The Distance Between Two

What a long way it is between knowing God and loving him! – Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 377.

It is easier to talk about God than to talk to God.

It is easier to sense awe or delight in the created things – a sunrise, the face of a lover, the rugged mountain ranges – than it is to sense awe or delight in God. No matter the wranglings of theologians or philosophers, we are all still chained to sense perception at one level or another.

It is easier to know what is right and good than to consistently enact what is right and good. The difficulty only increases as life continues and we experience the challenges of daily life circumstances.

It is easier to succumb to temptation than it is to resist temptation. Why is this?

It is easy to love those like us and suspect those unlike us. It is hard to love, but difference increases the difficulty.

When wronged, it is easier to become angry than to resist anger. It becomes easier to forgiven when a wrong is readily admitted by the other. It is easy to become bitter when the wrong is ignored or trivialized. Time does not heal all wounds.

It is never easy to forgive. Forgiveness means letting go of certain elements of justice. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” The Cross becomes the key to forgiveness because God Himself chooses forgiveness in the face of His capacity for undiluted justice.

The invisible, faceless God is hard to know. The visible, incarnate God is life and love.

Four More Quotations on Prayer

CBR001323Last week, I shared four quotations on prayer from my message “Making Space for Prayer.” Here are four more quotations from my message, “Praying Like a Master,” which is the second  part of our series “The Art of Prayer” at Eastbrook Church.

“The Lord’s prayer is the essence of prayer. The essence and limit of all the disciples’ praying may be found in it.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 4 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), 155.

“The major preoccupation of children who come into their Father’s presence in prayer is not that we may receive what we need but that He may receive what He deserves – which is honor to His name, the spread of His kingdom, the doing of His will.” – John R. W. Stott, Sermon: “Growth in the Prayer Life,” 20 August 1989.

“All of the strength that comes in prayer comes from the goodness of God, for he is the goodness of everything.” – Julian of Norwich in Devotional Classics, revised edition, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2005), 77.

“Christ hath put it [the power of prayer] into the hands of men, and the prayers of men have saved cities and kingdom from ruin; prayer hath raised dead men to life, hath stopped the violence of fire, shut the mouths of wild beasts, altered the course of nature, caused rain in Egypt and drought in the sea. Prayer rules over all gods; it arrests the sun in its course and stays the chariot wheels of the moon; it reconciles our suffering and weak faculties with the violence of torment and the violence of persecution; it pleases God and supplies all our need.” – Jeremy Taylor, The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living, quoted in Ronald Dunn, Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992), 113.

Praying Like a Master (discussion questions)

Art of Prayer Series Gfx_App Square Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Praying Like a Master,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the second of a three-part series, “The Art of Prayer,” looking at Jesus’ approach to the life of prayer from the Gospel of Luke. This week we looked at Luke 11:1-13.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the best gift you ever received from a parent or grandparent? How did it shape the way you viewed them?
  2. This week we continue our series “The Art of Prayer” from the Gospel of Luke. As you begin your study, ask God to guide you into a deeper life of prayer with Him. Then, whether you are with a group or on your own, read Luke 11:1-13 aloud.
  3. This passage is the longest stretch of teaching on prayer in Luke’s Gospel. What do you notice about the beginning of this teaching? What prompts Jesus to teach on prayer?
  4. Luke 11:2-4 parallels Matthew 6:9-13 and is usually known as The Lord’s Prayer. It is really the disciples’ prayer, showing us the heart of what Christian prayer is all about. Why do you think it is significant that we address God as ‘Father’ when we pray?
  5. Jewish prayers or benedictions often included mention of God’s name and kingdom. What would you say is the importance of this aspect of Jesus’ model prayer in verse 2?
  6. What are the three main requests in the prayer found in verses 3-4?
  7. Some traditions encourage believers to regularly say the words of this prayer together to shape our minds, desires and language for prayer around Jesus’ teaching. Take a moment, whether on your own or with others, to slowly pray these words back to God. Perhaps you may want to take some extended time on each phrase, lifting up your own words related to the phrase you just prayed.
  8. The small parable in Luke 11:5-8 aims to help us understand our approach to prayer through an argument from smaller to greater. The Middle Eastern value of hospitality figures prominently in this parable as hosts are obligated to thoroughly care for guests. What does this parable teach us about our approach to prayer?
  9. Jesus offers three significant words that describe the life of prayer in Luke 11:9-10. How would you defined them:
    • “ask”:
    • “seek”:
    • “knock”:
  1. How have you experienced prayer as asking, seeking, and knocking? How might you grow in that?
  2. The final illustration in verses 11-13 is another comparison from smaller to greater similar to the parable in verses 5-8. What would you say is Jesus’ point in this illustration?
  3. What is one significant thing you are learning through this study? How might you put that into practice this week as you pray? Whether on your own or with a group, take some time to pray based off of what God was speaking to you during this study.

[Next week we continue our series on prayer by looking at Jesus’ labor of prayer in Luke 22:39-46. Read that passage ahead of time to prepare.]

Praying Like a Master

Art of Prayer Series Gfx_App WideI continue our series, “The Art of Prayer,” this past weekend at Eastbrook with a message entitled “Praying Like a Master” from Luke 11:1-13. Jesus is the Master of prayer, and if we want to truly learn about prayer then we must apprentice ourselves to the Master. When the disciples had spent enough time with Jesus, they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). With the disciples, we need to learn from Jesus’ essential teaching on prayer.

You can watch the message here, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

 

The What of Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)

Addressing the Father

Declaring His Name and His Kingdom

Requesting what we need: provision, forgiveness, endurance

 

The How of Prayer (Luke 11:5-10)

With shameless audacity

By asking, seeking, knocking

 

The Who of Prayer (Luke 11:11-13)

The Father above all fathers

The Gift above all gifts