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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Christians should pray that Muslims' daily prayers will be answered!
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

Observant Muslims offer Salat prayers five times a day, repeating the same core prayer each time, with some variable additions from the Qur'an.  At the heart of the Salat prayers is Al Fathihah, the first Surah of the Qur'an, which I present here in Yusuf Ali's English understanding:

(1)In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;

(2)Praise be to God,
the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;

(3) Most Gracious; Most Merciful;

(4) Master of the Day of Judgment.

(5) Thee do we worship,
thine aid do we seek.

(6) Show us the straight way,

(7) The way of those on whom
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
and who go not astray.

Qur’an, Surah 1.

I believe as Christians we should pray that, as our Muslim friends, and Muslim world leaders, pray this prayer sincerely, God would graciously answer their prayers.  In this regard, note particularly ayas 6 and 7: "Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed  Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray."  On its face, this is a prayer for wisdom, a prayer to be shown the right way.

Of course, the Bible speaks to prayers for wisdom.  James tells us that "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."  James 1:5 (KJV). This text doesn't distinguish between Christians and others, it says that God is willing to give wisdom to anyone who asks.  The next few verses explain that the only qualification for asking and receiving direction from God is being willing to listen and obey:

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Bible, James 1:5-8 (KJV).

Bible, James 1:6-8.

God promises wisdom, if we will follow it. But He doesn't give advice.

Jesus himself also said that the only qualification for knowing the truth is willingness to follow it:

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Bible, John 7:16-17 (KJV).

Bible, John 7:16-17 (KJV).

So, it would appear that, as Muslims pray to be shown the straight path, we should pray that God will answer these prayers.  May the best understanding of God win! 

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 6:41 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 July 2010 6:50 PM EDT
Thursday, 28 May 2009
An election to pray for
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

On June 12, there will be a presidential election in Iran.  The two main contenders are current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Prime Minister (during the 1980s) Mir Hossein Mousavi.  Both are fully committed to the Islamic Revolution (as is anyone who is allowed a voice in Iran today).  Nevertheless, I believe Christians here should be praying for God's will in that election.  Why?  Let me give four reasons:

1.  In spite of centuries of Islamic rule, culminating in the Islamic Revolution, there is still a fairly sizeable  native Christian community there.  Their lives and witness will be affected, perhaps very substantially, by the outcome of the election and the policies of the resulting government.

2.  God still loves all of the Iranian people (even those committed to Islam)!

3.  We are commanded to pray for "kings and all who are in authority" that we may "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."  I Timothy 2:1-2.  This command is not limited to the "king" of our on country; instead, we are to pray for "kings," plural.  If the matter is considered carefully, it is easy tounderstand that our ability to live peaceful lives doesn't depend only on our own government, it also depends on all of the other governments that could attack our country.  Moreover, our ability collectively, as the Body of Christ, to live peaceful and quiet lives, depends on the actions of every king, every government on earth, because there are believers everywhere (including Iran).

4.  The chances for peace in the entire region depend heavily on how militant the Iranian government chooses to be.  If Iran becomes more conciliatory, the chances of peace in the region improve greatly.  This depends, in part, on the mindset of the leader to be elected next month.  

Our role in this election is to pray for God's will to be done in the election and for God to draw the winner to Himself.  It is NOT to pray against any human being.


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 10:17 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 28 May 2009 10:20 PM EDT
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
It is always right to pray that rulers will demonstrate justice
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

It is always right to pray that rulers will demonstrate justice.  Rulers are ordained by God to execute His justice--which involves both punishing evildoing and encouraging those who do right.  I Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7.  Therefore, it is always right to pray that God will give any person in authority a growing understanding of His justice and will move him or her to make just decisions. 

Justice is important to God. Indeed, as Augustine so eloquently explained, a human government without justice is nothing more than a gang of thieves on a large scale:

Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale?  What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention.
If this villany wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralized that it acquires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself the title of kingdom, which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity.
For it was a witty and truthful rejoinder which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great.  The king asked the fellow, "What is your idea, in infesting the sea?"  And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, "The same as yours, in infesting the earth!  But because I do it with a tiny craft, I'm called a pirate; because you have a mighty navy, you're called an emperor."

St. Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans (H. Bettenson, Tr.), Book IV, Ch. 4.

However, regardless of whether those in authority appear to be doing justice at the present time, I should continue to pray for them and should trust God, who remains in ultimate control, as  explained in my October posting regarding the tale of four kings and a priest.


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 December 2008 8:19 AM EST
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Report from the house meeting
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

The "Change is Coming" house meeting on December 13 went remarkably well.  Nine people signed up for it on the campaign website, and four of those actually attended.  The four who attended the meeting included two evangelical Christians, one agnostic, and one gay man.  We had some brief discussion of our differences, and then discovered that we all shared an interest in spirituality, a belief that the war in Iraq is unwinnable for reasons that are essentially spiritual, and a common interest in homelessness and the needs of the homeless.  Because of our common interest in the needs of the homeless, we agreed to arrange a time to go together to volunteer at the Topeka Rescue Mission.

The Rescue Mission volunteer activity, likely to be the first of many, occurred on December 20.  It also went very well.  The four of us played Santa to customers at the Mission's Chhristmas store gift distribution. 

All of this happened in Topeka, Kansas, which many apparently view as the hate capital of the United States, due to a certain vocal band of picketers that originates here. (And they falsely claim the name of Christ in doing so!)

Change isn't a mass movement.  As my evangelical brothers and sisters certainly should recognize, lasting change in every case starts with an individual change of heart--what theologians have traditionally called "repentance."  It does not start with the state decreeing that everyone shall henceforth be, or act like, Christians.  For Christians, starting from our common ground with unbelievers and working together with them to demonstrate our faith is a much better way of bringing about repentance than isolating ourselves from "them" until "they" change on their own and start acting like us (as much of the church has done for years),  pointing the finger of hate (like the protesters from Topeka do) or seeking secular laws that will make "them" act like "us" (as the Religious Right has tended to do for the last 30 years).  

With the call for house meetings followed by service together, Barack Obama is on to something.  I'm glad to be a part of it.    

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 11:46 AM EST
Saturday, 6 December 2008
"Change is Coming" meeting December 13
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

Now I've gone and done it.  Since there was, apparently, no one else interested in doing this in Topeka, I've announced a "Change is Coming" meeting at my house a week from today, December 13, at 3:30 p.m.

The President-elect appears to be serious about wanting to involve the people,not just party insiders and his major donor base, in his administration.  And his organization has asked for participation in this through grassroots meetings.  I think we should support him in this.

Since no one else has volunteered in Topeka, I have volunteered.  I earnestly hope others in Topeka will follow suit, since the number who will be able to participate at my house is quite limited (and the available parking is even more limited).

Some of my church friends will likely think I've gone over to the "dark side."  But the truth is that I'm not supporting the "dark side," I'm supporting the country and its elected leader, as I've explained in previous posts.

Generally, nationwide, I believe Christians should get behind the President-elect in his desire to involve us, take advantage of the mechanisms he is trying to create for our involvement, and make our voices heard graciously and in the manner invited.  And we should pray FOR the new President and others in office, as I have prevously described.

This positive approach will have far better results than complaining for the next four (or eight) years! 

To view the announcement of my meeting, click here.


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:24 AM EST
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Praying for our enemies: can the call to prayer be treason?
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

As I indicated in my last post, God calls us to pray for kings and all who are in authority--to find reasons to give thanks for them, and to pray FOR them as human beings, for God's gracious activity in their lives.  The call is to pray for those in authority rather than join others in cursing them.  This practice can, and should, be practiced when we hear negative things about leaders in the news, or hear others gossiping about leaders, harshly criticizing them, or cursing them.  Christians are called to bless; cursing of other people made in God's image should not come out of our mouths.  See, James 3:7-12.

However, I will now suggest something that many of my readers may think to border on treason:  the command to pray for those in authority isn't limited to those leaders who are directly in authority over us.  Indeed, it isn't even limited to the leaders of regimes friendly to "us"--whether the "us" in view is Christians or the United States.  Indeed, it extends  even to the leaders of "enemy" regimes.

Jesus said,

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Matthew 5:44.

It has been correctly said that this verse applies to individual Christians, not governments.  It is not a rule for our government's foreign policy.  But it is a guiding principle for me, in dealing with other individual humans made in God's image.  And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il are as much individual humans made in God's image as I am myself, or as any of the people in my circle of acquaintance.  Their official stations as leaders of enemy governments (in Iran and North Korea, respectively), and even the hostility of those governments and their persecution of Christians, do not transform these leaders from humans into subhuman monsters in God's eyes.  Remember that God brought to repentance King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the destroyer of His Temple and the killer of thousands of His people.  See the first four chapters of Daniel.  So, the command to pray for them, as human beings in authority, when I am reminded of them, is just as valid as the command to pray for the leaders of my own country.  I am to pray "for all men, for kings and all who are in authority." I Thessalonians 2:1-2.

This is, in fact, true of any government leader of whom I am reminded by the news, by gossip or by criticism, whether the leader involved is a part of my government, a friendly government, or an unfriendly government.  The news report or verbal attack on the leader is properly taken as a reminder to pray for that leader.

I invite comments about this posting! 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 5:00 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 30 November 2008 5:03 PM EST
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Positive prayers for those elected and in authority
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

I write this entry in response to e-mails I have been receiving lately from various Republican, conservative and "Christian" organizations.  These e-mails have been attempting to sabotage President-elect Obama's program now, even before he takes office, essentilly cursing him before he has a chance to do anything. 

As I stated in earlier posts, I am a Christian (though I believe Mr. Obama is, too) and have been a Republican since my very first vote.  Nevertheless, I believe the recent American tradition of imediately cursing the winner if he or she is not one of "us" is totally inappropriate and is a source of real problems. 

God never tells us to curse those in power if they don't tow "our" party line.

Instead, he tells us to pray FOR them, ALL of them.  We are to be thankful for ALL in authority, and to pray for God's positive work in their personal lives and official decisions.  I Timothy 2:1-3.  I've applied this to Mr. Obama in an earlier posting, but I believe the point bears repetition in light of the volume of poisonous e-mail I have been receiving about him.

Moreover, I believe we must apply the point to ALL those in authority, and perhaps particularly those "we" don't like.

Paul said to give thanks for all in authority--even when the Emperor was Nero.  If we look hard enough, there is SOMETHING for which we can give thanks about any official.  It is precisely these matters for which we can be thankful for which we SHOULD be looking, rather than the evil things or the things that anger us.  Our focus should always be on the things that are right, pure, lovely and noble, even about our enemies!  Philippians 4:8.

Paul said to intercede for all those in authority.  We sould be lifting them up personally, seeking God's protection and blessing on them.  We should likewise be lifting up their families--which are under attack simply because of their office.  For those who profess a knowledge of God, through Christ jesus, we should be praying that God would increase their love and their knowledge of Him.  For those who do not profess--or even oppose--Christ, we should be praying that God would bring them to faith in himself.  As I wrote in my earlier piece about praying for Mr. Obama, God treats even those in high office first as individuals, then as officeholders.  We should pray for them first as individuals, for the growth of their relationship with God, starting from wherever it is today.  And we should recognize that God usually draws us closer to Him by showing his goodness, rather than by showing harsh judgment.  It is the kindness of God that leads us to salvation.   Romans 2:4.

Paul also said to offer petitions and prayers for those in authority.  We should pray FOR the SUCCESS of their policies.  Of course, we can and should pray that God would give them wisdom in their official decisions.  but we should be prepared for those decisions not always to be exactly what our wisdom, our our party line, says they should be.  God doesn't always work in the ways we expect.  God doesn't always work even in ways that are comprehensible to us, and His plans operate on an eternal time line we can't even see.  His plan to solve the problems we see may not "fix" them tomorrow.  

All of this is to be applied to all those in authority. 

Thus, I now declare that I personally recognize that this applies to the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court.  I wrote in an earlier posting that I planned to vote against the two of them who were on the ballot in the retention election four weeks ago.  But now that they have been reatined, it is my duty to support them, to give thanks for them, and to pray for them.  This does not imply anything about my vote in the next retention election.  But while they are in office, I must support them.

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 12:22 AM EST

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