Tag Archives: High Calling Blogs

HOW CAN I PRAY…?

How Can I Pray to God as Father When My Own Father Was So Terrible?

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission from High Calling Blogs April 15, 2011)

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.”

In yesterday’s post I marveled at the invitation of Jesus to address the God of the universe as “Father.” We are blessed beyond measure to have such a direct, intimate, and loving relationship with God.

Yet, for many Christians I have known, the invitation to speak to God as Father is not a happy one. Yes, they can hear what Jesus means when we calls God Abba and encourages us to do the same. And they can understand that God is a loving, forgiving, faithful Father. But for many believers, their personal experience of their own earthly father has tainted the word “father.” For them, a father is not loving, forgiving, and faithful, but harsh, judgmental, and untrustworthy. As a pastor, I have had many people say to me something like, “How can I pray to God as Father when my own father was so terrible?”

I’m always glad when people feel free to ask this question, though I feel sorry for their experience of an unloving father. My gladness comes because I know they are beginning a process of discovery, one in which they will learn the true nature of God as Father. This learning often includes healing of deep emotional wounds and transformative experiences of God’s love.

How does this happen? There is no magic formula, though such learning almost always includes the raw materials of the Christian life. It is based upon Scripture, where God as Father is revealed as a passionate, lavish lover of his children. In the Gospels, in particular, Jesus paints a stirring picture of his heavenly Father. The transformation of our image of God comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, who takes the truth and works it into our hearts, bringing healing and hope. We come to know God more fully in the context of Christian community, where our brothers and sisters teach, encourage, and pray for us. Often, God brings into our lives mature people, both men and women, who help us to sense through their example and witness the true nature of God the father.

The starting point of this process is the Spirit-inspired recognition that my view of God as Father is limited or tainted by my own personal experience of fathering. Aware of my weakness, yearning to know God more fully and truly, I ask him to reveal himself to me in new ways. The more I come to experience God as Abba, the more his character defines my sense of true fatherhood. Thus, I come to pray to God as Father, not just because Jesus tells me to, but also because in this simple word I am drawn anew into the loving heart of God for me.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think of God as Father, to what extent is your image of God shaped by your experience with your own father? Is this helpful to you? Harmful? Or some combination? Given that all human fathers fall short of the divine idea, and many are poor representatives of God the Father, how can we know what it means for God to be our Father?

PRAYER: Father, your Son invited us to speak to you with this term of intimacy and affection. Yet, as you know, for many people, the word “father” is laced with pain. Their human fathers were not like you, dear Lord. They did not love as you love. Often, instead of love, they communicated disapproval, even rejection.

Today, I pray for all who find it hard to speak to you as Father. Make your true nature known to them in a deep and fresh way. Heal the wounds in their hearts. Run to them with your embrace, even as the father once did with his prodigal son.

May I come to know you, dear Father, more truly, more deeply, more fully. And as I do, may I be transformed to live more completely as your forgiven, accepted, and beloved child.

I pray in the name of Jesus, who teaches me to call you Father. Amen.

WELCOMING JESUS

Mark Roberts writes a daily devotional at High Calling blogs. I am reprinting two of these as they deal with Mary and Martha. The first one deals specifically with Martha. On Thursday we see Mary.

Welcoming Jesus

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission)

Read: Luke 10:38-42 NLT

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home” [Luke 10:38].

As Jesus and his disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came upon a small village. There, “a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home” (10:38). In fact, the Greek original of this verse is even more specific. It says that Martha “welcomed him,” which is to say, Jesus, into her home. From the Gospel of John, we know that Jesus was a friend of Martha and her family (see John 11), but Luke does not mention this. He begins his short account of Jesus’ visit by focusing on Martha’s act of receiving Jesus graciously into her home.

The main point of this short story in Luke comes later in the passage, when Jesus gently rebukes Martha for worrying too much about “all these details” after Martha complains that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping out. I’ll reflect on the end of the story tomorrow. Today, however, I want to dwell on Martha’s welcoming of Jesus. Luke puts it simply at the end of verse 38: “Martha welcomed him.”

The verb translated here as “welcome” means “to receive warmly and graciously.” By using this verb, Luke indicates that Martha did more than simply letting Jesus and his entourage stay in her home. Rather, she opened, not just the front door, but also her heart. No doubt, she offered Jesus an opportunity to rest and be refreshed. In fact, her effort to prepare a “big dinner” was part of her hospitality. Martha wanted Jesus to feel truly at home with her and her family.

Martha’s example makes me wonder if I welcome Jesus into the home of my life. Forty-eight years ago, at a Billy Graham crusade, I prayed to “accept Jesus as my Savior.” At that time, I “asked him to come into my heart.” To the extent that a six-year-old boy was able to do so, I welcomed Jesus. But what about today? I still believe in Jesus, but do I really welcome him into my life. Do I really want him to be at home in me? Do I make myself available to him each day? Are there parts of myself that I withhold from Jesus?
… Now, I’d encourage you to consider the same questions I’ve been asking myself.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When did you first welcome Jesus into your life? Do you welcome him each day? Why or why not? Are there parts of your life that are “off limits” to Jesus? How might you welcome him more consistently and generously?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, even as Martha once welcomed you into her home, I want to receive you in my life. I want to throw open the door and embrace you. I want to give you the best place in my life. I want you to be fully at home with me.

I do want all of these things, Lord. But, I must confess, there are times when I keep you knocking at the door. There are other times when I let you in, but don’t pay attention to you. And then there are times when I allow you to come into my life, but do not give you run of the house. Forgive me, Lord, when I am an ungracious host to you.

O Lord, may I welcome you fully, eagerly, and without restraint. May I welcome you, not only into the tidy living room, but also into the messy places of my life. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus! Amen.

OUR NEED FOR SOLITUDE

Our Need for Solitude

by Mark D. Roberts (reprinted with permission from High Calling Blogs, February 2, 2011)

Luke 6:12-16

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles.

[Luke 6:12-13]

Yesterday, I shared some reflections on Luke 6:12-16, noting that Jesus spent all night in prayer prior to identifying his twelve apostles. Today, I want to remain with this passage so as to focus on Jesus’ example of solitude.

Jesus did not just pray all night. He quite intentionally left the crowds and even his own followers in order to be alone. At other times in his ministry, most notably in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took others along with him when he prayed. But, in Luke 6, Jesus chose to be in solitude. The text suggests that this helped Jesus in his extended conversation with God.

God created us to be in community. We are meant to live our lives with others, serving them and growing in relationship with them. But there are times, as Jesus shows us by his example, when we need to break away from others for a while in order to be alone with God. Solitude, of course, isn’t really “solo time,” since God is with us. But being away from other people for a while can help us to quiet our souls so that we might pray more honestly and listen to God more attentively.

My friend Dave Williamson, former Director of Laity Lodge, recently made me aware of a provocative lecture by William Deresiewicz, former professor at Yale and literary critic. Deresiewicz delivered this lecture, entitled “Solitude and Leadership,” to the plebe class at West Point in October 2009. (I commend this lecture, though warn you of a bit of salty language.) Deresiewicz begins by arguing that “true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions.” This is possible, he explains, only if we are able to step back from the crowd and reflect. The thoughtfulness required for true leadership comes in the context of solitude. Thus, Deresiewicz concludes his lecture: “I started by noting that solitude and leadership would seem to be contradictory things. But it seems to me that solitude is the very essence of leadership. The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.”

I believe Deresiewicz is profoundly right, yet profoundly wrong in one crucial respect. When you have to make hard decisions, you have more than just yourself. You have the triune God ready to guide you if you are willing to pay attention . . . and attention requires times of solitude.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When do you experience true solitude? When are you able to get away from the frenzy of life in order to be alone with God? Have you experienced a connection between solitude and leadership? Are you facing challenges in your life for which you need to get away so as to think and pray?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, your example challenges me, not only to pray more deeply, but also to be more intentional about getting away from the demands of life in order to be alone with you. You know how easy it is for me to think this is important, but not to do anything about it. Help me, I pray, to be more intentional and faithful about taking time away to be with you.

I want to pray for those who are reading this reflection today. I expect some are struck by their need for solitude and are already making plans to get away. But I expect others are feeling overwhelmed. They’re thinking that they don’t even have enough time to do all that is demanded of them. And now they’re supposed to find extra time for solitude! Help them, Lord, to determine what is best. Help them to find time, even short moments, when they can be quiet with you. Encourage them and strengthen them.

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for showing us how best to live by your own example. Amen.