Let’s face it: for some of us, praying for the nation is hard. Sure, it’s a nice idea, and the Bible talks about here and there. But just what is it about the nation that you feel the need to single-handedly bring to the attention of the God of the universe? Maybe someone already beat you to it. And which of the thousands of problems of the nation should you be bringing to God in prayer?Continue reading How to Pray for the Philippines
Worship is one of the ultimate themes of this life, regardless of whether you are a religious person or not. Many of us may find that hard to believe but it is true. It is never a question of whether we worship or not because in reality, we do worship someone or something. We simply don’t call it worship. We prefer to use neutral terms like passion, commitment, or focus.
I believe one of the ways we can identify the object of our worship is to see our reaction when it comes up in a conversation. Whatever that thing is, it always triggers our strongest reactions— our greatest joy or fiercest anger. It’s that topic we passionately talk about for hours on end. It is that person or thing that answers this statement: If only I can have ________, then I would finally be happy, or fulfilled, or satisfied. Put another way, it is the thing that if taken away from us, we will be truly devastated. Continue reading That Thing That Triggers Your Strongest Reactions
Worship is fueled by sound theology. The more you understand the self- revelation of God through His Word, the more your heart responds in genuine worship.
The heart of a worshiper doesn’t soar high if you try to stir it up with hype and tired clichés. Loud shouts and clanging cymbals can’t create spiritual fire. Smoke machines and sophisticated guitar riffs can’t generate zeal. All these musical instruments are tools; the real fire of our worship burns when our hearts are gripped with a revelation of who God is. Continue reading We Don’t Need a Louder Band
Worship leader, the important thing is not whether you can call down thunder and set hearts aflame with your songs, but whether you have personally felt the thunder and the flame of the songs you are singing. Does your heart burn with the gospel you are singing about?
–Adapted from Jared C. Wilson
It used to be that prayers were done in humble postures of the heart: asking, requesting, begging, like a servant bowed before the throne of a great king. Today, much of our prayers are about boldly declaring, decreeing, and commanding the blessings of God to go this way or that way. When did we start taking charge of God’s graces? When did we become too presumptuous?
Convicting words from Lee Eclov’s book Pastoral Graces:
Praying publicly is an occupational hazard for pastors because it is so easy to pray on autopilot. We pray so often for the same things that it is hard to be thoughtful and focused. I’ve stood before the church and said, “Let us pray,” bowed my head, and realized in that instant that I had no idea of what we actually needed to say to God. I wonder if such prayers are not a nuisance to God. They call for His attention but then have nothing to say. Continue reading Praying Cliché Prayers
Kuya Jojo, question po. Why do we publicly announce our prayer and fasting? Matthew 6:16-18 tells us to fast in secret. We also take pictures and post them on social media. Di ba parang masyado siyang commercialized?
We announce the schedule for logistical purposes: to invite people to join in and to let everyone know the time and the place of our prayer meetings. The act of fasting is between you and God. That is the part that is meant to be private.
Matthew 6:16-18 talks about the posture of the heart during fasting. Roughly, the text means that when you fast, don’t try to make a show of it to make people think you are more spiritual. Instead, put on your usual cosmetics (anointing the head is the ancient equivalent of applying cosmetics) and look normal. The Father rewards genuine fasting. The caution is not in letting others know that you are fasting (your household cook must be informed at the very least) but in the reason why you feel the need to let them know.
If you carefully read the text, you will notice a bit of grammatical detail. Look at this: “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.” The word ‘secret’ in verse 18 actually refers to God, not to the fasting. How do I know this? Because of the relative pronoun “who.” Basic English grammar tells us to use “which” for things and “who” for persons. Also, in Greek, the word translated ‘secret’ also means ‘invisible.’ If you put these together, the verse actually means that ‘the invisible God who sees what we do rewards the kind of fasting that is not done in hypocrisy.’
About the pictures, well, you raised a good point there. Some people use social media as a photo album. Others use it to airbrush their public image so they would look busy or important or cool. Churches often use social media to document events and give church members a place to get their photos. The difference is in the motive of the heart. Sure, there will be people who will think you are showing off. That’s why for all our good intentions, we should also exercise caution and wisdom.
R.C. Sproul in his book The Holiness of God:
There is a kind of sequence within the [Lord’s] prayer. God’s kingdom will never come where His name is not considered holy. His will is not done on earth as it is in heaven if His name is desecrated here. In heaven the name of God is holy. It is breathed by angels in a sacred hush. Heaven is a place where reverence for God is total. It is foolish to look for the kingdom anywhere God is not revered.
While I read that passage above, I kept thinking about the church. We always pray that God would show up in our services, that He will come down in power and glory. Now I feel foolish because I don’t see that reverence in my heart. And yet I ask for Him to come down and meet us. Lord, have mercy.
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts that we may perfectly love you and more worthily magnify your name through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Nine mornings to Christmas officially starts today. There’s nothing magical about it. You don’t get your prayers answered because you completed the traditions. Your prayers are answered because God is not deaf. He hears you. And you can pray to Him even outside Christmas season.