Praying the Psalms

This piece was originally published at HorizonsResources.net

I find it hard to pray. This is an uncomfortable confession because, by all external standards, prayer should be easy for me by now. I grew up in a Christian home surrounded by family members who prayed and encouraged me to pray. I have been part of a church since my earliest memories, listening and learning from pastors and teachers who prayed confidently. I have read books about prayer, attended conferences, taken college courses focused on studying the Bible, and listened to countless sermons. I have all the credentials of someone who should be, at the very least, adequate at prayer. And yet it is the single most difficult and frustrating aspect of my relationship with God.

It hasn't always been this way. There have been seasons of my life, sweet and wonderful seasons, where prayer felt like an easy discipline. I would sit down to pray and find a few minutes had turned into a few hours and my notebook pages were full of my communication with God. There were times when prayer felt more urgent, but the discipline still felt natural, such as when a family member was battling cancer or my dad was in a serious car accident.

These seasons are not the norm for me, so prayer has most often felt difficult and awkward. As often as prayer is difficult, I feel like I should be better at it. I should be enjoying prayer more. I should come to prayer in awe that I can approach God at all rather than seeing prayer as a chore. I should have more to say because of what a gift it is to be able to say anything and know that I am heard and seen and loved by the Father.

Perhaps I am the only one who struggles like this. It has certainly felt that way in the past as people have shared with me how sweet their time with the Lord is. Prayer has seemed liked an inside joke I’d never understand, like something only an exclusive group of people ever fully experienced. I just didn’t get it.

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Christ's Power Made Perfect in Weakness

This article was originally published at HorizonsResources.net

“If we are willing to live by Scripture, we must be willing to live by paradox and contradiction and surprise.” -Madeleine L’Engle

In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes about the paradox of our weaknesses as followers of Christ. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

If we were sitting across from each other at a coffee shop, hands curled around warm drinks in the type of atmosphere that fosters vulnerability, I would tell you that most of the time, these paradoxes in our faith unsettle me. The difficulty with feeling unsettled about this passage is that I am often tempted to believe lies about what it actually says. The words get twisted in my mind, bent out of their original shape and meaning.

A few months ago, I took a cue from an artist I enjoy and started writing down lies that were bumping around in my head. He assigns the words to cartoon drawings of monsters, something I think is both funny and helpful. When I was thinking through this passage, I started writing down the lies I have believed about what it says, and they fall into three main categories. Maybe these words have been in the mouths of some of your own cartoon monsters.

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Quiet Faithfulness

Originally published by Horizons Resources

A year before I started college, I read a stack of books that were hot in the Christian book market (I was the cool kid in high school) and the familiar thread of full-time ministry as the highest calling ran through each. I was not alone. In fact, there was a movement of people my age who grabbed hold of these books and read them cover to cover, determining that full-time ministry was the only worthy calling for any Christian.

I’m sure for some of those people, full-time ministry was a perfect fit for their unique giftings and strengths, but for me and many others, this idea that some work was more spiritual than other work was a heavy burden to carry. These were books that said, “This is how you love and follow Jesus,” and then painted a picture of the Christian life in only primary colors.

The “radical” Christian life has become idolized in our churches and in Christian culture. We view pastors and missionaries as people who have a more direct connection to God, something deeper than what is available to the average person. The outflow of this idolization is a belittling of the lives of small, daily faithfulness.

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