Why We Don’t Pray

Jesus offered what we call The Lord’s Prayer in response to the desire of the apostles. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). They did not say, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” The issue is not how we pray, but that we pray. In his groundbreaking book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller asserts that only ten percent of those active in church have an intentional prayer life. We know we should pray, but we don’t pray. We say we will pray, but then we don’t.

Certainly, Jesus set the example when it comes to prayer. In Mark’s first account of Jesus’ life and ministry, he says Jesus went out alone and prayed under the darkness of night. When he knew it was time to select the twelve on whom he would build the church, he first prayed all night. So we know we should pray and we know that Jesus prayed. So why don’t we pray?

Let’s start by exploding the myth on why we don’t pray. We hear it all the time. “I’m just not disciplined enough to pray.” The problem is not discipline. I’ll say that again. The problem is not discipline. Do you know anyone who stopped breathing due to lack of discipline or someone who quit eating because they just weren’t disciplined enough? The problem is not self-discipline, the need for more education, or a training seminar on prayer.

Here’s the problem. The reason – the only reason – we don’t pray is that we lack desperation. We need what Oswald Chambers called a “poverty of spirit.” When you are desperate for something to drink, you drink. When you are desperate for God, you pray. America is the hardest place to pray because it is the easiest place to live. Jesus was the most dependent person in the world. He depended on his Father for the words he would speak, intimate spiritual fellowship, and as the provider of his needs. So Jesus prayed. When you are desperate for God, you will pray. But first, you must begin seeking God’s heart rather than his hand.

Do you pray enough? If you answered “no,” quit asking God to fill you with a desire to pray and ask him to knock you down to whatever level is necessary to make you desperate for him. Until you are truly desperate, all the self-discipline in the world will never result in a good prayer life.

Virginia Shooting: Who Were Alison Parker and Adam Ward?

Wednesday, during a routine on-air interview at a shopping center in Moneta, Virginia, a crazed madman shot and killed a local television reporter and her cameraman. I will leave the discussion on gun control and the gunman for another day. This story should be about Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the victims. Alison Parker was a 24-year-old reporter for WDBJ-TV. She was a committed journalist, daughter, and finance. Her colleagues described her as a “rock star.” Her fiancé, Chris Hurst, said, “She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back.” Andy Parker, Alison’s father, described the family grief as “unbearable.”

Adam Ward was the 27-year-old cameraman, also engaged to be married. This was his last scheduled show, as he was poised to move to Charlotte with his fiancé. Jeffrey Marks, General Manager for the station, said, “I can’t tell you how much they both were loved.” Ward was described by friends as “always having a smile on his face.” He was known for a great sense of humor and his love for life.

The Book of James says life is so short. It is impossible to make sense of what happened yesterday in Virginia. I can only offer a few comments. First, evil came into the world when man sinned, and Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, so evil still persists. Second, some people make horrible choices, but they must pay for those choices, as did the gunman. Third, there are some things for which we really don’t have clear answers – at least, not yet. Fourth, though the Bible is filled with thousands of promises, tomorrow is not one of them. Fifth, life is eternal, so whether you are 24 or 90, be sure you are set in your relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ. And sixth, make the most of every day and capture every moment you can with family and friends.

Pray for the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. And don’t forget to pray for the family of the gunman. I have chosen to not use his name here, for that would fulfill his stated goal of making a name for himself. But God knows who his family is. And pray for yourself, that your priorities will match God’s goals and purpose for your life. By all reports, Alison and Adam lived more in their combined 51 years than most of us do in 80. Follow their examples. Capture every moment, enjoy every sunset, and walk daily with your God.

Katrina – Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast as the third strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States. In New Orleans, the levees, designed to sustain a Category 3 hurricane, were helpless against this legendary storm, whose winds peaked at 175 miles per hour. The 20-foot storm surge left 1,836 dead. To this day, 705 people remain unaccounted for. The giant hurricane affected over 15 million lives, left 80 percent of New Orleans under water, impacted 90,000 square miles, and caused $81 billion in property damage. As horrific as was the impact of Hurricane Katrina, worse would be the mistake of not learning from the devastation. I see four important lessons, as we look back, ten years later.

1. God’s power is beyond measure.

Job asked, “Who can understand the thunder of God’s power?” (Job 26:14). Man can produce things that move fast, make loud noises, and blow up big buildings. But man is no match for the power of God’s creation. Man is helpless in stopping, slowing, or guiding these mammoth storms we call hurricanes. Scientists have even tried dropping salt into the eyes of hurricanes in an effort to affect their strength and paths. But man is no match for the power of God’s creation.

2. God is sovereign and cannot be fully comprehended.

Some things cannot be understood. In The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler writes, “Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch a fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss.” I would not want to serve a God my brain could fully understood. God is not to be figured out; he is to be followed.

3. What God allows, God redeems.

Tony Evans correctly asserts, “Everything that happens in this life happens either because God caused it or he allowed it.” We blame God for what we see as bad because we don’t (and can’t) fully understand a) bad, b) the whole picture, or c) God. No less scholar than R.C. Sproul said, “Most Christians salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man.” The Bible never promised us that all things would be good, but that they would work together for good.

4. Life is short.

James said life is like a vapor on the morning grass, gone in just minutes. More than half of those who died in Katrina were senior adults. As such, they were older at the time of their deaths than the average life expectancy just 50 years ago. Whether we live one year or one hundred years, this life is breathtakingly short in the scheme of an eternal God. In light of the brevity of life, William Booth put things in perspective when he said, “The greatness of man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”

Ten years ago, one of the most destructive hurricanes on record came ashore, bringing catastrophic damage to New Orleans and surrounding areas. For millions of Americans life would never again be the same. With her unspeakable carnage Hurricane Katrina reminded us of just how helpless and hopeless we are in our efforts to control our lives and world. In times of great loss, may we echo the words of the early disciples who said to Jesus, “We will follow you, for where else could we go?”


Body Disappears from Casket

San Antonio police were notified of a most unusual situation. Julie Mott died. Julie Mott’s body was transferred to the Mission Park Funeral Chapel. Julie Mott’s body was placed in a casket. And then her body wasn’t in the casket. She disappeared. And no one knows what happened.

The 25-year-old woman died of complications from cystic fibrosis on August 8, according to Robert Tips, owner of the funeral home. Funeral services were held August 15. After the service, the casket was moved into a back hallway where it awaited transfer for cremation. The next day workers found the casket empty. There was no apparent break-in, according to police spokesman Javier Salazar. The funeral home is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to those responsible for stealing the body. “I just am not believing this is happening,” said Mr. Tips. Salazar told the San Antonio Express-News, “I have been in law enforcement for 22 years, and have never heard of anything like this.”

We are conditioned to expect dead people to remain dead. We have always been that way. If Sergeant Salazar had been outside Jerusalem about 29 A.D., he would have been similarly shocked. It was a Sunday morning. A couple of ladies went to pay their respects at the burial site of their friend, who had died just a few days before. To their surprise, the body was missing. But there is one difference between this man and Julie Mott. His body actually turned up, with 500 witnesses – alive.

The story of Miss Mott was buried in the back pages of the San Antonio newspaper. Presumably, the body will eventually be found. Its condition will determine the page on which they decide to run the follow-up story. If Julie is still deceased, there will be a blip somewhere under the shipping report. But if they find her alive, I’m pretty sure it will make the front page.

Jesus died. Jesus was buried. And then he wasn’t there. But that wasn’t front page news. But then they saw him – eating, walking, and teaching – very much alive. That made the front page of the Jerusalem Daily News. And Jesus is still making news. He never wrote a book and never attended college. He never owned a house or traveled more than 30 miles from where he was born. He never ran for public office or owned a company. To be sure, the life he lived, people he touched, and words he spoke were monumental. But none of that was front page news. The resurrection was. In fact, we are still talking about it today. So, with all due respect to Julie Mott, the removal of the body is the easy part. Show me a man who lived, died, then lived again, and I’ll show you a man that will make headlines for all time.

School Band Told to Stop Playing “How Great Thou Art”

There was no halftime show for Mississippi’s Brandon High School’s first football game of the year. The marching band was benched. Because How Great Thou Art was a part of their show, a federal court order imposed a $10,000 fine should they perform. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, an Obama appointee, ruled the school district had violated the rights of others by asking a Christian minister to offer a prayer at an awards ceremony. In part, his order reads, “Defendants are permanently enjoined from including prayer, religious sermons, or activities in any school sponsored event.”

Word of the banned band spread more quickly than a Mississippi wildfire. The people are out to correct what they see as an infringement on their rights of free speech and expression. But their initial response did not involve attorneys and did not take place in a courtroom. The good people of Brandon fired the musical shot that would be heard around the world.

During halftime of the football game, with no entertainment on the field, one courageous, unnamed soul, stood to her feet. And with no advance notice, she began to sing the forbidden song. Brittany Mann was in the crowd and witnessed the entire moment of defiance. “We were just sitting there and then one by one, people started to stand. At first, it sounded like a hum, but the sound got louder and louder.” Within seconds the stands were filled with football fans joining their voices to sing, “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art.”

Mann called the scene “truly incredible.” She continued, “At that moment, I was so proud of my town. It breaks my heart to see where our country is going – getting farther and farther away from the Christian beliefs our country was founded on.” Another lady in the crowd, Mandy Miller, added, “I’m from Mississippi and I’m not afraid to take a stand. We are tired of being told to sit down and shut up. People are ready to fight back.”

Since last week’s football game in Brandon, Mississippi, local residents have raised the $10,000 to pay the fine, should it become necessary. But in the arena of local schools, two things are abundantly clear. As long as teachers give tests, there will be prayer in school. And as long as Christians are willing to stand on their beliefs, no judge will ever silence their voice. Good job, Brandon, Mississippi. On a night when one federal judge tried to silent your voice, you were heard around the world.

City Mourns Michigan Man Who Waved at Passers-By

The citizens of Lambertville, Michigan will miss Norman Hall. For the past two years, the 88-year-old maintained a consistent schedule. Twice a day, he walked to a busy street and stood near a set of mailboxes for 30 minutes. There, he waved to motorists as they drove by. But three weeks ago, he waved to his neighbors for the last time. He died July 28.

An unknown neighbor has already placed a large sign by the mailboxes. It reads, “See you on the other side.” Some have taken to social media to express what his daily gestures meant to them. Dean Weaver commented, “I never met him personally, but he was out there every day, rain or shine or sleet. He was always out there, sharing his enthusiasm for life.”

Louise Hall, Norman’s wife of 62 years, doesn’t know what prompted him to begin waving to motorists. “One day he went out there to get the mail and he just started waving.” Hall didn’t let anything stop him, not even a 15-inch snow this past winter. Louise said, “I saw his legs getting weak, but he was so tickled and so happy to be out there.” His lone motive, she says, “must have been to make people smile.”

A recent study concluded that we need 18 words of affirmation each day to be happy. Who are you encouraging today? You may not be able to preach, teach, or sing. You may not be a gifted leader or possess a charismatic personality. But you can make a difference in someone’s life today. All it takes is a simple wave.

The Day I Met Jimmy Carter

Yesterday, the 39th President of the United States announced he has brain cancer. Jimmy Carter, arguably the most active former president in U.S. history, shared the news with the world with amazing dignity and grace. Nearing his 91st birthday, Carter credited his faith and marriage for his happiness and longevity. He maintained a remarkable calm and humor as he answered several questions from the media.

I have only met one President in my life, and it was Jimmy Carter. It happened in a most unexpected way. As a student at Houston Baptist University, I had run for lunch at a trendy café between classes. Coming out, I noticed a black limousine across the street. I walked over to see what was going on. There, I learned that former President Carter was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. All I had to do to meet him was spend $20 for the book on hunting and fishing in South Georgia, stand in line, and be willing to skip my afternoon classes, hardly a sacrifice for a 21-year-old student.

I bought the book and stood in line. When I approached the small room where Mr. Carter was signing books, security told me I would enter the room, hand my book to the Secret Service men standing beside the chair where Carter sat, and was not to reach out to Carter or try to shake his hand, for security reasons. He would sign my book, then I would be escorted quickly out.

When I entered the little room, there were now four of us there: Mr. Carter, two Secret Service agents, and me. Lost in the moment, I reached my hand out to the former President, and as the agents moved toward me, Carter told them, “It’s okay.” Then he stood, shook my hand, and greeted me with great warmth, as though meeting me was his lone assignment for the day.

This is not the time or place to debate the merits of Carter’s presidency. As I watched his humble description of the fight he now faces, I remembered that day so vividly. The President of the United States stood to honor me, meet me, and shake my hand. He could not have been more kind or generous. It’s called servanthood. It’s called Christian love. It’s called being the presence of Christ in someone else’s life.

Of course, we don’t know what the days ahead will bring for President Carter and his family. Historians will forever debate his place in history. The great humanitarian made a difference for millions of people who needed a house for their family and food for their stomachs. And one day, 34 years ago, he blessed a 21-year-old college student. I have not seen him again, but one day I will. I have not had the chance to thank him, but one day I will. For now, I will pray for him and thank God for a man who understood the value of a handshake and a kind word. Thank you, Mr. President, for touching my life and millions of others. You have not met most of us. But one day, you will.

Batman Dies at Age 76

He has starred in 11 movies since he was born into comic books the last year of the Great Depression, 1939. He defeated Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Joker. But even Batman could not defy death. The superhero I watched on TV twice a week as a boy died in a car crash this past Sunday.

Lenny Robinson, a Maryland businessman, dressed up as Batman for years, even driving a Batmobile. He was beloved at the local hospitals, where he loved to visit children. But that all came to an end Sunday night when his Batmobile broke down, he pulled over to work on it, and was hit by a passing Toyota Camry.

Batman lived two lives. There was the real man who was a respected businessman and father of three boys. Then there was the man behind the mask who lived the role of a superhero. As long as he wore his mask, he could do no wrong. He was happy to serve with the Hope for Henry organization out of Washington, D.C. The children and hospital personnel never saw him in a weak moment. When he put on the mask and cape, he took on a whole new persona.

A lot of us spend so much time wearing a mask that no one really knows us. They only see what we choose to reveal. I remember always wondering how Police Chief Gordon never knew that Batman was really Burt Ward. Batman’s Aunt Harriet never knew his true identity. You may be like that.

Is the you others see the same you that your family sees? Or do you even wear a mask at home? Who are you when no one is looking but God? Maybe, like Adam, you even try to cover up your true identity before God. Batman wasn’t a bad guy. To the contrary, he did wonderful things. But like the Lone Ranger, his mask put up a wall between him and those who admired him most. He never receive the personal adulation he needed because he let very few really know who he was.

You can do a lot of good things. You can make a difference in your world. But as long as you wear the mask, you will never know the intimacy God intended for you to enjoy with your family, friends, and fellow believers. The mask doesn’t make the man; it hides the man. Like Batman, you are vulnerable. Life can end in a second. So make sure you are ready . . . don’t be caught dead still wearing your mask.

Has Eli Manning Lost His Mind?

The New York Giants want to sign quarterback Eli Manning to a contract extension before the season starts in a few weeks. But the team and their two-time Super Bowl champion are at odds on the size of said contract. On the heels of Philip Rivers’ four-year, $65 million guaranteed contract with the Chargers, Manning wants more, making him the highest paid player in the NFL.

A new report on NFL.com confirms Manning’s desire. That raises this question: Is Eli Manning out of his mind? He is coming off a 2014 campaign in which he ranked #6 among NFL quarterbacks in passing yards and #9 in touchdown passes. He was also among league leaders in interceptions. The job of a quarterback is to win. Over the past four years, the Giants’ record is 31-33.

The Giants have two options. They can give Manning their franchise tag, meaning he would make $25 million for one year. Or they can lock him up with a four-year contract that would pay him as though his first name was Peyton. But he will get his money, an absurd amount, to be sure. So, be warned, John Mara, owner of the Giants. Get your wallet out and get ready to pay – because Eli’s coming.

In the name of full disclosure, I would probably take the $70 million if my Houston Texans came calling. But is it really worth a threatened hold-out for Mr. Manning? I see two lessons here. First, the comparison game is older than the game of football. Eli wants what Philip has. That is called covetousness. And Eli wants $70 million, not because a 31-33 record demands it, but because the man loves money. He wants more money than was ever paid . . . more money than was earned by the likes of Tom Brady, John Elway, Joe Montana, or his older brother, six-time league MVP, Peyton Manning.

Be careful, Eli. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus said it is easier for a camel to crawl through a needle and a cow to jump over the moon than it is for a rich man to enter heaven. The problem is not money, but the love of money. Most of us are like Eli. We want to be paid more than what we deserve. But when we allow our desire for the things of this world to crowd out our desire for the things of God, we are living in a dangerous place.

Fiorina/Rubio – You Read It Here First!

Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio will be named the Republican presidential ticket at the GOP Convention in Cleveland on July 18, 2016. You read it here first. Mark it down. Bet on it. Take it to the bank. And most of all, if I’m wrong, forget I said it. Currently, Vegas odds give Fiorina a one in 10,000 chance of being our next President. So what makes me put my money on Fiorina and Rubio? Let’s count the reasons.

1. We can narrow the field from 17 to seven. There are 17 candidates in the Republican primary. By process of elimination, we can eliminate the other 15. Let’s start with those polling under five percent. The Rasmussen poll released August 11 puts the following candidates at under five percent: Paul (4%), Kasich (4%), Christie (4%), Huckabee (3%), Perry (1%), Santorum (1%), Jindal (1%), Graham (1%), Pataki (0%), and Gilmore (0%). That leaves seven standing: Trump (17%), Bush (10%), Rubio (10%), Walker (9%), Fiorina (9%), Carson (8%), and Cruz (7%).

2. Donald Trump won’t win the nomination. The “We’re mad and can’t take it anymore” camp is firmly behind Mr. Trump. That accounts for about 20-25 percent of the primary voters. When the field whittles down to five candidates, Trump’s numbers will no longer dominate. He has hit a ceiling. After the first five or six states vote, most of the candidates will drop out. Their support will go to candidates not named Trump.

3. Bush, Walker, Carson, and Cruz won’t win, either. Walker will fade after he loses Iowa. Carson will fade due to lack of energy, specifics on foreign policy, and his tax plan. That leaves the two most likely challengers to Fiorina and Rubio: Cruz and Bush. I say the support of the other candidates who drop out will shift to Rubio, not Cruz. While their positions, Tea Party support, and conservative credentials are similar, Rubio will outlast the Texas Senator because a) he has a more likeable persona, b) he will appeal to the younger voters, c) he has a more positive way about him, d) he brings Florida into the calculus, and e) he will connect better with minorities. As for Governor Bush, his money and positions will take him a long way. But in the end, he will fall short for three reasons: a) he will continue to make misstatements, b) his misstatements will be highlighted by the Clinton team and national media, and  c) the anti-establishment vote that had been going to Trump, Huckabee, Perry, Jindal, Graham, Carson, and Cruz will not identify with Bush. That leaves two candidates standing: Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina.

4. Here’s the case for Marco Rubio. I’ll be brief and specific. First, the more attractive candidate usually wins. Second, Rubio seems positive and people like that. Third, he has crossover appeal among the Tea Party, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and the  establishment. Fourth, he puts Florida in the “likely” column for the Republican ticket. Fifth, he has a compelling personal story, as the son of Cuban immigrants, an everyday man who just paid off his student loans four years ago, and the kind of guy you’d want to sit down with and have a root beer.

5. Here’s the case for Carly Fiorina. One casino in Las Vegas is giving 10,000 to one odds on Fiorina becoming our next President. Take those odds! Here’s why. First, she is the best debater in the field, even better than Ted Cruz. Second, she has honed a specific set of proposals that will come across well once the field is down to five or six. Third, Fiorina takes away the Clinton argument about the Republican “war on women.” Fourth, the more voters see Fiorina on stage, the more they will salivate over the notion of a Fiorina – Clinton debate in the Fall of 2016. Fifth, she is an outsider, at a time when “outsider” is “in.” Sixth, she has the money for a long run, unlike candidates with a similar appeal – Perry, Huckabee, and Kasich.

6. The case for Fiorina/Rubio together. As a team, they will appeal to women, younger voters, minorities, Florida, social conservatives, the establishment, the Reagan “morning in America” crowd, veterans, and outsiders. The more Americans meet Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio, the more they will like them. You won’t read this anywhere else. You will hear the cases for Trump, Bush, Walker, Kasich, and Cruz. And they all have cases to be made. But in the end, when delegates gather in Cleveland in just under one year, there can be only two candidates on the ticket. Their names will be Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Mark it down. Case closed. Done deal. And remember, you read it hear first.