Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Question, Words and Song: Proseuche and Deesei

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Devotional Series
#1 - Kyrios
#2 - Merimnao
#3 - Epieikes
#4 - Meta Eucharistias and Gnorizo
#5 - Proseuche and Deesei

The Question: Isn't it about more than me?

From the beginning of the season, starting with the "Sheer and Savage" series, we've been emphasizing our need to GIVE. Especially to others. But our devotional series has focused in on our own wounds. What about others?

We certainly need to be looking out. A new book has just come out about the journey of discipleship. It's thesis is that we start our journey very excited about the promise of faith. Then we learn and grow in our knowledge. Then the knowledge is put to the test in some sort of doubt. From the doubt, we have to move inward to deal with our wounds. Then we move outward in service of others.

I think we can see the same thing in many areas of our life. In faith, but also in tennis. We were coming to terms with our doubt and fear. But perhaps now it's time to add something to that. We never stop taking our own requests, fears, angers and such before God. But what else is there?

The Words: Proseuche and Deesei

The passage in Philippians reads "by prayer and petition." What's the difference? Is this just saying the same thing over in two different ways?

Yes and no. Yes, the words mean similar things. They both indicate prayer, a communication with God about needs. But the difference is where it's interesting. Proseuche is simply an overarching word for prayer, but deesei are personal needs. Things that are just for you.

Well, but isn't that what general prayer is? Praying for our own needs? The passage here is hinting or suggesting something different I think. I believe that it's suggesting that the best way to understand prayer is in its grandeur. For things way larger than ourselves. Prayer, as Jesus teaches us, looks like this:

"Our Father in heaven,
Your name is holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
For Yours is the power, and the honor, and the glory, forever. Amen."

What do we notice right off about the prayer? If look at the 8 different parts, only 2 of them (25% of the prayer!) are about personal needs. Two parts cover worshipping who God is as a way of declaring trust and relationship with God. Three parts cover giving authority to God, acknowledging our dependence. Another part is about what we will do for others. So yes, prayer is way larger than ourselves. It communicates with the Creator about eternal truth. That what the major part of proseuche is concerned about.

And yet, deesei. Personal needs are still part, and still to be brought before the good and giving God. We are important to God as individuals, and so our unique thoughts, needs and desires are to be brought in all their honest quirkiness and realness to God. We should even bring God our unique weaknesses and failures, the places that we've sinned and long to be forgiven. This is all wrapped up in prayer and petition.

In every situation, we should bring our recognition of the God of the universe and our hopes for others alongside our own needs and desires. In every situation, hold up others to God as well as yourself. Never get tricked, even in prayer, into thinking that it's just about you.

What does this mean for tennis?

There are many other brothers on this team that struggle the same way as you. There are many others who must fight through fear, doubt, anger and sadness. Are you so deep into your personal needs that you forget about them in prayer? No, in every situation, even the tennis match that seems to be just about you and you are panicking because your suddenly losing, even in that situation you bring others before God for prayer.

So stop for a minute. Think about the brothers you have on the team. Thank God for God's presence among us. Then truly delve into how you could pray for others on the team. Who do you know looked down? Who could you celebrate with in prayer? Who could you give thanks for? How could you lift others than you up to God's ears.

We've always said, the less you can think about yourself the better. So here's the Biblical invitation to that. Keep your prayers focused on many others.

At the same time, deesei. Personal needs. Here we go back to the words for the last devotional. While we pray and hope for others, we simply present our real selves to God. We never hide this, even when we have a desire or a need. So we keep our prayer open to all and share honestly with God how we feel.

The Song: "Bread and Wine" by Josh Garrels

"Weave your heart into mine . . ." We become united as a team in many ways, taking each other to the Lord in prayer is one of them.

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