Broken Prayers

I’ve always been nervous around prayer that seems loud and impressive.(1)  Call me crazy, but I get uncomfortable when someone prays really loud before the meal at a restaurant.  I usually peek to see who is watching and wonder if God is hard of hearing?

Or when I pray with a group of people.  The guy currently praying is so articulate, elloquent, and impressive and I’m up next.  I know I should be concentrating on something else, but the whole time I’m just thinking, “How am I gonna follow that?”  I’m often intimidated rather than inspired.

I noticed Peter, in the Bible, used to pray this way.  He was notorious for making loud, impressive, declarations like:

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”    -Matthew 26:33

But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”                    -Mark 14:31

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”    -John 13:8

And then he was broken.

He did what he said he would never do.  He betrayed a friend.  He ran.  He made a disastrous mistake.

And this is when his prayers began to change.

In a beautiful display of grace, the betrayed friend makes breakfast for Peter.(2)  Later, Jesus is walking on the beach with Peter and asks him three times a very profound question, “Do you love me?”  The third time Jesus asks this, we hear the change in Peter:

He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”            -John 21:17

It’s hard to read these words without imagining a deep sigh behind them.  No more impressive declaration.  No more loud pronouncement.  Peter’s words are few.  It’s the words of a man that has given up trying to prove something.  He has been left humbled and horribly honest.  He finally realizes who he is talking to.

Now think for a moment about the prayers that have truly mattered.  The ones that moved past lip service, ritual, and obligation.(3)  The ones that were authentic, gut wrenchingly honest, life changing prayers and you will find they were always quiet and short.(4)

“Please help.”(5)

“I’m sorry.”

“Where are you?”

These broken prayers are what change lives.  They sneak past the artificial into the authentic.  They make way for a sinner to walk along the beach with the Savior.  These broken prayers have the ability to restore relationship.

May you dare to pray like that today.(6)

 

 

1.  This can apply to churches as well but that’s a blog for another day.  😉

2.  John 21 happens to be my favorite story in the Bible.  I like to imagine a resurrected Jesus shopping at the market for bread, and getting up early to go fishing while the whole time thinking, “I can’t wait to see my friend.”

3.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken andcontrite heart you, God, will not despise.  – Psalm 51:17

4.  that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. – 1 Timothy 2:2

5.  I once prayed with a group for a popular speaker.  Everyone took turns praying impressively and in a stark contrast the speaker we all were praying for simply whispered, “Please help me.  Amen.”  I asked him about his prayer later and he said something I’ll never forget.

“My prayer was short because we’ve been talking all week.”  Quiet requests can be heard by the King if we’re already near His throne.

6. For more broken prayer examples, check out the Psalms.  Few understood brokenness like King David.

5.2

A few years ago I got a gym membership.  I began jogging(1) on the treadmill consistently.  I refused to get intimidated by all the in-shape giants around me and got to a pretty comfortable speed of 5.2.  Nothing record breaking but I was making progress.  I even bought some special sporty earbuds in order to listen to music while I ran.

One day, a young guy was jogging next to me and as I glanced over to compare my speed with his, I noticed his treadmill ran, “5.3”.  I mean, come on!  I wouldn’t stand for this so I I immediately cranked up my speed to 5.4.  A few minutes went by an we both were in a dead sprint.  It was during this feat of middle-aged maturity I reached for my towel to wipe my sweaty brow.  As I did, I clipped my ear bud cord and my iPhone shot out of it’s holster, bounced on my treadmill, and fell behind me.

My competition was watching intently for what my next move would be.  Not being one to back down from competition (no matter how ridiculous things get) I attempted to skip off the treadmill to retrieve my iPhone without turning off the treadmill.  Everyone knows pace is important to a runner!

Long story, long, the treadmill caught me, I flew back and slammed into the machine behind me.  It made a loud crash.  My competition stopped to make sure I was alive.  Management came out to make sure I wouldn’t sue.  I left with a few scrapes and loads of embarrassment.  I never returned.(2)

Sadly, many have a similar kind of story with the church.  We enter cautiously, feeling slightly intimidated by the many “in-shape” Christians around us.  We make some change but then we start to compare.  We compare our insides with other people’s outsides and get distracted.  Inevitably, we trip and fall.  Sometimes, we can get so embarrassed that we never return.

Can you relate?  Read what the founder of the church said about you:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  -Matthew 11:28 (Message)

See, I’ve learned the gym is not a museum to display in-shape bodies of perfection.  The gym was meant for out-of-shape people just like me.  Likewise, Jesus’ words remind me the church is meant for incomplete, messy, imperfect people just like me.

So, been awhile since you’ve ran?  Maybe you can only manage a 5.2 or a 3.2 or just walking to church is exercise enough.  Jesus’ invitation is clear.

Learn from my mistake and stop comparing yourself to the person sitting next to you on Sunday.  Just run at your own pace.  The truth is we’ve all fallen.  Every Sunday, we’ve all gathered here, because we’re not all the way there.

 

1.  I like to pronounce jogging with a soft “J”.  It just seems more refined and european.

2.  Years later actually, I rejoined the gym.  I’ve been going for a few months now and am determined to not allow comparison trip me up ever again.

Forgetful Faith

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead.  -Phil. 3:13

I used to read that scripture and scoff.  It seemed like a trite bumper sticker platitude you read in traffic.  I used to think that whoever wrote that must not know what I’ve been through.

The truth is, we can’t forget what happened.

The mistake that replays in our mind.  The words we wish we could take back.  The betrayal and hurt they caused.  The disappointment and loss we’ve faced.

 

 

Last year.

Last month.

Last night.

However, if we were honest, what kills us inside is not what happened.  It’s why it happened that needs to be forgotten.

What: He left you for someone else.   Why: I’m not as attractive as her.

What: You lost your job.    Why: I’m not smart enough.

What:  You are addicted.  Why: I’m too weak.

The why is the silent scream we carry throughout our day.  The why is what affects us today.  The why is what influences our decisions and future choices.  The why is what kills us inside.

Now look how God forgets:

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.  -Isaiah 43:25

God is not claiming he has become absent minded.  He has not undergone a hypnosis and no longer able to recall the events of our past.  God is simply saying he will no longer allow our past to influence how he feels about us. Our regret will affect our relationship with God no more.  He has chosen to destroy the “why”.

And so should we.

It happened.  You can’t change that.  It does not define you.  It does not direct you.  It does not determine you.  The “why” has no power over you anymore.  God has chosen to forget and requested we remember something much better.

 “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  -Luke 22:19