Sunday, August 20, 2006

Level

By the time you read this, Shari & the boys & I will have been on vacation for nearly 4 days. Chances are good that something interesting/silly has happened to us that I'll write about when I get home - and chances are excellent that I'll have at least one new message illustration, courtesy of either Braeden, Collin or driving 1000+ miles.

But for now... a bit of a glimpse into a conversation we had on the way home from Me-n-Ed's that helped me get some perspective on an important issue for my own life... and for NewLife.

I was talking with Shari yesterday afternoon about our dreams/hopes/vision for NewLife - and one of things that came up was a desire to call the people of NewLife to pray. The hard part, as Shari so wisely pointed out, is that God doesn't "guarantee" prayer - in other words, He calls us to come to Him, promising that He will listen & that He will answer... but chooses how & when to answer in ways that are often bewildering, confusing and/or frustrating. (If you don't believe me, check out the book of Job... or a chunk of the Psalms... or the prophetic writings of Habakkuk.)

Shari went on to talk about that we should pray to open the door to God working in our community - not to twist His arm so that He has no choice but do what we want. (Which, if we're honest, is a very easy way to approach prayer... treating God like a cosmic Santa Claus who is obligated to give us everything on our Christmas list if we've been good.) And if prayer is a conversation - with us not only bringing our requests to Jesus but also listening to Him as He speaks to us - then we approach Him with the same respect & warmth that we would a best friend or a spouse. (Do we expect a loved one to kowtow to every request on our timetable... running to & fro at our beck & call? Sadly, we treat Jesus that way with so many of our prayers.)

It struck me - this was a new thought for me, courtesy of God - that prayer is an indicator of which way our heart is leaning... a spiritual "level", if you will. (For those of you as inept as I am at handyman stuff, a level looks like a ruler with a bubble tube in the middle of it... when you place it on a surface, the bubble should be in the exact middle of the tube to indicate that the surface is vertically or horizontally level. Now, back to my point...) Our desire to pray indicates that our hearts are soft towards God... that we desire meeting Him. Our disdain for prayer indicates that our hearts have calcified... that we desire Him to "come through" and "fix it" more than we want to know & love Him.

The dream for NewLife (or any other church, for that matter) is NOT that we have a lot of people praying for God to "hurry up & show up." The dream is to have an ever-growing number of people who want to meet, know & love Jesus with everything they've got... in conversation with a holy & gracious God, wanting what He wants so bad they can taste it. When people "roll that way", we will still ask God to heal the sick, comfort the grieving, save the lost & provide for our needs as individuals & as a church - but we will do so "leveled" out by an abiding relationship with Jesus. We'll have first things first (loving God) and everything else coming in second.

And then... can you even imagine what would happen to NewLife? Wow.

So, where do you go with all this? I'd start simply by asking God for the desire to pray... something like:

Jesus, prayer is tough for me. When I think about it, all I get is visions of sitting in an old-school prayer meeting, listening to somebody share the details about Great-aunt Minnie's inflamed bunions. When I try to pray, my mind goes a hundred different places. I feel like a loser & a fraud & a hypocrite all rolled into one.

I want to want to pray - to be in conversation with You. I want to want what You want. I want be "leveled" by an intimate personal knowledge of Your presence, Your power & Your grace. But even as I pray that, I feel myself drifting. I feel the urge to slap my "honey-do" list down on the table for you, fold my arms & wait impatiently for you to pony up.

So I just throw myself into your arms - my sad excuse for a "prayer life", my messed-up desires, my fears of being found out to be "less spiritual" than I appear. I submit my heart & life to You - and ask you to break away the hardened gunk around my heart so that I can run to you.

I love you, Jesus. Help me love you more.

Amen.

Soundtrack for this post: "All I Can Say" (David Crowder)

This article originally appeared in the 8/10/06 issue of the Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

1 comment:

Bart Touchberry said...

Great word brother!!!

Bart