A Spiritual Checklist

I was thinking about all the things Jesus told his followers to do. Me? I don’t do many of those things. Am I ok? Are you? Go through this checklist to the key at the bottom and see for yourself.

I’ll start the checkpoints with the less stressful and move up to the harder sayings (at least for me). In the end, it will feel like a trick checklist. But that’s because it is. By design it echos the paradoxical nature of grace: in our weakness God’s strength is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9).

The Checklist

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  1. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
  2. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind . . . .” (Luke 10:27)
  3. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
  4. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)
  5. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
  6. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
  7. “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42)
  8. “Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)

How Do You Check Out?

Careful, here! If what follows were always accepted by all Christians, we may never have had the Reformation, including the bloody history that led up to and away from it. So you might find yourself disagreeing with what I offer. That’s ok. This checklist is to make us think, not to define us.

Click here for the evaluation key

The key for #1-8 is that most of us will have had to put down “Often, even Almost Often” or “Never or Almost Never” for several if not all of them.

If you have “Always” on most or all of them, I want to interview you!

Rarely do I give away what I am wearing and rarely do I lend to strangers (#7)—we know from the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus meant strangers. Frankly, I’ve never plucked out an eye literally and rarely figuratively (#8).

All of these pronouncements from Jesus are quite important, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are on his checklist (nor that he has one). Nor nor does it mean that they were spoken with the expectation that his listeners would painfully eek them out with all the self-righteousness they could muster. We saw what happened when Peter tried that.

Watchman Nee—among others—assures us that the reason Jesus could raise such a high bar was because he believed so fully in his ability to live his life through us by our faith.

Here are the final two checkpoints:

  1. “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” (John 6:28-29)
  2. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life . . . .” (John 3:36)

When we get to #9 and #10, faith kicks in. Believe that Jesus already offered his life to you so he could live through you, and you are on the road. You can admit to him that you need help with everything. It’s his ability and not yours that makes the good news good. My wish is that we would all be able to put “Often, even Oftener than Not” for #9 and #10.

If the checklist has any value, it is to remind us to rely on Jesus, to learn to be quiet and trusting, to give thanks in all things, to make our requests known to our Father, to cast all our cares on him, knowing that he cares for us.



Publishing Info
This post was first published on: June 3, 2024. If this article is significantly updated, the publication date beneath the title may change, just as it might change in order to bring current posts to the top (or bottom) of the directory.

Prayer is Not Begging and is More than Hoping

Listen to the old version of this post (10 minutes, 16 seconds)

Sitting on my couch, I looked at the name of a woman written on a piece of paper. We will call her Beautiful. It was a reminder to pray for her healing because her cancer had returned. I thought of all the people who were praying for Beautiful. Probably a hundred or so.

Beautiful died about a year later. And so I revise this post, soberly.

When I re-read the gospels, I never see Jesus begging, nor, when it comes to healing, hoping. When he announces the death of Lazarus to his disciples, he says, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11). He does not, for example, say to the disciples, “and I hope to wake him up.” Nor when he is at the grave site does he say, “Father, I’d really like it if you raise Lazarus from the dead.” No, what does he say? “Lazarus, come forth.” And it happens.

Now I know this is a sensitive subject because when we pray for a healing (or a resurrection, which I have done with no success), the disappointment of someone or ourselves remaining sick is compounded by the disappointment of prayer or our faith being inauthentic. When that happens, we might doubt God’s existence, his character, or the accuracy of the New Testament. In the end of this scenario, we are left with a sickness (or death) and an imaginary God.

At that point, we often backpedal, and there are plenty of Christians and agnostics to help us do so. Because of my low opinion of this kind of help, I’ll deliver some of their consolation in a rambling sentence.

Healing miracles are rare because medical science has rendered them unnecessary, and you can’t expect to pray like Jesus, especially since all those miracles were to introduce the world to the gospel, not to be part of it, I mean, they symbolized our spiritual healing and nothing more, so we should be satisfied with inner healing and leave the rest up to God who, after all, would heal if he wanted to … look at the apostle Paul whose prayer for healing wasn’t answered and who concluded that in his weakness God’s strength was made perfect … who do we think we are to expect any more than Paul?

If you’ve been exposed to intelligent people of faith—or have read the New Testament with an eye on how faith and prayer are expressed—you’ll know the entire ramble is not in the scriptures.

Here are the counterpoints.

  • Medical science is in its adolescence; many diseases including cancer are often fatal, the blind to not have their sight restored, those with withered limbs do not, in a moment, regain a fully functional limb, and deafness is only partially addressed medically
  • Jesus never suggested that he was the only one with God’s ear; in fact he said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12)
  • The miracles did introduce Jesus and his disciples to their world with a bang, yes, but nothing in the New Testament suggests the miracles were destined to stop at any point in time; the Book of Acts was apparently written 50 or so years after Jesus left the earth, and nothing in it suggests that the divine show of healing had ended or would end
  • It’s always suspicious when any miracle of God—any show of the supernatural in Christianity—is watered down to something humans can do, something that no longer requires a miracle; thus, saying “spiritual healing is all that Jesus was trying to point us to,” or saying “inner healing is more important than physical healing” is, what shall I say, suspicious? so suspicious that the people who say such things would do better to publish self help books
  • My ire is raised by the idea that God would heal if he wanted to: who in this world would say the vast amount of sickness, let alone violence, is what God wants?
  • Finally, for the low hanging fruit, Paul’s unanswered prayer: if you read the passage in II Corinthians 12, where Paul asks three times for God to remove the thorn from his flesh, you see that in the previous paragraphs, he listed the persecutions he endured (much more frequently than his fellow apostles), that it makes sense that persecution was the messenger from Satan that humbled him since he had received so great a revelation of Christ…besides, in light of those revelations, even if Paul were talking about his alleged bad eyesight, how many sick people have ever needed humbling because of the greatness of the revelation they had received?

Back to my couch and to Beautiful. She had many (many) people praying for her. She did live a year longer, but left the world too soon. If the number of people praying worked like addition, the healing power would be great, but faith is not like arithmetic. One plus God is a majority. One person with faith can be in a crowd and God will look over the crowd to find that person (2 Chronicles 16:9a). When Jesus went to raise the little girl from the dead, he allowed only three disciples the the girl’s parents into the room…and he healed her.

I have no idea what kind of prayers were spoken on behalf of Beautiful. I do know the kind of prayer I received when I was about to be diagnosed for cancer. Going up to “the prayer team” after a lively service at a large Evangelical church, I explained my concerns to the mature couple who were appointed to pray for me. As soon as I expressed my desire for healing, the man said, “Well, we all have to die sometime.” And that was followed by his wife telling me about a motorcycle accident that injured her in a way she has never recovered from.

As soon as I could get away from their aura of disbelief, I headed to the parking lot and called my sister in another state in order to shake off the bad vibes from the prayer team. My sister speaks words of faith—and did that night. My healing came through successful surgery (not what I had hoped for, but a heap better than having to die sometime soon).

This post focuses on what prayer is not. When I write a sequel, by God’s grace, it will express, at least in part, what Jesus-inspired prayer is. I surmise it will involve the classic verse from Mark: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Until then, be well, speak well, pray from the heart and believe God knows what you need before you mention it.


Publishing Info
This post was first published on: July 30, 2022 at 22:46. If this article is significantly updated, the publication date beneath the title may change, just as it might change in order to bring current posts to the top (or bottom) of the directory.