I am sitting in the Trinidad airport and it's 5 AM. I am flying into Guyana and we have landed here one hour ahead of schedule. I am waiting to re-board my plane, so I thought I would try to squeeze in this milestone Monday Memo. It is issue number 700! I started the Memo in 2001 and it is still going strong. I am grateful to God who has energized me to write and to you who have also energized me because you read what I write. I know the Memo has touched and helped many people, and I hope you are one of them. Don't forget that I need your financial help if I am to continue writing this Memo and doing all the other purpose activities, including traveling to places like Guyana. And now, here is Memo 700!
Last week in Kenya, I touched on a theme that I haven't spoken on in a while and that's prayer. Have you ever listened to others pray? Have you listened to yourself pray? I have noticed that people often put on an airs when they pray, pretending to be someone they aren't. Sometimes they change their voice. Sometimes they speak in King Jame's English, even though they do not use King James in their everyday conversations. Another interesting trait is saying God's name every third or fourth word: "Lord, I thank You, Lord, for Your grace, Lord, and Your mercy, Lord, and Lord, we now come before You, Lord, to ask you, Lord for Your presence, Lord and Your help, Lord."
If you talk to your spouse, do you say his or her name every third word? If not, then why do you do it with the Lord? It's because we put on airs and fill our prayers at times with repetitive phrases or terms like "Father God," "Almighty God," or "thank You" or "praise You, Lord." We are afraid our natural voice or vocabulary is not good enough to reach God's ears. We also want to impress or not fall short of other's expectations when we pray publicly. When all else fails, we get loud and shout at God, spitting out words like a machine gun, hoping to whip others into a frenzy and let God know we are serious.
It's all pretty tedious, when you think of it, and is also a religious spirit of tradition and ritual.
Jesus did not say the Lord's name every third word when He prayed (although if look at His prayer in John 17, you see that he used it every few sentences in a natural, conversational way). He also didn't end His prayers with the phrase, "In Jesus' name." The writer of Hebrews tells us how Jesus prayed in a way that enabled His prayers to be heard:
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:7-9).
In other words, Jesus was authentic when He prayed. He did not put on airs and try to impress. He knew with whom He was conversing and He was intimate and honest. You and I would do well to emulate His behavior when we pray.
We will talk about prayer and how it relates to purpose in the coming weeks. In the meantime, your assignment is to listen to your prayers and ask yourself, "Are they religious or honest?" The more important questions are really, "Do I get answers to my prayers? Am I really asking for something when I pray or just shuffling words around in the atmosphere?" As you attempt to answer those questions, I hope you will have a blessed week. I know I will as I visit Guyana for the first time in 26 years!
GUYANA: Don't forget what I mentioned above. I need your help now that I have finished my work in Kenya and get ready to move on to South America. You can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your help!