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 Bishop of Rome

Viva Papa Francis.

I am not Catholic, but I respect the Catholic Church and the devoted people within it that daily follow Christ’s calling to be His emissaries in this world.  So today, I celebrate that Spirit-led election of the new Bishop of Rome and the titular head of the Church.  I pray that he is received a double-helping of the Spirit, the courage, bravery, and boldness of Christ in all that he does.

The elevation of this man to the head of the Church comes at a crucial moment, not only in our time as Christians, but also for Americans and lovers of liberty alike.

Why is that you might ask?  I wasn’t even so sure myself until I spoke with my Jesuit-educated bride about it.

The Church will benefit from a man that has lived a life of humility and service despite his titles and authority formerly as a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Argentina.  He seems to deeply believe that the calling of Christ is not to be taken lightly or to be abused, but rather it is a calling to service first and foremost.  The Church will also benefit from a man dedicated not only to service, but also justice.  The man himself, while open to “free-thinking” as espoused by the Jesuits is a rigid defender of the Faith and of Catholic doctrine, not just when it comes to Christ’s teachings, but how those teachings apply in the modern world.  He has come out against gay marriage, gay adoption, and a litany of other social issues that leftists and outsiders use to try to cleave the Church in two.  The arguments and defenses that the Jesuits use in defense of the Church doctrine are usually exceptionally well-thought out, well-versed in Scripture, but also well-versed in science, history, and philosophy.

What it ultimately comes down to for Pope Francis as he begins his tenure as the most visible ambassador of Christ in the physical world is that he will enter this post with humility, but I do not expect him to be timid or meek.  He will rather seek to emulate the founders of his order, Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis.

The man may be 76 years old, but he is one of God’s Marines.  And to steal a saying – only two kinds of people understand marines: marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

Easy

Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men.

President John F. Kennedy

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:10-11

While I am not Catholic, I pray for Pope Benedict and for the wisdom of the Cardinals in their selection of the next Pontiff, that it not be the wisdom of men, but that of God.

Football

My oldest son, being nearly four, loves playing football (ok, more like picking up a football and running into me as hard as he can and then playing “tackle”) and has recently learned to cheer for the teams that I like to watch.  “Go Browns” and “Go Bucks” are commonly heard emanating from him as he plays with any number of toys while a game is on in the background.

A few weeks back, my high school held it’s Homecoming football game.  In the past I haven’t bothered taking him with me when I’ve had the chance to go watch the game because the weather has been notorious every year for this game.  This year proved no different, but I still decided that we would brave the cold and rain and go.  We had a great time in spite of the weather.

There is something magical about high school football to me.  The team camaraderie, the support of the community, the sportsmanship showed by both teams to each other.  The lack of cursing.  The beautiful sung a Capella National Anthem by an Alumnus who happens to be a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army currently.  The hope and promise of a night out with the family.  The public prayer that opened the game.

Yes, a public prayer.  No one was forced to pray.  No one protested.  No one’s rights were trampled.  The prayer was a quick, humble appeal for protection for the opposing team and their fans.  How dare we impose our religion on those poor boys and their families.  I’m sure that they were horribly offended at being exposed to a prayer for THEIR protection.

By now you probably have caught on that I graduated from a private high school where public prayer is not just permitted, it is encouraged.  I myself am not one for public prayer as I would rather spend my time in prayer quietly, humbly, and without pretense before my God, but there is a place for it.  To lead off a football game between boys that are becoming men is one such place.  To remind them of their proper place in the universe before their God means that the game will be played with more sportsmanship and respect between the teams, the parents, and the fans than games where such a prayer is not initially given.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.

1 Timothy 2:1

What example would you rather see your kids be exposed?

Covering

Have you ever found yourself in grave danger?

One wrong step and you could die.

That is existence for mankind.

At creation, God was our guarantor of safety and security.  His righteousness held at bay the danger that we now face daily.  Have you ever considered that sin is a result of man attempting to provide for his own security and safety?

We thrust our hand out and took the crown that God alone is worthy to wear and tried to put it on.  We took responsibility for our lives at that moment in time.  The simple act of trying to cover their nakedness in the garden was an act of trying to construct a covering for a perceived weakness.  We crave security and safety.  It is one of our fundamental needs along with food and water.

It is this craving that drives us to pursue safety at nearly every cost.  You see it in the rise of gangs in violent areas, in the demand for stronger social safety nets such as Medicare, Social Security, and Welfare, in the absolute focus on improved safety features for new automobiles, in the intense focus and scrutiny given to mass killings and tragedies from natural disasters to the horrors of war.  Being safe and protected is an obsession for us.

Isn’t each of our reactions to a threat to our safety, whether physical or spiritual, just us trying to sew fig leaves together while we believe we are naked and vulnerable?

Let me break it to you.  Nothing you do will ever convey ultimate safety and security to you.  It does not matter if you live in a bubble and never do anything dangerous, or if you walk around wearing a bullet-proof vest every day of your life.  It does not matter if you move to the safest community in your state or to the most rural part of the country.  It does not matter if you drive the most state-of-the-art car with every safety bells and whistles.  Your life can be snuffed out in a heartbeat.

Stop trusting in mere humans,
    who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Isaiah 2:22

A prayer that I have tried to say daily since I came across it, in a work of historical fiction, is one that has me abdicate my claim to my own safety. This is a hard thing for me to do.  I have a family.  I care for them and wish to provide for their safety and believe that God wants me to do so, but ultimately, we are ultimately dying embers from the moment we are born just waiting to be snuffed out.  I don’t say this to depress you or discourage you, but to encourage you to abdicate the crown that was stolen.  Throw your safety and security at the feet of the Almighty.  Taste true liberty.

Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
    and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
    the poison of vipers is on their lips.

Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    protect me from the violent,
    who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
    they have spread out the cords of their net
    and have set traps for me along my path.

I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
    Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;
    do not let their plans succeed.

Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
    may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
    may they be thrown into the fire,
    into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
    may disaster hunt down the violent.

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
    and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
    and the upright will live in your presence.

Psalm 140

The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.

Deuteronomy 33:12

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