April 17, 2018 |We trust the voice that we know the most.
I want to share with you a very simple tip in the way that you pray that I believe has the power to impact your relationship with God.  It’s so simple, you can begin applying it to the way you pray right now.  I can remember when I began practicing this … and my prayers have never been the same. 
 
When you pray, call God “my Father”.  
 
I know it sounds like a simple play on words.  But I mean it when I say that when I stopped praying “Dear God” prayers and I begin praying to “my Father in Heaven”, I noticed that my heart began to connect with what I was praying.  Instead of just reciting my thoughts toward Heaven, I actually started to open up my heart on the deepest levels with God.
 
I believe this will be true for you as well.  The more we begin to recognize God as someone very near and close with us, we will begin to feel more connected with God.  There’s no denying the fact that intimacy involves a relationship.  You’ll never open up and bear your soul with your mailman.  But you would with your spouse.  
 
When we think of “God”, we think of the one who created the heavens and the earth who lives “up there” somewhere.  But when we consider Him “my Father”, suddenly His proximity feels closer.  Knowing God in this kind of relationship does something to the way we pray.  
 
I can remember going to my Pop’s farm when I was a child and standing on the bottom rung of the fence trying to call out to the cows.  I’d yell for them to come close.  I tried to entice them with a bucket of feed.  Nothing.  But the moment my Pop came to the fence and let out his familiar “Here cow” call, every single one of them came.  Why did they ignore my invitation but come running to Pop when he called?  Because they were familiar with his voice.   
 
In John 10:14-14 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  Just as the sheep know their shepherd, so we know ours.  We run to the voice that’s most familiar to us.  We trust the voice that we know the most.  We obey the voice that we’re used to hearing.  
 
There are many voices competing for our attention.  The voices of our culture call out to us to buy this and that in order to be accepted.  The voices of media invite us to believe this truth and that truth.  The voices of substances try to convince us that we will feel better if we drink this.  The voices of comparison draw us to think we must be like them.  
 
I’m not sure what voices call out for your attention; but, I do know that the one voice that matters most is the one of your Father in heaven.  And if we’re going to listen to and trust His voice, we have to learn how to tune out every other voice until all we hear is His voice.  And the best what I know how to tune into His voice is to spend time getting to know Him more personally as “my Father”.  
 
In Jesus’ Name, 

 Ashton
 
April 10, 2018 | How has your life been shaped by prayer?
 

Prayer is a nearly global practice observed by nearly every people group in the world.  While the object of prayer differs widely among people around the globe, the practice of praying is rooted in nearly every major civilization in the history of humanity.  
Muslims are called to pray five times a day.  Jews traditionally pray three times a day.  The Papago Indians of the Southwest pray through singing.  Buddhists use prayer wheels to fling compassion into the atmosphere to unite the “spiritual” and “natural” world.  Hindus pray for help from many different gods and goddesses.  Even nonreligious people pray at times.  One study revealed that nearly 30% of atheists admitted to praying “sometimes”.  
 
While prayer is practically universal, not all prayer is the same.  Some Native American enter into a trance like state to “pray”.  Benedictine monks chant while they “pray”.  Pentecostal Christians speak in tongues as they “pray”.  Muslims bow on their knees with their foreheads on the ground facing Mecca as they “pray”.  Anglicans read from the Book of Common Prayer while they “pray”. 
 
With so many differences in how people, culture, and religions understand the practice of “prayer”, how should a Christian understand the meaning of “prayer”?  
 
Jesus teaches believers how to pray during His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:6 when He says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”  From Jesus’ teaching His disciples about pray, it seems to me that prayer is a very personal practice (“go into your room and close the door”) that is done with a God whom you are very personally close (“your Father”).  
 
Upon reflecting upon this single teaching of Jesus, I believe we can understand prayer to be equivalent to a conversation.  Don’t think about prayer like a religious exercise.  Prayer is not something we have to do in order to get into heaven.  It’s not on our “Christian To-do list”. 
 
For the Christian, prayer is the way we communicate to our Father God. Praying is simply talking with God.  Other religions and civilizations may practice something much different than Christians and still call it prayer.  That’s why it’s important that we understand both what we are doing when we pray and who we are doing it with when we pray.  
 
So for now, think about what prayer has meant to you for as long as you’ve practiced prayer and answer these questions:  

  • Is the practice of prayer that you’ve practiced much different than simply “talking with God”?  

  • Who is it that has taught you most of what you know and believe about prayer?   

  • Has prayer been something that’s usually easy for you to do or do you find it a challenge?  

  • What is it about praying that has been most beneficial to your faith?   


 
If you missed Sunday’s introduction to our new sermon series “Talking with God”, then you should listen to it online right now.  
 
In Jesus’ Name, 

Ashton

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One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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