So, did you pray today? When you first opened your eyes, perhaps for some of you it was still dark and your room was quiet, or others as the sun began to illuminate the windows and this light seemingly forces you out of your sleep. Were your first thoughts of praising God or general thanksgiving for another day, another chance to recognize beauty and the existence of love? I will admit, I don’t always do this, but this morning, a conversation I had with my wife made me think on our perspective of today. I will say though, prayer is your greatest ally and tool for your spiritual life, and indeed for your physical life. No person or government can take this from you, and they can also never take away your faith. They will take your life, but never your faith, and we’ve learned this from the martyrs reaching all the way back to Stephen Acts 7:58-60. St. Stephen’s last words as they were stoning him were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit……. Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. They could not take his faith, even unto death. His last effort in this earthly life was to pray. So, where are our efforts now, why don’t we take the need for prayer more seriously?
When I was in school, I was always bothered by the positive spin placed on problems, they were called “areas of opportunity”. This would bother me, because it was a need to control even the perception of an event or events, so much we couldn’t bring ourselves to call them problems. So, what are problems? An unwelcome situation, in need of our attention. In this case, I would think everyone has a lot of problems in this world, probably more than we can handle, and therefore there is such an effort to put spin on words, as though this positive spin will suddenly make us say to ourselves “gee, since it’s an opportunity, why don’t I just tackle it and I will probably have a good outcome based on the potential for opportunity which I’ve been confronted with”. If we are honest, most of us meet with situations which cause us strife, usually with a sigh or some other point of exasperation. As fathers or husbands, I’m sure we cause problems with our spouse and kids, and equally deal with the stress pertaining to the problems our family causes too. So, is it a matter of having a positive mindset, or is it a matter of dealing with the root of the problem and finding a solution to all problems within one’s self? Short-answer, you must change the paradigm of who and what affects you, and in doing so, problems will melt away like ice, and become just our daily acknowledgement of the need for God’s presence. As, we place more importance on our journey and our material pursuits, we will see the diminished effect of true perspective, and find we become bogged down with “problems” once again, and not general points of prayer.
In sheet music, a vocalist is looking for proper phrasing as it coincides with the arch of the music, words, and just general inflection. We are looking for places to take a breath, without taking from the beauty of the song, but also so in keeping with the beauty of the song. Everything must come together for this creation of song to occur. Those of us, who have pursued music longer, are usually more adept at finding the best points of break and breath, than others, which is why a good musician will watch and learn from a more experienced form of pedagogy. I’m using the analogy of music, because it seems to carry a relevant juxtaposition to our focus on problems. A problem in our life, is the much-needed breath much like in music, and as we breath, a time for prayer will and should surface. Our sleep is the rest between stanzas, as an interlude is played, and so we pray before as we begin our rest, and we pray before we begin once again. As our perspective begins to change on the importance of prayer in everything we attempt to do, we keep a few things in mind, everything is an opportunity even if it’s a problem at first. So, the perspective of “areas of opportunity” was right in, God gives us opportunity with everything, but it was wrong in a push for a more positive environment. Some issues we run into aren’t positive, and neither are the inevitable results, although be it necessary. The reason for this, is we need low points, everyone needs low points, it is what allows us to see the contrast in life between light and dark, without this contrast, we walk through life with little or no comprehension of anything around us, and we are thankful for hardly anything which isn’t given to us and even then, we may not be completely thankful.
Ok, where are we at then, do people who fail to pray have a diminished life as it relates to the culture we live in? Of course not, they move with the masses to the same feeding line, and will undoubtedly be fed by the cultural machine, intended on showing us the misery in our lives is something, which if we don’t like or think we can’t handle, we can either walk away from or deny the existence by putting the yoke on our nearest neighbor. Unfortunately, we see an increased level of violence in our society due to a myriad of issues which are problems for our society, not opportunity areas just waiting to be capitalized on. Our societal issues are problems, and until we take responsibility for our problems, they will never become an opportunity for prayer or to life genuinely better.
How many people have ever heard their parent say, “you know, I can remember years ago, when we wouldn’t even lock our doors at night!”. Whereby our incredulous response is something effectually like “have you lost your minds?”. We have poorly crafted debates on the sanctity of life, and if a baby growing in a womb should be allowed to live, and in case you’re wondering, it should. There is no room on this, a life is a life, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, choosing to have sex and then regretting the consequences, because the outcome is a problem for you, isn’t the child’s fault at all, and they deserve to have a say in their life and whether or not termination is acceptable (I would venture to say, if you had the ability to ask every fetus this question and they were able to answer, their response would be “please don’t kill me”). I’ve heard the argument for rape and incest as a matter of contention to allow for abortion, and again I say no, all life is sacred, no matter how it came in to being. The people who’ve had awful events happen to them, and are subsequently faced with dealing with their issue at hand and finding God in the answer or being allowed to wallow in victim-hood, are at a crossroad in their life, where they can either seek the face of God, or choose to foolishly try and become a god themselves. This topic quickly swells into an existence of a God who would allow terrible events to happen to good people. Free will is the reason evil exists, we are all God’s creation, but each one of us, has at some point or another, chosen to adulterate God’s work, and distort his work by creating sin to lift our own hubris. Our free will can either be used for the purposes of problems which can be used to glorify God, or problems which define us as victims and subsequently push us further away from his light.
Just like any parent who watches their child make mistakes, up to and including they hate their parents, is in full realization of the fact, no matter how much we love something, that something always has the will to reject us. God’s will is just this, he loved us into existence, and he continues to love us although we reject his love at every twist and turn of our life, we blame him for our problems, and then applaud ourselves for perceived accomplishments. The logical fallacy of an argument whereby we take credit for those areas where opportunity shined its light upon us, is so stark as to equivalize itself to us analogously carrying a sign which says, “hey, I really don’t know what I’m talking about, but I can sure act like I do though”. We all do this by the way, because anything which isn’t directly considered truth is an aberration of the truth, and therefore a consideration of injustice.
People today, are screaming (literally) injustice in the streets, every time an event occurs where victims are realized or where people are offended by words stated from anyone. I’m sure I’ve offended people by my writings, and it wasn’t as a matter of callousness, but love which I write anything. I truly do care for everyone I encounter, I want what’s best for them. I do see an incomprehensible tide of misinformation and blame pushing its way into our culture and seemingly at the same time telling everyone you can solve your problems by blaming your neighbor. There isn’t anything out there which is pushing a point, at the very least of altruism, indicating a need to help our neighbor. When we read the Bible, and we take in the teachings of Jesus alone, we don’t see anything which is concerned with getting even for past wrong doings, but instead turning the other cheek and even loving those who figuratively crucify us for our beliefs. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.” Luke 23:34. He hung on the cross, nails in his hands, and feet, and he prayed for them. The ultimate example of love.
As men we must pray always, for the people we meet, we may be the only person praying for them, and in their needs. Our strength of character and will is what helps shine a light into their life, even if they are never aware of your actions, it should still be done. Prayer warriors are a very real thing, and today we need more than ever; a prayer warrior is a saint in the making, a person cites this motto as a way of living, “God first, you second, and me last”. Be willing to give your extra minute of two for another person daily, but also be willing to see problems as an opportunity to pray to God, and have the patience to deal with whatever comes your way.
Our culture, has every opportunity to be better, and guess what you can’t do it alone, you can’t out think a problem, and you can move the mountain by yourself. God can though, the creator of all, the creator which Is, can do anything, and sometimes our prayers small and seemingly insignificant will be answered in a big way. Ways which we could never have imagined and ways which astound us and forever change the course of our life. All God wants is our love, and in our love, we push away sin with a mighty shove.
So, have you prayed today? If not, it’s ok, do it now, do it when you’re driving, or flying or talking or alone in your room before you close your eyes. Be willing in your privacy to submit yourself to interior self-reflection, knowing what you will see may be awful, but also knowing God will forgive you. Be willing to fall on your knees as a servant to God, much like he did with the Apostles (John 13, the whole chapter is awesome). Be willing to accept negative and positive outcomes for what they are, nothing wonderful in life was ever realized without know what the alternative could be, and we know what the alternative is, because we lived it at one point or another.
I pray when you read this, you’ve become a prayer warrior for your family, and for your spouse. She needs it, she needs your prayers as much as anything else you could possibly do in life. She is your other half, and what’s good for her is always good for you, even if you can’t see it now. Your kids will flourish in life, if not physically, spiritually they will become reflections of the light. You will be a better man because of who you choose to love and look up to. I will leave you with a wonderful quote by one of the greatest philosophers I’ve ever read:
God is agape, and agape is not feeling. So, God is not feeling. That does not make him or agape cold and abstract. Just the opposite: God is love itself, feeling is the dribs and drabs of love received into the medium of passivity. God cannot fall in love for the same reason water cannot get wet: it is wet. Love itself cannot receive love as a passivity, only spread it as an activity. God is love in action, not love in dreams. Feelings are like dreams: easy, passive, spontaneous. Agape is hard and precious like a diamond.
Please pray often, we all need to, and we all need it. Never forget, God is by your side, and wants so desperately for you to realize his love for you. There is no room for machismo when it comes to God, so make yourself humble and small, that you might see the true glories which are given to us daily as problems, but truly are opportunities to express one’s love through prayer. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!