Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

praying for bad things so god can work good

I've heard of some very misguided prayers over the years, but I don't think I've ever heard someone defend them with this kind of logic:

...he told my friend, who has a degenerative eye disease, that he was "Praying more earnestly than I’ve ever prayed in my life that God would destroy the rods and cones in your eyes so that you would go blind and only the sight that God gives you will be able to guide you."

prodigaljohn has the full story. His friend, a pastor, is committing that dastardly sin of planting a new church.

This person who is praying against prodigaljohn's friend evidently believes the pastor suffers from pride and needs to be broken. prodigaljohn considers the roots of the problem:

Sometimes, if you've come to Christ through some tragic circumstance like a death in the family or an all consuming addiction or a specific pit so deep only the light of God could find the bottom, it's tempting to think everyone needs to have that very same experience you had.

So you start to develop this weird kind of "brokenness pride." That sounds completely stupid and impossible, I know, but I think it's true. Or rather it's true of me. A few years ago I made some mistakes that no amount of intelligence or wit or temporary, "I'll do better this time, I can fix this" could remedy. In the midst of that, Christ grabbed hold of me.

And yet somehow I found a way to turn that into pride. I started thinking things like, "That guy hasn't been broken yet. Look how deep my faith is compared to his. He hasn't seen the depths of hurt or darkness I have and is still holding on to things I had to let go of. Maybe someday, he'll get broken like me and experience a real relationship with God."

There's something else that prodigaljohn does not mention. Sometimes brokenness strengthens your faith, and sometimes it weakens your faith. Sometimes you go through such a long slog of hardship that you don't want to go on living, and you wonder whether God has forgotten about you, or whether he just doesn't care. That is brokenness. And if you've ever gone through those depths, you would never wish the experience on your most bitter enemy. You would certainly never expect anyone to end up better for having gone through the experience.

And there's another thing, too. Maybe they've already been there. We don't know what pain and suffering others have experienced, or what they might be experiencing right at this moment. There's no reason to pray for bad things to happen to anyone. This world has enough evil in it already.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

cursing from the pulpit

From the Associated Baptist Press:

A former Southern Baptist Convention officer who on June 2 called the death of abortion provider George Tiller an answer to prayer said later in the day he is also praying "imprecatory prayer" against President Obama.

The pastor, Wiley Drake, made the remarks in an interview with Alan Colmes of Fox News Radio. Later in the interview, Colmes tried to clarify:

Colmes: Are you praying for his death?

Drake: Yes.

Colmes: So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?

Drake: Yes.

Drake says his cursing is justified because:

I don't just preach part of it. I don't just preach the soft, fuzzy, warm stuff where we're supposed to be nice to everybody. I preach the whole Bible.

Apparently he is using a Bible translation that does not contain Romans 12:14, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them."

Now to be honest, I'd like to call down a few curses against Wiley Drake. In my heart, I'm no better than he is. That's not the direction I really wanted to go with this post, but there it is.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

rev. lowery's prayer

Amid the controversies surrounding the selections of Rick Warren and Gene Robinson to offer prayers at inaugural events, this guy didn't get much attention. But the Reverend Joseph Lowery managed to deliver a prayer that was both humble and eloquent, both inclusive and true to his own faith tradition.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

inaugural prayers

Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson has been chosen to deliver the invocation at Sunday's inaugural kickoff event. Robinson is the second controversial pastor to be chosen to speak during the inauguration. California megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren will be delivering the opening prayer on Tuesday.

The controversy surrounding both choices stems from their vocal advocacy on gay rights issues: Warren has been outspoken in his opposition to gay marriages in California. Robinson, who is gay, has long been a critic of Christianity's treatment of gay people.

Personally, what I'd like to see is for Robinson and Warren to sit down and say a prayer together. This issue shouldn't tear the church apart, regardless of who is right.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

This is the kind of prayer we need to see more often. Hat tip to Monk in Training.

A Jew's Prayer for the children of Gaza

If there has ever been a time for prayer, this is that time.

If there has ever been a place forsaken, Gaza is that place.

Lord who is the creator of all children, hear our prayer this accursed day. God whom we call Blessed, turn your face to these, the children of Gaza, that they may know your blessings, and your shelter, that they may know light and warmth, where there is now only blackness and smoke, and a cold which cuts and clenches the skin.

Almighty who makes exceptions, which we call miracles, make an exception of the children of Gaza. Shield them from us and from their own. Spare them. Heal them. Let them stand in safety. Deliver them from hunger and horror and fury and grief. Deliver them from us, and from their own.

Restore to them their stolen childhoods, their birthright, which is a taste of heaven.

Remind us, O Lord, of the child Ishmael, who is the father of all the children of Gaza. How the child Ishmael was without water and left for dead in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba, so robbed of all hope, that his own mother could not bear to watch his life drain away.

Be that Lord, the God of our kinsman Ishmael, who heard his cry and sent His angel to comfort his mother Hagar.

Be that Lord, who was with Ishmael that day, and all the days after. Be that God, the All-Merciful, who opened Hagar's eyes that day, and showed her the well of water, that she could give the boy Ishmael to drink, and save his life.

Allah, whose name we call Elohim, who gives life, who knows the value and the fragility of every life, send these children your angels. Save them, the children of this place, Gaza the most beautiful, and Gaza the damned.

In this day, when the trepidation and rage and mourning that is called war, seizes our hearts and patches them in scars, we call to you, the Lord whose name is Peace:

Bless these children, and keep them from harm.

Turn Your face toward them, O Lord. Show them, as if for the first time, light and kindness, and overwhelming graciousness.

Look up at them, O Lord. Let them see your face.

And, as if for the first time, grant them peace.

With thanks to Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kol HaNeshama, Jerusalem.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

praying for rain, the right way

So anyway, Pierre said that Elijah prayed and closed the heavens for three and a half years. So maybe I should go for three and a half days - just enough to let me get to Ouaga, without disrupting the season...

Read the full story from Keith Smith, a missionary in Burkina Faso in West Africa.


Friday, September 12, 2008

would it be wrong to pray for rain?

Henry Neufeld links to an MSNBC article about Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family, who called for "Christians" to pray for rain during Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Shepard made a video of his call for rain, which has been preserved for posterity at YouTube.

"Would it be wrong," asks Shepard, "to pray for rain?"

I can only conclude that Shepard doesn't understand what prayer is all about. From the MSNBC article:

He prayed for there to be rain—abundant rain, torrential rain, “rain of Biblical proportions”—in Denver on August 28th. “I’m praying for unexpected, unanticipated, unforecasted rain that starts two minutes before the speech is set to begin,” he said, adding, “I know there will probably be people who will pray for seventy-two degrees and clear skies, but this isn’t a contest.”

At least Shepard is correct that prayer isn't a contest. Still, he ought to take some time to consider what it might mean if we ask God to do something and it doesn't happen.

Years ago, I read Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline. The chapter on prayer includes these words:

Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of Jesus' praying is that when he prayed for others he never concluded by saying, "If it be thy will." Nor did the apostles or prophets when they were praying for others. They obviously believed that they knew what the will of God was before they prayed the prayer of faith. They were so immersed in the milieu of the Holy Spirit that when they encountered a specific situation, they knew what should be done.

The point is so important, Foster restates it later from another angle:

One of the most critical aspects in learning to pray for others is to get in contact with God so that his life and power can flow through us into others. Often we assume we are in contact when we are not. For example, dozens of radio and television signals went through your room while you read these words, but you failed to pick them up because you were not tuned to the proper frequencies. Often people pray and pray with all the faith in the world, but nothing happens. Naturally, they were not tuned in to God. We begin praying for others by first quieting our fleshly activity and listening to the silent thunder of the Lord of hosts.

In both of these passages, Foster is talking about prayers for others. Though he doesn't say so, the same ought to be true about prayers against others as well.

I won't presume to say that imprecatory prayer is always wrong. But before praying for a calamity, I would want to be sure God is preparing to bring one. Was it wrong for Stuart Shepard to pray for rain during Barack Obama's speech? Clearly, it was.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

omniscience and prayer, theology and evolution

Peter Kirk has a thought-provoking post entitled Does God know the future? Does prayer make a difference? For me, it's an especially timely post, because I've been wrestling with this very issue lately. If fact, it was a recent post by Henry Neufeld, Dealing with the Theological Implications of Evolution, which nudged my thoughts onto the path that has led me to considering this.

I don't have my thoughts sorted out sufficiently to blog about them yet, so go read Peter's and Henry's posts. See you later.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

a violent species

On May 1, 2003, President Bush swaggered onto an aircraft carrier and announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.

Four years and more than 60,000 civilian deaths later, combat operations continue. The U.S. has been involved in this war longer than it was in World War II, and no end is in sight.

What's more, this is just one of many ongoing wars around the world. Other wars may not get the publicity of the Iraq War, but to their victims these wars are no less devastating.

We are a violent species. Is there any hope for the human race?

God of justness and mercy, we pray for an end to terrorism in any form. We pray for wisdom that will bring greater peace in our world. We pray for understanding and compassion that will safeguard the innocent and feed and find home for all refugees and all who suffer. We pray for companionship and strength for all who mourn. We pray in Jesus' love. Amen.

(Prayer source: Prayers for Justice and Peace)

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

a table prayer

Our three-year-old said grace for us tonight as we sat down for pizza:

God is great.
God is good.
Thank you, God
For all the food...
And for the sprinkle cheese.



Friday, August 11, 2006


Joel at the Connexions blog has challenged other Methodist bloggers to write about the war in Lebanon.

Honestly, the reason I haven't said anything about the conflict is that I don't have any answers. Who is wrong? Who is right? Or are both sides wrong? I don't know. But I do know this: God doesn't like to see any of his children hurting each other.

Thousands of years ago, the prophet Micah foresaw a time when:

In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
   and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
   and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
   and no one shall make them afraid;
   for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

- Micah 4:1-4

Those days, obviously, have not arrived. Is there anything we can do to bring this vision to reality? Is there any way we can make a difference in God's timetable?

As I said above, I have no answers. I simply ask that you join me in prayer over this and other conflicts in the Middle East.

Jehovah Shalom, God of peace,
  of mercy and compassion, of grace and reconciliation,
  pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East:
    Jews, Muslims and Christians,
    Lebanese, Israelis, Palestinians, Iraqis.
  Let hatred be turned into love,
  fear to trust,
  despair to hope,
  oppression to freedom,
  occupation to liberation,
that violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
and peace and justice could be experienced by all. Amen

(Adapted from The Reverend Said Ailabouni's prayer in Prayers for Peace for the Middle East, 2003)

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Friday, March 10, 2006

a simple prayer

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:

  • a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
  • a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
  • a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
  • a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.

Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Prayers for Justice and Peace


Monday, January 16, 2006

my thin place

A few days ago Melancthon talked about what Celtic Christians called "thin places," and described one such place for him.

I found a thin place during my college days. Coronado Heights is a hill overlooking Lindsborg, Kansas. It was on this hill (or possibly another hill nearby) where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado stood looking out at the prairie and conceded that his search for cities of gold was futile. He had been tricked.

From the top of the hill, one can see a good 15-20 miles in any direction. Even today it's a lightly populated area, mostly farms and rolling hills. Standing on Coronado Heights looking out at it all, I can see why, after creating the world, God said that it was very good.

In the 1930s Coronado Heights got a stone castle in a WPA project.

I'm not sure why, but the place has almost a magical quality for me. When I'm there I not only feel closer to God, but I also feel more open toward other people. I'm an extremely introverted person, but Coronado Heights brings me out of my shell and enables me to connect.

I went to the Heights several times during my years at Bethany College in nearby Lindsborg. One time during finals week, a friend and I went up to the Heights as a stress reliever after an all night study session. I'm not a morning person, but there's something about Coronado Heights in the early morning that can put my mind in a different state. I remember walking the trails around the hill and feeling like God was walking beside me.

One weekend evening when I was with some friends on the Heights, we watched a car winding up the road to the castle. A group of students from McPherson, 15 miles away, had come to the Heights to smoke marijuana. I've never used illegal drugs and don't plan to ever try, but that night I saw the kids from McPherson not as dopers or losers, but as human beings. It made me aware of how much we all have in common despite our differences, and helped me toward overcoming some of the prejudices I had grown up with.

In the spring of my sophomore or junior year, several of us students had a sunrise Easter service at Coronado Heights. For perhaps the first time in my life, the resurrection seemed like a real and present event to me as the sun slowly creeped up onto the expansive horizon. I could almost imagine following the trail around a bend and seeing an empty tomb.

A few years after graduation I had a reunion with my college friend Heather, and we went to the Heights to watch the sunset. Standing on the roof of the castle, talking about old times as the sky turned from orange to red to purple, I saw something in Heather that I had missed before. Our friendship turned to romance and then to engagement. We eventually broke it off before tying the knot, but as a result of what grew out of that evening on the Heights I discovered for the first time what it meant to be truly close to someone.

Last fall, I added a new chapter to my Coronado Heights memoir when I took my wife Nicki there. We had left our son Iain with his grandparents to have a day to ourselves. Another family arrived at about the same time as us, and when we saw their young boy we both thought that he looked a lot like Iain will probably look in a few years. The boy raced into castle and up the stairs to the roof, and we heard his mother call to him, "Be careful, Iain."

There's something almost magical about that place.