Here’s a great principle of prayer: You can do a great deal for people after you pray for them but little of lasting value until you pray for them.
I don’t think I need to argue about the value of praying for your spouse, kids, and friends. But sometimes in our busy culture it’s tough to clear your mind and get started. So let’s look to a man who knew the value of prayer. The apostle Paul begins many of his letters with a helpful pattern.
If you look at his letter to the Philippians, for instance, you’ll see it begins with a blessing of grace and peace. Grace is the reason for our salvation and peace is the result. Paul then gives thanks for the Philippian believers. Cherish the work that God’s doing in and through others. Next Paul makes requests to aid the spiritual growth of his friends. He wants them to grow in their love, knowledge, and understanding of Christ. Last, Paul prays that they’d behave in a manner that honors God in light of coming judgment. This isn’t a fear tactic but a reminder to live for the ultimate goal of heaven, not the short-term rewards of comfort and pleasure.
God loves it when we come to him in prayer. Will you select one person that God has placed on your heart, and write a prayer for them? For help, look to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been widely recognized as one of the great moral heroes of the twentieth century, and rightly so. He was a highly regarded Lutheran minister at a time when other highly regarded Christian leaders’were compromising and making sure they didn’t make any waves against Hitler’s aggressive, tyrammical power. Bonhoeffer was among the few who resisted. And you know, resistance usually has its costs’Bonhoeffer’s cost everything. He was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually hung on April 9, 1945’less than a month before the war’s end.
Yet Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s resistance was more than moral, it was Christian. It was grounded, shaped, and energized by the gospel, and by Bonhoeffer’s loving loyalty to the Lord of that gospel: Jesus Christ.
Amidst the tumultuous times of his day, Bonhoeffer wrote a book that has since become a Christian classic. It’s called The Cost of Discipleship. In it he contrasts what he calls ‘cheap and costly grace.’ Cheap grace, for Bonhoeffer, means grace without the cross. Costly grace, by way of contrast, is a grace that comes to us freely because it cost Christ his life’and that which is costly to God must never be seen as something that comes to us without a price.
Bonhoeffer’s point, men, is that the gospel makes a claim upon every aspect of our lives. It’s received freely, yet demands sacrificial discipleship as our response.
Is your understanding of the gospel comparable to Bonhoeffer’s? If it isn’t, give it some thought.
Yesterday I spoke about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the difference between what he called ‘cheap and costly grace.’ Unlike Bonhoeffer, most of us probably won’t be called to martyrdom. But all of us are called to lay down our lives as living sacrifices in response to the grace given to us by our living God. All of us, in other words, are called to acknowledge that there’s a cost to Christian discipleship.
It costs very little to attend church, join a men’s group, or go to a conference for Christian men. But it costs a great deal to come home and remain committed to following Christ when it means loving your family sacrificially.
It costs very little to avoid pornographic magazines, videos and websites. But it costs much more to submit your mind and eyes to purity on a moment-by-moment basis.
It costs something to send your children to Christian schools to be taught from a Christian world view. But it costs a lot more to live by example before your children’to shepherd their hearts with wisdom, consistency, strength, and compassion.
It costs something to insist that your kids dress modestly. But it costs a lot more to help them to think and act modestly — with humility of spirit.
So, Christian man’husband’dad’where do you stand? Are you comfortable? Have you made too much peace with sin? If so, I challenge you to think about the cost of Christian discipleship, and be willing to spend what it takes to be a true disciple.