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There’s a critical point about prayer that should make it seem more sensible, and real. Typically a person doesn’t place her personal trust in another person unless they know each other quite well, right? Why would you trust God to answer your prayer? Often, in order to trust someone, we need to have a personal relationship with them.

            Same thing with God.  To make prayer meaningful to you, and to expect God to listen, you need to be in a personal relationship with God. My Bible-perspective on life says so. John 3:16 of the Bible tells me that “God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 is the verse that is often held up on signs at big football games.

            The “Son” is Jesus. Jesus is God the Son according to the Bible. Jesus, God, the only perfect person who has ever lived, died on the cross in order to take on the punishment that was for humanity. Jesus took the punishment so people can be forgiven and redeemed to a personal relationship with almighty, holy God, and ultimately go to heaven after they die, for eternal life.  Receiving all these “goods” is as simple and profound as receiving, unwrapping, and using a beautiful Christmas present.  If you don’t unwrap, it won’t do you much good!  For something so big, that’s crazy-easy, isn’t it! I think so too.

            Then in a personal relationship with God, our Heavenly Father, we can sincerely pray to our God whom we trust and He will answer us, his adopted children.

            A lot of times you hear people close a prayer, “.   .   . in Jesus’ name, Amen.” That’s not necessary, but it is appropriate as it’s because of Jesus that we can be in a personal relationship with God.

            I imagine some of you are thinking, “No way, it’s not that complicated. Or, it’s not that simple.”  I imagine others are thinking, “why Jesus?” Why not Mohammed or Buddha? And why can’t we just talk about God, and leave out Jesus?” Good questions. Let’s keep talking about it.


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Tammy’s sharing about her difficult life journey was helpful to me. She has been a widow for 9 years after her late husband died of a heroin overdose. She was left to then raise her 2 children on her own. Presently Tammy struggles with major health problems — cervical cancer which in her case stems from a promiscuous lifestyle as a teenager. Some of that promiscuity began shortly after she was sexually assaulted when she was 15.  

            Wow, presently, Tammy thanks God for her life! She thanks God for the “little” things like the sun which warms the earth and the oxygen we can breathe each second to stay alive. She thanks God for her 2 kids, even the oldest one whom she conceived in a very messy setting.

            Tammy keeps in perspective who God is, and where God has been, in light of her journey of life so far. This allows her to ask some helpful questions of God — Why did you allow  terrible things to happen to me? Why didn’t you stop me? Why? Why? Tammy said God answers her, sometimes. But keeping it in perspective has allowed Tammy to go on, even now having more peace than she’s ever experienced before. Thank-you for being an inspiration, Tammy!

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The Bible, God’s Word on life, tells us that “God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.”  It also says, “You (God) made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother’s womb. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion.”

            Scientists have discovered that the human body is made up of about 10,000,000,000,000 (10 trillion) cells. Each cell lives, and inside each cell are chromosomes that contain DNA. Every cell in your body has the same DNA, and your DNA is different from every other person who has ever lived — billions of people by now.  Your DNA code determines your blood type, the color of your eyes and hair, and thousands of other things. From what God’s Word says about people, and the uniqueness of each person based on their DNA code, tells me that God has a deep care for every person, including you, no matter what, and no matter who you are.  So, I should too!

Keeping that in perspective, I can still care for Trey.  Trey (age 19), came regularly to basketball nights.  I came to know Trey through his family and through frequent visits with him at the Juvenile Detention Center, on the streets, and then in jail. Recently, I read in the newspaper that Trey, who didn’t seek to get a job after being released from jail, but chose rather to go back to being a street hoodlum, pulled a 78 year old lady out of her car, knocked her down, and stole her purse. “What do you think you’re doing, man!?” I took a deep breath and remembered that as a human being, Trey is made in God’s image. God has special purposes for Trey’s life which are far beyond being a criminal.  I need to see what God sees, and keep caring about Trey, and visit him, hopefully in part to see Trey repent for the hurt he caused that lady. Please pray for Trey, and for me.

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You might wonder, “How does my praying make any difference? Pray?  What an act of futility!  Nothing happens!”

            From my perspective, or in other words, what I personally believe is the true point of view, is that God is the all-powerful Creator who also desires to be in a personal relationship with people. A big part of it for me is that the Bible, God’s Word, tells me so. Another big part to my belief in the power of prayer is experiencing God’s answers to prayers. So, keeping in perspective who God is, in relation to whom I am, causes me to believe that, yeah, prayer makes all kinds of sense.

To illustrate, God is like a giant satellite in space. As we pray for individuals in Iraq, in Afghanistan, across town, or for ourselves if we are hurting, God sees each one and knows us by name. As we pray, God hears it and will answer according to His perfect will and timing.

            So, yes, I think we can each make a big difference by praying. Please let me know if you disagree with me so we can respectfully discuss our differences.        My friend, Les (age 41) is doing a life sentence in the state prison. Les doesn’t believe in God or prayer. At the end of a visit, I often ask Les if I can pray for him and he usually responds, “Sure Fred, if you want to, if that’ll make you feel better.” Sadly, I think that makes Les feel even more meaningless and purposeless, potentially for the next 30-40 years in prison. I’ll keep praying that God infuses into Les a desire to try communicating with Him — a key step to seeing some purpose in life, even with a life sentence.

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Stan, imprisoned in his body which is falling apart, Uncle Jim, incarcerated in his confused mind, and many others who like the Apostle Paul are truly in chains, do possess this perspective which can carry them through anything — “For me, to live is Christ/Jesus and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 of the Bible).

            Angola Prison is home to some 5000 men — rapists, robbers, and murderers, 61% of whom will die there. It is a prison that, in the last several years, has been transformed from being one of America’s bloodiest prisons to one alive with hope. Much of this transformation is due to the prison warden, Burl Cain, and to God. When he became warden, Warden Cain erected a huge concrete sculpture at the front gate that reads, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 of the Bible). Every incoming inmate sees it. Throughout the prison and its programs, inmates are encouraged to accept God’s grace and the purpose and meaning for life that it brings, even in prison, encouraging them to live as better men. Even when a punishment of execution is to be carried out, Warden Cain holds the prisoner’s hand, praying for him and telling him that if he trusts in Jesus Christ, he will be met on he other side by an angel who will take his hand from there and guide him home, to heaven. Through the grace and truth of God, the once bloodiest prison in America has become one marked by grace, compassion, love, and hope.

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Just so you know, I struggle too. Sin has just as big an impact on my life as on anyone’s life. I get physically sick sometimes. I can feel mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. Weeds grow in my lawn just as they do in someone else’s lawn. There will be a day when I die, like each of us, right? I don’t know if it will be by an accident, or be disease, or by old age.

            My perspective here comes from the Bible, God’s Word, which has proven to me over and over that it’s true to life.  It teaches that the sin of humanity, way from the beginning of time, is not only the “wrongs” we commit, but it is the ultimate cause and reason for illness, stress, sadness, weeds like thistles, and ultimately death. Death is the ultimate consequence of sin.

            But yes, according to the understanding of sin for most of us, it is often the cause of the wrong things we do and it is the wrong things we do.

            Last time I wrote about my Sports Night friends, who struggle with sin and who are some of the young thugs in our city.  But I personally struggle with/against sin, too. This message comes from one human, to another.  I personally struggle with irritability at times which can cause me to be crabby.  Poor thoughts toward others and lust can also invade my mind. Obsessiveness seems to have been passed on from my dad to me and I’ve probably passed it on to my daughters. Obsessiveness isn’t always bad, just like anger isn’t always bad, but it can be a cause for worry and for poor listening to others.

            In keeping sin’s impact in perspective in my life, I appreciate Romans 7: 21-25 of the Bible. The great Apostle Paul, after describing sins even in his life, says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul doesn’t stop there. In Romans 8, Paul describes that if a person has personally received Jesus, then the Holy Spirit of God fills him. As a person has God in her life, then the sinful nature has less and less power.

            That’s where I’m at. Yes, I’m still “human.”  But I’ve received God’s forgiveness and  now the Spirit of God is crowding out the sin from my life, and residing in its place.  If you don’t mind me asking, “where are you at?

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In my job of directing the Center of Hope, I lead a Sports Night for young men. Some of the guys frequently are in trouble with the law. They have become my friends. At Sports Night we keep it simple — 2 hours of competitive basketball and 10 minutes of “men talk.” They are real serious about basketball, and “unserious” about men talk in which we talk about relevant life issues and we pray.

            A few weeks ago, I expressed frustration as several of them just started leaving after they got their share of playing time. I was frustrated that they did not respect my desire to have the “men talk” which I worked hard at preparing. Out of frustration, I cut the night short.

            They felt bad, and I felt bad, so the following week went much better as we both apologized/made up. You see, in my perspective on life, God has awesome, unique plans and a purpose for each of my friends.  In my perspective, God loves them and has a great place in this world for them, far beyond the “drop-out” attitude that so many of them have grown up with, and have, and the alcohol and drug use, and the sleep-half-the-day-away in order to party-all-night-attitude.

            But also in my perspective is the Center of Hope’s ministry verse, I Corinthians 3:6 of the Bible — “I (Apostle Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow into a plant.” I disrespected God’s place in the person’s life. Another way to illustrate that is that we as people are the nursing staff who do the prep work, but God ultimately is the heart surgeon. Out of my care for my friends, I mistakenly disrespected where they are in their life journey, and I went and laid out my personal expectations for them.  So, my perspective remains the same, but I need to adjust how I live out that perspective. It’s a work in progress. Yeah, we’re still having our “men talk” but I’m more careful to seek out relevant topics, and to let them talk.