Posts tagged ‘Prayer’

Praying for Las Vegas

Waking up this morning to news of the worst mass shooting in modern American history was jarring.  What was supposed to be an evening of fun at an outdoor country music festival at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas melted down into a scene of death and a time of terror when a lone gunman opened fire into the crowd from the 32nd floor of the hotel above.  More than 50 were killed.  Hundreds are injured.

This morning, stories of heroism are already emerging.  On NBC’s Today, an eyewitness described police officers and military trained personnel standing up during the shooting while everyone else was crouching down, looking for the injured so that they could render immediate aid.  These brave souls put their own lives at risk for the sake of those who were in danger of losing theirs.

Certainly, this will be a story that dominates our headlines and, in one way or another, messes with our heads and hearts.  It is difficult to fathom how evil could move someone to commit an indiscriminate act of mass murder like this.  It is chilling to imagine what it must have been like to be there.

Right now, on this dark morning, there are two things for us, as a people, to do together.  First, we should pray.  We should pray for the families of loved ones who have lost their lives.  We should pray for the medical professionals who, right now, are tending to many who are critically injured in level one trauma centers.  We should pray for law enforcement as they seek to unravel what has happened.  And we should pray for Las Vegas.  Here is yet another community that has been marred and scarred by tragedy.

Second, as a part of our prayers, we should not forget to give thanks.  We should not forget to give thanks for the heroes proven in a terrible time of deadly strife.  We should not forget to give thanks for those who risked their own lives to place their fingers in the bullet holes of the wounded.  We should not forget to give thanks for those who were willing to sacrifice their own lives to save the lives of others.

As a Christian, I know that salvation never comes without sacrifice.  This is what makes the message of the cross both awful and wonderful all at the same time.  The cross is the place where the Son of God was unjustly murdered.  That is awful.  But the cross is also the place where I was graciously given life.  And that is wonderful – and the reason I have hope.

At the Mandalay Bay, the unthinkably awful happened.  But even the unthinkably awful cannot undo, or even outdo, the bravery of the heroes who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.  So, for the wounded and grieving I pray.  And, for the heroes of this morning I give thanks.

I hope you will join me in doing the same.

October 2, 2017 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

God’s Presence in the Storm

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I took the above picture two years ago when I was out for one of my early morning walks, cup of coffee in hand, along the beach of Port Aransas.  Each summer, my family and I vacation in this charming Gulf town.  The pictures I have seen of Port Aransas after Hurricane Harvey, along with its surrounding communities of Rockport, Aransas Pass, Port O’ Connor, Refugio, and, of course, Corpus Christi, are devastating.  Homes have been flattened.  Businesses have been destroyed.  And now, our nation’s fourth most populous city is feeling Harvey’s wrath.  Houston has been deluged by than 20 inches of rainfall.  Forecasters predict that, by the time this is all said and done, some spots in Houston may receive in excess of 50 inches of rain.

None of this is easy to watch.  I have called Texas home for 21 years and have many friends who live in the affected communities.  To see places I know that are home to people I love be destroyed by nature’s worst is heartbreaking.

As Christians, we are never called to be idle in the face of devastation and distress.  Here are a few things to consider – and to do – as this tragedy continues to unfold.

Pray

One of the many wonderful things about prayer is that it operates both as a support from God and an encouragement to others.  When we cry out to God in prayer, He does hear and He does care.  But prayer is important not only because of the connection it affords us with God, but because of the reassurance it can give to others.  Not only praying for people, but letting people know that you’re praying for them is important in a situation like this.  Pick up the phone.  Send a text message.  Pray for those in the Coastal Bend and Houston and then tell them you are.  A note from you about your prayers for them could be just the boon their souls need in this troubled time.

Give

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine went through a disaster relief class being held by the Red Cross.  He said so many people are volunteering to help victims of Harvey that the Red Cross is overwhelmed.  What a great problem to have!  Of course, just because lots of people are volunteering doesn’t mean there’s not lots of work still to be done and lots of resources still to be provided.  You may want to consider giving to a reputable organization like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or the Disaster Relief Fund of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

Trust

In Adult Bible Class this morning at the church where I work, we were studying the story of Joseph.  When Joseph is sold into slavery to the Egyptians, there is this interesting line: “The LORD was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2).  If Joseph looked only at his circumstances, it would have seemed not that the Lord was with him, but instead that the Lord had forsaken him.  But we must never confuse the sweetness of our circumstances with the reality of God’s presence.  The cross of Christ reveals that God’s presence is not ultimately indicated by the comforts in our lives, but by the compassion of His Son, who endured the worst of human suffering to see us through all of human suffering.  Christ is there with the people of the Coastal Bend.  And He is there with the people of Houston.  The same Savior who was with His disciples in a storm on the Sea of Galilee and who was with the children of Israel as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea is with the Texans who are being pummeled by this storm and trying to get through some very deep waters of some very big flooding.  Harvey may be catastrophic, but this storm is no match for our Savior.  He will see us through.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

August 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Reflections on London

Lodnon

As I finish my preparations for worship at Concordia tomorrow, I do so knowing that people across the world are hurting tonight as terrorists have launched an attack yet again, this time in London.

As I’ve been reflecting on another tragic night, I cannot help but hold out hope.  Here’s why.  Terrorists strike.  They quickly detonate a bomb, or mow down people using a car.  Terrorists strike.  Our God, however, does something more.  He abides.  He abides with us to comfort us in our distress.  He abides with us to dry our eyes when they are filled with tears.  He abides with us to give us strength when we are weak.  Terrorists strike.  Our God abides.

And abiding is better.

Abiding is better because it outlasts a strike.    Abiding is better because long after terrorists disappear into the shadows to plan their next sinister attack, our God remains by the sides of those who have lost loved ones.  Abiding is better because long after the police clear, loved ones are laid to rest, and today’s tragic story gets coopted by the next big tragic story, our God will not forget the events of this night.

One of my favorite hymns is “Abide with Me.”  Two of its verses are especially poignant to me tonight.  The first of these verses is for those who are mourning losses in these attacks.  The hymn reminds us of how Christ’s abiding presence can comfort us in our loss:

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings;
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea;
Come, Friend of sinners, and abide with me!

In a world of terror, we do not need Christ to be our terrible Judge.  Instead, we need Him to be our gentle Healer.  May Christ begin the healing process in all those who are grieving.

The second of the verses reminds us of the hope that we have for the lost:

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness:
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if Thou abide with me.

Terrorists struck tonight.  And with them, death struck.  But when Christ abides with us, we triumph.

Terrorism doesn’t stand a chance.

Praying for London.

June 3, 2017 at 10:35 pm Leave a comment

The Inauguration of Donald J. Trump

inauguration

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

It’s official.  As of last Friday, just after noon Eastern Standard Time, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States.

Though our nation has a new president, old partisan divides and rancor remain.  Representative John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s election and promised to boycott his inauguration, which prompted a fiery response from the president via his Twitter account.  Project Veritas uncovered the aspirations of a radical protest organization to detonate a butyric acid bomb at the inaugural ball.  And then there were the protests just blocks away from the inauguration parade that erupted into riots.  Indeed, there is no shortage of division in our society.

At this watershed moment in American history, it is worth it to take a moment and remind ourselves how we, as Christians, are to conduct ourselves in a world full of violence, threats, political infighting, and social media rants.  So, as a new man settles into the world’s most powerful position, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Rulers come and rulers go.

Last week, a friend sent me a picture of the “Donald Trump Out of Office Countdown Wall Calendar.”  It extends to 2021.  Apparently, the calendar is not only counting down Mr. Trump’s term in office, but making a prediction about the next presidential election.  Whatever you may think of the new president, and regardless of whether or not you hope he is elected to another term, this wall calendar provides an important reminder:  Mr. Trump’s presidency will not last forever, just like all the presidencies before his did not last forever.  Indeed, it is always interesting to hear discussions of how “history is being made” every time a new president is elected and inaugurated.  We seem to know, even if only intuitively, that the present is only the present for a split second.  It quickly becomes history – a past that is no longer pressing.

If you are concerned about Mr. Trump’s presidency, then, remember:  it will not last forever.  And if you are ecstatic about Mr. Trump’s presidency, remember:  it will not last forever.   This is why the Psalmist instructs us not to put our “trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing” (Psalm 146:3-4).  The reign of any earthly ruler never lasts.  Every reign ends; every ruler dies – that is, except for One.

Rulers have limited authority.

No matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, a contingent of the electorate is always apoplectic, convinced that whoever happens to be president at the time will surely spell the end of American democracy, if not world order, as we know it.  The reality of a president’s – or any ruler’s – authority is much less impressive.  Scripture reminds us that every human authority is under God’s authority.  The prophet Daniel declares that God “deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21).  The apostle Paul tells masters of slaves in the ancient world that One “who is both [your slave’s] Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him” (Ephesians 6:9).  No matter how much authority one person may have, no human authority can match God’s ultimate authority.

This should bring us peace and give us perspective.  Leaders, ultimately, do not control the world.  Instead, they simply steward, whether faithfully or poorly, whatever little corner of the world God has happened to give to them for a brief moment in time. It is never wise, therefore, to put too much faith in leaders we like or to have too much fear of leaders we don’t.  Their power is not ultimate power.

Rulers need our prayers.

When we no longer put too much faith in our leaders or have too much fear of them, this frees us up to pray for them according to Scripture’s admonition: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  I find it especially striking that making it a common practice to pray for our leaders – no matter who they might be – is commanded by Paul not only because of the effects these prayers have on our leaders, but because of the effects these prayers have on us!  When we pray for our leaders, Paul says, this leads us to peaceful and quiet lives even when the world around us feels troubled, and godly and holy lives even when the world around us seems to be careening into moral rot.  When we pray for others, God strengthens us.

As Donald Trump assumes the responsibilities of the President of the United States, he needs our prayers.  So keep President Trump and his family in your prayers.  And while you’re at it, keep other leaders, be they on the national, statewide, or local levels, in your prayers as well.  As a practical admonition, perhaps consider writing a note to one of your public servants asking how you can pray for them.  Your note just might be a big blessing to them and encourage them to become a better leader.  And that’s something our nation can always use.

January 23, 2017 at 5:15 am 5 comments

A Week of Tragedy: Baton Rouge, Saint Paul, and Dallas

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This has been a terribly tragic week.  Today, three cities are in mourning:  Baton Rouge, Saint Paul, and now, overnight, Dallas.

In Baton Rouge, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot to death while being pinned to the ground by law enforcement officials.  In Saint Paul, Philando Castile was shot and killed by an officer after being pulled over for a broken taillight.  In both of these cases, there are questions over whether or not police officers used excessive force.  Then, last night in Dallas, when protesters gathered to decry what happened in Baton Rouge and Saint Paul, five officers were shot and killed, with an additional seven officers shot and wounded, by a sniper who was enraged by the shootings in Baton Rouge and Saint Paul.  It is the largest single loss of first responder lives since September 11, 2001.

As events continue to unfold, here are some things to keep in mind.

Grieve with those who grieve.

To all of the families who have lost loved ones this week in these tragedies, we should offer our condolences.  We should hold them up in prayer.  Losing loved ones are occasions for tears.  Empathy should be the hallmark of every Christian because it so closely reflects the incarnation.  In Christ, God came into our pain.  He experienced our pain.  He walked through our pain.  This is why the preacher of Hebrews can say that, in Christ, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize” (Hebrews 4:15).  For us to withhold empathy denies us the opportunity to show the world who we are by our love.  “Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

Receive Christ’s peace.

When a week spirals into tragedy like this one has, we can be tempted to respond either with fear or with anger, or with both.  I’ll have more on these responses Monday on my blog.  For right now, suffice it to say that these responses are not helpful.  When the world is troubling, rather than responding with fear and anger, it is better to receive the peace that only Christ can give.

The night before Jesus goes to His death on a cross, He knows His disciples will respond both with anger (cf. John 18:10) and with fear (cf. John 18:15-18, 25-26).  But Jesus wants His disciples to receive His peace.  So He says to them, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  God’s peace is stronger than human tragedy.

Trust that tragedy does not have the last word.

It was Dr. Martin Luther King, echoing the words of the nineteenth century abolitionist Theodore Parker, who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  How a moral arc can bend toward things like justice and righteousness and goodness can be tough to see after a week like this.  Yet, what is good has not been lost.

Jesus tells the story of a widow who comes to a judge, begging him to grant her justice against someone who has wronged her.  The judge, who apparently is not at all concerned with justice, continually diminishes and dismisses her concerns until he finally decides to grant her what she wants, simply because she won’t leave him alone.  This widow’s quest for what is good overcomes this judge’s careless embrace of what is wrong.  Jesus concludes His story by pointing to God: “Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7-8).

Jesus promises that in a world where plenty is wrong, God is a just judge who will eventually make things right.  God will not put us off in our tears, in our hurt, and in our devastation.  And although God’s conception of a justice that comes “quickly” may not fit our conception of a justice that comes “quickly,” we can rest assured that God’s final defeat of all that is wrong will have its say on the Last Day.  Not only that, God’s defeat of all that is wrong has already had its say in Christ, who triumphed over sin and death by the cross (cf. Colossians 2:15).  In a week that has been full of tragedy, this is something in which we can take deep comfort and by which we can hold out great hope.

Terrible tragedy will not have the final say.  Jesus will.

July 8, 2016 at 10:07 am 3 comments

Pray for Paris

Paris Eifell TowerI first heard the news on the radio when I was driving home from work Friday night. Phrases like “breaking news” and “continuing coverage” caught my attention. As more and more details of the ghastly attacks trickled in from across the Atlantic, I knew it was going to be a long night for the people of Paris. 129 dead. 352 injured, 99 critically. And ISIS was claiming responsibility for the coordinated attacks that hit six targets at once. After opening fire on their victims, all but one of ISIS’s operatives blew themselves up when police approached, hoping to kill even more people with suicide bombings.

Considering these attacks came just days after ISIS was suspected of downing Metrojet Flight 9268 over northern Sinai as it was on its way from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, it is quickly becoming apparent that ISIS will stop at nothing to intimidate the world. As of now, their tactics are working. Many, many people are very, very scared.

As Christians, we know we are commanded to be not afraid. The words of Psalmist come to mind: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). Logically, we also know that fear does us little good at a time like this. It solves nothing. It changes nothing. It only paralyzes us and clouds our judgment. But at the same time we are called not to fear, we are also called to be in prayer. Indeed, the apostle Paul addresses both fear and prayer when he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). At a time like this, when the world is fearing, we should be praying.

As this tragedy continues to unfold, allow me offer four things for which I think we can and should pray. My hope is that God will not only comfort you as you pray these petitions, but that He will use these petitions to help you process what has happened. After all, what has happened affects not only the city of Paris or the nation of France; it affects the world. Nous sommes tous les Parisiens.

On to the prayers.

Pray for Paris.

In one way, this goes without saying. And, thankfully, it is already happening. A quick check of my Twitter account shows #Prayers4Paris is trending. So pray for the grieving. Pray for the fearful. Pray for the people of a city who are trying to pick up the pieces of an illusion of safety that has just been shattered. Pray for Paris.

But let me take this a step farther. Because as Christians, to pray for Paris means to pray for all of Paris – even for those who support and sympathize with the attackers. Jesus admonishes us to pray not only for those with whom we share a kinship, but even for our enemies: “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). So pray for ISIS operatives in Paris and, for that matter, all over the world. Pray, yes, that any further plots would be thwarted. But also pray that their hearts would be changed. A changed heart stops evil much better than even the most sophisticated international intelligence operation.

Pray for sobriety.

The shock and sadness of yesterday’s attacks will soon dissolve into political posturing and raw outrage. Rash responses will be given. Foolhardy decisions will be made. We need to stay away from all such impulsiveness.

If history is any indication, I am especially concerned that many will fall into what logicians refer to as the fallacy of composition. This fallacy asserts that if something is true for the part, it must also be true for the whole. So in this instance, if a few radical Muslims who are part of ISIS are terrorists, then it is reasonable to be wary of any Muslim because he or she might be a terrorist.

Don’t fall for – or propagate – this fallacy!

I have many friends who own firearms. They are, of course, very responsible and cautious with their weapons. But every time a mass shooting happens – in Roseburg, in Charleston, in Fort Hood, in Sandy Hook – many of them openly worry that the actions of a few deranged lunatics will affect all firearm owners. They worry that people will take the actions of a few and use it to stifle the whole. And so they lobby not only for their rights as firearm owners, but also for their character as people.

What firearm owners do for each other, Christians can and should do for Muslims. Let’s not lose our ability to think soberly and clearly not only about these attacks specifically, but about Muslims generally. The vast majority of Muslims are people who hold much in common, especially ethically, with Christians. They love their families. They despise promiscuity. And they support traditional values like honesty, hard work, and generosity. Let’s be willing to vouch for the character of Muslims. And let’s be willing to support and love them as people.

Pray for governments.

The French government, the U.S. government, and many other governments across the world have some difficult decisions to make. ISIS must be stopped. Thankfully, God has given governments the authority to do just this. The apostle Paul explains:

He who rebels against the [governing] authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. (Romans 13:2-3)

Paul says that those who rebel against good order arranged by good governments will bring judgment on themselves. For good governments will seek to avenge and deter – often with force – evil events. The terrorists, then, have every reason to be terrified.

As governments across the world try to discern how to respond to these attacks, pray that their responses would be decisive, measured, and Godly. In short, pray that world governments would act in ways that thwart evil while honoring God’s Word.

Pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Ultimately, we know that governments, though they can do much to suppress evil, cannot stop evil. Only God can do that. In fact, shortly before Paul writes his words concerning government, he writes about God’s final judgment: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). God’s vengeance is the only vengeance that gives victory.

When does God avenge evil? On the Last Day. Then and only then will evil be wiped out once and for all. Until then, attacks will happen. Lives will be lost. Evil will rear its head. And we will “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Considering that none of this is pleasant or good, the final prayer of the Bible can be our prayer today: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). “Come and wipe out evil. Come and make everything – including those hurting in Paris – new.”

And He will.

November 14, 2015 at 4:05 pm 4 comments

“For Thine Is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory” – Where Did That Come From?

“Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Heinrich Bloch

This past weekend in worship, we studied the most famous prayer of all time:  the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus offers this model prayer as part of His Sermon on the Mount:

This, then, is how you should 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.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

Whenever I teach on the Lord’s Prayer, someone inevitably notices that, in Matthew’s account, the doxology often included in traditional versions of this prayer – “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever.  Amen” – is missing.  Where did it go?

Interestingly, the old King James Version includes the doxology because the Greek manuscripts from which the translators of that day were working incoporated it.  As biblical textual criticism has advanced over the past four hundred years, however, we have learned that the doxology is absent from the most ancient and significant manuscripts of the Bible, including Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, both from the fourth century, and is also omitted in early patristic commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer including those of Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian.[1]  Thus, these words are not included in more modern translations with the understanding that they were probably not a part of the original biblical text.

It is important to understand that the exclusion of the doxology as part of the biblical text does not mean that it is errant or inappropriate to the prayer.  Quite the contrary.  It reflects the spirit of 1 Chronicles 29:11: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours.”  Moreover, the doxology has been included as a liturgical strophe from the earliest days of the Christian Church.  The Didache, a manual of church practice from the turn of the second century, includes a truncated version of the doxology: “For Yours is the power and the glory for ever.”  The Didache goes on to encourage the faithful to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day.[2]  Christians, then, were speaking these words from the earliest days of the church…a lot!

More than likely, this doxology began as a response of the people, gathered for worship, to the words of the Lord in this prayer.  It is much like, at the end of a Scripture lesson in worship today, the reader will sometimes conclude, “This is the Word of the Lord” and the people will sometimes respond, “Thanks be to God.”  The doxology, then, was a way for those assembled to praise God for the prayer His Son had given them.  With time, however, the liturgical function of this doxology was forgotten and people began to assume that the words were part of the prayer itself.

We, along with many others, continue to pray these words because, finally, they are a statement of faith in the heavenly Father to whom we are praying.  We believe that the reason He can bring His kingdom to pass, give us our daily bread, forgive our trespasses, and deliver us from the evil one is because the Kingdom, power, and glory are at His disposal to do with as He wishes.  And His wish, as we delightedly learn from the Lord’s Prayer, is to bless and save us.  And so, we continue to praise God with this doxology and pray as Christ has taught us.


[1] See Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London:  United Bible Societies, 1971), 16-17.

[2] Didache, Chapter 8, “Concerning Fasting and Prayer.”

August 6, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

God Does Not Speak To You In Prayer! Or Does He?

Recently, I read a flyer for a conference on prayer that contained this line:  “God does not speak to His children in prayer.”  I have to admit that when I first read this line, I was a little taken aback.  “Certainly,” I thought to myself, “There must be some mistake.  Of course God speaks to His children in prayer!”  Immediately, in the back of my mind, I began to rattle through some of the instances where God did in fact speak to His children in prayer.  I even ran across an instance of God speaking in prayer during my devotions just this morning.  Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, is barren.  But the couple desperately desires kids.  So Isaac, as a faithful husband, turns to God in prayer:

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.  The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.  The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:21-23)

In just three verses, we read of two instances in which the Lord “speaks” in prayer.  The Lord “answers” Isaac’s prayer when He grants his wife a pregnancy and He speaks to Rebekah as well, foretelling the destinies of the twins within her womb.  So how can a conference on prayer dare to claim, “God does not speak to His children in prayer”?

A few points are in order concerning God and His speaking to us in prayer.  First, it is important to remember that these passages are descriptive and not prescriptive.  That is, they recount for us a specific and historical instance in which God answers Isaac’s prayer through an action and speaks to Rebekah’s prayer with a foretelling.  This does not necessarily mandate, however, that God will speak to our prayers in this same way.  An example of how God works in one instance does not necessarily set the pattern for how God will work in every instance.  Thus, while these passages contain a historical narrative, they do not necessarily contain a divine promise.  Second, apart from the consideration of descriptive and prescriptive passages of Scripture, it does seem as though biblical authors do indeed count on and even expect God to speak to them in prayer.  The Psalmist declares:  “I call on You, O God, for You will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).  The Psalmist expects an answer from God when he prays to Him.  Thus, it seems only reasonable that we too, like the Psalmist, should expect God to answer our prayers, for we too, like the Psalmist, are children of God.  Third, we must finally ask not just, “Does God speak to us in prayer?” but, “How does God speak to us in prayer?”  This is the question that flyer for the prayer conference addresses next.

The flyer continues, “God readily speaks to His children in His Word and in the Sacraments, as the Holy Spirit gives His divine counsel through very clear direction or sometimes His ‘nudging.’”  In other words, if you want an answer to prayer, read your Bible!  Participate in worship and gladly receive Communion!  Keep an ear attuned to heaven for divine appointments!  For through these ways, God speaks.  God does indeed speak to us in prayer, just not necessarily through a miraculous sign or an audible voice.

God’s simple way of speaking to us through His Word in prayer comes out especially clearly in the Lord’s Prayer.  For instance, in this prayer, we pray to God, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  How does God answer this prayer?  Through His Word, of course!  “The eyes of all look to You, O LORD, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16).  In this prayer, we pray to God, “Forgive us our trespasses.’  How does God answer this prayer?  Through His Word, of course!  “If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).  In this prayer, we pray to God, “Lead us not into temptation.”  How does God answer this prayer?  Through His Word, of course!  “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13).  In each of these instances, God gives us a clear and unequivocal answer through His Word.  Thus, it is good to pray with a Bible in hand.  For through Holy Scripture, God speaks!

Can God speak to us in prayer through other means?  Of course He can.  He is omnipotent.  Ultimately, He can answer in any way He chooses, though He will never contradict what He has already revealed through His Word (cf. John 10:35).  But before you beg for some divine sign in the sky in answer to your prayer, crack open your Bible.  For while you are praying, God is answering most often in the simple way of His Word.  And couldn’t we all use an answer from God to our prayers?

May 7, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – In Sickness And In Health

Death is inescapable.  It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor, how healthy or how sick, how old or how young a person is.  Eventually and inevitably, death comes for each one of us.  After Steve Jobs passed away, many bloggers and journalists spoke of how Jobs sought to receive “the best care money could buy.”  And indeed, he did receive terrific care from world-renowned doctors.  But although they may have been able to prolong his life, they were not able to save it.  He passed away last year.  Death came for Steve Jobs.  Shortly after the world-renowned and lovably cantankerous atheist apologist Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer, he described his ailment in his characteristically colorful tone: “Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups.”[1]

Like Steve Jobs, Christopher Hitchens turned to the most “brilliant and selfless physicians” money could buy, and though they may have been able to prolong his life, they were not able to save it.  He passed away last year.  Death came for Christopher Hitchens.

Death is inescapable.  And yet, I find it interesting that, particularly in the case of Christopher Hitchens, it wasn’t just medical professionals who were working to prolong his life, it was Christians who were praying to redeem his life.

In worship and ABC this past weekend, we looked at the story of a demon-possessed boy in Mark 9.  Initially, the disciples try to heal this boy, but they cannot (cf. Mark 9:17-18).  Jesus, however, is able to drive out the torturing spirit (cf. Mark 9:25-27).  Beleaguered by their embarrassing failure, the disciples ask Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”  Jesus’ answer is clarifying and convicting:  “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:28-29).  This boy could not be healed by a pill, a surgery, a physician, or an exorcism rite.  Rather, persistent and consistent prayer was the key to this boy’s recovery.

For all of man’s collective medical wisdom, there are still some diseases which can be healed only by prayer.  This is why James asks, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).  Prayer is more powerful and potent than any human remedy.  For prayer has God’s will and mercy as its answer.

Tragically, even in the face of certain death, Christopher Hitchens wrote, “Please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries.”  Christopher Hitchens’ commitment to his atheism was unflappable.  He refused to believe that his kind of sickness could “come out only by prayer.”  Then again, after asking people not to pray for him, he added this little caveat: “Unless, of course, it makes you feel better.”[2]

Christopher Hitchens never came to understand and see that prayer is not just for the therapy of weak minds, it is for the strengthening of brave souls.  Prayer, perhaps, really could have made him feel better – not only in his cancerous plight, but in his eternity as well.  For not only can God hear our prayers and sometimes grant us a temporal recovery, He will hear our prayers and always grant us a glorious eternity through Christ.  And that is a gift and blessing we dare not miss.

Want to learn more? Go to
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and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
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[1] Christopher Hitchens, “The Tropic of Cancer,” Vanity Fair (September 2010).

[2] Christopher Hitchens, “Unanswerable Prayers,” Vanity Fair (October 2010)

February 6, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Praying for our Government

Today begins Concordia’s Thirty Hour Famine for our youth.  During this special period of fasting, Concordia’s youth will devote themselves to prayer, as is the norm in Scripture: “I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting” (Daniel 9:3).  Among the items for which we are urging our youth to pray is our government.  In our politically divisive and derisive climate, it is important to remind ourselves what the Scriptures say about how Christians should relate to their government.  Thus, I have prepared a short synopsis of what the Scriptures say concerning governmental authorities which will be used as part of the Thirty Hour Famine.  Though simple, I thought I would publish it on my blog as a reminder of how we should appropriately engage in the political process.  I hope it’s a blessing to you!

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  (Romans 13:1-2)

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  (1 Peter 2:13-14)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

These passages from Scripture remind us of the importance of honoring our governmental authorities.   From these passages we learn:

  • God’s authority stands behind government’s authority.  God Himself has established all political authorities.
  • Because God’s authority is behind government’s authority, we ought to submit to our government as long as its policies do not conflict with God’s Word (cf. Acts 5:29).
  • Not only should we passively submit to the government’s authority, we should actively pray for our officials.  They deserve our prayers and honor.

Clearly, many people do not obey the Bible’s guidance when it comes to governmental authority.  Rather than respecting and praying for our governmental officials, many people mock and ridicule them and, in some extreme instances, even threaten them.  Yet, when all of these biblical admonitions to respect the governing authorities were written, the person in power was the Roman emperor Nero.  Nero hated Christians.  Some traditions hold that it was Nero who was at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of Peter and Paul, the authors of the above biblical quotes.  When a fire destroyed Rome in AD 64, Nero blamed the Christians for the city’s destruction and launched a fierce campaign of persecution against them.  The first century Roman historian Tacitus writes of Nero’s persecution:  “Covered with the skins of beasts, the Christians were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired” (Tacitus, Annals 15.44).  In spite of all of this, the biblical authors still urged Christians to respect the governing authorities.

Whether or not we agree with the policies and politics of our elected officials, we should still respect our governing authorities and pray for them.  We should especially pray for them when they do things out of step with God’s Word.  We should pray that they would repent and listen to God’s voice.  We should also pray that God’s will be done, even if it is done through imperfect politicians.

Finally, we must remember that no matter who is in power, government will not and cannot solve all of this world’s problems.  Many people seem to believe that if one or another political party would only gain power in Congress and the White House, then all of our problems would be solved.  Though governmental officials can do many things, they cannot save the world.  Only Jesus can do that.  This is why, while respecting our governmental authorities, we do not put our ultimate trust in them.  We put our ultimate trust in Christ alone.

May 13, 2011 at 8:35 am Leave a comment

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