Archives for posts with tag: Moving God’s Heart

Prayer series

Jesus once told a story about two men who went up to the temple to pray. We will look at that story this Sunday at Grace Church (Luke 18:9-14). Some may think it’s just another Pharisee-bashing tale Jesus was so famous for. “White-washed tombs,” “brood of vipers,” “foolish people,” “money lovers,” are just some of the choice words Jesus reserved for those characters. Do you ever feel sorry for them?

Well, you wouldn’t feel sorry for this particular one. This man epitomized everything that is wrong with the human race – prideful, prejudiced, self-absorbed, arrogant, pedantic, and worst of all, a fatally flawed predictor of God’s opinion of himself (small “h”). The man thought he had climbed the ladder of righteousness by his own merits. By doing a bunch of things, he was convinced he had made the cut and was not shy to break the news to God. Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Away from the proud corner stood a tax collector who ended up stealing the show for his uncanny ability to see himself for who he really was – an incorrigible sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. He didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward heaven. Too embarrassed to look around, he may not have noticed the Pharisee congratulating himself. With a heavy heart, he looked down while beating his chest and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner with capital ‘S’!”

When the judges were asked to raise their grades for the two prayers, Jesus’ little placard read “10” for the tax collector and “0” for the Pharisee. In theological terms the tax-collector, not the “other one” went home “justified.” Some translations say “made right with God.” And there you have it – Jesus’ point in telling this story. No, it was not to slam the Pharisee. Rather, it was to remind us that one of the principal purposes of prayer is to have our hearts, mind, and body become synced with God.

Luke said as much in the heading of that story: Jesus told it to warn against the dangers of thinking that you are good enough to be accepted by God merely because of your good works and the dangers of pride that causes you to despise others who don’t fit the prescribed bill for a divinely drafted bill of spiritual health.

The lesson is that prayer will do you no good until you understand your place in the cosmos – that you are dust, irreversibly attracted to messes, and perpetually wanting to color outside the lines outlined by your Creator. Prayer will get you nowhere until you know that you are nothing and that without God’s righteousness you will remain there even if you don’t believe so, like the delusional Pharisee.

While we love to think that our prayers can move God’s heart, there will be no divine movement until our hearts are moved to repentance and forgiveness. God must move in us first before He will allow Himself to be moved by us. And that’s one of the main things that prayer should accomplish – a recurring struggle to set the record straight with God, and then a glorious rising in the newness of His freeing forgiveness, which He offers to us lavishly because of what His Son did on the cross for us.

“God, please make us right with you when we pray.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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Prayer series

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be surprised when I come face-to-face with God. You start rattling off all the stuff you did in the Name of God, including persuasive preaching, powerful signs, miracles, etc., etc., and God looks at you and says, “Who are you?”

If that happened to me, I would probably drop dead again from a heart attack, if that were possible, of course. As surreal as this may sound, this is pretty much the picture is painted for us in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

It’s a devastating thing, isn’t it, to experience “successful” ministry while at the same time excluding God entirely from the picture. But how do we know if our “success” is God-induced or man-made? What are the signs that we may be relying entirely on our own abilities to get things done for God? Is there a God-o-meter in our life and ministry?

I think there is and it is called prayer. Unfortunately in most churches today prayer is only another item on the menu of ministry opportunities, a “thing” a handful of people still do in an obscure corner of the church. This is not what God intended for His people. Prayer is supposed to be the foundation of everything we do in the church. It should not be an option but a mandatory discipline for the follower of Christ. If we ever hope to be involved in something truly divine, we must make sure that we not only invite but make room and allow The Divine to come in and take over, permeating every facet of every detail of everything we do.

Prayer is more important than preaching. It is more important than singing. It is more important than all the other programs (forgive me for using this word) put together in the church. Without it, our souls shrivel, we lose our true north, and start resorting to pathetic little gimmicks that do nothing to advance the mission of Christ to reach people without hope.

We are starting a new series at Grace Church called “Prayer: Moving God’s Heart” with a study in the life of Hannah. This woman teaches us that sometimes we have to reach the end of ourselves in order for us to see God show up in a big way. And maybe that is a major reason we shove prayer to a little corner in the church – we haven’t reached the end of ourselves. So should we ask God to get us there?

I don’t wish for that, but just like Hannah had a rival in her life – a second wife who put her through hell (forgive me the language), maybe we also need a Peninnah in our lives. Someone or something that will drive us to our knees!

I wish to God this were not necessary, but if this is what it takes, I am willing to receive it as long as God gives me the grace and strength to grow through it.

So is there is “Peninnah” in your life?

“Father, please don’t allow me to succeed if I am not doing it in the strength of your power. And if necessary, please bring a person or a situation in my life that will send me running to your throne because I have nowhere else to turn. And please let me stay there until you come through in a big way. Not to change my circumstances necessarily, but to change me. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade