About this site | Previous “Person-2-Person” | Archives | Links

Please note the new email address for Person-2-Person:
davepsinbox@gmail.com
The old @fastmail.fm address will no longer work!


[Person-2-Person logo]

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

November, 2017

A few weeks ago, I received a challenging request at work. A lady wanted to know who she could speak to in order to compliment an employee in another department. And that was a new experience. We have a complaint number and I’ve given it out several times but we don’t have a “compliment number.” My coworker Mike was similarly at a loss. Something like this had never happened before!
 
I’m happy to report that we did eventually find someone for the customer to speak to and she was able to praise the employee. But as I thought about this incident I thought of the way we sometimes approach prayer. Instead of thanks, we present lists of grievances. Instead of adoration, we bring shopping lists. When I was in college I learned a praise chorus called “Jesus on the Mainline.” I was surprised to find it’s still around. A typical verse from Country singer Randy Travis’ version goes like this:
 
“Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want.
Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want.
Jesus on the main line, tell Him what you want.
You can call Him up and tell Him what you want.”
 
A radio preacher could hardly say it better. Not “thank Him,” not “praise Him,” or even “ask Him,” but “tell Him.” But Jesus taught that prayer isn’t about asking for stuff for us but about improving our relationship with God. “‘But you when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father, the One in secret. And your Father, the One seeing in secret, will reward you.’” (Matt. 6:6 Berean Literal Bible). The focus is on “your Father, the One,” and your relationship with him. Yes, there’s a “reward” but the focus is on our relationship with God. And right after this Jesus teaches his listeners “the Lord’s Prayer” (vs. 9-13).
 
Rev. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, said in an interview with the web site desiringGod.com, “The Psalms [of lament], in a sense, give you the permission to pour out your complaints in a way that we might think inappropriate, if it wasn’t there in the Scriptures. But on the other hand, the Psalms demand that you bow in the end to the sovereignty of God in a way that modern culture wouldn’t lead you to believe.” We don’t need to be afraid to tell God what’s on our minds, whether it’s positive or negative, especially since God already knows anyway. But the purpose of prayer is not merely to have gripe sessions or “tell Him what you want” but to bring our will into line with God’s. God isn’t only a heavenly “complaint department,” or vending machine, God is our creator and our sovereign.
 
There are many models for prayer. You can choose whichever model or format works best for you. My “style” of prayer has changed over the years. Of course, the best known example is The Lord’s Prayer. About a third of the way through, we find, “Give us this day our daily bread,” but that’s it. The rest of the prayer is for God’s kingdom, for God’s will, for forgiveness, and for deliverance. There are requests but none of them are extravagant (unless you count “deliver us from evil,” which is a pretty tall order for some of us).
 
God is the important one, not us. Prayer, as Rev. Keller said, is a way to “bow . . . to the sovereignty of God” so that our will becomes God’s. Paul wrote to the Philippians that we will be “. . . conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working enabling Him even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil. 3:21b BLB). As we continue to be aligned with God’s will, as we continue to be the hands, feet, and image of our sovereign, as our Earthly body and desires continue to be conformed to the body of Christ, those around us will notice.
 
 
“‘But you when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father, the One in secret. And your Father, the One seeing in secret, will reward you.
“‘And praying, do not use vain repetitions like the pagans, for they think that in their many words they will be heard. Therefore do not be like to them, for your Father knows of what things you have need before your asking Him.’” (Matt. 6:6-8 BLB.)


Copyright © 2017 by David Phelps