Tag Archives: prayer

It’s Mine! You can’t have it!

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Grace. Christians talk about it a lot, but what is it? It is NOT simply a prayer. Though a prayer can be said with grace. It is not flawless elegance. It is not even that lady that died 30 years ago in “Christmas Vacation”. So what is grace?

Grace is one of the most beloved concepts in all of Christianity because it truly is what we all want. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

It is not getting something worse than we deserve. We wouldn’t use the term “grace” to refer to the times when we got in trouble for something we didn’t do. No, grace is getting something better than we deserve.

Imagine you were driving down the highway – speeding – and got pulled over by a highway patrol officer. What you deserve is a ticket. Grace is like that officer coming to your window and handing you a $100 bill and wishing you a nice day. You deserved punishment but got a gift instead.

We love this because this is the central idea behind the death and resurrection of Jesus. We deserve death because of our sins (Romans 6:23), but instead of death, we not only get forgiveness, but we get righteousness and life in the presence of God forever. We deserve death, but we get life. We deserve prison, but we get freedom. That is grace.

Wouldn’t you want that? Have you received that? It is exactly what Jesus offers.

When you become a Christian – putting off the old self by connecting with Jesus in his death and resurrection through baptism – you receive the grace of God. That grace is never ending. Even when you sin in the future you will still receive grace and forgiveness.

We all want to receive grace, and we praise God for the grace we have received, but do we give it like we’ve received it?

The last time you went to a sit-down restaurant how did the waiter or waitress do? Did you pay him or her what they deserved or did you give them grace?

When someone asked you for assistance on the street corner, did you drive on by or give them grace?

When your husband or wife made you angry did you lash out or love them anyway showing them grace?

We are called to love God and love others. God loves us by giving us grace. Should we give any less to those around us?

“But you don’t understand. They’re so annoying! They keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again. Surely I am justified in my frustration with them. Surely I don’t have to always treat them that way. Shouldn’t I be treated well?”

I have to wonder if God feels the same way about us when we continually sin against him and against others. Yet, he still gives us grace. He still loves us immeasurably. His love never fails. He never gives up on us.

So I challenge you. Love others like God loves you. Don’t keep all the grace for yourself. Give them grace. Be like Jesus. Even when they were crucifying Him He prayed for their forgiveness. May your attitude be the same as His.

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Flowery Words and Censored Hearts

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If I were to write a letter to the president there is a certain amount of pomp and elegance I would provide to the letter out of respect for the office and the intelligence that is supposed to be represented there. I would also speak to someone like the president or the governor with a certain elegance and dignity. I don’t want them thinking I’m some ignorant fool, nor do I want to offend them with my relaxed style of speaking.

When we write for school there is a certain amount of style that we are required to include in our poetry and prose so that people can follow along with what we’ve written. Even now, as I write this, there are rules I follow in order to make my writing readable.

However, I don’t expect my children to talk to me like that. I want respect from them. I like them to use the “magic words” of “please” and “thank you”. I want them to acknowledge my questions or directions with “yes sir” or “no sir”. But when they want to talk to me – just talk – I want to hear their heart. I don’t care if they speak with eloquence. I don’t want formalities. I just want to know what is on their mind. I want to hear them with love accepting them no matter how they speak about what is on their heart. I even want to hear when they are angry with me. I want to know why. And I love when they call me “daddy”.

Often I hear people talk about prayer and they say “I just don’t know how to pray. What if I don’t use the right words?”

There are no right words.
You don’t have to start with “Dear God” as if you were writing a letter to Him. He has never left you, and He knows when you are speaking to Him. You don’t have to close it out with “in Jesus name I pray, amen”. Praying “in Jesus name” is an attitude of the heart and not a colloquial phrase required for proper prayer.

You don’t have to use formal addresses like “Thee” and “Thou”. You don’t have to pray all the Christian catch-phrases you hear each Sunday. The only right words are the ones that come from your heart.

There is no required posture.
Often when we pray someone will invite people to bow their heads. This is done in reverence to the Almighty, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not the only posture of prayer. Sometimes I pray while looking around at the creation I’m standing in. I feel connected to God when I’m in awe of his mountains and trees and streams and wildlife. Sometimes I kneel when I pray. I’ve even prayed laying face down on the floor in desperation. Sometimes I look around the room and pray for those I see around me.

The only requirement is your heart.
There is a story in the bible that Jesus tells of a Pharisee (read: super religious guy) and a tax collector (read: scum of the earth – seriously, they thought of them like that back in Jesus’ day too). The Pharisee stood in the synagogue and prayed loudly thanking God for his self-perceived righteousness. He boasted in prayer as he used the fitting words to do his duty of prayer. Then the tax collector began to speak and didn’t look up to heaven or speak loudly. He beat his breast and simply said “have mercy on me, a sinner”. Jesus said that the tax collector went away justified that day for he poured out his heart to the Almighty, and the Almighty heard.

That’s what God wants from you. He wants to hear what’s on your heart. There are no right or wrong words. Just talk to Him. It might feel awkward at first, but keep at it. When you realize that God’s presence is always with you, then you will find prayer to be a refreshing connection with your Creator who loves you more than all of creation. You are his child. Talk to him like he is your daddy.


Hats Off Please!

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I recently shaved my head…again. I’ve been bald several times over the last few years, and I like it. It is wonderful to not have to worry about bed head or the wind messing up my hair. I like to wear hats, so no hat hair, but I do have to watch the rings on my head after wearing hats.

It’s easy to maintain. There are no barber fees just the cost of shaving cream and razors. It’s almost therapeutic to shave each day. But I DO have to worry about sunburn.

I don’t like to wear sunscreen. There’s something about that lotion that makes my skin feeling oily, and I’ve never liked the feeling. The ones that don’t leave my skin oily leave it feeling silky smooth. I don’t like that either – I’ve always associated skin like that with women. Plus, I tan normally and don’t burn, so it’s ok, right? I know I should wear sunscreen, and now that I’m bald I am very careful about how I take care of my exposed scalp. When I’m not wearing sunscreen I make sure I’m wearing a hat.

There is one time, though that wearing a hat is a bit confusing. It is when I pray. Do I take it off or not? Why do people take their hats off during prayer? Where does this idea come from?

I’m pretty sure it comes from 1 Corinthians 11:4

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

On the outset it looks like this is exactly speaking of wearing hats during prayer or not. However, verse three gives a bit of context that is necessary for understanding verse four.

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Here in verse 3 the writer, Paul, defines who/what the head is. The head of man is Christ. Then he talks about covering the head. If verse three was written elsewhere then verse 4 could be easily explained as speaking of physical head coverings. But Paul gave a definition then used the terminology he just defined in the next verses. Verse 4 could read that “every man who prays or prophesies with Christ covered dishonors Christ.”

So, are we to pray without our hats or not? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us we should “pray without ceasing”. Seems to me that prayer time is not determined by our physical circumstances. God lives in us and not a temple. Therefore physical environments such as removing a hat cannot keep our prayers from reaching the Father.

Even though it may not be a problem to take off our hats during prayer time, there is still a large part of Christian culture that believes this should be done. Many people are taught in military and in other cultural circumstances that there are times to take off your hat to show respect. Even though taking your hat off during prayer is probably not what 1 Corinthians 11 is talking about, when with a group it is best to do it out of respect for those around you.

We have freedom in Christ. God is everywhere – especially in our hearts. Hats don’t stop that, but in all things respect for those around you shows love for them.

1 Corinthians 10:23
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.


“Lord, Bless This Food”

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[This is me beginning of a series on things we do without thinking as Christians. Maybe we don’t remember why we do them. They can be big or small things. If you’d like to suggest a topic for this series comment below.]

Once upon a time a man was hunting in the woods. He was a long way from civilization when he ran into a grizzly bear. Doing his best to move quietly away from the bear he stepped on a twig and it snapped loudly.

At that the bear noticed the hunter and began to make chase, so the man ran as fast as he could to get away from the bear. As each second passed the bear inched closer to the hunter. When the hunter couldn’t run any further he knelt down and prayed, “Lord, please make this bear a Christian.”

The bear was running full speed to get to the man, and when it arrived it stopped suddenly. It got down on its knees and the hunter heard the bear say, “Lord, bless this food which I am about to receive.”

This is a silly story, but if you are a Christian how many times have you heard this prayer or said this prayer before you’ve begun to eat? For many cultures it is odd enough that Christians pray before meals (a ritual which is actually healthy), but the prayer seems odd, doesn’t it?

“Lord, bless this food which I am about to receive.”

Hasn’t He already blessed it? Didn’t God cause it to grow? Didn’t He provide it for you? Didn’t He fill it with nutrients to give you strength and energy? He HAS blessed it!

So why do we pray this prayer? Well, it goes back to the King James translation of the bible. When Jesus was in the upper room and they were partaking of the last supper the scripture said that Jesus broke the bread, but what he did before that changed the way we began our meals for generations.

The King James Version says this in Matthew 26:26

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

In looking at the original language this passage doesn’t really translate that way. Instead, it is better translated that instead of blessing the bread he “gave thanks” for the bread.

Doesn’t that make more sense? Shouldn’t we be thankful for that which God has already blessed? It’s just a small thing, but watch and see how many people do this. The next time you’re somewhere that the person praying asks God to bless the food just smile and be grateful with an “Amen”.

[Next week we will address why we take our hats off during prayers.]


Favorite Places

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I love the mountains. This summer I have spent many days hiking and climbing and exploring the countryside around Durango, Silverton, and Ouray Colorado. The mountains there are magnificent and filled with rich history. There is quite a diversity of wildlife there as well. I’ve seen marmots, pika, many chipmunks, mule deer, elk, and even a bear.

In the mountains I find myself. My spirit comes alive in the majesty of the mountainous terrain. I can actually feel myself more alive when at elevations above 10,000 ft. I love the mountains.

I think Jesus loved the mountains too.

Matthew 5:1
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.

Matthew 14:23
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

Matthew 15:29
Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down.

Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt to be in the mountains He created? I especially like the massage in Matthew 14. Why was He up there? To pray.

Where do you pray? Jesus prayed on the mountain. I’m pretty sure he prayed in the valley and everywhere in between. When I’m on the mountain I sense the presence of God with every shortened breath. I pray a lot in the mountains. But if that is the only place I pray, then my prayer life is weak at best.

When do you pray? Jesus prayed in the morning before the disciples woke up. One night he stayed up all night praying. He prayed all kinds of times in between. Do you pray often? Is this something you do as an aside, or do you really make a time for prayer in your life?

Mountains are great, but as you look at the mountains (or at pictures of the mountains – for you flat landers) remember that God has called you to pray to him “without ceasing”. It is only thorough constant prayer that we can have an intimate relationship with our Creator. That’s what Jesus knew, and He tried to teach that to us by modeling it in His life.

Prayer is vital to the Christian’s life. May you be a person who prays on the mountaintop, in the valley, and everywhere in between. And may you pray without ceasing in order to have the relationship with God that Jesus died for you to have.


On My Own Schedule

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I bought a new game for my iPad. I know, I’m a grown man and shouldn’t be playing video games, but I am a big fan of the Lego games. So, when I saw that Lego Batman 2 was on the iPad I purchased it as a bit of escapism therapy.

Now, I play video games every once in a while, but my son wants to play them every day, and ever since I got the game he’s wanted to play it. After I played through the first time I decided it was time to let him begin his journey through the game. I let him play for a little while for the first couple of days, but the other day the first thing he asked for when he woke up was to play this game.

We had a lot to get done that day and much running around to do, so I told him he’d get to play, but not right now. Well, that answer wasn’t good enough for him. He kept asking me every five minutes if he could play the game. Throughout the day he talked about the game and reminded me of the fact that I had told him he’d get to play that day.

It got really annoying.

I reminded him that I wouldn’t forget. I gave him my word, but no matter my attempt to convince him that he could trust me he kept on nagging me about the game. Then it dawned on me; I do that with God.

We are called to be persistent and bold in our prayers (Luke 11), but we are also promised that whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name we will receive (John 14:13-14). Azariah wanted to play the game on his time and his terms. I knew that wouldn’t be best for him for several reasons, but he couldn’t comprehend that.

When I pray, do I trust that God will answer my prayers? I know many people that get frustrated with God because He didn’t answer their prayers on their time schedule and in their way. When we have those attitudes toward our Creator they reek of arrogance.

The bible says that God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25). If He is so much wiser than we are, then can we not trust Him to take care of us? Can we not trust Him to answer our prayers according to His promise?

Yes we can. Thanks be to God for His trustworthiness and the fulfillment of His promises. Thanks be to God for the answers to our prayers. May we learn to see those answers through His eyes that we may see the blessing in whatever way He deems as the right way to fulfill our requests. There is peace in that perspective.


A Good Friend is a True Blessing

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I’m not a mechanic by any means. Cars intimidate me, and I have never had the opportunity to go to any kind of shop class where they discussed engines (my high school didn’t offer shop classes). But, I’m interested in learning, and I have a pretty good ability to use tools and fix things when I put my mind to it.

Back in May, my truck started making noises and running rough. Then it overheated and started putting steam out the exhaust pipe. This was a problem, and I didn’t know how to handle it. In my estimation the truck was probably done for. I called up a friend who works on cars as a hobby, and he gave me some directions on how to narrow down the problem.

After trying a few things and replacing a few parts it was decided that the head gaskets were probably bad due to the overheating. This meant taking the top half of the engine completely apart to replace gaskets that sit on top of the block.

If I’ve lost you already, just bear with me.

My mechanic friend said he thought I had the skills to do the job, so with his advice I started taking things apart. Last May I was able in two days to take the engine apart all the way down to the head gaskets. The top half of my engine was sitting on a table in my garage.

When I went to have some parts cleaned and resurfaced I found out that my heads were also cracked. This increased the cost significantly, but again, my friend was right there giving me pointers and helping me see how to do things best.

About two weeks ago I started putting parts back together. I hadn’t taken pictures along the way, so I was very concerned that I wouldn’t know how to put everything back together. I was especially wary of my knowledge in putting all the electrical connectors and hoses back in the right places. Yet again, my friend was there to point out different things and give me advice to make the job a success.

Last saturday he came over and helped me iron out the last few problems, and I cranked the engine back up for the first time in two months. It ran on the first crank.

I am super excited to have my truck running again. I did 95% of the work, but I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do the job without my friend to guide me along the way. I can’t thank him enough.

This is a lot like life.

We are called to live our lives in and for the glory of God. We are given tasks to do that are too difficult for us on our own, but God is always there helping us as we call on him.

God is to us daily as my friend was for me during my mechanic work. He isn’t doing all the work, but He is making sure we have the skills and tools available to get it done ourselves.

How much do you rely on God? Are you trying to “do life” without Him? So many of us only call on Him when we need Him, but you know what? He doesn’t seem to mind; He comes to our aid anyway.

In Hebrews 13:5 the writer records this promise from God, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” there is great comfort and confidence in knowing this promise. With God on our side helping us along we have confidence to try big things that are beyond our experience level.

God wants to do big things through you. God wants to help you along. Look to him.

Thanks for continuing to read these articles each week. If there’s anything I can do for you, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the church of Christ office at 245-1611. You can also join in or start a discussion about this or any of my other articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you as you look to Him for strength!


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