Wednesday, May 18, 2005

After-thought to First-thought to Every-thought

Teaching on spiritual disciplines this month. Taught on prayer in a round a bout way last night with the senior high students.

While I was preparing for the lesson I made an effort to think about the normal human struggle with duplicity or hypocrisy. We had talked the week before about how we can be one person in school and another person at home, or it seems that there are two people in us, one wanting to behave this way and another wanting to behave another way (i.e. one wants to treat all friends with respect but the other wants to be accepted by certain friends who disrespect people). And often what we don't want to do, we do, or what we do want to do, we don't (see Paul in chapter 7 of his letter to the Romans on this...he's got some great thoughts). So, in the lesson we talked about how God wanted to make us one, to make us whole and complete, not wishy-washy.

As I was thinking about how to tie this to prayer, I thought about how often when we give in to that which we don't desire, we have an afterthought. It's like, "dang, I wish I didn't do that. I should have asked God for help." Or something like that. Kind of like what Adam experienced in the Garden after the fruit.

So, I was thinking that if we think of God after we are already in our harrowing situations, in our trying circumstances, then it is too late. But what if he was our first thought every day. Would that change anything? I think it would set the tone for the day. It would be a centering type of thing...

But I am not sure that the first thought is where we want to stay. Paul talks about praying continually (1 Thes. 5:16-17). Maybe God wants us to move from after-thought to first-thought to every-thought. Maybe that is a way of looking at the growth we experience in God.

I know there are monks who pray the Jesus Prayer in the attempt to make God their first thought before anything. They talk about how God transforms their hearts and actions through saying that prayer.


Brian said...

cool stuff man. I'd highly recommend the Jesus prayer - "Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner." Or even one of its variants - "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." - "Be still and know that I am God." They've changed my prayer life and thus, my whole life!

Keep after the spiritual disciplines!

Josh said...

Actually, I have been perusing Tony Jones' "Soul Shaper" and read his section on the Jesus Prayer. It really helped me understand the need for it, the history of it, and the theology of it.

Tony recommended breathing in while saying "Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God" and then breathing out while saying "have mercy on me a sinner." It develops a rhythm.

My only struggle comes from my wesleyan background (or at least I think it's from that), and it's with saying I'm a sinner. I myself have no problem saying that I commit sin and am still a Christ follower, but for some reason it's hard for me to say I'm a sinner. But when I do, it helps me realize my need for God even more.

Isabell said...

Probably because the book Of Hebrews tells us that we are a new creation in Christ, and that we are dead to sin.
Mabybe it's our lack of belief that we are free from sin, that keeps us falling back into it from time to time. Or maybe a lack of humility, or thee disciplines or... ?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I read you comment josh and I thought I would traverse these waters with you. As A Wesleyan myself Josh, I also deal with saying "a sinner". We are taught that we are a new creation and that God/Jesus now looks on us as a new being through the blood. All is true. But then I lay my head down at night and I ask yself why did I say that or why did I have that attitude, or why do I constantly struggle with that one SIN, you know the one that easily entangles us/me. I know my nature. I know that I have been bought with a price, forgive the theological baggage here, I have been redeemed, and I stand in front of Christ white as snow, A bride of Christ, once again overlook the sexual inuendo. But as I pray and breath in CHrist's presence and breath out, actually blow out my sin and temptation. Look up spiritual breathing, Bill Bright early days of Campus Crusade. I realize my otherness, my sinfulness in not always acts of sin or even my sin nature which does seperate me, but maybe it is my identity while a resident alien here, I am hip deep or sometimes deeper in a sinful world. The Jesus prayer reminds me of my constant need, It puts me in a place, a mindset of neediness. I NEED MORE OF CHRIST. I need him because of my propensity towards sinful acts, my bent towards the things of this world. LORD Jesus have mercy on me a person in incredible need.
Hey it was really good to see you and your spouse. You are cool

Me the other relative

Josh said...

Other relative,

I agree that we are "knee deep" in the %*@! of sin.

I wonder if the new creation thing is a "now, but not yet" thing. I wonder if we are a new creation in God's eyes, but this time on earth is our time to journey through and make that a reality in all we do. Perhaps it's like a person who discovers the uses of a peanut (thank you george washington carver). I forget the amount of things a peanut can do, but there's a bunch of stuff. Anyway, for a while, people limited the peanut to a few things, but then GWC came along and, over time, discovered way more uses...this is a very very rough anaology. But it may be the same with the new creation, the righteousness that comes from above. It has been given to us, but we are still figuring out how it fits into every part of our lives. So their are areas of our lives that haven't been transformed by it. But the hope of becoming like Christ is that his righteousness would fill every crevice of our life, shine in every dark corner, and overflow out of us in all we do. And at the same time, while we are becoming, we realize that we have so far to go.

So, when I pray the Jesus prayer, I am recognizing that it is God I need. It is God who has mercy and enables me to be who I was created to be. And I can't do it on my own. When I declare that I am a sinner, I am declaring that my own work, my own thoughts, my own feelings aren't big enough, strong enough, good enough, to make me who I was created to be.

It was good to see you too...