Strange question perhaps. However, as I continue to…well continue with my life as father of a diagnosed terminally ill child (for those of you just joining us I add “diagnosed” because God CAN heal Trey at any time, though He very well may not) I go through many thoughts and feelings. Well, one that comes to mind is that if what the doctors say is true and Trey will not be with us for a very long time, what does he then face? How can I best prepare him?
Theologically (relax, I won’t spend much time here) I know that we are accountable for our sins and that they separate us from God (Rom 3:23, 6:23). I know that Jesus was the only one who could pay the price for our sins (John 14:6) which He did by dying on the cross. I also know that we are only accountable for our sins if we understand them and their consequences and that at some point we go from being innocent children to accountable (before God) individuals. Lastly, Trey doesn’t even know what cancer is, that he has it, and what his diagnosis is let alone the gravity of the sin condition.
All that being said, in a weird way, if and when that happens I want him to be fully prepared. So, like all of our kids, we try to teach them all about God and Jesus. They are in Sunday school. We pray with them individually, as a family, and encourage them do so on their own. I want Jesus to be as real as possible to Trey. I don’t want Him to be some stained glass window image or some ethereal otherworldly creation. I want Him to be alive and real to Trey (and our other kids as well).
My question this morning is, “How Alive is Your Lord?” I am always sensitive to this question because I’m saddened by so many people being “religious” but not having a relationship with God through Jesus. This hit me again recently as my brother brought up the Lord’s prayer. He contends that Jesus was saying to pray “like” this not “exactly” these words…every time, every Sunday, all the time. Further, the great debate amongst church goers is “trespass” vs. “debts.” Churches across the world are filled with people praying, “forgive us our tresdebts as we forgive our debtpassers…against us.” That is FAR from the issue I have.
It’s the tone. The first line includes, “…hallowed be thy name.” “Great” is your name, “Awesome” are you, God is so amazing/powerful/incredible that even His name is praise worthy and holy. Yet, it is mumbled in rote fashion every Sunday. If 7% of communication is verbal and 93% is non-verbal then we are communicating the exact opposite of our words. Further, can you imagine Jesus passionately teaching His disciples to pray and as he starts He lowers His head and begins to mumble and only use one tone with absolutely no inflection whatsoever? Look at how amazing, impactful, and powerful His words are as He prays. I can only imagine Jesus and God looking at each other as millions pray “thy will be done” each and every Sunday. Certainly we don’t act like we want His will over ours. We don’t pray like it. We don’t talk like it. Then why do we say it???
Here’s the hidden danger. To me…to me, saying rote prayer is the very beginning of legalism. You have become more about qualifying for God’s love and acceptance than simply receiving it for the gift and act of love that it is. You are punching in to your spiritual time clock rather than conversing with Him and sharing with Him. I’m not saying that memorizing prayers is a bad thing. I AM saying that reciting them because you feel it’s expected of you is. It begins (or is a sign of) the process of “earning” approval from God or qualifying for His love and forgiveness. To do so cheapens the price He paid for you on the cross. It diminishes the amazing grace He offers us, the grace that began with Him coming to earth as a child (Christmas anyone?) in the first place. Before you know it, your faith has grown stale. Inwardly, you feel like a “bad Christian.” Outwardly, you judge others to make sure that you are at least doing “better” than them. Meanwhile, you are missing His will for your life to go and love those that He puts in your path, many of which have no clue who He is.
On the night that Trey almost died my prayer (and believe me the prayers of all of you were with us then) did not sound like the prayers I hear in most churches on Sunday. No, that night we all prayed much like the way Jesus taught in “His” prayer. The prayers were real, they were passionate, we knew our role and who was in charge. We weren’t praying to some aloof boring God who was a million miles away. This God was real and was the only one who could help. He was alive.
We try to keep that true every day here in our home. Praise God, Trey knows Jesus…to some extent at least. Do you? How alive is your Lord and Savior?