Sunday, March 26, 2017

Article: Does God Answer Our Prayers?

Source link here.

Have you ever known someone who really trusts God? When I was an atheist, I had a good friend who prayed often. She would tell me every week about something she was trusting God to take care of. And every week I would see God do something unusual to answer her prayer. Do you know how difficult it is for an atheist to observe this week after week? After a while, "coincidence" begins to sound like a very weak argument.

So why would God answer my friend's prayers? The biggest reason is that she had a relationship with God. She wanted to follow God. And she actually listened to what he said. In her mind, God had the right to direct her in life, and she welcomed him doing just that! When she prayed for things, it was a natural part of her relationship with God. She felt very comfortable coming to God with her needs, her concerns, and whatever issues were current in her life. Furthermore, she was convinced, from what she read in the Bible, that God wanted her to rely on him like that.

She pretty much exhibited what this statement from the Bible says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer..."

So, Why Doesn't God Answer Everyone's Prayers?

It may be because they don't have a relationship with God. They may know that God exists, and they might even worship God from time to time. But those who never seem to have their prayers answered probably don't have a relationship with him. Further, they have never received from God complete forgiveness for their sin. What does that have to do with it you ask? Here is an explanation. "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."

It's pretty natural to feel that separation from God. When people begin to ask God for something, what usually takes place? They begin with, "God, I really need your help with this problem..." And then there's a pause, followed by a restart... "I realize that I'm not a perfect person, that I actually have no right to ask you for this..." There's an awareness of personal sin and failure. And the person knows that it's not just them; that God is aware of it too. There's a feeling of, "Who am I kidding?" What they may not know is how they can receive God's forgiveness for all their sin. They might not know that they can come into a relationship with God so that God will hear them. This is the foundation for God answering your prayer.

How to Pray: The Foundation

You must first begin a relationship with God. Imagine some guy named Mike decides to ask the president of Princeton University (whom Mike doesn't even know) to co-sign a car loan for him. Mike would have zero chance of that happening. (We're assuming that the president of Princeton is not an idiot.) However, if that same president's daughter asked her dad to co-sign a car loan for her, it would be no problem. Relationship matters.

With God, when the person is actually a child of God, when the person belongs to God, he knows them and hears their prayers. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."

When it comes to God then, do you really know him and does he know you? Do you have a relationship with him that warrants God answering your prayers? Or is God pretty distant, pretty much just a concept in your life? If God is distant, or you're not sure that you know God, here is how you can begin a relationship with him right now: Getting Connected.

Will God Definitely Answer Your Prayer?

For those who do know him and rely on him, Jesus seems to be wildly generous in his offer: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." To "remain" in him and have his words remain in them means they conduct their lives aware of him, relying on him, listening to what he says. Then they're able to ask him whatever they want. Here is another qualifier: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him." God answers our prayers according to his will (and according to his wisdom, his love for us, his holiness, etc.).

Where we trip up is assuming we know God's will, because a certain thing makes sense to us! We assume that there is only one right "answer" to a specific prayer, assuming certainly THAT would be God's will. And this is where it gets tough. We live within the limits of time and limits of knowledge. We have only limited information about a situation and the implications of future action on that situation. God's understanding is unlimited. How an event plays out in the course of life or history is only something he knows. And he may have purposes far beyond what we could even imagine. So, God is not going to do something simply because we determine that it must be his will.

What Does It Take? What is God Inclined to Do?

Pages and pages could be filled about God's intentions toward us. The entire Bible is a description of the kind of relationship God wants us to experience with him and the kind of life he wants to give us. Here are just a few examples:

"...the Lord longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for [trust] him!" Did you catch that? Like someone rising out of his chair to come to your help, "He rises to show you compassion." "As for God, his way is perfect...He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." "The Lord delights in those who fear [reverence] him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."

However, God's greatest display of his love and commitment to you is this: Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," which is what Jesus did for us. And so, "If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?"

What about "Unanswered" Prayer?

Certainly people get sick, even die; financial problems are real, and all sorts of very difficult situations can come up. What then?

God tells us to give our concerns to him. Even as the situation remains dismal, "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." The circumstances may look out of control, but they aren't. When the whole world seems to be falling apart, God can keep us together. This is when a person can be very grateful that they know God. "The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." God may provide solutions, resolutions to the problem WAY beyond what you imagined possible. Probably any Christian could list examples like this in their own lives. But if the circumstances do not improve, God can still give us his peace in the midst of it. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

It is at this point (when circumstances are still tough) that God asks us to continue to trust him -- to "walk by faith, not by sight" the Bible says. But it's not blind faith. It is based on the very character of God. A car traveling on the Golden Gate Bridge is fully supported by the integrity of the bridge. It doesn't matter what the driver may be feeling, or thinking about, or discussing with someone in the passenger seat. What gets the car safely to the other side is the integrity of the bridge, which the driver was willing to trust.

In the same way, God asks us to trust his integrity, his character...his compassion, love, wisdom, righteousness on our behalf. He says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." "Trust in him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us."

In Summary...How to Pray

God has offered to answer the prayers of his children (those who have received him into their lives and seek to follow him). He asks us to take any concerns to him in prayer and he will act upon it according to his will. As we deal with difficulties we are to cast our cares on him and receive from him a peace that defies the circumstances. The basis for our hope and faith is the character of God himself. The better we know him, the more apt we are to trust him.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Song, Video & Prayer Interlude: Breathe

While not specifically dedicated to St. Jude, this song by Ryan Star and accompanied video on YouTube is inspirational, passionate and pleasing. Sometimes, songs like this can inspire and strengthen our prayer life.

"Breathe, just breathe.
Take the world off your shoulders and put it on me.
Breathe, just breathe.
Let the life that you lead be all that you need."

I included it as an interlude in our blog, and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Let God and St. Jude take the world off your shoulders...

Perhaps, as you watch, say and pray:

Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of.

Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of.

Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Article: The Prayer Jesus Taught Us

The Prayer Jesus Taught Us by Victor Hoagland, C.P., based on the New Catholic Catechism 2759-2865 (source link here)

"Teach us how to pray," the disciples said to Jesus. (Luke 11, 1) He answered by teaching them the prayer we call the Our Father or The Lord's Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer is a basic Christian prayer. As a model of prayer, every Christian learns it by heart. It appears everywhere in the church's life: in its liturgy and sacraments, in public and private prayer. It 's a prayer Christians treasure.

Though we memorize it as a set formula, the Lord's Prayer shouldn't be repeated mechanically or without thought. Its purpose is to awaken and stimulate our faith. Through this prayer Jesus invites us to approach God as Father. Indeed, the Lord's Prayer has been called a summary of the gospel.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.

God and MosesWhen Moses approached God on Mount Sinai, he heard a voice saying, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." An infinite chasm separates us from the transcendent God.

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus invites us to draw near to God who is beyond human understanding, who dwells in mystery, who is all holy. We can call God "our Father".

Calling God "Father" does not mean that God is masculine. God is beyond the categories of gender, of masculine or feminine. None of our descriptions of God is adequate. God, who is "in heaven", whose name is holy, cannot be fully known by us.

By calling God "Father" we are more rightly describing ourselves and our relationship with God. Jesus teaches that we have a filial relationship with God; God sees us as if we were a daughter or a son. And we, on our part, can approach God in the familiar confident way a child approaches a loving parent. What is more, we approach God through God's only Son, Jesus Christ, who unites us to himself .

Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

God's kingdom. Jesus often said that God's power would appear and renew all creation. God like a mighty king would rule over the earth according to a plan that unfolds from the beginning of the world. God's kingdom would be marked by peace and justice. Good would be rewarded and evil punished. The kingdom, according to Jesus, is not far off, but already present in our midst, though not yet revealed.

In the Lord's prayer we pray that God's kingdom come, that God's will, which is for our good, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

We are God's children. What can be more childlike than this petition in which we pray for our daily bread, a word that describes all those physical, human and spiritual gifts we need to live. With the confidence of children we say: "Give us this day what we need."

Forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This petition of the Lord's Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God's forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God's forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. Forgiving others is not always easy to do. We need God's help to do it. But it must be done or we ourselves cannot receive God's mercy.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Life is not easy. It is a daily battle. Trials like sickness and failure can crush our spirits. False values and easy promises can entice us and even destroy our souls. And so we ask God to keep us from failing when we are tested, to help us to know the right thing to do, to deliver us from the evil which awaits us in life.

The Lord's Prayer sums up the teaching of Jesus. It is also a prayer that offers the grace of Jesus: his reverence for God, his childlike confidence in his Father, and his power to go bravely through life no matter what comes. When we pray his prayer, his spirit becomes our own.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

St. Jude Thaddeus by Georges de La Tour

It is important to see how art is applied to religious or historical icons. The perspectives of artists tells us much about how these figures are viewed in and over time. Last week, I presented a painting of St. Jude by Sir Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish Baroque artist.

This week, I present a painting of the saint by Georges de La Tour (1593–1652), a painter who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which became part of France the year before his death. He painted mostly religious scenes lit by candlelight, and after centuries of posthumous obscurity became one of the most highly regarded of French 17th century artists in the 20th century.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Blog Post: When You Can't Pray

From Striving for 31 by Amber (source link here).

Romans 8:26-27
"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will."

Have you ever been to the point where you just couldn't pray anymore? Have you tried a million times to petition the Father, only to feel your mind floating into paralysis as no words seem adequate?

I'm there.

A few weeks ago, a precious friend of mine told me she was in that place. She said, "I just can't pray anymore. I can pray for others, but not for myself."

Despite her inability to verbalize her heart, God saw her. And He answered her in a marvelous way this very day. Praise God!

I think God allowed me to stand witness to her journey to encourage me out of my own pit. I have reached the point where I can't seem to pray. Don't get me wrong... I try... a lot. I start to pray. Sometimes I get words out. Sometimes I make sense in my prayers. But most of the time, the darkness and confusion just chokes the words right out of my mouth. Girls, I've gotta confess... I'm in a pit.

I'm not depressed. I'm not having a nervous breakdown. I'm just walking through a spiritual wilderness. Nothing seems certain and I feel very alone. Satan has worked overtime around here and I'm struggling to get through it.

Why do I share this? I want to ask you to pray when I can't. Many of you are pastor's wives and you know the struggle I'm speaking of. The out-of-control, desperate feeling where you have no voice in the direction your life will take. The longing for God's will more than breath. The deep love for your man when he is so defeated that he can't see outside his own discouragement. The moment when you realize you've been in the pit for so long, that you don't know how to get out.

Girls, please pray for deliverance. Please pray for Josh. Please pray for me.

I take comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit is interceeding for us, according to God's perfect will which seems so impossible to discern. I absolutely believe that God has brought this about for a purpose. I believe He is refining us. I believe He is tugging at the most uncomfortable places in my heart, requiring surrender, requiring everything.

He is good. I will never sway from that. I don't question His goodness or His plan. I just question my inability to make heads or tails out of anything anymore.

Please pray that I will thirst for His Word and that it will bring new life to my soul.

I am sending my children to stay with their grandparents tonight. I originally intended to work. But instead, I believe I am going to sit before the Lord, for as long as it takes, to see Him. To feel Him. And to be able to talk with Him again.

We're going to get through this and have such an amazing story to share in the end. I just pray that we're in the final paragraphs of this chapter in our lives.

Until Tomorrow,

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Prayers for Those in Despair

Heavenly Father, I know I am close to despair. I feel so tempted to give up, to withdraw from life and religion and let the world simply carry me along.

Everything seems so meaningless and nothing appeals to my better instincts.

Help me to remember that Jesus gave meaning to everything in the world.

Let me bank on that fact and get over this time of despair, to really believe in the depths of my being that there is a reason for living.

Show me the reason for my life and tell me what I must do.

Bring home to me that I am never alone, but that You are with me even in the depths of despair. Remind me that no matter what I may endure now, an unending joy awaits me in the future if I but cling tightly to You and your Son Jesus in the unity of the Spirit.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Painting: Saint Thadée (or Saint Jude) by James Tissot

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 15, 1836 – August 8, 1902) was a French painter. Tissot was born at Nantes. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Ingres, Flandrin and Lamothe, and exhibited in the Paris Salon for the first time at the age of twenty-three.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Article: Burden to Pray

A web article from (source link here)...

"You better call home because you wife and kids are dead!" a large prisoner said with a glazed look in his eyes. My Sergeant, who was stunned by the announcement, rose slowly to protect himself from this strange acting prisoner. Suddenly, the prisoner attacked him with a desk lamp. My natural response was to jump on the prisoner’s back to help subdue him. In the violent struggle, my back was gouged by a piece of metal, which caused a 2" x 10" cut. After the prisoner was subdued, I was taken to the hospital for treatment.

This incident happened during my fourth week of working in the prison. Being a Correction Officer is difficult enough as it is, but it is even more difficult for new officers. Since new officers were rare before the massive prison buildup in the mid-1980s, the prisoners had more time to test the new officers to see if they could be intimidated. Unfortunately, this testing often lasted for months.

Since I was getting tired of this testing, I was hoping something unusual would happen that would cause the prisoners to respect me. In fact, the morning of the attack, I made such a prayer request. Of course, I was thinking of something a little less violent, such as making a major drug bust. As it turned out, I got the prisoner's attention by coming to the aid of the Sergeant. Word spread quickly in the prison, "… don’t mess with the new cop. He’s not afraid to fight." As a result, all of the prisoners left me alone.

In reality, my help in the fight had nothing to do with my being brave. It was simply a natural reaction. It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to be scared. If I'd had a couple of minutes to think about it beforehand, I would have been scared to be in a fight inside a prison surrounded by several hundred prisoners. Nevertheless, I didn’t bother explaining this to the prisoners. If they wanted to believe I was a fearless cop, who was I to correct them?

I have found it a little bit unnerving that the only day I prayed for this was the day the fight took place. Personally, I feel God put this prayer request in my heart because He wanted to do a special work in my life. I have found God often prompts people to pray when He is doing a unique task.

One day as I was driving down the highway, I decided to pray for a while. One of the things I prayed for was protection from getting a speeding ticket. This really surprised me because I had never prayed for that before, or since. There are two reasons I wouldn’t normally pray for something like this. First, if I am driving the speed limit there isn’t much risk of getting a ticket. Second, if I am deliberately speeding and I have the audacity to ask God to protect me while I break the law, my prayers may prompt Him to cause me to get a ticket. Since I try to adhere to the speed limit, I really couldn’t understand why I would even consider such a prayer. It just came out.

However, a couple minutes later I reached over in the car to pick up something from the floor and my foot pushed the gas pedal down. As I straightened up, I saw I was going 80 mph in a 55-mph zone. Also, at the same moment, I saw a State Police car in the median. He, of course, pulled out onto the highway and began to follow me. After three grueling miles, he stopped following me. I believe God foresaw what was going to happen and put that prayer request in my heart.

The salvation of the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, is another example of God’s prompting. Hudson became a Christian while his mom was away on a trip. Wanting to surprise his mom, he instructed everyone in his family to keep quiet about his experience. However, when he approached her about the good news, she said she already knew what he was going to say. She said, "You became a Christian about two weeks ago, didn’t you?" She even knew the exact day and time.

On the day he became a Christian, his mom had a tremendous burden for him, so she got out of her bed and started to pray for him. Although it seemed like a short period of time, her prayer session lasted several hours. When she was finished, she had such joy. She knew God had answered her prayers.

Another example of God prompting someone to pray is the salvation of a girl named Beth. I discussed this incident elsewhere in this book, but I feel it is important to include this example here. During a church service, I suddenly had a strong burden to pray for the salvation of a lifeguard (Beth) who happened to be attending the service. After praying for her, I wrote the phrase, "God, please save Beth" on a piece of paper. After the service she came up to me and told me she had become a Christian. Of course, she was very surprised to see the note I had written to God.

This prompting of God is quite common and a person could fill several large books with examples. Yet, I think it is natural to ask, "Why does God do this. Does He need our prayers? If God were all-powerful and all knowing, why would He need to prompt someone to pray in order to carry out His desired task?" Quite frankly, I don’t know. There are many things I don’t understand about prayer and our all-powerful God. I do know, however, God desires our prayers and is pleased when we put our full reliance on Him. Maybe the reason He occasionally reveals these unique promptings to us, is to reveal His power and bring us closer to His presence.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Painting: St. Jude Thaddeus by El Greco

El Greco (1541–1614) was a painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" (The Greek) was a nickname, a reference to his Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos).