The Genie


A genie is a magical creature of Arabian folklore, who is imprisoned in an oil lamp. When someone rubs the lamp, the genie is released, willing and able to grant wishes to the one who set him free. All sorts of stories result as wishes are granted by genie.

The magic of the fairy tale is that it easily engages us into thinking of what sort of wishes we might make if we happened to rub a lamp and set a genie free. Would we wish for a new car or a new home or for millions of dollars? Would we wish for success or for health or for world peace? How wonderful it would be to have such a genie! At some point, however, we come back to reality, realizing that the genie is mere fantasy.

Sadly, there are many who treat God like a genie who grants wishes. They pray to God, wishing for some good result in their life like health or wealth. Sometimes they pray in a crisis for a dying friend or for a wayward son or for an ailing marriage. But when God doesn’t act like a genie in granting their every desire, they give up on God, because he wasn’t working for them. Soon they come to deny God altogether, thinking that he is simply a fable.

How foolish this is. It is based upon a faulty understanding of exactly who God is. He is not our servant, compelled to obey our every whim. Rather, we are his creatures, created to love him and obey him. When he does’t answer our prayers, it isn’t because he is inept or imaginary. It is because he has plans that we know not of. Let us submit our will to his.

“You thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you”
(Psalm 50:21).

A Praying Life

We just finished a study of prayer in our small group at church using Paul Miller’s excellent book, A Praying Life, by Paul Miller.  It is a great book. I heartily recommend it to all. The power of the book is it’s realism. Paul Miller doesn’t take you through a specific way to pray. He doesn’t pile burdens of methods upon your back. He simply encourages the reader to reflect upon the gospel and how prayer works in the busyness of each day.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

p. 20, “A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship.”
p. 24, “We have an allergic reaction to dependency, but this is the state of the heart most necessary for a praying life. A needy heart is a praying heart.”
p. 32, “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28, NASB).  The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”
p. 49, “Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don’t have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something ‘productive.'”
p. 64, “I didn’t learn continuous prayer; I discovered I was already doing it. I found myself in difficult situations I could not control. All I could do was cry out to my heavenly Father.”
p. 81, “In naïve optimism we don’t need to pray because everything is under control, everything is possible. In cynicism we can’t pray because everything is out of control, little is possible.”
p. 114, “Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life.”
p. 126, “Suffering is God’s gift to make us aware of our contingent existence. It creates an environment where we see the true nature of our contingent existence. It creates an environment where we see the true nature of our existence–dependent on the living God.”
p. 170, “Jill and I do our best parenting by prayer.”

I Fear His Prayers

John Knox was a fiery preacher who lived in Scotland during the heat of the Protestant Reformation. He loved the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and fought for it until his dying day.

He was opposed on many fronts. One such detractor was Mary, Queen of Scots, who supported the Catholics. Mary discerned his godliness. She is reputed to have said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”

Does anyone say this about your prayers?


11-12 Weeks

When I worked in an office environment, I tried to keep a few things on my desk that might remind of what’s really important in life. A side benefit was that many of these things would promote healthy discussions among my co-workers. One of the things that I used to keep was a life-sized plastic model of an 11-12 week old fetus in the womb.

At this point in the pregnancy, the baby is about two inches long. Almost all organs are formed and most are beginning to function, including the kidneys, the liver, and the pancreas. Fingers and toes have become distinct. You can count them. Hair and nails have begun to grow.

Sadly, this is the age at which many babies are aborted. We need to pray for mercy.

The Batphone

As a child I remember watching the television show, “Batman” starring Adam West as Batman. The plot was almost always the same. Trouble was brewing in Gotham City in the form of a notorious criminal, like the Joker or the Riddler or Catwoman. Chief O’Hara and Commissioner Gordon were at their wits end as to how to stop to criminal. So, they would call Batman, who would come and save the day and put their villain behind bars.

I particularly remember the Batphone. It was a red phone, kept underneath a glass cover in Commissioner Gordon’s office. The phone had one button on it, which connected the commissioner to Bruce Wayne’s home (alias, Batman). The phone was the only way for Gotham City to be saved from their problems.

The Batphone is a good illustration of how we can solve our problems. In and of ourselves, we are often powerless. We need God’s help. Our Batphone is called prayer. It is direct communication between us and God. Prayer can do many things. A prayer can save us from our sins. A prayer can guide us in trouble. A prayer can supply our daily needs. A prayer can keep us from temptation. A prayer can deliver us from evil.

Worship-based prayer

“Worship-based prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God. God’s face is the essence of who He is. God’s hand is the blessing of what He does.  God’s face represents His person and presence. God’s hand expresses His provision for needs in our lives.  I have learned that if all we ever do is seek God’s hand, we may miss His face; but if we seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts” (Daniel Henderson, Transforming Prayer).


Only Praying for Help

I was in a prayer meeting recently and a family was sharing about their children. Some were doing very well. Others were doing very poorly. They were sharing the joys of some of their children. And they were sharing the struggles of their other children.

As they were speaking, it really struck me: I’ve only been praying for some of their children. I’ve only been praying for their wayward children. I have totally missed praying for their children who are loving the Lord.

I’m convicted that I have viewed things wrongly. I have viewed prayer as merely seeking the Lord in times of distress, rather than viewing prayer as an opportunity to praise the Lord for the good. I need to see the good, thank the Lord for the good, and pray that He would continue to bless.

Prayers He Loves To Answer

We all have desires.  Some of them, we make known to God through prayer.  But, have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why do I want these prayers answered?”  Do you want them answered for yourself?  Do you want them answered for the sake of others?  Or for God’s sake?

James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  Here we see a wrong reason why you want prayers answered:  You and your desires.

Hezekiah shows us the right way.  He asked for deliverance from Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, who was attacking Judah with his army.  Hezekiah concludes by praying, “Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God” (2 Kings 19:19).  In other words, Hezekiah is praying for safety, not for his own pleasures, but for the glory of God. He is a God who cares for His people.

God loves to answer these prayers.

Prayer in Schools

Even though prayer was banned in public schools in America in 1963 (before I was born), I have heard many Christians continue to lament that Supreme Court decision. However, what did the Christian children in the schools do at that time? Even though protected by the First Amendment, my suspicion is that most remained silent.

Before Glasnost, prayer was banned in the public schools in Russia as well. But what did many of the Russian Christian children do? They would stand and pray as a witness to the grace of our Lord. These children (and their families) suffered greatly as a result.

Here’s the great question:  “What would have happened if American parents had taught their children not to submit to this decision?”  (Jesus Freaks [Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1999], p. 279).