If My People…Pray (Part 3)

After He had given thanks…

– 1 Corinthians 11:24

Did you ever hear the story of the man caught in the jungle being chased down by a bear? He ran until his legs could carry him no longer and reached the end of his rope. Admitting his defeat, and just as the bear was about to pounce, the man cried out to God, “Lord, please let this bear be a Christian!”

The bear stopped, held his hands together, closed his eyes and said, “Lord, thank you for this meal.” And … well, you can guess what happened.

This week, I want to look at the simple prayer of gratitude we once shared before every meal. The simple, yet important, words of thanks.

On several occasions in the Bible, when a meal was about to be enjoyed, we read that Jesus “gave thanks” and ate, or broke, or shared a meal. Before giving the food to the multitude, He gave thanks, He blessed the food, and then gave. Before giving the bread to His disciples for supper, He thanked and then He broke the bread and shared it with those beside him.

For whatever reason, our care for thanksgiving to God seems to have diminished over the years. We either feel too ashamed to give thanks in public or, otherwise, feel a word of thanks just isn’t enough for a prayer, so, we end up praying for a multitude of things. “Lord, bless those in Africa. Lord, feed those in Ethiopia. Lord, be with those in hospitals. Lord, keep those in airplanes safe.” However well-intentioned these requests may be, it does not change the fact that we fail to see the importance of the words, “Lord, thank You.”

Why do we do that? Why do we no longer see the importance of heartfelt gratitude for the blessings we have? Granted, our gratitude comes from deeper reaches of the heart when the food is more to our liking; but let me shift your attention to one little boy. This isn’t the same little boy I shared about last week, but a different one.

Whenever my family comes together for a meal, a gentle yet firm voice comes from the littlest member at the table, “I want to pray!” Without fail, my five year old nephew will ask to give thanks at every meal. For those who don’t know my nephew, you may be thinking, “He’s a child. He doesn’t know what he’s saying.” If you thought that, you’d be wrong. If there’s one thing that Mikki doesn’t hold back, it’s his joy and gratitude. His hugs, his kisses and his affection are always on display.

More than that, he takes pride in what he is given. “Look what uncle William got me! Look what dad gave me! Look what mum made for me. Look what jeddo [grandad] taught me. Look what teta [grandma] did for me!”

Thank You. Is it so hard for us, when we come for a meal, to simply say, “Lord, thank You”?

In case anyone misunderstands me, my focus isn’t to keep prayers short; it’s to see the importance of a deep, hearty gratitude that looks at what has been given and says, “Look. Look what God has given. Lord, thank You!”

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If My People…Pray (Part 2)

Some of you may remember that small chorus that goes like this, “Read your Bible, pray everyday if you want to grow.” Remember it?

We don’t sing it anymore, of course, because we dismiss it as a ‘Sunday School Song’; it’s for children only, right?

I don’t know which passage or Bible reference was used for the foundation of that song but I want to talk to you about a little child who proved the reality of it.
This little boy was born to a poor family who had little besides their love to offer him. He was kind, compassionate, gentle and loving. One day, on a very long trip from their village to the main city, fatigue got the better of this boy’s parents; so much so that they started making their way back home without him. Alone in the crowds, this boy did something most boys his age would not have done. In fact, all boys his age would not have done what this young boy did.

When his parents realised that they hadn’t brought their boy with them, they were so afraid! What might have happened to him? Where might he have gone?

The two made their way back to the city looking for their young boy. Do you know where he was and what he was doing? He was in the temple listening to the religious teachers and asking them questions. Not only that, but he was even answering some of their questions and they were amazed!

This same boy read the scriptures a lot and prayed throughout his life, and never stopped. Many of his prayers are still recorded for us to read and benefit from.

Do you know what reputation he earned? Luke 2:52 says,

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.

It helps us put things into perspective. If He, for whom we see no need for prayer, saw the pivotal need for it, it’s worth our time to have a look at it, at the very least.

Let’s look at Jesus.

If My People…Pray (Part 1)

They tell me Lord that when I pray
Only one voice is heard;
That I am dreaming, You’re not there,
This whole thing is absurd.

Maybe they’re right, Lord, maybe they’re right;
Only one voice is heard.
But if only one voice is heard,
Lord, it’s not mine, it’s your voice.
I’m not dreaming; you’re the dreamer
And I am your dream.

– C. S. Lewis (Letters to Malcom)

Have you ever wondered why we pray? Maybe you’ve pondered the question of what prayer even means. Whether you have or haven’t, take a moment to think of this question, why does God call us to pray?

For a lot of us, prayer is that privilege some people have of asking God whatever they want and He grants it. The holier you are, the more likely it is for your prayer to be answered.

For others, prayer is a talking to one’s self in a daze or dream, as C. S. Lewis was accused of doing; no one is really there listening.

To some others, prayer is a last resort. When all else fails, I’ll try God. He’s my last hope.

The apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Thessalonica to

…rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB.

In this next series of posts, I want to look at prayer and its importance in the Christian life.

I haven’t yet worked out all topics that I will address; my aim is to post as often as I can so that we don’t lose connection and the theme remains fresh from post to post. Please pray for me as I prepare these.

May God bless you.

The Matter of the Heart (Part 4 of 4)

In a world of jumbled commotion, a life that induces mixed emotions and a calling of absolute devotion, we cannot disregard the matter of the heart.

While I am told to trust my heart and let my emotions lead, God calls me to, instead, guard it because it is deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked.

He also calls me to a transformation, taking my old heart of stone and giving me a pure heart; a heart that trusts in Him, desires His glory and takes pleasure in His delight so that the heart that once wished for sin may long for holiness.

In Psalm 119 we read,

I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.

– Psalm 119:11

The real matter of the Heart, is that the heart matters and if we don’t nurture it, guide it, protect it and guard it, it can lead us astray.

No, don’t trust your heart but trust God with all your heart. No, don’t do what the heart wants but teach your heart what it ought to want and desire. No, don’t do whatever feels right to you but seek God’s guidance to know which feelings are right and which are contrary to His nature.

God bless you.

The Matter of the Heart (Part 3 of 4)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

– Matthew 5:8 NASB

It seems almost contradictory and even cruel, doesn’t it? To be told that the heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked, but then teased with a promise that is seemingly unattainable.

I like what one man of God once said,

When Jesus comes into your life, He doesn’t only change what you do but what you want to do.

This follows on with what we discussed in the previous section. What you deem most important to you, that is what your heart will dwell on and desire.

We read in 2 Corinthians,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

And in Romans,

… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …

– Romans 12:2 NASB

Also, just in case you’re feeling sorry for those in Old Testament times, who may not have had the privilege of such a change, read Ezekiel,

… I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.-

– Ezekiel 36:26‭-‬27 NLT

How is the heart cured? Through the transforming work of God’s Spirit that takes the old, corrupt and stony heart and gives you one that is clean, tender, obedient, responsive and pure.

God doesn’t only change the things that you do as though to enforce some unconvinced obligation, but also changes what you want to do so that your very desire, from the very depths of your being, is to please Him and be His delight.

The Matter of the Heart (Part 2 of 4)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

– Proverbs 4:23 NASB

Isn’t it strange that in a society where the heart is to make the rules, we imprison those who do just that?

What’s that line we keep hearing over and over again? “Do whatever feels right to you!” I can only assume that’s what Hitler did. Why are we so hard on him? “Do whatever feels right to you!” Our prisons are filled with people who did just that. Why are we so hard on them? What did they do wrong? They did exactly what they felt was right to them in the moment.

One line I find extremely senseless is, “How can it be so wrong when it feels so right?” My question to this sort of a generation is, how do you know what right feels like? How do you judge between what feels right and what feels wrong?

The heart clearly cannot be trusted to decide on its own and, as Solomon warns, we ought to watch over it, guard it, because from it flow the springs of life. The way Jesus said it was,

…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

– Matthew 6:21 NASB

In other words, our hearts don’t guide us but, rather, we lead our hearts. What we “feel” so strongly about is what we have already been indulging in. Being the sinful and fallen people that we are, our hearts are set on one thing; sin. What we need is a reconditioning; a rewiring.

The Cure of the Heart is a transformation that can only come from Him who first gave us that heart before we corrupted it.

The Matter of the Heart (Part 1 of 4)

I love musicals. Whether they be in movies or theater, I find myself jotting down names and dates of plays that may be upcoming.
You don’t always agree with what is said or sung, but you enjoy the artwork painted in the choreography, the voices and the story.
A few years ago, I watched a play by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Love Never Dies” and one song stuck with me.
The opening lyrics of that song are,
Love’s a curious thing,
It often comes disguised;
Look at love the wrong way,
It goes un-recognized.
As the song continued, I couldn’t shake one thought out of my mind.
Read the next two verses of the song and I’ll share my thoughts afterwards.
So look with your heart,
And not with your eyes;
A heart understands.
A heart never lies.
Believe what it feels,
And trust what it shows;
Look with your heart,
The heart always knows.
In our modern and so-called evolved society, the words of this song are so fitting. Everything you hear around you seems to echo these very words.
Look with your heart.
A heart never lies.
Believe what [you] feel.
Do what feels right to you.
In the Bible, God gives Jeremiah a warning; one that is in contradistinction to anything we seem to hear chanted from all around us.
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.
– Jeremiah 17:9 NASB
I am often baffled by Christians who encourage others to do what feels right to them or to listen to their heart. How? How can you listen to the very thing that God calls most deceitful and desperately sick?
Emotions lie, feelings lie, the heart ever lies.
In this series, I want to look at just two matters of the heart:
  1. The cure of the heart
  2. The pure in heart
I hope you are blessed through it.