14 October 2015

Prayer & Thanksgiving: The Christians Duty - Part 3

So far we've taken a look at some of the issues that affect a persons prayer life, and have begun looking at some ways to get out of that rut. We now turn to how using the Lord's prayer can be a help. Many people use the Lord’s prayer as an outline to assist them to go through a prayer time – breaking down each segment into a topic, and then praying accordingly.

For instance, the first segment – “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” – is about praising God and honoring his name – so you can begin your prayer by spending some time in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. This section alone should give you plenty to pray about if you stop and think of all He is and does.

When done, you move to the next segment – “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven“ – would launch you into praying for things that would advance the kingdom and God’s purposes on Earth. Prayer for how you can be used to advance the kingdom is an essential portion of prayer. 


I won't go thru the entire prayer, but hopefully you can see how breaking it down and using each section as an outline of sorts can be a great help if you find yourself at a loss for words at prayer time.

Let's look at one of the many issues that can affect a Christian’s prayer life.


CYNICISM

Cynicism is unfortunately very predominant in this day and age, and Christians are not immune to it. Jesus says to have more of a child like faith, but cynicism is pretty much the opposite of that. And many Christians stand on the edge of cynicism as they struggle with defeat and spiritual weariness.

We have hope, unlike a true cynic, but the weariness can steal much of our life away when it comes to faith and prayer. This weariness, just like cynicism, questions the active goodness of God towards us. If left alone, it will grow to swing the door open to bigger and bigger doubts. One writer on the topic stated it this way:

“I think we have built up scar tissue from our frustrations, and we don’t want to expose ourselves anymore. Fear constrains us.”
And another states:
“I know that I am not alone in my struggle with cynicism. But most of us are not aware that it is a problem, or that it is taking hold in our hearts. It just feels like we can’t find the joy in things, like we are too aware to trust or hope.”
Cynicism creates numbness towards life, and we begin to slowly adjust our passion to live within those confines. We begin being skeptical of everything – looking for the hidden angle – trying to find the cloud behind the silver lining. We are suspect of things, and we critique everything, rather than being engaging - and loving - and hopeful.

It may protect you from disappointment, but it actually paralyzes you from doing anything. It leads to bitterness, frustration, and eventually deadens our spirit. It causes us to be distant and destroys the intimacy we should have with our heavenly Father and those around us.

A praying life, a true praying life is just the opposite. It is engaging, not defeated. It doesn’t take no for an answer and is not pessimistic – it stands up against evil and fights back – it offers hope to us and those around us.

HOW IT BEGINS

Cynicism tends to start within, out of a wrong type of faith – a naive optimism or foolish confidence. Naive optimism appears to be very similar to true faith, in that, both produce confidence and hope, but that similarity is only on the surface.

Genuine faith comes from an intimate knowledge that the Father indeed cares and loves you, and is there for you. Naive optimism is groundless, and tends to be a childlike trust without the necessary inclusion of a loving Father in the equation.

Naive optimism tells us we do not need to pray because God is in control, and everything will be fine. In cynicism, we cannot pray because everything is out of control and there is nothing we feel that we or anyone can do about it.

In America’s early days, the goodness of God was something a large majority knew and lived. It was this knowledge that gave them the can-do attitude - giving them the courage and boldness that led to establishing the hallmarks of Western civilization.

Unfortunately, at we entered into the 19th century, the optimism shifted from knowledge of the goodness’s of God, to relying on the goodness of man. Faith itself started becoming the object in and of itself – but faith in WHAT?

More and more, culture pushes into a belief in one’s self, and less a trust and belief in the goodness of God. It is all around us, and as Christians it can even seep in and find a foothold in an already weary spirit, and slowly turn us more and more towards cynicism.

American culture has become a culture of striving for “perfection” – the perfect relationship, perfect family, perfect kids, perfect body, etc. and as we fail to gain that expected perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a spirit of cynicism.

We then begin to put on a good face, and act the part. We attempt to fool others into believing we are all well and perfect, and we hide the true condition within. In essence we can end up creating multiple public versions of ourselves, each to fit a different group of people around us.

We cease to be real – we cease to open up to others – we retreat from community and become more and more individualistic as a way of hiding our true selves.

More and more we find ourselves within the valley of the shadow of death – but more and more we retreat or give in to it. We begin to distance ourselves from the fight, because the fight seems too big or too hard.

We have forgotten the true goodness and care of our loving Father, and often feel as though we are walking alone. We often do not always expect an answer to our prayers, or strength in times of trouble, and so we often do not receive – or we do not even ask.

We have forgotten what the promises in Scripture tell us:

John 15:7 - If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

John 16:23 - Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

Mark 11:24 - Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Matt. 21:22 - And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

Here in this verse in Mark - we have Jesus and his disciples walking along, Jesus is hungry, finds an empty fig tree, curses it and it withers. And the disciples are amazed, and Jesus says they too can do this and so much more if they have faith.

Now, our logical 21st century mind “knows” there is no way we could ever do any of these things with our faith, and so we never consider them possibilities – and…. we never ask – and… we thus sit in our skepticism rather than expect the goodness that our Father has to offer.



In the next part I will begin looking at six cures for this cynicism. 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5