Less Awesome

The Contemplative Pastor
Eugene Peterson

Prayer is not a work that pastors are often asked to do except in ceremonial ways.  Most pastoral work actually erodes prayer.  The reason is obvious: people are not comfortable with God in their lives.  They prefer something less awesome and more informal.  Something, in fact, like a pastor.  Reassuring, accessible, easygoing.  People would rather talk to the pastor than to God.  And so it happens that without anyone actually intending it, prayer is pushed to the sidelines.

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I Can’t Be Busy and Pray

The Contemplative Pastor
Eugene Peterson

I am busy because I am vain.  I want to appear important.  Significant.  What better way than to be busy? …

I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions.  When others notice, they acknowledge my significance and my vanity is fed…

I am busy because I am lazy.  I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself.

It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard.  By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone…

I know I can’t be busy and pray.  I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray.  I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed.  In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my clamoring ego.  Usually, for that to happen there must be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from the insatiable self.

Prayer Changes Things

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

  • By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen. 32).
  • By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex. 7-11).
  • By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10).
  • By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance (Judg. 15).
  • By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored. He pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines, so that those whom he killed as he died were more than all he had killed in his life (Judg. 16).
  • By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18).
  • By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men in Sennacherib’s army (2 Kings 19).
  • By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2 Chron. 14).

Asking for Strength to Rebel

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

…if we see iniquity in our lives and harbor it in our hearts when we pray, we are asking God for the strength we need to curse Him. We are petitioning God for more strength to disobey Him further. Just as [someone is] not about to lend his gun to those who would kill him, God is not about to honor our requests made out of sinful hearts.

Remember to Whom You Are Speaking

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

Several recent books would have us believe that all we have to do is follow certain steps and God will give us whatever we ask. The authors say, in effect, “Follow this procedure or use these specific words and know for certain that God will give in to your requests.” That’s not prayer; that’s magic. That’s not faith but superstition. These are gimmicks intended to manipulate the sovereign God. But the one who prays like this forgets the One to whom he is speaking.

A Sense of God

Under the Unpredictable Plant
Eugene Peterson

Our culture presents us with forms of prayer that are mostly self-expression – pouring ourselves out before God or lifting our gratitude to God as we feel the need and have the occasion.  Such prayer is dominated by a sense of self.  But prayer, mature prayer, is dominated by a sense of God.  Prayer rescues us from a preoccupation with ourselves and pulls us into adoration of and pilgrimage to God.

Come and Have Breakfast

John 21:9-14

[9] When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. [10] Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” [11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. [12] Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. [13] Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. [14] This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

In our passage, we see the incredible invitation Jesus extends to His disciples, “Come and have breakfast.”  It is a simple and incomprehensible request.

In verse 9, we read that Jesus already has fish and bread ready.  He was waiting for His disciples to return from their failed fishing trip.  Remember, Jesus is the Savior of the World and He has just risen from the dead, yet He is waiting to have breakfast with His disciples.

I remember the day my nephew was born.  I was actually supposed to have lunch with one of my church members.  When I heard the news, I did not hesitate.  I cancelled my lunch plans.  Days earlier, the Son of God conquered the devil, sin, and death.  He transformed all of human history.  And here He waits to have breakfast with His people.  It is important to Him.

In verse 10, Jesus asks them to bring some fish they had just caught.  Remember, the disciples caught nothing.  Any fish they had are the result of Jesus’s miracle.  If you invited me over for dinner and I walk in, take something out of your fridge, and hand it to you, you will not be impressed.  When we eat with Jesus, we bring nothing to the table.  But Jesus does not mind.  He wants to have breakfast with His disciples.

In verse 11, we see Peter’s nervous energy.  When he saw Jesus, he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore.  The other disciples who stayed in the boat arrive at the shore at more or less the same time.  When Jesus asks for a few fish for the meal, Peter brings 153 of them.  Peter had abandoned Jesus in His darkest moment.  He is filled with joy that Jesus has risen from the dead, yet at the same time, he is not sure how Jesus feels about him.

You may be a fairly nice person, but I know I have wronged many people over the course of my life.  I regret many things I have said and done.  At times I have wondered whether it is even possible to make up for these things, and this is with man.  What can we do when we betray God?  How can we pay Him back?  What are we going to do to make things right with Him, after all we’ve done?

Peter knows there’s nothing he can do.  And then in verse 12, Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.”  In His invitation, Jesus is saying there is forgiveness for traitors and hypocrites.  There is grace for cowards and sinners.  There is no other god like this.

In the second half of verse 12, the disciples do not dare to ask who it is that they eat with.  They are tempted to ask, but they don’t.  They do not know this strange man cooking breakfast for them, but at the same time they do know.  Jesus must have looked different.  He is in His resurrection body.  His glory is shining.  For thirty years, Jesus had been hiding His majesty.  He appeared to be an ordinary carpenter.  Now, the disciples get a glimpse of the Word who was in beginning with God and who was God Himself.  The almighty, eternal Word invites them to breakfast.

Morning by morning, day by day, the Risen Son of God invites you to simply be with him, to share a meal with Him through reading His Word and praying.  Many times we say, “No.”  But He does not grow weary in extending the invitation.  When we hesitate, He gently asks, “Why do you wait?  For what do you delay?  My cross has made a way for you to be with Me.  Come and have breakfast with Me.”

A Ragamuffin Prayer

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses.  We are sorry and ask You to forgive us.  Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.  Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love.  Amen.