Auto-Pilot Prayer

Living in Christ and by His Spirit is not a 5-step list or a how-to lesson.  For some reason, though, we tend to default to lists and procedures, even in prayer, never knowing the freedom of relying on Holy Spirit to lead and guide.  (See previous post)

cockpit-1358898-640x480I assure you, this is not a how-to pray message.  It’s more like how not to pray, from observations that have changed my own prayer life.  If you remember nothing else from this post, I hope the theme will attach itself to your brain to be applied every time you pray from now on:  Turn off auto-pilot in prayer.

  • There is a difference between praying (talking with Daddy) and interceding for others.  We converse with Him, as we do with acquaintances becoming friends, to know Him better – not just to know about Him.  When we understand His direction for us in intercession, we boldly speak it aloud into the spirit realm.  Jesus spoke to illness1 in intercession, after spending early and late hours in prayer.
  • Rely on Holy Spirit to bring Bible verses to mind, rather than merely quoting what is always used in particular situations – healing, provision, relationship issues, etc.  The pinpoint accuracy of the verses He brings when we listen go straight to the root of the actual problem, which is not always obvious to the natural mind.
  • If you talk to me, does it sound like this?  “Kay, it’s so good to see you, Kay.  And, Kay, there are things happening, Kay, that I need you, Kay, to help me understand, Kay….”  Of course not.  Neither do we write personal letters that way.  Why, then, do we do this to our heavenly Father?  Prayer is not stilted and distracting like this, but is a back and forth conversation with someone we are getting to know more intimately.
  • Reminding God of His promises is wasted breath.  Yes, I said that.  If things aren’t happening the way we read in the Bible, it’s not because He has forgotten.  Ever.  While we can be helped by hearing those verses again, it’s not necessary to jog God’s memory.  Since Jesus Christ lives in us by His Spirit, when we speak His Word, we speak spiritually.  The ones we remind of God’s unbreakable promises to us are the angelic rulers and authorities of the spirit realm.2
  • Asking God to do what He’s already done, no matter how sincerely, is redundant.  For example, “Be with (or near) me.”  Or, “Bless so-and-so.”  Are we in Christ and Christ in us?3  Because of what happens when we receive Christ, He cannot be closer.  Because of what He has finished, we are already blessed.  So why keep asking?

I hope you will share in the comments your own examples of auto-pilot prayer my observations brought to light.  We need each other to shine the light of Christ in ways we’ve missed before.  Just remember to turn off that auto-pilot!

1 Matthew 8:5-13

2 Ephesians 3:10

3 John 14:18-20

4 John 1:16-17 Amplified  For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.

He Knew

What a feast I find each time I read from the book of John!  Yet I find each verse so delicious I savor each bite, rather than rushing to the next.

For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  John 6:64 NIV

Jesus knew from the beginning, yet chose to include the unbelieving betrayer anyway.  I would not be so generous if I began a ministry (or anything else) and was aware of a traitor among those claiming to be with me.  They would not be on my team or my mailing list!  On the other hand, Jesus, knowing even before choosing, allowed the unbelieving betrayer to be among His twelve closest disciples as part of the traveling team and His money keeper, for three and a half years!

At this I cry, “Tilt! Tilt!”  Proceeding further down the path this verse takes me, I find Jesus’ treatment of Judas Iscariot even more disturbing – filled with the same love, patience, compassion, and humility He showed the others.

“But Jesus,” I protest, “Knowing he wasn’t really with You, how could You refuse to let it color Your treatment of him? Instead, You poured Yourself out indiscriminately to each of them, withholding nothing!”

All at once, the truth of Jesus Christ washes away those righteously indignant thoughts. Love compelled Him forward, not judgment.  Christ offered His amazing love and life to Judas Iscariot then, as He offers it to each person now, regardless of possible rejection.  The response is individual, but the offer has been given to all equally, the price paid in full.  Love compelled Jesus then.  Love compels Christ now.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are! . . . 1 John 3:1 NIV

He knew then.  He knows now.  Still, Christ Jesus loves.

The Party’s Over

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Dad had just thrown the biggest party the neighbors had seen. No expense had been spared in the days long celebration of his son’s return.

Yes, this party was for the prodigal son. You know, the wayward one who had chosen to live a wild life, squandering his still-living father’s money – his own inheritance – until he had no more to spend. He decided to return home to offer himself as a servant to his father to put good food into his starving belly. From what we’re told, we can’t be sure his thinking had changed about anything else. But none of that mattered to the father who ran to embrace him.

That’s one of the things that draws us repeatedly to this story. That father didn’t wait for evidence of repentance or a transformed life before welcoming him or throwing him a lavish party. He wanted everyone to celebrate with him because his son had returned. Period. As great as that is, I think there’s more to this story.

Think about it. The party ended at some point. What happened when it was over? The prodigal son didn’t become suddenly perfect, making only good decisions going forward. For that matter, his jealous brother, the obedient son who did as he was told with a bad attitude, was in the same imperfect category.

Consider this, though. Dad put no post-celebration stipulations on the son before throwing a gala in his honor. It wasn’t due to the son’s righteousness, either before demanding his inheritance or after his return. Nor was it because of the bitter son’s outward obedience. Their righteousness would never be more than filthy rags1! No, the party always and only flowed from the dad’s perfect love for his children, and his joy at having them together with him. His goodness and his righteousness, not theirs, covered them before the party and after it ended.

Fast forward to 2016. As sons and daughters, we try to be obedient, to make the right choices and have the right attitude – all to please our Daddy. But we fail repeatedly. Luke 15:10 says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Sounds like a party to me – held each time one of us receives Christ Jesus into our hearts. That rejoicing isn’t because of our perfect character when we were born again, but because of Christ’s righteousness. He still rejoices over us2 today, no matter how many years have passed and no matter how many wayward actions we’ve taken.

Earning Daddy’s celebration now is as impossible as it was in the beginning – our good works still counting for nothing. It’s all and only about our Father, the One Who is in us, loving us, simply because we belong to Him. And it’s all about our Christ, Who made the way for us.

The party may be over, but the joy of celebrating our Daddy’s righteousness, love, and mercy in Christ continues for us through eternity!

1 Isaiah 64:6 NKJV But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

2 Zephaniah 3:17 AMP The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

What’s Your Name?

namesSuch a simple question, really.  When we ask it today, we use the answer to differentiate people with whom we are familiar.  It was different in Jesus’ day.  Names were given because of their meaning, not because of popularity or uniqueness.  Learning someone’s name gave insight into the person’s character.

So it was at the time Jesus and his disciples crossed the lake of Galilee to get to the region of the Gadarenes.  Beginning in Luke 8:26, we find a demon-possessed man living naked and alone among the tombs, totally out of his mind – the very reason Jesus made the journey.

This is where my observation differs from what’s been taught.  I’ve heard the man referred to repeatedly as Legion, as if that was his given name.  That is what came out of the man when Jesus asked, “What is your name?” Though the man’s mouth and vocal cords were used, it wasn’t the man who answered, but the demons, and it was the name the group of demons took for themselves.  But it wasn’t his name.

In addition, because this passage has been read incorrectly over the years, a method has been established among those in spiritual warfare.  Before casting it out, you command the demon to give its name; for instance, lust, anger, depression, greed, etc.

With these two observations in mind, take your time and read verses 29 and 30:

For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man.  Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.  Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.

To whom does Jesus ask the question?  The demons responded, but they spoke out of turn.  He spoke only to the man – the one who housed the demons.  He wanted to converse with him, to find out who he really was.  He didn’t need the demons to give their name.  Besides being unimportant to Him and what He would do, He understood their nature as liars, with no truth in them.

“What is your name?” Jesus asked the man.

Knowing this man was possessed, Jesus loved him – so much so that He asked his name.  He didn’t ask how the man came to his current, horrible state, nor did He make conditions for setting him free, such as sinning no more. He simply asked his name.  When the demons responded, they were cast out.

Can you see it as I do?  Jesus looking with such love directly into the man’s eyes even as they glared at Him with demonic fire?  Undeterred, Jesus loved the man to freedom as He watched the demons leave, enter the pigs, and drown in the lake.  What love!

We’ve so often made the demons the focus of this story.  Or the pigs that rushed into the lake once the demons entered them.  But we missed the heart of Jesus!  His freedom-producing love was for a totally lost and undeserving person.  Just like each of us, with different issues.

So, what was this man’s name? I think I will call him Unconditionally Loved.

What’s your name?

What’s the Point of That Thorn?

mini-Adamit Park (5)I don’t believe the thorn is the point of Paul’s thorn, though I’ve been involved in many discussions and heard many sermons espousing various views of the nature of that thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NIV To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

What arrests my attention as I read this passage for the umpteenth time is the idea that Satan would give Paul something to keep conceit / pride / arrogance at bay.  Those are at the core of the devil’s nature, the things for which he lost his original position among the angels, the observable reality of pride going before a fall.  He would be only too happy for Paul to be puffed up with it, for it would weaken the gospel he proclaimed as well as his witness of Christ, Who was humility personified.  Keep this in mind as you read my next observation:

God did not give Paul this thorn.  He is not the author or giver of torment.   Certainly, His best was for Paul to remain unaffected by pride, thinking he was better than others or had achieved something on his own merit.  Our Father created us to live in the humility of Christ.  But even when we choose to live from pride, He doesn’t use torment to “bring us back into line.”  It’s contrary to His nature!

As I puzzled over these contradictory thoughts, I could only conclude that something had been lost in translation through the years.  Perhaps it was misplaced punctuation, or a word or phrase out of order.  This has been the case in other troubling verses I’ve studied in the Interlinear Bible and Thayer’s Concordance, where I discovered clearer meaning from the original language.

With only a minor change, the passage begins to make sense:

Because of these surpassingly great revelations, a thorn in my flesh – a messenger of Satan designed to torment me – came on me. 

So far, so good, but there is more, and these additional verses will help:

Genesis 50:20 NIV  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Romans 8:28 AMP We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

After pleading three times for the Lord to take away the thorn, Paul did not simply resign himself to the thorn because, “Yeah, yeah, Your grace is sufficient,” the attitude I might have exhibited a few times in my life.  No, he was convinced that God does work all things, including the bad, for the good of those in Christ.  In the renewed sense of God’s grace, Paul saw the underlying purpose of this tormenting thorn – to get his focus off Christ.  In God’s answer, he had greater revelation of his total dependence on Christ.  What the devil had meant for his evil, God worked for his good.

Because of these surpassingly great revelations, a thorn in my flesh – a messenger of Satan designed to torment me – came on me.  It has helped keep me from becoming conceited, though that was not its intent.  I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me, but His response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”