Believe while Praying

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you… for everyone who asks receives.” (Matthew 7:7-8) This is not just an advice, it is almost an assurance. However, there is a condition that applies to it. As Jesus clarified, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

Jesus was once approached by a centurion for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus asked him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “No, Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus was amazed by his faith and said to him, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. (Matthew 8:5-13)

In another incident, two blind men sought Jesus’ attention by calling out loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They replied, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” At that moment, their sight was restored. (Matthew 9:27-30)

When Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus had died, he visited his home. Jesus asked Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Thereafter Jesus called out Lazarus from the grave and gave him a new life. (John 11:1-46)

In the present world, it is common for people to first ask God for something, and if they get it, express their belief in God. But to first believe in God while praying, and then experiencing his grace in life, is the way shown by Lord Jesus Christ.

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A Psalm for the Handicapped

Psalm 18 in the Bible was written by David and he sang it when the Lord delivered him from Saul and other enemies. It begins with David’s expression of trust in God and his total dependence on God’s security:

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2 New International Version)

David then narrates his near-death experience and says, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice… He reached down from on high and took hold of me.” (verses 6,16 NIV)

Psalm 18 is about the victory of a beleaguered king on the battlefield. But strangely, it also connects with the small battles that ordinary handicapped persons have to fight in their ordinary daily lives, and how miraculously God helps them win. God’s right hand gives them the support they need (verse 35). He helps them to stand in high places (verse 33), something they can never do on their own. But much more than that, God gives them new feet, the feet of a deer! (verse 33)

Deer feet or hooves are described as anatomical wonders. They enable the deer to run extremely fast, scale heights, jump over obstacles, chase animals, all without stumbling. A hind is a female deer that can place her back feet exactly where her front feet had stepped! So she can run real fast and securely even in difficult terrain. The King James Version of Psalm 18, particularly mentions hind’s feet. David says, “It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.” (verses 32-33).

For a handicapped person a small staircase or just uneven ground can present a great obstacle that may be impossible to negotiate. But David’s experience is that God “brought him out into a spacious place” (verse 19) and “made his way secure” (verse 32). “Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip”, says David in verse 36 (KJV). This verse has been explained more clearly and differently in the recent translations of Psalm 18. For example, the New International Version clarifies: “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” The Jubilee Bible 2000 says, “Thou shall enlarge my steps under me, and my knees shall not tremble.”  The Contemporary English Version says simply: “You clear the way for me, and now I won’t stumble.”

A handicapped person would like to get his weak ankles, folding knees, broken hips, or whatever, replaced with the feet of a deer, and have a dream run to great heights! But believe, God offers just that!

At All Times

While we struggle with time management, and strive to make the most optimum use of the 24 hours of the day, the Bible gives some very specific advice about how we are to spend our time.

Praise the Lord

David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

Meditate

David said: “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

Give thanks

Paul said: “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20-21)

Rejoice

Paul said: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Pray

Paul said: “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Trust

David said: “But I trust in you, Lord; my times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15)

Fear Not

Jesus said: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

The Father of Lies

The story of Adam and Eve that is narrated in the opening chapters of the Bible (Genesis 2-3) is well-known. Many believe it, many do not. The story is basically simple: After God had created the heavens and the earth, he created the first man Adam and then the first woman Eve. God had created a garden named Eden as a paradise for them to enjoy. Everything was available to them except that God had commanded them not to eat the fruit of a particular tree and warned that if they ate it they would die. Adam and Eve would have continued to taste God’s goodness, but for the entry of the Devil into the story.

The Devil or Satan, who appeared in the form of a serpent, first planted doubt in Eve’s mind and then told a lie that she would not die even if she ate that fruit. Eve did eat the forbidden fruit and so did Adam later. With that lie, Satan led Adam and Eve, and eventually all humanity, to death. God had to send his son Jesus Christ to be the saviour of mankind through his own death on the cross.

Even in the present age, Satan continues to mislead people with his lies by entering their minds. What he says, and the manner in which he says it, convinces people that his lie is truth. He compels them into believing that they would not suffer if they break laws. He entices people to use his methods of deceit and spread lies on his behalf. What he did to Adam and Eve, he continues to try with everyone today. The Bible warns us to be alert and of sober mind as the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We have to resist him, standing firm in the faith. We should cast all our anxiety on God who cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7-9)

Jesus described the Devil as the father of lies in whom there is no truth at all. (John 8:44) Lord Jesus himself is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Those who know Jesus will know the truth, and the truth will set them free (John 8:32).

 

Destiny, Chance and Will

(This is in continuation of my previous post Difficult Questions About My Simple Answers.)

Many religions very easily connect your present with your past. If you are presently in a pitiable condition, it could be the result of your bad actions in your previous birth. Or your current prosperity may be because of your good deeds in your past life. This law of karma is simple and convenient and needs no explanation. Because you cannot really recall any of your past karma. So just attribute everything to destiny, fate, niyati, naseeb, or whatever you would like to call it. Or trace the good and bad seasons of your life to the configuration of planets, the time of your birth, or the shape and length of lines on your palms. But most religions or beliefs do not connect your present state with your current actions, and they do not hold you responsible. Therefore, there is hardly anything you can do to change your destiny. Like that golden oldie of Doris Day, “Whatever will be, will be, que sera sera!”

So one answer to the question as to why I had a fall on the road and I broke my leg, is that I was destined to fall.

Then there is the science of medicine that tells you that as you grow older, your reflexes slow down, your bones get brittle, you become less stable, and you are likely to keep falling. There is also statistics, that can assign a probability of occurrence to every event on earth. If your age is more than sixty, if you cross the road several times a day, if you live in a city where traffic rules are often flouted or where young bikers are reckless, then the chance that you get hit on the road can be computed. It will never be zero. So statistically speaking, you are bound to fall, sooner or later.

So another explanation for my fall was that it was statistically imminent and it was just a matter of chance.

Thus far, God has not come into this discussion. Now comes the problem. I am a Christian – by birth, upbringing, faith and practice. I believe in a God who can do anything, who knows everything, who loves his children as a father would, who understands their needs and answers their prayers. So when things go wrong in my life, it is natural for me to ask my God why he did not take sufficient care of me as much as he should have.

Of course, God loves me. He takes care of me. And he has a plan for my life. He has said in the Bible, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) But even if he would like me to go by his plan, he does not thrust his plan on me. He is willing to show me his way, but he does not insist that I go by it. Because I am a free man, not his slave or a robot controlled by him. So if I am lost and my own plans go haywire, I have no right to blame him.

In the background of the “God is love” concept of the Bible, a question often asked is how he can allow suffering in this world, and particularly how he can allow good people to suffer. Here I would like to recall that Jesus had asked his disciples to pray in a certain manner, which has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer begins as: “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”

Two points are inherent in the Lord’s Prayer. One, that we must pray for the kingdom of God to come. Obviously, because the kingdom of God is yet to be fully established on earth. Till that happens, the world will continue to remain imperfect. Two, we have to pray that God’s will be done on earth. Obviously, because at the present time, God’s will is being disregarded and even opposed on earth. And who is coming in the way of his plans? Man himself, as he continues to exercise his own free will for his own purposes, to serve his own interests.

So if a biker decides, in exercise of his own sweet will, to be reckless on the road, and he hits me, I will fall, regardless of God’s plans and promises of my welfare. Again, God is not to be held responsible for my fall. But what was God doing at that time? He was present there. He didn’t leave me or forsake me. In fact I am certain that had he not been there, I would have been run over by the vehicle. I could then have died, or had permanent brain damage, or suffered multiple injuries. Nothing of this severity happened to me. And what did God do afterwards? He remained with me and helped me to stand up again and walk. God was not testing me. On the contrary, he was making me bask in his love and amazing grace. This is the experiential aspect of the Christian faith. As David writes in his psalm, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who trusts in him.” (Psalm 34:8) And what about those who hindered God’s plans for me and followed their own? They will also stand, but before God, on the day of his judgement.

In the fulness of time, God’s kingdom will be truly established on earth. In fact, there will be a totally new earth. (Revelation 21:1-4) Then there will be no more pain, no suffering, no grief, no tears, and no more death. That would be the new world that God will create for his children to live for all time to come.

See also:

God’s Role in Natural Disasters (1)

God’s Role in Natural Disasters (2)