Training

An interesting question my wife posed the other day has me thinking.

Why do churches and other believers not spend more time in teaching not just what prayer is, but rather how to pray?

I’m not talking about your conventional routine prayers

There are even catchy acronyms for Christians to follow: PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield), ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), FACTS (Faith, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and others.

These guidelines show what we should pray and can even guide how we approach prayer, but how do you go about teaching someone how to pray?

How can you convey through words how to approach an omniscient God and not just focus on what you feel led to tell Him, but rather how to reciprocate and allow prayer to become that two-way conversation?

Considering that prayer is a spiritual discipline, it requires training and instruction.

Why aren’t churches stepping into this void and teaching people not just what to pray, but rather how to pray?

The Law

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

What is the law?

The Apostle Paul was a highly educated man, so it is understood that he was talking about the Old Law here, the Judaic norms, practices, etc.  This is an interesting passage though because of the phrase “the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…”

It is fairly well understood as well as in my observation that the law was instituted so man would understand that he could never live up to the righteousness necessary to be in God’s presence.  The law’s purpose was to convict the people in their hearts of their need for grace.

 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:4-6

So Paul, again, was writing that striving for obedience to the law only bore “fruit for death.”  Why is that?  If the law is God-given, isn’t it holy and just?  How could attempting to adhere to it cause “sinful passions” to be aroused?

Paul goes on and states:

I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.

Romans 7:7-8

Is Paul saying that he would not have known how to sin or what was a sin if it were not for the law?

So is the law there to bind our behavior?

Imagine a metaphor.  As a father, I have to lay down rules of behavior for my children.  My children, before these rules are laid down would just go on not knowing that anything they were doing was “wrong” in my eyes.  The rules I laid out were designed to constrain certain behavior, but they did not put an end to it.  Rather, they provide a guideline for them – if you do X, you will be punished.  This doesn’t mean that such behavior is instantly curtailed, but rather they test the limits of this new rule in any number of ways.  They also do their best to get away with the behavior and hope that they don’t get caught.  How are we any different as children of God?

If the law is meant for the ungodly, then it is meant for people that are spiritual infants at best.  They need direction on how to be and how to act.  They need that direction that touching something hot will mean you get burned so don’t touch it.

Does this excuse the rest of us that have come by faith to Christ and mean that sin is no longer an issue for us because the law no longer binds us?  Not at all.  If you take Christ’s commands to love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, then you will act in accordance with the law of God without needing the law to convict you daily.  Instead of striving to obey the law, you will strive to love fully, and by doing so you will fulfill the law as Christ did with his death and resurrection.

Attributes

As a father, I have to wear multiple hats with my children.  I am a teacher, a rule-maker, an enforcer, a protector, and a comforter.  My roles stretch from playing and bonding with them as only a father can with his sons, to disciplining disobedience and bad behavior.

With my oldest rapidly approaching four years old I have had to do more of the latter than I would have expected when he was just learning to crawl and walk.  I have learned a few very illuminating lessons about life as a result.

Lesson #1: Daddy has to be scary.

If my son did not fear punishment, then he would disobey me at every turn.  My oldest has a very strong will, which means that when I mean business, I have to come down hard and stomp, metaphorically, on the disobedience.

Both parents have to discipline equally with each other, but there needs to be more fear built in to the discipline that comes from the father.  I think this speaks to our God-likeness.  God, the Father, must be strong and just and exercises his power often in the Old Testament to teach His children lessons on how to live and behave.  As a father, I can not be any different.  I must be firm and unshakable… if that makes me scary to my preschooler, then so be it.  As a second element of this attribute, I have to be constant – I can’t discipline something one day and then let it slide the next unless the only thing I want to obtain is confusion on the parts of my sons.

Lesson #2: Sons’ whole world revolves around their father.

I have always heard that girls will look to their father as an example of the ideal man.  This will impact who they befriend, date, and eventually marry.  This is no less true for boys.

I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. 

Genesis 18:19

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

As a father, I have to be the example of a man to my family.  My sons will learn from how I act, how I behave.  They will look to me for direction.  They will mimic me.  Their principles will be shaped by mine.  They will take their cues on how interact with others based on how I interact.  They will either learn to treat people with respect and to act of love, or they will do the opposite, but it will be as I do.

Lesson #3: Men are made for war.

This is an odd lesson to be learned from my kids as neither are old enough to really understand death, war, etc… but there is something deeply ingrained in boys that cause them to look at a stick and say “That would make a mighty fine sword.”

It also means that my boys are all about rough-housing and playing hard with me.  As a result, my oldest already knows how to tackle someone bigger than him and catch a full-sized football.

Lesson #4: I am woefully inadequate.

I had so many great father examples to observe growing up, including my own, but all of the observing in the world cannot prepare you for the moment that you look down and see those little eyes looking back up at you expecting you to solve all of the world’s problems in the next three minutes.  As a result of this, my prayer life has greatly benefited and I have a closer relationship with my Father in heaven as a result.

Lesson #5: Perspective

It’s funny how people joke about how once people have kids that their free time is eaten up and they no longer can come “hang out” or do impromptu activities.  It’s funny because they lack the perspective that having kids gives you.  I enjoy getting to kick back, goof off, and do my own thing every now and then.  I also enjoy wrestling with my boys,   teaching them about sports, science, God, and whatever else happens to be interesting to them that day.

It’s not that I’ve changed, but my priorities have.  These are extremely valuable years where I can really lay the groundwork for my sons to mature into remarkable men.

Being a father is not easy.  It is hard to have the patience sometimes to deal with a bratty preschooler and a clingy toddler.  How much more difficult for Our Father then because we are all, at times, bratty preschoolers, rebellious teenagers, clingy and whiny toddlers toward Him, yet He loves us anyway.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 3:11-12

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