Is there more to enjoying God’s grace than simply possessing eternal life? Jonathan Daugherty shared this sermon on the topic at Northeast Bible Church.
Is there more to enjoying God’s grace than simply possessing eternal life? Jonathan Daugherty shared this sermon on the topic at Northeast Bible Church.
With a title like that, you may think I have finally lost my mind (or at least admitted it). But I hope you will give me a chance to expound. After all, aren’t blog titles just clever hooks to get you to read the first paragraph? Step 1, check.
Brokenness isn’t something one seeks after. And it certainly isn’t something our society values. It means something isn’t working right; fragmented and fractured. To be broken is to not be in working order. This is why we generally don’t get excited about brokenness: broken doesn’t work.
When the idea of brokenness is focused on our humanity, it makes us squirm and resist even more. But even admitting personal brokenness is a challenge for some. Our society would prefer to start with the premise that we are inherently good deep down. Way deep down. So deep down is this “goodness” that if you went looking for it you might wonder why so many adopt this idea of inherent goodness. Especially when such a dig reveals so much brokenness. In the search for good, we discover we are broken, we don’t work right.
The Psalmist explained our brokenness and lack of goodness like this:
The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3)
“No one who does good.” This phrase is repeated multiple times and in various ways throughout the bible. It’s a hard truth to embrace, right? No one? Really? Apparently so. God even searches for just one human being who does good and the results come back wanting. You and I are broken. Not good.
There is good news, however, regarding our brokenness: it doesn’t have to be permanent. God is not uncaring toward our problem. He knows we are weak, sinful, and broken. He, on the other hand, is strong, pure, and holy. By His mercy He made a way for us to be clothed with His goodness so that we work properly.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)
Faith is all it takes to be made right with God, and to have His goodness given to us. This is Good News! But what if you’ve trusted Christ and still struggle with a besetting sin?
Let’s view brokenness from two angles. First, as it’s been shown above, it is how we are flawed, sinful, fractured. It’s a core condition because of our inherent sinfulness. The bible calls this our flesh, or sinful nature. This brokenness is what separates us from God and causes us to want to do anything but good. Second, though, we could see our brokenness as a tool by which God will grow us in grace. Let me explain.
Even if you have trusted Christ, you still live in your flesh. Your sinful nature (desire to do evil) is still present. But your spirit is alive in Christ and you are seen by God as righteous by the blood of Jesus. This creates a conflict, though, in your daily life. A part of you (spirit) wants to do good, but another part of you (flesh) wants to keep living out of brokenness. I suppose God could have set things up so that whenever a person trusts Christ their flesh was abolished and they would have no more desire to sin. But He didn’t do that (freedom from the presence of sin comes in heaven). He allowed this struggle to remain. Why?
I won’t presume to have the complete answer to that question, but I do wonder if one reason He allows us to continue battling our brokenness is so that our faith grows and His power is magnified. The apostle Paul highlights this struggle and its solution in Romans 7-8. The final conclusion is that Jesus delivers us from the power of our flesh so we can live a life pleasing to God. God doesn’t apologize for our brokenness. Instead, He gives us the gift of His Spirit to heal our fractures, remind us of our value before Him, and empower us to work right.
I’m not afraid of being broken. I know God loves me, has given me His very own goodness, and allows my brokenness to remind me of my need for His power every moment of every day. That’s the good news of being broken, and I thought you might want to hear it.
I had a guy approach me recently and say, “You are the most authentic person I have ever met inside a church.” I thanked him for his comment, respoding with a stupid remark about how that’s probably why I could never be a pastor. As I pondered that encounter, some very strange emotions welled up inside. First, I felt great encouragement from his words. It’s one of the nicest compliments I think I have ever received. As someone who lived so much of my life as a complete phony, it was affirming to know that God truly is in the business of transformation.
But opposite this emotion of encouragement, I felt a great sadness, almost as if a crushing weight was pressing in on my chest. Tears filled my eyes. I’m the most authentic person this guy has ever met inside a church? How tragic! What has gone wrong in Christ’s church that authenticity is so rare it is sought out to be applauded? My soul wept…
There seems to be a form of Christianity in America today (and has been for some time) that appears real, but up close it isn’t. It is like a mirage to a lost or wandering soul. From a distance there seems to be life-giving water and refreshment for all who would approach seeking relief from their weary travels in life. But the closer the drifter approaches, he finds the water to instead be dry dust and dead men’s bones. It was just a mirage.
Can you imagine anyone approaching Jesus only to find that the closer they got the less he was what he appeared to be? He is the Author of authenticity! There is nothing phony about him, no pretense or slippery agendas. He IS truth (John 14:6), so there isn’t any smoke and mirrors, or trap doors you suddenly fall through when moving toward him. Yet, somewhere along the way, some of his followers got scared, or proud, or lost. The result? Facades that appear true, but are really false.
What I find ironic about this guy’s compliment of me is that it wasn’t really because of me. I’m just a guy, a broken, sinful, inconsistent child of God. It was the Truth in me that he saw and was drawn to. In fact, just minutes before I spoke with this man I was confessing a stupid, selfish thing I had done earlier that week. I was essentially shouting from the rooftops, “I am broken! There is nothing in me of any good or worthiness or purity, only weakness and indescribable need.” With the apostle Paul I agree, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) The Truth in me (Jesus!) is what the world needs to see.
I don’t know why so many in the church are unwilling to be real, laying down pride and fear in favor of humility and honesty. I mean, I know it’s scary and there is a definite cost to doing so, but do they realize the immeasurable riches that are only found in magnifying Jesus? “He must increase, I must decrease” isn’t just a poetic quip to exalt our own piety. It’s a reality that opens the door to all that God made us to be: trophies of His grace, on display before a dark and dying world. But the trophy never shines if we keep pretending to be something we are not. Pride isn’t just saying “I’m better than you.” It’s also saying “I won’t admit I’m weak and broken.”
The time has come for the church (believers in Jesus) to be real. Nobody buys your baloney about having it all together, anyway. Take down the facades. Peel off the masks. What you think will kill you by being honest will actually set you free. Why? Because the Truth sets you free. And all you hide when you choose to be phony is the Truth inside. Jesus isn’t magnified from a closed heart.
Authenticity is really about highlighting the grace of God, not the works of man. Will the real you please stand up? God wants to show off His grace in you to everyone watching. Don’t deny Him this pleasure…
A Christian is anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their only way of being in relationship with God.
A quick world history lesson, according to the Bible, reveals that God is a self-existing, eternal being, full of power, majesty, and indescribable love and generosity. This Being decided to create, not out of need or loneliness, but of his free will, to share of himself with those he created (Gen. 1). He spoke and things started appearing out of nothing. Light, sky, water, fish, birds, and creeping things that creep along the earth (could it be that cockroaches existed before sin entered the world? Hmm.).
The crown jewel of God’s creation was people, you and me. Well, originally Adam and Eve. But human beings were at the top of the list of God’s proudest accomplishments. We were to be a sort of “God-reflector” to the rest of creation. He made us in his image (Gen. 1:26-27), bearing a reasonable sense of creativity, free will and glory that came directly from him. But we cracked the reflector. Actually, we shattered it into a million pieces, using God’s gift of free will to choose against him, rather than to obey him.
When God created Adam, he gave him one boundary. One. He said, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:17) God established a law, a rule, a parameter across which Adam was not to go. It was necessary, too. After all, if there were not a line drawn, then Adam (and you and I) really wouldn’t have been given free will. Free will requires a choice. Adam chose poorly. And so has everyone since.
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, disobeying God’s one instruction, and thereby bringing sin (spiritual separation from God) into the human race. Their disobedience stained the rest of humanity, every person born in a state of spiritual separation from the God who made them. But God didn’t abandon human beings just because they rejected him. He instead set in motion a redemptive plan, one that would ultimately culminate thousands of years later in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.
Jesus came on the scene after some of the darkest centuries of spiritual dryness in history. He was born in a manner unlike anyone else, not through normal human conception, but by a miracle. He was born from a virgin woman, Mary (Matt. 1:18-25). God himself impregnated Mary with his own son, his promised Messiah. What is Messiah, you ask? Good question.
Back in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and felt ashamed (note the terrible link between sexuality and shame that was an initial, direct result of their sin). They hid in the bushes. God called out and asked where they were. When they stepped out from behind the bushes, God asked why they were hiding. Adam bravely piped up and blamed Eve, who in turn blamed the serpent (who, by now, had slithered under a rock). Without waiting for contrition on the parts of Adam and Eve, God killed an animal and clothed them with its skin (Gen. 3:21). This provided a foreshadowing of God’s eventual explicit requirement for shed blood as atonement for sin.
This blood thing comes up again when God puts Moses in charge of leading the Israelites out of their captivity in Egypt (Exodus 12). He instructs him to tell the people to sacrifice an unblemished lamb (one without defect or illness) on a particular day and spread the blood of the lamb across the doorposts of their houses. That night God would pass through Egypt, bringing judgment on the people by striking dead the firstborn child in each home, except the houses with blood on the doorposts. When he saw the blood, he would pass over those houses and show mercy on everyone inside, the blood signifying their trust and obedience to God.
Later on there were even more instructions given regarding blood sacrifices under the Levitical priests (Lev. 1-7). Many rituals and ceremonies were all part of this redemptive picture God was painting in history, one that required blood as an appeasement against God’s holy justice against sin. But none of these sacrifices permanently paid the penalty for sin. They had to be repeated over and over again. Why? Because none of those lambs or goats or bulls were perfect. Nor were they like us. They were animals, not humans. They served only as a picture of something (rather, Someone) to come later, the Messiah.
Kings have been a big deal throughout history. Still are in many parts of the world. A monarchy provided a king with absolute authority over the people in his kingdom. The king’s word was law and any who offended the king were dealt with swiftly, and sometimes fatally. Kings must only answer to God (that is, if they don’t already think they are him!). King David was a significant king in the history of God’s redemptive plan.
God chose Israel to be his beacon nation, proclaiming his greatness to all the people of the world through them. Don’t try to figure out why he chose Israel, he just did. Along the way, the Israelites got grumpy because they weren’t governed like other nations, those that had kings (1 Sam. 8). They were governed by this invisible God who spoke through prophets and that just didn’t suit them anymore. So, they complained for a king. God gave them what they wanted, but warned them of the oppression that such a desire would eventually bring because human kings do not govern like God does. Israel’s first king was Saul, a guy who started out okay, but ended up rotten. David followed up Saul and is still considered the greatest king in Israel’s history, a man after God’s own heart.
God loved David and David loved God. David certainly wasn’t perfect, but God’s favor was poured out on him, even making him a promise that his throne would be established forever and that Messiah (literally, the Anointed One) would come through his lineage. Yes, the one to save the world from sin’s penalty and reign on David’s throne forever would be a direct descendent of this great king. But this Messiah wouldn’t arrive for nearly 1000 years. God isn’t hasty in fulfilling his plans.
Now we are back up to speed with where Jesus fits into this picture. He was a direct descendent of King David (Matt. 1), declared the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and the only one able to permanently erase the penalty due for our sin (he wasn’t stained by sin because he was conceived by God, not man). And he did pay our penalty – willingly. But his sacrifice didn’t happen the way you might think.
Jesus made waves, not with sinners, but with religious leaders. He toppled their system of power and control, their ways of manipulation and extortion. Jesus spread the message of God’s kingdom (after all, Jesus was the King of kings) and that he was the only way to come to God (John 14:6). It was his claims of exclusivity that still trouble many to this day. Jesus said no one comes to God except through him. No one.
David Robinson is one of my all-time favorite basketball players. He is also just a great human being, one who has lived with integrity and character in the face of many pressures and temptations. We conduct an annual golf tournament for our ministry to raise money and awareness of purity resources. In the early years we used to auction off various items at the tournament. One year, we decided we would approach David to autograph a couple of basketballs. But you don’t just open the phone book and look up David Robinson’s number.
We made several phone calls to organizations and affiliations that David had to try and figure out how to contact him. Finally, we got connected to his personal assistant, the person you must go through if you are going to connect with David. After a few more calls back and forth, David graciously accepted our request and donated the basketballs. That connection never would have happened without going through his personal assistant.
Unlike David Robinson, God doesn’t require us to do all kinds of hunting around to find out the way to him. The way is Jesus, the Light of the world, the one who proclaimed on mountainsides and in courtyards that he and the Father are one. To know God you must know Jesus. No one gets a front row seat with God apart from a personal escort from Jesus.
But what did Jesus do that was so significant for us? He paid our sin debt – completely. He became the sacrificial lamb, the blood on the doorpost, the clothing to cover our shame and brokenness and sin.
Eventually, the religious leaders had enough of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus came into the world, the world he made, but that the world didn’t recognize him (John 1:10-11). In other words, human beings once again rejected God through misdirecting their free will toward self rather than toward God (just like in Eden). Jesus was sentenced to be crucified for what the religious leaders deemed blasphemy; claiming to be equal with God. This is what is so significant to us. Through the punishment he endured, he would bear the full weight of God’s justice against sin, so we wouldn’t have to (Romans 3:21-26).
Jesus was whipped, flesh torn from his body, blood pouring over his open wounds. He was beaten, bruised, spit upon, mocked, laughed at, all for sins he never committed (he lived a sinless life). He was forced to carry his cross, splinters wedging deep into the open wounds upon his back. Finally, he was hung naked on a cross, crown of thorns pressed into his brow, hands and feet nailed securely. Then the crushing blow, when God turned away his head (because he is holy and cannot be joined to sin) while Jesus became sin for our sake (2 Cor. 5:21). The agony was indescribable. The torture gruesome. The payment complete. In that moment, Jesus looked toward the skies and declared, “It is finished!” God’s redemptive plan hit a high note, even on such a dark day.
Jesus was dead. But not for long. Three days later he could not be found in the tomb. Why? Because God raised him from dead, to prove that he was the totally acceptable sacrifice for the sin of the world. God was pleased with his sacrifice, and as a result no more lambs or goats or bulls or any other creature would have to shed its blood for sin’s sake (Heb. 7:26-28). God’s justice was fulfilled through the love his Son displayed by willingly giving his life in our place to pay a debt we owed, but could never erase on our own (we couldn’t even make the interest payments!).
God has always desired only one thing from the human beings he created: relationship (Mark 12:28-31). He wants us to know him and walk through life with him – forever. Sin severed that connection, drawing us toward the bushes to hide in our shame and fear. But God never wavered in his desire for us to be reconnected. Patiently and purposefully, he orchestrated the most outlandish plan to buy back the rebellious, the broken, the wayward, the lost, the sinner. And the way you can have this restored relationship with God? Jesus.
When I look at a photograph of my wife an image in my mind and heart is evoked. I feel the emotion of love in my heart and my mind is filled with an ocean of memories. I remember laughs we have shared over the years, but I also remember tears as we have navigated through difficult times. I feel joy for the laughter, but sadness for how my brokenness has caused her pain. A photograph is an example of an icon or form of symbol that fortifies reality for me. It is a form of symbol that connects me to something much larger than my own small self – in this case, my marriage, my wife, friends, family, larger concepts like love, family, hurt, friendship, and forgiveness. I let photographs bring these ideas to my mind because I know that we humans want to feel deep connections. Similarly, there are symbols and imagery in Christianity that we easily overlook, but if we care to, they also offer us an amazing avenue for connecting with something larger than ourselves.
In Christian symbols, the crucifix is revered by some and overlooked by others. But the importance of what it represents cannot be debated. During his final week in Jerusalem, Jesus announced to his disciples that His hour had come. The cross is the hour—everything took place on the cross. The cross is the fulfillment of everything—death, and resurrection. The cross is a mystery. Jesus while enduring such great suffering by hanging on the cross, knew there was nothing else to do but put Himself into the arms of God. Jesus had to endure the cross for our sins, so that we could have the hope of salvation. When I look at a crucifix, that symbol fortifies the reality for me of salvation. In this sense, the crucifix represents a vital and fundamental principle in my beliefs.
To even use the word “symbol” can summon in the Protestant mind idolatry. But a sound understanding of the Scriptures elicits true imagery within our hearts, and grants sound theology to our minds. For me, having grown up in a religious denomination where Christian symbols and imagery were rarely present, I did not understand the importance of Christian imagery until I entered a process of deep suffering.
In my suffering, the crucifix became a very important symbol. Sometimes when I pray I hold a crucifix because it is a visible reminder to me not only of the price Jesus paid for my salvation, but also of God’s Presence. The Christian symbol of the crucifix strengthens my sense of reality. In that symbol, I find the revelation of God through Christ and the Scriptures. I have discovered as I look at the Christian symbol of the crucifix, I move out of my false self in whom rules pride, selfishness, and a multitude of other vices, to discover my true self in the resurrection’s healing power of the Presence of God in Jesus. It is a mystery. I do not hold the crucifix in idolatry to it, but as a powerful reminder that moves me to grasp reality more firmly and more passionately.
The Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion is another important Christian symbol, which for a number of years was lost to my Protestant mind. Jesus spoke the words at the Last Supper, “Take and eat, this is my body given for you.” Indeed, in Christ God had taken a physical form so that we could touch God and become whole. The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion is a mystery, but in that mystery we find healing for our wounded souls because we are brought into the healing Presence of God. It is the intimate communion with God that reveals to us how to live in the world and how to act in God’s name. Taking the bread and the wine symbolizes receiving God into ourselves. It gives us a tangible symbol of what it means to truly believe in God’s life-changing Presence.
Symbols are a powerful tool to greater intimacy with God if we allow them to be. Focusing on the concept or event behind common Christian images such as the crucifix or the Holy Eucharist can lead us to better comprehension of who God is. Rather than taking for granted the Christian symbols around us and allowing them to remain disconnected from their meaning, we must train ourselves to look beyond the superficial and into the deeper well of God’s Presence.
Increasing our conscious contact with God through contemplative prayer
When I was invited to write this column, I was a little bit intimidated about where to begin. Saints have written volumes about contemplative prayer. My wife can certainly tell you that I am no saint. But St. Augustine’s words, “My soul is restless until it rests in You O God,” penetrate to the deep passion of my heart. Prayer is a movement of response to our Creator who loves us and pursues us like the hounds of heaven. God is the consummate lover who wants to be in an intimate relationship with us as His created beings.
Contemplative prayer has been revolutionary in my search for God, my struggle to discover the fullness of Love, and my yearning for the complete truth. In contemplative prayer, I have been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth.
I came to faith during my teen years. My paternal grandmother was a Christian who had a strong influence on me having a heart to seek God. She mirrored God’s unconditional love to me in a visible and palpable way, which gave me hope that I wasn’t alone in the fragmented dysfunctional house where I grew up.
…I really thought prayer was all about bringing a grocery list of requests to God.
Grandma was a Protestant, so I followed that tradition. While I served in the Navy, I was introduced to a Christian group who discipled me in the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, scripture memory, and fellowship. I remember reading Robert D. Foster’s Seven Minutes with God as a guide on how to plan a daily quiet time. The prayer time suggested was 2.5 minutes and the format suggested was: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
At that point in my spiritual journey, my concept of God vacillated between two extremes. At one extreme, I perceived Him as a remote benevolent monarch roaming around the universe who would punish me quickly for the slightest infraction. On the other side of the spectrum, I had a warped thought – maybe He was kind of like a celestial slot machine (a big sugar daddy) and if I could find the right formula, life would be rosy.
So my 2 ½ minute daily prayer life followed the pattern above, but mostly I really thought prayer was all about bringing a grocery list of requests to God. I was not living a faith-based prayer life.
In 1994 my world crashed. God used a series of circumstances to bring me face to face with Him. He left me no doubt that He is real, and has called me to be in a relationship with Him. To be in a relationship with God is something more incredible than marriage and marriage is a Holy Covenant. I can imagine if I would spend 2 ½ minutes a day with my wife, there wouldn’t be much intimacy. Yet the Creator of the whole universe who loved us even before He called us into being – even before He implanted us into our mother’s womb – and who loves us for eternity, knocks on the door of our heart quietly for us to invite Him in. That’s pretty incredible. I love being with my wife. I can assure you that I spend more than 2 ½ minutes a day with her. I can’t wait to spend time with her, and we’ve been married 32 years.
It is in the presence of Christ that I myself discovered the healing of my fragmented soul.
While God pursues us, He is the perfect gentleman. He patiently waits. He does not barge into our lives. He created us with a free will and He will not violate our free will. The choice is ours. Do we want to accept His invitation to be in relationship with Him?
Moving away from my “grocery list litany” style of praying and into a contemplative approach of fellowship with God was catapulted by an incredible little book which is one of the greatest pieces of Christian literature of all time entitled Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach. These two men in church history have written very practically and simply on the subject of the practice of the presence of Christ. Brother Lawrence lived in the 17th Century, and Frank Laubach lived in the 20th Century, but their writing is a testimony that the reality of walking almost continually in the awareness of the presence of Christ is possible. It is in the presence of Christ that I myself discovered the healing of my fragmented soul.
Off the top of my head there are many incredible writers on contemplative prayer who have helped me in my journey. I strongly recommend Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Francis Keating for starters.
I’ve been aware of God’s pursuit since I came to faith in my teen years, but my response was sort of an approach-avoidance posture. How can you really get to know someone if you don’t spend any time with that person? Seven minutes with God may have been fine during my infant years of spiritual development, but God doesn’t want us to be infants all our lives. For me personally, the shift in my head began when I read in Luke chapter 11 about one morning when, in response to Jesus’ disciples’ request that He teach them to pray, Jesus gave them a format. I noted that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus how to pray. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Up to that point in their spiritual journey, they had watched Jesus pray to the Father, but their minds had not comprehended that Jesus was actually God enfleshed in their midst.
I began to pray following The Lord’s Prayer, and making it very personal. Below is an example of how I began to pray. This type of prayer revolutionized my concept of God and moved me out of the “grocery list” mode into the very Presence of God:
I would pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” – Just saying those words connected me with the reality of Jesus saying, “our.” – God is my Father.
And I’d pray a sentence, “Father I thank You that hallowed – holy – is Your name, Abba Father. I thank You that You are my Father, my holy Father. God, I thank You that You are holy—that You are not a man that You should lie; neither the Son of Man, that You should repent. You have said, and shall You not do it? Or have You spoken, and shall You not make it good?(Numbers 23:19) I’d memorized that verse years ago and it seemed to float naturally to the surface of my mind in this prayer. God is not man. God is the Creator and man is His creation. God is holy, and I’d pause to meditate on that before moving on to the next sentence.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – After praying those words I would pray: “Holy Father today I pray that Your heavenly kingdom would come to earth.” Imagine there being no separation from heaven. I was petitioning God to bring heaven into my day. Sometimes that happens you know – somebody pats you on the back, you get a smile when you’re having a bad hair day, another driver lets you squeeze into a packed lane during rush hour. Nature screams to me of the objective, visible reality that there is a God – that we have a Creator. You cannot look at a rose and say the textures and shading are random chance. God has used this prayer to open my eyes that heaven is a lot closer than we realize.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” – I pray “Lord Jesus, You are the Bread of Life and I pray that You would come in and fill my heart with Your living presence.” With my hand on my heart, I would do a centering exercise as I pray, “Lord Jesus, I thank You that You are in the Father. And Holy Father, I thank You that You are in Lord Jesus. And Lord Jesus, I thank You that You are in me and I am in You – that Your Holy Spirit lives in me, teaching me, praying for me, and comforting me.” And I would conclude that verse with, “Holy Father, I thank You for providing my daily needs.
“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” – I would pray, “Father forgive my sins, and help me forgive those who have sinned against me. Most of all, help me forgive myself.” I would name specific sins during this time if I could identify them.
“Lead us not into temptation.” – I would pray, “Father, today I pray that You would lead me away from temptation to sin.”
“Deliver us from evil.” – I would pray, “Father, today I pray that You would deliver me from the evil one—please put a hedge around me.”
The movement into contemplative prayer was the key that opened the door of my heart.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” – I would pray, “Holy Father, truly Yours is the true kingdom, true power, and true glory for ever and ever. I thank You for the hope that because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross I am a part of that kingdom and that I am Your son who will one day be able to see You in all Your splendor and glory.” Amen
As I prayed that way for a number of months, an amazing thing began to happen. One morning God just sort of scooped me into His arms in a big hug. In the months previous to this moment, I knew I’d been trying to draw closer to God, but I don’t think I truly understood what I was doing until this moment. I had opened the door and let Him into my heart – we were in daily fellowship. It was like being on a date with God. He had been silently waiting at the door of my heart until I invited Him in. The movement into contemplative prayer was the key that opened the door of my heart. At this point, I have a confession to make to you my reader; I have come to realize that I have a Protestant mind, but a Catholic heart, which is a topic for another article.
As I moved further in my journey with contemplative prayer and I felt more comfortable conversing with God, I began learning other facets of prayer. No wonder I didn’t feel like God was listening to me all the years I was throwing grocery lists at Him. If I always greeted people with a list of “I wants,” I don’t think I would be successful in forming a real relationship with them. God wants a relationship with us that includes regular fellowship—He created us to be intimately connected to Him and contemplative prayer is one facet of walking that out.