The Two Most Dangerous Prayers I’ve Prayed.

“God, no matter the cost, I want a deeper relationship with you!”
“Jesus, help me love others like you do!”
These have been the most dangerous prayers I’ve prayed. They’ve completely turned my life upside down.
The first one I prayed sitting in a pew in the summer of 2013. I was spiritually stagnant and no matter how much I did within the congregation, I wasn’t growing much. Once I pleaded this prayer to God from the depths of my spirit, it was like the rug was pulled out from under me. Everything looked different. I lost my bearings and everything religious I had been taught came into question. Some I still agree with. Some I had to put away as they didn’t represent Jesus as I’ve come to know him in the Bible and through my personal walk.
The second one I prayed for about two years. It wasn’t until recently that I was brought to a place that I could actually start living it in some way. God had to clean my heart of all the bigotry and hatred first.
I don’t regret either prayer as an amazing relationship with God has been developing. I wouldn’t have guessed that this would be the way it would unfold, and I can now see how this type of relationship can’t be taught. It can only be received, embraced, and lived in Jesus.
The unfortunate side effects of this is that many religious people I’ve known withdraw from me when I attempt to share the love I’ve found with them. Others say a lot of religiously loaded words that are just hollow now. They try to win me back over to “their side” by justifying their hatred and attempts at guilt and shame. More and more, I feel sad for them because they are continuing to try to mandate God on others through law rather than embrace God and others by love.
Lately, God has been calling me to stand up for some of the people that I use to hate though at the time, I would’ve explained it more like, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” While this is a nice little ditty to recite for us Christians, now I see the effect it has on those we’ve categorized by our human judgments. When this is our approach, we end up dehumanizing people into a faceless, heartless category that we can push to the margins. The truth is, it wasn’t this way with Jesus. He loved the sinner in the midst of their sin. When we focus on a person’s sin foremost, instead of focusing on the person, we define them by our view of sin, thereby judging that they aren’t worthy of Christ until they can somehow overcome their sin.
I could write about this stuff until Jesus returns, but it won’t make a bit of difference unless people allow Jesus to truly invade their hearts. In the end, our empty religious words will be forgotten and the only thing that will have made a difference to someone is how we loved them without reservation.
If you feel spiritually stuck, ask God for that deeper relationship. If you find it hard to truly love, in a very up close and personal way, those stuffed into a sin category, ask Jesus to show you to his kind of love. However, know that if you’re really sincere, your entire life will change.

Prayer and Reaching Others

With everything going on in the world today, how should we pray for it all? How do we make a difference in others’ lives when we can barely manage our own?
I came to realize some time ago that the things we see in our world today have always been going on. Just read the Old Testament. Years ago, it could take some time for news to travel and when it was made known at an individual level, it could be weeks after the event was done and over with. Today, we see lives impacted worldwide almost instantaneously, but these things have always been prevalent though not as easily publicized until recent years. Though I will admit, things do look more and more like “birth pangs”, this isn’t a foremost concern for me when focusing on Jesus. Likewise, I will not resort to stating things like “the end is near” based on my human observations of the world. My human limitations cannot comprehend God’s grand plan or his timing.
However, the question still remains–how do we pray for everything going on in the world today?
Again, I have to look to Jesus. During his three years of public ministry, he only traveled about 50 miles from his hometown, yet he had the biggest impact the world has ever seen. I’m sure he was aware of other situations in the world, but he doesn’t seem to focus as much on those things. Even the physical events that were transpiring where he lived and ministered weren’t a priority for him. He was focused on the individuals who Father had placed him near.
We see several examples of how and why Jesus prayed. Foremost, he prayed to align his will to Father’s. Most of our prayers today are not to align our will to Father’s, but to get what we want (and when we want it) and punish our enemies.
Jesus prayed that Father’s will be done regardless of how he felt. He states this in the Lord’s Prayer and in the garden when he was sweating blood. Likewise, Jesus tells us to not only pray for our enemies but even bless and do good to them!
Still, with everything going on, how can we possible do all of this? Like Jesus, we are to reach out to those closest to us. We may be called to say a prayer for certain people in distance lands, but when we align our will to Father’s, we are enabled to reach out to those right where we are. Additionally, we can trust that Jesus can reach those foreign to us through his church there. When we are led to try to “intercede” for the entire world, we become drained and can miss those we can reach right next to us because of the “bigger” issues going on elsewhere. God has a plan and he has placed us exactly where he wants us for his will to be done. Likewise, he will lead us to where he wants us to be if he has something for us to do in another part of the world.
I have the desire to focus on those God has placed me near in life and can trust in him to handle the other issues and reach those affected.