Archives For prayer

If my 9 year old studied Math and English the way he studies SpongeBob Squarepants, we would already be entertaining scholarship offers from Ivy League schools. So it was no surprise when we pulled into the CVS parking lot last Sunday that his eyes fixed immediately to the SpongeBob Movie promo plastered boldly on the RedBox machine just outside the front door.

“Dad, dad, dad, dad, DAD, DAAAAAD!!!!! Can we rent it? Can we get it?

I’ve been waiting for this day!!! Come on dad, give me a dollar.

Seriously, dad, can I just have a dollar? We can watch it together tonight!

Dad, dad, DAAAAAD! Please dad!”

As my hand reached reluctantly for some cash, I caught my daughter’s glance in the rear view mirror. Without saying a word, she was screaming at me with her eyes, “please don’t, dad….please don’t.”

You see, my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks, and his middle sister had already purchased the BlueRay of this cinematic masterpiece as his gift. It was sitting at home on her dresser, wrapped not only in festive paper and bows, but with all the love a big sis can muster for her annoying little brother. Letting him rent it now would ruin her heartfelt plans.

So I told him no.

And all  Chum Bucket broke loose.

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Photo Credit: artpipi

He begged. He pleaded. He negotiated. He called on the name of Great Neptune’s Ghost. He stood emphatically next to the RedBox machine. Stomped his feet. Asked his mom, his sister, and random people leaving the CVS for a couple of spare singles. He manipulated. He refused to get back in the car.

(If it’s not clear yet, he doesn’t easily take no for an answer – a characteristic I love about him, unless he’s using it on me).

“But why dad? It’s my favorite movie!”

“Because I’ve chosen not to let you right now.”

“But that’s not a good enough answer,” (yes, he said this). “I need to know why!”

“The answer is no, not today.”

“But daaaaaad, why not today? I want to watch it now!”

I glanced quietly over my shoulder at his sister, still wondering how all this would play out from the back seat.

“Listen, I know things you don’t know. And that’s going to have to be good enough for you right now. You’re just going to have to trust me.”

I was instantly shattered by my own words, and immediately recalled Tim Keller’s mind-blowing quote from his book on prayer:

“We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.”

If Austin knew what I knew, my answer would’ve made complete sense to him (well, accounting for the fact that he’s still a 9 year old boy). But he didn’t have the whole picture. He couldn’t have the whole picture. Not yet. From his context, my hesitancy and delay was completely illogical. It’s summer break. We had no plans that evening. The movie was a perfect family activity that night, at least in the way his world was ordered.

But our world isn’t just about him. While I have his joy in mind, while I WANT to give him GOOD GIFTS, I know things he doesn’t know. And that means “no” is the best gift I can give him right now.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” 
—Matthew 7:11

Is God saying NO to you? Remember, there’s a greater story being told, the characters, theme, setting, and plot of which you can’t completely comprehend or understand right now. But rest assured, He gives good gifts. Do you trust Him?

“I’m praying about it” is the “LOL” of pious church goers. You rarely mean it, but it makes you feel lighter. Releases the nervous tension.

LOL is the digital garnish of text messaging and social media. Come on, you’ve never really LOL’d have you? Admit it. It’s a verbal ruse, like “The check’s in the mail,” or “It’s not you, it’s me.” (Hint: it’s always you).

“I’m praying about it” (or IPAI) is usually just another incarnation of these lingual gymnastics.

I’ll admit, I’ve fabricated a few “IPAIs” in my day. A few that probably had God tagging His own status update with a ROFLOL.

Let’s be honest, we don’t pray enough. As long as circumstances don’t become too big for us to handle, we’re happy to plunge fully into the day’s opportunities with little acknowledgment of our need for supernatural intervention. No problem, I got this.

Yet when the answers are obvious but scary (or maybe just costly), we’re quick to 180 and use prayer as the ultimate Jon Acuff Jesus Juke for justifying our inaction.

Confession:

Sometimes I use prayer as my excuse for being a coward.

Sometimes I need to stop praying about it and just go do it.

Start the business. Give the money. Have the difficult conversation. Volunteer the time. Quit the job. Go on the trip. Make the tough call.

These things always require prayer, submission, and surrender. But they also demand massive amounts of courage. Don’t get caught using prayer as an excuse to be a coward. Sometimes God has already made the answer clear and it’s simply time to find the guts to act.

(LOL)

How about you?  Have you ever used IPAI as justification for not doing what you need to do?

Simplifying Prayer

Erik Cooper —  January 20, 2011 — 3 Comments

I’m shifting the focus of my prayers.

(Not like to another deity, don’t worry).

I’ve begun to notice a lot of “shoulds” infiltrating my conversations with God.  Should I choose this one or that one? Should we go there or stay here? Lots of complicated specifics. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

Not inherently bad prayers. God definitely cares about the specs.

But at times I feel like a bad meteorologist. I focus feverishly on trying to predict which way the wind is blowing, rather than just asking the Source of the wind to come alive inside of me.

Jesus said to pray:

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” –Matthew 6:10

Your kingdom come.

What if that became my foundational prayer? What if the kingdom Jesus talked about was lit as a fire inside of me? (Mat 3:11-12) What if rivers of living water began to originate from an internal Source? (John 7:38) What if God’s Kingdom really came, transforming me from the inside out?

Wouldn’t all these complicated little “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” dilemmas just begin to flow naturally? Wouldn’t they be God-originated? Wouldn’t they be energized? Wouldn’t they be sustainable?

Too simple? What do you think?

One Heck of a Week

Erik Cooper —  January 10, 2011 — 1 Comment

Last week was difficult, I’m not gonna lie.

The perfect blend of emotional soup.  Moments of pure elation followed by waves of fear and sadness. Like your favorite football team just took the lead on a 50 yard field goal only to lose it 53 seconds later as time expired ending their season (wait, that really happened didn’t it?).

Here’s a little recap and a few thoughts (if you’re interested):

THURSDAY:

My 5 year old son, Austin, gets a miraculous medical report.  Born with optic nerve hypoplasia, doctor’s originally warned of potential blindness or even brain development issues.  Thursday’s doctor visit confirmed the continued positive progression we’ve been seeing in his recent visual development. Both eyes have slowly corrected to 30/20, what our ophthalmologist terms “normal” visual range for his age.  We celebrated the answer to years of prayer.

(He’s keeping the glasses though. They’re just too stylish).

FRIDAY:

My wife, driving our daughter to her evening basketball practice, loses control of the car on an unsalted stretch of icy road. The front end of our little Chevy Cobalt is torn off by a swerving pickup truck, her driver side door t-boned by a 15 passenger van. Thankfully, extreme bruising and a few terrifying dreams seem to be the only residual damage (Well, besides ol’ orange. She’s driven her last mile). A few inches either way and I could easily be typing this as a single father of two.

SATURDAY:

My brother and sister in-law move to Houston, and an early morning breakfast goodbye turned a bit more emotional than we had originally planned.  We celebrate their new adventure, but already feel the painful sting of their absence. My daughter’s tears did me in, although after the previous days accident I was just grateful she was there to shed them.

So as Saturday drew to a (Colts-losing) close, this triple cocktail of human emotions had us ready to curl up under a warm blanket and hide from the world. God seemed to be so evident on Thursday. What happened?

I think there’s an unfortunate tendency to miss God in the pain of life. To think His nature is only expressed through our happily ever afters. The easily explained. The comfortable. The positive doctor’s reports.

And I think that cheapens God. Turns Him into a servant of us.

God never promised life would be without pain. Easy to explain. That your favorite team would always be ahead when the final buzzer sounds.

But He did promise He’d always be with us.  That He would never leave us or forsake us. That He would be near to the brokenhearted.

So I’m learning to see Him everywhere.  In medical healings, ugly car crashes, and sad goodbyes.

Yep, there He is.

Praying for Doctors

Erik Cooper —  August 4, 2010 — 8 Comments

Her name is Jasmine and she lives in a Honduran slum.  We met her on our first CityCom overseas adventure this past June.  She captured all of us (especially Mike).

Perhaps unexpectedly.

Not accidentally.

Jasmine is developmentally challenged. She can’t walk or speak.  And to complicate matters, her parents are mute (they can hear but not talk).  Getting an accurate understanding of her challenges was difficult, to say the least.

Through scribbled shards of paper and animated charade-like gesturing, Jasmine’s family was desperately asking for help.  And our compassionate American-Christian spirit immediately kicked into action.

We had translators on the phone with doctors.  Businessmen brainstorming potential funding for therapy.  Logistical minds coordinating transportation.

It was beautiful in so many ways.

And terribly sad in another.

The conviction of the Holy Spirit flattened me in the comfort of our hotel room later that night.  In all our rightly-motivated desire to live out compassion for this beautiful little girl, I failed.

Miserably.

As a leader, I never stopped the flurry of godly activity to do the most important thing.

Pray that God would heal her.

I was raised pentecostal (I know, there’s a support group for that).  And even though I think our particular church was pretty well balanced, I still grew up around a lot of “hyper-charismatics” (if I grew up around you don’t worry, I’m definitely referring to those other people).  People who wielded the Holy Spirit as a manipulation tool or to empower their own insecurity (hey, we keep it real here).  I mean really, how do you ever present a counterpoint to someone who starts every sentence with “God told me?

Over the years, I began to subconsciously distance myself from this unhealthy expression. And somewhere in the mix I also seemed to lose my belief in the mysterious, supernatural, and biblical way God longs to interact with our lives.

I stopped praying for healing and started praying for doctors.

I overcorrected.

Which actually made me incorrect.

I’m glad our team mobilized in a tangible expression of love for this precious little girl. It was the right thing to do.  I believe God works through medicine, and I know He equips us with the ingenuity and creativity to respond to practical needs.  That is His Spirit at work.

But I also believe in the miraculous.  And sometimes we simply reason Him out of the equation.

I want faith that embraces mystery.  That risks the unknown.  That expects God to intervene.

Do I have that kind of faith? Or will my faith only ever be big enough to pray for doctors?