Is The Easy Way The Best Way?

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As you may know I recently made a big change in my life.  I left my position as pastor of a rural church in southern Missouri and relocated to Oahu to plant a church.  The change is difficult, but it is most difficult on my 9 year old son, Caleb.  Caleb was only three when I began my ministry at First Baptist Church of Birch Tree, MO.  His first friends are there.  He was quite comfortable there.  He was a top student at the school and was surrounded by familiarity.  Then, everything changed for him.  We moved here.

Here, they do not know him as a top student.  His school is just over 7 times larger than his old one.  He is just one more student until he can prove otherwise.  The way they do things is different and he is trying to learn a lot of new methods and rules.  He does not know anyone.  Nobody knows him.  And according to one of his complaints, “they don’t even play kickball here.”

The first week of school was marked in our home with tears, imaginary stomach aches, anger, and defiance.  This was not the way for me to start a day.  Seeing my son struggle was enough for me to wonder if I had made the right decision to come here.  I am resolved to face the struggles of church planting in a different culture, but I begged God to make this easy on my son.  My biggest fear is that his difficulties would lead to resentment and there would be one more angry preacher’s kid in the world.  Then something happened.

Our prayer partners came through in droves to pray for Caleb.  We shared the emails with him and he really liked that so many people thought his struggle was worth praying for.  We also began to pray with Caleb before going to school.  Suddenly, things began to look up for Caleb.  He made a few friends, he figured out the rigid homework system, and his class did in fact play kickball.  One tearless morning we mounted our bicycles for the ride to the school.  “Wait,” he shouted.  “Aren’t we going to pray?”  Right there in the middle of our street, my son wanted us to stop and pray before he went to school.  I thought about that all day.

What I have realized is this.  The answer to my prayers is not that things got better for Caleb.  They did, but that does not make life easy for him.  The answer turned out to be that Caleb learned a little about relying on God.  The difficulty that I feared so much that he would face has actually strengthened him.  I have to learn something.  I have to understand that God loves my son even more than his mother and I do.  God knows what my son needs and He knows what is best.  He will give what is best even if that looks like struggle here on Earth.  God will give him that because of what it can make him.

Knowing this, why would I pray that God would make it easy on him?  Why would I pray for it to be easy on me.  Easy is not always best, and I want what is best.

Book Review: Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson

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Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson claims to be “a practical guide to cooperating with your brain’s innate capacities in order to experience a richer, fuller prayer life.” Wilson bases much of his doctrine of prayer on new discoveries by Andrew Newberg et al that suggests that the brain is uniquely active during prayer and meditation. Based on these findings, Wilson attempts to show why contemplative prayer practices are affective and how anyone can begin such practices.

It is odd that Wilson advocates mysticism while dismissing the supernatural. In all fairness, Wilson denies being a mystic, yet he recounts a vision in which he met with Jesus in a cave and another prayer where the “presence” of his deceased father sat next to him. Wilson is attempting to dwindle all things spiritual to brain chemistry. In other words, he is defining the supernatural in terms of the natural. He claims that praying is essentially looking “inward.” This ought to be the first clue that Wilson’s prayers have very little to do with Christ.

Throughout the book, prayer is presented as a way to manipulate brain activity in order produce results. Thus, Christ is of no consequence to prayer. This may be very true regarding the scientific link between brain activity and certain meditative practices. It is also true of various drugs, exercise, and other activities. However, the Christian in prayer is not looking for chemistry. He or she is looking for communication with Almighty God. The “prayer” of this book is not that kind of communication.

Thomas Nelson publishers provided this book to me, free of charge, in exchange for a review. One question I am to address is, “Did the author convey biblical truth?” In fact, there is virtually no biblical foundation for Wilson’s doctrine of prayer. Though he does quote a few verses, they nothing more than weak proof-texts. The gospel is absent. The cross is reduced down to nothing more than a “desolate place” of prayer.

There are some that would say that people are afraid of new methods and are thus cautious concerning books like this one. Let me be clear. It is not the method, but the doctrine that is problematic here. If someone were looking for a book on prayer, they would be best to stick with the classics. May I suggest The works of E.M. Bounds on prayer? Or perhaps simply reflecting on what it means to have a life in Christ? Jesus Manifesto is a great resource for such meditation. Someone wanting a deeper prayer life need not be distracted by tricks of the imagination, but should seek to embrace a life in Christ. Mystically Wired adds nothing to such a life.