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Do you have Christian Tourette's?

I know that may seem a bit of a flippant title and to all of those suffering with Tourette's please accept my apologies i am in no way making fun of your affliction.

But we often have a habit in the church of answering difficult statements, such as I am ill or I have lost my job with the phrase 'I will pray for you'. In it's purest form this isn't a small thing to say it is a commitment of time and a willingness to pray for someone else and not just themselves and family. It is also in it's purest form a declaration of Faith, in that you are saying to the person who has the issue, 'I believe that the Lord can solve this issue'. yet the purest form is not always our meaning when we say it. Sometimes the statement blurts out of us as the most Christian way of responding to bad news rather than a solution. Just like Tourette's it shoots out without control and the meaning behind it is not really what is meant.

Now please don't get me wrong i am not suggesting that you are not sincere or that all offers of prayer are simply hollow gestures. However sometimes it is. Yet not because of insincere Christian's but because often it is an incorrect view on what prayer is and why we do it.

Prayer has become a very mixed up issue in the church especially between different denominational church structures and worship types. I don't intend to go into the rights and wrongs of that because we have to remember there were 7 very different churches written to in Revelation 2 and 3 but they were all still the Church with Christ in the midst. I want to look at this from the individuals point of view. Between you and the Lord in heaven you are praying to.

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself the question 'why am I doing this'. When it comes to prayer we can often have a great deal of conflicting or confusing views on it many of which are quite dogmatic. I remember when I was working for a church as a Youth Pastor that one of the things the Senior Minister would regularly tell me off for was not saying a prayer at meal times. It used to really grate on him and he could not understand why I didn't have it ingrained in me to give thanks for my food. Now unlike him I was not brought up in a religious household and so we never said 'Grace' at meal times. With my bitter distain for vegetables it also was more often a war zone or we ate on trays in front of the TV. When I became a Christian at the age of 15 I still lived at home and dinners were often on the fly. I had not had a culture of saying Grace and so it was not something natural to me. I wonder if it is to you. Yet what I struggled with when my Senior Pastor would let me know was the inconsistency between what he taught prayer was and what he was demanding I did. Now again, I have to tread lightly because I am not suggesting that saying Grace at a meal time is wrong or that you do what I am about to explain was my issue. For me it just seemed like some kind of religious observance. It wasn't that I wasn't thankful for my food and to the Lord who provided it but the necessity to tell the Lord this every time I ate or I was being ungrateful seemed like a dictate. Prayer as a requirement rather than as a relationship. We can find ourselves praying in all kinds of times but what is the reason behind it and why are we doing it.

As a young man brought up in a household that did not attend church the traditions of the church never became part of me and my culture. As such when I accepted Christ as my Saviour at the age of 15 I was in that precocious time when I would question why we did anything, I personally recommend that approach to all and encourage you that the Lord said in John 15:15 tells us the mark of a friend of Christ is that they know why they do something. So why did we pray at all was a serious question as was why do we pray at this and this time.

There is so much religion surrounding prayer but it was not an institution or religious rite that was instituted for the church to follow. The meeting together as a church was mandated but what we did was not. Much of what we take for granted as a normal church service was simply a follow on from the Synagogue system that had been created during the Babylonian exile of Israel. The temple was gone and the prayers for the nation could not be offered up in that place. They would meet around the word and have several preachers, give thanks and pray collectively. So when the early church began it did the same things and over the centuries that has not really changed very much. Yet in that adopted system prayer was already in trouble as we see from Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount.

Mathew chapters 5 through to 7 give us the most detailed account of the sermon. yet we would be wrong to consider that this was the only time Jesus said it. The reasons the other gospels only give accounts and at different times in the chronology of Jesus life is because this was what often in the US election process they call His 'stump speech'. Not that Jesus was running for office but that His 'stump speech' is the message He took everywhere. It is an important message about seeking the kingdom of Heaven. A thing which was an expectation of all of Israel. Jesus message can be dissected into three parts. Mathew 5 is the requirements of the kingdom. Chapter 6 the outward actions of its citizenship. Chapter 7 is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. Yet this was not some creed for the church but a teaching summed up with if you want access then your righteousness needs to exceed that of the Pharisees. Oh the Pharisees who loved the outward show of righteousness and believed in it. They were truly righteous in this sense and could be more pious then anyone. Yet their road did not lead to the kingdom, for access to it is impossible by man's efforts only through Christ can we enter.

Now in that message we find in Mathew 6:5-15 the Lord's narrative on the state of prayer and how it must change. When we read it then we more often pick up on what is commonly known as 'the Lord's prayer'. Yet the point i want to show you in this discussion is found in the other verses. Here is what we read.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly. But when you pray, do not babble vain words, as the nations. For they think that in their much speaking they shall be heard. Therefore do not be like them, for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask Him. Mathew 6:5-8

When seen in the light of your righteousness having to exceed the Pharisee's or that religious observances will not save you then prayer comes in for a massive renovation. the prayer must not be a hypocrite. This word is hupokritēs, meaning an actor. The act of acting in prayer then being described by Jesus. Rather than either the locations prohibited or even the vain babbling as being a description of how to pray the reality is they are discussion on what prayer is.

It isnt an act, so it should be genuine but the genuineness is discovered by whom you pray to. Jesus isn't saying prayer meetings are wrong He is saying very specifically to those who pray to an audience, prayer should be Godward and not manward. However that's not that your prayers to God have to be done secretly rather that to the Pharisaical crowd praying without an audience would be pointless. That is because the purpose of prayer in that circle, the religious one is about a declaration of your own Holiness or Righteousness.

Now the prayer life that Jesus is here advocating is one which is intimate and with the Lord. For want of a better word it is conversational hence the statement don't babel on with lot's of words. This statement also indicates prayer isn't meant to be about asking for things because the reason the heathen temples did such things would be to either appease or delight the gods. Jesus declares we don't need many words to do so, we just need to be present in the conversation.

Since religion is defined as the substitute for an absence of relationship with Christ religious prayers can therefore be summed up as an absence of the ability to communicate with Him.

When we have relationship, just like a relationship with anyone, then prayer becomes our form of communication with the Lord and it is vitally important. It is vitally important because it builds faith. So how does it do that?

I can talk to my wife face to face and the purpose of our communications help us to know a little more about each other everyday. I don't need Faith to have that communication only willingness to be open and share more and more of the man inside. The reason I don't need to have faith is because I can see her and i don't have to believe she is listening nor she me. My wife knows when i am not listening and I know when to shut up. The Lord is however not visible and to believe in Him for salvation, for support and to be directed by Him takes Faith to believe. As doe reading the bible and believing it is the inspired word of God. It takes Faith to stand and worship as it does to speak either internally or externally when there is no one visible to receive that. To the outward observer, a church raising its hands and worshipping God looks like a group of people singing to a projector screen. And a person praying looks like a child who is talking to their imaginary friend.

That is not what is going on though. Yet I wonder if at times that is what you feel inside. Prayer to the Father takes a lot of Faith but prayer to the Lord who is not far away but with us everyday, just as He told the disciples He would be, takes even more. Like a muscle, the more you do it the stronger and bigger that belief and Faith will come. Counsellors will ask when a relationship breaks down, 'have you been communicating'. The Christian must ask themselves have I been communicating. Not have I been leaving shopping lists or my confessions. Have i been talking with my Lord and savior as a friend, as someone who is interested in my life, as someone who has an intimate relationship with the Lord

Now lets go back to our question. Do you suffer from Christian Tourette's? Prayer as a declaration of your piety isn't all that hard and I can offer to pray for anyone because it makes me look good. However when prayer is an intimate conversation with the Lord about who you are and who He is in your life then offering to pray for someone or even saying grace takes on a different meaning. A purer meaning. It is an outward declaration but not of your piety but of your trust and belief in Jesus.

More so that when we do have an intimate conversational relationship with the Lord then we pray less speculatively because we know the nature of Christ and pray according to His will.

I hope that challenges you to have a chat with Jesus.

IF you have enjoyed this or it has blessed you, maybe even you have something to add to the conversation then why not go over to our 'ask a question' page and chat on our 'do you find prayer difficult' forum.

The Lord bless you