Meditations on Prayer: Prayer as Awareness Sid Baller January 1, 2022
Over 2300 years ago, there flourished a school of Greek philosophers, followers of the great Aristotle, called by the name of peripatetics, or strolling philosophers, because they received insights and conducted their discussions on the nature of reality and the purpose of life while walking from place to place. I mention this, not because I am great, nor a professional philosopher, but simply because I was, this morning, taking a stroll down the hallway of our condominium and a flood of ideas (from some previous daily readings) popped into my noggin. You might say that I became aware of several insights, while walking. You see the connection.
I believe that these were brought to my attention through the agency of the Holy Spirit, and so I want to start to share them with you over the course of the next few months. I think that it’s important to look at older things in a new light from time to time – kind of a form of repetition, but with a fresh face on it, so to speak, a sort of positive reinforcement. As Luther once said, “Repetition is the soul of learning” (but repetition with a new emphasis). I certainly need to be reminded in this fashion regarding matters great and small – I’m sure that was a reason for getting married (ask Sita).
You will remember that over the last several months this prayer letter focused largely on the issue and challenges associated with aridity (dryness) in our prayer lives. We looked at several causes or reasons for this distressing experience, which we all must endure from time-to-time. The major concern is when this becomes a continuing state of affairs. Discouragement may well set in. It has been said that fear and discouragement are two of the most dangerous tools that the destroyer, the satan (accuser) uses to stunt and even suppress the spiritual growth and orientation of Christians towards God and their fellow believers. This is no light matter, as Mark 12:28-31 points out that the greatest commandment of all is to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and consequently our neighbour as ourselves. Just as fear, when received, casts out love, so does discouragement, sadly.
Therefore, I want to dispel a certain notion about prayer that, when entertained, fosters discouragement. I hope to not only remove a misconception about prayer that leads to discouragement, but equally import, to shed some light on three vital aspects of prayer that can be summed up under the rubric (heading) of prayer as growth in spiritual awareness.
Now, concerning this misconception, let me say that prayer is not an attainment, a great work that we can present to God as our ever more impressive gift to Him. Such an attitude leads to pride and springs from spiritual pride, lethal in its outcome, poisoning the wellsprings of our devotional life. Traditionally, there has been considered to be three stages on the way to God in the spiritual journey. The have been described variously, such as: 1) purification or purgation involving the active surrender of our own self-focused desires; 2) illumination or seeing God in and through the people, events and objects that we daily encounter; 3) union in love with God or contemplation of God in God's self, beyond any material benefits and considerations to ourselves (pure love). We shall look more deeply into these matters in the months to come.
But for now, let us dispose of one very great and dangerous temptation – the idea that we progress from one stage to another as we increasingly “reign with Christ”: the notion that there is a hierarchy of levels to be progressively experienced as we become “more spiritual.” It simply isn’t this way. People get very disheartened when, having progressed, they stumble and sin, even grievously. They think that it was all a delusion, that they’re worse off than before, like when playing a game of snakes and ladders, you land on the snake’s head and slide downwards. The “sinless perfectionism” folk, who think that they can achieve perfection in this life, get a nasty shock when they ‘mess up.’ Did all of their spiritual blessings mean nothing, then? Not so – they were dwelling under the false idea that spiritual progress follows a straightforward path. I’ll share these quotes with you:
“A monk was once asked: What do you do there in the monastery? He replied: We fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up again.” (Tito Colliander)
“… repentance is not just a single act, an initial step, but a continuing state, an attitude of heart and mind that needs to be ceaselessly renewed up to the end of life.” (Kallistos Ware)
This is the practical outworking of Martin Luther’s dictum that Christians are “simul iustus et simul peccator”, at one and the same time justified before God (in Christ) and yet also still sinners (saved by grace, through faith), to our last breaths.
Just as we need to drop the idea that there is not so much a hierarchy of spiritual gifts, but a diversity of them, so the seeker after God can and will concurrently experience steps one, two and maybe even three, because God is gracious and knows what we need to continue on the journey towards Him. Here is my point: do not become discouraged because you slip, do not view valid spiritual experiences as invalid because you have later sinned (look at Elijah on Carmel, followed by his flight in abject fear from Jezebel, 1 Kings 18: 17 – 40; 19: 1-10), because you believe that spiritual growth is a linear phenomenon of constant bigger and better experiences, but be patient with yourself (we are told to love our neighbour as ourselves ). Remember that our lives are largely mysteries, known fully only to God, and if and when He decides to bless you or someone else by a special grace ‘out of sequence’, when you or they ‘haven’t yet earned it’, so be it (consider the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20: 1-16). Don’t become discouraged because you haven’t reached a certain ‘level’, in your opinion, or fear that you’ve fatally ‘slipped down the ladder.’ It doesn’t work that way and neither does our heavenly Father. Receive that which God has for you, when He chooses to do so… but continue to press onwards in humility and trusting faith.
Warmed and Filled by Cold and Emptiness Sid Baller December 2021
I went outside this morning to check on the state of the world outside of our condo – a few snowflakes were wending their leisurely way down towards the ground. It reminded me that the old year is approaching its last days, but also that we’ve enter the season of Advent – the celebration, repeated year upon year since ancient times, of the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. The cold air triggered long ago memories of when I was a little boy, about 8 or 9, I’d guess, on my way home from school, when it suddenly dawned upon me that something was different that year – the ‘magic’ of Christmas had, for me, vanished. I had turned a corner unknowingly, and not being raised in a household where Christ was worshipped, this season had ceased to hold any significance for me. Finding or being found by Him would lay long into the future. For now, the season was to have an essential emptiness until 1998, when God re-entered my awareness.
This emptiness is not so bad. It can impel us to seek for fulfillment. It’s tragic that most folk endeavour to fill it with good things that are not good enough (spouse, family, career, possessions, reputation, hobbies, sports, fashion, etc.) Nevertheless, some seek God in response to His call to us). We seek the Christ child for many reasons. In Matthew 2: 1-2, we read of three who sought Him for the right reason: “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem, asking ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” But there was one who sought him for another, a wrong reason, to slay Him: “… Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” (Mat 2: 8). But being warned in a dream by God, they didn’t report back to the tyrant.
Herod is simply a very bad representative of an almost universal human temptation, to seek God for all the wrong reasons. In short to seek Him for any reason other than Himself. We seek Him for many good reasons, but ones not good enough – healing, blessings and various prayer requests, without any intention to follow Him as a disciple. Think of the 10 lepers who seek healing, receive it and yet only one returns to give thanks and worship Jesus.
The implication is strong that he is the only one who also receives shalom (salvation). As in the story of the wedding guests, most who are asked to respond with the gift of themselves, find excuses to be elsewhere – they have no room for God at the centre of their lives. Again, it’s simple, they want to go their own way, they have no desire to obey the commands of the Lord (which are His loving invitations to true freedom), because they do not love Him. But their emptiness within therefore remains, there is no escape from that, apart from the indwelling of the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
So, the multitudes seek meaning in a-b-c, anything but Christ. Accordingly, God, who is love, seeing that they persist in their willful rejection of His will for their lives, in effect says “thy will be done”, so they choose to be that which they will to be, everlastingly separate from the One is the Way, the Truth the Life, adhering to their idols. Our idols will testify against us, since all of the good things that we put before God draw their worth and vitality from Him, their sustainer. How could it be any other way? At the end of all things, it will be seen that there are really only two types of people: those who respond, who run towards God, and those who reject, who insist on evading His embrace. Ultimately, the judgement of God is a final manifestation of who we have chosen to be, however long the decision is delayed.
I’m glad for the inner emptiness that I experienced so long ago, and endured through the long years, because it led me towards God, but I’m even more glad that for the guideposts along the way that led me to where I’m now (not that I’m ‘there’ yet). As the Anglican Bishop of London replied to a young Salvation Army lady who asked if he was saved, “I have been saved, by the ongoing grace of God. I’m being saved and by His loving mercy I hope in Him to be saved, on that Day.” It’s a good time of the year to pray for the souls of those in our circles of acquaintanceship, wherever and however they may be.
Confession: Indeed Good for the Soul Sid Baller November 2021
November is upon us, and the chill winds of winter are not far away. As regards ‘chill’, you will remember that the letters from August and September concerned the matter of dryness (aridity) in prayer, with the latter grappling with a couple of solutions to this problem, namely consistency and accountability. But, of course, there’s much more to the issue than these important externals. There’s a critically important internal concern, and that’s sin. The chilling effect of sin separates us from God and leads to disfunction in the home, at church and in society at large. Furthermore, it’s ruinous consequences include the fragmentation and degradation of the inner heart, or soul of the sinner. No one is excluded, even though many people in the church have developed a considerable skill-set for hiding this actuality from others and especially themselves. But this state can’t endure forever, because the external effects of their real alienation from God, others and self gradually becomes obvious to the discerning eye. Furthermore, God in His loving mercy won’t let us continue in this state indefinitely – as we draw closer to Him, our conscience becomes baptized by the Holy Spirit and thoughts, and actions that previously were okay, as far as we are concerned, then become quite obviously wrong, as we become aware of the heart of God as it is, not as we had previously imagined it to be. Reading the Word, especially the Gospels, is most helpful in this respect.
For the purpose of this letter, I’ll define sin, not in its manifestation of thoughts, acts and omissions, but in its nature as a condition of the self-turning in upon the self, for the sake of the self, wherein the self is a god, the centre of all. The origin and source of such a state is mysterious, but can be noted in Genesis 3: 5, in the temptation scene, where the destroyer (in the form of a serpent), suggests to the primal couple that they should disobey God, “that when you eat of it (the forbidden fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing (the sum total of) good and evil.” If you think that this is absurd, last night I was listening to a telecast where the emerging word of faith superstar, Steve Furtick , confidently proclaimed, “I am God Almighty,” straight out of the playbook of the quasi-billionaire, Ken Copeland, who claims to be the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, that is, God. It’s the time in which we live.
So, since we’re discussing the serious problem of dryness in our prayer lives, I’ll address the cure for sin in the life of the believer - true and earnest confession. An earlier letter mentioned the use of the acronym ACTS as an aid to the content of our prayers: ‘A’ standing for adoration (praise, worship), followed by ‘C’, confession, because the glorious Presence of the Holy One immediately makes us aware of our own sinnership, then ‘T’, thanksgiving for all our blessings, including forgiveness and then, and only then … ‘S’, supplication (pray requests, intercessions), because who would rush into the office, say, of the Prime Minister, for example, without the appropriate and fitting acknowledgement (after all, we are addressing the King of kings and Lord of lords, not some gigantic, cosmic vending machine). So, humble confession is a vital part of our prayer-time, if such is to be genuine.
But we ought to be aware that much prayer is not genuine. It can be merely ‘mechanical’, an empty ritual (not all rituals are empty), filled with empty, vacuous slogans (common), or worse. ‘Worse’ is disclosed in the illustration given by Jesus to his disciples of the power with God of the true prayer of confession versus the evil of the prayer of self-exaltation, in the story of the Pharisee and the Publican (tax-collector), Luke 18: 9-14. The tax-collector, with his simple prayer of confession is forgiven and justified before God. The Pharisee isn’t: it never enters his head that he needs to confess his sins, and daily at that. Here is a major spiritual obstacle that I’ve witnessed in numerous (I mean that) evangelical churches. Other than a brief prayer where “you give your heart to Jesus,” that’s pretty much it – no more confession.
Why? We hate to admit that we fall short in so many ways before God and neighbour. We are self-righteous, like the bumper sticker that says, “I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you.” Or, hey, everybody’s doing it. Or, these are modern times, get with it. Or, I’m doing my best, that’s good enough (it isn’t). Or, I’ve done enough for the Lord, He needs to give me a break (God desires fellowship, not a transactional works salvationism). Or, ‘nobody’s perfect’ (that exactly the reason for confession to a merciful God, not an excuse to avoid Him). Or, confession makes me feel negative about myself, I believe in the power of positive thinking (try telling that to the judge). Our therapeutic-based culture encourages us to adopt a mindset that says that constantly feeling good about ourselves, regardless of our behaviour is the goal.
Wrong! The goal for the Christian is to have the heart and mind of God, each in our own unique way, and that means that the garbage and baggage will have to go, sooner or later. Or (yes, there’s more, ouch), I’ll deal with this later, when I’ve time, or in the mood, etc. Really, we’re experts in avoiding confession, whatever the reasons that we employ – but we don’t need to look any further for dryness in prayer, if we don’t practice daily confession. No wonder so many evangelicals), who often pride themselves in being more ‘spiritual’ than mainline Christians), have virtually no prayer life at all. It shows.
Corporate confession in church (where the congregation repeats a prayer together) is helpful, but only if the individual is attentive and honestly repents of specific sins of commission and omission. Otherwise, it’s merely an empty, mechanical exercise. Private confession, if done in the right spirit, is essential. This is never to be confused with self-bashing, where we punish ourself by engaging in a round of self-accusation, making ourselves feel as bad as possible, assuming that, when we’ve beaten ourselves up enough, then God will be satisfied. That’s not confession. That’s works salvationism. Confession involves contritely, but boldly coming before the throne of God, trusting in His Father’s heart and the finished work of Christ Jesus, who died for all our sins on the cross. There must be a hatred of the sin (not a hatred of ourselves), and a sincere desire for permanent change. God is patient with the consistent, sincere soul, who hungers after righteousness, yet as a human being, doesn’t have to sin, but occasionally stumbles, or is engaged in a long struggle with habitual evil. Nothing takes God by surprise.
Finally, by all means do seek the assistance of a trusted believer, spiritual friend or mentor to give you counsel, pray with you and with whom you can even share your struggles with sin. We call this accountability. There are dozens of different schools of psychiatry in the world, each producing about the same rate of successful cure, give or take. How can this be? Just this – the key is that we need someone to whom we can open our hearts. In times past that used to be the Catholic confessional, or the Orthodox equivalent. But that has been swept away in the Protestant and modern world, so people turn to psychiatrists, bartenders, hairdressers and other public professionals. How much better a spiritual friend or mentor! But be very, very careful to choose a person who is rock-solid dependable, who will always respect your confidentiality (I can’t stress this enough). It was said during World War 2, regarding gossip and breach of confidence, “loose lips sink ships.” This is what is referred to in the Roman Catholic Church as the sanctity of the confessional. To violate this by blabbing to another that which a fellow Christian has confessed is an extraordinarily serious offence against that person and before God. The Scripture says to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5: 16), but be very careful in picking the right, God-directed person with whom to do so.
Don’t be hesitant or bashful, turn to the God who everlastingly loves you, today, and taste and see that He is good – confession is good indeed for your soul (and your prayer life).
Meditations on Prayer - Sid Baller October 1, 2021
I’d like to consider a ‘sacred mantra’ or slogan of evangelicalism: “God is in control.” If not, He’d not be God Almighty (omnipotent). But what do we mean and imply by the word ‘control’? This is very important in its significance for our prayer lives.
First, a standard concordance shows that the word “control” is NOT a biblical word. Does that mean then that God is not in control of world occurrence? No, that not what the sacred scripture means. Instead, the Bible uses the term “sovereign” which has a rather different area of meaning, far more subtle—far more personal. It lies at the heart of biblical personalism—of the trinitarian relationalism—of the human person being made in the image of God (Imago Dei, Genesis 1: 26-27).
But first, like examining a counterfeit bill, let’s look at what control does NOT mean, if we insist on using this word (and I’m confident that we will). There was a Muslim sect in North Africa, whom we call the Asharites. They took the Muslim belief in a strong determinism (control) to its logical conclusion, similar to some extreme Calvinist predestinarians in the Christian realm. It’s simply this: “I scratch my head because Allah made me itch and made me want to move my hand and then he made my hand move.” We are puppets. More darkly, “if I’m a thief, it’s because Allah (or god) made me a thief and made me want to be a thief.”
Do you like this idea of control? It has more than a bit in common with the compatibilism (a philosophical attempt to bridge the gap between freedom and determinism) of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who wrote that ‘we do what we have to do, but we do that willingly’. Do you know what the capstone or conclusion of this approach to God as controller is? We are sent to HELL for doing the evil that we were made to do. Do you like this notion of God in control? It makes God the author of evil, which is anti-biblical.
Of course you don’t – it’s an abominable idea, yet we insist on repeating that God is in control, without thinking through what that means. If you had a boss like that, or a spouse, would you say that he/she is strong and secure? NO – you’d say that he/she is an INSECURE CONTROL FREAK!
Rather, the Old Testament pattern of the godly king as a sovereign who loves his subjects, who can be approached by his subjects and who listens and attends to them (King David, the early Solomon), who patiently works, prays, intercedes for and leads them (consider Moses in the wilderness, or the prophet Samuel), gives us an earthly picture of what our heavenly Father (Abba) is like. It is only later, during the decline of Israel, when wicked kings like Ahab, under the prodding of his depraved wife Jezebel, start to act like pagan tyrants, demanding and compelling (see 1 Kings 21: 1-16, the horrible story of Naboth’s vineyard).
Islam does not encourage Muslims to think of Allah as their Father, but Jesus does (The Lord’s Prayer). God our Father is in control as a sovereign, utterly self-secure and free, in need of nothing in His trinitarian fulness—which is love, and love implies and insists on a true freedom, which never forces or constrains, but always woos, calls, waits patiently:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to it! How often I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Luke 13: 34
Different from Allah, God leaves us large areas of genuine freedom. Why? Because God loves us, and love cannot be forced or demanded.
The biblical concept of God as our sovereign obviously is an invitation to boldly approach the throne of grace, because God as sovereign is both loving and gracious. His commands are always invitations – for example, do not murder implies that “you don’t have to kill your neighbours, entertain murderous thoughts in your hearts towards them, nor covet their possessions, steal from them, slander them, etc. No, you can pray for them, return unfairness with fairness, etc.
By worshipping the God of everlasting love, we are worshipping our merciful sovereign, we are not worshipping a demanding controller. Rather, we worship the One who lovingly grants us the daily freedom to choose to move closer to Him and to neighbour—the One who makes space and time for us and these free choices, yet has the power, the wisdom and the authority to weave these decisions of ours and the very events of world occurrence into the fabric of the history of the cosmos, so that ultimately His will is accomplished on earth as in heaven.
How this might be is mysterious, as would be expected when considering the work of the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient sovereign Lord God. Praise and honour and glory to Him forever.
So, by all means feel free to say that our God is in control, but be very aware of what control means and doesn’t mean, for the Christian.
Meditations on Prayer - Sid Baller August 1, 2021
Today’s subject is a dry one, I’d say … aridity in prayer … dryness, staleness, weariness, boredom, apathy – all negative aspects of the Christian’s prayer life. Prayer at such times seems futile, a waste of time. The heavens seem to be made of brass, God is nowhere to be found, infinitely far off. What are we to think of such experiences, which, if we are honest, afflict us all at one point or another, possibly extending for a lengthy period of time?
It's certainly in our nature to cast around for the cause of, the reason for aridity, “a condition of the soul in which a person derives no consolation or satisfaction from prayer.” Various reasons have been noted: a general lukewarmness to God due to lack of commitment, habitual sin without sincere repentance (Bonhoeffer said to one of his congregants: “You will not obey, so you cannot believe.”), idolatry (love of interests, things, ambitions, desires and people more than God), over scrupulous and obsessive attitude towards prayer and other “spiritual” matters, for example. Then there is stress, worry, physical and mental illness, overwork, as well as devastating personal traumas due to catastrophic events.
More subtly, we may have become so accustomed to positive emotional prayer experiences that we expect to always get an emotional ‘high” during and following prayer … analogous to becoming dissatisfied with carrots and potatoes because they are not roast beef with gravy.
But, none of these may be the issue or at least not the chief one. Rather, there may be a test (not a temptation) involved. Perhaps the Lord is calling us to a higher plane of prayerful communication and fellowship, where the familiar forms are no longer adequate.
Perhaps we are being invited to let go of the old, so that the newness of what God has for us can flood our being. This involves choice, the corollary of love. The old was good, but is no longer good enough, similar to how a favourite dish can become insipid through overindulgence. Furthermore, the dryness may be a test to reveal to us who and what we are apart from God, to reveal our essential emptiness apart from Him, showing the dreadful vacuity of ALL else, unless illuminated by His gracious presence in some fashion (I mean that). In 2 Chronicles 32: 31, concerning the great and successful King Hezekiah of Jerusalem, we read that, “God left him to himself, in order to test him, and to know all that was in his heart.” Hezekiah had to learn a hard lesson.
Now the all-knowing (omniscient) God does indeed know each of us most profoundly and inwardly, but we don’t, and must learn. But He is merciful and doesn’t disclose all at once, but gradually, according to our capacity to comprehend and learn (“A bruised reed He will not crush.”). If we simply refuse to learn, He doesn’t abandon us, but, as a loving Parent, repeats the lesson in due season, perhaps much more emphatically. This can be painful. The gap between our resistance and final repentance and submission may be encountered and felt as a time of awful dryness, terrible aridity.
So, the void in between is NOT a sign that God has abandoned us, but rather that God continues to accompany us (the Divine concursus). It is not a time for despair, but of hope. God is patiently waiting for you, for me.
Meditations on Prayer - Sid Baller July 1, 2021
Here is a matter concerning PRAYER that is quite different from one you may have considered before. Maybe it’s a warning of sorts, I’d have to say, a ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware of a kind. Just as Jesus asserts that He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 6), the Scripture also states that there is a way that seems right, but that leads to spiritual destruction. By ‘spiritual’, I mean here to a re-orientation, but in this case, away from God towards ‘self’, the way of the ‘flesh’ or the ‘world’, the broad way that leads to ruin. And this involves a type of praying that bodes no good to the believer.
The short letter to the first century Church by Jude, gives a sharp warning to believers across the ages: “certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of God into licentiousness (a false freedom to do whatever feels good and promises to bring one an ‘advantage’), and deny our only master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Here’s the trigger: My wife, Sita was talking to a woman who concluded her end of the conversation by exhorting Sita to have more faith (implied), to “declare”, to “claim” from God a specific request. She was to command God to do what she wanted. Her context was clear – there was no will of God to consider, whatever Sita declared, had to be what God wanted too, because since Sita was a ‘child of God’: her will was also God’s will.
Now on one hand, we are beloved by God and as we grow in grace, we progressively receive the ‘mind of Christ’, a sharing of the same thoughts, values and purposes. But this is a consequence of really living out the truth of Mark 12: 28-31 – seriously beginning to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and then and only then, our neighbour as ourself. Such a life truly exhibits the “fruit of the Spirit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [Galatians 5: 22-23]); it is also a life that shows its love for the lord and neighbour by a willingness to obey God’s commandments (which are also his invitations). This is the life of faith – ‘” in Christ.”
On the other hand, there is another kind of prayer life. It looks like faith from the outside. It even sounds like faith, using all the familiar words and phrases, such as “the blood of Jesus”, repeated over and over, like hammers, as slogans, usually with great force and in a loud voice, repeated continuously, as if to compel God to act. It is passionate. It is super serious. It claims great things, in the “name of Jesus.” It seems very powerful. But it has little or no time for biblical teaching, unless that teaching corresponds to its selfish claims. It has small regard for the sheer Godness of God, for God's divine majesty, sovereignty and freedom. In fact, it is generally unteachable, always claiming lofty things.
Consider this comment from the extremely rich and influential TV evangelist Ken Copeland, taken from his publication “Believer’s Voice of Victory”: Copeland, a forceful exponent of that aspect of third-wave evangelical Pentecostalism called the Word of Faith or 'prosperity' gospel, states that he was in a conversation with Jesus in which Jesus allegedly said that He wasn’t God, had never said that He was God, but rather He became God, and you (Copeland) could become God too, if you had faith. That’s because Copeland openly considers himself to be a god. He is an advocate of what is known as “little god theology.” It is part of the Word-Faith movement.
These folk dominate most of the American Christian TV channels. They do NOT worship the God of the Bible, despite their claims. They worship faith, yes faith. They have faith in FAITH. This is simply the so-called 'power of positive thinking'. It is the teaching of E.W. Kenyon (1867-1948), which claimed that “the spiritual (or incorporeal) is the cause of all physical effects and that positive confession has the power to create its own reality.” This was transmitted by plagiarism through the late Kenneth Hagin to his disciple Copeland, then to the likes of Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Jessie Duplantis, Joel Osteen and many, many others. It is a mainstay of Mormonism. It appears on the Oprah show as the “law of attraction.” Its premise is that because you are a little god, made of the same stuff as the God of revelation (they claim), you can create, just like God. This is the lie of Satan in Genesis 3: 5.
This is faith of a sort, but it is not biblical faith. It is PRESUMPTION, which is fatal, spiritually, leading to a lethal pride. It is the sin of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6: 6-7, or the sons of Sceva (Acts 19: 13-17), a fake faith which Christ the final Judge at the end of days, rejects when he addresses those who make loud claims to have associated with Him, but whom He dismisses when he says that He never even knew them (Luke 13: 22-30). This is appropriate, because the Word-Faith or ‘Name It, Claim It’ movement basically has faith in an idea, concept or thing, not in Jesus Himself. This pseudo-faith is IMPERSONAL, not personal, as seen when it strives to force, to command God to do what it demands, claims. It has intense pride and confidence in its “faith.” It tries to ‘work’ God like a gigantic vending machine in the sky, to get ‘its’ blessings, now, since it claims to have great faith.
How do we determine the difference between biblical faith and this new presumption, which masquerades as faith. This requires discernment. Go back to the ‘fruit of the spirit” of which Paul writes (Galatians 5: 22). Is this evident? Does the person display humility before God and other people? Is he/she easily offended and enraged when not getting their own way? Is he teachable, even when placed in positions of power and prestige? Read the letter from Jude at end of the New Testament before Revelation.
All of which is to say that prayer offered in that dark spirit which I’ve described above is no prayer at all. It is the pseudo-prayer of the Pharisee in the parable of the tax-collector and Pharisee (Luke 18: 9-14). It is not received by God, being rooted and grounded in pride. It has to be sharply distinguished from the strong prayer, offered in living faith, by the children of God to their loving heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, rooted in loving, personal trust, obedience, humility and deepest awe and respect. Such a prayer, both bold and humble, is heard by our heavenly Father, Abba, who in fact is the ultimate ground of this deepest groaning of the penitent, worshipping and faithful soul, dependent upon grace.
Meditations on Prayer - Sid Baller June 1, 2021
Though I suspect that others have thought of this before me. We do stand on the shoulders of giants and it’s important to remember our debt to those who have come before us. Perhaps that’s, at least in part, of what is meant when Scripture describes us as being surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses”. The past, as a mentor of mine once said, “should always have a vote, though not a veto”! Allow me to share a few thoughts with you about prayer as self-sacrifice.
Yesterday we went out, with the family, to the Humber Arboretum (behind Humber College), to celebrate our older son’s birthday with a picnic on top of the hill. It was a lovely day. But the grounds were in ruins, as this was the second year in a row without a student workforce of 10-15 people. The weeds had taken over virtually the entire grounds and the flower and shrub beds were largely only an outline and a memory. Metaphorically, this sad vista could have been me, could have been the state of my soul before God and the world. How?
About twenty years ago, a few years after God had demonstrably entered into my life in such a way that it was undergoing serious and life-altering changes, I had a decision to make. I was inundated with a fierce desire to “love the Lord God with my heart, soul, mind and strength. I emphasize the third element, because I was emerging from and exiting a type of denomination that despised, ridiculed and rejected any sort of use of the God-given gift of thought as a way of worshipping God. In short, I had received a call from the Living God to enrol in theology at Wycliffe College (University of Toronto.) Many of you know that it was a call that I responded to, spending sixteen years (part-time) acquiring a couple of masters degrees along the way. Far more decisively, my life as a Christian and as a human being has been greatly changed, I’m told for the better (ask my wife, Sita).
This was a conversion of a sort. Previously, most of my mental and spiritual energy was focused on my job. Now it was mightily re-oriented towards God and therefore, also to the people in my life and those who would do so. There was a price to pay and it was a big one. My force of personality and purpose was re-oriented. The job could no longer receive what it had previously. It was the beginning of the end for that era, and I retired early in 2010. I paid a price, made a sacrifice of career, but it has been hugely worth it. Now I can truly begin to live, though as Paul says, it’s not so much I who live, but Christ in me. Looking down from the hillside yesterday, I was overawed by the magnitude of that decision.
Prayer is Exactly. Like. This. It may be a delight, joy and ecstasy at times, but it’s also commitment, work and an ongoing daily choice to make time for God. While omnipresent, God made space for creation, including you and I. Think of that! Can we not make time for God, daily, in prayer? Can we not choose to do so? Can we not put aside, for a while, the demands and clamour of daily life? Couldn’t we choose to be Mary and not Martha for a while?
As Jesus said to His disciples at Gethsemane (wrestling in prayer before the crucifixion), when He found them sleeping,“ So, could you not awake with me one hour?” Yes, prayer is sacrificial, prayer costs, but it is worth that price that you must pay: “Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50: 23).
This is part of what is sometimes described as “great exchange” – our weakness, disfunction, selfishness and death in sin for His power, righteousness and life everlasting: here in prayer, it’s our human predicament and situation and a bit of time spent before God exchanged for a glimpse and foretaste of eternity (Psalm 73: 17). Again, the Lord exhorts us: Peter began to say to Him, “Look we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age … and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10: 28-30).
But, of course, the reverse is true for those who worship self above all, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 27). C.S. Lewis once said that infinite joy and life is offered to us, but so often, perhaps for most people, we prefer to play in the mud on the ground, contenting ourselves with absurd little trivialities.
I’m very glad that I made that choice to pursue my calling back in the day; I find that I’m always glad to make time for prayer to God on a consistent basis in my daily life now. We all find that renewing that choice daily means overcoming a certain resistance, a certain reluctance even, but it is worth it!
A Prayer for Personal Healing
(As referred to in Prayer: Part of God's Benefit Package 07/09/17)
God, you know me so well. You created me. You know the number of hairs on my head, and you even know the thoughts conceived in my heart before I ever vocalize them. You've told us to come to you and ask for every need of life. You are Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals, and you have the final word on my destiny, the number of years I'll live and serve you on earth.
I'm coming to you today as your child, longing to hear from you and asking for your divine healing. There's so much I don't understand about life. But I do know that with one touch, one word, you can make me whole. Please forgive me of my sins, cleanse me of my unrighteousness, and begin your healing from the inside out.
I don't always know what your will is Lord, especially in times like now, when I desperately seek your face. I offer you no promises, no bargains, no deals to exchange for my health. I simply bow my heart before you to tell you the desire of my heart: that I want to spend as many years as I can loving you here, loving others, and wanting to become more like you. However you choose to accomplish that is up to you—and okay with me. If you use doctors to provide healing, give them wisdom to know what to do. Regardless of how you accomplish it, the healing you give is always miraculous. And you deserve all the praise.
I absolutely believe you have the power to heal. You demonstrated that on earth, and you still heal in miraculous ways today. Even when my faith is weak, you say it is enough, and my love for you is strong. And I know you already hold my heart and life in your hands. It's up to you. If I can bring you more glory through healing, then that's what I ask for. That's what I desire.
But if your answer is no, or not now, I know that your grace is sufficient for me. Ultimately, I want your will to be my will. I look forward to spending an eternity with you. But Lord, if you have planned still more for me to do here on this earth, I not only need and want your physical healing, Lord, but a thorough, deep-down cleansing and strengthening—a whole-hearted renewal of all that I am. Because all that I am is yours. Use this trial to strengthen me from a "what-if" faith to a "no-matter-what" faith. And no matter what, I choose to honour you and give you glory.
In Jesus's name, Amen.
~ Rebecca Barlow Jordan
The youtube link is HERE
30 Days of Prayer
Cornerstone Community Church
Begin any time ...
My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
God, walk with us as we begin this 30 day journey with You.
We confess, our desire to pause with You every day
does not always translate to action.
Help us. Pause and visit us with the life of your
Holy Spirit, inspiring us, renewing our energy,
and entering our deepest places with your gifts.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
God of heaven and earth, You are worthy of our praise.
We live every day in the knowledge
that we are loved by a great God,
although we cannot fathom your greatness.
At the beginning of another week our thoughts turn to you.
We thank you for the new opportunities that will arise.
For the challenges that lie ahead we ask for
strength and wisdom. Be our vision and our guide.
In the name of the One who created and sustains all things,
Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
There we will receive his mercy,
and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Gracious and loving God, the giver of life
On this day we think of the many
who have returned to school,
Whether in kindergarten or even to higher places of learning,
guard their hearts and souls and minds.
Help us all to grow in the knowledge of your love.
We commit ourselves to You this day
For You committed Yourself to us.
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life –
of whom (or what) shall I be afraid?
Thank you, O God, for the certainty I can have this day—
that you will be the light in the midst of all the
darkness around me.
The darkness of uncertainty, the darkness of anxiousness
or even the darkness of despair cannot extinguish
the light of your presence.
As this day unfolds, help me to know that if you are with me
I have nothing to fear.
Therefore I will trust in you always.
May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
for I have put my hope in your word…
Let your unfailing love comfort me,
just as you promised me, your servant.
Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live,
for your instructions are my delight.
All powerful and merciful God,
we lift up those in our faith community
as well as others we know,
who need a physical touch from you.
Jesus, you are the Great Physician
and we ask you to touch and heal these dear ones
as only you are able.
Help them to face whatever challenges—
whatever procedures with confidence,
knowing that you are with them and that you care.
May they sense your Spirit's embrace.
Be with family members who sit close by their side—
Encourage and comfort them.
Guide the attending physicians as well.
In the healing name of Jesus we pray.
No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, ...
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
O God, giver of life.
You are the one in whom we put our hope.
People fail us and disappoint us,
but you never fail or disappoint.
You try to teach us, but often we do not pay attention.
You seek to guide us, but we choose to go our own way.
Help us to follow Your ways, for your ways lead to life.
Fill us with hope this day.
In Christ's name, who is the way, the truth and the life,
Hear my cry, O God
Listen to my prayer
From the ends of the earth I call to you
I call as my heart grows faint
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I
For you have been my refuge--a strong tower ...
O God, our refuge and strong tower,
Give to us today a Sabbath--a breather.
While life continues with all its challenges
and does not care what day it is,
we ask that you would place us on a high rock--
a place to be restored and renewed--
a place to view our circumstances from another vantage point.
Strengthen our hearts and minds.
Help us to be a source of strength for others.
Lord hear our prayer.
We have not stopped praying for you and asking God
to fill you with the knowledge of his will
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
...bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God ...
Father in heaven,
We pray for your people all over the world
as they gather in their places in worship.
We think of those who live out their faith in countries
that are hostile to the gospel.
Give them courage as they continue to be
a light for you in dark places.
We pray for our faith community
that we might move beyond knowledge
and be the kind of people who bear fruit for the kingdom.
Prepare our hearts to worship you in spirit and in truth.
In the name of One that is above every other name.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do,
everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
You who are over us, You who are one of us,
You who are also within us,
As we enter another week, we pray that we would sense
Your presence in our lives.
We come to you as children who rest confidently
in the arms of a loving parent.
As we face new challenges and temptations
we take comfort in knowing
that there is One who faced what we face and overcame;
and now intercedes for us that we might also overcome.
Our propensity is to figure it out on our own—
to go our own way.
Help us to listen for Your voice and to respond to your leading.
Keep us on track. In Christ’s name, Amen
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, save me!"
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the simple-hearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
Gracious and Righteous Lord,
Yours is the name upon which we call.
From you flow unmatched love and compassion.
We pray for that compassion to be on those
in our faith community who are in great need.
Some have financial needs, others relational.
Enter into their situation and be their supply--their portion.
We especially lift up those who are concerned
with their physical condition.
Touch them and give them courage. Bring healing.
In the Name by which we are saved.
The Lord's love never ends; his mercies never stop.
They are new every morning;
Lord, your loyalty is great.
I say to myself, "The Lord is mine, so I hope in him."
The Lord is good to those who hope in him,
to those who seek him.
Creator and reminder of all that is good and beautiful,
The colours of Fall appear and they put on display
what has been there all along.
We notice trees that we have not noticed all summer.
yet there they were.
Lord, your love has been there along. Alive and well.
You display your love for us in so many ways,
yet sometimes we do not take notice.
May we never take for granted your goodness,
your faithfulness and your mercy
as they come to us new every day.
We pray, in the beautiful name of Jesus,
in whom we hope. Amen
The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.
The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.
Giver of life and breath, as we begin another day,
we acknowledge your goodness.
We acknowledge that you are right and just
and that so often, we are not.
When we are unfaithful you remain faithful.
When our love fades, your love prevails.
We confess that our tendency is to go astray,
but your tendency is to bring us back
to where you want us to be.
So we humble ourselves and say, “Teach us, Lord.”
Teach us to listen and to obey your voice.
Teach us what is good and what is right,
and by your Spirit, help us to act on it.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
On this last day of the week we look back and consider
the wonderful things you have done in our lives.
Our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy,
not because everything has gone right,
but because you have been with us.
We thank you for being present in the lives of those
in our faith community who underwent medical procedures.
Thank you for the successes that have been reported.
So many times, we allow the circumstances
in our lives to dictate our level of joy,
but true joy comes from you and knowing you.
Today, let us experience the joy you desire for us.
Give us the courage and opportunity to share it with others.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress,
I will not be shaken.
You invite those who are weary and burdened
to come to you to find rest.
You promise peace to those who turn their thoughts to you.
We pray for those who are anxious
or depressed or overwhelmed.
By your Spirit would you steer their thoughts to you
and grant them peace this day.
For those who are weary and depleted of energy,
restore their strength.
For those who are shaken and who feel hopeless,
be their rock—be their hope.
In Christ’s name, Amen.
Praise the Lord!
I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
His righteousness never fails.
He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
How gracious and merciful is our Lord!
Gracious and merciful God,
We thank you for all you’ve done in our lives
and in our faith community.
As we gather in our places of worship this day,
Fill your people with a sense of wonder—a sense of awe;
as we ponder your amazing deeds.
May the songs we sing, the words we speak
and the disposition of our hearts be pleasing to you.
Help us to grow in our love towards you and each other.
In the name of the One that is above every other,
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love for all the saints.
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith,
so that you will have a full understanding
of every good thing we have in Christ.
O God, who gives and empowers our faith,
We come to you at the beginning of another week—
full of aspirations and possibilities.
We pray that this day would represent for us a new page,
We remember and lift up those in our faith community for whom today is simply a continuation of unfinished business—
of heartache and pain.
Give them hope and strength and the means to overcome.
Give us all a full understanding of what it is we have in Christ.
And give us opportunities to share what you are doing
in our lives with others.
In the name of Christ our hope, our new beginning.
I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
How we love you, God. There are many reasons:
For life and breath and nature and every good gift you give.
But we also love you because you do hear our prayers.
We do not pray in vain, because we know
that the God of the universe bends down to earth
to listen—to us—to me, imaging that!
So, today we offer up some of the breath we’ve been given
and pray for grace and mercy to face another day.
I will extol the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
Let us exalt His name together.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
God, enable me to surrender myself to you this day.
I admit that surrendering does not come easily,
but you intervene in the deepest recesses of my life
and your will for me is the radiance of hope.
By your Spirit, direct my thoughts to you.
May my mouth, that has tasted of your goodness,
be filled with praise for you.
Surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm,
to give you a future with hope.
Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me.
I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me;
if you seek me with all your heart.
Lord Jesus, when I realize how much you love me,
something in me is transformed.
You promise to give me a future that is filled with hope.
You know my plans. Help me to know yours, for they are good.
Although I have not seen you I place my trust in you.
Give me the desire to seek you more every day.
Bless me this day O God.
Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits--
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
and redeems your life from the pit and crowns you
with love and compassion.
Lord, you know the deep needs of my life.
I admit that I have fallen short of your expectations
but you offer to forgive me of everything if I simply ask.
So Lord, I ask for your mercy.
Thank you for your forgiveness and for healing
the brokenness of my life.
Let me live this day and everyday from now on,
knowing I am loved by you forever.
For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life.
In your name I will lift up my hands
and with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Lord God, it is absolutely amazing that you have chosen to love me...
Remind me again this day that I am your beloved son/daughter
and that you promise there is nothing in this world or the one to come
that can ever separate me from your love.
Knowing this, I will praise you this day.
May the words I speak reflect the joy and security
I have within my heart.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Ever present God,
Everywhere you are is love and peace
We pray the same would be said of us as your people.
Our hearts are drawn by your love
We are drawn to your presence
We long to worship with others who have been captured by your love.
We pray for all our brothers and sisters—those who call you, Lord
as they gather in places of worship around the world.
We especially pray for those who cannot gather
without threat of peril or repercussion.
Refresh your body this day.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness,
how can it be made salty again? …
You are the light of the world… let your light shine before people,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven.
Father of lights, we are your children.
As we enter a new week, empower us to shine the light you put in us
to those who walk in darkness and sometimes don’t even know it.
We desire to be a taste of the kingdom to our world.
May our words, our actions and our lives be attractive and reflective
of your affection for the world.
As you have loved us, help us to love others.
In the name of The LIGHT of the world.
Your Word and truth are dependable as ever;
that's what you ordered—you set the earth going.
If your revelation hadn't delighted me so,
I would have given up when the hard times came.
Lord, your creation, your actions, your Word
reveal your greatness, your grace and your truth.
To often we are kept from seeing these things
because of the very real daunting circumstances in our lives.
Yet it is because you have revealed yourself to us
that we can face the hard times without giving up--
for you have been and you will be our strength.
Help us to meet today's challenges.
Our hope and trust is in You--our dependable God.
Oh! Teach us to live wisely and well!
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
Let your servants see what you're best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!
O Giver of meaning and purpose.
Help us this day to see our work—our activities—
as things that matter to you.
Let us not be wasters of time, but assist us in valuing
and redeeming precious moments.
As you look on our work, we pray that it would bring pleasure
and glory to you and that your favour would rest on us.
Give patience and grace to employers and employees alike.
Fill our days with joy, regardless of circumstances.
In the name of Christ we pray, Amen
Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
His understanding has no limit.
Provider of life and Sustainer of the Universe,
There is nothing that escapes your purview—
nothing that is beyond your reach. Still you reach out to us.
You understand our humanity. You understand when we hurt.
You understand our brokenness.
We pray for those in our faith community who are not well.
Touch them and give them peace in their time of
infirmity and uncertainty.
Our lives are filled with questions and many times
there are just no answers.
While we do not always understand,
we are grateful we serve a God who does.
In Christ’s name we pray,
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise…
O Lord, we look to you to be our strength and rock and deliverer.
When we have exhausted all our strength, you revive us.
When our souls need a place to come in from the storm,
you give us shelter.
When the ground beneath us seems to shift,
you are our certain footing.
We pray for those who need deliverance
from things like addiction, abuse
and other things that keep them from living life to the full.
Help us as a faith community to be a safe place
where people can find life and freedom in you.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Gracious God, we are grateful that your presence
has been with us throughout another week.
We thank you for your leadership and provision in our lives.
Many have pressed hard and have been pressed hard.
They are tired. Renew their strength.
Some have endured hardship. Be their comfort and friend.
You promised to be our Good Shepherd.
We are grateful for your care over us.
We pray for rest and renewal in our lives—
the kind of rest that only you can give.
In the name of the Great Shepherd,
My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
Faithful God, I come to you this day
Along with my sisters and brothers, who are of kindred spirit—
likeminded in the body of Christ.
We come with hearts filled with gratitude for your faithfulness to us.
You never fail us.
When we ask for help, we know you hear our prayers.
Today we celebrate your goodness to us.
We remember how you moved heaven and earth
to offer us salvation and freedom from the things
that would keep us from you
We will stand firm in the knowledge
that we are yours and you are ours.
In Christ’s name, Amen.
To him who is able to keep you from falling
and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—
to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty,
power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Almighty God, our lover, redeemer and friend,
We give our lives to you because you gave your life for us first.
We know that you are able to sustain us day-in, day-out.
We ask forgiveness for those times we fall—and they are many.
We ask for grace when others fall and disappoint us—and they will.
Continue to be with those who need a physical touch from you.
May our words and actions tell the story of the work
you have done and are doing in each of us.
We long for the day when your dream for us—
for this whole world, becomes a reality
Thank you for the hope we have in Christ.