Notes on Terms and Language Teaching

Notes on Terms and Language Teaching

Dave Black comments some on linguistics and teaching biblical languages in a post today. (Check out the linguistics conference coming up!)

The difficulty is the difference between teaching someone a language in a classroom and in discussing and describing that language in some detail as a linguist would want to do. Both the framework and the deeper understanding are good and proper goals, though there is often a conflict between the two. When do you teach what?

Dave covers a good selection of points from the debate over verbal aspect. There are problems with words like “punctiliar” or even “progressive” in terms of verbs. There are also problems in mapping the tense system (and the word “tense” itself) when teaching. But these issues are part of the problem of linguistics generally.

Consider a label like “tree.” What do I mean by the word tree? Is the plant growing in my yard that is three feet tall a tree, a weed, a plant, or perhaps a bush? It might, under the right circumstances be called any one of those things. A simple, singular label is necessary to communication, but at the same time, a singular, simple label is also a cause of problems. For example, if I say to my wife, “We need to throw that tree out,” I may mean that a potted plant has grown very large, and I’m using tree hyperbolically to refer to it while demanding its exit forthwith. On the other hand, I could be referring to a shoe tree that’s worn out and should be discarded.

This is why the line, “it’s just semantics” is so often lazy. When someone is playing rule book lawyer with the language, it’s quite appropriate to point out that one is expecting more of language than one is likely to get from it. We get along with ambiguity all the time. The problem comes in when we decide to be picky, or when we accidentally manage to use just the wrong word at the wrong time, meaning one that is almost right, but that can lead one off into a completely different semantic range than intended. But semantics is precisely what “it” is, and what it always is. It is about meaning. What did you expect? So it’s semantics. The word “just” is a bit oddly used. Bad semantics!

What I try to do is very quickly introduce students to the idea that labels are shorthand. When I use the term “punctiliar,” I point out that this is a shorthand label. Why don’t I change the word then? Because my new shorthand label will also pick up unnecessary connotations, and then I’ll have to explain how it applies. Further, the student is doubtless going to see the word “punctiliar” in commentaries (as Dave points out), and he or she needs to know its intention, and even how to understand the potential fallacy. Commentaries are quite capable of containing incorrect linguistic information.

It’s easier for me, because I teach by ones and twos, not by large classes of seminarians forced to do their required courses. I had that experience as a graduate student when I tried to tutor marginal or failing Greek students. They wanted me to get them past the test. I wanted to help them understand. Conflict! But those students I have taught since have come to me because they want to learn and understand, so I take the time.

My conclusion is that no matter how you label it, you’re going to have to make sure students understand how these labels we call “words” work. Even if you take a living language approach, and try to get the students to understand the language as naturally as possible, you’re still going to have to help them understand linguistics if they’re going to translate those words and ideas into their own language for the benefit of those who haven’t learned a foreign language. I’d almost, almost, prefer to teach a student linguistics over teaching that student Greek or Hebrew. If I had to choose, that is. Which I don’t.

(Featured Image Credit: Adobe Stock #126360408. Not Public Domain)

Linguistics Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Linguistics Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Re: Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Key Issues in the Current Debate

It’s more than a year away, April 26-27, 2019, but this conference looks like about the most fun you can have on a seminary campus without breaking the rules! I see several names I know, some well, and one Energion author, Thomas Hudgins, who will be talking about Electronic Tools.

I’m already planning to be there. Maybe we can meet!

 

Is 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 Anti-Semitic?

Is 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 Anti-Semitic?

Dave Black writes on this passage today on his blog, as he prepares to teach it. I have extracted the post and put it on the Jesus Paradigm site (supporting Dave’s book The Jesus Paradigm), in order to have a permanent link.

Dave argues based on the way one should analyze the phrases and then punctuate. It’s well worth reading.

I would add that Paul is here commending the Thessalonians for behaving as the churches in Judea did, which is also a commendation for those believers who were doubtless all or nearly all Jews themselves. The logic here indicates that Paul is condemning those who killed Jesus specifically, rather than all Jews, as he commends a large group in the same passage.

Dave talks about vituperation. I think Paul was passionate and his language is often vigorous. It’s easy for hate to take over and reinterpret and apply words.

Just try to talk about “moderate Muslims” in today’s atmosphere. You’ll doubtless encounter those who don’t want to make the distinction between those who engage in terrorism, those who support it, those who are apathetic toward it, and those who actively oppose it.

Yet if we turn the situation around, we’re quite willing to make such distinctions or gradations regarding those in our own community.

This is how stereotypes are created, and hate against a group generated. An accusation, however just, is brought against one member of a group, and then someone focuses on that group, rather than on the person involved. Soon perfectly innocent people are subjected to hatred. This happens whether it’s a matter of a racial group, a religious group, or a profession. One police officer is caught in corruption and someone concludes that “the police are corrupt.”

On the other hand, some excuse members of a group because of prejudice (perceived or real) against the whole.

I think Paul makes his distinction here. Those who persecuted were, quite rightly, condemned. (That goes for Christians who have persecuted others through the centuries as well.) We need to make a similar distinction at all times between those to be commended and those evildoers we must deal with.

I’m reminded of my own reaction to the Duke Lacrosse Case. (Yes, that’s an entry on Wikipedia.)

When I first heard of it, I assumed that the accused were guilty. Why? They seemed to me to be privileged rich kids and I thought they were exercising their privilege and entitlement. Turned out I was wrong.

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:15, my emphasis)

Don’t do that, Henry!

Getting Millenials in Church

Getting Millenials in Church

I don’t know how to get millenials (and other generations younger than mine) into church. The reason is simple: I’m past 60 years old.

I hear frequent complaints about the failing of the current (or other intervening) generation. Is it possible, however, that they’re just as smart as or as good as my generation (or even smarter and better), but they’re not willing to put up with doing something just because it has been done before.

I actually love Sunday mornings and going to Sunday School and church. It’s part of getting myself ready for another week. But it is very much like it has been for decades. I can’t point out too many differences between the service I attended today and one I would have attended when I was in my late teens and early twenties.

Church people respond, “But it’s not for you! It’s for God!” But where does it say God must be honored with the order of worship I experienced, and yes enjoyed. It’s quite easy to tell someone else they ought to do out of duty something you enjoy doing. Suppose, however, you didn’t enjoy it. Would you still do it? Can you criticize someone else for not doing it.

So what is my suggestion? If you want to know what millenials (the favored target) or any other generation or group of people want, ask them. If you’re wondering what sort of worship experience would attract them, not only ask, but ask them to lead. It might take you to the beach. You might wind up in a laboratory. You might wind up in a soup kitchen.

You might even end up with something very old, like the worship service described in 1 Corinthians 14 with everyone participating, bringing thoughts, songs, things they’ve heard from God during the week.

“But what if they mess it up?” you ask. “They don’t have any experience.”

So what? Peter denied Jesus and then Jesus left him in charge, more or less. He did provide him with a bunch of other losers—by the world’s standards—to help out.

Besides, you and I have been regularly making lots of mistakes for years. Lots of them. Instead of running the church, let’s offer them our help and support. Let’s see what they do with Jesus.

Are You 26th on the List?

Are You 26th on the List?

Last night I was watching the women’s Super-G. As the skiers made their runs, the commentators kept saying that it was incredibly unlikely that anyone after #20 was going to have any impact on who would be on the podium. I remarked to Jody that I wondered how it felt to be in one of those later slots and know that your chances were dismissed.

I had already quit watching and gone to bed by the time it happened, but I looked up the results this morning. Skiing #26, Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic came in 1/100th of a second faster than the leader after the first 20 runs, Austria’s Anna Veith, and won the gold medal.

Are you #26? Maybe you’re even lower on other people’s lists. Are you being dismissed? In Ester Ledecka’s case, I think it was just thought too early in her career. Not quite ready. But you may be thought of as a failure.

When it comes time for your run, go for the best run possible. You might just win that gold!

How About Improved Law Enforcement?

How About Improved Law Enforcement?

I try to avoid posting partisan political material, but I am still an involved voter, and I will advocate on issues. I’ve been thinking about all the posts I see that tell me not do send prayers (which I don’t send to people, but to God anyhow) or thoughts, but to take action. (If you haven’t guessed, I mean about school shootings.)

Let me start with a note about prayer. I wonder what the ratio is of prayers offered to God vs notes indicating that prayers were offered? If you’re a Christian, as I am, you probably believe that prayers have some impact. Personally, I think the most important impact a prayer should have is the one it has on me. If I pray for someone and there is an action I can take, it seems to me that a sincere prayer should lead me to act. “You are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

I think, however, that most people are sincere. It may be hard for some people to believe that gun control is going to work, or others to believe that arming teachers is a good idea. One may also wonder whether an improvement in mental health care could have the necessary impact. I can comment that we’re living in a sinful world, and I believe that. There’s evil out there. But having made that comment, our children are still being shot.

I think one of the most important things we can do is track which politician said what and exercise our right to vote according to our conscience. Too often we don’t pay that much attention, especially to state and local races. So there is an action that nearly everyone can take, and that’s to intelligently exercise your vote.

But I’d like to put something into the pot as we look at solutions: Better law enforcement. No, I’m absolutely not going to beat up on or criticize the police. This is about what I want those politicians to do if they want my vote. One of the great evils of American politics, in my opinion, is the effort to create a result without the willingness to pay for it. I’m not even talking about deficits, though they tend to result from the same thing. I’m talking about allocating the necessary resources to the people you expect to do the job. Or not, as is more often the case.

I recall a computer client some years back who was moving to a new office. He wanted me to install the network cable through his new building. Now while I can build a computer (though I don’t these days; not worth it at today’s prices), and I can do some great things with your software, I am not a wiring man. I suggested he get the proper professional to install the network cables. In order to save money, he hired a relative, who stapled the network cables to various items, often putting the staple pin directly through the cable. For some reason, the network didn’t work. I’ve had people decline to take the necessary training to use tools. I’ve had people who want to see tasks accomplished, but are unwilling to provide the tools. In all these cases what seemed to save money ended up costing the person more.

Some years ago there was a crime bill, and it included money to add some thousands of police officers around the country. One politician objected on the ground that the bill didn’t include money to incarcerate all the offenders those additional police officers would arrest. I wondered whether anyone was considering how much crime could be prevented by adequate policing. It reminded me of a friend of some decades ago who managed a convenience store. He said, “Any officer in uniform gets free donuts and coffee in my store. There are almost always officers there, and I have never been robbed.” The point is that having additional officers can prevent more arrests. Law enforcement is not just about catching and punishing offenders. If you don’t believe me, tell me you don’t have your eyes out for a trooper car, especially one in the median (doubtless with radar gun active), when you’re driving, especially if you have a tendency for your speed to slip higher. Certainly the penalty is important. But the simply presence of law enforcement helps make the road safer.

Now I don’t know the numbers. I’m not a law enforcement expert. I’m not 100% sure I’m on the right track, but here’s a debate (by points) I’d like to see on the city, county, state, and federal level:

  • How might we increase the safety of our schools by increasing the available of law enforcement officers? How could we do this in a way that presents those officers to the students in a friendly way, i.e., that makes them appreciate them?
  • What additional equipment and facilities might help law enforcement respond more quickly?
  • What additional manning might help law enforcement respond more effectively and spend more time on threats?
  • What additional training might we provide?
  • How might we properly compensate these officers so that they will feel confident and respected as they perform these tasks and so that we can attract the best? (I know that this is a vocation. It’s all well and good to say they don’t serve for money, but we ought to pay in accordance with what we expect. Let them say how they do it from love and duty. Let us respond with cash and support.)

Finally, let me note that I’m not an advocate of “the police are always right.” I believe in enforcing standards and accountability on law enforcement just like on anyone else. But if you expect high standards of behavior, you should also be ready to provide high standards of support.

As I said, I’m not an expert here, but I’d like to see a calm, constructive debate and then I’d like us to be willing to pay for what we’re asking for.

I’m looking for politicians who propose things along this line, i.e., serious debate about things we might be able to accomplish, to whom I can give my vote in every election. Trust me, I do vote, and I do read all your position statements and check your record.

Thoughts on James 2

Thoughts on James 2

Our Sunday School lesson, which I’m not teaching this week, is from James, focusing on chapter 2. I’m not teaching, but in studying, I looked at a book I publish, Holistic Spirituality: Life Transforming Wisdom from the Letter of James.

Bruce Epperly makes a number of important comments. I’m going to do a bit of quoting from his chapter 3, pp. 15-21.

One of my great joys is my first glimpse of the steeple of South Congregational Church, when I round the bend toward home. In earlier times, the church’s steeple guided mariners safely to shore. Today, the bells andsteeple serve a reminder that the church’s mission is to be a light on the hillside and, as our congregation’s motto proclaims, “to learn, love, and live the word of God.” (p. 15)

I like that motto, “learn, love, and live.” I think it may go the other way as well, we learn from what we live, especially when we’re trying to live the word of God.

Faith means nothing unless it lights the way of pilgrims and seekers, providing guidance, comfort, and nurture. (p. 16)

Here Bruce combines faith in action and faith in witness (and our action is, I think, our best witness) in a way of which I think James would approve. We are not Christians, or Jesus people, for our own benefit alone. We receive grace to share grace. That’s why grace cannot be a passive thing. It erupts in action.

… The Apostle asserts that because God loves us, our vocation is to love one another, even if this means crossing the barriers of race and ethnicity. Grace makes us all first-class Christians, worthy of respect regardless of ethnicity or economics. This is the essence of James’ message as well.

James believes that a holistic faith brings together belief and action. In the spirit of the Quakers, what is important to James is to “Let your life speak.” … (p. 17)

I think that the tendency of many interpreters to see James and Paul as opponents is misguided. They do have a different emphasis, but it is not because Paul hated or devalued action or that James thought beliefs were unimportant. Each had an emphasis, but these emphases are compatible or complementary.

Loving Jesus means loving your neighbor. And if James is right, it means standing aloof and becoming counter-cultural in
relation to socially-acceptable, but life-destroying, values – “being unstained by the world” – that put profits ahead of people, neglect the needy, and blame the poor for their poverty. We are all created in the image of God and we all deserve to be loved, to have a place to call home, and an opportunity to live out our gifts and talents as God’s beloved daughters and sons. (p. 19)

That’s were it will start to get with us. Sanctified wallets are the hardest of possessions to acquire. Or, looked at the other way, the wallet is the hardest thing to give up. How much stuff must we have? What is first in our life? Putting God first will result in also putting our neighbor first.

But what can you do? Maybe all you have to spare is coins in your pocket.

In the realm of God, no deed is too small, for with one action at a time we can become God’s companions in healing the world. Let your life speak. (p. 20)

This is a great little book, just 40 pages of text from Energion’s Topical Line Drives series, for accompanying a study of James. It might just be, as the subtitle suggests, life transforming!

Read Now

 

Women Teaching in Seminary, Oh Yes! (@KaitlinCurtice)

Women Teaching in Seminary, Oh Yes! (@KaitlinCurtice)

On Tuesday I noticed a tweet, after comments on the Desiring God blog regarding women teaching in seminary. The answer was, not surprisingly, no. The men who do ministry should be taught by men who model men leading the church.

Here’s the tweet:

I thought this such a good idea that I immediately chimed in with the names of two teachers, one in my undergraduate theology program and one in graduate school who had been important, even critical influences on my learning and development. I intended to blog immediately afterward and talk about why I list these two women, both of whom have gone on to glory, in particular. Unfortunately, life happened, and a couple of days have passed. I’m still going to do it.

Preliminary Thoughts

But first, ever the wordy one, let me write a note on my view of women in ministry. I’ve been accused of not really being egalitarian, not by other egalitarians, but by complementarians. The reason seems to be that I don’t say men and women are the same. Come to think of it, I pretty much don’t say men and men are the same. That is, we’re all different. What I do say is that this isn’t the issue. The issue is to see each person as one who is gifted by God, to recognize the gifts God has given, and to not merely allow, but to do everything to encourage that person to use those gifts.

How many women should be in church leadership? Precisely the number that God has gifted for that leadership. How many women should teach? Precisely the number that God has gifted to do that teaching. My main scriptural argument in favor of women in leadership is that the Holy Spirit gives gifts as the Spirit wills (Hebrews 2:4, among many others), and that when such gifts are recognized, quenching the gifts is quenching the Spirit. It is also not men who have the right to allow or not allow women in ministry. Their call is a call from God. Men have the choice of recognizing or not recognizing God’s call.

I do understand the other view and the scriptures on which it is based. I believe that it is a case of using advice produced for a particular time and place and making it universal. I believe making it universal hinders the advance of the kingdom.

Many

I have been taught by many women. Doubtless, complementarians would approve of having women as teachers in elementary and high school. I have to mention home school years with my mother and my older sister Betty Rae, both strong influences on my. Ethel Wood at Wildwood Rural School in northwest Georgia, who discovered I already knew how to type, and used my help in the school office. There I learned some skills that would come back to me later when I became a publisher. But this isn’t just about having women influence one’s life. It’s about training people for church leadership.

Theological Education

Lucille Knapp

Lucille Knapp taught first and second year Greek at Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University). I was privileged to take both these courses and to become friends. She was determined not just to teach us Greek but to help us use it to understand the Bible better and to help us grow in our spiritual lives in ways beyond just language.

I remember her particularly for gentle conversations urging me to consider unfamiliar ideas that hadn’t been part of my world before. She also connected the beauty of literature with my spiritual journey. When I graduated, I received a gift from her of a book of inspirational poetry, along with a note that urged me to remember that faith and theology were not just about the technicalities of biblical languages and biblical studies, which were my focus, but also about the experience of beauty and of God’s presence that was available through art and literature.

There were some people who thought she should shut up and just teach Greek. It was OK that she teach technicalities, but she should quit trying to influence others and shape their spirituality in any way. I’m glad she resisted those voices and continued to model spiritual leadership to her students.

(A bio and obituary.)

Leona Glidden Running

When I arrived at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, though my degree was an MA in Religion, concentrating in biblical and cognate languages offered by the graduate school, I almost immediately meet Dr. Running. Some of us thought she truly deserved her last name, as she was an active and vigorous person who didn’t let any grass grow under he feet. Ever. She didn’t believe in letting grass grow under our feet either.

One of my favorite memories of her was taking the final exam in Akkadian. I was the only student for that term for Akkadian, so the class had been somewhat informal. She handed me the final exam, which was a legal size sheet of paper filled on both sides with cuneiform text. She said, “Translate this. You have two hours.” Then she walked out of the room.

Now my guess is that I might have produced a good translation of a few lines in two hours. I don’t mean getting the gist, but getting a workable translation. The idea that I could produce a decent translation of that much text in two hours at the end of my first quarter was ludicrous.

So I struggled through, grabbing the first possible translation I could find and writing it down, knowing that I wouldn’t have time to recheck, and also knowing that I had to be making substantial errors. I managed half of the first page using that approach. At the end of two hours she was back, took the paper and made no comment. I got it back the next day with a grade — an A. So I asked her how this was possible. I was actually gratified by how few red marks there were in my translation, but I mean that with reference to my expectations. The page was still doing some bleeding! She said, “I wanted to see your first pass. I didn’t want you to have time to double check. I graded accordingly.” She had deducted only for things she thought I should have gotten without taking a second pass.

She also invited me to tutor Greek and Hebrew for the seminary students, guided me through what to charge so I could help pay my way. (I had a fellowship, but it didn’t cover all expenses.) When my Uncle, Don F. Neufeld, passed away, she was the one who recognized that I was grieving when I was still telling myself I could handle this. She made sure I made the trip to his funeral and took care of myself. She remained a friend after graduation.

She was, like Lucille Knapp, an example of leadership. She modeled that godly leadership for me.

(A bio and her obituary.)

Different Styles

Even though I didn’t select them for that reason, I like the fact that they exhibited two very different styles. I chose these two names because their influence on me was powerful.

I will still tell classes that while I value my knowledge of biblical languages highly, it was not learning the biblical languages that did the most for my hermeneutic. It was learning about people, learning how people react. Often elements of the tone of a Bible passage become much clearer when I think about the way people react to different things. Lucille Knapp is responsible for starting me on that way of thinking, and I’m eternally grateful.

Dr. Running, on the other hand, taught me that thoroughness is important, but so is diligence and vigorous pursuit of a goal. It isn’t just your last read that counts, but the way you attack a text in the first place. In coming to understand a text, it’s important not to get hung up or lost in the forest while carefully examining each tree. Of course, that has to be balanced by thoroughness, but she both modeled that for her students and expected it of them.

Conclusion

My life and work would be significantly less productive without these two women who taught, one in a theological school, and the other in a seminary. I thank God that their gifts were not suppressed, and that they were there for my benefit.

(Image credit: Openclipart.org. Modified by me.)

Daniel 9: Confession and Repentance

Daniel 9: Confession and Repentance

The Adult Bible Studies Sunday School curriculum was on the subject of confession and repentance with the primary passage being Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9. This is an interesting and powerful prayer to read and deserves more attention than it gets. They secondarily referred to Psalm 51, which is also an important prayer of confession, and is much better known that Daniel 9. (I wrote a meditation on Psalm 51 here, but didn’t get to it in my Sunday School class.)

One important difference between the two passages is that Daniel 9 is a corporate prayer of repentance, while Psalm 51 is individual. Each has individual elements and corporate elements, but the emphasis is far different. This is why Psalm 51 applies to the sin of David with Bathsheba so well. Daniel, on the other hand, is meditating on the fact that Judah has not been restored.

Daniel is treated as righteous in the Bible. While we assume that he is human, and thus had faults and failings, none are presented. This is notable, since the Bible, unlike many other official histories, does not hesitate to present faults. Much of our historical material about Israel, while based on official chronicles (at least according to the text), are actually written by critics of the various regimes. Yet Daniel is presented positively.

Here, however, Daniel is not afraid of the word “we.” He identifies with his people Israel (or Judah) has failed. He repents for all, and doing so identifies himself with all. There is a fine line here that we need to watch. By taking on the failings of everyone in a group, we can became paralyzed by shame and simple disgust. At the same time, recognizing that we are part of a group that has done certain things is critical. It becomes the foundation of changing the group.

Some want to emphasize the individual aspect of confession and repentance. Others think largely in corporate terms. In a church that has done wrong, treated members badly, provided a poor witness to the community, turned its back on those in need or who are suffering, it’s important for those who pray to confess what the church has done. You may have done everything you could, but at corporate confession time, it’s a matter of the group. I think the answer to corporate vs. personal is flexible and varied. The person in the right who says “let’s” rather than “you should” can be the catalyst of real change in a group or even in a nation.

Here’s a diagram I used in class. Well, actually, I drew with a marker on a white board, and did much worse than this, but whatever!

The scriptures I would apply are 1 John 4:7 & 20. Of course, as always, I recommend reading the entire passage. We try to prioritize loving God over loving one another, but John ties them together, and I think Jesus does as well when he says the second commandment is like the first. You won’t fulfill one without the other.

A good prayer of individual confession and repentance should draw you upward toward God. If it results in wallowing in guilt, you aren’t really getting it. If your prayer of confession distances you from others, you may have a problem.

How corporate should it be? That depends on what is needed. As long as we keep the lines even, drawing closer to others also means drawing closer to God. “Everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God, but the unloving know nothing of God, for God is love” (1 John 1:7-8). You can also test that love for one another by asking whether it draws you and the one you love upward as well.

This is only a short test, and it’s a bit like a pithy one-liner. Yes, you can get off track. But I think it helps. My hope is to keep the lines of even length and yet shorten the distance. Closer to God and closer to others. That should be my goal in life, and especially in confession and repentance. If love fulfills the law (Romans 13:10), then the chief confession is going to be my lack of love, and my repentance will be a turning toward the other points on this triangle.

Try it! It might help!


Here are some books on prayer and forgiveness.

 

Some Problems with Prayer

Some Problems with Prayer

I’ve co-authored a book about prayer, published several more, taught numerous classes, and led seminars about prayer. One thing I believe is that one should teach primary from experience, meaning that often you are teaching about your own weaknesses. In this case it it just so.

So here are some problems. I share in each one. Each one can devastate your prayer life and your Christian experience.

  1. I don’t pray when I should. My first response to a problem is to look for what I can do to solve it. I’m a pretty smart guy and pride myself on being able to solve problems. People call me to help solve their problems, especially with computers or language. Somehow I suspect God is smarter and wiser! A friend of mine said (and I think he was quoting, but I don’t recall who), “Nothing is a substitute for prayer, and prayer isn’t a substitute for anything.” It’s not bad to work, but prayer will transform your efforts. “‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6).
  2. I pray after rather than before. I know God can handle the “before they call” thing, but the problem here is that I make decisions and then ask God to bless them, rather than asking God to guide and then listening.
  3. I pray prayers of direction. By this I mean that I tell God how to solve problems. I don’t know the origin of the saying, but it’s unfortunately true: Many people want to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity.
  4. It’s more important to me that people know I’m praying for them than it is to actually pray. It may be a shock to some people, but you can pray without informing people. This doesn’t mean you should never tell someone you’re praying. I am deeply encouraged each time someone lets me know they’re praying for me. But the proclamation can be either a lie or a weapon or even both.
  5. I spend more time talking than listening. See also #2 and #3.
  6. Despite knowing all of this, these are still failings.

Fortunately for all of us, God says,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). I pray for greater grace in my prayer life.