Thoughts to Encourage Your Devotion to Jesus…
But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees all private things will reward you.” Matthew 6:5 (Phillips NT)
The habit of breaking off our prayers before we have truly prayed is as common as it is unfortunate. Often the last ten minutes may mean more to us than the first half hour, because we must spend a long time getting into the proper mood to pray effectively. We may need to struggle with our thoughts to draw them in from where they have been scattered through the multitude of distractions that result from the task of living in a disordered world.…
First he invites Christians to pray his very own prayer along with him, joining their prayers to his. “Our Father,” he invokes, by these words implying that any Father of his is our Father too. Since we pray in and through Jesus to the almighty Maker of heaven and earth, we have the privilege of approaching him as beloved children
From God’s point of view, it is not accomplishments but efforts that count. If we accept our poverty and limitations, but still go on trying, we will rate higher than everybody else in God’s book, just as the poor widow did.… If we make the effort and receive that one precious point for trying, God can take his pencil and start adding zeros after it.
As I was confronted by Tozer this morning, I struggled with his honesty. I don’t know how often I start to pray or read the scriptures and find my mind wandering off into space. I find myself checking a text, answering an email, or thinking of someone I need to call. Many things demand my attention, and I don’t even struggle to fight them off. I try to justify it by saying I am growing old, and my concentration isn’t what it once was… but that is just a poor excuse.
We need to sink into prayer like we do when we go into a jacuzzi. It requires great patience and the acceptance that it takes a little while to get used to it. But when we do, the comfort it gives, the stress it relieves, and the benefit it brings us are beyond belief. So it is with prayer, the first five to ten minutes are tough. Still, eventually, Satan will tire, and the distractions will dissipate. You will find yourself welcome in this conversation with God.
We need to realize that we belong in that moment. There is a point in entering a jacuzzi when you know you can take the final step in, when the heat has moved up your legs as blood returns to the heart, and you are internally ready. We can boldly enter the water then, and in the same way, as we pray, we get to the point where it just becomes a bold move. We are up to our necks….dwelling deeply – nothing else but our Lord, listening, comforting, directing, healing, empowering.
It takes effort because we are, as Keating notes, poor and limited. What we have to offer doesn’t seem enough. We go on trying, encouraged by the Father of Jesus, our Father, who loves us. And as we struggle, we learn to keep praying, knowing we will find ourselves in a moment with Him. Then we learn it was not about us straining to reach Him but realizing that He came to us.
Distracted as you are praying? Find a quiet place – keep praying… even if it is simply savoring the Lord’s Prayer or personalizing Psalm 8, 23, 139. Keep trying to pray, seek His face, His voice, and His care. You will get there… and then the feeling is incredible…for He is your God, and you are His.
Lord, help us to be patient while we enter the waters of prayer. Help us to keep praying until the distractions pass, and all we know is You and Your love. AMEN!
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:14-15 (CSBBible)
Peter Lombard was adequate as a theologian; none has been his equal. He read Hilary, Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, and also all the councils. He was a great man. If he had by chance come upon the Bible he would no doubt have been the greatest.”
If I read aright the record of Christian experience through the years, those who most enjoyed the power of the Spirit have had the least to say about Him by way of attempted definition. The Bible saints who walked in the Spirit never tried to explain Him.
Thou dost promise to come with the Father and the Holy Spirit to abide forever in their souls: He who loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, … and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.3 And what more hast Thou to promise and to give, to entice men to love Thee? My dearest Lord, I see how it is; Thou dost wish also to be loved by me: yes, I love Thee with all my heart; and if I do not love Thee, do Thou teach me to love Thee; make me to love Thee, and to love Thee above all things: “Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.”
I have to admit, I snickered when I read Luther’s words about Peter Lombard. Immediately came to mind some self-proclaimed theologians I know, men who have little time for worship or devotions. As I carefully stored away this little insult, I realized my need for repentance…
But then, I do not believe Luther was just snarky. I believe he was onto something and perhaps needed to go farther.
Tozer makes that point with more clarity, as he describes saints who walked with God, who could not, and did not spend time trying to explain the Holy Spirit; they experienced Him.
I am not saying we become seekers of experience, to be driven for emotional highs and lows. There is a difference between experiencing God and seeking experiences. The former is the earnest prayer of de Ligouri, as he begs God to teach him to love God, to make him love God. That is what Luther is getting at, what is missing from Lombard.
I am not saying we shouldn’t study, but it has to have its proper place. In fact, without time in prayer and meditation, without sacramental time, without worship, such study is simply an academic exercise.
The Lord is with you! The Spirit dwells in you…
Rejoice and enjoy the presence and work in your life!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 92.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 26.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
While you are prisoners in foreign lands, your own land will enjoy years of rest and refreshment, as it should have done each seventh year when you lived there. 7 In the land of your enemies, you will tremble at the rustle of a leaf, as though it were a sword. And you will become so weak that you will stumble and fall over each other, even when no one is chasing you. Leviticus 26:34-37 CEV
684 So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”
We live in a culture that adores action, even as it hates inaction. Ambition is a virtue in today’s culture, and someone content with where they are at in life is odd and perhaps more than a bit eccentric.
Those who aren’t always moving, working their plan, aren’t considered lazy, or lacking motivation and drive. Everything in our society must be put to use profitably. We’ve made time an idol to serve, a god that demands all that we have, and more.
In the Old Testament, there were times of rest – Sabbaths. Weekly, monthly and even every 7 years, everything was supposed to rest, finding what it needed, not from work, but from the hand of God. In fact, part of the punishment for Israel’s sin in the captivity was due to not hearing God’s call to stop, to rest, and let the land find its rest. So during the captivity, God provided for the land what we did not. A time of rest, a time to recover, a time to let God provide.
I think this is St. Josemaria’s point in the quote from “The Way” I read this morning. I didn’t like it at first, for I understand the feeling that comes from inaction. I may have gotten past the idea of leaving food on my table as wasting it, but I can’t abide “wasting time” or even worse, not being able to use what God has gifted me with to help or disciple others.
Yet there are times to rest or to use Biblical/Agricultural terms, to lay fallow. To get past the guilty feeling, to simply leave it in God’s more than capable hands. Offer the stillness, the inactivity to Him. Indeed, to spend that time with Him. No agenda, no purpose, simply enjoying His presence.
A time where we don’t notice the passing of time. We just are there, in the moment, with Jesus.
The challenge is desiring this time, looking forward to it, not feeling guilty, but realizing it is time God would have us set aside, with Him. Yet that is the reward…time, with Him… communion with God, and the peace we need, in our lives.
Take the time, waste it in the world’s view, but take it and please God with offering it to Him.
Lord, help us realize the need to find rest in you, not just when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. Help us to not get to the point where like the Israelites, You have to take us captive, to get our lives and homes to rest, and the peace be restored.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:40-41 (NLT)
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)
“why is there so little anxiety to get time to pray? Ist is the want of these solitary hours that not only injures our growrh in grace, but makes us such unprofitable members of the church of Christ – and that renders our lives…useless. ( Celtic Prayer Book – Devotion for 12/17)
In the hectic-ness of my trip to the Philipinnes, it has been far to easy to skip my “devotional time”. The time where I deliberately try and slow down, or let God slow me down. A time to relax – and listen – mostly listen to God’s love for me. It can be, it is revealed through the scriptures, through the devotional reading I do – through givning him my anxieties, my burdens – and as I am realizing on this trip – my pains.
You see – if this time is to be devotional – then the result of it should be a time where I grow in my devotion to God – a devotion that is lived out in my daily work, my pastoring, my being a husband, a father, and to many a friend. The time isn’t to prove my devotion to God – a discipline that proves to Him my love, but a time where His presence, in which I realize I am – all the time – strengthens me, cleanses, me, comforts and consoles me.
I used to hear Jesus’ words to the apostles in Gethsemane as a plea for them to prove their love to Him. Even used that in sermons – “come on you lazy people – can’t you just pray and read scripture for an hour? Really? Not even a tithe of your time! Sheesh!” And oh I was wrong.
Look at ALL the words – Jesus is wanting them to pray for their sake, so they will not fall for temptation, for Jesus realizes our hearts desire His presence, our hearts desire not to sin, BUT, our flesh can often fail us – flesh meaning we live in a broken world, and we often fall – not because of anything else bu that we’ve taken our eyes off of God… again. Walking with Jesus in prayer – letting Him build our desire, our devotion to Him as He reveals Himself to us, through His word, through prayer, through the sacraments, is what strengthens us each and every day.
Maybe its not an hour – but 20 minutes here and there – taking time to pray, to listen, to adore the God who has come to us.
That’s what we so desperately need….this sacred time, this point of being set apart – just He and His people – not to prove our devotion…but to reveal His.
Lord Have Mercy!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9 You have six days in which to do your work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. Exodus 20:8-10 (TEV)
552 It would be bad if you were to waste your time, which is not yours but God’s and is meant for His glory. But if on top of that you make others waste it, you both diminish your own standing and defraud God of more of the glory you owe Him. (1)
There is a song that was once a faovrite of mine, perhaps not so much these days because of the reality of it in life.
Written by Harry Chapin, it tells the story of a dad and his son, who thought they would desire to spend tie together, don’t. Life and work gets in the way. And the father who said, “not today”, in his old age hears the same phrase back, “not today”. It looks forward to the day when “we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a
good time, then”
In this life, there will be no more “then’s” for me and my dad, there will be them for my son, and trying to keep that all in balance with the demands of being a servant to the people of God is a challenge. There are those that say the pastor’s family must always come first. A noble idea, but an impossibility, if we take our ordination vows seriously. There are those who use those same vows as an escape from the family, mismanaging their time. There has to be wisdom, and yes sacrifice. And in even in that balance, there will be pain to be born. Someone will have to hear “then”, and it will hurt to hear it, and hurt to say it.
This blog isn’t about those “then’s”, but rather the one’s we say to God.
God, I’m running late this morning – I’ll spend time with you later.
God, there’s a family event, I need to be at. I’ll be at church next week.
God, we’ll have a good time together, “then”!
The tragedy is great, this neglecting of relationship. Not just for us, even as we so need God’s presence in our lives. For life is a challenge, there are hurts and betrayals, sins and disasters, and we often need his comfort. Hard as it is to imagine, our neglect of our relationship with God is hard for God as well. You see it in God’s word’s to Hosea, as God explains the hurt as Israel prostitutes herself to false idols. You hear it in Jesus voice, as he cries over Jerusalem, explaining how he longed to comfort them as a mother hen comforts and protects her children. That’s the idea of a relationship – to spend time together, and the time lost… is time where love isn’t expressed, time where we drift apart.
There is another line in the song, the words of the song where the son says, “I’m gonna be just like you dad…”
And I pray, that with God, that line is true. That we will look to our Abba Father in Heaven, and we will grow up to love Him in the way He loves us. That we will appreciate our time with Him, the way He desires to spend it with us.
Not just in heaven,but now. Hear His promises,
“You will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:28 (TEV)
“and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (TEV)
“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; “ 1 Corinthians 6:19 (TEV)
Writing about our time with God is hard, because no matter how hard I try, it sounds like law, it sounds like, well discipline. I still struggle with calling prayer and bible study and such benefits -spiritual discipines – because that makes it sound like tasks and obligations, rather than the good time we have, when we understand that God is here… that God is with us. But how we encourage each other to live aware of His presence, aware of His love and comfort, of His guidance. I Know that’s how Escriva’s words sound at first, yet I also realize that they come from a person who knows God’s presence, and knows how desperately we need to remain aware of His presence. Yeah – it’s that powerful, that life changing. That everything.
Prayer not just as a formal matter, but as our time with our Dad… where we admit that He’s gotta handle the things which we can’t, where we rejoice as He fixes and heals, as He shares with us His work in recreating this world. As He brings us together to encourage each other, to celebrate His love. To realize that this God did come to us, and is here with us… even this very moment.
Such is the nature of this joy, that we need to realize what it’s cost us to overlook it. Like Harry Chapin’s song is supposed to help us dad’s, and our sons.
Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to grow up just like Jesus.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2370-2372). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- WE WERE ROBBED! yeah…so? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in? (justifiedandsinner.com)