Ask Your Preacher
I know that we pray to God, but I have a problem when people say we cannot talk to Christ. Did Stephen not talk to Christ as he was being stoned? Did Paul not beseech the Lord three times? Are Christ and God not one? Is Christ not our Advocate and Mediator? What’s your take on talking to Jesus?
Deep In Conversation
Dear Deep In Conversation,
The example of Stephen is clearly a case of someone talking to Jesus, but you must remember that Stephen was looking at Jesus at the time (Acts 7:55-56)... this isn't your average prayer – if Jesus was standing in front of you, you wouldn't call it prayer, and that is exactly what happened to Stephen. Also, the example of Paul in 2 Cor 12:8 isn't a good proof text because it could be referring to Jesus or the Father – both are referred to as ‘Lord’ in the Bible. This is an issue that brethren have mixed reviews on. Personally, we don't feel comfortable condemning someone for praying to Jesus, but at the same time, the example we see throughout the Scriptures is that of praying to the Father… especially since that is the way Jesus taught us to pray (Lk 11:1-4). Jesus specifically said there would come a time when we wouldn't ask Him anything, but we would pray to His Father and the Father would answer our prayers that are prayed in Jesus' name (Jhn 16:23). The problem with praying to Jesus is that we simply don't have any examples of it in the whole New Testament.
I've found if I pray in bed that I always fall asleep mid-prayer, so much so that I can use prayer to relax myself to sleep if I'm having trouble drifting off. My question is this; is it disrespectful to God to use prayer to fall asleep, or is having God be the last thought of my day better than anything else I could be thinking about to distract myself to sleep?
Talking In My Sleep
Dear Talking In My Sleep,
This is one of those questions that is left up to each person’s individual wisdom and conscience. You have already vocalized both arguments. On one side, it could be viewed as disrespectful that you are always falling asleep mid-conversation with the Lord… after all, it is no different than if you were talking to a person late at night. If anything, it is even more important that you show proper respect and reverence because He is more than a person – He is our Lord and Master (Heb 12:28).
On the other hand, an equally valid argument could be made that you fall asleep because of the closeness of the relationship and the peace that comes from being near your Father. After all, we are told that prayer and joy are closely knit together (Ps 1:5-7), and we are also told that prayer helps to alleviate suffering (Jas 5:13).
In short, you must examine yourself and decide which category your behavior fits into.
What happens if God does not give us an answer to our prayers? What if we don't hear from Him in a while? Is He ignoring us?
There are two reasons that God might not have answered your prayers yet. The first reason is that He is ignoring your prayers because you aren’t a christian or you aren’t living faithfully. Read “Whose Prayers Count?” for the list of things that will make God turn His back on your prayers. Anecdotally, it is also important to remember that God doesn’t answer prayers by speaking directly to us – read “The Sound In The Silence” for details.
The other reason is that God’s timing is different than yours. God answers our prayers according to His will, not ours – in fact, we should pray that the Lord’s will be done (Jas 4:15). Having said that, it is perfectly appropriate to keeping praying until the answer is clear – God is pleased with the consistently prayerful (1 Thess 5:17). He wants you to ask over and over – until He gives you an answer. David prayed vehemently for the life of his child until the child died (2 Sam 12:22-23). Paul prayed for his sickness to be removed three times until God told him to accept the pain (2 Cor 12:8-9). Cornelius’ prayers were constantly before the Lord until Peter was sent (Acts 10:4-5). Even our Lord prayed in the garden repeatedly that He might not have to die on the cross (Matt 26:39). The key in all these circumstances was that the requests ceased when God answered. Once God made His decision apparent, whether it was yes or no, acceptance began.
God never gets tired of hearing from His children. Christians are to constantly seek Him in prayer. The most direct example of this is Christ’s parable of the unjust judge in Lk 18:1-5. Christ taught that parable so that “men ought always to pray, and not to grow weary”. God wants to hear from His people. So don’t stop asking for help; He is listening.
Is it true that no matter what we do, as long as we have said the Sinner’s Prayer, we will go to heaven because of what Jesus did for us?
Praying It’s True
Dear Praying It’s True,
The sinner’s prayer is not how people become saved. If we want to know what it takes to be saved, we should see what people in the Bible did to become saved. The Bible outlines five separate requirements for salvation, and all of them are necessary.
- Hear the Word. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing comes through the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Until someone hears God’s Word, they are incapable of obeying it.
- Believe the Word. It is impossible for someone to become a christian unless they believe that Jesus is the Savior and Son of God (Jhn 20:31, Acts 16:31, Jhn 3:16).
- Repent of your sins. ‘Repent’ means to ‘change your mind’. That change of mind always involves a change of action as well. Repentance is when we change our mind about what is important and submit ourselves to Jesus and His Word. Repentance is a necessity of salvation (Mk 6:12, Lk 13:5, Lk 15:7).
- Confess Jesus to others. If we have sworn our allegiance to Jesus, we must be prepared to publicly confess Him as our Lord. If we won’t confess Jesus before men, He won’t confess us before God (Matt 10:32-33, Lk 12:8-9).
- Be baptized in the name of Jesus for salvation. Many groups baptize people, but very few baptize people for the right reasons. Baptism isn’t merely an “outward showing of an inward faith” or “for membership”. Baptism is what saves us (1 Pet 3:21). Baptism is the point where someone goes from being lost to saved because they are buried and resurrected with Christ (Rom 6:4-5). Baptism is the final requirement to become a christian (Acts 2:37-38, Mk 16:16, Acts 2:41). There is not a single example of someone becoming a christian without baptism. Baptism is just as necessary as the other four requirements.
If we want to have total confidence that we are saved, we must do everything the Bible says to receive salvation (Ps 119:160). Prayer is a wonderful thing to do, but it isn’t a part of the conversion process.
Since the time I was baptized decades ago, I have attended worship as regularly as I could, and the assemblies of the saints are extremely important to me and my wife. I have preached the gospel full-time for about nine years and have preached and taught as much as opportunity has been afforded to me for the past twenty-plus years. Although I desire to do more for the Lord, obtaining support for preaching is very difficult, and, just like any other christian, my family and I need to make a living. Recently, after almost fifteen years with my current employer, my work schedule has been changed, and I am no longer able to get the Lord's day mornings off. Some assert that they would not continue in a job which requires them to work on the Lord's day, and others imply that, "If one has faith, God will take care of him." What does the Bible say about working on the Lord's day? Also, what does the Bible say about the idea that if one is really a faithful christian, he or she will be at every service?
Believe me when I say there is no place I would rather be than at worship with the church, lending encouragement and gaining strength through God's Word. I believe that an examination of this topic would be helpful.
Hard At Work
Dear Hard At Work,
We really appreciate your attitude and desire to do what is right. This is an issue that thousands of, if not all, saints struggle with. When is it appropriate to miss services? To answer your question, we need to look at two verses: Rev 1:10 and Heb 10:25.
As you probably know, two services on Sunday is merely an expediency. Nowhere in the Scripture are the saints required to meet twice on Sunday – however, there is a reason that most congregations have multiple services. The reason our group has a morning and an evening worship is because Sunday is called "the Lord's day". That term is found in Rev 1:10 and is almost universally agreed by commentators to refer to Sunday because that is the day that the Lord arose from the grave, and it is the day that God commanded His saints to commemorate Christ's death (Acts 20:7). What is Sunday to a christian? It is a day given to the Lord. It doesn't say "The Lord's half-hour" or "The Lord's morning" – it says "The Lord's day". There is a principle there. God intends for us to mentally set that day aside for spiritual things. Unlike the Jewish Sabbath, christians aren't prohibited from working on Sundays or doing other things, but we still have a principle of devoting that day as a day for spiritual things. After all, the Old Testament Sabbath existed for the spiritual needs of men (Mk 2:27), and it isn't like those spiritual needs have gone away just because we aren't Jewish. Once again, for clarification, Sunday isn't a new Sabbath, but we can take some principles from Old Testament examples (1 Cor 10:6). It isn't wrong for a christian to work on Sunday, but it also isn't right for a christian to disregard the Bible design of Sunday as the Lord's day.
The other primary verse to consider is Heb 10:25. We are commanded to "not forsake the assembly". The word 'forsake' means 'to desert, abandon, or leave behind'. This verse is sometimes misused to say that if you miss even a single class or service, you are sinning – that isn't the case. Forsaking something is more than just a single absence; it is an attitude of desertion. Heb 10:25 says that those who had forsaken the church assembly had made a custom out of it – it was their habit. When our priorities change and the church is no longer important to us and the Lord's day is no longer a priority, then we have forsaken the assembly. To forsake the assembly requires a devaluation of worship in our lives and in our hearts. This is what makes your question so tricky. Your work schedule has certainly altered your attendance, but you also honestly contend that it hasn't changed your desire to be there with the brethren. This is a legitimate point, and it is unfair for someone to judge your heart's intent based off of your current work schedule issues without factoring in your decades of devotion. On the other side of the coin, what we do consistently is a window into our hearts. We are known by the fruit we bear (Matt 7:16). If a brother begins to scale back his attendance, it will legitimately raise eyebrows on caring brethren because attendance decline is a consistent indication that someone is having spiritual problems. People have a zillion different reasons (sickness, travel, family emergencies, work, car trouble, etc.) for missing services... sometimes those excuses are sincere, and sometimes they are a cover up for dodging our responsibilities to the Lord. Not everyone that misses a service is spiritually weak, but spiritually weak people miss services. We believe your intentions and desires are wholesome, but you have to admit that you are the exception to the trend.
In short, every christian needs to examine themselves (2 Cor 13:5) in those two areas. Do we treat Sunday like the Lord's day? Does our attitude and behavior clearly reflect that the church assembly is central to our lives? Answer those questions with fear and trembling (Php 2:12), and you will have the answer to the question you sent us.