Tag Archives: prayer

Come with Confidence (Hebrews 4:16)

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Several years back, we had a changing of the guard in my department at school. John, our dean for some 10 years, retired, making way for Andy, who had been a professor since before I arrived on the scene. Although I always got along wonderfully with John, others had a hard time with the man. They found him difficult to deal with. Pretty much everyone agrees that Andy is terrific in the role.

Recently, I had to beg off of attending graduation since I had managed to book myself doing something else that evening. Penny worried about this, assuming that I’d be in deep difficulty as a result. I knew better. I walked in to Andy’s office and, confident of his response, said, “I’m going to need to skip graduation tonight. I’ll go twice next year if you like.” He smiled and nodded, reminding me to return my rented regalia so the school would receive credit.

It’s nice to be able to approach the permission-giver with confidence. It’s nice to be able to ask, even when you know the response is in question, and still be certain that you won’t come out both with a “no” and feeling a fool. It’s especially nice to be able to approach, knowing that you’ve earned the right to be given strong consideration for whatever you ask.

That’s never how it will be with God. I will never have earned any rights from God. Like Isaiah, I should be terrified at prospect of standing before my God, knowing that I’m a man of sinful lips (and hands, mind, and feet). That’s what is so great about Jesus.

Confidently, I can approach the throne of grace in the name of Jesus. That’s it. In the name of Jesus, I have standing. Without it, I’m reduced to a cinder in no time.

How often do we remind ourselves as we come to pray just how amazing it is that we can bring that petition in the name of Jesus? I’ll confess that I don’t keep that idea in the front of my consciousness. What about you?

 

Up in the Air

I have no problem with heights, despite those who would accuse me of being afraid of them. Quite the contrary, I would fully love heights if they weren’t always so far from the ground.

Yesterday, I pulled out an extension ladder and propped some eighteen feet of it against a horizontal branch of a large walnut tree, there to attach a couple of chains for a swing.

Yes, I know that swing-hanging is not exactly heavy-duty agrarian fare, but it might have been some other airborne pursuit that took me up that ladder hanging out over nothing. Indulge me here and I’ll try to make the trip worthwhile.

I assembled my supplies in advance. I had two lengths of chain, complete with quick links to close the circle, ready for the ascent. I’d also cut two strips of carpet to protect the tree’s bark. With these things in tow, I made my way up the ladder in a gusty wind. Roughly halfway up the ladder I paused, felt the wind pulsing against me, and headed down. I could do this thing later.

A few hours later, I decided to head up the ladder again. Again, I found myself halfway up and stalling out. I’ve really gotten better about my fear of heights (but only the ones that are far from the ground). I used to struggle with stepladders. Now, I can get onto roofs, hang over edges, and perform many other feats of derring do. But when the climbing has me hanging out over nothing–as opposed to leaning up against a wall, for example–my mind convinces me that I’m undoubtedly doomed to plunge to the ground.

As I stood there on that rung, I realized that I didn’t didn’t like the way I was carrying the chain and carpet up. I descended the ladder, tied the ladder’s rope into clove hitches around the two carpet pieces, and then tied the rope to the chains. This way I could ascend most of the way and then pull the supplies up to me.

Before my foot hit that first rung, I mouthed a quick prayer, asking for safety and nerve. I’d love to tell you that, post-prayer, I sprinted up the ladder, sat on the tree branch, kicked the ladder away, connected the chains, and then shinnied down to the ground. That’s not how it happened. Past that dreaded halfway point, each rung presented me with agony. Still, rung by rung, I made my way up to the height necessary to attach the chains. It took a long time to get the deed done. I dropped a quick link, but Penny managed to send it up to me. Eventually, though, both carpet pieces wrapped around the branch and both chains dangled to the ground.

Prayer did not push all fear of that precarious ladder from my mind. It won’t, I’m fairly sure, lead to me bungee-jumping or skydiving  anytime soon. But prayer did allow me enough composure to do what needed to be done. That’s enough.

Urban/suburban society tends to want a sure thing. There’s a financial ad running at present where people are carrying around “their number,” the amount of money they’ll need to retire comfortably. Wouldn’t you love to have sufficient money in your coffers to ensure that you’ll never lack anything? That sounds great, but is there really any such amount of money? A lawsuit here or a spate of inflation there can make that magic number seem pretty meaningless.

Similarly, society wants education that guarantees kids a happy, healthy, prosperous life. It wants health care that performs quick and certain tests before prescribing a magic pill that fixes problems in a few hours. It wants cars that never experience problems and houses that perfectly fit our “lifestyle.” In short, urban/suburban society wants perfection, a guarantee. And to be realistic, many rural folk want the same thing.

Hanging onto that ladder, the wind gusts pushing against me, I recognized that I didn’t need perfection. I didn’t need magic prayers that completely banished my fears. I just need to get up the ladder and attach the chains. I can live with–I can get excited by prayers that get me there. I don’t need a sure thing in retirement or a health-care guarantee. I have prayers in those regards that I’ll trust to see me safely through my needs.

On this Easter Sunday, I celebrate the only sure thing that I can truly have and that I truly need. Despite my fears, weaknesses, and shortcomings, I know that God–through Christ–will not leave me up in the air. Anything beyond that is just a bonus.

Cornerstone Quest–1 John 5:14

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.–1 John 5:14

Ten years ago, when Emily stood some fourteen years into this life, I did one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. She came to me one day and asked if I would take her and Andy, her boyfriend, to a four-day music festival, Cornerstone, held in the great metropolis of Bushnell, Illinois. Every year, Cornerstone packs in 15,000 to 20,000 mostly Christian music lovers and fellow sufferers to hear all manner of bands perform. No, you won’t find the Gaithers performing at Cornerstone. Most of the acts that civilized people enjoy wouldn’t be found on the bill.

Had you asked me on that day in 1998 to name the ten things I might do that summer, sweating for ten days in rural Illinois in the midst of a collection of weird-looking, exceptionally noisy, and sometimes unpleasant young people would not have made the list. It wouldn’t have made the top twenty, fifty or one hundred. Why then, the week of July 4, did I find myself driving into the grounds with not only Emily and Andy but two other boys and Alyson? Why indeed.

Had Emily asked me to drive her downtown to buy crack cocaine, a briefer and cheaper task, I would have said no. Similarly, I would not have agreed to a trip to the tattoo parlor or a marathon session on the Magic Teacups at Disneyland. I am perfectly capable of saying “no,” as my children can attest, but Cornerstone fit into my desires for my daughter. I hoped to grow her into a Christian adult with a personality. Happily, I think, I succeeded.

Scoffers look at John 5:14 and say, “Yeah, God will do whatever you want as long as it’s what he wants, too!” While this verse can be read in that manner, I like to think of it as the Cornerstone verse. God won’t give us what does not fit into his will, but he’s not necessarily rigid about what his will is. He might take us to Cornerstone or a mission trip. He might bless us as employees or business owners. As it turns out, Emily met Christian, her husband, at Cornerstone, the year after I stopped going.

This summer, I’m going back to the festival, accompanying Emily and Christian as well as my two younger kids, Thomas and Olivia. Who knows what wonders he has in store for us this time