Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Teach Your Family To Pray

I have a close family member dying of cancer. He’s way too young. Thousands have prayed for him but he likely won’t live more than a few days from this writing. Friends have prayed for years for more rain in Texas. Christians from all over the city of Austin prayed together last May for rain and only recently has there been precipitation of any substance.

Of course I believe prayer works . . . sometimes.  By “works” I mean that we get our desired outcome.  Our family has seen bunches of miraculous acts of God over the years where He did more than we could ask or think.  I am confident that as Scripture suggests our prayers both individually and corporately matter.  I hope my friends in Austin get rain, that others I know with illnesses are healed and that friends I pray will change from their destructive ways will get turned around We should never quit praying just because we don’t always get the answers we want.

However, we must also do the appropriate teaching about prayer that will help us understand what I call the parameters of prayer. We must seek from God as well the best reasons we can find that will at least help explain why God doesn't respond as we desire at least some of the time. Why do we pray for rain along with thousands of others and God not give it to us?

Why even ask God for some things if He's going to seemingly ignore us or wait for years to respond.

Why would a cherished love one lose his life while another get to keep hers even when their diagnoses were pretty much the same?  The just have faith proponents often forget to talk about the other times when God doesn’t seem to come through.  And when we’re parents it’s even more important to admit, wonder and then at least try to understand a God who is not merely a cosmic vending machine or happy-go-lucky grandfather who just gives us everything we want when we want it.

Of course, one blog post isn’t going to be able to cover a topic so vast nor will we ever be able to figure out the whys of God. But I do know that the Gospel of John, for example, suggests pretty clearly that we can ask for whatever we will and one or all of three things must happen.  Our prayers must give God glory, bring us joy and bear the most fruit. Check it out in chapters fourteen through sixteen. Seems to me that would be worth some family study along with some pastoral explanations from time to time.

I also know that the Scriptures over and over suggest that prayer is actually a conversation with God not merely our time to make requests of Him. Prayer often opens the door for us to get in line with what God knows best. Wouldn't it be helpful to talk about that?

Maybe some teaching in our homes and churches is in order as we seek out God’s plan and will for our homes, churches, cities and country. It won’t require a degree in theology to do so. But perhaps we can encourage our teachers and pastors to work together with us to wrestle with more of the hard questions and do less promising that God will always listen to us if we just say it enough or get enough people to agree with us.

As parents lets take the lead instructing, modeling and yes even wondering what God is up to as we pray together. Somehow I have a feeling that will draw us together in ways we didn’t know were possible.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fear: Not Usually Helpful At Home

I have a number of things I'm basically afraid of.  I'll bet you do, too. Snakes are high on my list. Most of us wonder if terrorism will end up in our town or city's backyard. It's natural to be pretty nervous. While I'm confident in my faith in God and that I'll see Heaven someday, I'm still a bit fearful of what dying is like, at least the unknown parts right now.

And healthy fears of getting hit by a car or struck by lightning can help us taken necessary and wise precautions to avoid the worst. All fear isn't bad.

However, some fear in a home can be debilitating, destructive and emotionally painful.As parents we would be wise to think about those kinds of fears and try to avoid them. Let me suggest a few.

The fear of failure. While our kids may not care much at first, many parents hate to see their child make a mistake, not get on the team or give up on a project or endeavor. To those parents their child's lack of succcess means they as parents aren't a success either. So they push harder or at best have trouble hiding their disappointment in their child. And trust me they notice and probably will become fearful themselves of not measuring up.

The fear of what others think.  This can be exasperated when failure looms, but it can also result when we constantly compare ourselves with others.  We don't have as much house, money, fame, social connections or power. So we're not OK in our minds and soon our kids begin to believe it as well..

The fear of other people. Yes, only a few will be totally non-social. That's unusual. But sometimes we can allow our kids to never learn to connect with adults or new people or anyone not quite like them. Other parents teach kids to think that everyone in their world is out to get or hurt them. What a dangerous allowance in a world where someday social interactions and trying new things in relational contexts will be essential to succeed and relate in the culture.

The fear of having fun. Many kids today are being pushed harder and harder as I alluded to earlier. But a corollary emotion and response can be the sense that to have a good time is never OK. Only working harder is acceptable here. And while most kids deep inside still want to have fun, they find themselves always wondering if mom and dad are listening or know that they are anything but totally serious about succeeding.

There are of course other fears that I don't have time to explore now. But the bigger issue is, Is our home a safe place for kids to grow, be stretched and even fail? If not, why not?  What are you possibly helping by making the accepted landscape in your family one of only hard work, determination and outdoing their best friend?

Yes, we need to model and encourage that we all do our best. And yes, even the Bible suggests that we should love God and others with all our heart. But fear will never be the best motivator. Imagine what your work experience would be like if your boss motivated you only with fear (and some of you no doubt CAN imagine that.)

Be sure that you are wise and reasonable in your expectations.  Have fun. Celebrate victories, of course, but also celebrate trying hard, doing something unique and even failing after doing your best. Keep fear protective, yes, but not preventative of healthy, wise, fun life at your house!

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.