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Prayer: Placebo or Panacea?

Prayer is neither a placebo or a panacea. It is not a cure-all or a myth intended only to please. If it were a panacea, it would enable us to walk by sight and not faith. If it were a placebo, of all hoaxes it would be the most cruel. Of all the things prayer is, it is a formidable therapy. 

One of the primary purposes of prayer is to get as close to God as possible. It is a gift from Jesus who gave us authority to pray in His name. It is a means by which we can fine tune our lives with the heartbeat of the Father. Though we tend to make prayer subjective, with our self the subject, it is most fulfilling when it is objective, and the object is our Heavenly Father. Always be more concerned with the one to whom you are praying than about what you are praying. Preoccupation with Him in prayer enriches the pray-er and enables spiritual, emotional, and physical victory.

The Greek word translated prayer is “proseuche.”  It involves more than just saying a prayer. It is a general term which speaks of devotion and worship. Talking to the Lord in terms of reverence, adoration is vital. When a lot of people think of prayers they have in mind supplication, that is submitting a want-list to God. That is good, but adoration is imperative.

For some it is a time to express sanctified complaints or specialized needs. However, the real therapeutic advantage is gained through true “proseuche,” prayer, that is, adoration, devotion, and worship of God.

Our “most fundamental need, duty, honor and happiness,” said the late Fredrich von Hugel, “is not petition, nor even contrition, nor again even thanksgiving …. but adoration.”

The word adore has become restricted almost exclusively to modern love songs. It implies the lover has been captivated by an overwhelming passion for the object of his or her obsession. True adoration of God is that and more. It is eager adoration, honor, and worship of Him as deity.

Not only has the word meaning been lost, but the awe and wonder of being in the presence of the Supernatural has been bleached out of life. The media has used creative means to desensitize us to the true Supernatural. We have grown to consider the extraordinary as ordinary.

The prayer of David after his spiritual restoration is one worthy of our use: “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free spirit.” (Psalm 51: 12)

Through the prophet Isaiah God declared: “I dwell in high and holy places, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones … I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.” (Isaiah 57: 15)

Reflect on your prayer life in light of the concept shared herein. Does it need to be altered?

Your Prayer Closet

 “…when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut thy door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.” Matthew 6: 6

Do you make a place in your daily life for inward retirement and waiting upon God, that you may learn the full meaning of prayer and the joy of communion with Him? And do you live in daily dependence upon His help and guidance? Those are thought provoking questions.

Do you have such a retreat center where you meet along with God, a place where you report for duty and get re-supplied for life?

A secret to prayer is secret prayer. It is where you admit God into the inner courtyard there to be enthroned. Prayer is to life what a global positioning satellite (GPS) is to a traveler. It lets you know where you are and how to get to where you need to go.

In the vernacular of the Bible, “the closet” is private prayer. Usually a reference to secret sin. To the worldly-oriented person the vogue thing is to “come out of the closet.” The only way for the Christian to counter what is pouring out of the carnal closet is to enter into the prayer closet. The Greek word for closet is “tameion” which can be translated closet, inner room, storeroom, or simply room. Originally it was used as a storeroom in which valuables were locked. Prayer is thus depicted as being the treasure room it really is. It is actually a reference to any private quiet place. It is a good discipline to establish one so when you are there you know what you are there for.

Pointed, private prayer is one of the best ways for the Lord to prove Himself. When only the Lord and the person praying know what is being prayed, all human manipulation is prevented. Some people have improperly mastered the art of using prayer to indirectly appeal publically for persons to answer a request.

Such as, “I want you to pray with me about ….” Or, “I have been praying about ,,,,:

I heard a church staff member pray in a worship service: “God you know my wife needs new glasses, and we can’t afford them. Please provide a means of getting them.” He got several offers from members of the congregation, and in doing so robbed God of the joy of privately providing.

Alone with God a bond develops. Sir Isaac Newton said, “I can take my telescope and see millions of miles into space; but I can lay my telescope aside, get down on my knees in earnest prayer, and I can see more of heaven and get closer to God than I can when assisted by all the telescopes and material agencies of earth.” You can have the same view. Resolve right now while it is on your mind where are you going to provide such a place and set a time to be there alone with God.

It Is Prayer Time

Jesus said to you, “ought always to pray, and not to faint….”  Luke 18: 1

I don’t understand prayer. Jesus said to do it, so I do. Some say what is said to be an answer to prayer is simply coincident. I only know that when I pray coincidences happen.

A cause for a topic of prayer is not needed right now, just pick one from a smorgasbord of needs. We tend to pray when needs arise. If we prayed more, fewer needs would arise. So pray.

No one believes in prayer more than the devil, not that he practices it, but he suffers from it. We benefit from it, yet often neglect it. There are 953 references to prayer in the Bible. If the devil can obscure these or misdirect any one of these, he has succeeded in a vital way. Be not deceived. The devil is still endeavoring to pervert what God has provided. 

South African pastor Andrew Murray said, “We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.” When you come to believe prayer is the means to linking with heaven to get things done on earth, there is a tendency to pray. Time spent in prayer is time invested in eternity. 

You can do more after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.

An excuse for not praying is often not having time is a revelation of improper priorities. Set the alarm clock a few minutes earlier and spend time alone in prayer. We live in a close culture. We are with people or in the media that gives us a feeling of involvement. Therefore, being unaccustomed to being alone it is challenging to designate time to be alone with God in prayer.

        The following is a simple framework on which to frame your prayers. 

                                It is A-C-T-S.

Acclaim. That is, praise God from whom all blessings flow. Romance God.

Confess. Be honest to God. Name specifics for which you need forgiveness.

Thanksgiving. Count your many blessings, name them one by one.

Supplication. Ask God to supply your needs and those of others. It is good not only to pray for the needs of others, but it is also OK to pray for God to bless you real good. Let Him know the things for which you need Him to bless you.

The disciples did not ask Jesus how to pray, but to pray. We still need to follow His instructions and talk to the Lord more often.

A confidant saw Abraham Lincoln before a great fire place with his elbows on his knees, and his face in his hands, and heard him pray, “Oh God, Oh God help me, I cannot lead these people without your help. Without you.”

We all need to pray the first part of that prayer, “Oh God help me….

Remember. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  (James 5: 16 NLT)

Fire and Water

Some years ago, near a rarely used trail in the Amargosa Desert in California, there stood an abandoned hut. Nearby was a well, the only source of water for miles around. Attached to the pump was a tin baking-powder can with a message inside. It was written in pencil on brown wrapping paper. It read:

“This pump is alright as of June 1932. I put a new sucker washer into it and it ought to last five years, but the washer dries out and the pump has got to be primed. Under the white rock I buried a bottle of water, out of the sun with cork end up. There’s enough water in it to prime this pump, but not if you drink some first. Pour in about 1/4 and let her soak to wet the leather. Then pour in the rest medium fast and pump like… you’ll get water. The well never has run dry. Have faith.

When you get the water up, fill the bottle, fill the bottle and put it back like you found it for the next feller.

P.S. Don’t go drinking the water first! Prime the pump with it and you’ll git all you can hold. And the next time you pray, remember that God is like the pump. He has to be primed. I’ve given my last time away a dozen times to prime the pump of my prayers, and I’ve never failed yet to git me an answer. You got to git your heart fixed to give before you can be given to.”

Perhaps this story is lacking a bit theologically, but it illustrates the point of providing for others as others have provided for you.

The issue is clear: immediate personal gratification vs delayed desires and postponed self-gratification — security versus compassion. The Golden Rule comes into play: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love is the motivating influence.

Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher, wrote, “Someday after we have mastered the winds and the waves, the times, and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love, and then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire.”

Have you built any fires lately? Love motivates us to share the love of the Lord with others in our dry and thirsty land. Strange, isn’t it, that water and fire should illustrate such love.

These words from the song, “Set the World on Fire” is a good theme for each of us.

“Light the world on fire. Don’t stop until it surrounds you,
Light the world on fire. Don’t stop until we all hear you,
And we got a world that’s on the edge. Trying to find a way to change it.
Yeah we got a world that’s on the edge, And you could be the one to change it all.”
Strange, isn’t it, that water and fire should illustrate such love.
Be the living dramatization of such love shared in Jesus’ name.

On Being a Teacher

You are marketing your brand of Christianity. You are the best example of Christianity some will ever see. How near what it is supposed to be are you?

Historically the best teachers have taught best by example. Though they were not Christians, they form an example of teaching by example. Socrates was a peripatetic teacher. That is, he taught while walking. One young man who walked with him was Plato. Plato taught Aristotle. Aristotle influenced a young aspirant named Alexander whose exploits resulted in him being called “the Great.”

Great exhorters have leapt across generations to influence lives.

Augustine held high the torch of faith amid the ruins of Rome, a collapsing civilization. The flicker of that torch was seen years later by Martin Luther who led the Reformation of the church in Europe. 

Luther faced the hostility of church and state with his faith as a background to announce, “Here I stand.”

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in his Travels with a Donkey, “The best thing we find in our travels through the wilderness of this life is an honest friend. We travel indeed to find them.

Today you might very well encounter someone looking for a friend. By becoming that friend you can bear witness of the faith by how you live and then by what you say. To be a witness, be a friend.

Pollution and littering are not limited to the world of paper, metal, and plastic. Look around in the landscape of your mind and you will likely find a junkyard of people. These are people you have discarded. They are your throwaways. Some of these may have been dropped as easily as a gum wrapper. Count the number you have dumped in the last year while looking for a perfect one. If you want an exciting adventure go back and try recycling some. We salvage bottles, aluminum cans, and newspapers. Why not recycle friends? Many fail to do this and live a lonely life. Friendship is self rewarding.

Emerson noted our misplaced priorities and commented: We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our roof tight, and our clothing sufficient; but who provides wisely that he shall be not wanting in the best property of all — friends?”

You are a teacher, good or bad, dependent upon how you live, the love you show, and the friends you influence by your life and you sharing. Jesus is the prototype of befriending a person. He dined with Matthew, he went fishing with the apostles, He brightened the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus with friendship.

In effect you teach every person you befriend, if only for a moment, Enjoy life by befriending people in Jesus’ name by what you say — and first show.