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.

As the Ruin Falls

“Only when we will to live in Christ do our actions become his. I am not speaking here of human willpower but of radical reliance on the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to transcend egoism, moodiness, and laziness.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Saturday, July 5, 2014.

Today is Hop A Park Day. Not to be misconstrued as “Hop Over A Park Day,” this day is simply intended to encourage people to get out and visit a local park.

Yesterday was a pretty nice day. After I finished blogging, we went to the Main Street Cafe in Keller for a late breakfast. After breakfast, we went on up to far north Keller to take Stephanie to Megan’s dad’s house, where she would spend the rest of the day and last night. Then, for an unexpected treat, Christi and I decided to go to Grapevine, to Nails Spa, to get a pedicure. Let me tell you, if you’ve never had a pedicure, at least one like these people give, you don’t know what you’re missing. Hot oils, massages, hot stones, different fragrances (mine was the “Thai Coconut deluxe pedicure), and oh, so relaxing. Except for those few times when they hit a ticklish spot. They even scrape all that dead skin off your heels. Oh, and somewhere, during all of that, they clip your toenails. They’ll paint them, too, if you want. I’m not quite bold enough to try that, yet.

After we got home from Grapevine, Christi went back to her mom’s apartment and finished the last of the unpacking and hung stuff up on the walls. I played baseball on the X-Box. Then we had pizza from PapaJohn’s, watched some TV, pausing every time big booms of fireworks went off, because Tessie went nuts. Poor thing. She hates July 4th. 🙂 Over all, it was a very nice day, pretty much exactly what I was hoping for.

Today, it’s grocery shopping, and then church this evening. That will be a bit on the different side, as a lot of key people are out of town today. We are going to have a time of worship and prayer, with no preaching (because the pastor is one of those aforementioned “key people”), and I’ll be leading the prayer times. I’m also leading the Lord’s Supper, and have to make the coffee as well. Going to be a busy afternoon. However, I may not make a full pot of coffee, because I don’t think there are going to be very many people there. We know of quite a few that will not be there.

Tomorrow, as previously mentioned, we will be going to Mineral Wells to visit my parents, since we never got to see them around Father’s Day.

The Texas Rangers lost their sixth consecutive game last night. The Red Sox got postponed by a hurricane. Or tropical storm. Some guy named “Arthur.” They will play a double-header today, beginning at 13:05 Eastern time. This has been a dreadful season, so far. Unless you’re an Oakland fan. I don’t know any Oakland fans. I don’t think there are even any in Oakland. Their fans rank just above Tampa’s.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1921 that the a trial began, with jury selection, against eight Major League Baseball players who were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. These players were on the Chicago White Sox, who had played the Cincinnati Reds during the 1919 World Series. Among those charged was one of the most famous baseball players of that era, Shoeless Joe Jackson. It was the discontent of the players, due to being underpaid by White Sox owner Charles Comisky, that fueled the scandal. Gamblers offered money (although not a huge amount) to individual players, asking them to lose games intentionally. However, the gamblers did not pay the players, which resulted in open complaints by the players, which, in turn, led to the publicizing of the whole scandal.

Owners eventually hired Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as their commissioner, who, subsequently, barred all eight players from every playing again. This decision was unfair to Buck Weaver, who refused to take any of the money, and was banned because he didn’t turn in the rest of the players. And even though he did take some money, there is no evidence that Shoeless Joe ever played less than he was capable of. In fact, he had the highest batting average of either team during that World Series.

A book and movie have been released about this scandal, called Eight Men Out.

As for the “Say it ain’t so, Joe” quote, it probably never happened. Here are the words of Joe, himself: “I guess the biggest joke of all was that story that got out about “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Charley Owens of the Chicago Daily News was responsible for that, but there wasn’t a bit of truth in it. It was supposed to have happened the day I was arrested in September of 1920, when I came out of the courtroom. There weren’t any words passed between anybody except me and a deputy sheriff. When I came out of the building this deputy asked me where I was going, and I told him to the Southside. He asked me for a ride and we got in the car together and left. There was a big crowd hanging around the front of the building, but nobody else said anything to me. It just didn’t happen, that’s all. Charley Owens just made up a good story and wrote it. Oh, I would have said it ain’t so, all right, just like I’m saying it now.” (Source: Wikiquote)

Today’s birthdays include Huey Lewis, Judge Joe Brown, Bill Watterson, Marc Cohn, Mary Walcott, Phineas Taylor Barnum, Richard “Goose” Gossage, Jimmy Crespo, and Jason Wade.

There are several worthy of note. Bill Watterson is the creator of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. He is 56 today, same age as me!
Calvin and Hobbes

Marc Cohn is a singer songwriter who wrote this great song, “Walking in Memphis,” released way back in 1991. He is 55 today.

Finally, Jason Wade is the lead singer of the group Lifehouse. Here is their video of the hit song “You and Me.”


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Psalm 96:7-10
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Psalm 80:1-3
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Psalm 31:5
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:1b-2
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Psalm 84:2-3

“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and
sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that I, putting away all
earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of public worship, and
grant as well that my Sabbath upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest
promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Contact Through Faith.”

Do you remember the story from Mark 5 of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years? By touching merely the hem of the robe of Jesus, she was healed. Instantly, Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:30) Peter, in essence, said, “You’re kidding, right? There are hundreds of people around you, and you want to know who touched you??” (My paraphrase) But then Jesus explained: “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” (Only Luke recorded this part, 8:46) “Among all those in physical contact with Jesus at that moment, this woman’s touch was accompanied by faith–faith sufficient to unleash the divine power in the Master.”

We, in the current age, have been made one with Christ in baptism. Our contact is much closer, more intimate. We have the ability to “transform even our most mundane experiences into those of Christ.” But we, like the woman in the Gospels, must “activate that contact through faith.” As this gets a little deeper, we see that we must will this faith; we must will this transformation. “Only when we will to live in Christ do our actions become his. I am not speaking here of human willpower but of radical reliance on the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to transcend egoism, moodiness, and laziness.” Ouch?

I love how the writings of Brennan Manning alternate between loving and encouraging, and challenging and admonishing. One day, I will be enjoying the loving grace of Jesus, and the next, writhing in agony as if I were just punched in the gut. Yes, I’m moody, lazy, and egotistical. I’m so much like the C.S. Lewis poem. You know the one, right? “As the Ruin Falls.”

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

I wish I could communicate the emotion that I feel when I read and listen to this beautiful poem/song. But I cannot. I can only hope that you can get a sense of it yourself. I must will the transformation, but even that will comes from that “radical reliance” on the Spirit. Lately, I haven’t been doing real great at that. I pray that it will be better.

The aim of our charge is love
that issues from a pure heart and
a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5

Father, I pray for more will. I pray for more of that radical reliance on your Spirit, that I might will to live in Christ. Again, I pray for the ability to see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and feel with his heart. Let that be a reality in my life. Most days, I do pretty good, for a few minutes. Then I get in traffic, or I get to work, or someone aggravates me on Facebook. In truth, I’m too predictable. Father, make me unpredictable!

I pray for the remainder of this day. Christi is out, again, doing things for her mother. I pray that is going smoothly. I pray for our worship time, which will happen in a few hours. I pray that, for those who attend, it will be a time of intimate communion with you through songs and prayer, as well as the participation in The Supper.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we all have the grace to will ourselves out of our egoism, laziness, and moodiness, that we might live in Christ.
As the ruin falls
Grace and peace, friends.