Spiritual Prayers?

April 27, 2011 at 8:37 am | Posted in Prayer, Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

Dear Pastor Glenn,

I heard a radio preacher recently say that all Paul’s prayers were spiritual prayers and that ours should be also.  Is this true?  And if so, how can we make our prayers spiritual prayers?

Thanks for you help,

Dear ________

Are Paul’s prayers always for spiritual things?  I appreciate the question, because it relates to how we pray for others.  I make no claim to be a prayer expert in my understanding and certainly not in practice.  I wish I could more often pray the kind of prayers Paul prayed for his churches.  But I will attempt to give my biblical understanding of this issue.  I see two areas to address.  First, what is “spiritual” as compared to “unspiritual” or “secular?”  And second, what was the content of  Paul’s prayers in the New Testament?

What is “spiritual?”  I don’t know what the radio speaker meant by this, since I didn’t hear him.  However, there are some issues that we tend to think of as more spiritual than others, but this is a flaw in our thinking,  It was Paul who said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men.”  And “Whether you eat of drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” (Col 3:23; 1 Cor. 13:31)  It seems from comments like these that Paul sees no difference between the secular and the spiritual.  To him everything was “spiritual.”  Tentmaking was as “spiritual” to Paul as preaching.  Each could be done wholeheartedly with excellence to God’s glory, and each could be done selfishly and sloppily.  To make a separation  would also separate between professions and make people who are professionals at “spiritual” matters (like preachers and missionaries) somehow better than those who have any other kind of job.  But the truth is that each of us must do with excellence whatever God calls us to do, and that is “spiritual” activity.  I would add that even preaching or mission work is not “spiritual” activity when done haphazardly, or with false motives or hidden agendas.  I know from experience that all three of those are common problems – sometimes I don’t even know my own motives and agendas in ministry!

A famous Christian classic was written hundreds of years ago by one we know only as Brother Lawrence (with the help of a friend) called The Practice of the Presence of God.  It illustrates this point better than anything I could say or do.  Brother Lawrence was a monk assigned to the kitchen cleaning crew, but he saw it as a way to glorify God and wrote about it in his book.  His friend says of him, “The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was simply to do his ordinary work.  He did this obediently out of a pure love of God.  He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other.”  And “He was content doing even the smallest chore if he could do it for the love of God.”  In other words, Brother Lawrence would say whatever God would have you do, that is spiritual activity.  That seems to exemplify Paul’s attitude about life.

In light of your question, I would only add this comment:  Whatever God would  have you pray, that is a “spiritual” prayer.  Paul’s prayers would testify to this, which brings up the second issue.

Paul prayed for things like “that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” and “that you may know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (all from Ephesians 1:17-19)  These certainly sound like very spiritual things, and they appear to be the majority of his recorded prayers.  But he also prayed “that a way may be opened for me to come to you” (Rom 1:10), “that you may be able to discern what is best,” (Phil 1:10) “that you may have great endurance, “ (Col 1:11) and “that we may see you again.” (1 Thess 3:10)  This second list sounds more like practical than spiritual matters.

The seeming spiritual  nature of Paul’s prayers comes, I believe, from the fact that so many of them are recorded in his letters to churches rather than individuals.  The only prayers Paul can express for everybody in a church are those “spiritual” issues he desires for everybody because space and knowledge do not allow for personal, everyday kind of requests.

In addition to that, we have some commands from Paul that indicate the broad nature of his prayer requests, including these:  “Pray for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.” (1 Tim 2:2)  “The widow who is left all alone continues to pray and ask God for help.” (1 Tim 5:5)  “Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, so that I may come to you with joy.” (Rom 15:31 – this one sounds about as practical and “unspiritual” as it gets!)  And finally, “in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests by made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)  By everything, I take him to mean even those things some would consider “unspiritual.”

The things Paul prayed for his churches are things we can pray for anyone, but there are many more issues we can take to God as well.  When you are led to pray for someone on a more specific matter, even if it seems less spiritual, go ahead and pray those things.  I think God is delighted in our prayers, even when we ask him for the mundane.  Maybe he’s especially delighted when we ask for the mundane, because it is a recognition of his providence over everyday matters.

In Jesus, Pastor Glenn

Will Judgment Come on May 21?

April 20, 2011 at 10:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Pastor Glenn,

What do you think about all these signs around town calling May 21 the Judgment day and October 21 the day the world will end?  I am curious because I went to one website that listed all these dates since creation of the world and apparently these dates fall into proper order.  I don’t really get what they mean and how they came up with them!

Dear ________

They make some stupid assumptions; then add some spurious calculations; then get all the media attention they can get.  They will then tell you that all churches but theirs are corrupt and you must follow them.  Its has happened many times over since Jesus left the earth, and they’ve all been wrong.  The same people promoting May 21 have missed some other dates already.  Jesus promised to come back and said only the Father knows.  Best to stick with his plain words.

Pastor Glenn

My short answer was do to the format: communicating on Facebook.  There is, of course, much more that could be said.  Interestingly enough, the same day I got this question, I had read Acts 1 in my devotions.  Acts 1:8 is a verse well known to Christians, and the verses immediately before it address this very issue.  After his resurrection, the disciples met Jesus on the mountain he told them about.  They then asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  So Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  Note the plain truth of the statement.  But what struck me is the connection between this and verse 8.  Jesus’ entire answer is “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  BUT you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  There is a big BUT connecting these two thoughts.  In other words, rather than speculate about such things, Jesus wanted his followers to focus on something else, on what he called them to do.

If Jesus comes back on May 21, 2011 or October 21, 2011 or December 21, 2012, that would be wonderful!  But that shouldn’t be our focus.  Our focus should be knowing Jesus Christ and making him known to others around the world.  Let’s let the Father worry about such things and be about the business to which he called us.

Salvation by Grace through Faith? Look at the Overwhelming Evidence!

April 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | 8 Comments

Do we really believe that God offers salvation freely by his grace, and that our part is simply to trust in his provision?  I am so often hit with questions about this matter that I thought I would post many or these references together.  There are those who teach that we must practice certain things or go through certain rituals to be saved.  But what does the Bible say?  Look at the overwhelming evidence in this matter.  Notice that there are not just a few verses pulled out of context but some long passages and references from four of the major authors of the New Testament.

From Luke:

Acts 2:21;  Acts 4:4;  Acts 10:43;  Acts 13:38-39;  Acts 14:1, 27;  Acts 15:6-11;  Acts 16:29-31;  Acts 18:27;  Acts 20:21;  Acts 26:12-18.

From Paul:

Romans 1:16-17;  Romans 3:21-26, 27-30;  Romans 4:1-25;  Romans 5:1-11;  Romans 10:9-13;  Galatians 2:15-21;  Galatians 3:1-15;  Galatians 5:2-6;  Ephesians 1:13-14;  Ephesians 2:8-10;  2 Timothy 3:14-15;  Titus 3:3-7.

From John:

John 1:10-13;  John 3:14-17, 18, 36;  John 5:24;  John 6:28-29, 35, 40, 47;  John 7:37-39;  John 8:24;  John 11:25-26;  John 12:44-46;  John 20:30-31;  1 John 5:11-13.

From Peter:

1 Peter 1:3-5, 18-21;  1 Peter 2:6-10.

Maybe you never realized the Bible was so overwhelmingly clear.  Maybe you’ve run across this post because you’re under the teaching of someone who wants you to sign on his program or get baptized by his church because, he tells you, it’s the only way you can be saved, and he’s quoted to you a few obscure verses twisted to his purposes.  Maybe you think you’re saved because you were baptized or you’ve done many good works or you walked down a church aisle one day.  Maybe you’re trusting in yourself and what you can do.  The Bible is unmistakably clear on this matter:  Salvation is a gift of God’s grace through our trust in Jesus.  All that must be paid for our salvation has been paid by Jesus.  When you trust in him you are eternally saved from your sin.  Put your trust in Jesus today.

“Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.  He has crossed over from death to life.”  –Jesus

Movie Review: Soul Surfer

April 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

About three years ago, we read together as a family a great little autobiographical book by teenager Bethany Hamilton, called Soul Surfer.  It was a wonderful family devotional and inspirational read about a young surfing phenom who lost her arm in a shark attack.  So, a few weeks ago, when my daughter discovered it was coming out as a movie, she could hardly wait to see it.  The movie was out yesterday, and this morning we all attended the Saturday matinee.  Very inspirational!  Very touching!

Since Bethany herself was in on the production, the film sticks to the true story.  (The accident and rescue scenes may be too intense for little ones.)  And though the Christian testimony of the film is not as strong as the book, there are clearly those elements present.

As big Narnia fans, we looked forward to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader earlier this winter, but, with the exception of Will Poulter’s great portrayal of Eustace, Soul Surfer was better in most every respect I can judge.  It is at times intense, at times funny, at times a tear jerker, and always emotionally stirring.  If the guys want an inspiring sports story, this is it.  If the ladies want a touching-the-heart story, this is it.  All three of us left the theater thinking we’d just seen a real winner.

Take time to see this one.  Be sure to stay for the credits.  While they run you can watch family films of the real Bethany Hamilton on one side of the screen – another very touching aspect of the film.  Her smile is infectious!

Christian Suicide

April 5, 2011 at 10:02 am | Posted in It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance | 4 Comments

To my readers: I would encourage you to also read the comments section of this post.  Some friends with greater understanding than mine have written some wise words about this topic. –Pastor Glenn

I received the following e-mail from an unnamed source whose address began with Q, so I will simply call the person Q.  Pray for Q if you feel so led.  Maybe some others need this information as well.

Pastor Glenn,

I was wondering if you could tell me what the Bible says about a Christian taking his own life?  Would that person go to heaven or go to hell?  I was wondering if you could back it up with scripture?  I’ve contemplated this for long time and have come to no conclusion. I really need to know. Please help.

Thank you for your time!

Dear Q,

The Bible doesn’t say much about suicide directly, although much of what the Bible says impacts our understanding of that topic.  But your asking about it makes me wonder why.  I can understand that you might be in great physical or emotional pain, and I feel for you.  But God in his grace can help you deal with life and come out of your darkness.

With that said, I can only imagine four reasons why someone would ponder such a decision.  The first reason would be that you don’t know Jesus.  In other words you may not be a Christian in the Biblical sense of the word.  When someone trusts in Jesus, the Bible assures us that God’s Spirit comes into that person’s life and gives them a reason to live.  The manifestation of the Spirit in one’s life is joy and peace.  Maybe you aren’t trusting Jesus but are trusting in your religion, or your good works, or in your friends or family’s faith.  True salvation means turning our backs on everything we would seek life in and trusting totally in Jesus.

Second, you might ponder that decision because, though you have trusted Jesus, you haven’t learned what He means in your life.  He really does give abundance and meaning, but such meaning is for his glory and not our own.  Life really is all about God and not about us.  Suicide is the ultimate selfishness.  It looks at life from one’s own perspective regardless of God’s view and the feelings of others.  Take time to read the NT passages about who we are “in Christ,”  and spend a lot of time in the Psalms.  The authors of the Psalms are brutally honest about struggles and darkness in their lives, yet they always come back to God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.  Please read the first 50 Psalms numerous times in the next few months, even if you don’t think this is the reason for your question.

Third, you might ponder suicide because you have been oppressed by the demonic.  If this is the case, you need to get help from someone who knows God’s Word and has dealt with these situations before.

The only other reason I can think of giving rise to such ponderings is an imbalance in your own system that requires medical attention.  Though I tend to think the professional counseling community overemphasizes this, it is still a real possibility.  This too requires some professional help.

If you are a Christian, as you say you are, then God has a great plan for your life.  Your life is much more than the problems you face.  You have the amazing opportunity to be apart of something so much bigger, an opportunity to impact those around you for all eternity.  Focus on God and his plan rather than your self and your struggles.

Whatever may be happening, and whatever the reason, get some help.  Those who truly know Jesus will welcome you with grace rather than condemnation and will help you discover God’s purpose in your life.

In the grip of His grace,

Pastor Glenn

For another perspective on this matter, please check out my article called, Life Can Be Empty.

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