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Monday, September 30, 2019

Prayer as a Spiritual Lifeline

Alice C. Linsley

A lifeline is a rope or line used to rescue someone in danger or to provide a means of escape from a difficult situation. Using the line, rescuers can pull a person to safety. This is a realistic image of prayer, and the message of the old hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

O what peace we often forfeit, 
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.

When we don't pray we fail to take hold of the spiritual lifeline that God has provided. We make excuses for this failure. We are too busy. There are too many demands on our time. Too many interruptions! Too few hours in the day.

The Lord Jesus recognized all these problems. That is why he urged his disciples to "Come away to a quiet place." (Mark 6:31)  Jesus never gave his disciples a method for praying. He led them to a space where they could pray without interruption.

Jesus spent hours in solitary prayer. The Gospels speak of how He withdrew to a mountain or stole away from the crowd to commune with His Father in Heaven. His disciples observed this and recognized that their prayer lives did not measure up to the Lord's prayer life. So they asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).

Jesus responded by giving them a prayer, not a method. He didn't tell them to ritually wash before praying or to put on their prayer shawls. He didn't tell them to go to the synagogue. He did not designate a prayer posture. Prayer is not a method. It is a conversation.

Conversations are two-way communications involving both speaking and listening. Listening is the hardest part of prayer because it requires silence. This is why some people have prayer closets and others withdraw to monasteries. This is what motivates people to go on retreats. 

Prayer is also communal because each Christian is in Jesus and He is in us, making us members of the "mystical Body of Christ." We pray as living members of His Body. Our prayers, as personal as they may be, are joined to others in that Body. God hears the prayers of individuals as a liturgy of the Body. This is evident in the way Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father..."

How is this possible? By grace and the in-dwelling Holy Spirit our praises and petitions coincide as an offering. Being united to Jesus Christ, we pray as individuals and as a body.

In prayer we confess, request, adore, plead, gain clarity, receive forgiveness, are refreshed and restored. We laugh and cry over the double mystery of God's mercy and our misery. His grace brings miserable sinners to the realization that we are capable of sharing the beautiful life of God because that is how God made us. Joy comes in the morning!

There is a lovely image in one of C.S. Lewis's books, The Horse and His Boy.
Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh, and trotted across to the Lion.
“Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” 
“Dearest daughter,” said Aslan, planting a lion’s kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”

In prayer, we come to God as Christ’s own forever, as a child of the High King. Our fears are set aside and our movement toward the Savior is rewarded. “Joy shall be yours.”


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Overcoming Violence in the Land

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

I believe the solution to mass shootings is a national revival that calls people to a biblical faith and strengthens the moral foundations of the nation. This is not something that can be brought about by government action or congressional legislation. Christians must unite in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to do a mighty work.

Violence and disregard for life are expected outcomes of the political forces that remove Judeo-Christian morality from public discourse. Political correctness promotes lies and undermines the moral fiber of a nation.

A study of the origin of political correctness was done by Professor Angelo M. Codevilla who wrote:
“The notion of political correctness came into use among Communists in the 1930s as a semi-humorous reminder that the Party’s interest is to be treated as a reality that ranks above reality itself.”
The semi-humorous reminder went something like this:
“Comrade, your statement is factually incorrect.”
“Yes, it is. But it is politically correct.”
Political correctness requires revising history to fit the party narrative. When the Constitutional Convention finished its work, the majority of its members went to a three- hour worship service. It was an occasion for giving thanks. This is not the politically correct narrative, but it is the true one.

Prayer, worship, and thanksgiving have characterized American governance from the beginning.  Until recently, there has been a nearly universal recognition of the God of the Bible. Almost every state of the Union has some expression of trust in God. Federal and state legislative sessions begin with prayer. Government officials are held to a higher oral standard, whether or not they like it.

Should we be surprised by the present moral decline and violence in our land? 

While the Ten Commandments are still on the doors and over head in the Supreme Court, they are subject to lower courts orders for removal from public places. If they could, some would remove every reminder of the Judeo-Christian framework of Western civilization.

In 1933 and in 1973, Humanists made a “Humanist Manifesto” to rid America and the world of belief in God's existence. Without God as Judge, the human conscience becomes warped and silent. Signers of the document include Richard Dawkins who regards the human fetus as "less human than an adult pig" and Lester Mondale, a retired Unitarian-Univeralist minister.

With so little regard for human life and liberty we should not be surprised by the increase in mass shootings. The answer is to turn to God with humble and obedient hearts. God promises, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Related reading: The Media Stokes Anger and Radicalization