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Hydrate — Winning from the inside 36 (Matthew 7:7-11) Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.Matthew 7:7-11 NLT

This passage from Jesus has caused a lot of wonder in the minds and hearts of Bible readers. I think this teaching of Jesus’s has caused anger in the hearts and minds of those who have begged God for things, but the prayers seemed to go unanswered. If this teaching has caused frustration and wonder in your heart and mind, I hope the following thoughts will provide some answers and explanations. I cannot promise that you will still not be frustrated.

I want to first add a disclaimer. Anytime you and I ask, “Why?” to God…we are more than likely going to be left hanging. I think on rare occasions God provides the answer as to why something happened…but not until the person affected looks back with 20/20 hindsight.

So, it seems in this teaching of Jesus’s, that He is encouraging us to be persistent in our asking. In a Hydrate Devotion to come later, I will be writing in regards to the parable Jesus taught about a Persistent Widow. If you do not want to wait for that devotion, then I encourage you to go ahead and turn to Luke 18:1-8 and compare it to this teaching of Jesus’s.

It seems that persistence pays off. However, if persistence pays off, then why do Children in Africa starve to death everyday? Why does the little girl being abused each evening by her foster parent not get what she is begging for? Why did my family members daughter die of Cancer at 15? I imagine you and I could record a thousand more “why” questions if we worked at it. But I already mentioned that we shouldn’t be asking God why He does some things and doesn’t do other things.

Check out a couple other Bible verses about this subject matter. Hopefully after reading them, you might have a few more answers as to why some things you ask for don’t happen. First let’s look at James 4:2-3. “You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Also: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.”

These passages provide some answers that help us understand why we sometimes do not receive what we ask for. Wrong motives are a key reason. The other is that we are asking for something that is not in God’s will for us. I hate that reason. But, it’s a biblical reason and thus I accept it.

On a side note, when it comes to this topic, do you have a friend in your life that you can discuss these issues with? A friend who you trust enough to tell you whether or not they think your motives are pure. A friend you trust enough to tell you whether or not they think your asking is in accordance with God’s will. I have found that the only way I can have a friend in my life like that is to first be one. It’s always good to have a trusted friends opinion. If you are like me, then it’s easy to be blind to my own ambitions and will. Having a few trusted friends who are not afraid to share their opinion about you to you will always be beneficial in being self aware about your own motives.

There are no easy answers to this subject. My advice is to never stop asking what it is that you desire. There is no harm in asking. However, if you are desiring a 30 foot yacht to show up in your driveway or for the next 500 million dollar power ball winning ticket to be in your hands when they announce the numbers…you might do well to remember than nearly 20,000 children will die of starvation today around the world. It might help you to understand God’s will with more clarity when you recognize that today there will be about 154,000 deaths around the world. Now think about how many of those souls are going to Heaven or Hell. What, exactly is it, you are begging for God to give to you? With the stats I just shared, does your prayer still have a chance of being answered in the positive?

If you and I get up each day and pray a prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, it will include this line, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” If you are praying regularly that God’s will be done, you will find your heart and mind being okay with God answering your prayer with the answer of, “No.”

Are you still looking for answers as to why some things you ask for do not happen? Here are some more…do not forget that the Bible teaches that God is not a control freak. Even though God can do anything He wants, the greatest attribute of God is the fact that He is not a control freak. God’s greatest ability is in the fact that He restrains Himself. I imagine it would be really easy for God to simply force every soul into Heaven for eternity. However, would that really be love? Love doesn’t control or force. Love lays down guidelines and then honors choice. Another reason as to why some wonderful things that should happen, but don’t, is because our world has been cursed by ourselves when we sinned. This curse, beginning with Adam and Eve, has brought about death, disease, injustice and heart ache. Is this God’s fault? Of course not, God is love and He gives freedom of choice. In our freedom of choice there are consequences.

Still looking for other reasons as to why you don’t get what you ask for?

Have you considered there is an enemy of God’s who is trying to steal you from God? The devil is alive and strong and is doing everything in his power to disrupt and destroy your heart, soul, mind and strength. If the devil can win in this venture then he wins in attaining your soul for eternity. The best way for the devil to disrupt your life is to get you to blame God for things that God shouldn’t be blamed for. If the devil can get you angry and bitter towards God, then the rest of the devil’s mission is easy.

If you still aren’t satisfied, as to why God doesn’t just answer your prayer requests in the manner you desire, I would like to share one more. When Jesus taught this subject material in person, He was immersed physically in the world of the Hebrew culture. In this Jewish society, prayer life was typically focused on forgiveness, justice, repentance, soul searching, and self improvement in behavior. It is rare to read old prayers from centuries ago where the subject of the prayer was on material goods, riches or other self pleasing desires. Might it be, when Jesus teaches on this subject material of keep on asking that He wasn’t talking about physical and material goods at all? Might is be, that Jesus is suggesting that you can answer many of your own prayers? How? If your prayers are more like the kind of prayers that took place in Jesus’s time, then your prayer focus would be continually asking God to help you be more like Him. If this is the case, then if you continually prayed to be more kind to others, it will seem your continual focus on being kind will actually answer your prayer and you will find yourself practicing kindness. I like to say, you will become what you are becoming right now. If you spend the next week, continually asking God to give you more patience with one of your children…might it be that your continual focus on patience through prayer, will cause you to become more patient? Nowhere in this teaching of Jesus’s does He say, ask and God your Father will wave His magic wand and give you what you ask for. I think Jesus knows that you and I will become what we focus on. Prayer is focus! Many prayers we pray, if our motives are right and we are praying for things that really matter, then many of our prayers/focus can be answered simply because we are focusing on them.

Again, many of our prayers we pray are just not in the will of God. God isn’t interested in your comfort as much as He is interested in your character! But I sense that some of you are reading this and still not satisfied as to why your loved one passed away from a nasty disease when you begged God persistently to heal them. Well, I answer that by asking, was your loved one a believer? If you answered yes, then I believe that God did heal your loved one. Death for a believer is to leave this earth and join the Father in eternity. That is the ultimate form of healing. The prayer may have not been answered exactly like you wanted, but the person was healed and you will see them again, if you too are a follower of Jesus.

I’m sure there are other reasons I could come up with, but my time is up. I would love to hear from you in regards to other things you can think of as to why some of our prayers seems to not get answered.

I would like to close with this twist and challenge.

How many prayers are being prayed by desperate people right now that you can actually answer? Can you answer the prayers of a hungry person? Can you answer the prayers of the jobless person? Can you answer the prayers of someone praying for a friend to come into their life? etc. etc.
How different would your life be, if you lived it in such a way that your actions were many people’s answered prayers?

HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 26 (Mt. 6:9-13) “Lord’s Prayer”

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Matthew 6:9-13

Do you think Jesus was direct and to the point? I do. In Hydrate 25, Jesus told us to not babble when we pray. Throughout the gospels in the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was direct. There are only a few occasions where Jesus spoke for a long time. Matthew 5 is the longest and we call that passage the sermon on the mount. I wrote a devotional book called Retweeting Jesus where I wrote about 14 phrases that were tweetable. My point is that Jesus was a man of focus. He still is today. I think you would agree with me that we as a people living in this world are losing focus. We need to be refocused. Jesus is the best candidate we should look to when it comes to focus. Today, during this study, I hope that you will use the Lord’s Prayer to help you focus. In fact, I am asking you to find a quiet place and spend 15 minutes or more to pray. I hope you will use this material to help you focus during your time of prayer. To help you focus, I ask that you remove your shoes, and, like I recommended in Hydrate 25, get an empty chair and set it in front of you and imagine God sitting in it as you pray through the Lord’s Prayer to Him sitting in the chair.

Jesus teaches us to pray. He tells us how to get started, what to say in the middle and how to end. This is the Lord of Lord’s and King of Kings giving us an example of how to pray. There is no better teacher! So today, pray like Jesus asked you to.

Let’s get started.

Jesus says when you pray…pray like this.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

In your prayer to the Father, simply acknowledge God. When you call me on the phone, or send me an email, you acknowledge my name which tells me that you are directing your message or communication to me. “Hey Trent…how are you.”

Do this for God.
Address God and then spend a few minutes thinking about all the “Hallowed” things of God. Spend the next few minutes simply thinking out loud all the titles, and wonderful traits about God. Give God praise. Do this to the empty chair where God now has taken a seat. It might feels weird, but stretch yourself. I believe God will take a seat in that chair and enjoy your company. When I do this, I always wish He would reveal Himself to me physically. I’ll bet it would rock my world!

When you are satisfied with the number of compliments you have given our Lord, then move on as Jesus says to.

“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Spend a few moments in silence thinking about Jesus coming back today. (Your kingdom come.) Let Him know you are excited to meet Him face to face. Then, spend a few moments speaking out loud to God about what you could do for the people you are going to encounter today and tomorrow and what you could do to bring a piece of Heaven on earth for them. How can you serve them, react to them, forgive them? How can you show the people around you that God’s Kingdom and His people are alive and well today and making Heaven come to earth? When finished, move on.

“Give us today, our daily bread.”
Speak your mind with God about what you need today. Now be careful with this one. God knows what you “need.” A good measuring tool to help you determine between what you need and what you want is to imagine a homeless person sitting in your presence as you ask God to give you what you need. Remember this…God is not your genie in a bottle granting you all your hearts wishes and desires. God wants you to communicate with Him. Bring to Him your needs. Try to focus less on physical needs and more on mental, emotional and social needs. See how that changes the way you pray. Then keep moving.

“Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”
Be specific with God in this one. Confess every sin, out loud, to God, that you can think of. I love 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is confession time. Vomit them out to God. He knows what your sins are anyway. He already sent His only Son to die to pay the price for your sins, He just wants you to be done with those sins, get them off your chest and confess them. It will help you conquer them, if you confess them. Remember God’s not angry at you about those sins, He wants you to be free from the guilt and pain of those sins. Confession is the start of that becoming a reality in your life. Notice that Jesus assumes that you have already forgiven your debtors. This is expected. You must forgive the people who have hurt you, or God will not forgive you of your sins. In fact the Bible says that God won’t even hear our prayers if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts towards others. Maybe God is whispering in your ear that you need to write a letter, send an email, make a phone call, send a text and forgive the people you haven’t forgiven yet. Forgiveness is for you. Don’t worry about your offender not facing any consequences. Its not your job to make your offender face consequences, its God’s job. Make sure you forgive, which shows you trust God enough to take care of the revenge and consequences. If you are struggling with forgiveness and need a tool to help you learn about what true forgiveness is and how to grant it then I want to recommend that you go to www.vcli.org and purchase the workbooks called SALT and work through them. The material is dynamic and will help you become mature in Christ. Please make sure you are forgiving of others. Forgiveness is for you to be free. Forgiveness is for you. When you recognize this fact, you will be a person that lives in total freedom and forgiving others will become a common and wonderful practice in your life. Jesus was the best at this. Makes sure you are following His example.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

You need protection. Temptation is waiting for you around every corner. You know what your weak points are. Take them to God right now and speak your weaknesses out loud to the Father. He knows your temptations anyway. To speak them out loud helps you to be more aware and humble. Ask God to strengthen you. Converse with God about what you are going to do if that same temptation pops up again and again today. Verbally plan out what you are going to do, if you are faced with that temptation again. Then when the temptation does sneak up on you, you will be ready to conquer it. In your prayer time, ask God to help you resist the devil and protect you from His destructive and enticing ways.

Close with,
“In Jesus name, Amen.”

Think of how much more prepared and focused you would be if you started everyday off that way.
Pretty powerful. Right?

HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 25 (Mt. 6:5-8) “Prayer Motives”

5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Matthew 6:5-8 (NLT)

There is no doubt that Jesus brings about a stronger judgement and accountability upon Spiritual leaders. When Jesus was teaching this subject material, the religious leaders must have been present. He called them Hypocrites. The previous post, Hydrate 24, talks about the same motive. This motive of doing anything for recognition. What motivates you to pray? What motivates you to give? Do you pray differently when you are in a private setting than you do when you pray publicly? Why? Jesus may hold spiritual leaders to a higher accountability, but he holds everybody accountable.

As I write this in 2012, I have now been in ministry for the past 20 of my 41 years of life. From my perspective, I have noticed changes amongst pastors over these past two decades. Good changes. I remember when I was in my mid twenties and attending my first pastors conference and we had a breakout prayer session where we gathered into groups of about six to eight for some time of prayer. We were instructed to go around the table and everybody take turns praying. I remember being so uncomfortable as each pastor seemed to want to out-pray the previous pastor. As each pastor prayed, to be followed by another pastor taking his turn, the words became more eloquent and more complicated and more “spiritual” sounding. This prayer time seemed to start a competition of who could outwit, outsmart and outplay their prayer predecessor. It was Prayer Survivor, except there was no prize for the champion. It saddened me. It made me question whether or not I wanted to remain for the rest of the retreat. I did remain, and the rest of the retreat went pretty well. I share this story, because I have attended many more of these retreats in the following years and I have seen more authenticity and less competition when it comes to our corporate prayer time at these retreats. Times are changing. I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that Christians and Christian Pastors are beginning to be more and more real and vulnerable publicly when it comes to communication and prayer and leadership, and I believe it is a very good thing for the cause of the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth. I am convinced that the greatest success for the church is yet to come, and will only come if the churches leaders can be vulnerable and transparent and their greatest motivator be to honor Jesus.

I think that this is what Jesus is saying when it comes to this teaching on prayer. It seems, from this teaching, that Jesus is opposed to praying out loud in public. But, It is obvious from other sections of Scripture that Jesus is okay with group prayers and people praying out loud in a public setting. How do I know this, because Jesus prayed publicly, and sometimes the prayer was said extra loud so that the people around Him could hear what He was praying. The Apostles prayed publicly in the book of Acts. Jesus is not so focused on where we pray, but why we pray.

I think Jesus, for clarification, would add something like this, “if you pray because you like the attention it gets you in public, then you’d be better to not pray than do it for wrong motives.” He might also say something like this, “if the temptation is too great for you to get attention in your prayer time publicly, then retreat to your private closet and pray to the Father secretly, then you will be blessed and God will be honored.” I hope you agree with me in thinking that Jesus would say these things.

Motive matters to Jesus. Motive is an outflow of the condition of our heart. If you are whole in Jesus Christ, if you define who you are based off what Jesus believes about you, and by what Jesus did for you, then you will have no reason to seek approval or grab attention when in public. Motives matter. Motives become very evident when we pray.

Before Jesus actually gives a perfect example of how to pray, He injects one more point into His teaching. In verse seven, He says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

I grew up in the Catholic religion. I am thankful for some of my Catholic roots. As I am now in the Restoration Movement of the faith of Christianity, I am a better Christian because of my old Catholic roots. When I was younger and in the Catholic religion, I had never read the Bible for myself, and I remember wondering, when I was taught to pray the Hail Mary prayer, why we repeated the same phrases over and over. (I don’t have time in this section to cover what I was thinking about being taught to pray to Mary.) Today, I just refer to the redundancy of prayer. This redundancy is a part of why I quit being committed to Catholicism. I knew God was all powerful and I knew that God knew my very thoughts before I even thought them. I was so confused as to why we had to repeat the same lines, while praying, over and over. As a young kid I remember wondering if my Catholic teachers thought God was hard of hearing and so the more we repeated the prayer, the more likely God would be able to decipher what I was praying. Before, I lose all my Catholic friends, I want to acknowledge that I have been personally guilty of using the same phrases habitually in my private and public prayers. I have seen this repetition and false conversation with God happen in all different faiths, denominations and churches. This is a people problem, not a specific religion’s problem.

Instead of being taught the Hail Mary prayer when I was Catholic, I wish I had been taught this teaching of Jesus. The religious recitation of prayer goes against what the Lord of Lords commands. I think the repetition of prayers insults God. Let me put this in a practical setting. Imagine if I called up my earthly dad on the phone and in my talking with him, I would say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But I don’t stop there.

Next week, I get him on the phone again and I say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But, hold on, to make sure my dad got my point, I call him the very next day and I say to him.”Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

Now imagine I repeat this over and over for the rest of my life. I would not be surprised, for one minute, if my dad never came to visit me. I would think he would be completely irritated with me. If this is how I pray to God, then I’m just not a very good conversationalist. Do I make my point? Please don’t be insulted in what I am writing here, see the error, if you are doing such a thing, and turn your prayers into personal conversations with our relational Father in Heaven.

Now, what about this last sentence that Jesus teaches. In verse 8 Jesus says, ” Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

I have often wondered why God, if He knows exactly what I need before I even ask Him, or as another Bible passage says, knows my thoughts before I think them, then why do I even have to pray at all? And then I had kids. The more my four children age, and I grow in my experience and relationship with them as their father, the more I recognize my Father/Child relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know my four kids very well. Many times my wife and I laugh as we know what our kids are going to say before they even say it. For instance, when we are in the grocery store with our kids, and we arrive at the checkout station to see the lineup of tempting candy and magazines, at the conveyor belt area, we know exactly what our kids are going to ask of us. When I pick up my children from School and then venture home, I know exactly what they are going say as we drive by the local Sonic Restaurant. When one of my kids is on their cell phone with a friend and its a Friday night, I know exactly what that child is going to ask when He gets off the phone. You get the point?

I still want my kids to ask me. I know what my kids need. I know what is good and bad for my kids. I want to bless my children and give them the desires of their heart, and I want them to talk to me about it all. I am a relational dad. I know what my kids dreams are, but I want them to talk to me about these dreams. When I watch my kids compete in their sports games, I watched as they scored and I watched as they made mistakes in the game. I know they are excited about their win or upset about the loss, but I want them to talk to me about it all. I want to hear it from their view point. I want them to sit with me and tell me about it all. I cherish that when it happens. Have you ever been in your car privately with one of your children when they naturally open up and talk to you, and ask you questions, and actually listen to your answers? Its magical. Its healing. Its thrilling. Its relational. As a father I want that from my children. God made us to be like Him. He desires these things as well.

Even when I know what my kids are going to talk to me about. I still want them to talk to me.
I love conversation with the people I love.
Conversation and prayer are the same thing.

Now, go into a private place and converse with your Heavenly Father.
He is anxious to hear what you have to say, even though He already knows what you are going to say.
Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. Tell Him what you are afraid of. Ask Him for things that you desire.
He will enjoy your time and your words immensely.

The next time you pray, do so with an ear to hear what you are actually praying. Do you repeat the same phrases every time you pray? If you do, catch yourself and make a change in your words. Please don’t let your prayer time be just habit and discipline. Can you imagine your child coming up to you on a daily basis and saying, “Hey, my calendar just told me Its time for me to talk with you…I have to talk with you now.” That would be the same as a husband bringing to his wife a dozen red roses on their anniversary day and handing the roses to his wife while saying, “today is our anniversary, I am obligated to get you these roses.” Roses have thorns, they would hurt as they would be thrown in your face for making such a comment, and performing such a dutiful deed. Get it?

If you struggle with being relational in your prayer time with God, then I want to challenge you to try some things outside of your comfort zone. Next time you pray, go to a private place where you will not be interrupted and bring with you an extra chair. Set this chair up and invite God to sit in it, and as you pray imagine Him physically sitting in the chair listening to you. If you have a hard time staying focused in your prayer time, remove your shoes as you pray, and it will help you stay focused as you recognize that your time with God in that moment makes the place a holy place, as you spend time with the creator of the sun, moon and stars.

If you are stuck in a repetitive cycle of praying the same way, the same time, the same words, each day, then practice praying while you are driving by yourself. As you drive, just talk to God as if He were sitting in the seat next to you. People who pull up next to you at the stop light will think you are weird, but who cares! Go for it anyway. If it happens to be somebody you know, and they ask you about it later, don’t lie by telling them you were conversing with someone via speaker phone, tell them straight up, you were praying! This driving practice will help you break ritual habits and make your conversation with God more real-time and relational.

If you have a hard time knowing if you are just repeating phrases or praying in a weird way of any kind, then use the recording device on your cell phone, and when you are praying just record it all, and listen to it later. As you listen to the playback, you will hear things and notice things that will help you be more relational in your prayer time with your heavenly Father.

We all practice things we want to be good at. Practice your praying. You know you want to be good at praying. Practice it.

God wants you to spend time with Him. He is waiting. God never moves far from you. There isn’t anything that will ever make God stop loving you. Knowing that, spend time telling Him how much your appreciate Him. Talk to Him.
Be self aware of your motives.

Retweeting Jesus “RT@JesusChrist #7”

Pray that you will not give in to temptation. –JC
Luke 22:40(NLT)

What do you do to prepare yourself so you won’t give in to temptation when it presents itself? Jesus says you should pray. Have you tried this? Let’s play this out in our heads. You get up in the morning and you get on your knees and you clasp your hands together in the way people who pray do and you close your eyes… You say, “Dear God, help me today to not give in to temptation…In Jesus name…Amen.” You get up off your knees and you are prepared to fight temptation all day long. Porn, Violence, Greed, Selfish Ambition, Gluttony, pride, gossip, etc.

It won’t work will it? Why? My opinion is that we have the concept of prayer all messed up. In our western culture we have sub-consciencely made convenient what Prayer is.

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17… “Pray continually.” Some translations say, “Pray without ceasing.”

How is this possible!? If prayer is something you clasp your hands and close your eyes to do in the morning…then you CANNOT do it without ceasing or continually! You would kill somebody while driving. You would drown while swimming because your hands would be together. You would trip over the curb on your way to the grocery store. You would be considered rude greeting someone because you couldn’t shake hands. All because you were “praying” without ceasing. Ridiculous…I know. Since I’m being cynical, I want to put a few other things that drives me crazy about what people think Prayer is. NOTICE…I said things that drive me crazy. I didn’t say they were wrong. So if I offend you, please lighten up and relax and try to chuckle because you know I’m right. LOL
Why is it that in Church services we have to start playing some soft music in the background when the preacher starts praying? Prayer is conversation right? (Can you imagine having a conversation with your kids teacher, but before you started to talk, a musician positions himself behind you and begins to strum his guitar or play his piano as you “converse” with the teacher?) Another thing that drives me crazy about people who pray. I could have a conversation with somebody all day long and they never use big demonstrative words in their chat with me. But then we close the day with prayer and they begin to use words that I need to get a dictionary to define. Another one is when, throughout the prayer, they continually use the word “Father/God” over and over interspersed through the “conversation.” Can you imagine the conversation with your own dad on the phone and you used his title over and over. “Hey dad…how are you dad…Father Dad…I so appreciate you dad. You are the greatest dad….and dad, thanks for the gift you gave me dad.” Maddening isn’t’ it? How about one more and then I’ll knock off the attitude. It drives me crazy when a preacher prays and they preach a mini sermon in the “prayer.” I mean come on…prayer is supposed to be talking to God, right? God knows everything about himself and He is the one who wrote the Scriptures, so why does a person praying “remind” God about who He is and what He wrote in the Scriptures. It would be like you talking to your Mailman (I know that title is not PC) and saying to him/her, “Hey Mailman…you are the great mailman, you open the mailboxes with such eloquence and you place the mail in the box with such expertise that I am so inspired. I want to have your skills mailman. And Mailman, your policy states that you must deliver the mail and not open any of it as the mailman, Oh great mailman. You are to drive carefully when you go from Mailbox to Mailbox. Thank you for being a great mailman, in the United States Post Office Name I pray…Amen.” Did I go overboard on that?

So…what is prayer…that when you do it…it helps you NOT give in to temptation?

Prayer is focus. Prayer is attention. Prayer is conversation. Prayer is communication.
If your desire is to honor and love your earthly dad so much that you want to not give in to the temptations that would upset your dad. Not offend him. Not hurt him. Not let him down. Then what you would need to do is continually stay in the presence of your dad. Keep talking to him. Take him with you when you drive and play and sing, and work and relax. Take your dad with you to the coffee shop, the school, the ball fields, the trips, the vacations and hotel stays and business meetings. Get it?

If you took your dad with you to every life thing you do and you knew he was always in your presence…wouldn’t it help you minute by minute to make good decision so as not to hurt your dad? If your dad was always with you and you “talked” with him throughout your day…how much easier would it be to NOT give into temptation and hurt your dad? Its more than just minute by minute being with you dad, you also take the time through out the day to have longer conversations with him where you spend time listening undistracted (Bible Reading) to him. You learn more about what he likes and dislikes. Those conversations are special and planned and put on the calendar. AND you take him with you everywhere you go. It would be harder and harder to fall into to temptation and offend him, wouldn’t it?
It would make all the difference.

Pray so that you will not give in to temptation.


“What should I do God?”

What’s your dream? Don’t hold me to this, but I think the very last scene in the movie “Pretty Woman,” there is a homeless man crossing the street moderately shouting out as he passes by, “What’s your dream!?”

Have you really answered that question for yourself?

What’s your dream?

Makes me wonder, right now, what’s going on inside your brain as I cause you to think about your dream/goals/vision/plan? Are you the type A person right now just thinking to yourself… “Ya…Ya…I’ve got my dreams…come on Renner…get to the point.” Or are you someone who has been bashed by life’s circumstances just enough that you have become cynical and you don’t believe your dreams are possible for you anymore and you’ve given up on “childish” dreams?

I saw this picture the other day on a friend’s website. Its a street corner in Anthem AZ. "The Ultimate Crossroads."
I’m giving a testimonial for just 10 minutes at a Church Service in Anthem this weekend and when I’m up there I want to find this street corner and take a family picture in front of this sign. This sign on that street corner is truly a crossroads that everyone of us face, sometimes daily, in our lives.

How do you decide which way to go? I’ve just closed down an era of my life of being a Sr. Pastor for more than 14 years straight. I’ve been a preacher, preaching nearly every weekend for 20 years now. But now what? I’m staring the next 20 years of my life in the face and its blurry. I can’t get a good look into what its going to look like. And here’s the deal. I think God likes it that way. Does that make Him cruel? No. Maybe I’m too playful…I like to think its a form of the game called “Blindfold.” You’ve played it, right? Where one person puts on the blindfold and has to trust the directions of the teammate and hope not to be led into a wall or hit their Shin bone on a coffee table or fall off a cliff. If God is our guide and He chooses to “blindfold” us…aren’t we still in great hands that we can trust?

I have found that I am more of a control freak than I thought. And I’m actually deeply laid back. If I’m not liking my future being out of focus, then I’m pretty convinced you, maybe not as laid back as me, really don’t like it when your future is out of focus.

So…here’s what I know God says about all this. First look at this passage in Proverbs 16:9 “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (NLT) The NASB version says, “The mind of man prepares the way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

That verse makes me squirm a bit. It makes me think of another game. Tug-O-War…but…Tug-O-War against God. And He’s bigger than me. I love Tug-O-War, but only when I win!

So when we’re at the crossroads of Vision and Opportunity Way…what shall we do? Is this Tug-O-War time? Or…Blindfold time?

I think the answer is found in one Story of the Bible. Its in the Book of Exodus. The key part of the story is in Exodus 14:15. Its up to this point that the Israelites have been led out of Egypt and have found themselves at a dead end. The name of the place is Baal-Zephon, which is literally translated, “God’s Cul-de-sac.” Sounds like a crossroads. A crossroads for so many can be a dead end because the choice to go left or right is too overwhelming so they freeze up and quit. Dead End. Many will fall to their knees and spend hours on end praying about which way they should go and they get frustrated when God doesn’t seem to answer. So…they pray more and nothing ever moves forward. Just lots of prayer. Prayer is good, but prayer only is tragic. Faith is Action. Forward movement. So in the passage I refer to above…God says, “Why are your praying right now.” (Not exact translation, but same thing…agree?)

I think God is saying…”You know me…I’ve earned your trust…I’ve shown you how to live…get off your knees this time and let’s practice praying without words…pray with your actions…I got your back.”

Isn’t it fair for me to say that at this point in the story of Moses…that Moses had already been told how to live and what to do by God? The answer is yes. (God gave Moses clarity at the Burning Bush.)

At this point, Moses found himself in a scary moment and he froze in his tracks and he did only what he knew to do. Pray and cry out to God. And…God told him to “knock it off and get going..just do what I told you to do when I met with you at the burning bush.” (TRVB…Trent Renner Version Bible LOL)

So Moses got up…shook the dust off his robe and held his staff high and put one foot in the Red Sea and experienced an unprecedented miracle.

So…here’s my challenge to you. What do you continually pray about but there seems to be no answer? Maybe God is saying…just move. Maybe God is saying to you…”Pick Opportunity or pick Vision. They both end up in a good place.”

Is it possible that God is not concerned as much as you think about what House you live in, who you marry, what job you do, what car you drive, etc?

And with some things people pray about…give me a break.
Do you really have to pray about leaving your spouse?
Do you really have to pray about cheating on your taxes?
Do you really have to pray about beating that guy up?

God has told us how to live in the Scriptures. We have a perfect road map(Bible) that God laid out in detail about how to arrive at one of two final destinations. Heaven…Hell.

The crossroads and fork in the roads and Cul-De-Sacs, and Dead-Ends are all part of the incredible journey to our final destinations.

What we should be praying about is our behavior, our heart, our thoughts, our purity, our integrity and character, our influence, etc.

When we get those issues worked out and we have our lives spiritually going the way God would have them going…THEN…when we arrive at the corner of Vision and Opportunity…does it really matter to God which way we turn and move forward as a person who is blindfolded and being led by the greatest leader of all time past, present and future?

So which will it be for you this time?
Vision or Opportunity?
Those are great choices!

Pick and then step forward in Trust.
It really will be okay…even if it doesn’t turn out like you think it would.