The One Thing You Can Do To Give Life To Your Prayers

The One Thing You Can Do To Give Life To Your PrayersThe one thing you can do is at the end of this post. It’s worth it, I promise. If you do it, it will change your life.

Taunts From An Atheist About Praying In Jesus’ Name

I have this friend who’s nearly an atheist. What I mean is, he’s the most atheistic leaning agnostic I know. And around the fire station he sometimes loved to taunt Christians. One time he said to me, (in the snarkiest tone possible), “So the bible says if you ask for anything in Jesus’ name that he’ll give it to you. Right? So ask for a Mercedes Benz tonight. And see if it’s in your driveway when you wake up tomorrow morning.”

In Jesus’ Name: What That Means

Now there’s an obvious answer to that taunt. Asking in Jesus’ name doesn’t mean to tag his name onto the end of a prayer. It means asking in the Spirit of Jesus. When I was a firefighter on a fire scene I could ask people, civilian people, to do things in the name of the fire chief or the fire department. I could ask someone to stand at a safe distance from the fire. Or I could ask someone to get the attention of another firefighter. Or I could ask someone to move their vehicle out of the way.

I could ask for anything in the name of the fire chief or fire department, and they’d do it.

But if I asked someone, a bystander watching the fire, if I asked them, in the name of the fire chief and the fire department, if I asked them to give me all their money–they’d never do it. Or if I asked them to come by the station the next morning and wash my truck–forget it.

So I believe God will give us anything we ask in Jesus’ name, as long as it’s truly in the Spirit of his name.

And a Mercedes Benz is most likely not in the Spirit of Jesus’ name.

That’s the obvious answer.

The Not So Obvious Answer

I confess that there are times when I feel as though God is not responding to my prayers. You’ve probably experienced something similar. Maybe you’ve even experienced that recently. And although it could be because of asking for something that’s not in the Spirit of Jesus’ name, although it could be because we’re asking amiss, I think for me, more often it’s because of another reason.

Just before he was executed, Jesus prayed to our Father,

Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”

Notice something about that prayer Jesus spoke. “…glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,” Jesus said. Notice there’s an interplay between Jesus and our Father. Jesus loves Him and gives Him glory. And then the Father gives to Jesus. Jesus gives God glory and God gives Jesus authority over all flesh. Jesus’ heart is for God so much that what he wants most is to give Him glory.

Let me ask you something. Did you realize there is a foremost commandment? Jesus once said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

Let me ask you something else.

Are you obeying God’s foremost commandment?

“The foremost commandment,” he said. God gave Jesus authority over all flesh because Jesus gave God glory. Jesus’ heart was for his heavenly Father. Jesus loved God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind. Jesus loved God so much that the thing he wanted most was to glorify Him, his Father, our Father, in heaven.

You know what I’ve noticed? I’ve notice that I’m going to love something like that, no matter what. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the nature of my heart and my soul and my mind. And it’s the same for you. You and I, we can’t just not love anything. There’s always something that’s foremost in each of our hearts and souls and minds. (Even if it’s simply the love of not being disturbed!) And when my foremost love is not for our Father, then I struggle to pray. When money is foremost, or gaming is foremost, or music is foremost, or movies are foremost, or career is foremost, or sex is foremost, my prayers can ascend up to heaven–like bricks.

But when I’m feeling that foremost love for my Father, that’s when the prayer flows.

At this point, you might be asking, “So are you saying God doesn’t respond to prayer unless He is the foremost love in my life?” No, I’m not saying that. Sometimes God gives us what we pray for when we deserve it the least. That’s grace, and God is gracious. But what I am saying is God always seemed to answer Jesus’ prayers. And one reason for that was the back and forth, the interaction, the loving and giving response each had toward the other. God desired to give to Jesus because Jesus desired to glorify his Father. And that was driven by love: God’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for God.

Jesus’ obedience of the foremost command.

Jesus’ love for God with all his heart, soul, and mind.

The One Thing You Can Do To Give Life To Your Prayers

So if you feel as though God is not responding to your prayers, one reason could be because of a misplaced foremost love in your life. And if that’s the case, as it is for so many of us, the one thing you can do to give life to your prayers is to love God,

with all your heart,

and with all your soul,

and with all your mind.

Jesus did that. You can too.

NOTES:

You might be saying to yourself right now, “Kurt, you said God always responded to Jesus’ prayers, but what about the time Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane? When Jesus asked God to take the cup away, God said no.”

That’s a great question. You probably remember that at the end of his prayer Jesus finished with, “…not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) So some might say that God did say yes to Jesus’ prayer, because ultimately what Jesus wanted was for God’s will to take priority over his own.

But even if we set that aside, we see something important in the way God answered Jesus’ request to remove the cup. God required Jesus’ sacrifice because it was necessary. It was necessary so you can be reconciled to God.

God is perfect and His justice is perfect, and so is His love. And God’s perfect justice is violated by my sin. Even if I’m a very decent person, it’s unlikely that I follow the foremost commandment Jesus identified. And I don’t know about you but I’ve committed many sins besides not loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind.

But by sacrificing His Son, the one who is without sin, both His justice and His love are fulfilled. His perfect justice is fulfilled because you sin, and your sins are paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross. His perfect love is fulfilled because He wants to spend eternity with you in heaven, and His way of accomplishing that is for you to accept the sacrifice of His Son as atonement for your sins. For every sin you’ve ever committed. For every sin you’re committing now. And for every sin you will ever commit in the future. The dilemma of God’s perfect justice and God’s perfect love for you is solved by what Jesus did for you on the cross.

Maybe you haven’t accepted God’s gift of reconciliation. You know what? There’s no reason not to. You can be reconciled to God right now. Just pray with me, “Father, I’m a sinner. I’ve sinned in the past and I know I’ll sin in the future, no matter how hard I try. I want to spend eternity with You in heaven. I want to accept the work Your Son did, the sacrifice he made on the cross to pay for my sins. I want to give myself to You and to Jesus.”

Those words aren’t magic. What matters is that you recognize your sin, your need for a savior, and that you give your heart to Jesus.

If you did that email me. Or if you have questions, email me. I would love to hear from you. Email me at kurt@kurtbennettbooks.com.

References:

Bible Gateway, 1 John 2:15

Ray Stedman, The True Lord’s Prayer

Image by WELS net – Creative Commons

 

 

Why Did Lazarus Have To Die? (And why do I have to suffer?)

Why do I have to suffer?

Why Did Lazarus Have To Die?

I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’s Miracles again and there’s a section where he addresses the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. And Metaxas really made me think. Why did Lazarus have to die anyway? Why did Lazarus have to endure the suffering? Why was it necessary for his family to mourn? I mean, Jesus could have shown up earlier and healed him as he did for so many. But he didn’t. So Lazarus suffered–and died.

By the time Jesus got there his sisters and his friends were weeping. And in answer to anyone who would say that God is some sort of impersonal metaphysical force, Jesus, God incarnate, was overcome with grief himself. And he wept for his friend, and for his friend’s family, and for his friend’s friends. Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, had been dead for four days. Four days. That’s significant because there was this idea in Jewish culture at the time, that when a person died their spirit hung around for three days. And here we find Lazarus dead beyond that time period. In fact when Jesus directed the men to remove the stone that sealed the tomb, Lazarus’s sister Martha protested.

“Hang on, he’s been dead for four days. He’s been decomposing,” she said, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench.”

But Jesus went ahead with it anyway.

He prayed out loud, not so God could hear him, but for the benefit of the people there.

And Lazarus walked out of that tomb.

And here’s where I have to ask: Why? Why was that necessary? Why did Lazarus and the people who loved him have to suffer that way? Why couldn’t Jesus have just healed him?

And the answer is found when we ask the question: Continue reading

How One Mistake On Twitter Destroyed A Woman’s Life (And what we can learn from it)

This one mistake on Twitter destroyed a woman's lifeMorbid Fascination

Last night (at the time of this writing) I read this very insightful article in the New York Times. I was so morbidly fascinated I just couldn’t put it down. It was about a woman traveling from New York to South Africa to visit family. While she was on a layover in London, she sent out a tweet. This tweet of hers, it was an awkward attempt at humor. But it had to do with AIDS and race–and it was definitely more awkward than it was humorous.

After she sent this tweet she checked for a response but there was none. She only had around 170 Twitter followers, so that’s not too surprising. But what happened next was very surprising.

During the eleven hours she was in the air between London and Cape Town, South Africa, a writer and editor of a blog with 15,000 Twitter followers got wind of her tweet. So he posted it on the blog he edits, and this began a chain of events the woman never anticipated. Continue reading

The Thing I Never Noticed About Jesus, Why Christians Are Creatures Of Two Realms (And what that has to do with praying together)

Praying Together

I Never Noticed This About Jesus

I recently noticed something about Jesus I never realized before. He never talked much about how to preach (or how to blog), but he did talk about Continue reading

Malcolm Gladwell’s Secret To Math (and what that has to do with the secret to prayer)

Secret to PrayerGladwell’s Secret To Math

My family and I were recently discussing what makes people good at math. My son Nathaniel, who’s in his early thirties, brought up something he read in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Gladwell talks about a woman in her mid twenties named Renee who’s trying to solve a math problem as part of a research project. Renee is sitting at a computer that allows you to type in x and y axis values to produce a curve. It’s basic rise over run math stuff that we all learned in junior high school or high school (but nearly all of us have since forgotten).

If you’re like me and you’ve forgotten, Gladwell provides a brief example. If the value of the rise on the y axis = 5, and the value of the run on the x axis = 5, then the slope = 1. Because the rise over run is 5 over 5, and 5/5 = 1.

So this woman Renee is sitting at the computer trying to solve a problem. And while she’s doing this, a Cal Berkeley professor and researcher named Alan Schoenfeld is sitting next to her. Schoenfeld knows the problem Renee is trying to solve is impossible. But she wasn’t told that it’s impossible. What she was told, was to enter values that will create a line that is perfectly vertical. But the problem is impossible because a vertical line requires a rise value of infinity and a run value of 0. And infinity divided by 0 doesn’t produce a number.

So she’s sitting there at this computer. And she starts entering in values. And she fiddles around. And she enters some more values. And then she fiddles some more. The whole while she’s talking to herself. And as she fiddles and experiments, her values for y get larger and larger. And the larger they get, the closer the line gets to the y axis. But no matter how large a value she assigns to y it never gets there.

Finally, after twenty-two minutes of trial and error, Renee experiences a eureka moment and she says, Continue reading

The Fire That Burned 11 Homes (and what that has to do with praying to God)

how to pray

The Fire That Burned 11 Homes

One time I was on a fire that destroyed eleven homes in Ashland, Oregon. One of our tactics on that fire was to use helicopters to drop water on the burning houses. When the helicopters began operating it was important to keep them from dropping water on one particular house where firefighters were working inside. That’s because a helicopter water drop can push fire in all directions, in spectacular fashion, which is very cool to watch. Most of the time when it happens, if the house is well involved, fire just explodes out of every window and door in the place. But because it blows fire all over, a water drop from a helicopter can cause serious injury or even death to anyone fighting fire inside.

So with a couple of crews inside this house and with the helicopters flying all over doing their water drops, I became concerned that they would drop on the house with my guys inside. So I called command on the radio.

“Command from Oak Knoll Division,” I said. “Direct the helicopters NOT to drop on the house directly across from 8106.”

Command responded, “Copy, send a helicopter to drop water directly on the house across from 8106.”

Of course that was exactly what I did not want them to do. Continue reading

My Desperate Prayer (and how God answered)

Meaning of LifeYes, I know. Last post I said it was the last post on suffering. But I couldn’t let the series end without a short word on prayer. Prayer and suffering are just too connected to end it without addressing the issue of prayer.

My Desperate Prayer

I walked alone into the woods of the Rogue Valley, in Oregon. I wasn’t a Christian, but I was there to pray. I was making that hike and praying like that fairly often, because I was desperate for two things. One, I needed a job. Kathy was eight months pregnant with our first son Gabe. We were living in an 8′ x 24′ travel trailer and borrowing from my parents to make the rent. The shower was so small, and Kathy was so pregnant, that she couldn’t pick up a bar of soap if she dropped it. And I was unemployed.

The second thing I prayed for was strange because I wasn’t a Christian. The second thing I prayed for was Christian friends. Peculiar, I know. But I was so intrigued by Jesus that I wanted to learn more. And I felt the need to connect with other Christians so I could find out all I could about him.

I never saw God’s answer coming. The way He answered that prayer was completely outside of my imagination. I’ll share what He did Continue reading

The First, The Last, My Everything (What Barry White’s song has to do with suffering)

God First

This is the last blog post in the series on suffering and what you’re about to read are the most important words written in the series. You can do everything written so far concerning suffering, but if you don’t have this right, it all falls apart. (To read the whole series, just click on Suffering under the CATEGORIES heading in the right hand column of the God Running home page.)

Barry White’s Take On Love

Barry White used to perform a song called You’re The First, The Last, My Everything. And in that song, he’s singing about a woman, and here are a few things he says about her:

You are “my everything, …the answer to all my dreams.”
You are “…my sun, my moon, my guiding star, …that’s what you are.”
“You’re all I’m living for, you’re love I’ll keep forever more”
“…see so many ways that I, can love you ’til the day I die.”
“You’re the first, you’re the last, my everything.”

When a young man loves a woman like that, nothing else seems to matter. The head gasket blows out in his car, so now he has to borrow his parents’ champaign colored 1998 Lincoln Continental with a torn headliner, but he doesn’t care so much. Because he has her. And like the song says, she’s all he’s living for.

Then the new video game he bought arrives from Amazon. He’s excited about it until he finds it doesn’t work with one of the components on his home built computer. But that’s not so bad. Because he has her. And she’s his sun, his moon, his guiding star.

Then his best friend tells him he lost his trilogy of the Rings DVD set (Blu-ray). But it’s not such a big deal. Because he has her. And she’s his first, his last, and his everything.

But, what happens when it’s over?

It’s worth noting, Barry White’s first wife Continue reading

Do This In 2015 And See What Happens

bible study new years resolution 2015Life And Growth vs. Lifeless Rearrangment

Living things grow and change. A redwood tree begins as a seed in the ground. Then it grows, it changes, it transforms into a noble conifer more than 300 feet tall. An eagle begins as an egg. Then it grows, changes, and transforms into a great bird who can see what others can’t, and can soar where others aren’t capable.

Things without life don’t grow. They don’t transform. Things without life, they just rearrange. A sand dune shifts its shape in the wind. The waters of a flood are really just waters rearranged. Even an avalanche, as awe-inspiring as it may be, is just rearrangement. It’s not alive.

But you are.

Do this in 2015:

Continue reading

Top 10 Posts of 2014 On God Running

God Running Top 10 2014God was so good to us in 2014 here at God Running. The highlight for me personally happened when Kathy and I were able to meet up with a few readers on the other side of the country from where we live in Oregon. (If you’re interested, you can read about that here: Brothers in Christ)

Of course anytime you like you can see what’s trending at the present moment on God Running, simply by looking at the list of titles in the right hand column on the home page. But if you’re interested in which posts were the most popular for 2014, check out the list below. (not in reverse order–for your viewing convenience)

1) Steve Mays’ Life Of Suffering (And how God healed him) Growing up, Steve Mays was a good student and a well behaved son, at least until junior high school. That’s when he was molested, by a teacher. And that event changed his life. After he was sexually abused, Steve raged against any authority figure, including his parents. He struggled with drug addiction. He joined a motorcycle gang. The police were after him for murder.

Then God intervened.

2) The Holy Spirit: How to Know if You Have Him Easily the most popular post of all time on God Running.

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you’ve received the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit (in the way Jesus’ disciples did when God used them to save the souls of 3,000 men in one morning) then this is the post that will answer your question.

3) Both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father–Genesis 19 Continue reading