The hardest thing

I have thought a lot about the challenges of following Jesus. I have taught for some 35 years, and have listened to uncounted men and women telling of their struggles. And I have reached some conclusions.

One of the most common issues is maintaining a regular, quality prayer life. Most Christians don't pray regularly, and the idea is unattractive. I don't know the reason for all, but it occurs to me that many of us think God doesn't like us much, and so why would we want to sit and chat with someone who is just humoring us? Not me.

The solution to that, I think, is to get hold of a factual understanding of who we are, and how God sees us. We think God doesn't like us because we don't like ourselves. There's a great deal I could say about that, but there's no room here. Perhaps later.

Another problem is reading the Bible. "Boring, irrelevant, outdated." This says something about the teaching at most churches. The Bible is anything but boring, irrelevant or outdated. In fact, it's the most fascinating book one could ask for. But how would people know that if they are not taught. And much "Bible teaching" is boring, irrelevant, and outdated.

For me, however, these aren't the problem. I enjoying praying, and I love the Bible. But I'm an active person: I like to do things and solve problems. I like to be involved busy to my eyeballs.

But there are times when God says, "Larry, go sit on the bench for a while. There's something I want to do in you." I hate the bench! I struggle with sitting on the sideline, watching the world go by without my participation. And so I try to get back in the game. After all, at my age, there might not be many more opportunities. But God won't have it.

"Larry, I told you once, sit down. Now plant your butt on that bench and shut up."

In times like these, my faith is tested. Does God really have the motivation of blessing me, and does he really want me to live a life that honors him? Yes. But are these goals, or are these outcomes of a deeper goal? They are the latter. God's blessings are not a goal for me - or for you - but are the outcome of fulfillment of the real goal: an intimate loving relationship with him.

Paul told us to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1, 2). Someone has observed that the problem with living sacrifices it that they keep crawling off the altar.

A living sacrifice, willing to sit still and listen. That's the hardest thing.


Hardest thing! Staying on the altar of sacrifice, yes. "Listening" as the more beneficial part of prayer gets some high points too. We talk too much when in private prayer and public prayer seems to have no listening component at all.


Your comments on listening prayer are important. We are a chatty people when we come, but not much on sitting quietly and listening. Is that perhaps a reflection of a flaw in our relationship with God? I have worked to teach small groups other forms of prayer, and it's very difficult. We are locked into habit, even when we recognize that habit as unproductive.

Leave a comment

Loading tweets:

Follow us on Twitter!

  • Larry Baden said:
      Elbert, Your comments on listening prayer are important. We are a cha...
  • ELBERT said:
      Hardest thing! Staying on the altar of sacrifice, yes. "Listening" as...

home quodlibet journal theo blog sermons theology e-texts church history forum home