Thoughts on Prayer, Circumstances and God’s Purposes

God uses the circumstances of our lives to change us and accomplish His purpose in us.


Many of us pray to God to change our circumstances. We pray for things that we want, sometimes things that really need. We pray according to our perspective, telling God what we want and need.

He knows, of course, what we want and what we need. He knows before we ask. He knows as the words are forming on our tongues and formulating in our minds.

Jesus told us to pray and ask God for our daily bread. Jesus told us to ask, seek, knock….

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

He even illustrated with a parable:

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)

We are expected to ask, supposed to ask, and ask persistently. And many, many people do ask God for things, but God doesn’t seem to answer. He doesn’t give us what we want, and sometimes He doesn’t even give us the things we desperately feel we need. Sometimes it seems He doesn’t answer at all.

It’s common to human experience to ask God to change our circumstances. When the circumstances don’t change, we are discouraged, depressed, frustrated and sometimes even angry. Many walk away from God as a result.

Atheists challenge me, “Prove to me that God answers prayers, and I will believe.” As if God was a kind of vending machine in the sky, or a barterer or maybe just a slot machine. Sometimes you win with God, and sometimes you don’t. Just keep trying.

But that’s not the right way to approach God. Jesus called Him Our Father. He is also the same God who formed the universe out of nothing. If you spend any time contemplating all that science informs us about the vastness, complexity and elegant, austere beauty of the creation, you begin to understand how great God must be… mind-boggling. He isn’t a “tame lion” as CS Lewis says.

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Four Misconceptions about Christianity

Four basic assumptions that seem to be prevalent in the modern American world that are not not biblical.


I am continually impressed by the persistence of misconceptions about Christianity, even in the United States. The US is considered by many (still) to be a “Christian” nation. Most people may identify as Christian in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we all understand the basic tenets of the faith. Maybe it’s an example of familiarity leading us to assume things that aren’t necessarily true. Following I address just four very basic assumptions that seem to be prevalent in the modern American world that are not consistent with the Christian perspective that is revealed in the Bible. Continue reading “Four Misconceptions about Christianity”

Becoming Mindful of God

The benefits of mindfulness and prayer are proven in the secular and spiritual worlds.

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The March 2018 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal includes an article by Ed Finkel, an Evanston based freelance writer. The subject is mindfulness for attorneys, inspired by presentations given by Naperville business and estate planning attorney, Mark Metzger. This all may seem too professional and industry-based for this blog, but it got me thinking.

First of all, the legal profession is where I spend a large chunk of my time every week, week after week, month after month, year after year. Finkel correctly notes that the practice of law is a highly stressful occupation. Other occupations also have their share of stress, of course.

We experience stress often in our everyday living as well. The stress of strained personal relationships, financial difficulty and burdens, raising children, and many other kinds of stress weigh upon us. We all feel stress from time to time.

So what does mindfulness for lawyers have anything to do with a blog on navigating by faith? Quite a bit, it turns out.

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The Significance of Our Father

God is always orientated as a Father toward us

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Tim Keller[1] says there are no more important words in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray then the first two words, Our Father.[2] The importance of these words is underscored by the way we reference The Lord’s Prayer. We sometimes call it “the Our Father”.

Why are these words so important?

Tim Keller says that these words frame our orientation toward God. He suggests that people either have a transactional orientation toward God or a family orientation. Most of us operate on a transactional orientation toward God and others at times in our lives. Some of us live there. Beginning a prayer by calling God, “Our Father”, orientates us the right way.

A transactional orientation is focused on what we must do in order to have a relationship, a connection, with other people. A transactional orientation focuses on what people (and God) can do for us. A transactional orientation is characterized by offering consideration[3] in order to get something in return.

When we have a transactional orientation toward God, we approach Him completely differently than the way Jesus taught us to pray. We come to Him looking for something for ourselves. We are focused on what we need and want. We feel like we have to offer Him something in order to get what we are seeking. A transactional orientation toward God turns prayer into bargaining.

When we have a transactional orientation toward God, we are not seeking God. We are seeking something from God.

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Prayer That Is Not Over Matched by Every Buzzing Fly

The only remedy for the condition of our hearts is God. We have to go continually to God.

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John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, said this about prayer in a letter to a friend:

Our ability to pray is so weak that, if we are sitting in a room trying to pray, we are over matched by the buzzing of a fly.

Tim Keller says that prayer is hard for us for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we have “distance” from God is the due to the fact that we live in a physical world, while God does not. We are absorbed by the physicality of the world in such a way that is hard for us to contact to a non-physical God. What, then, is prayer that we can engage in it, engage God and overcome the obstacles that get in the way?

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Living Like An Atheist?

If God created the universe, created you and me and everything we know, doesn’t He deserves more of us?

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Ravi Zacharias is a well-known speaker on faith, culture and philosophy. He travels around the world, rubbing shoulders with the intellectual elite. He wasn’t always the intellectual sort. He wasn’t always a man faith. He called himself an atheist growing up.

In an interview, when he was pressed on that point, he said, “Atheism is a strong word. I was living like an atheist.”

 How many of us live like an atheist?

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When God Sends Us Difficulties

Why would God send us difficulties? And, what can or should we do about it?

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“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people….”[1]

We like to view God as a Great Benevolent Giver in the sky. We want Him to pour out good gifts to us and make our lives easy for us, and we are disappointed, disillusioned and discouraged when we don’t experience the generosity we imagine and want from God.

God is benevolent for sure, but He is much more than that. He doesn’t just want to give us good things; He wants to give us Himself. In fact, He doesn’t just want to give us Himself, He wants to pour Himself out into and through us to bless others as He desires to bless us.

But, this ultimate desire and purpose of God to bless us takes on a different form than we would like at times. God’s activity in our lives doesn’t always feel like a blessing.

In this verse from 2 Chronicles 7, we learn that God, Himself, may cause difficult things to happen, or simply allow them to happen, in our lives. But why? And what can we do about it?

We need to read the second half of the verse and consider the context in which it was written for a more complete picture.

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