Tag Archives: Lord’s Prayer

How Do We Pray for America?

People ask how to pray for our country. Shall we ask for God’s favor? Shall we ask for protection? What should we ask for? The answer is that Jesus himself gave us guidance in his own words, in the prayer we rightly call the Lord’s Prayer. Following that guidance, I offer this prayer for America.

Oh Father in Heaven, our Creator and our Savior,

May your name be hallowed in every word and deed of citizens and visitors to our nation.

May your name be hallowed among all who call our nation home.

May your kingdom be established here on earth and most especially here within the hearts of Americans.

May your will be done in every corner of our nation and the world.

May we acknowledge that all we have is your abundant gift to us for our blessing and our welfare.

May you pour out your righteousness, the holy blood of Jesus over every person Cleanse each of us of all our sinful desires and sinful acts, and teach us to forgive and bless one another richly that our every thought may be to bless our neighbor.

Show us the way to go, and nudge us away from the tempting thoughts of evil.

Lord God, our heavenly father, rule us here on earth and across our nation.

May glory surround you and honor you forever.

Amen

If you would like to join others to Pray for America each Thursday, go here and sign up. We meet via conference call for a half hour each Thursday at 12:00PM EDT.  Prayer is our lifeline for daily living. Prayer is the way we rightly align ourselves with God’s plans. Sign up today to PRAY FOR AMERICA.

Photo courtesy of StickyJesus.com

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Answered Prayer

For the jillionth time someone just said, “God always answers prayer: yes, no or wait.” My experience and my Bible both reject that simplistic, self-centered view of prayer.

In the first place, it is not necessary for Jesus’ promise of answers to mean that an answer is “fulfillment.” In the second place, everything about prayer is about submission to God’s sovereignty before anything else.

When anyone asks me, I tell people that prayer is not an order to Amazon, guaranteed to be “fulfilled.” I am no authority, but the idea that the sovereign God is going to respond to my prayer the way I might answer a multiple choice question on a quiz is completely at odds with everything I have learned about God. When God promises to answer prayer, he does not promise that we can manipulate him till we get what we want.

In fact, one of the most important changes we experience when we get to know God in a close relationship is the change in what we want. We are born wanting to be the center of everything, but when we get to know God deeply, we begin to start wanting outcomes that are not about us. In my experience, this sort of change is a blessed outcome of prayer. I pray for something to happen, and I might pray about this outcome for a long time. According to the “yes, no, or wait” theory, God’s failure to say “yes” is interpreted as either “no” or “wait.” According to my experience, God is actually teaching me something that will ultimately change my prayer. He didn’t refuse me. He actually paid close attention to me.

Here is an example.

Peter wrote that we are to pray for our governmental leaders. I do that. When I see that one is doing wrong (way too common) I pray for him to do right. When a bad leader is in office, I pray that God will work in his heart to make a better leader. I pray and pray and pray for outcomes that will be good for our country. I have prayed such prayers for Barack Obama, because I believe he is the worst president in the history of the world.

I have never yet seen any evidence that Barack Obama was moved by God to amend his bad behavior or his bad attitudes. Does that mean that God refused to speak to Barack Obama? To believe that would be presumptuous in the extreme. Yet, if I prayed for God to speak to Barack Obama about his failures, and Barack Obama did not change, then I must ask if God is saying “no” to my prayer, or if he is saying “wait.” He certainly is not saying “yes.” If I believed that God answered prayer by “yes, no, or wait,” my train of thought would be focused on what God was doing to make my request happen.

In fact, God was doing nothing of the sort. In fact, God was working in my heart. In fact, God’s agenda was quite different from mine, and God observed that I was being arrogant and self-centered. I wanted Barack Obama to act differently than he does, and I asked God Almighty to use his power to bring about the changes I had in mind.

What was God actually doing all this time? God was working in my heart. I can’t speak about what God is doing with Barack Obama, but I know what God is doing with me. One morning, as I prayed that Barack Obama would change his ways and do the right thing, I found myself praying this prayer: “Please forgive Barack Obama for all the evil he has done.” Whoa! Did I say that?

God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. My first thought was to ask why Obama should be forgiven, and God’s response was, “the same reason you need forgiveness.” Barack Obama and I both need forgiveness for our sins before almighty, totally righteous God. It was a humbling thought. I was so angry with Barack Obama over his arrogance and presumption that I failed to notice my total inattention to God’s main thing. God’s main thing is not good government, important though it may be. God’s main thing is that everyone be cleansed of sin. I was so busy trying to change Barack Obama that I forgot that God’s main thing is to save Barack Obama from Satan. I was praying for a magical outcome in Obama’s behavior instead of praying for Barack Obama to be rightly related to God. I couldn’t even wait for the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit does; I was giving him his marching orders. I was very busy telling God what I thought good government looked like, telling God how to make Barack Obama into a better president, when God thought that outcome was trivial compared to Barack Obama’s need for forgiveness and grace, just like me. He let me prattle on for days while he continued to lead me and teach me and work in my heart until he finally led me to pray, “please forgive Barack Obama for all his sins.”

This is not the only time God has done this sort of thing. I had a fractured relationship with my mother, and one day I went to her pastor to talk about the problem. He was generous with his time, and kind in his responses. He even asked questions. Finally, he asked, “Could we pray together?” I bowed my head, and he began to pray for both me and my mother. It all felt good to me. Then he said, “Would you like to pray, too?” I began to pray, and I complained about all the hurtful things in my relationship with my mother. When I had exhausted my list, I started to pray for my mother to change, but the words that came out of my mouth were, “Please help me to see my mother as you see her, Lord.” Whoa! Where did those words come from? God was answering my prayer, not with “yes, no, or wait,” but with new insight. He answered my prayer, “Please make my mother treat me better,” by saying, “Start looking at the world from my point of view.”

That is why God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. God wants me to pray about the world from his point of view. God wants me to see Barack Obama, and my mother, and the whole world, the way he sees it. When I change my view, then I pray differently. God didn’t fulfill my request. God didn’t deny my request. God didn’t even defer my request. God simply led me to a moment of personal transformation and showed me how things look from his side of the matter.

Prayer is God’s great gift to us, and I give thanks every day for the privilege of prayer, but I have learned that the blessing of prayer is not so much what I get as it is what I learn. When God promises to “answer” my prayer, the “answer” is not often the “fulfillment” I might have anticipated when I bowed my head. I am learning that the best way to pray is to begin the way Jesus taught us—focus first on the Father and his worldview.

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

Then, from that perspective, all the other issues look very different.

To declare that God always answers prayer with “yes, no, or wait” is to say that prayer is about what I want. Prayer is not about me. Prayer is about God.

 

Are You Mired in Your Past by Unwillingness to Forgive?

Blogging Through the Book Part 5

We have arrived at week 5 of our project to blog through Mike Glenn’s The Gospel of Yes. It has been a great experience so far to explore personally some of the ideas in this book. The book is both inspiring and challenging. It inspires us to believe Christ’s promises, and it challenges us to personal disciplines and faith that may demand more from us that we are comfortable to give. Be sure you visit Dana Pittman’s blog where you can find links to other blogs exploring this book.

No discipline asks more of anyone than forgiveness. A new reader skimming the chapter headings of this book may wonder how forgiveness can possible be a “yes.” We have all prayed the Lord’s Prayer. We have dutifully recited the words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We can say the words, but it is dauntingly difficult to forgive. Yet it is a subject that occupies a central place in the thinking of Christians. We chew over the problem, and we want to justify our anguish and our anger and our feeling of betrayal. What do I do with all those emotions if I forgive? Who will ever sympathize with me again if I forgive? What if the person who hurt me so deeply does not deserve to be forgiven? Don’t I have a right to be hurt? Angry? Shouldn’t the person who hurt me make up for it before I forgive? Shouldn’t this person at least recognize how wrong he was and ask for forgiveness first? I can’t just let go of this incident and pretend it never happened. I’m scarred. I’m crippled. The consequences of this person’s wrongdoing can never be removed from my life. Why should I forgive?

Many people remember the novel Great Expectations from high school. In that story, a woman became trapped in a single moment of her life and never could escape. She was so deeply wounded and so completely incapable of forgiving that she was trapped in her history. It was a tragic story.

The deepest wound of my own history was my relationship with my mother. We had a thousand different ways to hurt each other. We kept doing it right up to the day she died. I can’t count all the times I reveled in justifying my attitude toward my mother by explaining to complete strangers how she belittled me and mistreated me. Mike Glenn talks about the way the past bleeds into the present when we are unable to forgive, and I can tell you that it does exactly that. Things that happened when I was seven years old, or eleven, or sixteen, or twenty-five, were still rankling when I was forty-six and fifty-two. My past bled into my present and poisoned every interaction with my mother. Even during the happiest times we ever spent together, I suffered terrible trepidation that in the midst of the fun, she would throw a verbal brick at me, because it had happened before. I could not forgive the past, and I could not forgive what I thought might be the future. During a phone call shortly before she died, she blindsided me with a jab about things I could not possibly change even if I had wanted to. Once again I felt justified in not forgiving her, because, I asked myself, what would be the point? We would inevitably be at each other’s throats again, and I would have something new to forgive. When she died, I asked myself why my relationship with my mother could never be healed. I fretted over the blackness in my life where my misery and anger fed the loneliness of a motherless child. I felt motherless, because I felt I never could trust my mother.

Mike Glenn says that “[God] can heal the past right now so it will no longer bleed into the present.” He is right, but “right now” can only happen when you make up your mind to let him work. For me, it happened on Ash Wednesday, about nine months after my mother’s death. The pastor preached a sermon whose central message found a home in my deeply wounded heart. He said that each of us must throw onto God’s altar all the things that are barriers to God’s work in our hearts. We must allow God to consume the barriers with his holy fire. I realized that my unwillingness to forgive my mother, even though she was dead, was a barrier to a rich relationship with God. I made it my Lenten project to learn how to forgive my mother. By the end of that season, I was ready to attend the service of Healing and Reconciliation that preceded Holy Week, and I thought I had forgiven my mother fully. I soon learned that Satan is very tricky and can resurrect pain and anger we think we have buried, so we can never really be finished with things we think we have forgiven. Nevertheless, learning to forgive makes it possible to stand in Christ and reject Satan’s temptation to wallow in that dark, miserable past. As Mike Glenn says, “In the power of God’s ‘yes’ to us in Jesus, we are not victims of our past.”

The broken relationship with my mother is a very real memory still, but it no longer stands between me and my ability to love and serve God. Forgiveness heals the way I remember those ugly truths. Learning to forgive my mother opened the floodgates of forgiveness, enabling me to forgive others for a lot of wounds, major and minor. Learning to forgive my mother enabled me to forgive myself for a few self-inflicted wounds as well.

Maturing in faith requires growth in many areas, but I am beginning to think that forgiveness might be the most needful. When I teach Bible classes, no matter what the subject of the class is, someone in the class always wants to talk about forgiveness, and everyone else is always glad the subject came up. Life wounds us in many ways. Life is not fair. People are not fair. There is a great deal to forgive. If we can learn to forgive and if we can continue to forgive and forgive and forgive, we can let God burn up a lot of barriers that impede our happy and fulfilling relationship with him. As Mike Glenn says, “Forgiveness is how we … get a firm hold on the ‘yes’ of God offered to us in Jesus Christ.”

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”