Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Still, small voice

In a conversation, what’s more important than talking? That’s what a conversation is, right? Talking to each other. Wrong. A conversation includes talking, yes, but you can’t have a real conversation if both people aren’t listening. If one of them isn’t listening, then you just have one person talking to themselves and inviting someone else to experience it.

Prayer is the same way, because prayer is a conversation with God. And we know that God listens to us when we speak, but it should work both ways. Are we listening when He speaks?

Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 19:11-13.

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I am actually composing this devotional in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, one of my favorite places in the world. I don’t believe in magic, but if there were such a thing, the Glen would be full of it. Something about this place—when you walk on the grounds it makes you want to be quiet. It makes you want to remember how to be still and listen. It makes you want to slow down because if you rush by you might miss something miraculous.

In fact, I was just sitting on this bench, and I heard a strange buzzing sound. Too soft to be a motor, too low to be a bug. I didn’t know what it was until I saw one of the dew covered leaves flatten out with the weight of a hummingbird. Yeah, it’s not often you can sit working on a laptop and watch hummingbirds sipping dew off rose petals.

It’s so easy to be busy. It’s so easy to be loud. It’s so easy to run around frantically and get so focused on everything that’s happening today or tomorrow or what happened yesterday and how it will effect today and tomorrow. But if we’re so busy running around, how do we expect to hear what God wants to tell us? If we’re too busy to read scripture, how can we expect Him to communicate with us? I mean, yes, God finds ways to communicate with us, but His primary means of speaking is through the Bible.

Everyone needs to quiet down, otherwise we’re just talking and expecting God to talk to us without us having to listen to what He’s saying. Maybe His answer isn’t what you want, but you can’t say He hasn’t answered.

God can answer in wind and fire. He can answer in earthquakes and thunderstorms. He absolutely can. He’s God. He can do what He wants. But that’s not how He works. That’s not how He communicates. Even with Elijah, He didn’t speak in some awe-inspiring judgment-day type of experience. He spoke in a still, small voice.

That still, small voice is still small today. And if we’re running too fast, we’re going to miss it. If we’re talking too loud, we’ll talk over Him.

I know it’s hard to slow down. I know it’s hard to be still. Trust me, I understand how difficult it is to prioritize. But what matters?

Be quiet. Be still. Listen. He’s speaking. He speaks every moment of every day. Sometimes through Scripture. Sometimes through nature. Sometimes through the Spirit. Sometimes through other believers. But He never stops speaking.

Are you being still enough to hear?

Field of little bright flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

How do you pray and believe?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you would get everything you prayed for? Or would that be nice? Maybe that wouldn’t be good at all. How many of us have prayed for something and didn’t get it and a few years later understood why?

I’ve been there. I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I needed help and I prayed that God would deliver me, and for all intents and purposes it didn’t feel like He had. It didn’t feel like He did anything, like He didn’t even show up. I’ve also been in situations where I asked God for something, and He didn’t give it to me. And at the time, I was heart-broken. I was angry. I was disappointed. Maybe even a bit disillusioned. And in the emotion of the moment, I never wanted to ask Him for anything else again.

Field of little bright flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Field of little bright flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are Mark 11:22-24.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.

I can totally understand people getting upset with this set of verses. I’ve been upset with it because it’s obviously not true, right? I have asked for things and believed whole-heartedly that I would get them, and then I never did. So how can Jesus get off saying something like this?

Honestly, I’m not sure any follower of Christ truly comprehends what prayer actually is or how powerful it actually is. I don’t think any of us can really appreciate what God does through prayer.  Maybe I’m generalizing. Maybe I should make it more personal. I don’t think I understand prayer.

I understand asking for things. I understand worshipping. I understand the ins and outs, the bits and pieces, the big picture of prayer. But how on earth can you ask God for something, truly and fully believing that you’ll get it, when you know deep down inside that you might not? That’s a paradox I don’t know if I can wrap my head around. How can you believe something but not believe it?

I don’t have all this figured out. I hope people know that. And I never write anything on this blog that I’m not struggling with personally. In fact, the posts that seem to be the most popular are the ones where I pretty much gut myself and lay everything out for the World Wide Web to see. And this topic is no exception.

I’ve asked for things, and I’ve believed that they’re going to happen. And they don’t. So I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. And still nothing. Maybe it’s on me. Maybe that means I’m not doing something right. Maybe that means I need to get up and do something else. But where is that line where you need to stop waiting and start doing?

I don’t know the answer to this one. I just know Jesus. I know who He is, and (being quite frank) that’s enough for me. And in the grand scheme of things, I’ve had more prayers answered than not. And if you think about it, I bet you have too, especially counting the prayers you didn’t know to pray. All I know for sure is that God is good, truly honestly really good. And that He never gives up on us and never abandons us; He never makes mistakes and He always keeps His promises. And if Jesus says He’ll answer any prayer, I believe Him.

Maybe that’s blind faith. I don’t think so because I know who Jesus is, so trusting Him isn’t that difficult. But what about things I’ve asked for that are outstanding? How can I believe that they’ll really happen when I don’t know?

This is what I’ve discovered. Praying specifically is always best. It helps us get our minds and perspectives straight. It’s not that God requires specificity, but it’s better for us. But what do you believe when you ask God for something? Do ask Him for that specific thing and then expect that He will deliver? Honestly, if that’s the way you do it, I think that goes back to the whole genie in the lamp concept, and that’s not who God is. Are we really so presumptuous to believe that we know what to ask for?

Yes, be specific. But believe that God is going to do what He wants before He does what you want. Why? Because He knows better. Yes, ask Him. Yes, make your requests. He wants to hear from you. He wants to talk to you. But we put so many restrictions on God in our prayers. We put Him in a box all the time. We ask for things that are so small, so selfish, so minor, and He wants to do things that are so much bigger than we can imagine through us. So make your little request, but don’t be surprised if God answers in a way you don’t expect. That’s who He is. He works so much higher than we do. He sees so much more than we do. And He has plans for us that exceed our wildest dreams.

It’s not that He’s not answering our prayers. He is. He’s just not doing it the way we want. And in the grand scheme of life and living, which would you prefer? Do you want God to answer your little prayers for your little life so you can go on living in a way that never makes a difference? Or would you rather enjoy the ride? Would you rather leave it up to Him? It’s a scarier option, to be sure, but I’d rather let Him drive.

How do you pray and believe? Make your requests, and believe that God is God and that He’ll do all He’s promised. But know it won’t look like what you think, and it’s far far better that way.

Yellow rose at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Don’t be afraid to pray out loud

Prayers don’t have to be complicated. I’m not sure where the concept of ritualistic prayers came from, but they’re not necessary if you want to talk to God. You don’t have to speak a different language to talk to Him. You don’t have to wax long and eloquent with phrases that sound impressive. If you’re going to pray, just talk to Him.

Yellow rose at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Yellow rose at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 18:36-37.

At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

These two verses come from a larger passage in the Old Testament, one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The prophent Elijah is one of my favorite characters of all time. He has such bold colors in his personality, and he reacts to things in ways that have an impact on people. Elijah’s story is full of crazy emotions and wild roller coaster rides and excitement and humor. If there were ever a Type A personality in Scripture, it was Elijah.

1 Kings 18 chronicles a contest that was held on Mt. Caramel. You see, at this time in Israel’s history, the people had turned away from God. Oh, they still believed in God and they still did all the things that God-followers were supposed to do, but they were also following a false god named Baal. It’s a long story, but the queen of Israel at the time was a Baal-worshipper and brought that type of worship into Israel. And the people followed.

What happens in 1 Kings 18 is a contest between Baal and God. Elijah challenges Baal and his prophets to bring fire to a sacrifice. All of Israel turns out for the contest, and that’s where Elijah utters his iconic words from verse 21: Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

Without going into too much detail, the contest lasted a long time because the prophets of Baal couldn’t get their god to answer them. And at some point during the morning, Elijah even began to taunt them. If you have a chance to read 1 Kings 18, you should. Elijah says some pretty funny things.

But then, when it’s his turn to get up and pray, he goes overboard. He douses his sacrifice in water. And then, he prays the prayer above, simple, short, to the point.

“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

There’s not much to that prayer, but God answered it. Oh boy, did He answer it. He sent fire down from heaven, fire that consumed the whole altar, not just the sacrifice but the wood and the stones and the water and the dirt. And Israel remembered who He was and turned against Baal’s prophets.

We make such a big deal out of prayer. Yes, prayer is a big deal, but we don’t need to flail around and make a big show when we’re talking to God. He doesn’t need that. He doesn’t need fancy words or impressive vocabulary. Now, if you pray that way normally–if that’s the way you talk–that’s one thing. But if you’re putting on a show when you’re talking to God, it’s not for Him.

Somehow the Christian culture has embraced this idea of big, showy prayers, and as a result, people don’t want to pray. I know so many believers who are hesitant to pray out loud because they’re not good at it. I used to be one of them.

Not good at praying out loud? I wasn’t aware there were standards. I didn’t know it was a competition.

I used to be terrified to pray out loud because I was afraid I would say the wrong thing. I didn’t want to pray out loud because I was sure I would make a fool of myself. But I got involved in this ministry at church that requires a lot of praying (a lot of praying), and I had to start praying out loud in front of people by default. Everyone did. The first time I prayed out loud in front of people during this ministry I was scared to death, and then I remembered that I’m not praying so that people will think I’m a great Christian. I was praying because I needed God’s help–we all did–and we just needed to ask Him for it. No rituals. No flailing. No secret handshake. Just talking.

I’m not scared to pray out lout now. I got a lot of practice during that ministry, but I also realized that prayer isn’t about me. And it’s not about the people around me either. Prayer is talking to God. Maybe the false god Baal required a lot of strange things from his prophets if they wanted to talk to Him, but the real God isn’t like that. God just wants to hear from us. So we don’t need to hide behind a guise of intellectualism or heady vocabulary. He wants to know our hearts.

Don’t be afraid to pray out loud. And it’s actually better if you keep it simple. Look what Elijah’s prayer accomplished. What matters is the heart of it. And if someone has a problem with how you pray–if someone is judging the worth of your prayer based on how many syllables you use when you’re talking to God–you don’t need to worry about their opinion anyway. Because obviously they have other issues.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

He’ll answer when it’s time

I’m one of those people who runs around like a crazy person, doing everything I can think of to prepare for trouble or to take care of people who are in trouble, and then I pray. I rarely pray first, although I’m getting better about it. There’s something in my wiring that tells me praying is a last resort, when it really ought to be my first response.

This month, I’ve been doing a personal study of prayer, and in the last few days, I’ve experienced some pretty cool things about prayer that I really feel like I need to pass along.

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Tree-lined path at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The Bible says in John 14:13-14,

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

That’s quite a promise. Have you ever put it to the test?

I’ve lived in the same general area since 1991. You can look at that as a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s been my life. And as a result of that, I’ve formed a lot of really awesome friendships. I’ve watched my peers grow up, get married, move away, move back, and have kids. I never liked kids very much, and I’m not a big fan of babies. But in recent years, I’ve had to start liking babies or I wouldn’t have any friends left!

I remember very vividly talking with four of my lady friends about how badly they wanted to have children. But they just couldn’t. It just didn’t happen.So we all started praying together that God would give them families.

Until one day when one of them got pregnant. And stayed pregnant until she had a healthy baby boy. Shortly after her, another one of the ladies got pregnant and also had a boy. And then another one of the ladies ended up with a girl. And it wasn’t just these ladies either. It was half my friends on Facebook. Everyone started having babies, except for this one friend of mine. She and her husband wanted a child. And they had tried everything for years, and nothing worked. We kept praying and praying and praying, but nothing changed.

Whenever we would talk about it, I just kept encouraging her to wait. And I hated that answer, because that was the answer I kept getting too. Not waiting for a baby but waiting for things I want out of life. I’ve been so frustrated with God at times because He doesn’t work on my timetable. I want Him to give me the things I want when I want them. And it’s in those moments that I forget who He is and treat Him like a genie in a lamp, my personal wish granter. And that’s not God.

I remember a particularly difficult day I had during that time. I was just so tired of waiting for what I wanted. And when I get down—really really down—I usually just grab my Bible and start reading Psalms. Psalms always cheer me up. But the Psalms weren’t doing the trick this one night. They just didn’t resonate like they usually did.

So I decided that because I was in such a mournful mood that maybe I should read Lamentations. After all, it doesn’t get much worse than Lamentations, right? I thought it in jest, but now I’m glad I did because I found a passage that changed the way I look at prayer and God’s timing.

Lamentations 3:21-26, 31-33

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. … For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

I don’t like waiting. I want what I want, and I want it now. I think I’m ready for it, but most of the time, I’m not. If God gave me my way and let me have what I wanted, the weight and responsibility of it would crush me like a bug. He knows how much I can handle. He knows what I can take. There’s a reason why He’s withholding the things I want, and it’s not to hurt me or cause me pain.

I don’t know better than He does.

Waiting stinks, but there’s always a reason for it. Maybe you need to grow. Maybe someone else needs to grow. Maybe circumstances or seasons need to change. Whatever it is, God knows, and He’s not going to interrupt His great plan to grant us our good request. But eventually, He will answer. And when He does, the fulfillment of that prayer will be better than you ever expected.

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

Baby Hoo has finally arrived! Meet Audrey Kay Hoover!

I spent my lunch break yesterday at the hospital with a 7-pound, 7-ounce little girl who most of us had given up hope would ever exist. She was born June 10 at 10pm. And if God had given into our requests and allowed her to be born four years ago, I don’t think the world would have been ready for this little miracle bundle of crazy.

So if you’ve asked God for something, if you’re waiting on God to answer you, don’t give up. He’s not ignoring you. He’s not trying to hurt you. He’s not testing your patience. He’s waiting for the right time to give you more than what you asked for.

He won’t answer when you want Him to. He’ll answer when it’s time.

The devil made me do it?

 

This month I’m studying prayer, and I started with the most famous prayer (probably) in history, the Lord’s Prayer. But it’s not a prayer to be prayed as our only conversation with God. It’s a format or an outline of how to pray, using your own words. And one of the parts of prayer is asking God for help in dealing with temptation before it gets here.

Stone dragon statue looking out over the pool at the Chinese garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Stone dragon statue looking out over the pool at the Chinese garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:13.

And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one.

You’re going to be tempted. If you’re human and you’re breathing, Satan is going to throw something at you to get you to take a wrong step, to get you to compromise your faith, to get you to lose your testimony. That old phrase, “the devil made me do it” doesn’t really play. Maybe he suggested it, but if you’re a Christ-follower, you have the power to say no. That makes sin your choice.

Understand that being tempted isn’t a sin. Everyone is tempted. Even Jesus was tempted when He walked on the Earth, but when you’re tempted, you can choose to yield or be strong and stand against it. Yielding to temptation is where the sin comes in.

So many times I think I fall when I’m tempted because I don’t anticipate it. It sneaks up on me, and I give in because I wasn’t ready to defend myself. That’s the trick with our enemy. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he knows exactly what to throw at us to get us to cave. And if we don’t expect it, we’ll give in.

Now it’s true that sin has no power over a Christ-follower. Even if you do yield to temptation, you won’t lose your salvation. But you will have consequences in this life. It’s a natural law, like sowing and reaping, that actions have consequences. And if you choose to do something wrong, you’ll experience wrong circumstances as a result–maybe not today and maybe not even tomorrow but eventually. And if you don’t experience it, someone you love will.

Sin always has a price. And it always has a harvest.

But God has given us the power to resist temptation. That’s one of the reasons why we have the Holy Spirit, and it’s another reason why we have each other to help us stay accountable. I’m not saying to see Satan under every rock and shrub, but be aware.

It’s foolish for a woman to walk through a dark alleyway at night, even if she has mace. That’s just asking to be attacked. But so many of us treat our lives that way. We go through our daily business, not even thinking about the fact that there is a spiritual war going on around us, where the forces of God and the forces of Satan are locked in combat. The things that are real are the things we can’t see, so what does that say about our lives?

Don’t be naive. You’re going to experience temptation. That doesn’t make you a bad Christian. It makes you human. But if you don’t want to be a fool, anticipate it. Understand that it’s coming. Learn to recognize the tools Satan uses to throw you off track, and ask God to help. He will.

Foxglove at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The elephant in the room

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to have a conversation with someone who hasn’t done something they know they need to do? True, they may be really good at hiding it. But if it’s a friend you’ve known for a long time and you know they’re purposefully ignoring something they’re supposed to get done, what do you talk about? Sure, you can talk around the problem. But isn’t there a saying about the elephant in the room? It’s like a cloud that hangs over both your heads, that has a negative effect on your conversation and your relationship.

It’s like trying to talk to someone who has something in their teeth. Can you focus on what they’re saying?

I’ve noticed that’s true in my human relationships. So why wouldn’t it be true in our relationships with God?

Foxglove at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Foxglove at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:12.

And forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

If this looks familiar, it should, because this is the same verse I blogged about on Friday. But on Friday I only took the time to focus on asking forgiveness for our own sins. I didn’t touch on how we need to forgive others, which is just as important as asking forgiveness for ourselves.

As followers of Christ, we are commanded to forgive. Christ told multiple stories about forgiveness throughout the Gospels, and the Bible is full of stories about how people forgave those who had done them wrong. But that was then, right? Is it really still the same? Well, people haven’t changed. So why should this?

If you’re holding something over someone else’s head, that’s what you’re focusing on. That’s a part of yourself that’s tied down. A part of your heart is distracted. And God wants our whole heart. All the pieces not just the ones we’re willing to give Him, not the pieces that are perfect or in good order. He wants all of us.

Unforgiveness is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, I think. At least, that’s been my personal experience. It takes a lot to really hurt me. Most of the time I just let things roll off. I don’t get offended easily, and I try to live understanding that people are perfect, that everyone has bad days, that life isn’t about me. But every now and then, I run into a situation where someone manages to hurt me on a level that I don’t expect. And as someone who doesn’t get hurt often, it’s difficult for me to forgive, especially if I’m not the one who was hurt. Forgiving others who have hurt people I love is more difficult for me than forgiving people who hurt me.

But unforgiveness is just as damaging no matter who got hurt. And holding on to it does nothing to the perpetrator while it poisons me from the inside out.

I’m not going to go into details but a long time ago I had a friend who stabbed me in the back. I was naive back then, and I didn’t see it coming. The one person I thought I could count on turned against me, and I didn’t understand why. I still don’t. Not really. I thought I let it go. I thought I left it behind me as I moved on with my life, but deep down inside I hadn’t. And that old hurt festered and turned to resentment and then to bitterness, and all the while I was living a good Christian life. Anyone who talked to me wouldn’t have known any different. But I knew I was holding on to it because every time I talked to God, it would come up at the back of my mind–a still, small voice that whispered, “Hey, you need to take care of that.”

And I knew I did. I just didn’t know how to go about it.

I’ll never forget. My awesome pastor preached a message called “Scar Tissue” ages ago in a series called Life Ink that really changed the way I looked at forgiveness. And I remember letting go. Finally. And I can’t tell you it felt like a weight off my shoulders. I can’t tell you that I noticed a change in my daily life. But talking to God didn’t feel strained anymore because I’d finally acknowledged what I hadn’t done yet, and I’d taken care of it.

It’s important to ask forgiveness for yourself, yes. We all do wrong. We all sin. And we need to acknowledge those sins when we talk to God, but we also need to forgive others who have sinned against us. If we don’t, holding that against them will change you, and it will have a negative effect on your prayer life.

Whatever you’re holding on to today, consider letting it go. I’ve never tried to talk to someone with a literal elephant in the room, but I can only imagine how distracting it would be.

Bright red flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Asking forgiveness isn’t for God’s benefit

I struggle with living in denial, sometimes. I can convince myself that just about anything isn’t a problem, or at least that anything can be dealt with later. In some cases, this is a big blessing because otherwise I would drive myself crazy with all the things that I can’t accomplish. Example? I live alone in a 100-year-old farmhouse that brings new meaning to the phrase deferred maintenance. It’s not that the place is falling apart, it’s just that there’s a lot to do and no way for me to do it all, especially not alone.

Right now, my yard (which is mostly weeds) is knee-high because my mower broke. My basement is still half put together after the flooding last week, and I still have towels under the leaky window well because it hasn’t rained enough since then to prove that we’ve fixed the problem. Also, the house is still damaged from the major storm that blew through a month or so ago, but we’re still in storm season, so fixing the damage is a bad idea until the majority of storm season is over. The chicken house is still mostly destroyed from the major windstorm in November, but the only way to fix it is to tear it down and build another one, and who has time/money for that right now? On one hand, this stuff could drive me nuts. But I don’t let it. I know it’s there, but I can live without it being perfect for a little while.

But what about the stuff that I can fix? That stuff isn’t so good to live in denial about. If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog, you know I have an aversion to doing the dishes. And putting away my laundry. And keeping my office clean-ish. And just housework in general. Granted, there’s no problem with living in denial about any of that, but it doesn’t make for a very orderly home. And I wouldn’t exactly say that being able to ignore those things is a blessing. It’s more of a bad habit, and unfortunately a habit like that can spill over into other areas of our lives.

Bright red flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bright red flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:12.

And forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Can you pray without asking for forgiveness? I can. And I really probably shouldn’t. If you can get through a day without needing to ask God’s forgiveness for something you did or something you said or something you thought, you must be perfect. Either that, or you’re living in denial.

There’s a reason asking for forgiveness, and conversely forgiving others, appears in the Lord’s Prayer. This month I’ve been studying prayer, and I started with the most famous prayer, which is actually more of a format to follow than a prayer to be repeated. This is the example Jesus gave for us to follow when we pray.

Why is it so hard to ask forgiveness? Well, who likes to admit when they’re wrong? Who likes to admit that they need forgiveness? Let’s be real here, Christians. It’s easy to say we need it, but it’s not so easy to live like it. It’s not so easy to ask it. It’s easy for me to sit at my computer and write about how I’m not perfect and how I need God’s forgiveness, but when I get out into the world and I’m making snap decisions and fast judgments and doing the best I can, living the way I’m supposed to isn’t always at the top of my mind. Not like it should be.

And when I make mistakes and realize it, I get defensive because I know better. Of course, I know better. I’ve been following Christ since I was seven years old. And there’s some part of me that tells me to sweep it under the rug and ignore it. It’s forgiven. It’s not a big deal. God knows I’m not perfect.

But what happens if we do that? What happens if we ignore our sin, even the minor ones? Well, in my case, I become accustomed to them. I don’t notice them anymore. I desensitize myself to them. And before long, they become a habit. And when sin becomes a habit, you’ve got big trouble because habits are hard to break, especially bad ones.