Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

How many of us ask the question, are you there God? Sure we do. Most of us, even those not of a religious persuasion have a general idea how to pray. Even us who are religious, who think we know how to pray usually do not believe in an actual conversation with God. Many find the Bible as God speaking to us through inspired writing and recorded history. While we most certainly take away many life lessons using the Bible as the major text for practicing the Christian religion, especially the use of the Pauline text. The Bible was still technically written for others. We must use the art and science of hermeneutics to create a relevant interpretation of the text for today. I am not undermining the powerful messages contained in Holy scripture, what I am alluding to is that it is not always easy for many to relate to. We tell people we can have a personal relationship with Christ; but do we really? What if you could have a real personalized message from God that you can channel right now?
Please before you stop reading, thinking this is some new age mumbo jumbo, please let me assure you that it is not. Remember that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). The same God who inspired the words of the Bible though ordinary men, is more than capable of inspiring you. You may still be ready to quit reading and say, well if this is the case why even have the Bible? I support the Bible. The Bible has been tested over time, the books contained within have been deemed by Godly men to be Holy cannon not to be added or replaced with our own inspirations. (Even when we believe they are from God.) What I am talking about is having a relationship with God; not writing new scripture based on our conversation with Him. Remember even when you do find yourself in actual conversation with God it may not always be clear or 100% God speaking to you. Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV). Think of this conversation as trying to tune into a radio connection, it may be true and accurate, or hard to understand. We create bias because of the weakness of the flesh. I say all of this as a preamble so that you may understand what I am trying to communicate for your benefit.
Let us understand Jesus spoke plainly to us how to pray. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7, NIV). So if this is the case, we must wonder what Jesus was doing when we read verses such as Matthew 14:23, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone” (NIV). In my imagination I would assume that Jesus was not rambling as he obviously was not fond of, but probably listening and conversing with his Father. We are also Christ-like, so we also can listen and converse with our Father as well.
It is of my opinion that God is always speaking to us. The book of Genesis tells us that God would walk with man in the cool of the day. It was people who put up a barrier between himself and God. Through the incarnation of Jesus this walk is reestablished. Often, when we should be listening and talking with God, we continue to wear fig leaves, hiding because we believe the lie of shame. We must establish that you have no shame, you can talk with God, and God is not looking at you in anger but in love. Now let us begin as I lay out the basic steps that I use to talk with God. I may not have the right formula for you. This is what works for me, I hope it will also work for you as well.
1. Bathing ourselves in prayer.
2. Listen in silence until you hear.
3. Start a conversation.
First, we must be people of prayer. We must bathe ourselves in prayer. The Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Thessalonians to pray without ceasing. This of course does not mean that we constantly use words in our prayer. To bathe oneself in prayer is to possess constant knowledge of the presence of God in your mist. To always be conscious of God, to understand that all people are representatives of God. That God is in everything big and small, God consumes like fire your thoughts, actions, and desires.
Second, we must remain silent before God. Often a good method is to use what those in the east call meditation. This is done by focusing on the breath. Sitting still, deeply breathing in and out, clearing the mind and simply breath. Yes, there will be thoughts that enter your mind, that is ok. It is perfectly natural for unwanted thoughts to remain. Simply continue to breath and ignore the unwanted thoughts, knowing this is natural. Sitting in silence is missing within most Christian circles. Do we really think that Jesus spoke all night long to God without listening? Of course not! Being able to sit in silent prayer is an essential step to clear away all the distractions that our minds possess which creates a barrier to the Spirit of God.
During this time of sitting in silence you may begin to start hearing. You may be thinking that you are just hearing thoughts created by your own mind; yes, they are created by your mind, but most importantly, is it God inspiring your thoughts? As you continue to pray and sit in silent meditation those thoughts which you might wonder are of yourself, or are of God become clearer. This takes faith, you certainly will try to resist; you will say “how can this be God?” To be honest I believe it is a little bit of both God and yourself. Yes, it is you, yes, it is God. Therefore, what you hear in your mind is not “Thus sayeth the Lord” of course there will be bias in the message as the Spirit is talking to you through the conduit of your mind. Remember when Abraham was given the message from God to leave his home town? Abraham had to step out in faith and just believe. So, it is with hearing from God. Granted we must use discernment and base everything that we hear against the Biblical text.
Finally having conversation with God. Some would say it is like having conversation with your higher self. God who is in all things is also a part of you, there is no part of you that is not of God. Some would call this your Holy Guardian Angel, or simply the true you, which is connected to the ultimate divine source. This may seem like you are talking to yourself. In some ways you are, yet that is not actually the case. What is taking place is your Spirit is talking with God’s Spirit and in the middle, is your mind (the conduit).
So, let us begin to have a conversation with God. I have heard from many people who question having a conversation with God. “I can not hear God” “God does not speak to me” What I ask of you is to take that step of faith. If you wish to hear God, know he is constantly speaking to you. We must just tune in. Set aside 30 minutes every day, within that time pray as you would regularly pray, then begin to sit and listen to the sound of your own breath. Allow your mind to be at peace, one with all things, then start to listen. Did you hear that? He said I love you. Now respond, I love you God, thank you for speaking with me. Respond back however you wish. Remember God walking in the cool of the day with man? Now you, through your mind are now walking in the cool of the day with God!

 

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 In the East they call it meditation in the West it is contemplation. Regardless of the terminology I believe it is important to relax our minds. Often as Christians we pray with our lips without giving thought to our ears. How can the Spirit speak to us when we are filled with thoughts of “us”?  
We can take example from Jesus. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16. I highly doubt the Lord spoke all night during these times.  He took time to listen. He took time to remove himself from the cares of the world to be better prepared to accomplish his will on earth.  So if Jesus needed this strength, we do also! 
Take time everyday to pray, not with just words, but also with your ears.

To find the experience of direct conversation with the Spirit, bringing us closer to God, and in many ways equivalent to Jesus.  This is after all why we are called Christians. 
The Backyard Preacher

Happy Memorial Day, let us remember those who have since past on who served our country.  When was the last war in which our soldiers actually were sent to war to defend this nation?  1812?  WWII?  certainly not any of the modern conflicts in which rich white men sent our sons and daughters to die for their agenda.  Nate talks about this and much more.

Paul urges us in 1 Timothy chapter 2 to pray for our leaders. Paul speaking to Timothy at the time had in mind the government of Rome, maybe even the Juresulam church at which Paul had differences with. Why would Paul want this? While Christians were being persecuted Paul took seriously the words of Christ, “they know not what they do.”  
Now we do not face the persecution of ancient Rome, as Christians our persecution is based on our governments  belief system. If it  is not followed by society we feel we are some how persecuted as if we are being strung up to a cross. 
Furthermore at the time of Paul, Christians and peoples of other religions throughout the centuries believed in “the divine right as kings.”  
Many Christians in our society we look at the president as the divine authority when in fact the president holds no such right according to our constitution. He is a leader yet we in America have the right to protest without fear. Not like ancient peoples. So no you do not have to pray for the president or any other elected official. It is our right if one is to properly exgete 1 timothy 2 into proper historical context. 
So what can we take away from this short study? How do we apply it to today. Simply pray if you wish, for all people. Yes, I suggest we pray for our leaders, if our ancient brothers did under torturous conditions why shouldn’t we. Yet do not be fooled into thinking that you must, or you must submit. You are perfectly free under Christ to resist.  Our ancient brothers did not submit either, they refused to bow before evil but died rather than bless the “gods” of man. 
God bless you this day!

Good day Backyard Preachers!  It has been a while but I AM back.  Nate talks a little bit about his recent struggles along with the power of our words.  We struggle in life, it is not easy.  Yet through are struggles sometimes we are just paying the price for a better life.  Be blessed!

Nate talks about a few topics such as the prophetic movement and Donald Trump and what we should really be appealing to heaven about.  Also what makes White Evangelical Trump supporters more dangerous than Trump himself.  Also Nate looks at the anti authoritarian diagnosis as well as his new affiliation with the Progressive Christian Alliance.  Packed show, enjoy!

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The last few articles I have written have been about issues related to society and how we handle these issues as Christians. Yet I think that there is an ecumenical way in which the body of believers can handle the issues of today. The answer, a spiritual awakening. I have been fascinated with spiritual awakenings since I was a teenager. I had a spiritual awaking when I was 16 and it has continued to affect my life. Two words come to mind from scripture saved and perfect. Saved in the Greek is very similar to what we would think it would mean when in the context of salvation, “to save” “to heal” “to restore to health” and so on. Truly having a “saved” experience will start to change our consciousness, the Spirit of God is given to us and by grace we receive. Without this impartation it is difficult to impossible for an outsider to understand Christianity, especially in its inner most works. As Jesus many times spoke of having eyes that see and ears that hear.

Now anyone can say the sinner’s prayer, as preachers often end their sermons with the famous alter call; but does that make them saved? I am not God so I don’t know, yet if some shift in consciousness does not take place I would doubt the person’s salvation. Again I am not an expert or care to be in soteriology, only God truly knows the heart of man. Yet, salvation is a spiritual awakening process. It is the beginning of being made perfect in Christ through the work of the cross. Perfect means essentially reaching the end. Like the Apostle spoke, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. Christians believe this final perfection takes place upon death. For us death is not the end but the beginning. So death in itself is the ultimate spiritual awakening. For we will see him as he truly is.

Many times Christians wonder why some people just do not get it. Why can’t they just believe in God? The scriptures speak of faith being a gift of God. It is also impossible to please God without faith. Just as Abraham was made righteous through faith, so are we. There is no works or good deeds, just faith. Once faith has been used to sincerely believe, and surrender we will have  awakened to the spiritual. Now we see, now we hear. All things become new, we see the world in a different light and the scriptures become alive. Since my spiritual awakening I have done what many Christians call, to backslide. This for me is to set aside my consciousness and indulge in my base or profane self. I believe that for the most part our salvation is secure although I am not a complete determinist I ponder how much God effects our destiny outside of ourselves. Being a good Arminian I believe that God has given all humans faith, it is our choice to use it or not. While God may know our destiny we determine it. Many Christians backslide in life before leveling off into a maintenance stage of Christ consciousness. Peter himself betrayed Jesus and digressed to his base self. We are a work in progress towards ultimate perfection. We can have an awakenings continually throughout life. Awakenings are actually much closer than we may think.

While few will have the awakening experience given to those such as the apostle Paul who had a direct encounter with the Lord; who also later was taken up into the third heaven. Why not seek out the deepest spiritual experiences possible. I know I do. I also know that we can stir up awakenings, I believe God desires it. The answer I believe is contained in the act of surrendering. True surrender to God’s will brings about a spiritual awaking. I believe that surrender and salvation are next door neighbors. It takes faith to surrender our will to God. It is probably one of the hardest things in life to do. It is scary, it is uncomfortable, it goes against human nature, but when God’s grace allows us through faith to surrender the results are a life altering spiritual awakening that will last an eternity. For the Christian who is already saved what are some ways which will lead to continued spiritual awakenings? I will mention and explain a few. These are prayer, meditation and giving.

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First prayer. Prayer is essential for the Christian. I actually do not know if one can be a Christian without a regular prayer life. In fact I will be so bold as to say no, you cannot be a Christian without a prayer life. We are to be one with the father as Jesus was one. That is at least what the master wished for us. Jesus was a man of great prayer. His life revolved around prayer and the master would spend entire nights in solitude and prayer. We cannot have a conscious contact with God without prayer. God also connects with us through prayer. We are spiritual beings who are designed by the creator to pray. Praying should be as normal as speaking. The desired outcome of prayer is union with God. This is what theologian Friedrich Heiler called mystical prayer. Heiler also considered mystical prayer to be the highest form of prayer.1 (see Das Gebet by Heiler for his work on prayer) This is the elevation of the mind from the earthly to the heavenly. During prayer we will often petition, intercede, praise, and give ourselves to God’s will. Prayer creates a conscious shift in our minds toward God. We begin to see the big picture, it eases our souls. Prayer changes things, and most importantly it changes us. Prayer will also change the world around us. All of us who have had any type of a prayer life will be able to testify to at least one noticeable miracle that has taken place due to our prayers. Do not limit your miracles! If you are looking for a spiritual awakening pray and watch it happen. Let me remind you that prayer is a discipline, and like any discipline it must be worked to see results. While you may have a life altering event the first time you pray, this is not often the case. Quantity and longevity will work in your favor.

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Next meditation or contemplation. For myself personally I feel that meditation is the next best thing to prayer. In my own daily routine I spend time in prayer then I spend a time in meditation. I meditate as they do in the East. I sit in silence, using my breath as a guide into the unknown. Not only is it great self-care for your body and mind, it is an opportunity for God to connect with us. It is a time for you to shut up and empty your mind so that God may fill it up. Many have had great revelations as the result of meditation. What are these revelations, well they were conscious shift that create what we call an awakening. Some Christians cringe at the idea of meditation yet I find this foolish.  Christians dislike meditation because it is a practice of the East, associated with religions such as Buddhism. Prayer is also a practice of the East and of the Pagans yet they somehow find it beneficial.

Do I believe that Jesus mediated? I would assume he probably did some type of mediation. Okay I will be bold again and say yes I am sure that Jesus meditated especially during his 40 days in the wilderness. Individuals who meditate have been known to go for long periods of time without food or water. They become one with themselves and God. They awake to new insight and a stronger spirituality. I would love to have the time to meditate for such lengths. America would be a much nicer place if everyone prayed and meditated on a daily basis.

giving

My third key to a spiritual awakening is giving. No, and not to the televangelist, they already have fancy suits and cars. Actually when you think about giving in this article let’s just leave money out of it. Yes I believe in giving money to your local church and to charitable organizations but in many ways that is an easy fix. It is easy to write a check it is often more difficult to give of your time out of love. We all have different abilities we can use in order to give to society. Remember Jesus said even if you give a cup of water in my name. The scriptures also say freely you have been given freely give. Read Luke 10:25-37 about the Good Samaritan. I could list literally hundreds of ways in which a person can give. You could be a medical doctor, a lawyer, teacher, mechanic, elected official, business owner, all of these and more. I think you see what I am saying. You have talents worthy of giving. Most importantly in your giving do it out of love. Don’t feel that you must give, give because that’s what you want to do. Love in giving will make all the difference. So how does giving create a spiritual awakening as I have defined it, as a conscious shift in our minds? First it takes you out of yourself and brings you closer to your fellow. You realize that you are not the only person on the planet and the world doesn’t revolve around you. For those that have given it creates a sense of joy and peace. Giving activates the mind. When I speak of the mind I am talking about the spirit of man, not our physical brain. Most importantly giving is what God first did for man. We were created to be like God so we should act like God and give. It is better to give than receive. You will only understand this from giving.

These are not the only paths to a spiritual awakening there is so many more.  I will give a few honorable mentions that I wish to write about more in the future.

Alcoholics Anonymous, many look at this self-help group as a way in which a person can stop using alcohol. This is true and is also their stated primary purpose. AA is also so much more than that. I am going to list the 12 steps of this group.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.2

I am not going to get into details yet for more information read the AA book.   If you notice, the steps focus on God, prayer, releasing self, meditation, and giving. These same steps or variations of them have been used to help treat people in addiction all around the world. Those in the know understand that alcohol and most drugs hinder our relationship with God. The spiritual person is most of the time a sober person.

psycedelics

On the flip side I will give one last mention and that is the use of drugs, specifically psychedelics. This is not a new concept, but one that has probably been around from the beginning of time. I sometimes wonder if the tree of good and evil mentioned in Genesis was not of the psychedelic nature opening the eyes of man. I am not advocating for the use of drugs yet it is an undeniable fact that if not abused there can be great benefits from psychedelics. Evidence based research is starting to show these benefits in treating certain mental illnesses and addiction. People around the world have been using psychedelics to interact with the spiritual world for thousands of years. This is fascinating and why I give it mention. God certainly created all the plants of the earth. God being God knew of their nature and potential. It is man who abuses and disrespects what God has created for good. Surprisingly the federal government is allowing research into some psychedelics for the treatment of PTSD. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/18/dea-mdma-study_n_6888972.html

Some doctors such as Dr. Dan Engle who practices outside of the United States uses psychedelics to create a spiritual awakening that is needed for the treatment of addiction. http://www.maps.org/research/ibogaine-therapy

Bill Wilson the co-founder of AA was interested in LSD as a possible miracle drug that would bring about a conscious shift to help the alcoholic.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/aug/23/lsd-help-alcoholics-theory

The point to this is not to abuse a drugs, but use drugs such as psychedelics for a better life. Through a spiritual awakening.

Spiritual awakenings have always fascinated me and always will. As I said above I had one when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as a teenager. It has totally changed my life. I encourage you to pray, meditate and give, and have a spiritual awakening of your own. If the world was awake which I believe is starting to happen at an accelerated rate we will experience a better world. A kingdom of heaven on earth. Blessings!

the road

SOURCES

  1. Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker

Book House, 1984. 946.

  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. 4th ed. New York, New York: A. A. World Services, 1976. 59-60.