By: Glenn Washburn
I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. Not why we pray, how we pray or any other of the theological issues surrounding the issue of prayer; but rather the most important question. The question that plagues each and every one of us who bears the name Christian: Why don’t we pray? Paul says in 1Thessolonians 5:17, pray without ceasing. We, however, never cease to ignore this command. We can’t “IM” Jesus, we can’t “friend” Him on face book, we can’t e-mail or text Him and we can’t even call His cell. The only way we can communicate with Him is through prayer. So, why don’t we?
You might say the answer is that you are just too busy. Your life has become completely overloaded. But you know that’s not the answer because there have been times in your life where there was so much to do that you didn’t know which way to turn; and yet you still found time to turn to Him. Well, you may counter, “I can’t seem to find the words.” But you know that isn’t true either because many times you have sat silent before His throne and still walked away fulfilled. Finally, you may offer, “I don’t want to bother Him with my petty problems and requests.” However, you know that prayer is more than asking, it’s thanking Him as well. You are also familiar with all the scripture verses about sparrows, field lilies and the hairs on your head being numbered. And in your heart you know that He is just as interested and ready to serve you in the seemingly insignificant details of your life as He was when He first called you to Himself. So, I ask again, why don’t we pray?
I believe the number one impediment to prayer is sin. Not the sin of the omission of prayer but the sin or sins that keep us from it. When we fall into sin through deception, ignorance, pride, selfishness or all of the above; that is when we need Him the most. However, it is more likely that we will instead follow Adam and Eve into the bushes to hide from Him. 1John 2:1 says that if we sin there is only one direction to travel:
My dear children, I’m writing this to you so that you will not sin. Yet, if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ, who has God’s full approval. He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father.
Jesus also told Peter in John 13: 4-8 where he needed to go for cleansing:
So he got up from the table, removed his outer clothes, took a towel, and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that he had tied around his waist. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered Peter, “You don’t know now what I’m doing. You will understand later.” Peter told Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus replied to Peter, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t belong to me.”
And yet here we stay, quivering naked in the bushes and complaining, “I can’t go to Jesus. I’m too sinful.” That is like saying, “I can’t take a shower; I’m too dirty.” Doesn’t really make sense, does it?
I think too many of us view holiness as a requirement necessary to interview for the job; if holiness isn’t on our resume, there’s no sense applying. However, holiness isn’t a requirement necessary in order to interview for the job; it’s the experience you are expected to acquire while you’re on the job. Sinlessness, therefore, is not required to come to Jesus, but our life with Him should make our sins an issue of decreasing significance. As one writer put it: “…as Christians we aren’t sinless; but as we grow we should sin less.”
Now, don’t get me wrong; sin is very serious business. 1John 2 goes on to say some pretty scary things in verses 3-15:
We are sure that we know Christ if we obey his commandments. The person who says, “I know him,” but doesn’t obey his commandments is a liar. The truth isn’t in that person. But whoever obeys what Christ says is the kind of person in whom God’s love is perfected. That’s how we know we are in Christ. Those who say that they live in him must live the same way he lived. Dear friends, it’s not as though I’m writing to give you a new commandment. Rather, I’m giving you an old commandment that you’ve had from the beginning. It’s the old commandment you’ve already heard. On the other hand, I’m writing to give you a new commandment. It’s a truth that exists in Christ and in you: The darkness is fading, and the true light is already shining. Those who say that they are in the light but hate other believers are still in the dark. Those who love other believers live in the light. Nothing will destroy the faith of those who live in the light. Those who hate other believers are in the dark and live in the dark. They don’t know where they’re going, because they can’t see in the dark. I’m writing to you, dear children, because your sins are forgiven through Christ. I’m writing to you, fathers, because you know Christ who has existed from the beginning. I’m writing to you, young people, because you have won the victory over the evil one. I’ve written to you, children, because you know the Father. I’ve written to you, fathers, because you know Christ, who has existed from the beginning. I’ve written to you, young people, because you are strong and God’s word lives in you. You have won the victory over the evil one. Don’t love the world and what it offers. Those who love the world don’t have the Father’s love in them.
“Well, that’s kind of confusing.” You may say. “How am I supposed to reconcile 1John 2:1 with 1John 2: 3-15? It sounds like John is saying that if you sin we should come to Jesus and then says if you sin you don’t know Jesus. Which is it?”
The answer is in one little word: if. John says “if you sin” not when you sin. The difference is enormous. Imagine you are going to the airport to pick up your wife, the love of your life. Taking a wrong turn because you weren’t paying attention is no where near the same as pulling off the highway to go to a sports bar so you can watch a couple of innings of the Sox’s Dice-K pitch…no, I mean John Lackey…no wait, I mean…well, you know what I mean (apologies to all of you outside the “Nation”); while telling yourself that you deserve a little fun and she can wait. Even if both scenarios put you at the airport at the same time the difference is night and day. The true lover would never purposefully keep the love of his life waiting so he could kick back and enjoy a little “me time”. Neither are we to be spoiled children throwing our ice cream cone on the ground because our father will buy us another one. We’re children of the King. We are supposed to traveling toward the center of God’s perfect will not testing it.
Let me put it this way. Imagine a large circle with a dot in the center. Inside the circle is in the will of God. Outside the circle is outside the will of God. And the dot is the center of God’s will. Are you traveling toward the center, ignoring any direction that deviates from that path and unloading any baggage that might delay your arrival or are you traveling in circles, unwilling to abandon those items and directions that are keeping you from your destination? Even worse, are you numbered among the foolish ones who are traveling towards the outer edge as they ask themselves, “I wonder how close I can get to the edge without going outside?” The question is the answer. If you are traveling toward the edge or even traveling in a circle when you have a reliable Map in your hand to guide you to the center, then you have replaced “if” with “when”. And if you are not outside yet, you will be soon. STOP NOW!! Turn around or you will be turned away.
Let me tell you a little story about my wife, Ellen. Not long ago Ellen was overwhelmed with accomplishing all the errands and chores she needed to get to after a full day of teaching Kindergarten (and yes, she is still sane). As a result, she had little energy or motivation to clean the house the way she liked it (and ladies, notice the phrase “the way she liked it” because I tried to help…I really did). So, she budgeted, saved her pennies and hired a house cleaner to come in once a week. But here’s the thing, every day before the cleaner was to arrive Ellen would rush around the house and clean it. After all, she couldn’t have the cleaner thinking she kept a dirty house. Ellen would protest that all she was doing was a general pick-up; but the fact remains that she was cleaning for the cleaner.
Is this you? Are you still trying to clean your “house” before the Cleaner arrives? Forget it! He’s a professional. He’s able to clean rooms in your house you have forgotten where even there; and remove grime you can’t see anymore from places you already cleaned. No matter how hard you scrub; you lack the skill, tools and solution to do the job correctly. Just leave it to the Professional. Then, with your house in order, you can jump back in your car and head for that spot that you and yours have been dying to get to since the first day you discovered it was there. And the amazing thing is that your Cleaner just happens to know the best way to get to where you want to go. He’s been there…in fact, He lives there. So, don’t be afraid to ask Him for directions and “if” you get lost, you know Who to call. But pack light because everything you need will be waiting for you when you get there.
Just don’t forget the Map.