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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Adultery Doesn’t Work: Ask the Children

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Yesterday afternoon Angela, an articulate and talented thirteen year-old sat in my office trying to make sense of the train wreck that had blown apart her family. I don’t think I helped much. Help will take a miracle, but then God is good at miracles…

For the last 18 months I’ve been working with Angela’s parents, Dan and Tina, now divorced, as they try to learn to communicate civilly, for Angela’s sake. So far, it’s been a frustrating effort. Their problem is trust. Dan and Tina’s 20 year marriage died in a bloody mess after a betrayal of adultery. Many issues, on both sides preceded the infidelity, and more followed, but the spark that lit the inferno exploded the moment they broke the 7th Commandment. That one decision mortally wounded their marriage, and with it, the peaceful, “fairytale” childhood this precious girl had enjoyed. Now her security and hope for her own future have became a secondary, but painfully real casualty. We may debate adultery on philosophical grounds; practically, there’s simply no debate – it doesn’t work. Just ask the children.

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Tonight ABC’s “Nightline” is staging a debate about the validity of monogomy. Some people, as we will hear, argue that our sexual instincts pull us away from monogamy. We’re primates, and by the rules of our DNA, playing the field simply runs in the family. But those of us who believe there is something more to our humanness than genetics, hold out for a higher vision. We believe a Designer – God – has implanted something holy within us, a destiny that calls on us to govern and direct our impulses, not simply yield to their demands. Sex, we believe is more than physical; It’s actually sacred, a form of worship that participates with God in creating new life and nurturing the life of another we hold in our arms. Sex reaches its ultimate intent only when it’s bounded within the circle of a covenant promise – one man, with one woman, for life. This is the intent of God’s Command, “You shall not commit adultery.” He’s not ruining our fun; he’s explaining how our relationship hardware and software  actually run.

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Fidelity nurtures human life on both personal and interpersonal levels. In addition to providing security for children and the extended family associated with a marriage, couples themselves flourish best within a monogamous commitment. Studies have shown measurable advantages in physical and psychological health among people who marry and stay married. Other research studying sexual fulfillment has found that monogamous couples enjoy far richer “feelings of intimacy,” more physical satisfaction, and more frequent encounters in their sexual experiences. The primary issue here seems to be trust. When each partner trusts fully that the other will “be there in the morning,” they are willing to abandon themselves in sexual expression. Abandonment is key to pleasure; trust is key to abandonment; Fidelity is key to trust. It seems counterintuitive, but the numbers are overwhelming: monogamy works, adultery does not. 

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Weighed in the balance of human experience, adultery fails the pragmatics test. Whether measuring the health of the marriage itself, or more significantly, the health of the children as products of that marriage, it’s fidelity that delivers. Still skeptical? Spend the afternoon with a child who’s parents broke their vows…

Here’s a prayer for them:

“God I pray for the children of parents who have broken the covenant promise to be sexually faithful to one another. Restore the hope for a future in them. Free them from the guilt that somehow they were at fault. Protect their own sexual purity. Give them confidence and security in a strengthened relationship with you. As they can, help them rebuild trust with the parents, and give them the grace to be honest and yet to forgive. Let them know that they are not themselves destined to a cycle of ruined relationships. Anchor their joy in you!”  

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When the Ten Commandments Break Us…

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Actress Mackenzie Phillips confessed this week to a 10 year incestuous relationship with her father, pop superstar John Phillips. In an interview with Oprah, Phillips said of her father, “He was a man who lived in a world where the rules didn’t apply.”

Didn’t they? By her own confession the fact that her father broke “the rules” at her expense brought her nothing but pain, shame, and confusion. John Phillips might have pretended otherwise, but the sad results speak for themselves. Running headlong against the tide of common decency devastated his daughter’s life. In the end, we never break the laws of God, we simply demonstrate them.

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This week, ABC’s “Nightline” begins a series of reports on “The Ten Commandments,” the fundamental life instructions handed down to us in the Jewish and Christian scriptures (Exodus 20). These, simple and straightforward boundaries around human behavior stipulate what “shall not” be in our lives – meaning that we’re free to do and be anything other than these 10 restrictions.

So what business is it of God to make rules and to hold us to them? Can we opt out? Can we, like John Phillips invent our own way of life?

It seems that there are two kinds of “laws.” One category is arbitrary and personally imposed and enforced. The other is descriptive and universal. When I was pulled over and ticketed for doing 47 in a 35-mile per hour zone a “law” was enforced by one of Minneapolis’ finest, and my bank account paid the price. This law was created and enforced by humans seeking to create a safe social environment. I chose to break that law; they chose to enforce it.

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On the other hand, when I fell off a ladder last year no police officer came along to enforce the “law” of gravity. Gravity didn’t need enforcement help, and I paid the price with a twisted ankle. “Laws of nature” do not prescribe action, they describe action. I don’t break gravity, I demonstrate it.

The question here: Are the laws of God given as the Ten Commands the first or second type of law? Are they arbitrary decisions like a posted speed limit drafted and enforced personally, or are they descriptions of the way things are? 

I believe they are the latter. I don’t think it’s possible, in the end, to break the Ten Commands. Instead, if we go against them, they break us – Ala John and Mackenzie Phillips. We demonstrate their reality, we don’t, we can’t create our own reality.

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God, the Designer has mercifully given us a manual explaining his engineering principles. When I bought new car I had the manufacturer’s guidebook in the glove box to tell me how often and with what products to change the oil. These are the “laws” for how the car was designed. I’m perfectly free to ignore them and put sand in my engine instead of 10w40. But I’ll pay the price. No engine-oil police come to arrest me for stupidity; the car will punish me itself.

In the same way God’s stipulations about sex, respecting other people’s stuff, telling the truth, maintaining balance in our schedules do not prescribe, they describe. I can ignore the fact I’m made to live with intervals of rest (as in “Keep the Sabbath”) but I’ll blow an emotional or physical gasket as a result. These laws are God’s way of mercifully telling us ahead of time how to manage the life he loans us.

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There are two ways to learn life lessons: We experiment and learn from experience, or we listen and learn from other people’s experiences – better yet, from the ultimate Authority behind life itself game. Life is painfully short. By God’s good grace we can learn his ground rules from the start, assuming of course we resist the temptation to make up our own.

Here’s a prayer for strength to accept and apply God’s standards in our lives:

“God, we thank you for creating our lives and giving us the gift of choice. We thank you too that you have not left us alone, to learn by trial and error what will and what will not work. You have given us clear guidelines. They are not complicated, or long, or too restrictive. Give us the grace to know them, accept them as true, and the strength to keep them. We know that our impulse is to go our own way. We will in fact do that. When we break your laws, forgive us and cover the consequences, and instead, give us your strength to fulfill the very things you require of us. We ask you humbly to bless our lives. We ask for power to live as you have designed and intended. And we’ll thank you for the results!”

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Praying for Money – an Act of Worship

posted by Mark Herringshaw


Gold coins.jpg“Money is the root of all evil…” Right? Actually no. The famous cliché that comes from the Bible, in I Timothy 6:10, says “The love of money is the root of all evil…” There’s a big difference. It’s not the stuff itself that poisons, but elevating it to the level of first-priority and first passion in our lives.

Jesus has a lot to say about money. He actually speaks more about our management of resources than he does about prayer or the Law. Really? Really.

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A young man once came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to make his life perfect. Jesus looked at him and told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, then come follow him. The man turned and walked away. He was wealthy and couldn’t let go. It wasn’t the money itself that had to be dumped, but the love of the money, the dependence the man had built around it as a security for his life. Money, not God was sovereign for him.

We don’t have to rich to put money in a position of power in our lives. Sometimes not having money creates greater passion for the stuff than having it. Money represents for us the essence of our life purposes, the substance we exchange for our time, energy, and gifts. Money therefore can stand in for the essence or “juice” of our soul. We can give it that level of priority whether or not we have a lot of it.

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So when we pray for provision – for a job or our debts or for the resources to pay our bills or send our kids to college or fund our retirement – we’re setting things in right order. We’re making God, God in our lives, and relegating money to a secondary, practical position. This is why it’s not only okay, but thoroughly good and healthy to pray for resources. Jesus tells us to do this because he’s very, very practical and he knows that God is our source, not money (which we do need). Praying for resources is a high, high form of worship. It’s setting our soul in order and putting a love for God over a love for the things God supplies.

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“God, again we turn to you as the source of everything. You made it all. You still sustain it all. You made me to need things outside myself for survival. You made me dependent. I’m choosing to become dependent on you, alone. I’m choosing to lean on your and trust you and let you create the conduits of delivery in my life. I love and trust you, not money. But in my love and trust, I ask you to deliver the money I need for today’s need. I don’t need spiritual answers; I need tangible value. Thank you for your promise to be direct and practical. I ask specifically for __________ and I thank you ahead of time for bringing the answer, in your own creative way.”

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Praying for “See You at the Pole”

posted by Mark Herringshaw

At this very moment over two million students across America and overseas are gathering around the flagpole of their schools to pray and ask God to bring moral and spiritual awakening to their campuses. They call it “See You At The Pole” and today marks the 20th year of this student-initiated movement which started in the Ft. Worth suburb of Burleson, Texas, in 1990.

This year’s theme, “Engage: Go and Pray,” echoes the Bible passage from 2 Kings 22:13, which records the words of King Josiah when he first heard words from the scriptures, which had been lost to him and his people. “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found,” Josiah had ordered.

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Decades ago the Supreme Court of the United States declared prayer IN school to be unconstitutional. Not to be dissuaded, this current generation of kids continues to pursue God with a heightening passion. They want God’s blessing…

We have teenagers in our house and I can tell you – there’s passion in this generation. Whether for good or ill they are going to engage this passion. Let’s pray they turn it toward God. On this morning while they are praying, let’s back them up and join them in their intercession. Let’s pray for them, and for their prayers.

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“Father God, we join with the young people of this country this morning and pray, in the name of Jesus, that you would bless them as they bless you. We ask that you would ignite in them a love for you and your truth. We ask that you would begin a new “Great Awakening” for their day, that you would turn their hearts to you. Bless and protect our schools. Start this wildfire of prayer among them that no law can stop. Answer the prayers of your children today! Answer our prayers for them!”

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