Monday, March 5, 2012

The Proper Way to Pray

In 1620, the Speedwell joined with the Mayflower and left for the new world. The two ships sailed out together, but the Speedwell sprang a leak 300 miles out to sea. The problem forced the expedition to return to England. When repairs failed to fix the Speedwell, everyone was crammed aboard the other ship and the journey was resumed.

The Mayflower was a sizable cargo ship for its time, but was never intended for 101 passengers plus crew. Needless to say, their seven weeks at sea were a horrible experience. The colonists were lodged in a small area between decks with no fresh air, no running water, and only buckets for sanitary facilities. They could not bathe or wash their clothes. The pilgrims weren’t sailors and the sea was rough, so many of them were terribly seasick. Can you imagine the smell? On top of that, the sailors were godless men who ridiculed and laughed at the pilgrims in their misery.

Four weeks out in the mid-Atlantic they were struck by a fierce storm. The pilgrims were bounced around in the bottom of the ship. Then there was a great cracking sound, and the sailors threw open the hold and saw the Pilgrims lying in a filthy tangle of broken bones. The captain raised a lantern and saw that the cross beam supporting the main sail was cracked. If it gave way, the mast would fall and the Mayflower would capsize and sink. The captain, being a practical man, soon gave up all hope of being saved.

When word of their impending doom reached the ears of William Bradford, the leader of the pilgrims, he bowed his head and prayed this prayer: “Yet, Lord, thou canst save.” And all the Pilgrims said, “Amen.” The captain and sailors were stunned. That was it? That was all of their prayer?

While the seamen stood scratching their heads, one of the colonists, Elder Brewster, a printer by trade, placed his printing press under the cracked beam, and the huge screw was cranked up under the cracked beam. It held just long enough for them to reach shore.

That account reminds me of a poem I once read:  

     "The proper way for a man to pray," said deacon Lemuel Keyes,
     "And the only proper attitude is down upon his knees."
     "No, I should say the way to pray," said preacher Doctor Wise,

     "Is standing straight, with outstretched arms, and rapt and turned up eyes."
     "Oh, no, no, no" said elder Snow, "such posture is too proud;

     A man should pray with eyes fast closed, and head contritely bowed."
     "It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front

     With both thumbs pointing toward the ground," said the preacher, Doctor Blunt.
     "Las' year I fell in Hodkins' well head-first," said Cyrus Brown,

     "With both my heels a sticken' up, and my head a-pointin' down,
     An' I made a prayer right then and there – best prayer I ever said.
     The prayin'est prayer I ever prayed was a-standin' on my head."

Personally, I can relate to Cyrus Brown. He realized full well that when you are in trouble, you pray! The proper way to pray though has nothing to do with the way in which we hold our hands, or the amount of words we use. All that He desires is that we humble ourselves and put "us" aside BEFORE we turn to Him.

To illustrate God’s concern, Jesus related this account in Luke 18:10-14,
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

Certainly God cares about our problems ... and has already promised to meet our needs, if we are willing to deny ourselves and approach him in all humility.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

We Are Richly Blessed

Turn on the news and you will hear about our economic crisis. Higher gas prices, companies looking for bailouts, a terrible housing market, unemployment skyrocketing, an unsustainable national debt ... and things appear to be getting worse, not better.

I would encourage those who are looking for their finances to improve to remember that money is not everything! The Bible says that it’s harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven (Matthew 19:24). Money can’t purchase peace with God. It cannot produce genuine happiness. In fact, money usually only creates a desire for more money. Such desires lead – not to happiness, but – to ulcers, headaches, heart attacks and loneliness.

     Not all earth's gold and silver

     Can make a sinner whole.
     What will it profit you, O man,
     If you should lose your soul?

Oh, I fully agree that we need a stimulus package in this nation, but one of heavenly origin rather than earthly. “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB).

While the government’s stimulus packages offer no real guarantee of success, God’s stimulus package is assured of producing fruit that lasts. And if – for some reason – you need evidence of which plan is best, perhaps we should count our real blessings. Perhaps we should contrast the frustration of worldly economics with the true prosperity of the Christian. Consider the following …

  • We have the best possible life … right now!
  • We have REAL peace and REAL joy.
  • We are guaranteed help in the midst of our trials. Try getting that from the government.
  • We have a perfect example in Jesus Christ.
  • We may not be able to help everyone pay their bills, but we can help lost people to be saved.
  • We have God’s word to challenge, comfort and correct us.
  • We have brothers and sisters to help encourage us.
  • We have the hope of a terrific future. I’m not so sure about our nation.
  • Not even death can stop us from receiving what God has in store for us!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). 

Tough times? For the American, yes indeed. For the Christian? I say we are richly blessed!