Holy Habits


prayer handsWhen I was growing up, rebellion was the in thing. Teen angst, questioning the establishment, finding fault in every “meaningless” adult action–these were the norm.

A good number of us Christians didn’t buy into all these challenges to society, but culture seeped into my thinking regardless. One way this became apparent was in questioning the value of doing things by rote. Rather, everything was to be authentic, transparent, significant. And what was the worth of doing things over and over simply because we’ve always done them?

Significance, of course, is important, as opposed to doing something for show. Yet some things don’t reveal their value immediately. Unfortunately, my generation expected instantaneous results. If something didn’t have apparent worth right then, it was shuttled off to the side.

Note the word “apparent” in that statement. Unfortunately, if something is not perceived to have immediate value, then the conclusion is, it doesn’t have any.

When it comes to being a Christian, here are some of the things I grew up with: church, Sunday school, evening Sunday service, youth group, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Youth for Christ or Young Life, family devotions, prayer before meals twice a day (three times during the summers when we were home at noon), vacation Bible school.

Mind you, nothing is sacred about any of those things, except assembling with believers in worship, which Scripture tells us not to stop doing. Yet, there is an advantage in developing holy habits. Each of those activities I remember from my growing up years served to reinforce what I knew and was learning about God. That these activities were important to my parents said something too.

Sadly, for too many of the adults, they were simply going through the motions, or they could have answered the questions about purpose and significance their teens were asking. They could have demonstrated authenticity, had their holy habits carried real meaning.

Instead, those holy habits started to fade. First to go was prayer meeting, then evening church. Pretty soon, showing up for a church service once in a while seemed to become the norm. Happily Bible studies and fellowship groups have risen more recently to take the place of some of the other activities.

Through it all, I’ve learned that nothing substitutes for personal holy habits.

I wondered and questioned, more than I care to relive, the value of reading the Bible when “I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” My mind would drift when I prayed, and I felt frustrated when I found myself faced with the same requests week after week.

Yet here I am years later, with such a different attitude toward spending time in God’s word and in prayer. When did this change happen? Somewhere in the midst of the routine of pulling out my Bible first thing every morning. The change didn’t happen because of something I did, and there was no switch God flipped inside me.

Rather, the holy habit of spending time with God, even when I didn’t feel like it, had a transforming effect. Or more accurately, God’s presence in His Word and by His Spirit made the time with Him increasingly more significant.

Yes, holy habits can be routine and seem mundane, but like any other habit, the value comes with time. Establishing the habit may be hard, but enjoying it once it’s in place—that’s priceless.

This post is a re-print of one that first appeared here in December 2012—because I needed to re-read it.

Prayer Requests


praying_guy-429125-mI’ve been in a number of situations where I had the opportunity to ask for prayer requests—as in, “I want to pray for you; tell me what you want me to pray about.” For whatever reason, the majority of the requests had to do with health, if not for the individual himself, then someone he knew.

I’m not opposed to praying for someone’s health. I do so frequently. The thing is, when we’re asking God to intervene on someone’s behalf to restore their health, we have no idea what God is doing in or through them because of the health crisis they’re in. So prayer for health generally becomes a prayer declaring God’s power and ability to heal and a request that He do so if it is His will.

I don’t know how else to pray for someone’s health issues. There are side topics—like wisdom for the health care providers, especially the doctors making decisions and performing procedures and running tests; for money to pay for everything; for the logistics of getting to and from doctor’s appointments; that sort of thing.

In the end, though, health issues can sometimes be the easy kind of prayer request. Instead of dealing with the tough stuff—relational issues or spiritual, things that God’s Word speaks to—we deliver our health requests.

The thing is, God wants us to pray according to His will. When a matter of concern deals with an issue addressed in the Bible, it’s easy to pray what Scripture says. That’s a sure way of praying according to God’s will.

So I can pray for missionaries to speak the truth in love or that their hearts will be encouraged or that God will open up a door for them to speak forth the mystery of Christ, or any number of other things with some assurance that these things taken from God’s word are consistent with His will.

However, I also like praying for specific needs. One missionary family I’ve prayed for is especially good in giving specifics—number of contacts, particular people who have not accepted Christ, logistics in relocating or traveling, the start of new endeavors, saying good-bye to old friends. Praying for these people really involves me in their ministry.

Too often it seems as if the only people who ask for prayer are missionaries. We might also pray with the people in our Bible study, but in my experience those are some of the requests that get pigeon-holed as health requests.

One Bible study I was in was so cool because it tied our prayer for each other with our study. We finished our study each week with a personal application—something specific and measurable—and that turned into the prayer request which the group then prayed for us during the prayer time and throughout the coming week.

I’m thinking about prayer requests because I’m thinking about prayer meetings and how so many of them have died. We have family fun nights and youth group and yes, Bible studies. I’m all in favor of each of those, but I wonder if we shouldn’t do more about prayer.

My church has a prayer room that’s open after each service and there is a prayer team that will pray for people if they have requests. But what I’m thinking is that prayer should not be something that the “team” does but something the congregation does.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last sermon I heard about prayer, both at my church or on the radio. Granted, I don’t have the best memory, but still . . . You’d think there would be some awareness that a pastor had preached on the subject at least.

Too often I think we’ve put prayer up there with 9-1-1 calls—ask for prayer when all else has failed and we’re at our rope’s end, when we’ve tried everything else and we’re frankly desperate.

I’m trying to learn to reverse that thinking. Prayer is the most powerful recourse we have. I mean, if God Almighty, who has no limits, to His power or love or goodness, gets involved, what more could we hope for? So really, praying is doing the best, most helpful thing possible. It should be my first thought, not my last option

Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 6:22 pm  Comments (11)  
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