Answers | Prayer Rehab

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I Am Jonah, this blog is also, in some way, a journal of how I’m learning to follow Jesus again. Part of it is about chronicling the tension between what God wants of, in and through me.

Lately, it seems God is putting me through prayer rehab. Reclaiming an appreciation of prayer and its significance. Sometimes it is not that I or we don’t know anything. It is not that we have forgotten but we need reminders. We need renewed perspective, vision, and passion.

A renewed sense of weightiness… It seems, at least for me, God always takes me back to the “elementary” to grow me, mature me to the “next level”, whatever that is.

Back to prayer…

God answers prayer. He does. Many times I’ve been frustrated with Him because ‘He didn’t answer my prayers’. The truth: most of the times He has answered my prayers the answer has been “no”.

Like a brat nagging mom or dad because they answered my request but not with the answer I wanted… That is how my prayer life has been in many seasons of my life.

Nothing but a nag. No depth. Me-focused. Intense on what I wanted… There are times the sum of my prayer life has been me giving God marching orders. My shopping list.

There are times my prayer life is nothing more than a rant about my problems. My challenges. I must be transparent, honest with God as I connect with Him. God is not shocked by my frustrations with the answers I get from Him, sometimes.

My humanity doesn’t shock or surprise God… Those times I rant, complain, and yes, even those times I’ve scolded God for not doing what I asked. For not doing what I wanted. What I told him, no, for not doing what I ordered Him to do.

I’m being reminded that I sometimes God’s answer is, “no”. Sometimes the answer is, “not that way or in this time”. The answer has also been, “never”.

This morning (sounds like a guy on the podium on Sunday morning right, but I am actually writing this in the early morning hours)

This morning, I am being reminded that even Paul, the apostle, the missionary, had desires to go places and God squashed them. Surely, he prayed about his plans… God’s answer to his plans were sometimes contrary to what Paul wanted. This is true for me. For us and our plans… Sometimes our prayers are in our plans / planning…

Sometimes God’s answer is, “Go!” and that can also freak me out. Somehow, God has a way of answering by giving us assignments we feel are greater than us. We feel ill-prepared and perhaps don’t measure up to.

Yet, He still sends me. Sometimes God’s answers are exactly what we wanted… That’s the next post.

Today, God, I pray, give me courage to accept and make peace with all Your answers… Amen.

 

Related:

More, Deeper Than A Craft

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

I borrowed the tittle of this post from Mark Batterson‘s book, “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day“. What I will share with you in this post is about something that struck a great chord in me. Particularly also due to my earlier post, More, Deeper Than A Craft.

I get this from Mark who got it from Ted Loder’s book, “Guerillas of Grace“. It is about how prayer is way more than what we have reduced it to. May it resonate with you, the way it has with me:

How shall I pray?

Are tears prayers, Lord?

Are screams prayers,

Or groans

or sighs

or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,

or clenched fists

or the cold sweat that trickles down my back

or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will You accept my prayers, Lord,

my real prayers,

rooted in the much and much and rock of my life,

and not just the pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged

bouquet of words?

Will you accept me, Lord,

as I really am,

messed up mixture of glory and grime?

This prayer about prayer is so liberating. It gives a perspective and depth to prayer that I feel we have undermined and overlooked. Sometimes words evade us. Sometimes we don’t pray the prayers we really mean to or want to pray, because we’re locked into wanting to be crafty, articulate.

What are some of the things that have shaped your perspective and attitude toward prayer?

As I wrote the questions above I realised that there are both negative and positive things that have shaped my prayer life (whatever that is). As I’ve said, I shared some of that in this post. If you haven’t read it check it out and let’s have a conversation.

You can do that either with me, others but most importantly with God.

I know, for sure, that one of the biggest approach and “attitude shapers” when it comes to God, is our understanding of who God is. As my view of God has matured, so has my prayer life. Sometimes I think I’ve regressed. See-saw. At other times I’ve adopted, knowingly and otherwise, other people’s approaches and practices.

I have been guilty of creating a chasm between God and myself (if ever that is possible, but you know what I mean… I’ve done this by embracing barriers and practices that I’ve created myself or adopted from others.

Probably my most earnest prayer ever is this one here. I am convinced it’s probably the most defining prayer we can pray. Nothing can define us more than God encounters. And, they are birthed in earnestness in prayer.

[Photo Credit: ninastoessinger]

More, Deeper Than A Craft – Prayer

It scares me how careful I can be in “crafting” ‘my prayer’ to God. I mean, prayer is a critical part of the lifeline of any Christ follower. It is something I must not only do, but do well.

Sometimes I get caught up wanting my prayer to be “perfect”. I want to make sure that God doesn’t misunderstand me. Yeah, you read that right. As if it was possible that God could misconstrue my carefully crafted utterances. I can’t believe I can be that dumb.

It gets worse. I sometimes envy other people’s prayer lives. I mean I get motivated, then jealous, sad and depressed as I compare my “prayer life” to others’. How dumb.

More And Deeper Than A Craft

How dare I even make prayer about me?! Can we be so depraved that we can take something sacred, a communion with Divinity and reduce it to a skill we compare with others?! Help us, no, help me, Jesus.

Perhaps one of the reasons I end up going down this road is that I think God will act based on the quality of my prayer to Him. “Quality of prayer?”. What the heck is “quality of prayer” anyways?

God loves earnestness in prayer, way more than craftiness. How do I forget that? [Click to Tweet]

I think “quality of prayer” is a man created standard. It keeps new Christ followers from feeling worthy to seek an audience with God. To speak to Him and hear Him speak to them. I fall in that trap.

I’ve been a Christ follower for over twenty years but I sometimes feel like I’ve only started following recently. This is because in many ways I’m still learning. Yearning. Growing.

I sometimes forget that it is not the “quality of ‘my prayers'” but that I pray that matters [Click to Tweet]

God, I pray that we be liberated from trying to perfect in the way we communicate with you. Help me to be secure in communicating with You being enough. May how I communicate be only secondary, even irrelevant, but that I am present and focused on You when I do so. Help me, I Am Jonah.

Check out the follow-up post “More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters”

[Photo Credit: Charles and Hudson]

Fearing Breaking Homiletics, Hermeneutics And Other Rules

I’m doing theology studies. I particularly enjoy hermeneutics. I like seeing things in “the Text” that never saw before. Understanding is key to spiritual growth.

Homiletics: the art of preaching or writing sermons

Hermeneutics: concerning interpretation of the Bible or literary texts

While studies are liberating I feel like they are also a prison. I’m convinced there are right and incorrect ways of approaching Scripture.

With that said, sometimes afraid of breaking homiletics and hermeneutics rules. It’s like I’ve been made to believe that God will only speaks if I exegete the Scriptures a particular way. But can God only speak one way through Scripture?

Fearing Breaking Homiletics, Hermeneutics And Other Rules

I sometimes feel like by not doing what the homiletics tell me to I sin and rob people of hearing from God as I speak. I can recall a few times when I’ve felt the need to break the homiletics rules. There are times I’ve had the sense that while I stood before people and spoke, God was fighting to get His message through me.

To many like me, how many times do we “shotblock” God’s message from getting to people because of the “science” we’ve made of communicating His Word.

There are many other big words that I sometimes live in fear of and perhaps slavery to. Dare I say… I sometimes wonder how I’ve not helped others get easy access to God because of the vocabulary I’ve used. Because of a “method” I’ve employed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that I misuse or abuse Scripture but that sometimes it seems I’m more afraid of breaking some of these “rules” than I am of not doing what God tells me to.

My cry doesn’t cease: May I help people closer to God and not push them further with a vocabulary they cannot relate to. May I never be afraid to break the rules to allow God and His love to break through me and change lives.

[photo credit: Reverend Pain]

On Starting “I Am Jonah”

I’ve been blogging for a while. Not here but on my other blog. When I was starting out on the other blog I knew I wanted to write about life and leadership as well as journey as a Christ follower.

Having blogged for a while I realized that was too much to load onto one blog. At least for me. I don’t like clutter.

I also felt I needed to have a unique expression of my faith that would resonate, be relevant to the journey of other people also.

I had no desire to have another typical ‘devotional-type’ blog. There are enough “devotional-type packed” blogs. At least for me. This blog “I Am Jonah” took a while to develop. Perhaps I should say for me to put enough “handle” on the concept and theme to start working on it.

I Am Jonah” is not a unique concept. I knew some people or churches ran series on this. I was intentional in avoiding checking out what they had done because I didn’t want to taint the ideas I had. In fact, I still haven’t checked out how other people have expressed their concept of “I Am Jonah”.

I hesitated and tried to develop the theme “just a little more”… In the end, it was the actual doing that would tell whether the theme could be pulled off and if it could be relevant. So I decided to stop conceptualizing and just get to it.

There must always come a time of action. Nothing changes until something changes.

I’ve been a Christ follower for over two decades but there has never been a time I have felt like I still need to grow more than now. I Am Jonah is a part of journaling my journey as I, in a sense, start again in my walk with God.

While capturing some of my challenges as I walk with God, I also incorporate stories of other people who are following Christ and still learning to follow like I am.

At the moment most of the conversations either happen offline, for people that I’m fortunate to connect with offline. Another place conversations seem to happen is on the social network I publicize posts on. For instance, someone follows a link from Facebook, reads the post on the blog and returns to comment on the referring network.

I’m obviously not telling the complete story. There will be more snippets into the story of I Am Jonah and the blog itself as I continue to journal with an audience as well as capture others’ stories.

If you haven’t already, do check out the blog post why I Am Jonah here, which also tells a part of the story behind this blog. You can also check out some of the other reasons I blog check out the post “Unmasked” on my other blog here.

Pagan Christianity?: A Review

This was a book I never rushed to finish. Partly because I have been reading other books and working on my theology assignments. The other part of it is that I wanted to be careful to take as much in and reflect on some of the things put forward by Frank Viola and George Barna.

It is apparent that Pagan Christianity? is well thought out, researched and crafted. It was not “slap dash” work. Frank and George do communicate a heart for the Church as God intended. It is clear they have a sound understanding of the Church and her purpose.

Thus they wrote the book to explore practices that have been or are compromising the Church. This is a worthwhile endeavor. How the Church does things can detract and or compromise her identity and mission. Pagan Christianity? highlights the birth of some practices.

Frank and George highlight how they can and do compromise the identity and mission of the Church. They highlight some practices as originating from pagan worship. Man-made.

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They are upfront with not being agreed with. The publisher also gives a disclaimer. They make it clear that by publishing the book they’re not endorsing nor do they necessarily share the same opinions as the authors.

With that, there are areas that I don’t agree with Frank and George. They believe in the Church, the ecclesia, or gathering and community of believers to be organic. On this I agree with. However, I almost get the impression that “organic” is synonymous with house Church.

House churches are the story of the early church. They are not irrelevant now, but my take is that they may not be practical in all contexts. The object, for me, is not the venue, it is what the gatherings should produce, the purpose of the gatherings.

They must produce Christ mature Christ followers. This means that they are like Christ in both likeness and works. For example, Pagan Christianity? discourages a lack of Church buildings. One of the reasons is that they end up consuming a significant amount of funds and placing an undue burden on congregations.

I believe there must be a balance here. In some instances buildings, as venues and not sacred spaces, enable permanence, and consistency. In some instances due to modern life, it is difficult to run house Church or use other buildings or venues such as community halls etc.

With this my take is that the purpose of everything must remain clearly visible. (I am not saying Frank and George advocate ambiguity).

I’m a strong believer in the priesthood of all believers. I believe everyone in the Church, the body of Christ, has a role to play in her edification, so that as a collective and individuals, we become more like Christ.

There are principles on the identity and the mission of God through the Church that cannot and must never be violated.

I could go on and highlight a few more things. However, it might be more pertinent to communicate what I feel makes the heart of the book.

The most important take away from the book is that we look at the expression of our relationship with God. As individuals and community of believers.

We must constantly assess how and why we are doing things in the light of God’s word. We must be clear about the impact of all our practices and make sure that it enables community and maturity in the faith, producing Christ like people. A scripturally sound Church.

We must examine the origin of some practices against the backdrop of whether it enables growth of Christ followers, the mission of the Church and the glory of God.

I would recommend reading Pagan Christianity. However, that it must be read with openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of all practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends.

I’d recommend reading it in a non-prescriptive way but facilitating conversation and reflection. Frank and George present their case and rest at saying readers must discern for themselves steps they need to be taking.

Ultimately an important thing to do is listening to what God’s Spirit says to you. Ultimately, and most importantly, no one’s opinion or perspective must eclipse God’s.

Again, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity with an openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of and our practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends. Read in a non-prescriptive way but for the purposes of facilitating conversation and reflection.

[affiliate link to book]

Who Am I Serving?

This scripture just struck me like a lightening bolt. Fear filled my heart as I read it.

It is the light of the Word that’s bringing to light that when I fear people, their opinions and even their threats more than God, in that instant I serve man. Do I sometimes serve fear more than God?

The answer to this question doesn’t come easy. Not because it is a difficult one; because it is not the one I’d rather give every time. Sometimes I do let fear get the best of me and I end up not serving God nor His purposes for others.

Thus when the motives for my action are in fear of people, I serve people more than I do God. Unsettling!

I must remember that God is jealous. He will only have me if He has complete ownership and not as a shareholder.

The only approval of me that matters is His. Not my approval of myself or anyone of me. His.

I Am Jonah.

God help me. Sometimes I want to please man, more than you. There are times I am aware of this and at other times I realise this when I’m already caught up.

Give me courage to disappoint man, especially when I am that man. In my life be supreme. I am wholly yours. May my love and respect for you be stronger than the desire to be loved by man. May you be the first and only say in my life. Amen.

Light Does

Light reveals by showing enabling sight. It also reveals things by casting shadows.

I sometimes feel exposed when I read God’s word. My motives are often challenged.

My priorities come into question.

I can never come into alignment with what God wants in me, for and through me without allowing His light to probe me.

It is sometimes uncomfortable but what I need. I sometimes run from the scrutiny of His light but He reminds me it is for my good and His glory.

I Am Jonah.

Demeaning Assignments God Gives Me

I’ve met many people with crazy, insane stories about how they encountered God. I’ve also heard many stories about how people have seen visions and got “a word from God” in some fireworks-spectacular-way. I get jealous, sometimes. Why can’t God speak to me like He did or does with others?

Something else that also kinda messes me up is how God seems to let others do cooler stuff than me. I’m not saying He shouldn’t have given some assignments to other people. I just wish He’d spread out some of those assignments to me too.

It’s almost as if other Christ followers get ice cream and I get peas and oats. Bleh. After all I want to do it for His glory. Well, honestly sometimes my motives are messed up. (There are times where I try to steal God’s shine.)

Demeaning Assignments God Gives Me

When I read Jonah 1:1 it says, God’s word came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh. There isn’t much detail on how it came. It seems somehow God was more concerned about His word getting to Jonah than He was about furore in its delivery.

Maybe it was dramatic. Fireworks, trumpets and all. Or may be it was when Jonah was having his first cup of coffee of the day while reading scrolls God penned through Moses. Or he was fishing, trying to catch his supper. (I just had to throw that one in. Jonah and fish, you know… Hehe…)

I’m sometimes responsible for demeaning assignments God gives me. I sometimes get caught up in that they did not “come to me” in any spectacular way.

I sometimes forget that the supernatural is not always spectacular [Click to Tweet]

I undermine the assignments God gives me when I’m more concerned about how they come than Who they come from. I undermine God’s assignments when I want to be the rock star. I seek ‘rock star status’ when I want to put myself and not the ultimate object, God’s glory at the center.

I forget that the worth of God’s assignment is in Who they come from and what they ought to accomplish [Click to Tweet]

It is not how God’s word comes when He gives me assignments, but that He does. What is important is that I’m an agent of His love to the world and not the magnet of spotlights.

God, help me keep everything in perspective… I’m sorry for messing with lives you wanted me to touch by being caught up in how I wanted attention. Forgive me. I Am Jonah. Amen.

[Photo Credit: See Modern Britain]