Prayer, Plain and Simple

I’m not a schizophrenic, at least I haven’t been diagnosed. But I do hear voices in my head.


I don’t think I’m alone. I bet you do as well. I hear my own voice of course, what some people call my “self talk. I also hear others: the voices of old teachers I once feared, my parents, people who said hurtful words to me in the distant past, and strangers who said odd things that stuck in my memory. Most of the voices I hear have a logical connection to my experiences.


Most, but not all.


Some of the voices I hear I believe do come from outside my own head and my own experiences. Some of those voices, I believe, as do most Christians, can be hostile and dark and sinister. Some voices can be from the devil.

Yes, I do believe in a devil, a real force of evil who works under and beneath to bend wills and minds and actions. I don’t blame the devil for my choices, but I do believe at times the devil and his foes push and pull me toward one action or another, away from God’s ways,


Jesus thought this. He taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one…” Jesus saw the world as a war zone. He taught us to fight those influences with prayer…


Here’s another bit from Mark’s Gospel about fighting temptation with Jesus’ words.   


“Be careful” (Mark 8:14)


“Where is temptation?”


Voices in your head riot. Your appetite throws tantrums. Fear hangs in the shadows feeding suspicion. Shame and pride slug it out. Envy agitates discontent. Haunting memories blast messages over the speaker system of your mind. Anger stokes fires in your heart. “Do this; don’t do that!” they say. Voices want to hold you hostage. Be careful!


Jesus’ followers panicked. They had forgotten food for their journey across the lake and feared they’d starve. “Be careful” Jesus warned. “Beware of thinking in finite terms. Beware of bad memory that ignores past provision. Beware alarm and its urge to manipulate circumstances. Beware thinking God is dead, or even that he is indifferent. There is plenty of food. I can simply make more! I’ve done it before. Beware the temptation of pessimism. Be very, very careful!


“Be careful!” was enough, or it should have been. Just two simple words from Jesus laid bare the deception of doubt. God is great and God is good. “Be careful” is plenty!


The devil lies when he says you are self-sustained. He force-feeds this lie into your instinctive fear of starvation, and tempts you into desperate independence. Your spirit is willing, to be sure, but your flesh is weak. We are all prone to expect the worst. Beware the temptation of pessimism!


Solution: Stand and borrow words from Jesus. Rebuke panic, “Be careful!” Tame your instincts of hunger, sex, and survival with “Be careful!” Manage your imagination, reason, intuition, and memory with “Be careful!” Do not conform to the pattern of pessimism. Renew your mind with Jesus’ reminder, “Be careful!”


Then relax; he has plenty.


Your mission: “Know yourself.” Anticipate your own unique brand of pessimism. Study your own weaknesses and prepare to resist the temptations tailored to weaken your resolve. When you see the slightest drift toward panic step up and say, “Be careful!” “Be careful!” “Be careful!” Say it. Say it until the pressure to expect the worst falls back into the pit of hell from which it comes.

Question: “Where is there temptation?” Answer: “Be careful!”


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