His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

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Weak Faith = Weak Prayers

Have you ever noticed how you can gauge a person’s faith by how they pray? I’ve written about this before (“How would Jesus pray?”), but after just now receiving a particular prayer request, I can’t help but whine yet again.

I’m on a prayer chain at the church I attend. Tonight, after getting home from work and opening up email on my home computer, I found another in a continuous stream of prayer requesting messages. This one is for a certain person who has a medical problem and has been taken to the hospital. The request comes from their spouse, and what do you think they are asking for?

Let me see; first they want a “correct diagnosis of the problem.” Okay, the doctor can handle that. Then they ask for “effective treatment for physical healing.” Again, the doctor can probably handle that one as well. Next, they ask for “peace of mind for the family.” Well, I suppose the correct diagnosis and effective treatment will take care of the peace of mind. So far, I don’t see anything specifically for God. Oh wait, here’s one; the final request is for “a clear sense of God’s presence.” Last but not least I suppose.

I have to admit, I almost felt anger at this prayer request. It’s just so pathetic and weak. As I’ve written before (“Anything you want – just ask”), Jesus told us over and over again to ask for ANYTHING we want, and He will give it to us. So given that opportunity, the person submitting this prayer request asked for three things, before finally getting around to asking God for something only He can give.

Maybe look at it this way. If you went to the hospital in need of a complex surgical procedure, and you were given a choice of having a first year intern perform the surgery, or having the foremost specialist in the entire world do the surgery; who would you choose? By our lack of faith, too often we do not ask our foremost specialist for the kind of help that only He can give.

I did like their request to have a clear sense of God’s presence. And since I believe in what Jesus told us about asking for anything, I decided to ask for something that would bowl them over with God’s presence, the one thing that they should have asked for in the first place: I asked God for complete and spontaneous healing. Just for the fun of it, answer all four prayers with one holy healing. Maybe then they will understand the true power and love of God. And maybe then, they will no longer dishonor God with pitiful requests.

Please forgive me if I sound a bit harsh. A glass of red wine has a way of opening me up, so my true inner feelings spill out. And with that, good night and sweet dreams. (no matter what time it is when you read this, it’s bed time for me).

May God bless you and show you that He is capable of more than you can possibly image. Just ask Him, please.

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The answer’s not always yes

Please forgive me for ignoring something very important in the past three posts. I would like to thank seekhispurpose for pointing it out. In my enthusiasm to illustrate a power in prayer that I believe comes from praying with certainty and expectation, I ignored the fact that with our prayers, the answer is not always yes.

God doesn’t necessarily give us everything we ask for, no matter how strong our faith. When I look back at what I’ve written, I think I wrote those three posts for me as much as for anyone else. My faith in prayer feels weak sometimes. I feel that if I prayed with more faith in God’s love, I might experience more of His grace, in the form of answered prayers. Praying with doubts, as I sometimes do, is not a very good way to pray. I often feel like the father who responded to Jesus by saying something like, “Lord, I believe. Please help me in my unbelief.”

Yet even in our strongest moments of faith and belief, sometimes God says no. I don’t pretend to understand why God occasionally turns down our requests. Yet I do believe that His ways are as far above my ways, as heaven is above the earth.

I’m reminded of a time when I was helping with our church’s youth group. A close friend of many of the teenagers in our group had just died. Only a couple of days after his death, we got together for our regular weekly meeting. We didn’t start with a rowdy game, like we normally would have. Instead, we talked and listened and sat in silence.

One of the leaders told the kids something that has stuck with me. In comparing our relationship with God to a child’s relationship with their parent, he said something like this: “When you were a little child, like around 3 or 4 years old, did you always understand why your parents did the things they did? Now looking back, do you feel you understand more today? Do you think as you grow to become an adult yourself, you will understand your parents past actions even more?” After pausing, he concluded, “It’s like that with God. We are now like very little children to God. There is no way we can understand why He does certain things, or why He allows certain things to happen. Yet someday, maybe not until we are in heaven, we may understand.”

When the answer is no, I just try to accept the fact that I’m too little to understand God’s ways. It’s sometimes painful, like with a little child who is not able to have their way, but I believe I will be better for it, in the end.


Anything you want – just ask

What’s holding you back? Why don’t you have everything you want? Are you taking Jesus at His word?

“Ask and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Judging by how often Jesus encouraged us to ask, I don’t think He wanted us to be timid about it.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23)

Ask… ask and believe… ask in His name. So why don’t you have everything you want? Why don’t I? I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days. I ask for quite a lot, and I sincerely believe I’m asking for things that are in line with what God wants; like healing for friends, salvation for loved ones. Yet what I ask for is not always granted. Why?

Did Jesus lie to us? I don’t believe that. Did He really not mean what He said? I don’t believe that either. The only thing that makes sense is that Jesus told the truth. So if my prayers are not being granted, I need to look at me for a fix.

The answer is simple, and we all know it: we need to ask with faith. We need to believe that God will give us what we ask for, and we need to ask in Jesus’ name. Okay, I believe and I ask in His name – but I still don’t have what I want.

Yet, do I really believe? That’s the real question I’ve been pondering the past couple of days. Do I really believe that God will give me anything I ask for? We’re talking anything here? Not just trivial stuff, but big stuff as well.

When I ask God to heal my friend of cancer, do I believe He will do it? I believe He’s capable, but I have to admit, most times when I ask for prayers of healing, deep down inside I don’t really expect God to do it. What kind of belief is that?

It’s like my son who recently came to me at 10:30 in the evening and asked, “You wouldn’t be willing to let me spend the night at David’s, would you?” He asked for what he wanted, but he didn’t expect me to give it to him (and I didn’t). Is that how we sometimes ask God for the things we want?

I ask you, next time you go to your Father in prayer, ask with certainty, ask with expectation. Don’t just believe, but expect God to answer. Don’t just believe, but depend on God to give you what you want. Rely on Him.

One final thought. It’s not just you I am thinking of; I’m also thinking about those who are not Christian. What kind of message do they see in how we pray? What kind of image of God do we paint for others to see? Do people see an all-powerful, gracious and generous God? Or do they see a weak, stingy God? Imaging if you will what the impact would be if all Christians asked and received whatever they asked for. What a powerful statement of God’s love, power and reality.

I’ve given one example of why I think we don’t receive what we ask for (we ask without certainty and expectation). Please add to this with ideas of your own.


Catholic Confession – A Manmade Obstacle

It just didn’t make sense to her. Why should Mary have to see a priest to confess her sins? As she explained it to me, this was a key reason Mary left the Catholic Church; she didn’t like the idea of a middleman. To Mary, the confession felt like an obstacle, hindering her from being close to God. Why couldn’t she just go directly go God?

Yet Jesus tells us to go directly to God. He told us to pray…

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:9-12)


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

I think it all boils down to relationship. What kind of relationship does Jesus want to have with those who love Him, with those He calls “friend?” Jesus wants a relationship that is far more intimate than any we are familiar with. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4) If Jesus is in us, and we are in Him (ignoring for now what that means and how that might look); yet isn’t this clear that it describes an unusually close relationship?

“Come to me,” “follow me – these are the words Jesus frequently used. Throughout the gospels, Jesus clearly conveys that He wants our focus to be on Him. Praying to an intermediary is a distraction; it takes our focus off of Jesus. Does that sound right to you?

Think of it this way: if I wrong my best friend, how would they feel if I go to an intermediary to ask for forgiveness? “What? E.D. wouldn’t come directly to me? I thought we were better friends than that.” How do you think Jesus feels when those He suffered to save, avoid Him; when His loved ones go to an intermediary to ask His forgiveness? He DIED for our sins; shouldn’t we go directly to Him when wanting to repent of those sins?

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Need Help? Go to the Source

Why pray to Mary the mother of Jesus, when you can go directly to Jesus Himself? Someone recently explained to me something about the relationship Catholics have with Mary: “We pray to Mary and the saints to ask them to pray to our Lord for us. Since Mary is the immaculate mother of Jesus and he was unable to deny her wishes on Earth (see wedding feast of Cana) she is the ideal intercessor!”

Yet is Mary the ideal intercessor? I hold no disrespect for Mary; I just want to make sure my relationship with her is as her son intended. Should I trust Mary with my prayer requests? My Lord Jesus, please help me understand…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23)

Jesus is indeed our intercessor when it comes to paying the price for our sins. He interceded and accepted the punishment for our crimes against God. Thank God. Does that mean He is always our only intercessor for prayers?

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” (John 16:26) We are called to ask God, directly, in Jesus’ name. Go directly to the Source.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Yet you may ask, “what harm is there in my praying to Mary or other saints?”

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) We come to God, we pray to God, through Jesus, in His name. Any other path will lead you off course.

The Catholic tradition of praying to Mary distracts people from where their focus should truly be – on Jesus. I have more to say on this concept of distraction, but that will wait for another time.

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How Would Jesus Pray?

Being on the prayer chain at the church I attend, when someone in the church requests prayer, their request will somehow find its way to me and many others, typically via email. The other day I received an email prayer request asking for prayers for a young woman who was very ill. We were requested to, “Pray for correct diagnosis and treatment as indicated. Healing would be nice.”

“Healing would be nice” – tacked on, almost as an afterthought. It struck me; if Jesus were to email out a prayer request, would he say, “Healing would be nice”? How might Jesus have prayed for this young woman? Jesus who told us:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10, NIV)

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22, NIV)

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:14, NIV)

I began to also wonder about my motives when praying, and my faith. Do I really want this young woman to be healed? I don’t even know her. Do I really believe that God can heal her? Why would I ask for something, if I have doubts in God’s ability or desire to even consider answering my request? Am I taking Jesus at His word? Do I really believe His words I have just typed?

If it were my daughter who were seriously ill, or me, would I be timid in my prayers, just thinking that healing would be nice? I ask you today to consider two things: your faith and your sincerity in prayer. Jesus commanded us to love each other as we love ourselves. Might He also have said to pray for each other as we pray for ourselves?

It has been said that the sincerest expression of love for someone is to give to them what is most precious to us. What is more precious than our time and attention? Love your neighbor as you love yourself; show your love by giving them your time and attention, in prayer to God. Go to God on behalf of your neighbor, praying as if praying for yourself. Whether your “neighbor” is family, friend, or the oppressed in a country near or far away; focus your attention on who you wish to pray for, put yourself in their place, and pray for them as if praying for yourself.

On this May 1st, our national day of prayer, and the first day in the ten days of global prayer leading up to Pentecost, please take stock of how you pray. Do you pray as Jesus instructed? Do you believe what Jesus tells us about prayer? Do you pray for others as if praying for yourself? Ask and you will receive. Be bold.

If you are interested, check out the National Day of Prayer web site at: www.ndptf.org