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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)

DRINK IT IN:
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.

SWEAT IT OUT:
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.
Pray.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 17 (Mt. 5:31-32) “Divorce”

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 5:31-32

DRINK IT IN:

Let me be clear in this “nasty” teaching of Jesus’.
Jesus loves people who have never been married.
Jesus loves people who are married.
Jesus loves people who are fighting in their marriage.
Jesus loves people who are filing for divorce in their marriage.
Jesus loves people who are divorced.
Jesus loves people who have been divorced multiple times.
Jesus loves people.
Jesus loves you.

Is that clear as mud?

Let me be even more clear. JESUS HATES DIVORCE. There is a HUGE difference in hating divorce and hating people. They are not the same thing. Jesus loves the sinner and hates the sin. Jesus hates divorce but loves the divorcee. We all need to be extremely honest here, and call divorce what it is. Divorce is a sin and, yes, God/Jesus hate it. They hate it as much as lying, murder, drunkenness, gossip, idol worship, foul language and all other sins.

I have a big question for you to think about. When did divorce seem to become the unforgivable sin? I’m not trying to let divorce off the hook. I’m not trying to justify it. I am simply fascinated at how people tend to think and feel that divorce is worse than other sins. What is fascinating to me is how different cultures view different sins. In America, adultery and divorce are the big nasties and yet we are almost numb to murder. I traveled to Africa recently where divorce and adultery are rampant, but if you neighbor steals something from you, the whole village goes into an uproar, while sexual sin seems to be overlooked. I traveled to Jerusalem, where you cannot mix meat and cheese together (horrible pizza there) because of Old Testament Jewish Law, but revenge and being judgmental towards others is a daily occurrence and doesn’t seem to upset many people at all. There is something deep inside us that causes us to rank sins, overlooking some and being appalled by others. I’m not sure why.

What am I saying in all this? I’m saying that God hates sin…period. Be careful if you are really picking on one sin at the ignoring of others. Its really not our job to be judging what sins are stronger than others. That is God’s job. This teaching of Jesus’ is a tough one. Again, like in other teachings, Jesus is being very direct. He is “stirring it up” with those who are listening to Him as He teaches this, and He’s “stirring it up” with us as we read it nearly 2000 years later. I think its fair for me to say that Jesus had a “no holds barred” teaching philosophy and in this teaching He opened up a can of “whoop awes!” Do you know what this can is? “Awwwe…I wish He wouldn’t have taught that!”

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this teaching. First of all, I think it is important that we recognize that God’s law of marriage is a bit different than the governments law of marriage. The government produces a piece of paper, that you pay for as a “couple,” and after some witnesses under the guidance of a state approved officiant sign it with you, you are viewed as married. That is State Marriage.

A God ordained marriage is when God observes you having sex. (God does know and see everything right? This doesn’t make Him a “peeping Tom” is makes Him God of ALL.) When a male goes into a female sexually, they have become what the Bible calls, “one flesh.” In God’s eyes, that is marriage…with or without the paper signed by your local government. With or without a Pastor officiating the ceremony. SEX = MARRIAGE. Why? Because sex is the full consummation of the Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual union between a male and a female. It is how God designed it. The two becoming one flesh can go even one step further. If the sperm and the egg meet up and the timing is right, they create another person, thus “one flesh” is created from the two who were “wed.” Make sense? The two became one flesh and often created one more flesh together, a baby. This is all Marriage!

God created marriage to be a beautiful, sensual, adventurous, vulnerable, emotional, physical, mental, social and spiritual experience. MARRIAGE. Marriage is community. Marriage is how God ordained the entire world order to flow. Marriage is the #1 theme throughout the entire Bible. Some might argue and say that Salvation is the #1 theme in the Bible. I would ask, “What is salvation?” Salvation is the restoring of a person who broke their relationship with God. For a person to become restored with God is to reunite with God. To reunite is union. Marriage is union. God titled it sufficiently in the Bible, by calling Jesus the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride. You are the church. When someone doesn’t’ commit to a local church and also chooses to not be in a relationship with God….this is a form of divorce. God desires marriage. God said from the beginning, right after creating Adam, “its not good for man to be alone…therefore He created woman. God is a God of community. From the very beginning there has always existed The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Its community, union, relationship, thus marriage.

Understanding what marriage is created by God to be, is the best way to understand why God hates divorce. Marriage is a man and woman teaming together to live life to the full. They compliment each other because they each bring different strengths and weaknesses into the relationship. I love the Hebrew understanding of Man and Woman. The ancient Hebrew spelling for Man is spelled in word pictures. We might better understand them as what we know as ancient hieroglyphics. The word-picture for man, husband and father is…

You might say…”That looks like greek to me.” Well…its actually Hebrew! Now remember, when reading Hebrew, one reads from the right to the left. So, the first letter for man/husband is the letter, “A”. In its most ancient form, written language was written by using “word-pictures.” The A that we have today was first an “Ox-Head.” If you use your imagination you can see that the letter “A” we have today could be an ox head, if you tilt it sideways. The legs of the “A” would then become the horns of an ox head. Got it? This, in the Hebrew language, is called the “Aleph.” Pronounced “u-lef.” Its where we get our English “A”. The ox-head, or the Aleph means, “Strength, Protector, and Leader.” The other hieroglyphic that is on the left side of the Aleph is where we get our English letter “b”. In Hebrew this is called the “beth”. Pronounced, “bet.” The word picture that this letter depicts is a “tent.” If you use your imagination you can see how this could be a tent. The tent, or the bet means, “Family, House.” Again we should read these two word pictures from right to left, opposite of how we read English. When we read these two word pictures as if they were actual letters, this is where we get our word, “Ab.” Translated…Abe, Abraham, “FATHER” Abraham. Thus Father! Jesus said, while dying on the cross, “ABBA.” That means Father. Are you learning Hebrew with me here? So, in this word picture, the man of the house is the husband and father. He is “Abe…Ab” This means the husband is the STRONG(ox) protector of the house(tent). Strong protector of the house. Now the ‘Ab’ has a very difficult task. To protect the house means more than packing your 9mm hand gun and being prepared to take-out the bad guy who is breaking in to your home. Protector of the house, means protector of the Social, Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and emotional state of the household. Wife, Children and self. This is no easy task. As the ‘Ab’ of the house, you are to protect those elements of the home with the same kind of focus and passion you would if an intruder came into your house and you had to use your handgun to protect. The reality is that an actual intruder coming into your home, in the form of a thief or rapist is very rare. But the intruders of greed, selfishness, hate, laziness, anger, etc are intruders that many times live under our own rooftops on a daily basis. Father/Husbands…are you the strong protector of your tents? You are the “Ab.”

Now the word picture for woman, wife and mom is just as fascinating.

Now you are probably recognizing that there is a similarity in the word images for Husband and Wife. The ‘Aleph’ is also in the word-picture of woman. Which means she is strong, protector and leader as well. (Christians who argue about who is the leader of the household, who is in charge, who is over who…miss the entire idea of who Jesus is. He never argued about position. He served and earned His leadership. He washed the feet of those under Him. The best way to husband and wife and who is “over” who is to picture the body. Jesus is the head and the husband and wife are the shoulders.) Woman is also strong leader and protector, but in a different way. Not so much of the “tent/house,” but as the image on the left depicts. The image on the left is the Hebrew letter called the “mem.” It is pronounced like it looks. It is where we get the English letter “m”. So if you say these letters you get “am”…but pronounce it with a short “o….om…am…mam.” Its where we get “mom.” Now the cool thing is the fact that the Hebrew “mem” is a letter that paints the picture of water. Look at the word picture and you will see waves and the “tail” at the bottom of the waves demonstrate the water coming and going just like waves on a beach. There are two different meanings for this letter in the Hebrew culture. The first meaning for water here is…chaos. So mom is the protector of chaos. If that doesn’t fully make sense to you, then understand the second meaning and put them together. The second meaning of “AM” in the Hebrew life was this. A = ox = Strong. M = water=chaos. “AM” was translated to mean “Strong-Water.” Now in the Hebrew world, after a successful hunt, the rawhide of the killed animal, would be skinned and placed in boiling water. The hide would begin to breakdown and the fatty and left over substance from the hide would float to the surface of the boiling water. A trowel would be used to skim this sticky substance off of the boiling water’s surface and the “goo” would be placed on a piece of wood where the extra moisture would be absorbed into the wood leaving a very sticky substance left over. This left over sticky substance was called, “Strong-Water.” This strong water was used for purposes of glue. So, in the Hebrew culture, the ‘AM’…the mother…was the STRONG WATER of the family. Mom is the “glue” that holds everything together. I love that word picture! It is such a true word picture…in most cases.

BUT…hold on…there is another word image for wife/mom/female that is vital in understanding marriage. The word is translated “Helpmate.” God created woman to be a helpmate for man. She is created to be just as powerful as man, but in different ways. (Adam said, bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.) She is just as powerful as man, but in different ways. She is a true compliment/helpmate to man. God didn’t created her to be man’s servant, dish washer, house cleaner…kind of helpmate. But “co-protector.” Both powerful, both serving and loving and needing one another. The best word picture for helpmate is this.

Helpmate is best understood as “She has an “eye” for the “enemy.” The hieroglyphic on the left is a picture of a person with a weapon and is using it to strike…thus…”enemy. ”

The wife of the household has this innate ability to discern things. God has given a majority of women the gift of discernment. The most important ability a wife can have to help protect her family is to be able to ‘Have an eye for the enemy.” She is always watching for the enemy. A mother is very watchful. She see’s things that the kids do, that we as men don’t see them do, and the act took place right in front of our own eyes! We husbands and fathers of the family have a tendency to be very competitive and we have a strong desire to physically protect our family. The wife can help us see people who are dangerous that we didn’t notice. So understand this…the greatest enemy the wife can see, that we as a man rarely ever see, is the “enemy within.” Sometimes, men, the biggest enemy to our family is ourselves. The dad…the husband…the man, we can be the worst enemy. Our pride sometimes prevents us from seeing ourselves as an enemy and a danger to ourselves and to our families. We can be our own worst enemies. Many times we feel like our wives are nagging us about things we could do different or better and it can be deeply frustrating for a man. Even the Bible says that “a nagging wife is like a dripping faucet.” But…what if…we recognized that a majority of the time, our wives aren’t actually nagging us, as much as she is warning us of the enemy in ourselves, that she sees, but we don’t. She is trying to warn us about an up and coming danger because she is discerning that we as the husband/father/man are headed in a direction that is not healthy…and we don’t see it ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. Our wives see it, try to warn us of it, and we want to divorce her. (God hates divorce!) Is this all beginning to make sense?

Do you understand this? She is helping us! She has an eye for the enemy. The problem usually is that when she “alerts” us of this enemy, she does it in a demeaning or disrespectful and damaging way. When this happens we see this as nagging and we don’t listen. But the matter of fact is that she sees an enemy prowling around the “tent” and it happens to be ourselves. Love her for this God given ability, don’t reject her for it. If you are the “AM” of the family and you see your husband becoming an enemy to himself and his family, then figure out a very loving and kind way of alerting him. Disrespecting him and ‘nagging’ him about it will only make it worse.

So…why does God hate divorce? Because He knows a man and woman who make a commitment to one-another (vows) to spend the rest of their lives together being “strong-protectors” of the tent, and all the chaos, but then have sex with other people, or reject one-another because we think we can live better apart, and thus break the vow, will end up worse off.

There is more to this divorce thing…but this is enough to “digest” for now. In a future Hydrate Devotional we will get to some other issues of divorce and marriage.

Don’t divorce your spouse by having sex with another person. Remember sex is marriage. If you have sex with someone else other than your spouse you are divorcing your current spouse and marrying the person you are having sex with. Divorce and Adultery are really the same thing. It is a sin. It is adultery. It is evil.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Recognize each others differences and see them as complimentary protection services.
Talk with your spouse about the ancient Hebrew Hieroglyphics that I have placed in this devotion.
Recognize that you are better together than a part. (Share with each other the things you are thankful for in each other.)
You obviously will have some tensions that you will have to work through. Talk them through with respect and love and gentleness.
Give each other grace and love and forgiveness.
Laugh at yourself a little more. You are not perfect.
Understanding what marriage IS, is the strongest way to prevent divorce and adultery.
Having a great marriage and preventing divorce is not easy. In fact, its extremely difficult. You will have to be unselfish.
Just like Jesus.


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