Friday, December 23, 2016

Self Doubt

Journal Entry 2017:

After a battle with a wave of self-doubt this past week I had a distinct impression from the Lord at how un-impressed He was by my doubts.  The thought caught me off guard.  I had never put my self-doubts in context of how they are viewed by He to whom I was complaining about them.  That one thought changed the entire situation.  The self-doubt lost it's pull in favor of faith in Him.  

Now I see that our doubts are not impressive to the Lord, but our faith pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Praying to be seen of men

Jesus says this about prayer in Matthew 6:5-7

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

This seems like an unmistakably direct comment about public prayers.  Where it's possible to pray in a way that is seen and potentially admired, scorned, or ignored (as the case may be) by others.  Praying to be seen of men would no doubt include the content, location, length, frequency etc etc.  I hate praying in public..... I think it lends itself to "praying to be seen of men".  It's hard not to.  Saying things you think you are supposed to say to meet cultural expectations is a challenge we all face.  Jesus puts "praying to be seen of men" in terms of hypocrisy. 

On this note, is it possible to pray to be seen of yourself?  Meaning you pray in such a way so as to impress some internal image of what your religion has taught you God wants to hear? And thus maybe convince yourself that God is more likely to answer or give you what you ask? Maybe praying to be seen of yourself would imply praying to feed your self image (read "self-idol") of how good you are at prayer. By having poetic phrases, or by praying for some extended period of time to prove your longevity, or by saying all the "right" things and praying for everyone you can think of.  Trying to impress God or "cover all your bases" or something like that.  Some of these things could be done sincerely of course, but I think they can also be done to be seen of yourself.    

I think it's possible to "pray to be seen" even if you are alone.   I think an example of this "praying to be seen of yourself" is found in Luke 18:10-14

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Pharisee addressed "God" but was more praying with and to himself.  He appears to view himself nigh unto God.  He thanked "God" for how good a person he was, citing as evidence how he's not an extortioner, or unjust, or an adulterer or as the publican standing afar off (perhaps he should have been looking up, rather than sideways as his neighbor).  He cites how often he fasts and how much he tithes.  He both avoids the bad, and participates in the good, right?  Isn't this good?  All the religious stuff he's been taught and which he thinks is evidence of his righteousness.  How could this be bad?  He thanks God for it.  Isn't it good to thank God that you have avoided bad stuff?  And yet I have to ask myself is that a prayer before God?  Or a prayer to be seen of yourself?  

Jesus used this as an example of what not to do.

The alternative was the publican, who also was addressing "God" but seems to have had a different view of both himself and God.  He didn't feel like even looking up to heaven due to his shame.  He asks for mercy, and thinks himself a sinner.  Justification due to outward religious observances weren't even on the radar.  Perhaps the publican knew he wasn't truly living up to any of that stuff and felt broken hearted as a result.  Whatever it was that produced his humility of heart, Jesus says this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.

I think deep down we all know what God listens to.  Sincerity, humility, meekness, contrition, broken heartedness, faith.  Those may or may not require verbal words.  You can't fake God out.  He knows when your lips say one thing but your heart secretly harbors something very different.  I think you can "live" a prayer.  If actions speak louder than words than perhaps there is merit to that idea.  God's heard all the words before.  Any clever wording we may come up with likely does not impress him.  That's all been tried before.  

As I was praying tonight I had to pause and consider if I ever pray to be heard of myself.  My own self created "idol", my own self created God.  Full of what I thought a prayer should look or sound like, and perhaps subtly hoping to impress that idol.  To gain it's good graces.  As shame inducing as it is, I see my own reflection in the Pharisee example Jesus gave.  Which leads me to instinctively pray more like the publican.

I'm reminded of Enos who says "...I did still raise my voice high that it did reach the heavens".  I don't think he was necessarily yelling in order to raise his voice "high".   I think his heart saw clearly, and so his words and actions all matched and thus his voice easily rose to heaven to where his cry was directed.