Waiting for God's Presence in Prayer

An oft-overlooked aspect of prayer is waiting. Without realizing the importance of waiting, much of prayer is useless because we never really enter God’s Holy presence.
In Job 40:4, he speaks of putting his hand over his mouth because he is unworthy to speak to God. This silence helps get our hearts in tune for prayer until we sense His full presence and fellowship.
Madame Guyon, a Catholic mystic writer in the late 17th century said that “There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer … But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known.” She silently waited in the presence of God, praying unceasingly, as Paul commands us to do.
Prayer needs an early significant spiritual silence. It renews our dependence on God and signifies our submission to Him.  Without that consolation of the Spirit and the subsequent renewal, our works become dead and “our message loses the ring which bespeaks its divine origin.”
Waiting places us in submission.  It helps free us from being the center of attention and having to get our own way.  It strips us of self-importance, and always having to be served or waited on…. It is the freedom to be second place; insignificant, and realize who liberating it is to be a nobody and not have to live up to others expectations. Allow waiting to create in you an inner subordination.  Paul called himself a slave of Christ.  We often expect our Master to serve us. Waiting breaks us of that.
Through waiting we see the real value of words/speaking/idle words and the idea of coming into the presence of a regent, a King. Waiting is a way to curb our desire for immediate gratification.
It’s when we say, like Thomas a’ Kempis, “As thou wilt, what thou wilt, when thou wilt,” as if we have nothing better to do than sit in the presence of the Lord.  It isn’t for God to prepare for our coming, but for us to prepare for His (Psalm 46:10).
Great mens’ vision, inner strength and genius is wrought in silence… Gaining it mystically from God himself.  It isn’t something taken from God, but given by Him.
Waiting is a discipline, we must become pupils.
We must be constantly renewed by Heavenly communion or our works become dead and powerless.  Have you ever felt like that?  Do they bespeak their divine origin?
“Amidst the multitude of works, the soul withers.”  Too much to do leads to powerless and non-eternal service/ministry.  Instead, those we minister to should say, “Didn’t we feel our hearts burn within us?”
Waiting consists of the silent surrender of my soul to God. It is not day dreaming, but concentrating on God’s presence and His approaching. It focuses our attention on His Heavenly voice until it’s as if He says, “OK, you’re ready.” Waiting isn’t a time of listening, trying to say anything, or getting answers. Waiting is simply waiting.
Waiting is silent love. We sit quietly in God’s presence, letting Him love you and minister to you, much like Paul describes the Holy Spirit in Romans 8. Wait until there is peace in your soul, until your spirit is submissive and no longer fluttering. Waiting is for the purpose of getting your heart in tune until you sense His full presence and fellowship.

Praise: The Foundation for Prayer

A few weeks ago, we talked about spiritual disciplines. An additional discipline I’d like to discuss is prayer.
Many Christians today have questions about prayer: How should I pray? When should I pray? What should I pray?
The best example of prayer in the Bible is given by Jesus in the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, he preaches regarding prayer. He tells His followers not to seek righteousness through prayer, but that prayer should be between you and God only. He also gives His followers a format to follow for prayer. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gives us what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer. The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, our model prayer, is praise for our Lord’s name.
“Hallowed,” comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to revere, set apart, or sanctify God’s name.
It exemplifies vocal adoration
To adore comes from the idea of putting the hand to the mouth or kissing the hand, as a symbol of respect and submission. It recognizes the other’s authority and our servanthood.
That’s what we do when we praise God, we lift Him up and it serves to lower ourselves.
That’s good. Lots of people worry about self esteem.  When we realize that we are very small, then our esteem will grow because we can’t live up to the task of being as great as many psychologists want us to be.  Self-esteem is healthy, but is paradoxical.
Only praise puts God in rightful position at the beginning of our prayer time. Confession is fine to do first, but putting praise first, further exalts God and makes us more aware of the distance our sin makes us from God’s glory. Only when we see God for who He is can we see ourselves as we really are.  And only when we see ourselves as we really are, any confession is still less than it should be (Isaiah 6).
Praise makes our time of petition, listening, intercession, singing, etc. more rich, rewarding, and meaningful because we are more aware of God’s deservedness of such exaltation.
After this blog, I ask you to engage in a time of praising the Lord, exalting His name and recognizing who He is and all that He’s done.
Praise God for His name.
Praise God for His righteousness
Praise God for His infinite creation
Praise God for His Word
Because God is limitless, the potential for praise is also.  His person and personality is without bounds.
Praise is to examine and explore the person of God.  Uncovering His greatness.  Examination like an intense physical examination of a doctor.  It is to explore like one looking for Hidden Treasure.  Isn’t that what God is?

Getting in the Habit (Part 2)

Spiritual disciplines are multi-faceted, with internal as well as external disciplines, disciplines to be done alone and to be done corporately. There are disciplines focused on prayer, on service, on worship. With so many avenues available to grow in spiritual maturity, I wanted to focus on one, oft-neglected discipline: that of submission.
Submission is not a popular word or idea in today’s society, but it is an important concept to understand and to practice in our Christian lives.
So…what is submission?
Submission is choosing to yield or surrender to the power, will or authority of another as an act of obedience to God. It is to leave or commit to the discretion or judgment of others
So submission is about obedience… and what I’ve found is that it’s a simple choice– either you do it or you don’t.
What if you don’t?
Well, there was a time when my life was like Frank Sinatra… I did it my way. My wants; my way; my will (not God’s will) and to get those things, you and I manipulate things, events and people to have life the way we want it…on our terms.
When we choose not to submit to authorities in our lives, we are guilty of a kind of “Self-Worship.” If we don’t submit to God and His Will, we have broken the First Commandment.  He said “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  But when have been more loyal to ourselves and our wills than God’s, we’re guilty of exalting ourselves… self-worship.
On the other hand, we can choose to submit our wills to God’s Will like Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Have you ever asked yourself, “How could Jesus submit his will to the Father’s when he knew his fate?” Four reasons. The same four reasons we should totally submit ourselves to God’s Will.
1.    God’s Omniscience– He knows everything. He has all the facts
2.    God’s Omnipotence– He’s powerful enough to take care of it
3.    God’s Omnipresence– He’s always there, 24-7-365
4.    God’s Omnibenevolence– He loves us and always wants our best
When I discovered that, I saw that submission meant I had to dethrone myself. Making Christ the Lord of our lives isn’t the end, it’s where life begins. How do we depose or dethrone ourselves and exalt the King of Kings?
It’s a choice. Submission is a choice you make moment by moment to yield or surrender to the power, will or authority of another as an act of obedience to God.  It when you choose to leave things to the discretion or judgment of others.
There are two spheres of submission God requires for freedom in our relationships, the vertical and the horizontal.
The vertical is submission in our relationship with God. Choosing to yield or surrender to the power, will or authority of God because of His attributes we just discussed.  To leave or commit my life and my will to the discretion or judgment of God (1 Peter 5:6). The horizontal is submission in our relationship with others. Choosing to yield or surrender to the will or authority of other authorities in our lives… why?  Because we know that no matter what happens, God is sovereign (Romans 8:28).
God has called us to be disciples and to make disciples.  We can’t make disciples if we aren’t disciples. The word “discipline” comes from the same root word as “disciple.”  By definition, a disciple should be disciplined.
I challenge you to learn more about the spiritual disciplines by reading Richard Foster’s book and to begin placing them into your life so you will have the spiritual growth God desires and the spiritual intimacy that you desire.

Getting in the Habit (Part 1)

The postmodern culture we live in is often overly focused on feelings, on making decisions based on instincts rather than rational thought or thorough study.
This is not the way God instructs us to live.
God commands His people to be different from the world, which does whatever feels right. Following God may not be the easiest choice; it may not seem like the most natural thing to do. One thing we can engage in to in spiritual maturity and to seek to know more about God is to practice spiritual disciplines.
So, what are spiritual disciplines? Spiritual disciplines are different ways we place ourselves in the position to grow spiritually (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
Spiritual disciplines include all of the Holy Habits that we do to grow spiritually, including prayer, fasting, praise, meditation, solitude and so many others. Don’t get put off by the phrase “Holy Habits.”  Most of the time we think of habits as routine or bad.  Habits can be good too. They are refreshing.  In the same way, the Spiritual Disciplines are not always something that we are thrilled about, and they may take discipline but spiritual growth can’t take place without them.
Spiritual disciplines put us where God can work within us and transform us.  By themselves, the spiritual disciplines can do nothing– they can only get us to the place where God can work in us.
A spiritual discipline is necessary, but “just doing it” will not make you holy.  It is only the means to spiritual growth.  The goal of spiritual disciplines is to bring us into spiritual maturity, intimacy, and wholeness. The goal isn’t just to “pray” or to “show up at church;” the goal is intimacy with God.
Praying/Fasting/Worship/Service, etc. for the sake of themselves will not make you spiritually mature.  That’s just going through the motions.  Those are only means to maturity.  You don’t do them for the sake of just doing them, like it’s just some obligation.  When you do those things in that way, and your Christian life is nothing more than a Spiritual To-Do List, the Christian life drops into monotony and mediocrity (2 Corinthians 3:6).
In your spiritual pursuit, don’t replace the things of God (the disciplines) for the person of God.
Now, having said all that., let’s ask the question, “So what?”  What’s the big deal– why should I practice the spiritual disciplines?
God has ordained the disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we place ourselves where He can bless us.  Doing them does not make us grow– God does that… but without doing them, we can’t grow.  By practicing them we can place ourselves in the position to collide with God’s grace, and it is there that spiritual growth becomes a reality.
I want to underscore something…good intentions aren’t going to make you holy. THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES, and the spiritual disciplines alone are the path to spiritual growth.  They are required to grow.
So, what’s the point?
For each spiritual discipline we omit in our lives, we forfeit the corresponding grace; we simply lose out on the benefits produced by the practice of that discipline… and we need them all for spiritual maturity and balance in our lives.
If you’re interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines, I highly recommend Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. If you are interested in deepening your spiritual walk, this is a must read.  It was named among the Top 10 Books of the last century by Christianity Today magazine.

Pushing the Envelope

I want to start this year with something that some of you already know–
I am passionate about life, not passive. AND I MAKE NO APOLOGY FOR THAT.  If I could give every person in the world one message— other than urging them to submit to Christ— here’s what I would challenge them to do, and what I challenge you to do: Live Like You Mean It.
I don’t live half way.  I don’t play it safe.
I’m not going to end up at the end of life with half a tank of fuel left— it’ll be bone dry.  I want to live in the Red Zone.  I want to Push The Envelope. I want to be completely authentic– WYSIWYG… what you see is what you get.  I want to I want to drink life in and get the best it has to offer.  And because I want the best life has to offer, I seek to follow Christ with all of my being– with everything I’ve got.
But some people don’t like that. It makes them uncomfortable.  It makes some Christians more uncomfortable to see a Christian living an unbridled life of radical obedience to God than they are around non-Christians living unbridled lives of radical disobedience to God.
I have something to say about that– and I mean this respectfully.  The fact is that I really don’t care.  I’m not trying to win a popularity contest. I’m not going for the “Mr. Nice Guy 2011 Award.”  My highest value in life isn’t to make everyone feel comfortable.  I have no interest in pleasing men.  That’s why the Apostle Paul said what he did in Galatians 1:10.  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
But then, I’m no Super-Christian. I blow it every day.  I have a few pockets of unruliness in my life that I have to keep an eye on.  I have a wild heart that God has to bridle and put a saddle on sometimes.  But one thing I can say that I do, is I live like I mean it.
In other words, Christianity isn’t a joke to me. My faith isn’t something I’m passive about.  My commitment to the man who died for me isn’t something I take lightly.
How are you living?