Prayer is Hard

Good morning. It is Sunday, July 5, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is bunkum. Bunkum is a noun, meaning, “insincere or foolish talk : nonsense.” The origin of this word appears to be political. “Some words in our language have more colorful histories than others, but in the case of bunkum, you could almost say it was an act of Congress that brought the word into being. Back in 1820 Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was determined that his voice be heard on his constituents’ behalf, even though the matter up for debate was irrelevant to Walker’s district and he had little to contribute. To the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome “speech for Buncombe.” His persistent—if insignificant—harangue made buncombe (later respelled bunkum) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.”

Today is Bikini Day. I swear it was the only choice I had! Anyway, it marks the invention of the scandalous swimwear, in 1946, by Parisian fashion designer, Louis Reard.

We had a really nice day yesterday. After I finished my morning blog, we cooked breakfast and had a nice meal around the table (that doesn’t happen much at this house, these days). After some quick showers, we took my mother up to Half-Price Books and just shopped around for a bit. I left $5 richer than I went in, which is always a good thing. After picking up some drinks at Sonic, we headed back to the house for about an hour, then went up to where our church meets for the July 4th cookout. We had a nice time hanging out with the church family, eating hot dogs and brats (the sausage, not the kids), and playing a few games. Around 7:00, we left there to get my mother packed up so we could take her back to Mineral Wells.

We had a very pleasant drive both ways, and didn’t stay long in Mineral Wells, as it was already after 8:00 when we arrived there. We were both exhausted, so we didn’t stay up a long time after we got home. Over all, I would say it was a very pleasant day, and has been a delightful weekend, so far. I do believe Rachel and Justin are supposed to come over this afternoon, so we will need to go do our grocery shopping this morning.

On this date in 1865, The Salvation Army was founded in London. In 1937, Spam was introduced by Hormel Foods. In 1947, Larry Doby signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first black player in the American League. In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right,” which would be his first single, and the BBC broadcast its first TV news bulletin. And in 1971, the 26th Amendment was certified by President Nixon, officially lowering the voting age to 18.

Today’s birthdays include Thomas Hooker (English Connecticut colonist), Mary Walcott (American accuser at the Salem witch trials), P.T. Barnum (American circus owner), Warren Oates (American actor), Shirley Knight (American actress), Robbie Robertson (Canadian musician, The Band), Michael Monarch (American musician, Steppenwolf), Huey Lewis (American singer), Goose Gossage (American baseball player), Bill Watterson (American cartoonist), Marc Cohn (American singer/songwriter), Claudia Wells (American actress), and Jason Wade (American musician, Lifehouse).

Marc Cohn was born on this date in 1959, making him 56 today. Here is a wonderful song of his, “Walking in Memphis.”


To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.

Psalm 81:1-3

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

“I can think of nothing great that is also easy,” says Tim Keller. In that case, he says, prayer must be “one of the hardest things in the world.” I am inclined to agree with him. Sure, in many ways, prayer is easy. How hard is it to say grace before a meal? But to really get into deep prayer with God, having all of our senses consumed by his presence . . . this is a truly difficult thing. I cannot say whether I have ever fully accomplished this. However, when we admit that this is a difficult thing, it can be encouraging, because we can be assured that we are not alone.

Keller quotes a book by a nineteenth century theologian, Austin Phelps. The book is called The Still Hour, and begins with a chapter called “Absence of God, in Prayer.” The author begins with Job 23:3, which says, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him!” Phelps is quoted as saying that, “a consciousness of the absence of God is one of the standing incidents of religious life. Even when the forms of devotion are observed conscientiously, the sense of the presence of God, as an invisible Friend, whose society is a joy, is by no means unintermittent.”

Even though we know that God is always here and never absent, I firmly believe that we would be less than honest if we said that we never experienced the feeling of God’s absence. But there are reasons for this feeling, and for the feeling of dryness in our prayer lives.

One thing we learn when we try to pray is “our spiritual emptiness.” In fact, we get quite used to being empty, to the point that we don’t truly recognize it until we begin to attempt prayer. “We don’t feel it until we begin to read what the Bible and others have said about the greatness and promise of prayer.” And while it is a crucial first step, it can be very disorienting.

What happens when our prayer lives begin to flourish? Well, we might be experiencing self-pity, or in the process of justifying anger and resentment. Then, when we begin to pray, we come face to face with the pettiness of those feelings. “All your self-justifying excuses fall to the ground in pieces.” Perhaps we come to our prayer session, feeling great anxiety. As we get into prayer, we find that we wonder what we were so worried about, maybe even laughing at ourselves, thanking God “for who he is and what he’s done. It can be that dramatic. It is the bracing clarity of a new perspective.”

Over time, the experience described in the previous paragraph can become normal. But it doesn’t start that way. At the beginning, that feeling of the absence of God, along with a feeling of desperate spiritual poverty, dominates. But we must persevere, pushing forward to that place that Packer and Nystrom call getting “through duty to delight.”

Let us not understand, though. Even when the good experiences become “normal,” there will be times of dryness and emptiness that return. But, when we persevere, “the vivid reorientation of mind, and the overall sense of God on the heart, comes more frequently and sometimes in startling ways–interspersed with times of struggle and even absence.” The pursuit will bear fruit, “because God seeks for us to worship him (John 4:23) and because prayer is so infinitely rich and wondrous.”
(pp. 24-25)

Father, how well I know that prayer is hard. So many times, I have experienced this dryness, this emptiness, sometimes right on the heals of a seemingly victorious and fruitful day of prayer. I do not believe that it is you that is inconsistent, though. I know it is me. But I also know that you will take me through periods of testing, and periods of walking through the desert, in order to make those times of closeness and fruitfulness that much more blessed. And it is the promise of those times that keeps me persevering through the struggling times. Sometimes, I know that the struggles are due to my divided heart, and for that reason, I continue to pray that you will unite my heart to fear your name. Teach me through the difficulty of prayer, knowing that “nothing great is also easy.”

I pray for this day. I lift up Christi to you, who is struggling, this morning, with pain in her legs, as well as some sickness in her stomach. I pray for relief for her. May you grant us safety and success as we go out to do our chores, in a bit. And I pray for a good visit with Rachel and Justin, this afternoon. May your presence shine down on us, whatever we find ourselves doing.

Thank you for such a wonderful times over the past couple of days. Thank you that you provide for us, so that we could do the things we do, and so that we could bring my mother to participate. I pray that all of us may get some good rest today, as we prepare for another work week, ahead.

Your grace is sufficient.

Prayer is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you different. But the joy and reward that we receive, when we struggle through the difficult times, is without comparison. Don’t give up when the dry times come; don’t give up when you don’t feel the presence of God. It may feel as though he is absent, but he is NEVER absent! Never!

Grace and peace, friends.


Good morning. It is Friday! November 2, 2012. Today is “Look for Circles Day.” Hey, there’s one! Holding my coffee! Well, it’s more of a cylinder, but the top is a circle! There’s another one! In the middle of my acoustic guitar! And that lamp! This is going to be a busy day. I’d better get moving.

On this date in 1783, George Washington gave his farewell address to the Army.
On this date in 1889, North and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states in the U.S.
On this date in 1936, the British Broadcasting Company initiated the BBC Television Service. It was renamed BBC1 in 1964, and still runs to this day.
Also on this date in 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was established.
On this date in 1947, Howard Hughes flew the Spruce Goose for the first and only time. It was the largest fixed wing aircraft ever built.
On this date in 1959, game show contestant Charles Van Doren admitted to being given questions and answers in advance for the game show Twenty One.
On this date in 1965, Norman Morrison set himself on fire in front of the Pentagon to protest the use of napalm in Vietnam.
On this date in 1983, Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Today’s birthdays include Daniel Boone, 1734, Marie Antoinette, 1755, James Polk (11th President), 1795, Warren G. Harding (29th President), 1865, Burt Lancaster, 1913, Stephanie Powers, 1942, Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer), 1944, kd lang, 1961, David Schwimmer (Friends), 1966, Orlando Cabrera (baseball player), 1974.

We finally all got to the gym last night. It’s the first time all three of us went in several weeks. Good times. Not a whole lot more to report. I think we might be taking Stephanie and Michael out for dinner tonight. I’m not sure what the weekend holds, either, besides the normal stuff.

Father, I pray for some revelation this morning as I continue to learn how to follow Jesus. May your Holy Spirit lead me today.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 134. This is the last “Song of Ascents.” Since it is placed last, there are many who feel that the first two verses sung by departing worshipers, as they encourage the priests who tend the temple at night.

1 A Song of Ascents. Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!
3 May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “Authority and Independence.” The scripture reading is from John 14:15, which says, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. “Our Lord never insists upon obedience; He tells us very emphatically what we ought to do, but He never takes means to make us do it.” You’ll notice that most of the time, when speaking of discipleship, Jesus prefaced his statements with “if.” IF I want to be his disciple, I must give up my right to myself. I don’t have to do it. He will not force me to do it. It must be done out of a oneness of spirit with Jesus. We must also understand that these words do not refer to “eternal positions, but of being of value to Himself in this order of things.”

“The Lord does not give me rules, He makes His standard very clear, and if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation.” If there is hesitation, it is because I love something else more than I love Jesus, most likely myself. There is a point at which I must decide to leave self behind and obey Christ, if I want to be a true disciple. Chambers says that Christ will not help me obey. I’m not sure I totally agree with that. I would not be able to obey at all, were it not for his life in me. But I think I get what he means. I must get beyond the small, petty things in my life that hinder me. I must decide that they don’t matter. I must leave behind everything in my life that is not of Christ. This is difficult, perhaps even impossible. Again, the reason that I don’t agree with the thought the Jesus does not help me. Anyway, getting beyond that…once I do obey, redemption flows through me, out of me, into other lives and others are blessed. I have no idea how many people will ultimately be blessed through my obedience. Furthermore, that should not be my concern. It is simply my duty to lose myself and obey Jesus.

Father, I praise you this morning for the life of Christ in me. I do believe that his life in me helps me obey him. I know that my obedience is far from perfect, and I continually pray that I might be a faithful disciple. I do desire to be a disciple, therefore my heart’s desire is to obey your commandments. This is one reason, among many, that I do this thing in the mornings. I sense growth in my inner being, more of a desire to give up my right to myself and allow you to take over. Keep me working toward that, as I continue to discover the importance of allowing Jesus to live his life through me. I pray that people will see me as a “person of peace,” both at home and at work, and any place I happen to be. I pray daily for the characteristics of Christ to be manifest in my life. Make these things that don’t matter smaller and smaller in my life.

I pray for this day. Christi is working from home today. I pray that she will have plenty of uninterrupted time to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Give her peace in this setting, and may the fact that she is working from home serve to shield her from the normal stress and tension of a work day. I also pray that you would continue to heal the pain in her leg and foot. I pray for Stephanie today, that she would not take too much liberty with the fact that her mother is home. Help her understand that Christi is home to work. I also pray that you draw Steph’s heart closer to yours I pray for my work day, as well, that you would make it a smooth day for us, with no issues to prevent us from achieving our goals.

I continue to lift up people affected by hurricane Sandy. I pray that power would be restored to the millions of people who may still be without power. I pray for comfort and hope for those whose lives have been drastically altered by this storm. I pray for relief efforts to be unimpeded, and that your Church would rise up and be a force of healing in this time.

Our obedience is voluntary, but what blessings come when we do obey! If we would be disciples…”IF.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Attachment and Detachment

Good morning. It is Thursday (but we’re calling it “pre-Friday” now), October 18, 2012. Today is “National No Beard Day.” Treason. Or heresy. Or something. I shall NOT participate in that. Perhaps I’ll have a chocolate cupcake, since it is also “National Chocolate Cupcake Day.”

On this date in 1648, Boston Shoemakers formed the first U.S. labor union.
On this date in 1767, Mason and Dixon drew a line.
The U.S. took possession of Alaska on this date in 1867. We bought it from Russia or $7.2 million.
On this date in 1898, the U.S. took possession of Puerto Rico. Who did we buy that from? Hmmm…I guess we just took that one. I bet it had something to do with reports from baseball scouts.
The BBC was founded on this date in 1922.
On this date in 1925, the Grand Ole Opry opened in Nashville, Tennessee.
On this date in 1929, women achieved “personhood” status under Canadian law.
The first transistor radio was announced by Texas Instruments on this date in 1954.
On this date in 1967, the Soviet probe Venera-4 reached Venus and became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet.
On this date in 1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were arrested for drug possession. That’s news? Maybe it was the first time.
On this date in 1974, soul singer Al Green’s ex-girlfriend burst in on him in the bathtub, poured scalding hot grits on his back, and went to his bedroom, where she killed herself with his gun.
And on this date in 1977, Reggie Jackson hit three consecutive home runs in game six of the World Series. Off of three consecutive pitches, from three different pitchers. This earned him the nickname, “Mr. October.”

Birthdays today include Matthew Henry, 1662 (the one that wrote the Bible commentary), Chuck Berry, 1926, George C. Scott, 1927, Keith Jackson, 1928, Chuck Swindoll, 1934, Peter Boyle, 1935, Lee Harvey Oswald, 1939, Mike Ditka, 1939, Howard Shore, 1946, Laura Nyro, 1997, Pam Dawber, 1951.

I didn’t have a good afternoon yesterday, in terms of trying to “live out” what I’m learning, lately. In short, I got pretty upset over a situation at work, and one that probably didn’t warrant it as much. I let someone get to me pretty badly. And I felt bad about it for the rest of the day. So much so, that I couldn’t wait to get to the gym last night to work off the frustration. That helped. But, it showed me that I’m definitely not there yet. There is still much to do as I attempt to let the life of Christ be lived in me. Today is a new day, and I will go forth knowing that God is my refuge and strength.

Christi is still in a lot of pain from whatever it is that is wrong. We continue praying and waiting until Monday, when she has another doctor’s visit. Again, she was in too much pain to do the workout last night.

Father, I pray for a glimpse of you this morning, as I look into your word.

Today, I’m finishing up Psalm 119 with verses 169-176.

169 Taw. Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!
170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

As this lengthy psalm comes to a close, the psalmist cries out for understanding. His lips and tongue will sing praises to the Lord for the truth of God’s word. Finally, he prays that the Lord will not forsake him when he goes astray, but seek to bring him back to the path of truth.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Key to Missionary Devotion.” The scripture reference is 3 John 7, which says, For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

Jesus has told us how we show that we love him. He told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” We are to identify ourselves with his interests in other people. We are NOT to identify God with our interests in other people. We tend to get that confused. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 shows the character of this love. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. This is “the love of God expressing itself.”

“Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the supernatural work of Redemption wrought in me by the Holy Ghost Who sheds abroad the love of God in my heart, and that love works efficaciously through me in contact with everyone I meet.” The key to this “missionary devotion” is that I am attached to nothing and no one other than Jesus Christ. It does NOT mean that I am detached from external things, though. The detachment is on the inside, in the spirit, towards God. “External attachment is often an indication of a secret vital attachment to the things we keep away from externally.” That’s deep. Think about that one for a while!

I must keep my soul open to the nature of Jesus. That is the loyalty to him. We are but ordinary people, in an ordinary world. But we have an extraordinary devotion/attachment to Jesus Christ, that is brought by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Father, I pray for this attachment to be made manifest in my life. I pray that the internal attachment to only Christ will play itself out in the manifestation of the characteristics shown in 1 Corinthians 13, as well as in the Beatitudes. These things are the life of Christ, the love of God, being displayed through the lives and hearts of people who are attached only to you. I failed in this yesterday, Lord. I confess that. The flesh won out in the battle yesterday, as anger manifested itself. Frustration won out. But I will not beat myself up over that, for it is past. It is yesterday. Today is a new day, and there will be opportunities to manifest the love of Christ in my life. I pray that I will be successful today.

I pray for this day. I continue to pray for healing for Christi’s pain. I pray, too, that she will have a non-stressful day today. I pray that Stephanie’s day will be a good day, and that she will be drawn to look at your word today and think about you. I pray for my work day, that it will be a good day, with no issues. Keep me in an attitude of prayer during the day. Show me that loyalty as I devote myself to Christ.

I must look for that attachment in my spirit and remain detached from the world, internally, but not externally. There’s a fine line there.

Grace and peace, friends.