Praying becomes a chore when we... are shameful of our sins.

Couple of weeks ago, I talked about how not understanding God's power can have a negative effect on our prayer life. Often we fail to pray because we simply don't believe that God is able to answer our prayers.

This week, I want to talk about another prayer killer - shame.

I'm sure that like me, there are times in your life when you find praying really hard when you are struggling with a particular sin. It becomes even harder when we fail to stand up to that temptation! I can remember saying to myself, "How can you honestly pray to God and ask for forgiveness if this is the fourth time you've lashed out at the parents this week?" Or, "How can I pray to God for forgiveness when I knowingly downloaded another illegal copy of a movie online?" Asking for forgiveness is already hard as it is (mostly because we hate to admit that we're wrong), but asking for forgiveness on a sin that seems to be so habitual is almost mission impossible.

I guess there are three ways we can really tackle the problem of shame or guilt.

1) Repent. Really look deep into your heart, and change. Sin is not compatible with a person who believes in Jesus. We have died to sin! Paul teaches that church in Rome (in Roman 6) that since we've died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? He urges us to not let sin reign over our mortal body so that we obey its evil desires. We are not to offer our bodies to sin, but to God; not as instruments of wickedness, but as instruments of righteousness. Prayer becomes easier when we really work hard at ridding our bodies from the filth that is sin.

2) Christ already died for your sins on the cross, there is true forgiveness. We were dead in our transgressions, but God in his love and mercy, made us alive in Jesus. For it is by grace you've been saved! In Romans 8, Paul says this, "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." And indeed, we are in Christ Jesus, and our sins have been atoned by his blood, which he so willingly poured out for us. We have been justified in Jesus, and God continues to sanctify us by his Spirit. In order that in the coming ages, we will be glorified with him forever. Prayer becomes easier when we understand and reminded of our new relationship with God, that we are no longer enemies, but co-heirs with Christ.

3) Jesus has been there! He can help us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Jesus has been tempted us like us, yet he did not bow down to sin, he conquered it. He's been there and won it, so that when we are struggling, he can understand and can help us. Prayer becomes easier when we know that Jesus is able to help us in times of need.

I think it is a good sign when we feel shameful about our sin, because as Christians, we ought to feel sadden by our sinfulness, by our rejection of the one that saves us. Therefore it is of utmost importance that we recognize which area we fall short in and change. But at the end of the day, know that there is true forgiveness in Christ Jesus, he had died so that us sinners don't have to. Know that we are not saved by our own merits or holiness, but by God's loving kindness.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:8

Sam's questions!

My brother, Sam was watching me yesterday as I was working on my second blog on the series "Praying becomes a chore when you..." As I was typing along, he asked me some tough question that I did not expect from a 16 year old!

The conversation went something like this...

Sam: So if God is all controlling (sovereign), and he has already planned everything from the beginning (predestined), and if he's will can't be changed... then what's the point of praying? What does it achieve?

Jacky: Errr... well it doesn't work like that, God tells us to pray, and he does answer our prayers! Yes...

Sam: Man... another one of those paradox.

On hindsight, I guess I could have answered him better! With passages like:

James 4:2 - You do not have because you do not ask...
James 5:16 - The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Matthew 7:7 - Ask and it will be given to you...
Matthew 7:8 - For everyone who asks receives...

Many times in both the Old and New Testament, we see that God does answer prayers! Not only does he relent on bringing disasters upon the Israelite because Moses prayed for them (Exodus 32); he answered Elijah's prayer by sending rains of fire to show that he is the one true God (1 Kings 18); and the apostle Peter was freed from prison by and angel after the church in Jerusalem prayed for his release (Acts 12).

The Bible does tell us that God is a sovereign and he is in control of this world! However, in his plan, he has allowed us the privilege to pray to him, to ask him for things that we need or things that we want. God is a loving and merciful, he does answer our prayers in times of trouble and distress. Although God may not always say yes to our prayers, but we need to trust that God has our best interest in his heart.

So let's keep on praying!

Praying becomes a chore when we... doubt.

I've just recently rediscovered for myself the joy of praying to God. For the past couple of years, I've found prayer a struggle and a chore! I guess sometimes I only prayed because I felt that I'm obligated to as a Christian. So I will only pray if I feel I really need to get something done; or else, a prayer of few words before sleep.

I think there are three things that contributed to my failure to pray to God often. (1) I doubt the ability of God to answer my prayers, (2) shame and (3) because I'm just plain lazy. Over the next three weeks, I will try and explain why these are the major contributor in my praylessness and how I think they are best tackled so that instead of being a prayer wimp, we can be prayer warriors.

Doubting the ability of God to answer our request
In the western society, we tend to see the world in two separate ways, the physical and the spiritual . Sunshine and rain; houses and cars; boyfriends and girlfriends, we categorize them as belonging to the physical world. But as for God and the devil and all that we cannot see, we put them into the spiritual basket. And because we were brought up by the society that taught us these two worlds don't intersect, we automatically assume that they don't. And because God belongs to the spiritual world and we belong to the physical, we start saying to ourselves that God doesn't really control the gravity of the earth; the rain from the sky, or he can't possibly provide me a with a wife or husband! Because all these things are part of the "real" physical world that God has no control over.

However, the bible teaches us otherwise, it not only teaches us that the spiritual world intersects with the physical world, but that God has control not only the spiritual, but the physical. Why? Because we know that God created everything. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1); "by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible or invisible" (Colossians 1:16). Not only did God create everything, he also sustains. "In him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17); "The Son is the radiance of God's glory..., sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3). Knowing that God is the creator and sustainer of this world, we can be assure that when we ask him for things, he has the power to give it to us. And because God is the God of the physical and spiritual; natural and supernatural, he can answer our prayers in different ways! God provided water for the Israelites from a rock while they were in the dessert. And God also raised Lazarus from the dead. God is the God of everything, that includes the physical and the spiritual.

Be assure that God does have the power to answer our prayers, whether they're big or small. He's the creator of the universe; nothing is too big for him. And he loves us! (Just look at what he did for us in Jesus!) So there are no requests too small for him either. Paul encourages us to pray "but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God" (Philippians 4: 6). Paul didn't say present your request to God in somethings only; he said present your request to God in everything. So next time don't hesitate to pray, because God will hear our prayers and although he may not say YES to all our requests (yes, he does say no sometimes!), as the creator and sustainer of the universe, he is able answer our prayers.

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus? < Part 1 >

I was on facebook yesterday, and one of the posts is from a friend who attended a Catholic Mass as part of his Dip. Ed. placement. One of his comments was that, "they are so close, yet so far." And how right he was!

For those of you that don't know me, I was brought up as a in a Catholic family, we didn't really go to church as often as we should, but we regularly hang out with friends and family who were also Catholics. I went to a Catholic kindergarten; Catholic primary school, and youuu... guessed it! A Catholic high school! So from a young age, I was quite familiar with the teachings and the doctrines. So to be a good Catholic, you have to complete all six sacraments before you cark it! They go so far to say that these sacraments are essential for salvation! But the most memorable teaching was the "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" - Outside the Church there is no salvation.

Before I explain what that means, please bear in mind that the best lies are the ones that on the surface looks like the truth.

You see, the statement "Outside the Church there is no salvation" is somewhat biblical! The church is the body of Christ, and well Christ Jesus... he's the head. (Colossians 1:18) And if you believe that you're saved by grace through faith in Jesus, then you are part of his body, which is the church. So it is right that there is not salvation outside the church. However, when the Catholic church only acknowledge one church, which is the Holy Roman Catholic Church. And when they say that outside the church there is no salvation, they mean that outside the "Roman Catholic Church" there is no salvation. So there is no salvation unless you are a member of the physical Catholic Church on earth.

There is no evidence throughout scripture supporting this claim that you have to be part of the physical church in order to be saved. But the bible does talk about being saved in Christ alone (Galatians 2:21), it does talk about the atoning work of Christ on the cross (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus is the only mediator between God and man.

The Catholic Church seems to be so close from the truth, but close as it may be, it's still not the truth. So it is only fair to say that they are so far away from God. Because there is only one truth that leads us to our heavenly Father, and that is in Jesus.

So I guess at the end of the day, you really have to ask yourself, is the traditions of the Catholic Church infallible or the Word of God?

The Consolations of Theology - A Reflection


I've just started reading this book called the Consolations of Theology edited by Brian S. Rosner. I'm only half way through, but so far, it has proven to be a great read!

It's interesting how this book works, it's kind of like biography mixed in with theology. It focuses on six different emotional problems we have as humans and match them with six historical church figures. And each chapter is written by a person who is sort of an expert in that field. I'll list the topics:

LACTANTIUS on Anger - by Richard Gibson

AUGUSTINE on Obsession - by Andrew Cameron

LUTHER on Despair - by Mark D. Thompson

KIERKEGAARD on Anxiety - by Peter G. Bolt

BONHOEFFER on Disappointment - by Brian S. Rosner

C. S. LEWIS on Pain - by Robert Banks

It has been a good read because usually when I think of theology, it's about knowing stuff about God; it's merely intellectual. But this book has been a real eye opener for me in terms of the practicality of theology, it really changes lives!

I was really inspired by what Luther said about theology, "It is not understanding, reading or speculation, but living, no dying and being damned that make a theologian." I lot of the time when I think of theology, there are so many things that I just speculate. I'm not saying that thinking about the things of God and speculating what he is or what he says is bad, in fact I think it's good to think about the things of God often so that our minds will be filled with the knowledge that God has given us through the revelation of his word. I think speculating on particular doctrines or theology is helpful on the person thinking about it but not so much to his/her neighbours. Like John Piper said, "It's not about what you can or cannot do. It's about 'What you do, does it glorify God?'" Of course thinking about theology glorifies God, but what is more glorifying is telling other people about Jesus; telling people the visible and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross.

And this is why this book is so wonderful, in each chapter; it ultimately points the reader back to the cross. It’s saying to you that in your anger; obsession; despair; anxiousness; disappointment or pain, go back to the cross, see what has God done for you; give these trouble to the one who hears your pain and saves.

I was also very very encouraged by the chapter on Bonhoeffer on Disappointment. This is what is said about Bonhoeffer, "He holds things together that others mistakenly assume to be mutually exclusive. He believes in both divine sovereignty and responsible action, both bold deeds and gracious forgiveness; both caring deeply and not despairing, both loving this world and eagerly anticipating the next." How often does the devil tempt us and say that there is no need for us to work hard for the Lord because he's doing everything already? We forget that "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." And how often when we are tempted to just dislodge ourselves from this world because of the world to come? We have to remember that though we are no from this world, we are a part of it now. And as Bonhoffer said, "[it is] only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith."

Sting Removed


"Where, O Death, is your victory?
Where, O Death, is your sting?"

- 1 Corinthians 15:55