Several times in the past two years I have been deeply convicted that my prayers are too small for the God I worship. I do not mean God doesn’t care or we should not pray for individuals or small concerns. BUT — is that all I am praying? Do I primarily pray out of the small circle of concerns touching my life?
As Pandora and I have traveled to the Middle East and North Africa Region God is enlarging our hearts. I was one of those Christians who heard of the annual day of prayer for the persecuted church and I might offer a two minute prayer. But now I see faces, I know names, I have heard their testimonies and God is showing me how precious these suffering brothers and sisters are to him.
I found these prayers in some reading materials and have adapted them for me to use on a regular basis to “prime” my thinking and stir me to pray. Would you join me? CLICK HERE AND DOWNLOAD.
Let me know what you think.
C.S. Lewis reveals the alternative in Mere Christianity: A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never … commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.
The Christian Case for Carpe Diem
Why seizing today matters.
BY MICHAEL D. GIAMMARINO
A couple of years ago I remember seeing an interesting Pepsi ad. It depicted young people celebrating, socializing, and having a generally great time on what seemed to be a rooftop party. The ad concluded with the campaign’s slogan, “live for now.” The whole thing felt like a promotion for a life of depravity and debauchery—essentially, that one should embrace momentary pleasures with disregard for future consequences.
Commercials like this Pepsi one have long influenced me to think that living for the moment was a bad thing. There couldn’t be a more naturalistic perspective, I thought. Christians are to be the most future-oriented people of all with eyes gazing past death and into eternity, right? What’s more, I found the Church reinforcing this mindset by saturating sermons with encouragements to “Follow your dreams,” and that “Your best days are right ahead of you.” Simply put, I’ve never been exposed to a “live for now” outlook on life that has come from the Christian community.
That is until now, of course.
You see, living for the moment and living wildly do not necessarily go hand in hand. Where the secularists get it wrong is that they conclude something like, “If I live for today, I’ll just pretend I won’t have to deal with the ramifications of my decisions.”
But that’s not how that goes. After all, by putting greater emphasis on the present, wouldn’t someone be more inclined to make better decisions since it would require more focus and time? It is the person who is so future-focused that they neglect the importance of smaller, everyday actions and thus unwittingly damage their future. He is sawing off the branch on which he sits!
C.S. Lewis reveals the alternative in Mere Christianity:
A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never … commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.
Living for today is all that we can do. We can’t live and take action tomorrow because we only exist today. We have no control over tomorrow and we never will. Duty can only be done and grace can only be received today, in this moment.
Today is what we are given. That is all.
After the Lord personally showed me this reality, it ushered in a deep sense of relief followed by conviction. I was relieved because for the first time I felt I didn’t need to strive endlessly in mind and body to make tomorrow turn out the way I hoped. I often became frozen, like a deer in headlights, in deep thought about my future. It was very stressful, to say the least. And that is precisely why I was convicted. I finally understood that the reason I stressed tomorrow so much was pride and control.
I needed to control my future because surely I knew how it should pan out better than God. I couldn’t fully let go of my hopes for tomorrow and place them into His hands. That’s asking a great deal of me! What if He doesn’t come through? Or worse, what if His plans aren’t what I want them to be—what if they aren’t my plans?
But as Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, God’s plans are good! Plans of “hope and a future.”
I also realized that I made an idol of my future. Frequent daydreams of that perfect life drenched my mind. It’s coming soon. Certainly. I thought to myself. I just need to hurry through this scrappy present so I can receive my future. Once I’m there, in my perfect life, I’ll be happy. I hadn’t realized that it was an idol. I did what Lewis advised against: I committed my virtue and happiness to the future.
How often I have neglected the small joys and blessings of everyday life because I was moving too quickly to receive them. I knew little of the irony that in receiving those momentary blessings, the future takes care of itself. It doesn’t work out in spite of a slower paced, live-for-the-moment kind of life. It works out because of it. By embracing today by receiving and giving all you can in it, you are surely setting yourself up for a better tomorrow.
This is no surprise. Jesus Himself told of this simple principle for healthy living:
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:33-34
God knows your desires. So just loosen up your death clutch on life and give it to God.
Tomorrow can surely be thought of, hoped for and even planned for. It must certainly be prayed for. But we are nonetheless given today. That is all we have. We’re given this moment and it is our duty to live it out in a way that honors God. He’ll deal with the rest.
MICHAEL D. GIAMMARINO
is the author of Discovering Justice, a book that analyzes the modern concept of justice in light of a historical Judeo-Christian framework. He currently resides in New York City and studies business and theology at Oral Roberts University located in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
How do we pray for those who need to accept the saving grace of Jesus and become lifelong apprentices in his kingdom?
Acts 16:14 (ESV)
14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Pray for God to open hearts so they become attentive to the Gospel.
Lord, (fill in the blank) is on my heart. I long for them to know Jesus and his eternal life. Please open his/her heart to pay attention to what is said. Thank you for hearing your children who pray under the name of Jesus. Amen.
It was FALL 2012 — I was teaching a course at Columbia Int University entitled: Principles of the Christian Life: Ethics and Sanctification.
Robertson McQuilkin created this course during his presidency and his book on ethics and his book on the Holy Spirit came out of class handouts used with several generations of students. I had the privilege of being one of those students in 1978.
Now, 2012, I was asked to teach the course — a double honor. Robertson believed that ethics, what we should choose, and sanctification, walking in the power of the Spirit so we can choose well, needed to be together in one course. As far as I know CIU is the only school that frames the teaching of ethics in that way.
I invited Robertson to come as a guest to share how he practiced his daily love time with God and to answer questions from the students at a halfway point in the course. This 13 minute video is lifted from that class. Enjoy — and think about your alone time with the Grand Lover of your soul.
ROBERTSON IS NOW AT HOME… WHAT A JOY HE MUST BE KNOWING THAT WE ONLY TASTE.
I miss my dear friend, mentor and leader.
I was listening to Robertson pray as we came to the end of our visit. In his prayer were words that sounded like they were paraphrased from the Bible but I couldn’t identify it specifically. As best as I can recall, and it is etched clearly in my memory because I heard him offer God the same prayer on several other visits, this is what he prayed.
“Lord, much of life is way too much for me to figure out. I don’t have very many answers; fewer now than I thought I had years ago. I have more questions than ever. But, I do know you and I trust you. I trust you and you are more than enough.” His prayer continued as he prayed specifically for me and my family.
I will miss those prayers. Do people who pledge to pray for us every day, and keep that promise for many years, continue to pray for us when they arrive in heaven before us?
After my friend closed his prayer that day I confessed my biblical illiteracy and asked him where the passage was that was expressed in his prayer. He told me it was from Psalm 131.
That day Psalm 131 became a treasure for me. Here it is in the Amplified translation.
1 LORD, MY heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. 2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting]. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.
A few of the encouragements from this song are:
King David is the author of the prayer and extends an invitation to his people in verse 3 to join him in anchoring a frayed anxious heart in confidence in their God. Here is a great king confessing, before God and his people, that he has humbled his heart and knows that he does not have all of the answers or the power to solve all of the problems. This is not the image of a strong confident leader often held up as the model of leadership. I wonder if God defines leadership different from most cultural definitions?
This king has to have a talk with himself and tell his soul to chill out; stop being anxious. As a parent I know the difference between the nursing child and the weaned child. To hold that nursing infant in my arms and softly tell her, “Mom is just taking a shower. She will be out in just a few minutes. I promise she will feed you and we will not let you starve.” The babe totally ignores me and screams as though we are the worst parents in the world and care nothing for her nourishment.
Oh, but the weaned child is a different story. “Daughter, Mom is going to fix lunch soon. Just let me read you this book and as soon as she returns from the store it is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all of us. YEAH!” And the child, in anticipation, says, “I am so hungry can I have apple sauce too.” And we return to our book and our waiting.
It seems that most of my Christian life has been spent waiting on God. I live in the waiting room while waiting for answers, waiting for blessings, waiting for judgment on the unrighteous, waiting on Jesus to return…. Waiting. And often my heart does get overwhelmed with how the world is running or not running according to my thoughts. But this song reminds me I do not sit in the waiting room alone. So King David’s words fuel my hope.
It is OK to need to take one’s heart aside and have a serious chat. And it is OK to need to have others around me, like this King was to his people, calling me to keep trusting our great God we cannot understand and who refuses to follow my time table.
Trust the Lord from this moment on.
Trust the Lord in all of the moments he gives me.
Trust the Lord knowing life is too much for me to handle but not to much for our God.
It is a sweet memory; Robertson showing me a well worn photo album he would pray through daily and my picture with my family was stuck behind the plastic on one of the pages. Who has God led me to stand with in prayer for daily? Yes, my children, their spouses and my grandchildren and of course my wife. But who else? Who do I pledge to stand as an intercessor for because God has led us together? Who do I pray Psalm 131 and many other prayers over their life and service?
Praying gives sense, brings wisdom, and broadens and strengthens the mind. The prayer closet is a perfect school teacher and schoolhouse for the preacher. Thought is not only brightened and clarified in prayer, but thought is born in prayer. E.M. Bounds
We are too busy to pray and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results. R.A. Torrey
If you are asked, as an outside consultant, to examine any kingdom enterprise, you can determine the effectiveness by listening to how the leaders are praying. Our prayers expose what we really believe and are a great predictor of where the time, money, and energy of the leadership is going.
What we pray about gets our attention!
What we pray about sets our priorities!
What we pray about is what we do!
A leader who wants a group to behave differently should begin with helping them pray differently. Prayer is not all we do, but if we are not praying, all we do will make little difference.
Prayer is the most important tool God has provided to lead the leader and to influence the people.
From Chapter One (page 27) LIFE GIVING LEADERSHIP, 2016.