On Planets, Politics, and Prayer (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 27, 2015)

It is an interesting time to be a political science professor, because everyone is talking about the upcoming presidential elections. One question I’ve heard tossed around lately is: What would you do if you were President? The answers range from poignant to completely ludicrous (and make me wonder whether most adults today ever took, much less passed, a basic civics/government class in high school), but I digress …

 

Instead, I would like to suggest a different question: What if you had a direct line to the President? You know, like in the movies when someone important picks up the phone during an emergency and it rings directly at the Oval Office or aboard Air Force One … Would you use it? What would you say? Would you hesitate and feel like you were pestering the President, or would you feel confident that what you needed to say was worth interrupting our Commander in Chief?

 

Honestly, you and I probably will not ever be privy to the President’s private line (or Batman’s Batphone, which would be even cooler), but we already have 24/7 access to someone way more awesome: the Creator of the universe. We don’t need any gadgets or special equipment, either! We can talk to the King of Kings (President of Presidents?) anytime, anywhere, for any reason – simply through prayer. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourages us to “Never stop praying.” God wants to be in constant contact with us, and he invites us to chat with him regularly.

 

Do you take him up on that insider access, or do you feel like you shouldn’t bother God because he might be too busy doing more important things like keeping the planets in orbit? Dear friend, please rest assured that he wants to hear from you. He can handle planetary trajectories and your personal issues simultaneously; I promise.

 

We ought to be in frequent communication with the Lord about every aspect of our lives – and not only that, but we also need to be praying for each other. I would encourage you to read Ephesians 1:15-20 and see what the apostle Paul had to say to fellow believers about how earnestly he prayed for them. What an example for us to lift each other up in prayer! Let’s focus this week on specific ways that we can do just that.

At What Cost? (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 15, 2015)

I am happy with where I am now, professionally. I absolutely love teaching college students and exploring my research ideas. My schedule is such that most mornings, I’m able to take my younger kids to school, and I even have time to run errands in the middle of the day now & then. I didn’t land my dream job overnight, though; my current success came at a large personal cost. In total, I spent about 10 years of my life in college, and I’m still paying off loans from grad school. I didn’t watch TV for about four years, because I needed every moment of free time in the evenings to study and write. I tried not to miss any big events, but some play time with my kids was also sacrificed during those years when I needed to work late or study.

All that is to say: there’s a cost to be paid in pursuit of our life-goals. Honestly, the same could be said for our spiritual lives. We’ve been working on a new song for the worship team recently, and one of the lines says, “Take it all, take it all, my life in your hands.” Every time I sing those words, I’m reminded of what it costs to follow Jesus. It’s not about having an emotional experience at church or camp; it’s about letting Jesus have total control of every aspect of your life.

In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus had a very frank conversation with a large crowd of wannabe disciples. They wanted to come along for the ride, but he needed them to understand that following him would be costly. Verse 26 often gets misinterpreted as Jesus advocating that we should hate our parents and siblings, but that’s not what he’s saying. I believe what he’s trying to communicate is that we are to have so much dedication to him that our relationships with everyone else – and our view of ourselves – pale in comparison.

The question is: What are you willing to sacrifice? What amount of free time, financial resources, mental energy, and elbow grease are you willing to put on the line to follow Jesus? Following Jesus is truly rewarding, but like the earlier analogy of my job, it takes effort and commitment to bring it to fruition. Proverbs 20:25 (NLT) warns, “Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.” If you are going to sing a song like “My Heart is Yours” or “I Surrender All,” then you need to mean it.

Confidantes (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 22, 2015)

One of the most difficult things about moving (for me, at least) is keeping up with friends left behind and building new relationships. Thanks to technology like Skype and Facebook, staying in touch is a lot easier than the old days of handwriting letters (although, I still love sending and receiving snail mail!) and sending rolls of film away for processing.

 

As great as technology is, there’s something truly special about spending time with someone one-on-one that breaks down superficial walls, builds trust, and creates an atmosphere of confidence where you are assured that the thoughts you share will be kept secure. That’s a much different level of relationship than most of our bantering on Facebook; wouldn’t you agree?

 

I came across a familiar passage in John 15 this week, and a verse caught my eye in a different translation. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) records verses 13-15 as: “The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. And you are my friends, if you obey me. Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me.”

 

I love the way the Living Bible (TLB) uses the verb “confide in” instead of “speak to.” It implies a more intimate friendship, the unfiltered kind where you can share your most important, deeply personal thoughts. Jesus is telling his disciples that they are not just his students or trainees, but they are his confidantes.

 

We all need that level of openness and accountability with someone – to know that we can let down our guard and still be loved unconditionally, yet be challenged to grow in our faith-walk. Jesus invited his disciples into that innermost circle. May we, too, desire that level of closeness with our savior.