I’ve been profoundly influenced by the convergence of what I’ve been reading and experiencing lately. I have to say that my heart is full of compassion and love for the Body of Christ. The combination of recently reading Susan Isaacs’ Angry Conversations with God, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Henri Nouwen’s The Road to Daybreak and Making All Things New have catalyzed in me an appreciation for the diversity of those who follow Jesus and the great difficulty that God experiences in answering our prayers. God is regularly required to ignore pain, suffering, injustice and disappointment in the lives of his adopted children for His Higher Agenda. It has given me pause and affected my prayer life in some deep ways. Having the presence of the Holy Spirit is enough. The security, love and satisfaction that comes to me by his presence is remarkable and surprising.
Rationally: I was quite surprised at how deeply these stories have shaken me. The resonance I have felt as I’ve related to different characters in these stories has helped me understand and appreciate their pain.
Emotionally: On more than one occasion I have been moved to tears as I’ve observed the pain and degradation experienced by God’s creatures (both real and imagined). The moralistic requirements and expectations being shoveled on to a broken Susan Isaacs by Christians; the hatred spewed out on black people in Mississippi in the name of God and those who have grown cold toward God in Nouwen’s Dutch homeland. And, yet, Jesus shed his precious blood for them ALL.
Deep Desire: That my appreciation for the price and power of the crucifixion of Jesus would never leave me.
Volitional: That I would act and grow in patience and kindness toward God’s children.
It happens all the time. We become so familiar with a passage in the Bible or the storyline in a movie or lines in our favorite poem that we miss other parts of the story. For instance, I say, “First Corinthians 13,” you say, “the Love Chapter; read it at weddings; put it on a plaque.” But, did you know that the “Love Chapter” has important teaching on sanctification and growing in our walk with God and what happens when we see Jesus?
Psalm 23? The funeral psalm that we read as caskets go into the ground. Actually, it’s much more about life and about the abiding presence of God in good times and hard times than about death or the afterlife.
So, that brings us to First Timothy 2. This part of Paul’s letter is most often quoted regarding the office of mediator that Jesus holds due to his redeeming work on the cross or the teaching on the wardrobe and demeanor of women and their place in God’s hierarchy. But there is one pivotal verse that is often overlooked. It’s verse 8 and here’s what it says, “Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.” Wow. We could unpack this for weeks. And, yet, we often miss this critical teaching.
So, immediately, this is how I respond to this pivotal sentence.
- Pray – Come to God and share how you feel about what is going on in your life. Ask for his help. Cry out to God with your anxieties, pains, fears, joys, hopes and desires. Pray for those in your community and your community of faith. Ask God to open the hearts of those around you to hear the Good News that Jesus is the mediator between God and man.
- Lift up holy hands – what an amazing picture of our reaching out for God’s help. Coming to him with empty hands is very difficult for most of us. Sometimes God has to take away those things and people that we rely upon so that we can have holy hands to raise. They are holy because we raise them with singularity of purpose. We are lifting up our hands to God and God alone. We are saying that Jesus is our only hope for connecting to our Creator and Heavenly Father.
- Without anger or argument – I’m pretty much assuming that Paul’s talking about not being angry with those who around us and not while we are in the midst of an argument. It seems to be way too common that the people of God manifest anger and resentment within the church. Whether it is the attack of evil or our hiding behind our false selves, Paul says that we must shed those feelings and positions to raise our hands in prayer. Certainly, this would follow that if we are to come to God lifting our holy hands that we cannot come grasping to our hatred, disrespect or unwillingness to forgive, forget and move forward.
Won’t you join me in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument?