Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't Have a Taxing Christmas

In the bible, the Gospel of Luke tells us part of the Christmas story: "And it came to pass in those days that there went out a degree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be registered."

Actually, older versions of the bible used the word "taxed" instead of "registered." Readers though kept getting confused and thought it was some sort of an income tax fee imposed on all the people. Instead, the gospel is referring to a census taking of the people, much like our U.S. census every ten years. So, the Greek word was translated as 'registered'in our bible today. It is a better translation for us.

However, I wonder if "taxed" might be more appropriate. For many of us, Christmas is just too much. The holiday season "taxes" us physically, emotionally and financially. By the time Christmas Day is upon us, we are exhausted and only waiting until we can say: "I made it through another year."

Our Christmas feelings and expectations are usually based on holiday seasons of the past. We remember our childhood and believe that we have to have those specially made cookies, those newly embroidered stockings, the best lights on the block, and more gifts for our kids than the neighbors, so they won't feel unloved. The demand seems never-ending and each year they grow and grow... block and office parties and more gatherings get added to the list. Christmas can finally become the time of year to check items off "To Do List" and fill in calendar dates.

The Christmas season has clearly grown commercially over the years, But it can also grow religiously. We are in the midst of Advent, a time of expectation for the birth of Christ. As you prepare in worship, prepare in your homes as well. Commit a time each day to Advent Devotions.

Christ Jesus has come and we celebrate his coming again. Let us prepare to cradle the Babe in our arms and to accept Jesus into our hearts as if it were anew, for the first time. the most priceless Christmas gift is the gift of our Savior's birth.

When you feel "taxed" during this holiday season, pause, take a deep breath, thank God for sending our Savior Jesus into the world, remember the importance of Christmas, say a Prayer of Thanksgiving for the gift of the Messiah given to you, organize your thoughts, your day, and your week, and then begin again with the task at hand, knowing that its importance does not compare with that of our assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ.

May the Prince of Peace fill your homes with love.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just a Little Leaven

Have you ever made homemade yeast bread? 

You take a little lump out of the dough every week and you set it on the kitchen window sill and let the yeast grow in that little bitty lump. And next week, when you get ready to make the dough you get your flour out, you get that little bit of lump and you put it in your flour, and you mix it up, and you let that bread rise. And when it rises, you mash it back down again, and you let it rise a second time.

My goodness, it’s a whole lot easier to go to the store and just buy a loaf of bread, isn't it?
But when it rises that second time, you take out a little piece, just a little lump and you set it on the windowsill for next week and the next loaf.

Why? - because a little leaven leavens the whole loaf.

That's the good news!
As Julie Andrews sang: a spoonful of sugar (just a little bit of sugar) helps the medicine go down - a little bit of goodness leavens the whole loaf.

Well, don’t miss it - because a little bit of badness ruins the loaf as well. 

The church must leaven the whole world - because the church is the leaven. It's the little bit of yeast that’s going to leaven and grow the whole human family for God.

Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When Sin is Hard to Name

In the washroom of his London club, British newspaper publisher and politician William Beverbrook happened to meet Edward Heath, then a young Member of Parliament. Beverbrook had printed an insulting editorial about Heath a few days earlier. "My dear chap," said the publisher, embarrassed by the encounter. "I've been thinking it over, and I was wrong to print that comment. Here and now, I wish to apologize." "Very well," grunted Heath. "But the next time, I wish you'd insult me in the bathroom and apologize in apologize in your

And so we hide behind the activities that we don’t want anyone to one about. We don’t want anyone to see our weakness or vulnerability. And we keep our sins to ourselves, and often times we should, and they can, eat away at us and often times they should. If not, how would we come to know these behaviors with which we should cease to be engaged? But we can also become obsessed with the hurts and the wrongs that we have committed. It can lead us into thinking that we do not deserve the love of others or the love of God or God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ and it can become a hang-up and it can lead us to ruin.

The Apostle John said: If we confess our sins, Jesus who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.  (Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine)

Today, this very day, every day, when the Holy Spirits convicts you, and you recognize your sin, it is a time to know the grace of God and the forgiveness that comes in Jesus Christ. It is the day to realize that your sin has been taken by grace to Christ and you are freed from sin. It is the day that you can start anew and fresh.

But we must strive to stay cleansed by the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. Though we will often fail, we must strive to be free from sin. And if we willfully give into it, it can become a hang-up and we can allow it to control our thoughts and our actions.

Indeed, we all sin. In order to be truly sorry for them we need to confess them to God and sometimes even to others, or how can we clearly and decisively reject in the future the sin we have just committed.

Having the resolution to avoid committing your names sins in the future is a sure sign that your sorrow is genuine and authentic. A resolution to God to try to avoid the near occasions of sin leads to spiritual growth. And God's grace in cooperation with the intention to rectify your life will give you the strength to resist and overcome temptation in the future.

God’s love is not a magic potion that can protect us from all the ailments of the world.  But let me tell you what it can do.  The love of God cleanses you so you are not bound to the sin you are committing.
The Apostle John said, if we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Now, I don’t know that the indiscriminate, blanket confessions of sin to anyone and everyone are so good for the soul.  Not everyone is mature enough to receive our confession. When you confess a sin to a person they may not forgive you. But when you confess God you will be forgiven through Christ Jesus our Lord. You will receive forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and maybe then you can forgive yourself and cease your behavior.
Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thanksfulness is a Choice

Jesus taught his disciples gratitude though his teachings, and more importantly, by his actions. It is in thanksgiving and gratitude that he helped the disciples remember that God was the source of all their blessings.

Giving thanks to God kept the disciples, and keeps us focused on God and away from all of our own accomplishments. Some people even can arrive at a point where all they can do is appreciate God for the gift of their lives.

I'm reminded of the story of a man who traveled a great deal. He missed his children a lot when he was away, so it was his habit to bring his little ones a gift when he came home. So he would be gone, and when he came back he would have a nice gift for his kids. After a while it seemed to him that when he came home, the kids looked forward more to the gift than to seeing their dad. Now isn't that funny? Is that us? Are we looking forward to what God does for us, all the gifts He gives to us? Do we think so much of the gifts that we forget the giver?[i]

Thankfulness is a choice. We make up our mind, and we determine that we're going to have a thankful attitude even in times of struggle, trouble, sadness, sorrow, and in view of church history, sometimes even persecution.


[i] Dr. Nagel expresses his ‘gratitude’ to the unknown person who authored this story more than two decades ago. Unfortunately, though Dr. Nagel discovered the story tucked away after all these years, he was unable to ascertain the author and date.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tuning Into God

In order to grow spiritually we much get our thoughts, minds and attention close to God. We must attune our spirit with God's spirit. It like cell phone reception.
Good cell phone reception is dependent upon not getting too far away from the cell phone tower. We’ve all been driving around and suddenly lost a call due to the signal being lost. In a little while, we can see the phone has reacquired a signal and we can place the call again. Christians maintain their signal through the Holy Spirit. If they get too far away from the cell tower of God, they lose their signal and the call is dropped. By moving back toward a tower, the signal is reestablished and they can speak to God again.
Are you in tune with God? Do you find yourself moving closer to God or drifting farther and farther away?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

To Begin Again

Hear about the man who had a sick mule?
He called the veterinarian, come on over and visit the mule.
The vet came and after examining the mule in the barn, the vet said: “You give him one of these here white pills. This is an amazing miracle medication. When you give this mule this white pill, he will get well. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. BUT, if that doesn’t work, and I am almost positive it will, I have this little red pill. You give that to him, and that will cure everything."

Two weeks later the vet saw the farmer and said, “How’s your mule?”

The farmer said, “Doc, you would not believe it. I gave him that little white pill and that mule jumped off the floor, and knocked down the barn door. The mule jumped over three fences, knocked my fourth fence down and took to running off in the fields. Why, I would have never have caught up to him if I hadn’t had the presence of mind to take that little red pill myself.

Isn't That What We Want?

When we feel we have turned away from God, when we have not followed the will of our Lord, Jesus Christ, when we have tramped down the very grace that God has given us by decided, consciously to commit a sin, when we know it is a sin, and we are filled with such guilt that it overwhelms us , what do we do? We look for a quick fix.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were just some pill that would put us back into the good graces of God? If we could just take some miraculous pill that would cleanse us and make us completely whole we wouldn’t need anything or anyone. And we wouldn’t have to worry about anything we might do in the future. We certainly would not need forgiveness from anything and guilt would be nonexistent so there would be no need for repentance.

What does it mean to repent?
            To change one’s mind,
                        A re-orientation of personality,
                                    A coming to one’s senses,
                                                A change of the heart, will, conduct,
                                                            A driving away of the self.

So that,
   We can truly cast aside all the weight that holds us down…
So that,
   We can lay down before God all our personal hopes and dreams that come for egoism
So that,
   We can hear Christ speaking to us and become new persons in Christ Jesus.
So that,
   We can say: I do not want anything to get in the way of you using me Jesus. I do not want to be a hindrance of your kingdom being present within me. So I will repent - for the kingdom of heaven is near.

Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Limitless Love

If only we could be loved with LIMITLESS LOVE!

            No… we are loved with LIMITLESS LOVE!

The question really should be:



God already loves us with LIMITLESS LOVE.

            So we are loved that way.

The love of God far surpasses any love that one person has for another in humanity.

We celebrated Easter.  Did you feel the limitless love of God.
Somehow or other even though our love should be like the love of God, the love that we extend to someone else seems to have mixed in it some kind of response by the other person. Though, it perhaps should be that we should love limitlessly, and the others person's response would not be involved, it doesn’t seem to work that way among people. 

But God’s love is not dependent upon the response of the person loved. God loves without any retrospect of the person being loved. It is not dependent on humanity’s love.

You know the old adage about the lover and the daisy. As the young man plucks the petas says, she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not . . . 

But that’s not the way it is with God’s love.  We can pluck each and every petal of life and say of God, He loves me, He loves me, He loves me, He loves me, He loves me!

If God were Picking the Petals it would be, I Love You, I Love You, I Love You. 
And God's flower: It would be an eternal circle that would neveral run out of petals.
Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Five Great Lessons

 Five Great Lessons

Story One

During the second month of nursing school, a professor gave a pop quiz to the students. 

            One student was a conscientious student and had breezed through the question, until he read the last question on the quiz.

            What is the first name of the woman who cleans this school?

Surely this was some kind of joke.

            He had seen the cleaning woman several times.

She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would he know her name?

            He handed in his paper, leaving the last question blank.

Before class ended, on student asked if the last question would count toward the quiz grade.

            “Absolutely,” said the professor.

“In you careers you will meet many people.

            All people are significant.”

They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say, “hello.”

            That is the first lesson for us to learn today.

Lesson One:               “All people are significant.”


Story Two

            One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm.

            Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.

Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

            A young white man stopped to help her  - generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1060s.

            The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

            She seemed to be in a big hurry!

She wrote down his name and address and thanked him and drove away.

            Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door.

To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.

            A special not was attached.  It read, “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night.  The rain drenched not only my clothes but my spirits.  Then you came along.  Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.  God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.  Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole

            Lesson two:                We are to unselfishly serve others.

Story Three

            In the days when an ice cream sundae cost must less, a 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table.

            A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

“How much is an ice cream sundae?”

            “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it.

            “How much is a dish of plain ice cream,” he inquired.

Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient.

            “Thirty-five cents,” she said brusquely.

The little boy again counted the coins, “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

            The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away, perturbed and her table had been taken up, never to be seen by the boy again..

            The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed.

When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw.

            There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies – her tip.

            Lesson Three:                        Always remember those whom you serve.


Story Four

            In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway.

Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.

            Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.

            Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but noe did anything about getting the big stone out of the way.

            Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables.

On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. 

            After much pushing and staining, he finally succeeded.

As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. 

            The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. 

            The peasant learned what many others will never understand.

Lesson Four:

            Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one’s condition.

                        Emotional, spiritual


Story Five

            Many years ago, a young man was a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, and he got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease.

            Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5 year old brother who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

            The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

            He hesitated for just a second and then said, “Yes, I will do it if it will save Liz.”

            As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as everyone did around the bed, seeing the color return to Liz’s cheecks.

            Then the five year old’s face grew pale and his smiled faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”


Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor.  He thought he was going to have to going to have to give his sister all of his blood.

            Lesson Five:                           Attitude, after all, is everything!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Dr. Steven McMillen, in his book, These Diseases, tells the story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she received the questionnaire part of the college application.

There was a question that asked, “Are You a Leader?”
   Being an honest and conscientious person she wrote in the blank, “No”
She put the possibility of going to this particular college behind and her and began applying elsewhere.
   To her surprise, she received a response letter to her application.  It said,  “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders.  We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least on follower.”

When it comes to living out our faith, are we ready to follow or are we only willing to lead?

Those situations in your life: when someone asks you to assist them in some form of Christian Service or activity.  Do you get involved and immediately want to start to take control?  Do your tend to quickly offer friendly suggestions and advice because you know that with just a few changes you can make what they are doing better?

And soon, do you start to lead, even though you were there to follow and to assist?
Jesus said, "Follow Me."  If we can find a way to give up control of our lives to the Lord, Jesus might just lead us to accomplish something amazing WITH Christ in control.
Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Following Christ

This is a concern we have for people we care about.

Many people pass through religion and church with their eyes only have gazed on the truth of faith, ever waiting to turn their attention to present day spirituality.  We have a desire that those whom we know, love and care about will want to believe in God and have a desire to follow in the footsteps of the faith.

There is an internal recognition that God exists, that the Lord Jesus is present… and yet people, especially young people, can have difficulty grappling with the perplexity and confusion and doubts that go along with the building up of their faith.  There is a mysterious ability for some to talk themselves out of believing by allowing their puzzlement to grasp hold and consume the desire of faith.

Theologian Donald Baille said, “You can go on bravely in the path of duty and purity and love.  So much of Christ is plain to you, and so far you can follow him with your eyes wide open.  And if you are perplexed about this or that, Christ says, “What is that to you, Follow me.”

I know that the perplexities of the world create confusion in your faith… and sometimes you get stuck in your belief… when that happens…  set your mind on Jesus, he says, Follow Me.      

Some time ago, my boys were playing Monopoly.  They next morning it was on the floor, so I said to my son, “Can you pick up the Monopoly game?”  And he said, “What about my brother?”

That was Peter’s response when called by Jesus.  Peter has been issued a challenge to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  Follow me, Christ says. 

Peter could have said you know I love you Lord and you know I will follow you to the ends of the earth.  Or, Yes, I will follow you, what would you have me do for you.  Or even better, tell me how to follow you, how am I to feed you lambs and tend your sheep.

Instead, his response to Christ challenge is to begin talking about the other person present.

You want me to follow you Jesus. What about him?  What about John?  What about that other guy? Is he going to be with you?  Is John going to be part of your ministry and church forever?  Is John supposed to follow you like me?  Shouldn’t he be challenged to serve you as much as I am being challenged

Jesus, tell me what is going to happen to him.  What commitment is he going to have to make?

Donald Baille said we have a lesson to learn here, “Don’t worry about what other people are doing, follow Christ.”

There are so many ways people try to evade Christ’s challenge to follow him.  Some begin to compare their faith and belief with others and say I’ll never have faith like that, and so it becomes much easier to stay in a cycle of mediocre belief.  Others point to the faults of Christians and the people of faith who have fallen in life and it allows them to make an excuse as to why they should not follow Christ themselves.  Some do not follow Christ because to do so would require a drastic change in their lives.  They might even have to reconfigure their priorities.

I read recently a very sad statistic, 85% of high school students stop going to church when they go off to college and less than 15% will ever return.

The message we need to give to young people and ourselves is: Don’t worry about what other people are doing, follow Christ.

Donald Baille wrote, “There is nothing on earth greater than the Church.  It is part of the very essence of the gospel.  Its fellowship is near the heart of the Christian life. 

 Life is the living out of faith.  Christ says follow me.  Don’t just be a member of the Church, be a follower of Christ.

It is a timeless message.  The Lord Jesus came and said, follow me.

Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, go forth and proclaim the Gospel, baptize people in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The role of the church is to make the church alive in the lives of people.  For the sole purpose of providing an opportunity for some to hear the call of Jesus, to hear the voice of Christ say, “Follow Me.”

Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Movement of Life

Life is forever unfolding, full of ups and downs. It does not and it cannot remain constant. Oh, if only we were able to freeze time then we could take the perfect moment in our lives and hold time there forever and live and die in expected happiness and we might be satisfied, but we know that is just not the way that it is.

God set our life in motion but he does not determine the choices that we make.

It is true with faith as well. God sent Christ into the world; he has given you the opportunity to follow him and to live a Christ-like life, but God does not open the door for you and reveal to you how your life will be different with the presence of Christ in your heart. God does not allow us to peer into the future. Oh, how I wish he did, or would do, so that I could do what was necessary to direct the future of my life and of your life.  But God has not granted me that power and personal authority to my great dismay.

If one looks out on the years and considers life’s possibilities, Christ says let be a part of your life. Let me be your friend, your confident, your guide, and yes, let me even be your master, for I will lead you with faithfulness.[i]

But instead of opening the door to Christ we often choose to open different doors and allow acces to other things to guide our lives.  My seminary professor, Dr. Ben Campbell Johnson, who was head of the doctoral program in Christian Spirituality at Columbia Presbyterian Seminary said:

Where the True God is not known, persons turn to substitute gods, to idols.  Devotion to gods of success, pleasure, intellectualism, politics - even religion, good though it is - is nevertheless idolatry.  A young man graduates from the univeristy full of vision for his future.  He gives himself to his job, imagining that it will fulfill the cry of his soul for meaning.  It does, briefly.  But one he has achieved its goal, the old haunting cry returns.  The idol of success does not satisfy permanently.[ii] 

We must seek the guidance of the Lord and submit to his will.  By doing so, we will choose the right doors to open.

Follow me on Twitter where I will regularly be offering spiritual reflections: aaronnagelnj

[i] This understanding of a knock at the door was illustrated in Halford E. Luccock’s sermon A Knock at the Door, Minister’s Manuel for 1994, edited by Cox, 173. Instead of ‘delivery man’ Luccock used the term ‘milkman’.
[ii] Ben Campbell Johnson was head of the Spirituality Program as Columbia Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Praying in Difficult Times

In difficult times, we are faced with several choices. How should we respond? We can choose to retreat in life and live in a state of solitude and insecurity, allowing discouragement to overwhelm us in our present situation. Or, we can struggle to find a way through difficult times.

There exists a wide variety of personal and professional resources available to assist us. We can choose to engage a professional counselor or rely on family and colleagues. But what do we do when such individuals are not available or present? How do we approach God in the in-between times?  

God is faithful. God made a covenant with us and offers us grace.

When you concentrate on and developed your prayer life, you can release many of your personal and professional frustrations and you can be in communion with God. Thus, prayer is a powerful and highly beneficial coping strategy that can help you in times of joy and sorrow, happiness and anguish.

Prayer offers a means of addressing deeper elements of your life. Through conversation with the Almighty, you can find Spiritual Rest.

How should we approach God?

Pray Regularly

Noted author Bill Hybels in Too Busy Not to Pray proposed the following questions

If you could ask God for one miracle in your life, knowing that God would grant your request, would you ask God

            to put your marriage back together?
            to change something about your job?
            to bring home a straying son or daughter?
            to heal your body?
            to straighten out your finances?
            to bring a loved one to Christ?

Whatever your request might be, do you regularly and diligently, every single day, bring it to God in prayer, trusting that God will intervene in your situation? If not, why not?[i] 

Another question often asked is when I should I pray? We learn to pray by praying regularly. Prayer is the method by which our relationship with God is sustained. Prayer is a necessary, intimate communication with God. In order to have a relationship with the Almighty, a person needs to pray.

Ralph Townsend contends in Faith, Prayer and Devotion that prayer indicates three things.[ii] First, it is recognition that you cannot do everything by yourself. Second, prayer signifies that we have a relationship with others; it is an expression of concern. Third, prayer identifies a relationship with God.

God is always available and we can hand things over to God when we have done all that we can.[iii]

The more we pray, the more we feel God is really interested in us and what we have to say. It makes us realize that God cares about us, and we need this realization daily. The Lord Jesus prayed give us this day our daily bread. In times of happiness and discouragement, people need to be spiritually filled through the breath of the Spirit daily.

People of faith are called upon to come before God, and Christ has prepared the way for us to approach God in times of joy and sorrow. Prayer is a method of communicating with God.

The letter to the Hebrews proclaims, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Pray Emotionally

Even if you get up the nerve to pray, how should you approach God in prayer? Prayer is difficult for many people. We don’t know what to say.

In prayer, we come before the Lord and express our emotions to God. We call upon God to be present in the midst of joy and sadness, in times of hope and despair. Charles Spurgeon said, “He who prays without fervency does not pray at all. We cannot commune with God, who is a consuming fire, if there is no fire in our prayers”[iv] 

In prayer, you need to pour out your soul to the God of mercy and grace. In doing so, you can find yourself in communion with God and experience personal growth and sustenance from the Lord.

During prayer, we share our lives with God, all the joy, happiness, brokenness, hurt, pain, and even anger directed toward God and others. It can be a freeing experience to express a wide range of both positive and negative emotions to the Lord.

Emotions are a part of our common humanity. Like all people, people of faith experience a wide range of emotions from excitement and elation to sorrow, frustration and rejection.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon writes there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate. (Eccl. 3:4) In prayer, we speak to God from the depth and anguish of our hearts, and we share with God the variety of emotions we are experiencing.

Pray Specifically

We need to recognize how comfortable or uncomfortable we are with prayer. Prayer is simple conversation with God; therefore, we should pray in Simple Speech.

Talk to God as you would your father, mother, brother, sister, or dearest friend. Unfortunately, most Christians are accustomed to offering prayers for others instead of for themselves. In private prayer, we need to share with God the times we feel loved and unloved by the Lord. Feel free to pray to God about your deepest needs and desires.

We believe in an omnipotent God. We want God to come to our aid, to fill our hearts with joy, to care for us in times of grief. Unfortunately, we are so often filled with doubt.

Will God really intervene? Does God really care? And yet, in prayer we rely on faith, and faith is essential for effective prayer.

Praying specifically requires faith, the belief that God is actually listening and is concerned about your present condition. It can be freeing to finally tell God your true feelings, to release your fears and frustrations, and to ask God for guidance and direction. God has the ability to produce change in you.

God has the power to make shy Moses a leader (Ex. 3-4), to soften cruel Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 11:1-8), to keep discouraged Elijah from quitting (1 Kings 19:15), to turn the fanatical persecutor Saul into a globe-trotting apostle (Acts 9:1-31). . . . God is able–the Bible repeats the words over and over. Able to save three of his followers from a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:17). Able to give a child to ninety-year-old Sarah (Romans 4:18-21). Able to give [God’s] followers all that they need (2 Corinthians 9:8). Able to save completely those who come to God through Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). ‘Able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’(Ephesians 3:20 NIV).[v]

 In prayer, we are looking for divine activity of the sovereign God.

“Prayer is a form of human communication that differs from other languages just because it is addressed to God.”[vi] In times of frustration and sorrow, we are seeking God’s sustaining grace.[vii] Confidence is placed not in oneself but in the power and love of the Almighty. Our trust in God is based not on our circumstances but on God’s character. We trust in the divine providence of God.[viii]

For what should you pray? Before succumbing to cancer, noted pastor James Montgomery Boice spoke these words of trust to his congregation:

A relevant question, when you pray is, pray for what? Should you pray for a miracle [from your present situation]? Well you are free to do that, of course. My general impression is that God who is able to do miracles–and God certainly can – is also able to keep you from getting in the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they are rare by definition. A miracle has to be an unusual thing. Above all I would say pray for the glory of God.[ix]

Pray that God will intervene and strengthen; that God would be praised in your life. We pray to a God of mystery, a personal God, an approachable God, but a mysterious God. Again, prayer is the primary means of communication with God.

Pray Trustingly

I have also seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live. –Ecclesiastes 3:10-14

Why do we pray? Through daily prayer, we have the ability to place our ultimate trust in God. God is the God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We worship Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

When faced with burdens, we often feel the need to let God take control, and we trust that God knows what God is doing. And yet, we have difficulty letting God be in control of our lives.

We should remember the words of scripture. It is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Cor. 2:9-13)

Sometimes, you may wonder and question God’s roll in your life and in your faith. As questions arise as to whether or not you are fulfilling your personal calling, or whether you should throw in the towel, you need to reconnect with the Almighty.

In prayer, as you place your utmost trust in God, you can experience confidence and hope, a renewed sense of commitment to the Lord, and once again serve the Lord Jesus Christ in your church and in the world.

Take Time to Pray

Take time to talk to God; do it regularly.  In prayer, you need to converse with the Almighty regularly. You should open yourselves up to the Lord and express the wide variety of emotions you have about yourself, others, and even God. You can call upon God to help you accept and cope with your present situation and provide much needed grace.

You need to share with God the specifics of your present circumstances along with your personal needs and desires. And then, you can trust that God is the God of grace. God will comfort and guide you. God will forgive and challenge you. God will minister to you, and you can receive a renewed sense of faith.

REST in the Lord.  Pray Regularly, Pray Emotionally, Pray Specifically, and Pray Trusting.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
Whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
Sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes,
And its leaves shall stay green;
In the year of drought it is not anxious,
And it does not cease to bear fruit.   
                                                            –Jeremiah 17:7-8

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and through the rivers,
they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire
you shall not be burned,
and the flames shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
your Savior.                                                    
                                                            –Isaiah 43:2-3

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[i] Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to be with God, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 29.
[ii] Ralph Townsend, Faith, Prayer and Devotion (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), 2.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Bill Gothard, The Power of Crying Out: When Prayer Becomes Mighty (Sisters: Multnomah, 2002), 75.
[v] Hybels, 35
[vi] Wayne R. Spear, Talking to God: The Theology of Prayer (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant, 2002), 29.
[vii] Bryan Chapell, Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 29.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] James Montgomery Boice, “Testimony” (sermon delivered to Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA, May 7, 2000), quoted by Bryan Chapell in Praying Backwards.