The last year-and-a-half I’ve been writing a book, currently titled “A Transfigured Life: Conversations with Christ to Renew Your Life and Ministry.”
This book is about coming fully alive with God for the sake of others. I invite the reader into my personal conversations with Dallas Willard, Ray Ortlund, other mentors, and many pastors that Kristi and I have helped. Thirty short chapters end with a guided experience in scripture meditation and prayer. Along the way, I tell the story of the spiritual renewal that Kristi and I have experienced and passed on to pastors and all kinds of servants of the Lord.
What’s taking me so long to write this book? Here’s an example.
On one of my writing days as I was walking to my desk and praying for God to guide me in writing a chapter on prayer and my eyes fell onto my original signed copy of Frank Laubach’s 1946 book, Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World. I spent the next thirty minutes on my knees at my prayer altar reading the chapter, “Christ the Answer.” My heart was riveted to Jesus and his praying life of constant submission to the Father and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
“How can we saturate our minds with Christ?” Laubach asked.
Yes, that’s what I want! I leaned forward forward for his answer.
“There is but one way to get a true picture of Him. This is to read His life in the four Gospels so often that we know it by heart.”
The Greatest Story Ever Told!
As soon as I finished reading I went from my knees to being face down on the floor before God. Lord Jesus, I am so sorry. I enjoy devoting two hours to watch a movie and yet I don’t read your Gospel straight through. Why not? Why do I only take it in piece-by-piece?
I sensed God say, “Because you don’t feel it to be the Greatest Story Ever Told? You’re not caught up in this as part of the drama of your life.”
I spent the next two hours reading the entire Gospel of John. When I finished I starting running in a circle around the downstairs of our house skipping, “He is risen! He is risen!” Seven times I skipped along this circuit singing and waving my arms in jubilation! The Good News got into me and I needed to express it!
Since then I’ve listened to read the Gospel of Mark straight through about fifty times. It only takes about an hour and twenty minutes. What an impact! I’m learning to live my daily life as if the Holy Spirit were writing a new and 17th Chapter to Mark. I want the byline of my life to be “Christ the Answer.”
A Praying Life
Dallas Willard says, “Don’t seek a prayer life — seek a praying life, a life shot through with prayer.” One reason for paltry praying is that we relate to prayer only as a compartmentalized thing we do in church or private devotions rather than as a whole life with God.
Frank Laubach is a great teacher of how to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and practice God’s presence. He understood how to do this from the inside. As a result he had a phenomenal impact for Christ as a missionary to Muslims in the Philippines, he developed the “Each One, Teach One” method that has been used to train millions of illiterate people to read, and he wrote one of the all time greatest devotional classics, Letters By a Modern Mystic.
I love Laubach’s insights on Jesus’ praying life in his book, Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World. He offers extraordinary “thoughts for an atomic age.” I especially love his words on “Christ the Answer.” I love to re-read them to try to get inside of our Lord Jesus Christ’s heart, to see God, myself, and the world the way he does. Laubach’s insights and testimony stir my faith that Jesus words really are true for me: “All things are possible to the one who believes!” (Mark 9:23)
What follows are Frank Laubach’s words from Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World.
“Christ the Answer” by Frank Laubach
Christ’s Teaching is the World’s Hope
The knowledge that can save the world is already ours. It is the way of Jesus Christ, what He is, what He teaches, and how He transforms people. When we join our thoughts to Him we are in an immense river pressing through every race and every nation. Jesus has already proved to be the world’s greatest blessing. He has not yet been able to save it from its present state, because not enough of us are thinking and acting upon His ideals…
Christ is not only the most powerful person the world has known; He is the noblest. All the highest ideals since His day… have sprung from His teachings…
But how shall we help all people to know Him?… The greatest way to help Christ conquer the world is to saturate our minds with Him. We do this by thinking about Christ and His Kingdom as much as we can.
If we think about Him we shall inevitably witness for Him and work for Him. Other people will catch Him from us by our deeds and our words. “Out of the fullness of he heart the mouth speaks.” But, equally important, they will catch our thoughts, telepathically, just as advertisers send their messages out over the radio, in the knowledge that tens of thousands of people will tune in sooner or later. If we keep Him in our thoughts persistently all day, every day, we shall radio thoughts of Christ to the minds of [people all around us].
His Life in the Gospels
How can we saturate our minds with Christ? There is but one way to get a true picture of Him. This is to read His life in the four Gospels so often that we know it by heart… To prevent this reading from becoming tedious… after reading the Gospels in the familiar text… use fresh translations.
We need determined wills to protect [our study] with Christ from competing interests. Busy people are under constant temptation to allow Bible reading to be crowded out every other day, until omission becomes a habit. Then they find the edge of their interest dulling and their attention wavering. The only protection we have is to consider this hour of devotions a sacred engagement with God, and to decline all interrupting invitations. Even better is family Bible reading and prayer…
Having [Reminders] at Home
If we ought to “pray without ceasing,” then we need [holy objects] to remind us of Christ wherever we spend our time… By placing a cross or the open Bible in front of our favorite picture of Christ… Many Christians have pictures of a friendly Christ in every room in the house, including the bathroom, to serve as reminders for their treacherous memories… [Those] with a cross around their necks to remind them of Christ, are using better psychology than those of us who use no helps and who never pray. Better to walk with crutches than not at all.
Filling the Chinks of Time
While the daily devotional hour is vital for saturating our minds with Christ, it is not enough. All during the day, in the chinks of time between things we find ourselves obliged to do, there are moments when our minds ask: “What next?” In these chinks of time ask Him: “Lord, think your thoughts in my mind. What is on your mind for me do do now?”
When we ask Christ, “What next?” we tune in and give him a chance to pour His ideas through our enkindled imagination. If we persist, it becomes a habit. It takes some effort, but it is worth a million times what it costs. It is possible for everybody, everywhere. Even if we are surrounded by throngs of people we can continue to talk silently with our invisible Friend. We need not close our eyes, nor change our position, nor move our lips.
How We Think Christ’s Thoughts
Thinking about Christ is easy to understand. It is not easy to do. Yet there is a way to do it without stopping our other occupations. It is to acquire a new way of thinking. Thinking is a process of talking to your “inner self.” Instead of talking to yourself, talk to the Invisible Christ. If you do that all day every day, then your thoughts are spreading Christ all over the planet wherever other minds are tuned in to yours…
How to Hold a Conversation with Christ
Prayer at its highest is a two-way conversation. You may say silently or aloud, “Lord, what are You saying to me?” Then let your imagination perfectly loose while you reply to yourself what you SUPPOSE He would answer. You may imagine Him saying:
This is for you and for everybody. I have been waiting for this moment all your life, waiting until you opened the channel so that I could speak. I have wonderful plans for you which cannot be realized until you listen as you are listening now. The trouble with all the world is that people do not stop to listen while I speak.
Thought transformed into conversation with Christ becomes larger, more unselfish, more worth-while, purer, more noble. Try it!
When You’re Tired
When the mind is too weary to do hard thinking or praying, the loveliest word we can allow to float through our thoughts is “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Sweetest name on mortal tongue, sweetest name by angels sung, Jesus, precious Jesus.”
Many a dear mother of mediocre ability, walking through life, whispering, “Jesus” every moment will do more to sweeten and save humanity than all the cunning schemes of diplomats or the fine-spun guesses of philosophers who leave Jesus out. Just to think of others and whisper, “Jesus,” is the noblest contribution most of us can ever make to other lives as well as our own. Then spiritual life is a true democracy, for it is as freely given to the humble and unlearned as to the scholar!
Making it a Habit
If we have had a lifetime habit of thinking with Christ left out we shall find the old habit stubborn. It is as difficult to learn the new way to think as it is to learn to typewrite or to play a piano or to learn a new language. We do it haltingly and rather feebly the very first time, like taking the first lessons in any high art.
We must not underestimate the time required to become proficient, or we may say impatiently, “It can’t be done,” which is sheer nonsense. It can’t be done well in a day. It can’t be learned perfectly in a year. But it can become nearly perfect in ten years. Meanwhile, the progress from day to day is so thrilling, and the satisfaction so wonderful, that every day is a joy.
Perhaps we do other people more good while we are still learners that after we have become proficient, for we understand their difficulties and they understand ours. “The best teacher is the one who is also a learner.”
Even after a lifetime of prayer, the saints realize that they do not fully attain the perfect surrender of Christ to the thought of God. There will always be heights for us to attain — and that adds to the zest of living.
Jesus Kept His Mind in Perfect Surrender
Forty-seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus said He was under God’s orders, and that He never did anything, never said anything, until His Father gave the command. He was listening every moment of the day to His invisible companion and saying, “Yes.” This perfect obedience was what made Him one with His Father and what gave the Father perfect confidence in the Son. It is the reason the Father loves his Son so fondly…
At the heart of the universe is this wonderful, never-ending harmony, this incredible love between Father and Son. “I have kept my Father’s commands and abide in His love. All things that the Father has are mine.” Jesus had earned the confidence and love of His Father, and so the world could be entrusted to Him as His responsibility.
(“Christ the Answer” is excerpted from Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World by Frank Laubach, written in 1946, pp. 70-79.)