Tag Archives: Prayer

TBT: When God is Too Late

Today’s Throw-Back-Thursday post comes from March 9, 2012.  It is still something I need to hear…often.


Does it ever seem to you that sometimes God shows up too late?  You pray and pray and pray but in the end the answer you were expecting – or needing – didn’t come in time to solve the problem.  God was too late and now everything seems hopeless.  “Why bother now, Lord?  You go on with whatever You were doing before.  Don’t worry about me.”   You’re probably not the only one who has felt this way and perhaps were left feeling empty, disappointed and bitter.  You may be justified in feeling this way, I can’t really say, but maybe…maybe you didn’t let things play out long enough to see what God was really up to.  You’ve probably already guessed, but there is a great story in the Bible about a man for whom Jesus was too late… or at least it seemed that way.

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years…

 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-25, 35-43, ESV)

As you may know, this incident happened at the same time that the woman came up to touch His garment and was healed.  I wrote about that incident in The God at the End of Our Rope, but in this story, we see Jairus desperate for Jesus to come heal his daughter.  She was mere minutes from dying – literally – and there wasn’t a moment to lose.  Not a moment! and this woman jumps in, distracts and delays Jesus.  I’m sure that Jairus was beside himself.  “Really?!  She’s been sick for twelve years; couldn’t she wait another 20 minutes for Jesus to heal my daughter?”

Then the heartbreaking news.  “Your daughter is dead.”  I cannot imagine the things going through Jairus’ head.  “What a cruel joke God is playing with me.  It’s not fair, how come this woman gets healed but MY daughter dies.  Jesus is TOO late!”  The heart-rending pain must have been unbearable.  What happens next though is unthinkable.  Jesus says to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”  “ONLY BELIEVE? In what?  My daughter is dead.  What is there to believe?  Are you nuts?”  You see it was fine for Jairus to believe that Jesus could heal his daughter while she was still alive – or barely so, but now?  Sure, we can believe that Jesus will act in our lives, will answer our prayer, while we still have some resources, some hope, something to hold on to, but not when the situation is hopeless, not when it’s too late.

In spite of the devastating news and Jesus’ improbable statement, Jairus went on with Jesus.  He continued to follow Him to his home to see this thing through.  We, in the 21st century, have the luxury of looking back at this story and seeing the end result.  Jairus, in the midst of the situation, was not so fortunate.  He did not have the resurrection as a point of reference.   He could not conceive of someone rising from the dead.  For him, there were no options and we think to ourselves, “Oh you silly Jairus, don’t you realize who Jesus is?”

Yet are we not like Jairus?  Even with the benefit of 2000 years hind-sight, we still can’t conceive of Jesus working His miraculous, life-restoring power into our lives.  Can he really bring life out of the chaos that is my life, my relationship, my whatever?  Instead of following through with Jesus, we hang our head and say, “He’s too late,” and we go our way angry and disappointed.  Jesus still says to us, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”  He can intervene in our lives in ways we cannot possibly envision, in ways that are totally outside our box.  Only believe! because we know who Jesus is.  Don’t underestimate Him or His ability and willingness to radically change your life.  Only believe and you will be “overcome with amazement.”

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TBT: My Ugly Brown Chair

Today’s Throw-Back-Thursday post comes from January 3, 2014.  And yes, I still have the chair.


I have an ugly brown chair in my home office.  It was given to us years ago.  The fabric was frayed and the arm cushions were eaten by our dog.  We almost threw it out; instead we put some new foam around the arms and bought a brown slip cover for it.  Now it sits in the corner of my office and I love my chair.  It’s where I sit and read, or sit and listen to music, or sit and nap, or sit and think, or just sit.  But mostly, I sit and pray in my ugly brown chair.  You see my ugly brown chair is an open invitation to hang out with Christ.  It’s where we can converse and where I can listen.  I try to do more listening than talking; I learned long ago that I do better when I just listen.

One day as Jesus was talking to the crowds He said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 ESV).  He should have added “sit in you ugly brown chair.”  You see, my secret place is my chair, away from the distractions of the day, away from the gaze of the crowds, and out of earshot from the members of my church.  It’s just me and Him talking openly, genuinely, freely, passionately and often times, desperately.  But I know that I can always count on Him meeting me there at my ugly brown chair.  That is reward enough.

So where’s your ugly brown chair?  It can be anywhere.  It doesn’t even have to be a literal chair.  Where is that “place” where you can connect to the One-who-loves-you-most?  He’s calling you to a secret place where you can open yourself up to Him and listen to Him.  Find your ugly brown chair.  He’s waiting for you.

Pleading the Blood – Revisited

I believe there is a legitimate way to “Plead the Blood of Jesus” based on a good understanding of what the Scriptures teach and it is not to either force God’s hand to grant us our wishes or as a magical charm to ward off troubles. (See my previous post – or rant – about “Pleading the Blood…What?”)

We look to the Blood as an inspiration to worship.  When we consider and meditate on the horror of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf, and when we meditate on the depth of love that caused Him to endure the Cross, our only appropriate response is worship.  The Blood drives us to our knees.  The Blood humbles our pride and demands.  The Blood wraps our prayers in adoration.  When we plead the Blood in worship we recognize that our sin plunged the spear into His side and our rebellion nailed the spikes into His hands.  The blood that poured from those wounds completely and eternally took away all the guilt, shame and condemnation of that sin.  The Blood did what no human effort could accomplish.  The Blood was shed voluntarily even while we still rejected His overture of love.  That is why we worship and that is how we plead the Blood.  And every time we take Communion, every time we take the bread and the wine as an expression of worship, we plead the blood that cleanses our sin.

We plead the Blood to deflect and defeat the accusations of the devil.  When he throws our sin in our face and reminds us of what terrible Christians we are, we can say to him, “Yep, but the Blood of Jesus makes me whole, righteous, clean and guilt free.  Go away!”  When devil tries to convince us that we are worthless we can say to him, “That’s not true, the Blood of Jesus makes me infinitely valuable.  Go away!”  When the devil whispers to us that no one could possibly love us we can say to him, “That’s not true, the Blood of Jesus proves He loves me.  Go away!”  Any and every accusation, lie, condemnation, denunciation or allegation that the devil could level against us is dealt with by the Blood.  Remember that Jesus disarmed the devil at the Cross (Colossians 2:13-15).  The devil may bark at us but he has no bite and we can plead the Blood to remind him of that.  We are able to defeat his schemes by standing firm on the work of Christ, not our own merit.  We disable his weapons when we declare the power of the Blood. (Rev 12:11)

Finally, we plead the Blood every time we approach God as a good and loving Father.  It is only because of the Blood that we can be confident and secure in knowing He accepts us, receives us and is happy to spend time with us.  We are His pride and joy.  We are the apple of His eye.  We run into His arms not to demand some “legal” right but enjoy our Daddy.

Oh, my friends, this hardly does justice to all the wonders to be found in the Blood.  We can take each teaching found in Scripture concerning the Blood and spend a lifetime sounding its depths.  Let us not accepted the emaciated teaching that looks upon the Blood as a means to demand of God our wishes or that views it as a force field that protects our stuff.  Instead let us look to the Blood, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:15-19)

The Blood of Jesus – Intimacy

I had the joy and privilege recently of attending a friend’s wedding, or should I say re-wedding (if that’s a word).  This couple had been married, had gotten divorced several years ago and now through a lot of hard work had reconciled their differences and decided to re-marry.  If that isn’t a testament of God’s power to change hearts and lives, I don’t know what is.  The point is that these two people had a broken relationship; they were living separate, detached lives.  Sin does the same thing to our relationship with God, it breaks us apart and alienates us from Him; it divorces us from Him.  But again He doesn’t leave us in that sorry state.  The Blood of Jesus is able to effect a reconciliation between us and God.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (Col 1:20-22)

This is simply beautiful to me.  I have been brought near to God.  It’s like a friend giving me an all-access pass meet the greatest person in the world.  Something that was completely impossible for me to do on my own, He did for me.  Not only that, but I can approach God knowing that He sees me as “holy and blameless and above reproach” confident in His acceptance.

Because of The Blood any offense between ourselves and God has been removed.  He no longer sees us as enemies or as the “bad guy.”  We move from being at war with Him to being at peace; from being an enemy to being a friend.  And much more than a friend – a much-loved child.  The Blood makes it possible to approach Him without fear of rejection or of being spurned.  Our relationship with Him is solid.

With that reconciliation comes the opportunity for real intimacy, real tenderness with the Father.  Through The Blood, He made possible a closeness that goes beyond just a passing friendship.  He made it possible to share our hearts, lives, fears, worries and joys with Him and hearing Him express His joy in us.  See my post A Conversation to get a glimpse into what this intimacy could look like.

Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,   (Heb. 10:19)

We can have the confidence and assurance that we can crawl into His lap and be welcomed and heard.  This is more than theological or church-y language, this is enjoying the kind of relationship we all long for.  And it is possible by the Blood of Jesus.

Pleading the Blood…What?!

Allow me a moment to rant – with apologies to my more charismatic friends.  I have heard the phrase “plead the blood of Jesus” numerous times throughout my life.  The last time I heard it, a couple of months ago, something snapped in my mind and I said to myself, “What does that even MEAN?!”  I’ve always heard it used in association with dealing with some demonic influence in someone’s life.  We “plead the Blood” to ensure that Satan is convinced that we mean business.  It’s like using the phrase as a “power-up” to our prayer.  It’s not enough that we pray in the power and authority of Jesus, no, we need to append “pleading the blood” to make sure we are heard.  It’s like the devil perks up when he hears that and says to himself, “Well I guess I have to go now since they are pleading the blood.”  Really?  I don’t think it works that way.

But perhaps I as being too harsh or had misunderstood the use of the phrase, so I went online to search various teachers and websites to get a better perspective.  It only got worse!  One site actually taught that we should plead the blood over our stuff – our cars, houses, credit cards and finances.  They went on to say that when we did that our stuff would be protected from anything bad.  Our houses would be protected from hurricanes or tornadoes; our cars protected from breakdowns; our finances protected from identity theft or bad credit.  And we had to make sure that we pled the blood at least monthly otherwise the protective nature of the blood would expire!  I was horrified!  But perhaps this was an extreme case so I searched on.

A couple of sites told us that “pleading the blood” was a legal term (whatever that means) that we could use in prayer to “insist” that God grant our requests.  In other words, He owes us because we plead the blood.  Really? “INSIST?”  We are going to demand that God act according to our wishes just because we use the magical phrase!  I don’t think I would dare.  Many sites presented the same idea in various ways, but all suggested that the blood was to be used as a bargaining chip.  Never mind asking that His will be done, or that His kingdom come, or that our prayers would bring Him glory, instead let’s make sure we claim our right to ask for whatever we want.

Many sites promoted the protective nature of the blood.  They appealed to the Old Testament story of the Passover, where the blood of the sacrificed lamb brushed on their doorposts protected the Israelites from the angel of death.  These teachers then take that to mean that the blood of Jesus – our Passover Lamb will protect us from bad things happening to us.  I think that misses the point of that story.  The blood was not meant to protect their stuff but to save them from literal, physical death.  It foreshadowed the saving nature of Jesus’ sacrifice to deliver us from eternal death.  Nowhere in the New Testament is the idea that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was meant to protect us in this life from bad things happening.  Nor are we ever instructed to “plead the blood” when we come before the Father in prayer.  Nor does the phrase even appear in the New Testament much less carry the seemingly magical powers ascribed to it.

OK, rant over.  I am truly, truly saddened (and angered) when I read these kinds of things.  I think it cheapens and misrepresents the power and glory of Christ’s death.  I think it reduces the splendor of Christ to a lucky charm.  I believe there is great power to radically transform lives when we properly understand the meaning of the Blood of Jesus.  But I don’t believe that “pleading the blood” is either necessary or biblical, at least, in the way it is commonly portrayed.  Over the next several weeks I will be looking at the New Testament teaching on “The Blood.  Let’s consider the wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice and stand in awe of its power to undo all the effects of sin and disarm the devil.  Only then can we rightly “plead the blood” in a way that honors Him.

A Conversation

A young boy, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, climbs up on his father’s lap.  He leans his head on his father’s chest and listens quietly to his heartbeat.  After a few moments he lifts his head slightly.

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“I have an ouchie.  Wanna see my ouchie?”

“Sure.  Tell me about it.”

“Look. See. Can you make it better?”

“Of course I can.  You’ll see”

The father gently strokes his son’s hair and whispers something under his breath.

“Better?”

“Yeah, thanks”

The young boy leans his head back on his father’s chest and listens to his heartbeat.

“Daddy, I love you.”

“I love you too – very much.”

 

This is the conversation our Father wants to have with us – genuine and intimate.

This is prayer.

Out-Of-The-Box Praying

I started reading through the book of Acts again.  I wanted to get a glimpse again of dynamic faith in action.  It seems the disciples, apostles, deacons and all the believers had such a simple faith that God would just show up in mighty ways – and He DID!  But even with all the miracles they saw, sometimes they just could not see beyond what was “reasonable” to them.  Their prayers were limited by their expectations of what God could do.  Here is a great example from chapter 12.

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.  Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands…  When he realized this [that the angel had freed him from prison], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.  Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. (Acts 12:1-7,12-16)

So Peter is in prison waiting to be executed and the church is praying fervently for his release.  Then God answers their prayers – but not in the way they expected.  You see, I don’t think any one of those Christians was asking that God would send an angel to open the prison doors.  That wasn’t really reasonable.  Much more likely is that they were praying that God would “move on Herod’s heart to release Peter.” Now that would be a much more likely and expected way for God to answer their prayers.  So out-of-box was the angel scenario that when Peter did show up at the prayer meeting they dismissed the news as simply “Peter’s angel.”  These folks could more easily believe in an apparition than in an angelic visitation!  Sure they prayed and they prayed earnestly, but it seems they were praying within their experience of what God could or would do.

So I started thinking, are my prayers limited by my expectations of what God would do?  When I pray, am I also telling God HOW to answer my prayers?  Sure, He’s all powerful, but He also needs to be practical and sensible, doesn’t He?  I am very much afraid that my prayer life is “In-The-Box” praying.  I want to change that.  I want to start praying that God would do wonderful, unexpected, outside-the-box things.  I want think big and prayer bigger and see Him do bigger still.  If nothing is impossible with God, then I want to pray for the impossible.  How about you?  Will you join me in Out-Of-The-Box praying and then we’ll be able tell our own versions of the angel scenario story?