Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Faithful Are the Wounds of a Friend

Beach, Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)

Last night, as Linda and I were in our family room talking, she said something that made me laugh. No one can make me laugh like she does. To be honest, few people make me laugh. It is my Finnish, Scandinavian badge of honor that says, "you are not funny."

I laughed so long and so intensely that I had to leave the room. I could barely breathe. Linda was laughing, too. If laughter is good for the soul, then it is well with our souls today.

She is my best friend in life. My companion. Next to God, it is her. I can laugh with her. I am safe with her, and she with me. I can cry with her. We can tell truth to one another. We can say good things and beautiful things and hard things, to each other. She is my friend, and I, hers. We can wound each other, in love. That's what friends are for.

Eugene Peterson writes,

"To be a friend of God does not mean everything is cozy between you and the Almighty. To be a friend to someone does not mean you pamper or indulge him or her. Friendship also involves struggle and loss, tension and turbulence. One of my favorite proverbs is “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). A friend, if honest and true, will tell you things you don’t want to hear. A friend, if deeply serious about you, will do things that feel painful. Friends do that because they respect our dignity and honor our uniqueness." (Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God, pp. 17-18)

Friends speak the truth in love. Not love, without truth. And not truth, without love, because that annihilates friendships. How much truth can a friendship sustain? A lot, if there is love. How much disagreement can a friend bear to hear? A lot, if love accompanies it.

Love bears all things. Even disagreements. Love does not fear disagreeing.

This is what allows Linda and I to enjoy one another and, like last night, laugh. If there is no pain, there will be no laughter.

Monday, September 25, 2017

ONE-HOUR SEMINARY - Guest Speaker Andy Griffith - Sept. 26, 9-10 PM EST

"What Is Evangelism?"

Guest speaker Andy Griffith.

Tuesday, Sept. 26, 9-10 PM EST.

On Facebook Live.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The World Will Not End Sept. 23, 2017

David Meade calls himself a "Christian numerologist." He predicted the world will end on Saturday, Sept. 23. 

Now, he's changed his mind - the world will not end on this day, but it will launch a series of catastrophic events. 

All this is nonsense.

I have paid no attention to this person. No one should pay any attention to "Christian numerology." Because a few people have asked me about this, I'm posting on it.

David Meade needs to come forth after nothing unusual happens and confess to everyone he has led astray, to everyone who has become afraid due to his false thinking.

That would be good. I hardly ever see this. Usually, false teachers predicting doomsdays revise their predictions, so as to fit their errors. 

As for you, there's nothing to fear tomorrow. Just stay close to Jesus, as always, trusting in him, and following as he leads.

(See Michael Brown's article HERE.)

The Secret of Jesus' Ministry

Monroe, in the days when snow fell during winter

Why did Jesus pray? He prayed to find out what the Father wanted him to do. He prayed to receive strength and comfort. He and the Father were on a redemptive mission together. In times of prayer, Jesus received his marching orders.

Prayer brings us into the control room of the kingdom of heaven. In Scripture the "kingdom" means: the rule, or reign, of God. A praying person engages in God's kingdom activity. In prayer we gain discernment. We discern the important from the mundane. In praying we become relevant doers of the will of God.

I like this quote from Henri Nouwen, as he describes the place of prayer in Jesus' life.

"In the midst of a busy schedule of activities—healing suffering people, casting out devils, responding to impatient disciples, traveling from town to town, and preaching from synagogue to synagogue—we find these quiet words: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus’s ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, pp. 20-21)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jim Carrey Goes Rogue

Image result for caesar flickerman before crowd
Caesar Flickerman

Comedian Jim Carrey has gone rogue. He was interviewed on the "red carpet" for an event called New York Fashion Week. The interviewer asked Carrey what he thought of the many "icons" that were at the event. Carrey responded by calling the whole event "meaningless." (Why, then, was he there?)

Carrey continued, sounding like an existentialist philosopher, or the book of Ecclesiastes.

“I don’t believe in icons, I don’t believe in personalities, I believe that peace lies beyond personality and invitation and disguise, beyond the red S on your chest that makes bullets bounce off,” he said. “I believe that it’s deeper than that. I believe we’re a field of energy dancing for itself, and I don’t care.”

Before walking away, Carrey concluded, “We don’t matter.”"

If we are but "a field of energy dancing for itself," then of course we don't matter. But we are not. And, we do.

Carrey went off the grid. That's good. Because the grid is absurd and meaningless. Humans? As icons? To be adulated? How stupid. How uncreative.

I cannot get the image from The Hunger Games out of my mind, where Caesar Flickerman stands before the crowded auditorium, twisting every moment into happiness before the brain dead crowd. The people are hungry. The Capitol gives them The Games. In the Capitol, life is a game; hence, what once was thought evil is served up with heaping bowls of sugar.

We are bored. Look at people. Can you not see this?

In response, to placate us, and to hide the inanity, our shallow culture dishes out entertainment.

We devour it and, for a moment, are sedated.

Upon awakening, we find ourselves bored.

Caesar Flickerman knocks on the door, and sells us his happy drug.

We ingest it, clueless, happy.

There is no life, no meaning.

That's what "boredom" is. It's not having nothing to do. In America we have so much to do that we have lost the ability to do nothing. Boredom is finding no meaning in our never-ceasing doing.

The author of Ecclesiastes saw this over two thousand years ago.

Everything's boring, utterly boring -

no one can find any meaning in it.

Ch. 1, The Message

The Pleasure of Solitude with God

Somewhere in Monroe County

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

I spent time praying yesterday afternoon. I did not go outside, which is my preference, because a deluge of rain poured out from the heavens. 

I got alone with God, lifted requests to him as they came to me, meditated on Scripture (Ecclesiastes), listened for his voice, wrote some things he was saying to me, prayed for some people, and gave thanks to him.

I also deburdened. This creates a space in my heart to receive from God. When I am in that secret place that is my heart, my listening capacity rises.

I have done this for so many years (see here, for a record of this) that the attraction of God overwhelms the distractions of life. This has helped me live more focused.

The French theologian Pascal said we require things to distract us from ourselves. He wrote: "Hence it comes people so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible.” (In Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, Kindle Locations 2968-2969)

It took some time to learn aloneness with God, without distractions. To rest in the Lord, and not in the American sense of "rest" as "entertainment." The distracted life is the source of our miserable discontent. Willard writes:

"Solitude and silence are the most radical of the disciplines for the spiritual life because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing. To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. One learns “hands off.” Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, including not listening and speaking, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence, we even stop making demands upon God. It is enough that God is God and we are His. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, that this world is “my Father’s world.”" (Ib., Kindle Locations 2993-2997)

How different, how refreshing, how energizing and life-giving is the pleasure of solitude with God. No wonder Jesus did it!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Freedom from Self-Abuse (Cutting) - Sermon

My sermon on freedom from self-abuse (e.g., cutting) can be listened to HERE. (7/23/17)

The handout I gave is below.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Numbers and the Church

I'm reading on our front porch, watching the rain.
"Numbers pave the road to obsession."
Adam Alter
P. 113

I've been reading Os Guinness's Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel No Matter How Dark the Times. Guinness's book is hopeful, even as he correctly identifies the indicators that the Western Church has conformed to secular culture.

One indicator of world-conformation is the Church's quantification of Christianity. "Numbers" have become the measure of "success." This is not only about the heretical "prosperity gospel." Guinness writes:

"America as the lead society in the modern world is awash with numbers and metrics, and with statistics, opinion polls, surveys, targets, pie charts, scorecards, big data, game theory and measurable outcomes—all at the expense of the true, the good, the beautiful, the faithful and the significant—and at the expense of God too. Numbers and the mania for metrics are therefore a critical element of secularization." (Guinness, Renaissance, pp. 39-40)

In the Consumer Church matters of the heart have been displaced by the number of hearts, and concerns of the soul have lost out to size of the payroll. The big questions now are "How many?" and "How much?" (The Church as a metaphysical Fitbit.)

"Nineteenth-century thinkers foresaw the rising domination of numbers, quantity and majority opinion, and warned against it. They regarded it as the overspill of the age of democratic majorities and the triumph of technocratic technocratic rationalism, through which everything would be reduced to numbers, and big numbers would be valued most of all. The pressure would therefore be toward a false notion of explanation through numbers, a dangerous authority for numbers at the expense of the true and the good, and in the end toward a disastrous strengthening of the Leviathan of the state (for what else is “big” enough and “wise” enough to coordinate and manage everyone and everything but the government?)." (Ib., 40)

Number-crunching is not irrelevant to the Church. But in the kingdom of God numbers are not number 1.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Missing - Jenna Verhille

Jenna Verhille is from our church.

Disciples, not "Decisions"

In line at Puerto Vallarta restaurant in Redding, California

"Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples.... Evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and — yes, the word is appropriate — aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Playing at Christianity

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

I've been re-reading some Kierkegaard. He writes:

"Truly there is that which is more contrary to Christianity, and to the very nature of Christianity, than any heresy and schism, more contrary than all heresies and all schisms combined, and that is to play Christianity."

And what could "play Christianity" mean?

Perhaps "playing at Christianity" means...

... liking the awesome music more than worshiping God from the heart (you don't need music to worship)

... spending more time, energy, and money on staging than on discipling and missions

... saying "I follow Jesus" on Sunday, but not following him Monday through Saturday

... taking no time to pray, while having time to text and tweet

... telling someone "I'll pray for you," and never doing it

... self-righteously judging others, while having a secret sin life

... "attending" church without serving as the church (many Christians come on Sunday mornings to be serviced)

... going after "decisions" for Christ while neglecting the Great Commission, which is the labor of disciple-making

... being kind and loving in public, while hateful and despising in your home

... focusing on appearance, rather than cultivating the heart

... wanting to be seen, more than wanting Christ to be magnified

... hating your enemies, rather than loving and praying for those who persecute you

How can we know what real Christianity is so we don't just play at it? I suggest going back to the four Gospels, and then the book of Acts. Meet Jesus again, as if for the first time. Of course, you have to want this more than anything else. Otherwise, you're just playing at Christianity.

If you want to go deeper, see my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

My next book, Leading the Presence-Driven Church, will be out Fall 2017.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Lemonade-Twaddle of the Consumer Church

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

In my doctoral program at Northwestern University I served as a T.A. (teacher's assistant) to my philosophy and theology mentor, Dr. James Will. One of Dr. Will's interests was existentialism. One of his courses was on the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. I sat in Dr. Will's class, and taught it a few times when he was out of town. (Dr. Will studied under Reinhold Niebuhr, and referred to him as "Reiny.")

Kierkegaard was a Christian theist (yes, there are plenty of theistic existentialists). One Kierkegaardian theme was his polemic against the banality of the Church of Denmark. It had become colonized by secular culture. It had taken on the shape of this world. This outraged Kierkegaard. He wrote against it. He called it out. Kierkegaard's attack on the secular church is prophetic, and speaks to us today.

He wrote:

The sort of men who now live cannot stand anything so strong as the Christianity of the New Testament (they would die of it or lose their minds), just in the same sense that children cannot stand drink, for which reason we prepare for them a little lemonade—and official Christianity is lemonade-twaddle for the sort of beings that are now called men, it is the strongest thing they stand, and this twaddle then is their language they call “Christianity,” just as children call their lemonade “wine.”
- Kierkegaard, Attack on Christendom, p. 277 (1854)

Apply this to the American Consumer Church.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Five Views On the Destiny of the Unevangelized

If Jesus Is the Only Way to God, What About Those Who Have Never Heard of Him?


Paul Copan, True for You, but Not for Me, Part 5.

John Sanders, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard: Three Views.

William Lane Craig, "No Other Name": A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ,”

William Lane Craig, On Guard, chapter 10.

THE QUESTION - What if someone has never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus?


2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Tim 2:4 – God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.


Persons who have self-inflicted “transworld depravity” will not want God, or God in Christ.

So God is not unjust in applying eternal justice to them; viz., everlasting separation from his presence. (1 Thessalonians 1) Note: "transworld depravity" (from Alvin Plantinga) in this case means: in any possible world X will reject Christ if offered the opportunity.

God can’t make people freely choose to respond to the gospel. “Some might be like NYU philosopher Thomas Nagel, who said, ‘I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.’ Indeed, with every new indication of God’s reality, a person might come to resent or hate him even more.”


God has given persons free will. This is risky. Some will likely freely choose to reject God’s offer of salvation, and his revelation in creation and the moral law within (Romans 1 and 2).
As C.S. Lewis wrote, re. this, there are two kinds of persons: one who says to God “Thy will be done,” and one to whom God says “Thy will be done.”



Romans 1 says that, even without a knowledge of Christ, people have an opportunity to know God. We read: 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Theologically, this is called "natural revelation."

8. Romans 2 says: (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. 
So it seems likely that some persons will be saved by following the moral law within.

Their salvation is still in Christ. The cross of Christ is the bridge over the gap that separates us from God.


This is an argument from authority.

We can trust that the eternal outcome of every person is in the hands of a loving and just God.

We can trust that God has the question of the unevangelized figured out.

Further, God has done so much to reach us all, even to suffer with us in a world filled with evil and misery, that we have good reason to believe the unevangelized are in excellent hands.

We can trust that God is loving and just. So God won’t condemn anyone for being born at the wrong time and place (viz., in a time and place where the message of the Gospel of Jesus was not known).

God is able to reach people in ways we don’t expect. For example, he can reveal himself – and has done so – through visions or angelic messengers. Copan cites examples of Jesus appearing to Muslims who had never heard of him.

In the end we can trust in a good God to do no wrong. “We should not think about the unevangelized apart from God’s character, motives, and good purposes.” (Copan)

 All who desire to be saved will have the opportunity to be saved.


The Kalam Cosmological Argument - Video

For my Philosophy of Religion students.

Monday, September 11, 2017

ONE-HOUR SEMINARY - What About People Who Have Never Heard of Jesus?


SEPT. 12

9-10 PM  EST

Rawls' Rejection of Utilitarianism

If you were an atheist, what kind of ethical system would you appeal to? One possibility is utilitarianism. But utilitarianism has some problems.

See, e.g., this article on John Rawls' attack on utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism seeks to answer the question: how can we maximize people's preferences. How can we achieve the most satisfaction possible for everyone. But utilitarian theory, claims Rawls, "has some odd consequences." Why, e.g., is rape "wrong?" The article states: 

"A utilitarian would have to answer that the pain to the victim outweighs the pleasure to the rapist. Surely, though, this is not why rape is wrong; the pleasure the rapist gets shouldn’t be counted at all, and the whole thing sounds ridiculous. (By the way, Judge Richard Posner, who might be called Jeremy Bentham redivivus, accepts just this view of rape in his Sex and Reason.)"

Consider this. Executing a few Danish cartoonists may bring pleasure to a Muslim mob. Doing this would achieve greater satisfaction for a greater number of people. "A utilitarian would have to endorse the execution." Herein lies the problem. "As Rawls says, “there is a sense in which classical utilitarianism fails to take seriously the distinction between persons.”"

Rawls rejects utilitarianism, and puts forth his own theory in his famous A Theory of Justice

Fruit-Bearing Is Non-Circumstancial

Michigan Central Station, in Corktown, Detroit

The biblical fruit of the Spirit flourishes in every connected Jesus-follower, no matter what the circumstances. As do the Big Three of faith, hope, and love

It's like the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer reacts to the environment, going up and down, contingent on the temperature. But with a thermostat we set the environment. A person who is like a thermostat sets the spiritual environment to God's Kingdom. We do this as we abide in Christ, like a branch connected to Jesus the Vine.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Howard Thurman writes:

"The prophet Jeremiah pictures the man who depends on God, who has God for his confidence, as a tree planted beside a stream sending his roots down to the water. He has no fear of scorching heat, his leaves are always green. He goes on bearing fruit when all around him is barren and serene. In other words such a man looks out on life with quiet eyes." (40-Day Journey With Howard Thurman, 24)

As we maintain our God-connectness we "live serene," and view life through "quiet eyes."

Saturday, September 09, 2017

One-Hour Seminary - What About People Who Have Never Heard of Jesus?

Jesus claimed he was the way, truth, and life, and that no one came to the Father except by him. If Jesus is the only way to God, what about people born before he lived? How are they saved? What about people living during his time, but miles away from Israel? What is the eternal status of people groups who never heard the name of Jesus?

I'll answer those questions this coming Tuesday night, 9-10 EST, streaming live on Facebook. Twenty-five minutes of teaching; a half hour of live Q&A.

Become a Facebook friend and tune in to One-Hour Seminary.

What Scientists Think About Religion

For years Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund has been researching the relationship between scientists and religion.

She summarizes her findings in this essay - "What Scientists Think About Religion." She writes:

"Almost a quarter of Americans think scientists are hostile to religion. But what do we really know about how scientists think about morality, spirituality and faith?
From 2005 to 2008, I surveyed nearly 1,700 natural and social scientists on their views about religion, spirituality and ethics and spoke with 275 of them in depth in their offices and laboratories. It turns out that nearly 50 percent of scientists identify with a religious label, and nearly one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month. While many scientists are completely secular, my survey results show that elite scientists are also sitting in the pews of our nation’s churches, temples and mosques."

For updates and links to her writings, here's her website.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Dr. Michael Brown Speaking at Our Summer 2018 Conference

In the Line of Fire, with Michael Brown

We have secured Dr. Michael Brown as one of the main speakers at our summer 2018 Holy Spirit Renewal Conference.

June 24-28

You can find conference information and registration HERE.

What Makes Jesus Different From Other Gods? - Questions With God

Darren Wilson has released his "Questions with God" video series.

It was my privilege to be part of this project.

In this clip Darren asks me the question, "what makes Christianity different from the other world religions?"

You can check out the videos HERE. You can see the promo clips HERE.

Keep Going Deep

I begin each day with the Psalms, Proverbs, and Thomas Merton.

I began reading Merton in the late 70s.

In 1990 I picked up this book, and read the daily entries for years.

Ten years ago I got this on my Kindle, and read it every day.

Why read Merton? Because few people had a more focused commitment to developing the heart, with the belief that the shape of the heart shapes outward action. (See Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart.)

Jesus went after human hearts. If we want culture to change, focus on changing the inner life.

We see Merton's commitment to this here. He writes:

"I believe that I have the right and the duty to try to go on to a more pure and simple and primitive form of life...
The one thing necessary is a true interior and spiritual life, true growth, on my own, in depth, in a new direction. Whatever new direction God opens up for me. My job is to press forward, to grow interiorly, to pray, to break away from attachments and to defy fears, to grow in faith, which has its own solitude, to seek an entirely new perspective and new dimension in my life. To open up new horizons at any cost. To desire this and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest."
(A Year with Thomas Merton, Kindle Locations 4489-4497)

That's from today's Merton entry. Add that to my Psalms and Proverbs readings for today, and I am focused on life's most important thing.

Plus, God spoke to me, and said, "Do not be tempted by the shallow waters of relevance. Keep...   going... deep."

If you want to go deeper, see my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

If You Commit, Follow Through

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

It is better not to make a vow
than to make one and not fulfill it.

Ecclesiastes 5:5

We've all made a commitment that we have not followed through on. I have. Some do this habitually. The result is they become unbelievable.

If you make a commitment, follow through on it. To commit without follow through means nothing, creates distrust, and is a sign of entitlement if you defend your inaction.

Don't assume people will understand and grade you on a curve. John Townsend writes:

"This belief system says:
 • I’m a good person and I have good intentions.

• I try my best.
• People will see that I am trying.
• I give people a break and they should do the same with me."

Townsend explains:

"This is understandable. We should be understanding and recognize that people have good hearts and are trying hard. But at the heart of this belief system lies a much darker and unhealthy assumption: I am entitled to be judged on my intentions and not my actions. This quickly becomes a demand that no one hold me accountable for the fruit of my behaviors. It’s entitlement speaking once again, and it’s bad for everyone."

- John Townsend, The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way, pp. 184-185)

Praying Within the Big Dance

Bamboo, near Brasilia, Brazil

Since 1981 my extended praying day has been Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoons I go alone to a quiet place, away from distractions, and talk with God about what we are thinking and doing together. Solitary praying is one-on-one, God and I, for several hours.

As I meet with God I carry certain core beliefs with me. They are:

1. God exists. God is real. There is a God. God is. Without this, praying is an illusion. In the act of praying I am keeping company with the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, necessarily existent (everlasting; without beginning or end), personal agent who created and sustains all things. This is no small appointment I have!

2. God is a personal being. God desires relationship. The Christian idea of God as a Trinity makes sense of God as essentially relational. God, in his being, is three relating Persons in One. God, as a Three-Personed Being, makes conceptual sense of the idea that God   is   love. Everlastingly, the Father has been loving the Son, the Son has been loving the Spirit, the Spirit has been loving the Father, and round and round in the Big Dance. To pray is to accept God’s invitation to the Big Dance.

3. God made me. For what? For relationship with him. God desires relationship. He made me for such a partnership as this. When I pray I am living in the heart of God’s desire for me.

4. God knows me. In praying God’s Spirit searches me out. God is aware of my deepest thoughts and inclinations, many of which are beyond me. God knows me better than I know myself. This would be devastating, were it not for the fact that…

5. God loves me. God, in his essence, is love. Therefore, God cannot not-love. This is good news for me! As I put 4 and 5 together I’m singing “Amazing Grace” accompanied by tears of gratitude and joy.

6. God desires me to love and know him in return. God has called me into a reciprocal relationship. Between God and me is a give-and-take.

This is where praying comes in. To pray is to enter a loving-knowing relationship with God. When I talk with God I often begin by asking, “God, is everything all right between you and me?” This is the “Search me, O God” moment. Then, I listen. If God reveals something that’s breaking relationship with him, I confess it. It then becomes God’s delight to forgive me. God loves doing this because God is love. God desires to heal anything that breaks relationship.

In praying, I talk to God. I express my love to God. I voice concerns to him. I don’t hesitate to ask for myself if my request feels kingdom advancing. This is called “petitionary prayer.” I meet some who feel weird about asking for themselves. That feeling is not from God.

I also pray for others. This is called “intercessory prayer.”   All these kind of things and more are what happen when I talk with God.

In praying I listen to God. When God speaks to me, I write it down. I keep a spiritual journal, which is a record of the voice and activity of God to me. In this way I remember the things God says to me. God’s history with me is more precious than material things and accomplishments.

I have found that God has much to say to me today. I take “This is the day the Lord has made” literally. Today is the day of encounter for me. God has plans and purposes for me, which have to do with his kingdom and his righteousness. I seek these two things in the first place. Then God will add all good things unto me.

There is no formula for this, because praying is relationship with God. Praying cannot be programmed. No two dialogues are the same. Praying is a movement, not an institution.

There is more to prayer as relationship than the things I have shared above. Yet there are essentials that apply to any strong relationship: listening, understanding and being understood and, of course, love. I have such things in mind, residually in the background of my soul, when I am praying.

- John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 134-171). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.