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The List

I have never failed to get my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. (One year I finished by Halloween, but that was too soon.) It's not that I particularly hate shopping or that I go through stores and buy my family random things, though. Part of it is having a family who requires a Christmas list by the end of October. It's a lot easier to shop when you know what to look for.

There are many people who approach prayer -- approach God -- like a Christmas list. You've probably already heard me call them "Santa Claus prayers." They run something like, "Dear God, please do this. I need this. So-and-so would like that. So please give me this, that, and the other thing. Amen." We give the Divine Santa Claus our list of wants, and we don't bother with much else in the conversation. It's almost as if God is a cosmic vending machine: we do whatever good deed we can and then demand God cough up the goods as payment. Deed goes in, reward comes out.

Don't get me wrong: there is a place in our prayers for petition (asking God for things on our own behalf) and intercession (asking God on behalf of others). We should pray for those things. But as Christ teaches in Matthew 6, there are also prayers of praise and thanksgiving. There are even listening prayers where we let God speak to us instead of the other way around. (Prayer is a two-way street, after all.) So let's keep prayer, well, prayerful. Praise, thank, and listen to God. Ask Him for what you need and to help others, but keep the list of demands for Santa Claus.

And get your Christmas shopping done early. (But not on Black Friday; more on that here.)

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