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Dare You to Pray Differently  

When you pray at mealtimes, do you say the same things the same way? My guess is many of us tend to pray the same way—ad infinitum.

But how would you feel if you were God and you heard, “Bless this meal to our body’s use” a hundred times in a row from the same person? Wouldn’t it begin to feel more like an automated phone message—your call is important to us—rather than the honest expression of a grateful heart? Considering the many ways the Lord has blessed, provided, rescued—and fed us, don’t you think we could invest just a tad more effort in our prayers—and not just at mealtime?

I can hear someone say, “Hey, don’t judge my prayer life!” I’m not. Just thinking out loud here. Remember, I struggle, too. But would we really think we’ve done right if we said to our five-year-old son, "I love you," but never shared why? What if we never once bothered to explain why we love our eight-year-old daughter? Never mentioned a thing we appreciated about her, like her kindness or helpful spirit. Wouldn’t our words sound hollow?

Pastor Michael Easley once challenged us, "I dare you to say grace differently today than yesterday. I dare you to pray differently in your devotional time today than yesterday." His words still confront me.

At a recent breakfast, five-year-old Ava volunteered to pray for the meal. But her three-year-old sister, Emma, was certainly not to be outdone. She insisted on adding a double blessing. Her prayer ended with, "Thank you for the great food. Thanks—(giggle)—Amen."

How refreshing to hear that word, thanks, in back-to-back sentences. I’m not sure I’ve ever giggled for joy while praying, but I’m guessing God found Emma’s giggle real—and refreshing.

I dare you to pray differently.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Unholy Expectations  

While plopped on the couch one night, I placed an Amazon order for a ceiling fan. Would you believe it was perched on our porch the next morning at 6:30? Another time I ordered some office supplies at 11:00 am. By 3:00 that afternoon, guess what was waiting on our porch?

Boy! Wasn’t all that long ago when TV marketers urged us, “Allow six to eight weeks for delivery.”

But now, second-day-air is ancient history, and Fed-Ex overnight has ceased to dazzle. We have tasted—indeed, increasingly expect—same-day delivery.

Yet, I wonder. Does all this click-today-get-today consumerism school us in unholy expectations? Does our immediate acquisition of stuff create a sense of “give it to me now” when it comes to the spiritual life?

We’re told to pray without ceasing. But prayer is not a portal to instant answers.

  • Elijah prayed for rain for three and a half years.
  • Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, prayed for a son for many years.
  • Abraham prayed for God to fulfill His promise of a son for 25 years. On and on the biblical examples go.

Don’t get me wrong. I want answers to my prayers as fast as the next person. But maybe we need to be reminded that there are schedules more important than ours.

Assuredly, things in the storehouses of heaven run on a different timetable—God’s.

 
Just in Case  

While still a tadpole himself, our son Tim liked fishing. Whenever we camped, Tim wanted to fish. But we were not always prepared. With two young kids in a pop-up camper, Diana and I thought we were doing great just to remember the cooler and the clothes, let alone bait for the fish.

One unprepared weekend, we were desperate and asked George—whose trailer was next to ours—if by any chance he had any nightcrawlers we could “borrow.” He did and was only too glad to share.

On another occasion, a fish swallowed Tim’s hook, and we had no extras. Would George have one? Of course. Years rolled by, and we realized that whatever I'd forgotten, George usually stocked—and was kind enough to share: bobbers, weights, worms, whatever.

Only when Tim was grown up did we learn the rest of the story. Diana and I took George and his wife, Julie, out to dinner, and we swapped stories about kids and camping. Eventually, the conversation turned to our many ill-stocked fishing expeditions—and George's routine rescues.

Julie smiled and squeezed her husband's hand, saying, "You know, George stocked up on worms just for you guys. Every week." The man actually bought worms "just in case."

Last weekend, we attended a memorial service for George, and lots of folks shared lots of memories. Me? I’ll never forget the kindness of that quiet friend who seemed determined that our little boy had a good time at the lake.

Know anybody who seems unprepared for the curveball life has thrown their way? They’re hurting, and feeling helpless—maybe even hopeless. I bet you’ve got something they could use: a meal, a hand, a card, a call, a smile.

Better stock up—just in case.

 

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. 

—Proverbs 11:25

 
Wickedness at Warp Speed  

Do you ever marvel at the speed of evil?

My dad will turn 89 this month. I recently asked him, “Is it just me, or do you feel like in the last 20 years or so, we’ve seen not just a shift toward evil, but a rush toward evil?” His response was a firm yes.

When it comes to American morality, it’s not just that we’re plunging deeper and deeper into evil. It’s that we’re sliding at such an accelerated pace. Just ten or twenty years ago, what would have been considered ridiculous (by our secular society!) is now mainstream—normal. Call it wickedness at warp speed.

One could understand a general spiral downward—inevitable in a sin-soaked world. But again, I'm talking about the rate of our rot, even over the last two or three years.

Consider these observations from God Himself about the workers of wickedness:

“Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning.” Isaiah 59:7 

Proverbs 6:18 speaks to the speed issue:

“a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong.”

And why this mad dash toward darkness? Jesus Himself told us in John 3:19,

“God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”

Note—they don’t merely like darkness—they love it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have wickedness at warp speed.

Scientists talk about the speed of light.

Me? I'm pondering the speed of the dark. 

 
The Blame Game  

Sadie is possibly the most adorable brown-eyed little girl you could ever meet. She's also charming, intelligent—and too old to be sucking her thumb. Nor is this lost on her mother, as evidenced in a recent conversation:

Mom: Sadie! Take your fingers out of your mouth!

Sadie: (Bats her long eyelashes) But mo-om…Don't you always say God made me?

Mom: Yes…

Sadie: And don’t you always say He made me perfect? Just exactly the way I am?

Mom: Yes, but…

Sadie: And doesn’t He know I am doing it RIGHT NOW?

Mom: Sadie...

Sadie: So REALLY, if you think about it, He is ok with it because He made me a thumb sucker, and I am just how He made me to be!

Wow! Guilt avoidance and blame-shifting in one snappy sentence! If there's a pre-school award for twisted theology, Sadie must surely be a nominee.

But don’t most of us big kids also try to bend our bad behavior around our beliefs? Aren’t we just as glib and just as guilty at trying to explain away our conduct as we play the blame game:

  • “I was born with a short fuse.”
  • “I wasn’t raised to apologize.”
  • “It’s just who I am.”

Jesus didn't die on the cross to give us better excuses for our crimes. He came to pay for the wreckage—and empower us to turn away from them. The word is repent.

 

Lord,

Forgive us our clever speech defending unholy deeds.

Help us own up to every crumb of our crummy behavior.

More than that, help us repent.

Amen!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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