Watching and praying

I’ve been deeply impressed lately that evil is on the march in the world. Jesus told His followers to watch and pray. Both are necessary. If we’re not watching, we cannot pray effectively. If we’re not praying, we will be either oblivious to or overcome by the evil so extant in the world. The Christian walk is as on a balance beam. Go to either side too far, and you’re in trouble.

When the soviet empire came crashing down a couple of decades ago, some brilliant guy came up with the premise that history had reached its end. For some reason he thought all the big stories had been told. The world now was going to learn to live in peace, or something.

Welcome to something. We had a decade-long hiatus in the Nineties, but only because we chose to ignore the signs, such as the embassy bombings and the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1996. David the king of Israel made the biggest mistake of his life when he got involved with Bathsheba, and he fell to that temptation because he stayed back during the season when he should have been at war. He wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, he indulged himself and paid the price.

I wonder if this nation will ever wake up. I wrote here recently that the current wave of Arab uprisings was a missed opportunity for us to spread human rights. The administration that the American people elected with such idealism stood off to the side, confused, incompetent and impotent. And it had done the same a year and a half ago, when the brave Iranian patriots were left twisting in the wind during their window of opportunity.

The Muslim menace hasn’t gone anywhere. And we are only getting weaker. Bankrupt schemes of paternalistic government have placed us far in the debtor’s corner, mortgaging our children’s future and making us the slave of cruel international creditors. There is an immense leadership void at the very top, and still the majority of the electorate stands behind their man.

Hey, turn American Idol back on. The Superbowl is over, and Lady Gaga won’t be on til later.

One horrendous event came to light this week, in which a female chief correspondent was brutally assaulted during the reveling in Cairo. Just before that, a teenager in Pakistan, who had been raped by an uncle, was found guilty of unchastity and sentenced to ninety lashes. She collapsed and died after eighty.

I thought about all the darkness in the world, so dark that even religion gives men sanction to behave like beasts. And then I turned back to our nation, and when I saw the snide and vulgar comments our own people were making about the Cairo story, I realized that we were no better. If we don’t turn around, we are going to collapse from the weight of our own moral filth.

There are hopeful signs. One after another, the major European leaders have come forth with surprising pronouncements that political correctness’s malformed offspring, multiculturalism, is nothing but cultural and national suicide. The heroic work of a few watchmen there, who told the truth despite great personal risk, may be beginning to pay off.

And in the states, the revolution continues. A Virginia school district puts the Ten Commandments back up on the wall. The fallout from last November’s elections continues, and when Republican leadership begins to vacillate on its commitment to rein in government, its own freshman class takes it to task.

But it’s an uphill battle. We fight a defeated foe, but he seldom gives up ground without a fight.

In all this, I am pursuing peace. I am convinced that nothing of eternal worth gets done without abiding in the peace of Christ. We can gain the whole world, the Lord tells us, but if we lose that one thing – our precious relationship with Him – we truly have gained nothing.

Strong defense, freedom of worship, smaller government and lower taxes – all these are good and important things. But we must guard that we do not become like Martha, consumed with worry and care. Jesus commended not Martha, but Mary, for simply sitting at His feet and taking in His presence and His words. He wasn’t saying that work and responsibility aren’t necessary. But there’s a time for everything, and when Jesus shows up and starts talking, it’s time to sit and listen. The rest will work itself out somehow.

 

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  1. February 21, 2011 at 3:02 am

    I note that you promote prayer, and presume that you believe prayer works.

    What is your criteria for determining whether prayer to your god is working as opposed to prayer to other gods? How do you demonstrate the efficacy of your prayers as superior to the prayers of those praying to other gods?

    Thanks, Phil

    • February 21, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Hi Phil,

      Coming to faith to me was a long and difficult process. I came dragged and screaming. But in the end I had no real choice but to come, and I did willingly.

      The answer to your question is found in the question itself – faith. I believe that my prayer works because I believe in my God. And I believe in my God because I’ve examined the evidence and considered all the alternatives.

      I studied not only scripture, but the transparency of the scriptural record. And I found it convincing. I studied not only doctrine, but the testimony of the earliest disciples. who went to the mat for their first-hand testimony to the character, claims, miracles and resurrection of Christ.

      I considered philosophical apologetics, and became convinced that all we see must have a purpose and a Creator. The question then became whether He was cruel and evil in subjecting us to this painful futility, or whether His good plans for us have been temporarily thwarted as the Bible says. I was being called upon to judge the very nature of God, and I would be held accountable for my judgment.

      All this is a neat mental exercise, until life catches up to you. Sometimes we are placed in positions where these things lose their esotericity, and become very vital issues indeed.

  2. February 21, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Sorry Paul, but you misunderstood my question. Let me try to rephrase it.

    What is your criteria for determining whether prayer to your god is working as opposed to the prayers of those of other religions to other gods? How do you demonstrate the efficacy of your prayers as superior to the prayers of those praying to other gods such as to Hundu gods or Allah?

    I want to know what is your evidence that the prayers are working; evidence that other religions can’t also claim.

    Thanks, Phil

  3. February 21, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Sorry, “Hundu” -> “Hindu”.

    • February 21, 2011 at 10:55 am

      The way I see it, and I believe the Bible backs this up, God hears the prayers of everyone who comes to Him with the right heart. That’s not to say that all religions are equally true, but God sees the heart, not the outer things.

      Evidence? As in empirical? That would be hard to say. You would have to amass reams of statistical data and then analyze it, then come to a conclusion. But I’m afraid doing so would leave the heart unchanged. That’s why my faith is God-centered. If it were based on how well my prayers say, get me stuff or keep me from pain, it would be of no eternal value.

      What I can say I personally do see evidence of though, is changed perspective on life. Forgiveness, peace, coming to terms with issues, getting free of the past, increasing vision and ability to deal with things. Everyone will receive the answers to prayer that he needs.

  4. February 21, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Paul, are you claiming that your god answers prayer, but don’t have a way to measure the accuracy of that claim? You mention statistics, but don’t seem really committed to that being an accurate measure of prayers success.

    Currently my Mother is praying for the healing of my uncle who has cancer. How could I detect whether any particular outcome (healing, death, or delayed death) was due to Jehovah, another god, or simply nature? What would give me the right to say, “my uncle’s healing was due to Jehovah’s power” or “my uncle’s death was due to Jehovah taking him”? Remember when that preacher said the Haitian earthquake was due to their “pact with the devil” years earlier? How can we say that is or is not true? I’d like the criteria you use to decide. You don’t simply follow your feelings on this, do you? You do have a criteria, don’t you?

  5. February 21, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Perhaps I could provide a clearer example of what I’m trying to inquire about.

    Suppose a group of farmers in an area were praying for rain, and another group of baseball players were praying for clear skies.

    How do we assess whether God has answered prayer in this case? You’re not saying that, if there is any outcome (and there will be an outcome whether or not there is prayer), then there is answered prayer, are you? That makes the measure of answered prayer equivalent to the measure of unanswered prayer.

    Do you see what I’m saying?

    • February 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

      Yes, I think I see what you’re saying. Some things are obvious. When Jesus walked the earth, for instance, He did miracles at will that no one else has done. If He came along and raised a widow’s son from his funeral bier, it’s pretty clear what was going on.

      Other things are less clear. If someone raises up from a sickbed, was it prayer that did it, or good doctoring? Or if someone is taken away, did the prayer really fail, or was the healing destined for another realm?

      From the outside, it’s hard or impossible to judge sometimes. Jesus tells us that two will be working in a field – doing the same things – and one will be taken. The difference is in the heart. The heart that is in submission to God can hear and see things that others cannot. Sometimes there will be an inner witness that, yes, prayer was instrumental in a healing, or that it was God’s will for his child to come home to a greater healing.

      Feelings, as in sensitivity to God, are a part of the Christian walk. But Christian faith has a solid rational basis as well.

      Signs and wonders will accompany those who believe. But Jesus also warned about depending on them for faith. There’s a balance. God knows when to give overt signs and when to keep them well-covered, because He knows the heart.

      hth,
      p.

  6. February 21, 2011 at 11:39 am

    But I often see Christians stand up and give testimony of a “miracle” that appears like it was actually negative, such as a man after a car accident living a few days longer in pain before he dies. How does that Christian determine that was actually a “miracle” rather than simply some complicated function of the body that forced the man to experience just a few more days in pain?

    And take a situation in which a plane full of passengers who have relatives praying for their safe flight crashes, and only one child survives with burns all over her face. Can this be called a miracle if that girls family prayed for a safe flight? Is there anything that cannot be called an answer to prayer?

    What would be an example of an unanswered prayer. Imagine some Muslim praying for something, then claiming after any outcome that Allah had answered his prayer. Can you give me an example of an unanswered Muslim prayer?

    • February 21, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      It’s hard to respond to hypotheticals like that. You’ve raised some valid questions, and it’s clear that my attempts to answer them haven’t been very helpful. I’m sure that as you pursue this you will find the answers you look for. Jeremiah relates, You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

      Be well,
      p.

  7. February 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Jeremiah was confused I think. All religions tell seekers that, if they open their hearts up to the very god whose existence is in question, that they will find the truth. All religions. That is why you see children of Muslim parents fervently adopting the faith of their parents, and children of Christian parents adopting the faith of their parents. On both sides they pray to the very god whose existence they are exploring. If you sincerely (with all your heart) pray to a god whose existence you presumably are questioning, how can you be questioning his existence? Do you first assume the existence of a god to examine whether that god exists by asking him whether he exists?

    Do you see what I’m trying to say?

  8. February 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Now that I think about it, it is words like Jeremiah’s that make the bible seem like a scam. Why would you pray to a god before you’ve determined whether he exists? There is also the case of the man with the sick child telling Jesus “I believe, but help my unbelief”. How does that make any sense? You ask the very person you are not sure whether to believe to make you believe? Isn’t this all just a little bit silly?

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