Tammy Melchien

taking next steps

Category: Celebrate (God)

Why Do You Pray?

I don’t remember much from movies. I can’t quote lines from Monty Python or sing the lyrics from Grease. I often don’t remember if I’ve seen a movie based on its title alone. On more than one occasion I’ve been half way through a film before I realize I’ve seen it before, which usually isn’t a problem since I most likely can’t remember the ending.

But for some reason, this dialogue from the film “Shadowlands” has always stuck with me.

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time-waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God-it changes me.” -C.S. Lewis

If you’re not familiar, this 1993 production is a biography chronicling the life of author C.S. Lewis. Lewis, in many people’s opinion, was one of the greatest theological and philosophical minds of the 20th century. You can get lost exploring the layers in The Screwtape Letters or The Chronicles of Narnia for hours on end.

I’ve heard people challenge this quote. They offer up Biblical evidence of how our prayers do, in fact, influence God. They remind us that Jesus taught us to ask God to give us our daily bread (Luke 11:3) and told stories encouraging us to persist in asking like a stubborn neighbor who won’t leave the front porch until someone coughs up a cup of sugar (Luke 11:5-10).

I’m not going to argue with any of that. I suspect Lewis wouldn’t. But I think getting stuck on the phrase “it doesn’t change God” is to miss the entire point of what Lewis is saying.

Of course, I have no idea in what context he penned or spoke these words, but I love the way Anthony Hopkins interpreted them on the big screen. If I remember right (which, as I established earlier is a sketchy proposition), Hopkins’ character has just received a big award or promotion at the school at which he teaches. When his colleague congratulates him on how God has “answered his prayers,” Lewis seems to take offense at this suggestion. Why doesn’t he want to correlate his good fortune with God answering his prayers?

Because then when things don’t go his way, he’d have to blame God for unanswered prayers.

What I see in this quote is a man who didn’t want to treat God as a prayer vending machine. I see a man who understood prayer as a relational conversation with the one he was dependent on as his Lord, Savior, and friend. He felt the need to be in constant connection with God, waking and sleeping. This communication was vital to his very existence, like water or air or ice cream.

And as he stands back and contemplates the reason that he prays, he realizes that when he communes with God, he is the one who is changed.

Why do you pray?

If we only come to God looking for answers, then maybe that’s why we don’t feel the need flowing out of us all the time-waking and sleeping.

Lewis found something so much greater to experience in prayer. May we discover it too.

A Chance to Die

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  When we are honest, I think sometimes we’ll find that our response to the Gospel is so much more about our desire for a better life than a commitment to give our lives in service to God for the sake of others.  Don’t get me wrong, I think our lives do and should benefit from following Jesus; but is that really the heart of what it means to be his disciple?

I once heard Craig Groeschel, Pastor of Lifechurch.tv, describe 3 lines of commitment.

  • Line 1: I believe in the Gospel enough to benefit from it.
  • Line 2: I believe in the Gospel enough to contribute comfortably to it.
  • Line 3: I believe in the Gospel enough to give my life to it.

I wonder, which line have you crossed?  Which have I?  And is anything less than the 3rd line really following Jesus?

Jesus called the crowds to him and said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

In his bestselling book Crazy LoveFrancis Chan writes: “When I was in high school, I seriously considered joining the Marines; this was when they first came out with commercials for “the few, the proud, the Marines.”  What turned me off was that in those advertisements, everyone was always running.  Always.  And I hate running.  But you know what? I didn’t bother to ask if they would modify the rules for me so I could run less, and maybe also do fewer push-ups.  That would’ve been pointless and stupid, and I knew it.  Everyone knows that if you sign up for the Marines, you have to do whatever they tell you.  They own you.  Somehow this realization does not cross over to our thinking about the Christian life.  Jesus didn’t say that if you wanted to follow Him you could do it in a lukewarm manner.  He said, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.'”

Jesus comes to us and offers us 'a chance to die.' -Amy Carmichael Click To Tweet

In the words of one of my heroes of the faith, Amy Carmichael, Jesus comes to us and offers us “a chance to die.”  A chance to die to our selfishness and limited perspective.  A chance to walk away from pursuing lesser things and a life of worrying about the unimportant.  A chance to no longer be dominated by our insecurities and hesitations.  A chance to take our eyes off ourselves and turn our attention to people and a world that needs our contribution.  A chance to carry crosses, cry tears, and sometimes work to the point of exhaustion.  A chance to let go of our life…and in the process find it.

And my guess is when we do find it, we will discover it is the life we have always wanted.

The Image of God

“It is always true to some extent that we make our images of God. It is even truer that our image of God makes us. Eventually we become like the God we image.”

Came across this Brennan Manning quote this week.

Eventually we become like the God we image. -Brennan Manning Click To Tweet

Wow.

Have I imaged a God who is demanding and become demanding?

Have I imaged a God who is critical and become critical?

Have I imaged a God who is angry and become angry?

Have I imaged a God who is impatient and become impatient?

Have I imaged a God who is unloving and become unloving?

Think, for a moment, of how you would answer each of those questions. Not in how you relate to others (although I suppose that could be an indicator, too), but in how you relate towards yourself.

Let’s face it, many of us aren’t very kind to ourselves.

We are demanding, holding unrealistic expectations of ourselves.

We are critical, beating ourselves up for our imperfections.

We are angry, chastising ourselves for our screw ups.

We are impatient, disappointed in ourselves for our lack of progress.

We are unloving, treating ourselves harshly.

If you find yourself in any of the above statements, acting unfavorably toward yourself, maybe it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your image of God.

Manning went on to say:

“One of the most beautiful fruits of knowing the God of Jesus is a compassionate attitude towards ourselves. . . . This is why Scripture attaches such importance to knowing God. Healing our image of God heals our image of ourselves.”

Healing our image of God heals our image of ourselves. -Brennan Manning Click To Tweet

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) Jesus came to heal our image of God. When he walked among us, he revealed what God is really like. In Jesus we find a God who is patient, a God who is kind. He is a God who is not self-seeking, a God who is not easily angered, a God who keeps no record of wrongs. He is a God who protects, a God who always hopes, a God who always perseveres in his pursuit of us. In essence, we find the image of love.

Come to know this image of God, and you might just come to love yourself.

© 2017 Tammy Melchien

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