Tag: answer

For Those Skeptical Of Prayer, You’re Not Alone

Prayer—a popular part of the Christian life.

Perhaps for you, prayer is believed to “change everything.” Seek Jesus with all your heart while plugging in the right spiritual algorithms and prayer becomes a powerful tool to influence God towards your desires and unlock His. The measure to which God is working in your life is in direct proportion to your prayer skills, faithfulness, and persistence. God gives the gift of prayer as a way for His followers to open the heavens, learn of His specific will, and unlock the blessings and capacity of God to benefit your life, pursuits, and those for which you pray. From prayer warriors to prayer chains, the accessing of God, moving Him to do the miraculous, or simply wrenching a blessing out of His hands are all just prayers away for those who crack the code. In fact, don’t expect to hear much from God or land the key to His blessings if you aren’t seriously getting on your knees and prioritizing purity. Pray more and pray better, get more and live better—it’s that simple. To those who believe differently than you and do not share your same prayer experiences and vigor, a simple answer is ready to thwart their reservations—”If your prayers aren’t working, the issue isn’t with God, the issue is surely something with you.”

Or maybe for you, prayer is more complicated and mysterious. You love Jesus, feel a responsibility to pray, and sense it’s probably a good thing. But, how it works and whether it works is, at times, certainly uncertain. When things are clicking in life and all the pistons of firing, prayer feels awesome and is rendered such a powerful experience. Yet, when the chips fall and the ground crumbles from underneath, prayer is met with suspicion and secretly questioned to be a spiritual gimmick that can’t be trusted nor can the God to which it is directed. As a result, prayer becomes a kind of protection from being caught with your pants down. You do it, not necessarily believing it really works, at least not consistently, but because you don’t want to take the chance of not having checked it off your spiritual “to do” list. So, you go through the motions, just in case God’s in a good mood or it’s your special day. In the presence of your doubts and lukewarmness toward prayer, your Christian friends and church leaders encourage you to adjust your methods, strengthen your faith, give God the benefit of the doubt, be more patient, and remember “God works in mysterious ways.” Yet, when all is said and done, in your mind, if you are honest, prayer is hit or miss—perhaps even a bit misleading, cruel, and unfair.

Well, no matter where you are in the spectrum, chances are you have been taught that prayer is a transactional exchange.

That is, we are down here, God is up there—and prayer is largely how we connect with God, access His mind, and move His hand to work from there to here on our behalf. Prayer is that which bridges the gap, the disconnect, and the distance believed to be present between us and Him. It’s a kind of life-line, necessary for communication and the delivery of His will, blessing, guidance, movement, and favor from His world into ours. Without prayer, only the autopilot default interactions between God and humanity would be possible, filled with significant limits, disconnects, static, and separation. Therefore, prayer is what opens the flow of the divine spigot so that God can greater move in response to our greater movements of faith, faithfulness, and asking—it’s all transactional.

With that as the popular Christian view, no wonder why you’re skeptical of prayer and I gladly join you at the table—you’re not alone.

For if prayer is transactional in any way shape of form, then God is an unfair, callous, inconsistent, limited, humanly codependent god, and prayer is a scam and scheme of the most diabolical flavor.

For I have witnessed repentant Christ-worshipping alcoholics desperately pleading with God to be released from their addiction, only to be tortured with a life of unending vigilance and unequaled burden. I have watched humble Jesus-loving sacrificial pastors begging God for revival in their church only to be unfairly sent to the curb by the Deacon Board who is there today and gone tomorrow. I have watched good-hearted Christians ask God to bless the food on the church picnic table only to spend the next three days knee-bent at the porcelain altar. I have heard the despair of Jesus-worshipping church-attending parents who pray day and night, week after week, every year of their children’s adolescence only to see them grow up and face severe tragedy or embark on unyielding rebellion. I have observed numerous believers pray in and around their local schools, only to have them fall victim to devastating violence and murder. I have seen my fair share of faithful Christian fathers and mothers praying in tears for the cure to their child’s cancer only for their son or daughter to tragically die months later.

I know, I’ve heard it all before—God is going to use the death of their child, their addiction, their termination, or their misfortune to work out greater things in their life or that of others, and besides, He was focused on meeting their “needs” not their “wants.” Really, that’s how prayer and your god works? God is impotent to prosper people without pain, death, and difficulty, and everything He gives is predicated on stinginess? The same Jesus who fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread can’t afford the healing of a cancer-stricken child? I know, “His ways are not our ways and His timing is perfect.” Really, for who?

If that isn’t enough, I’ve also witnessed countless people who couldn’t give a rip about Jesus, God, or their fellow human, seemingly blessed at every turn and miraculously spared of tragedy. In fact, the only explanation to their success, deliverance, and good fortune is to attribute it to the Divine, though they would surely never acknowledge it. If God truly “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” then this transactional understanding of prayer is the child making a Christmas list of hopes, dreams, and wishes with a special note of their love for Santa, all while the evil Parent has already determined what they will and won’t get—love letter or not.

For if this is the sum and true essence of prayer, and God gives it to us in hopes of convincing us of His love and goodness, then He surely has a funny way of going about it, and you are not alone in questioning it.

Thankfully, our relationship with God and the essence of prayer have been widely misunderstood—the truth is so much better.

Thank God almighty, the truth is so much better.

First, because of Jesus and the cross, there is nothing transactional about our relationship with God. Any needed exchanges and transformations between us and God were completed at the crucifixion on our behalf. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. The cross obliterated any distance, conditions, and transactional kind of relationship present between us and God. All of those are now relational relics of a covenant long past.

In fact, truth be told, we really don’t have a relationship with Jesus at all—certainly not in the conditional, transactional, distanced, and compartmentalized way we think of it. No, what we have is so much better. For we are nothing less than perfectly interwoven into the Trinity having full communion and union with God. He is us, we are Him—His life is our life, our life is His life. This is the power of Grace sealing us indistinguishably and irrevocably together with Him in a divine togetherness that is impenetrable and irreversible.

In fact, everyone you see, including yourself, is a walking Trinity in the flesh. As Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are One, so are we with the Creator of the universe.

This is the mind-blowing cosmos-shaking reality the biblical writer Paul tasted on his lips when He penned,But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” It’s the same Grace-bomb Jesus desired to explode in our understanding when He announced, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Notice, according to Jesus, our inclusion and infusion into the Trinity was a past reality already established in the heart and mind of God that He longed for us to awaken to in the present. This is why Paul could confidently declare we “lack no spiritual blessings” from God. For God extends His generosity as far as possible in fully giving Himself to us, to be us, with us, as us—living, breathing, walking Trinities sharing completely in everything He is and possesses.

Are you ready for this?

Therefore, the true essence of prayer must reflect the true essence of our inclusion and infusion with God.

Prayer isn’t the inferior language of a transactional, conditional, and distance-ladened relationship with God, it’s the divine language of our full union and unconditional communion in, with, and as the Trinity Itself. It’s the voice and echoes of our heart reverberating with His in the living mystical chamber of our inclusion into the fellowship of the Trinity. Prayer as a life-line is rendered woefully obsolete as He is our life, and our life is His—inseparably.

Prayer is the longings of our heart in conversation with the Father, Son, and Spirit within and all around, with every word continually recalibrating our soul to the unstoppable, fully capable, and beautiful human we are in Him, lacking nothing in capacity to face our every moment.

It’s not a pleading with a distant God to receive something we don’t already possess or He might not give, but our words, feelings, and thoughts being shaped and sounded into faith by the Trinity within and all around—convincing us that everything He is and has is already ours—self-sustained Trinities with skin.

It’s the gaze of our insecurities into the Trinitarian mirror dwelling inside and out, showing us who we truly are—whole, righteous, divine, loved, affirmed, inseparable from the Father, Son, and Spirit—popping and sparking with life.

It’s the every step we take, not into the divine or in pursuit of gaining closer proximity to His presence, but rather as the divine and as His presence in this world—this is prayer, for you are the Trinitarian conversation that changes everything.

It’s the crying of our heart that is met with the shared tears of the Father, Son, and Spirit when our divinity interacts with the insanity of an insane world.

It’s the rage of our anger that is met with the shared angst of the Father, Son, and Spirit when the Trinitarian chord of justice indistinguishably interwoven into our being is sought to be silenced and defeated by the darkness.

It’s the desperation in the depths of our soul that is met with the shared compassion and passion of the Father, Son, and Spirit within, when unfairness seeks to devour the perfect sufficiency of Grace that fills us and all things.

It’s the fierce and courageous solidarity we express that is met with the shared unyielding inclusiveness of the Father, Son, and Spirit within, when discrimination, inequality, and condemnation seeks to undermine the Kingdom of Love we are and bring.

It’s the thanksgiving we feel welling up in our hearts when the Trinity within assures us there is no distance nor lack from God to us in any way or anything.

It’s the asking, seeking, and desiring that is supplied and resolved instantly and effortless without pause, not with pithy answers, clear paths, miraculously changed realities, and instant Jedi powers, but with nothing less than an awakening to our complete seamless inclusion into, with, and as the Trinity Itself—together navigating life on planet earth as One.

No more wondering, have I been heard?

No more questioning, has God turned His back?

No more doubting, maybe I’m not good enough?

No more believing God is inconsistent, distant, callous, stingy, and downright unfair and un-trustable.

For the more we pray the more we realize, God is moving in, through, and as our lives, not because we pray, but because it is who He is and who we are with Him.

Living in the Trinity, as the Trinity, the ultimate unstoppable force in a forceful world.

 

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Sorry Conservative Christian, I Don’t Owe You Anything

You’re right, I’m pissed.

Not just pissed—I’m disturbed, dismayed, and utterly repulsed at what has become of so much of modern Christianity. The undeniable carnage that rots at the feet of conservative Evangelicalism should send every soul into rants of injustice and blasphemy. I’m not going to apologize for my vehemence—in fact, I’m wondering how you can remain so acquiescent. Blinded to our privilege, arrogance, and greed, we have made a mockery out of Jesus and raped His Gospel into good news for the privileged and ideologically-conforming, but terrible news for the rest—how convenient. Marginalizing, condemning, and destroying whole groups of God-adorned people at the wave of our Evangelical wands, we cozy up to the devil himself while hoping to convince the world we sit at the right hand of Jesus. It’s terrible, disgusting, and flat out evil—and I’m determined to chase every fiber of it out of the shadows, giving voice and courage to all those it oppresses.

I know, you disagree.

In fact, you’re all but convinced I’ve gone plummeting off the deep end—steering my life, thinking, and believing straight into hell’s toxic ravine.

With seemingly everything I say, write, feel, and believe, the glare in your eyes and the rejection on your face shows me all I need to see. I’ve stepped outside the lines, disappointed expectations, and called into question the sacred cows of conservative Christian belief. You don’t like it one bit—that needling under your skin. If there’s one thing—that’s the one thing, that’s perfectly clear.

At times, I can’t help but notice—grinding down with every muscle in your being, you try to squeeze out some politeness to wrap around your disagreements. I appreciate that, I really do—your heart and noble effort are shining through. Yet as flowery as you hope I’ll receive it all and the sure goodness of your intentions, the time-released stench coupled with your corrective words is a scent I can’t ignore. Coated with the perfumes of religious condescension, so often your displeasures with me steep and steam of freshly spewed manure—as much as I may try, I just can’t un-smell it.

It’s not the reality that we don’t see eye to eye, or that you’re completely missing my heart. It’s your apparent determination to misunderstand, deflect, and reject without pause or genuine review that tells me any hope has vanished—jumping ahead with your assumptions and conclusions before the trigger sounds the start.

It’s not that I don’t respect your faith, beliefs, personal perspectives, and ways of thinking—I do. It’s not that I don’t care about developing or preserving some kind of relationship with you—I do. It’s not that I don’t desire peace between us and mutual understanding—I do. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from God what He might desire to say to me—I most certainly do. But somehow, it seems, a seat at the table for conversation and the sharing of differing views, just isn’t enough—for you. Instead, without my desire nor consent, you keep jumping the fence, claiming an entire space and authority in my life to call me into accountability—as if Jesus has surrendered the throne to your right-wing conservative ideology and made my entire being your imminent domain. With all due respect, when did God grant you exclusive access to the inside scoop on all things Jesus? Tailing my every move, turn, and twist along this spiritual journey, I don’t ever remember God assigning you to the role of spiritually policing me.

The truth is, I don’t owe you an explanation, justification, rationalization, or clarification. I don’t owe you a bible verse, proof text, theological reasoning, or an example from history. I don’t owe you a visit to your church, the reading of an article, or a talk with your pastor. In fact, when it’s all said and done, I don’t owe you a damn thing—in a manner of speaking. My freedom in Christ and His Spirit to guide me dismantle all pursuits from you or any other to control me and make me your project. There’s nothing like meeting the buzzsaw of my iron-plated identity in Him—wait for it, you’ll see.

Every time I speak, you’re cocked and loaded with the very same litany.

You say that I’m being just as judgmental and intolerant as the people with whom I disagree. With all due respect, I have found more so than not, that’s what people say who are ignorant of their privilege and the shadow it’s casting. It’s the height of all spiritual arrogance to wrap yourself in the garments of religious authority and elitism, and yet cry foul at the presence of constructive passionate criticism. That’s like the sun shaming the stars for claiming it’s hot, bright, and big. Until you’re willing to be last, you’ll never understand the sacred responsibilities of being first. If you have a problem with the people under your feet crying out to be heard as they protest your perniciousness and reveal it for what it is, you’ll need to take up your complaint with Jesus who was murdered for doing the same.

You say my observations, descriptions, and admonitions are too broad and sweeping—as if people don’t have the common sense to see themselves (or not) in the mirror my words are creating. With all do respect, I’ll start caring about your concerns regarding the presence of broad-sweeping descriptions when you reject a faith that condemns to hell whole segments of God’s sacred humanity. I’ll start worrying about making sure I’m painting by the numbers when you stop labeling entire communities of people as “sinners” in need of “reparative therapy.” I’ll stop making blanket statements when you stop boycotting entire industries. I’ll stop describing things in general terms when you come to realize that “all lives matter” doesn’t matter until, “black lives matters” matters first.

You say that I’m not loving unconditionally those I criticize, in the same way that I’m calling for it. You say I need to just “move on” to some kind of “joy” that comes from making peace with all of it. You say there’s a “healing process” to be had so I can “grow up” and put aside my angst and aversions towards religious conservatism. You say that I don’t include enough biblical references and sound theological reasoning. You say I’m always pointing out the problems and never shining light on the solutions.

Really?

Does unconditional love require the refusal to speak on behalf of those with whom conservative Christianity has condemned and abused? Does it require a passive silence in the face of evil at its purest?

You assume that God’s desire for me is a “joy” that comes from some kind of spiritual numbness to the pain of others and the evils of religion. Until my dying day, I refuse any such twisted “bliss”customized for the privileged who can turn their backs and look away—until that day, of course, when there are no privileged, but only people equal under Grace, all treated the same.

With all due respect, in regards to who I am or what I pursue, I don’t owe you a spin on your Scripture pole nor a lap-dance upon the legs of your orthodoxy. I don’t owe you a prancing around in your legalistic lingerie nor photos for your vacation from caring about humanity. Know this, and know this for sure, I don’t owe you a blasted thing, because the last thing God desires for my life is for me to start answering to you.

Instead, from the megaphone of heaven trumpeting in my ear, there is a sure and voracious calling to be fully me, free and alive—to manifest the heart of Jesus who called the religious evils of His day out of the shadows, and stood in solidarity with the religiously condemned. Jesus didn’t just “move on” as if people are disposable, rather He died and took everyone and everything broken unto Himself. How dare you entertain the idea that doing anything of a different flavor could manifest He who is the Bread, broken for the world.

Nothing could ever inspire me beyond the redemption of people abused at the hands of the brand of Christianity you seem to so desperately want me to appease and approve. I will not leave nor forsake the least of these until all of us can cross together into a land where Grace is given full room to rule and reign—now, welling up to eternity.

No, there is no “healing process” for me—by His stripes I am healed, and perfectly made whole already.

If you’re so concerned about solutions to the problems, why don’t you just go and be one.

As for me, hear me and hear me well. I’m gonna be all up your kool-aid—I’m not going away. I’m not shrinking back or bowing to your editorializations and expectations—hell no, no way.

Today is the day of my soul emancipation—I’m breaking free from your shame, guilt, condemnation, and loaded lines of questioning.

Sorry conservative Christian, play every card in your religious deck. I’ve come to realize the truth that Grace has convinced me—I don’t owe you anything.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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