually working in ways that we are unaware. An example of God’s hidden involvement in our lives is seen in 2 Kings 6:13-17. In this passage Elisha and his servant ran across a huge Syrian army and the servant becomes afraid. Elisha prays and asks God to open the servant’s eyes, and the servant sees that the mountain is full of God’s angelic army.

Looking at the great needs of this under-evangelized world, it is easy to be overwhelmed with feelings of futility or the thought, "What is the point? I can’t make much of a difference." This discouragement can often keep us from even trying.

There are two things we must keep in mind. First, God does not expect us to change the whole world. He only wants us to do our part, to grow where he has planted us. Second, we must realize that, although we cannot change the whole world, there is much we can realistically accomplish.

Being consistent in our prayer life can help us accomplish more than we may have ever thought possible. A consistent savings plan at a bank can help save money without the feeling of having a "big bite" taken out of your paycheck. Likewise, a consistent prayer system can help us pray for a large group of people without feeling burdened.

Many short prayers throughout the day are easier than praying an hour at a time. An example of this is the old tale of the Tortoise and the Hare. The rabbit, which is obviously the faster of the two, was overconfident, and did not pay attention to the race. Although the turtle was slow, he was consistent, and as a result, his seemingly "insignificant" effort paid off in a big way.

There are two types of prayers I use: Systematic prayers and Onetime prayers. My systematic prayer list is a list of people, Christians and non-Christians, whom I have met throughout the years. I systematically work through this list from top to bottom over a period of time. Praying for 5 to 30 names at a sitting is non-burdensome and yet gives me the opportunity to intercede for a large group of people.

Onetime prayers are requests that are usually prayed for only once. These prayers are often for people I have run into throughout the course of my day, or someone who has caught my attention. The aspect that makes onetime prayers so practical is they consume very little of my time. They are ideal for situations where I am already doing something but not using much mental energy, such as driving in a car or standing in a line.

When I pray for these people, I pray not only for their salvation, but I ask God to make them strong, dynamic Christians who will become prayer warriors in their own right. I also ask God to raise up thousands of people to pray for this person. So, although I may pray only once for this person, I am confident God will raise up others to continue where I have left off.

Obviously, praying many times for one person is much more effective than just a single prayer, but never underestimate the power of these onetime prayers. It is important to realize for some people, you may be the only Christian who has ever prayed for them. This is the reason I ask God to raise up hundreds of people to pray for each person. As you expand your prayer time, be careful not to become overburdened. You should approach it as an adventure, not an obligation.

Years ago, I started what I call the quick prayer list. This short list contained 10 of the most important issues going on in my life at the time. (You have to keep this list short or you get overwhelmed and stop using the list altogether.) Every hour, such as on the hour, I pull out the list and pray for my concerns. I found this to be an excellent way to ensure I prayed on a consistent basis.

Since I was a Correction Officer with lousy days off, two of the items on my prayer list were: I would get a job working with computers and would have good days off. After two years of praying for this, I was called into the Warden’s office. He told me the Deputy Director for the State’s Department of Correction wanted me to work for him personally to do computer programming. For 4 ½ years, I worked for the Deputy Director’s office overseeing a large number of computer projects. Every time someone asked me how my "rags to riches" story came about, I always tell them about the prayer list and give God the credit.

In the 19th Century, rescuing a drowning person from a pier presented certain logistical problems for lifeguards. They did not have the luxury of our modern rescue techniques and equipment. Instead, they used a "lifeline" system. When a lifeguard dove into the water after someone, he would tie a rope around himself and hand the other end to someone to hold. One stormy day, a lifeguard spotted a swimmer being swept under by the mighty ocean waves. In his haste, he forgot to tell someone, "hold the rope." Thus, as he went into the water, so did his lifeline. This lifeguard needlessly lost his life in the stormy ocean rage because of carelessness.

This story illustrates the importance of being consistent and faithful in upholding Christian workers through prayer. However, there is another lesson to be learned too. We should never rush off to do God’s work before we have adequate prayer support. As we serve the Lord, let us not forget to ask people to "hold our ropes."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Article: The Power of Prayer


A web article taken from Barbara Sanders' website, Barbara's Entourage (source link here)...

Prayer is our communion with God, whether it be a petition made to God, worship, repentance, praise, or thanksgiving. It doesn't have to be a laid-out patent prayer, but words from the heart. God wants all of us, he knows our minds and hearts, so why not talk to him as if he already knows the situation.

James 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The effectual fervent prayer is one with power behind it, one that produces results. We have to believe what we pray, not just 'mouth' words. Sometimes we go blindly into our prayers, not knowing in which direction to go.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you , What things soever ye desire, when ye pray , believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].
Desires of the heart should be those that will glorify God, not necessarily the human desires we have to make our life better.

Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray , use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
God knows each thought we have, so why not go to HIM and talk with him as you would if you were to meet him on the street. Prayers do not have to be long, drawn out affairs, but we need to be precise in what we are asking, and ask according to the bible rather than asking blindly for what we want. If it glorifies the Lord, then it will be something good for us. If it does not, then we shouldn't be asking for it in our prayers.