Tag Archives: prayer

Lesson Two: Means & Ends

Something my professor, Dr. Randy Roberts, said in my “Learning to Love God and Others” class hit really close to home. Therefore, I have a confession to make: my devotional times have been an idol. Almost every day for years now I have made it a priority to spend time alone with God. I like to set aside the first portion of my wakefulness to read my Bible, meditate on God’s message for me, pray, and occasionally read an entry from a devotional. Sometimes I used to even blog as a response to whatever God showed me.

So how could this ever be an idol? This may sound surprising, and indeed I was surprised to realize this about myself. The sad truth is that for far too long I have viewed my quiet times as an ends, not a means. I’m not saying it’s bad to read your Bible, pray, meditate on God’s Word, memorize Scripture, etc. I’m saying they’re not the ultimate point. Our quiet times must always be a means to an ends, not the ends themselves. For years, I would read my Bible for the sake of reading my Bible. Shame on me! For years I would pray for the sake of praying. Oh, what vanity! For years I would do these things because I thought I was supposed to do these things. These things are not meant to terminate on themselves, they are meant to point us upwards.

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I forgot why I did these things: to connect to my Savior. I must read my Bible not just for the sake of reading my Bible, but in order that I may know my God in a deeper way. I must pray not for the sake of simply praying but in order that I may commune with my Savior. I must attend church not for the sake of warming up a seat, but so that I may worship my Maker.

Our quiet times are not a ends, they are a means. We must always remember why we read the Bible, why we pray, why we spend time memorizing the Bible, why we attend church, why we do all the things that we do.

We do these things because they are a means to a far greater ends. We do these things so that we may connect with the God of the universe. We do these things to to fall deeper in love with our Savior.

Grieve with hope

God never promised that life would be easy. In fact, Jesus promises pretty much the opposite in John 16:33. Jesus says we will have trouble. Life is full of pain, grief, and sorrow. These emotions are all part of the human experience. They’re a part of who we are and how we experience this fallen, broken world. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reassures us that this is normal. There are times and seasons for everything.

Specifically, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there are times to mourn. There are times for sorrow; but there are also times to celebrate. Life is a paradox. One of my favorite quotes comes from the character Brian in Vanilla Sky, he says, “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour…”

I think life is a lot like that. It takes the sour to appreciate the sweet. It takes death to appreciate life. And it’s okay to mourn when people die. In fact, it’s Biblical. Look at the Psalms. Sixty-seven psalms are regarded as lament psalms either wholly or in part. Sixty-one are laments in their entirety. To me, one of the saddest Psalms, is Psalm 88. Look at Psalm 88:14, 16, 18. Those verses are tragic. Yet in Psalm 88:1 the Psalmist refers to God as “the God who saves me.”

After Job lost everything, he went into a deep state of sorrow. In Job 2:13, his friends show up and just sit there with him for a whole week. No one says anything; they’re just there for him, supporting him, comforting him.

Even Jesus, in Mark 14:34 says that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Even Jesus! Arguably the shortest verse in the Bible (depending on what translation you use) is John 11:35 where the text says that “Jesus wept.” If Jesus can mourn, so can we. If Jesus can feel despair, so can we. It’s okay.

It’s not a sin to feel sorrow, despair, or depression (although it can be easy to sin while feel like this). The problem comes when we try to hide our emotions from God; or when we try to “sterilize” our prayers. Many of the Psalms are full of questions to God. Questions like, “How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3), or “Why have you rejected us forever, O God?” (Psalm74:1). Those are just two examples but there are dozens of others.

My point is simply this, when time are hard and we feel pain, we need to be honest with God. We need to bring our pain to Him and lean on Him for strength. Psalm 142:1-2 talks about being open and honest with God. Psalm 143:1 asks God to listen, with verse 10 asking for guidance. And Psalm 144:1-2 gives praise to God calling Him our fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield.We need to admit that we don’t understand the world but that we trust in someone who does. God is in charge and it’s not our place to know all the answers to life’s questions.

The good news is that we have hope; if not in this life, then certainly in the next. God will be victorious and He will be glorified. Although most of the Psalms are lament psalms, read the last one, Psalm 150:6 is the last verse in the book of Psalms and it simply says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

God also promises that he will be with us during hard times. One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is 1 Peter 5:10. While it does promise that we may suffer for “a little while” it also promises that God Himself will restore us and make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.”

To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:11).