Thursday, March 30, 2023

Why We Don't Pray: Fear of Silence


More from Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton:

Listen to the sound of silence

We Don't Pray for Fear of Silence

Many people are pretty comfortable with the spirituality they've got, and prayer  -  as well as living like everything Jesus says about prayer is true  -  risks the possibility of silence.

"Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life," writes Dallas Willard, "And in that quiet, what if there turns out to be very little to 'just us and God'?"

What if I actually strip away the music and the community and the sermon, strip away all the noise of my familiar faith expression? Left with just me and God, what if I discover there's actually not much to just me and God?

Prayer means the risk of facing silence where we're addicted to noise. It's the risk of facing a God we've mastered talking about, singing about, reading about, and learning about. It means risking real interaction with that God, and the longer we've gotten used to settling for the noise around God, the higher the stakes. What if it's awkward or disappointing or boring, or what if God stands me up altogether?

When we've got that much to lose, prayer might be scarier than the avoidance of never being alone with God.

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Truth is...if my model for interacting with Yahweh is filled with crunching guitars, chest-pounding percussion (or teeth-rattling bass notes from a pipe organ, for that matter), and highly-amplified-but-mostly-cliche words of praise, the words of Psalm 46:10 can truly be frightening: "Be still and know that I am God."

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Why We Don't Pray: Fear of Being Naïve


Sometime in December, my daughter-in-law posted a picture of a few books she was getting ready to read. One of them caught my eye and I asked her to let me know how it was. Little did I know that she had already purchased a copy to give me for Christmas!

The book is Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton. I'm only into the second chapter, yet here I am, already feeling the need to share a series of quotes from it. In fact, today and for the next seven weeks this blog will be featuring four reasons the author says we don't pray, followed by four positive twists that become reasons why we should pray.

Praying Like a Monk

We Don't Pray for Fear of Being Naive

The scenes of my life play out against the backdrop of a fiercely logical, intellectual city. In that environment, there is no greater sin than naivete. In a city like New York or Portland, there is nothing less fashionable than a state school grad from a Midwestern suburb fresh off the plane and wide-eyed in the big city. Innocence is terribly out of style.

Everything we interact with in this small, cramped, secular world of our own making, we have the potential of mastering. In fact, we must master it quickly in order to survive  -  the most efficient route between home and the office, how to move up the ranks at work, how to eat sushi without looking stupid, how to cut across lanes on our bicycles and live to tell the tale. And if we can't master it, we can always avoid it. I'll just change industries, avoid chopsticks, and take an Uber.

Prayer can't be mastered. Prayer always means submission. To pray is to willingly put ourselves in the unguarded, exposed position. There is no climb. There is no control. There is no mastery. There is only humility and hope.

To pray is to risk being naive, to risk believing, to risk playing the fool. To pray is to risk trusting someone who might let you down. To pray is to get our hopes up. And we've learned to avoid that. So we avoid prayer.

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Truth is...maybe "the world" considers us naive and foolish when we open ourselves up to a God we can't see. But maybe there's a reason why I'm suddenly thinking of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3  -  “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven."

Thursday, March 16, 2023



More wisdom from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (compiled and edited by James N. Watkins):

O Lord, I am not worthy of your comfort nor any sense of your presence. You would have dealt justly with me if you had left me poor and deserted. For if I were able to pour forth tears like the sea, I would still not be worthy of your comfort.... What have I done, O Lord, that you should sprinkle any heavenly comfort on me? I remember no good that I have done, but I have been ever prone to sin and slow to repentance. It is true, and I cannot deny it.... But what do you require of guilty and miserable sinners? That they be sorry and humble themselves for their sin. Only in true sorrow and humiliation of heart do we hope for pardon, for our troubled conscience to be reconciled, for lost grace to be recovered...

Prodigal Son is welcomed home

Truth long as I think God's too picky and I'm not all that bad, I am without hope. But the moment I realize my utter need, Yahweh, like the prodigal son's father, meets me more than halfway and showers me with love, affection, and restoration.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Parable of the Prop Table


[The following was originally posted June 24, 2008, in the humor blog, Almost the Truth.]

I just finished the first of two weekends full of performances with Giant Step Theatre. (Current production: Aladdin's Lamp, in which I appear as the Genie.) It's always an interesting experience taking the stage surrounded by 70-90 3rd-10th graders, especially when your head is shaved and you've painted yourself blue, but I've actually been led into a slightly deeper mode of thought than normal because of something that happens fairly frequently with Giant Step. . .

It's not unusual (Tom Jones, anyone?) to enter the auditorium and be instantly confronted by a 2 foot, 10 inch, cherub-faced pixie sadly proclaiming, "Dewey? I can't find my prop. I'm supposed to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, and I can't find it." Translation: Dewey? I just remembered that I need to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, but when I stood still and looked around at my feet, I couldn't see it.

The solution is normally to encourage the treasure hunter to actually go to the backstage tables that hold all of the props (physical PROPerties that actors use as part of their onstage roles: a purse, a cane, a golden lamp full of genies, etc.) and look at the spot that has been outlined and labeled "rubber chicken" or "Persian gold" or "Shabeeb's whip." 99.44% of the time, the hopelessly lost prop is found right where it belongs.

This is what got me thinking about Real Truth and not just almost.

It strikes me as odd when people go off in search of themselves. Um...aren't you right there? Isn't it true that "Wherever you go in life...that's where you are?"

Okay...settle down...I get it. Searching for oneself is actually searching for meaning and trying to find one's place in this gobbledy-gook mess we call life. And the serious point here is that to stare at your own navel and attempt to find purpose and meaning is like looking for a rubber chicken in the dressing room instead of the prop table.

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Truth is...There is a Creator, and it only makes sense that the Creator would have a better handle on what we've been created for than we do.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Do You Believe Jesus Will Return to Earth One Day?


In a survey conducted April 11-17, 2022, the Pew Research Center asked, "Do you believe Jesus will return to Earth one day?"

I find the results from that one question to be...interesting.

55% of the Americans surveyed answered, "Yes," 25% answered "No," and 16% said, "I don't believe in Jesus" (which qualifies as a "no," but seems to be a significant distinction from that).

So...Jesus came out slightly ahead overall. That's nice.

What caught me off-guard were the figures for the people who identified themselves as Christians. With a high of 92% of Evangelicals and a low of 62% of Catholics, overall within the group of people who say they are Christians, only 75% said they believe that Jesus will return.

Chew on that a little bit. A full 25% of people who call themselves Christians don't believe the clear teaching of the Bible that "this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)

But that's not the worst of it.

2% of all Christians (3% of Catholics and those in mainline protestant denominations) answered "I don't believe in Jesus."


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Truth is...I am perplexed and possibly apoplectic. But I am also saddened. What kind of pointless, self-deluding game is being played by "Christians" who don't believe in Jesus?