Prayer

How To Pray With A Thankful Spirit

The Light Breaks Through

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Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates an incident that taught her always to be thankful. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp. They had not seen Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them it overcrowded and flea-infested.

That morning, their Scripture reading was 1 Thessalonians. It would remind them to rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first refused to give thanks for the fleas. But Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings. During the months they spent at that camp, they were surprised at how freely they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings, without guard interference. It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the…

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Prayer

The Benefits of Praying The Bible

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When I take the time to marvel at the power of God in my life, I am in awe.  God speaks to me through music.  In the intimacy of my headphones and a great song or hymn, God pours love and mercy into my heart.  So I thought about sharing with you a spiritual discipline; praying the Scriptures.

Through the lyrics of the song, “Word of God Speak” by MercyMe, God spoke to my heart about prayer through the power of music.

 

I’m finding myself at a loss for words

And the funny thing is it’s okay

The last thing I need is to be heard

But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak

Would you pour down like rain

Washing my eyes to see

Your majesty

To be still and know

That you’re in this place

Please let me stay and rest

In your holiness

Word of God speak

Praying God’s Word

Why would we want to pray God’s word? I think the songwriter hits the nail on the head.  There are just those moments in life where we just can’t find the phrase.  It is possible in those moments that we are hurting.  We can be so beaten down by the world that there is nothing in our heart to bring before God.  There are no words, only pain.  In those moments we know we need his strength, his healing, but we are emotionally and spiritually empty.  We need God to speak to us.  We need to hear a word of hope.  Our soul needs to be reminded of his majesty.  That broken spirit needs just to be still and know that he is almighty and sitting on the throne.  In those moments why not read the words of the author of creation?

Your prayers are never stronger than when you are praying the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 4, verse 12 says, “God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions.”  God’s words are powerful.  Whether we are reading them or using them as our basis for prayer, why not tap into the powerful promises of God?

To comfort you, know this dear one, not only does God hear our prayers. He vows to answer them when those prayers are in line with His will.

Benefits of Praying the Scriptures

Praying the Scriptures will increase your spiritual development. As you pray God’s word, you begin to see and hear how God acted and answered other followers.  As you see God in action, you learn that He is faithful.  You see the faith stories of those who trusted the Almighty.  Those stories provide us with an inner peace and confidence in the love and protection of God.  The Bible is filled with the testimonies of many people who saw God appear in their lives and provide for the needs.

You can live a stress-free life if you will only just pray.  When you pray you are turning the situation over to God. You’re taking the situation out of your hands, and laying it in His hands. You’re releasing it to God.  There are no more capable hands to place our cares in other than the loving arms of our savior.  The one who cared so deeply for us that he gave his life for you.

Other posts in this series on Prayer:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/02/02/how-prayer-can-be-like-eating-healthy/

https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/27/learning-to-pray-for-others-from-jesus
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/03/learning-to-pray-for-deliverance-from-jesus
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/10/praying-for-unity/

Prayer

Jesus Teaches Us How to Pray for Deliverance

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Mr. Spurgeon, many years ago, made a parable. He thought he had a right to make one, and he did it. He said: “There was once a tyrant who ordered one of his subjects into his presence, and ordered him to make a chain. The poor blacksmith—that was his occupation—had to go to work and forge the chain. When it was done, he brought it into the presence of the tyrant, and he was ordered to take it away and make it twice the length. He brought it again to the tyrant, and again he was ordered to double it. Back he came when he had obeyed the order, and the tyrant looked at it, and then commanded the servants to bind the man hand and foot with the chain he had made and cast him into prison. And,” Mr. Spurgeon said, “that is what the devil does with man. He makes them forge their chain, and then binds them hand and foot with it, and casts them into outer darkness.” My friends that are just what these drunkards, these gamblers, these blasphemers—that is just what every sinner is doing. But, thank God, we can tell you of a deliverer. The Son of God has the power to break every one of these fetters if you will only come to Him. – Source Unknown

This post on prayer is critical for the Christian trying to find his or her place in this world. During times of trials and persecution, it is tempting to pray “Lord take us out of this situation and bring us all home to be with you”. Notice though that was not what Jesus prayed. He did not pray to God to put a fence around us, or for a big Chariot of fire to carry us all up to heaven. Instead, he prayed, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am.” John 17:14-16

A Prayer for Deliverance

Twice in this prayer, Jesus reminds the Father, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Jesus’ prayer is asking the Father to “keep them from the evil one (Satan).”

Satan is the prince of this world. To illustrate: as parents, one of the fears we are faced with is, keeping our children safe from evil. We are aware of temptations in the world. When they were little, you kept a careful watch at the park, warning your kids never to talk to strangers. As they grew up the threats never lessened, they just changed. Now the warning is from strangers offering you things that would hurt you. Our concern was simple; we don’t want our kids to be exposed to the sickness that is lurking out there in the world. Once Christians have left the protective eyesight of the Savior we are exposed then to all the trappings the world has to offer. Our Lord prays for our deliverance.

A Prayer for Christians to be Pure and Holy

“Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth. As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself entirely to you so they also might be entirely yours.” John 17:17-19

This idea of holiness is often a confusing concept. Allow me to introduce this section with a bit of humor.

An old deacon used to pray every Wednesday night at the prayer meeting for his shortcomings in his Christian walk. Once the prayer was over he always ended the same way: “And, Lord, clean all the cobwebs out of my life. The things that are gathered there that ought not to have been there. O Lord, clean all the cobwebs out of my life.” It got too much for one fellow in the prayer meeting after hearing the deacon once too often; so when the old deacon said the same prayer the next time, the fellow jumped to his feet and shouted: “Lord, Lord, don’t clean the cobwebs. Kill the spider, kill the spider.”- Source Unknown

The lure of the world.

The weakness of the sinful flesh and the constant onslaught of the devil are daily battles. In the Old Testament, this concept of holiness is often carried out with the burning of a sacrifice. But that sacrifice was not able to purify from sin. Jesus cleansed Himself even though He had no sin by setting Himself apart. He was made separate (purified) as the sacrificial offering to God so that we, His followers, might also be pure and holy.

The key lesson this prayer is: “sanctification (purification) is not about avoiding or escaping the world but yielding and surrendering to God.” The word “world” is prominent in Jesus’ prayer, it occurs an astonishing 20 times in John 17.

Our weapons in this fight against the world’s beliefs, its value systems, and its destructive attitudes are prayer to God.  (Jn 17:9) It is obedience to the word of God (Jn 17: 6, 8, 14).  And the power of His name (Jn 17:11).

Being set apart does not mean we are hiding away waiting for Christ to return. God will allow you to be scraped and to be sore but not to be stabbed. You will be hated and hurt but not harmed. Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” For the Christian as the Apostle Paul reminds us, we are more than conquerors.

Other blogs in this series on Prayer:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/13/how-prayer-can-be-like-eating-healthy
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/20/how-to-pray-with-a-thankful-spirit
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/27/learning-to-pray-for-others-from-jesus

Prayer

How Prayer Can Be Like Eating Healthy

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Prayer is a tough subject for most people. As I was thinking about how to approach this topic, it dawned on me that prayer is like eating healthy.  1) We know prayer is important, 2) it is beneficial for us.  2) We have a strong desire to do it, yet 3) We often struggle to have a consistent, vibrant prayer life.

Like eating healthy, we are challenged with many of the same issues. Many aren’t sure what to do.  We are not satisfied nor confident about how to do it.  Nor do we have a grasp on what to pray for so at the risk of doing it wrong and somehow offending God, we just choose not to engage in the spiritual discipline.

To unpack some of the fear and sense of inadequacy attached to prayer, I will focus the next few Wednesdays on the topic.  For the purpose of full disclosure, I am by no means a prayer warrior.  So will figure this out together.

Some Keys For A Vibrant Prayer Life From The Apostle Paul And Jesus:

1     Praying Without Ceasing. “17 pray without ceasing,”  1 Thessalonians 5:17

This verse has been the source of misunderstanding and confusion.  The complexity is found in the translation of “Pray Constantly” The Greek word translated “constantly” really means, “without ceasing;” this is not to be understood, with a continual, like Paul prayed day and night event.  Paul is not saying we should be praying 24/7.  If you have tried this, you have discovered just how difficult that endeavor is, so the result of that epic failure is to question your spirituality and dedication or love for God.  In comparison, prayer becomes like that failed eating healthy attempt broccoli vs. chocolate cake.  Since I neglected to make the right choices I just give into temptation, “Bring on the cake.”

Paul in Thessalonians was encouraging his churches to make prayer a part of their personal spiritual discipline (see also, Phil 4:6). He and his coworkers prayed together regularly (2 Thess 1:11; Rom 1:10) and valued the prayers of the church on their behalf.

12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Romans 12:12 (CEV)

  1. Praying with Bold Persistence -Luke 11:9-10

9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Lk 11:9-10

The Apostle Luke shares with the world what Jesus taught them about praying with a bold persistence.  Jesus uses an illustration of a man coming to a friend for help.  At first, the friend says it is late, and the children are in bed.  In other words, this is an awful time.  Come back at a more acceptable time.  Because to go and unbolt the door would awaken the children.  However, the friend was bold in his persistence.  He would keep asking, keep knocking and keep seeking.  The lesson on prayer from our Lord revolves around these three different approaches to prayer.

  • Keep Asking

The concept of “Ask” is commonly used for prayer.  To best understand this it must explain that in the Greek it is not imperative of command (“You must ask to receive”) but as an imperative of condition (“If you ask, you will indeed receive).  The force of this Scripture is not a command of Jesus to pray, but instead and an invitation to prayer.

So God then is not viewed as a genie sitting high on His Throne demanding that you pray to Him to get your every wish granted.  Since prayer is an invitation, it does not mean that everything we prayed for will be answered.  In that same section of Scripture, Jesus explains, about receiving gifts from the Father.  In verse 11-13, “11 “If your child asks you, his father, for a fish, would you give him a snake instead? 12 Or if your child asks you for an egg, would you give him a scorpion? 13 Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  Therefore, our Heavenly Father proves to us that he is our Father, and we are, indeed, his precious children by giving to us those things that are beneficial to us.

  • Keep Searching

“Searching” is frequently used to describe seeking after/for God

29 You will seek the Lord your God from there, and you will find him[a] if you seek him with all your heart and with all your being. -Deut 4:29

“Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Isa 55:6

I like to describe it this way God places a God-size hole in the human soul.  That can only be satisfied and filled with the presence of the Almighty.  For us to seek God is to desire that spiritual connection with God’s face through prayer.

  • Keep Knocking

I have heard this described this way “knocked at the gates of mercy and finding that they were open to us.”

This verse is an example of the divine passive (“it will be given to you” means God will give it to you.  In saying “it will be opened to you” means God will open it to you) and of Jesus’ use of exaggeration, make it very clear that not all prayers are answered. Prayers that are answered are those in line with God’s will and would include an implied reference to Jesus prays in the garden before His date with Calvary “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

When children first start to color, they have two problems. First, they might choose colors that are inappropriate. Secondly, once the colors are selected, they have a difficult time keeping the colors within the boundary lines. As they mature and keep on coloring, they learn to keep within the guidelines and to choose the appropriate colors, resulting in a satisfying picture.

As children of our Heavenly Father, our prayer life often resembles a child’s coloring. At first, we don’t know what to pray for nor do our prayers stay within the guidelines of His will. As we mature and continue praying, though, we pray for the right things and stay within His will, resulting in a satisfying prayer life.  With consistency and bold persistence,  we learn to develop a healthy vibrant prayer life.

Other blogs in this series on Prayer:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/13/how-prayer-can-be-like-eating-healthy
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/20/how-to-pray-with-a-thankful-spirit
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/27/learning-to-pray-for-others-from-jesus
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/03/learning-to-pray-for-deliverance-from-jesus

Prayer

Praying with Holy Boldness

 

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Hugh Lattimer once preached before King Henry VIII. Henry was greatly displeased by the boldness in the sermon and ordered Lattimer to preach again on the following Sunday and apologize for the offense he had given. The next Sunday, after reading his text, he thus began his sermon: “Hugh Lattimer, dost thou know before whom thou are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life, if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well Hugh, dost thou does not know from whence thou comest–upon Whose message thou are sent? Even by the great and mighty God, Who is all-present and Who beholdeth all thy ways and Who can cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.” He then preached the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday–and with considerably more energy.  – M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 126.

The final article on praying through persecution will focus on learning to pray with holy boldness. In the above illustration, we are often confronted when our faith comes face to face with a society that wants nothing to do with God or anything godly. God gets in the way of living a life without accountability. It is very appealing to live our life focused only on what is pleasing and pleasurable, however, to accomplish such a monumental feat with a clear conscience we must push all things holy out of our way.

Praying with Spiritual Boldness Requires Giving up Control.

We like to live under the distorted view that we can live our lives just the way we want believing that we control our future. If we work hard, carefully plan, and adjust for the minor interruptions that occur naturally we can navigate through this journey placed before us. But life has a way of shattering that illusion. Let me share this story to illustrate that point.

One of the most tragic events during the Reagan presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. Many of us can still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble.

A few days after the tragedy, I remember coming across an extraordinary story. Marine Corps Commandant Paul X. Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors then in a Frankfurt, Germany, hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man, yet he survived.

As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words — “Semper Fi” the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.” With those two simple words, Nashton spoke for the millions of Americans who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country — those who have remained faithful.  -J. Dobson & Gary Bauer, Children at Risk, Word, 1990, pp. 187-188.

In the story above no one could have prepared for what would happen that day. And it doesn’t take us long to discover that life and circumstances are bigger than we are. No matter how strong our resolve is to resist and desire to control the things that happen around us, we soon discover it isn’t possible. The young Marine gives us the proper approach we must take to live, “forever faithful.” The call from God is for us to remain faithful. We need to learn to trust in God. Finding strength in the eternal truth that GOD IS GOD, and He will control the outcome of our lives. Everything in all creation is subject to his will.

In Luke’s account of the works of the apostles in the book of Acts he shares this thought with the church. “Sovereign Lord…Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.” Acts 4:24

God has a plan you can trust in Him!

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

We can attempt to layout elaborate and detailed plans that clearly chart the direction our life will take, but none of that will matter unless God makes us able to accomplish those plans.

Planning aside, we cannot control the outcome of our lives. Our plans fail us. Circumstances beyond our control thwart those plans. Only God makes our dreams possible. Because the reality is that those are God’s ideas, we are a part of a bigger scheme that God is orchestrating in the world. God is Almighty! God is in control. And He will bring good into our lives even when everything is out of control!

Jeremiah 29:11, “11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

When the uncertainty of life begins to overwhelm, you find strength in the fact that God is almighty and is still sitting on the throne. The lesson for the believers today is that our ability to pray with holy boldness is grounded in the Church’s dependence on God’s strength. As we are praying, in the midst of our persecution we are asking God for those prayers to lift high the name of Jesus.

Other related articles on Praying through Persecution:

https://revheadpin.org/2016/12/16/a-simple-way-to-prayer-through-persecution%e2%80%8b-the-creator

Prayer

What to Pray In the Midst of Persecution​?

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In this post, we continue our discussion on prayer. This post is a four-part series on praying with boldness through problems.  The emphasis today is praying to the Creator of the Universe.

In Acts, chapter 4, the church and Christ’s disciples are being persecuted and harassed.  After one final and futile attempt to intimidate and silence the apostles by the Sanhedrin, they were released. Peter and John returned in the Greek to “…their own (people).” We do not know the number of individuals counted, but it was not the entire church which now consisted of 5,000 men. The two reported all that had happened to them and all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.

The first response of this group of believers was a bit unusual. They immediately turned their attention to Old Testament Scriptures, which referred to God as the Creator of all.  It is interesting the way the believers dealt with this persecution.  How they handled their problems I pray will give us insights on how to address our problems.

They Praised God as Creator.

That is an acknowledgment that God is in control of all things.

When I am feeling weak and overwhelmed by the troubles ahead of me, I don’t need a bigger version of myself to rely on. I need a smaller version of me and larger version of my God.  I need to come to grips with the truth that I may not be able to control things happening all around me.  So I need to raise my voice to the heavens and know and believe that there is a living, Almighty and powerful God who will come to my aid and work on my behalf!  I need a Creator-of-the-Universe size, God.

Hear the praise dripping from the lips of those who experienced this Creator-of-the-Universe size, God.

“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the people’s plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed.’

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.[1]” Acts 4:23-24

Oh, give thanks that God is God! When we pray, we should pray that the Holy Spirit would give us a bigger view of who God is. He alone is God.  God has no equal.  He takes a backseat to no one, and nothing is impossible or too difficult for Him! After all, he made the heavens and the earth.  Is there anything our God cannot do? That was the point the believers were making.  That is why they went back to the Old Testament.  Back to where it all began to remember just how powerful and impressive, our God is.  The creator God reminds us that He is in control of all things because He created all things.

September 11, 2001, is a day that is still too fresh in most of our minds. I remember that day feeling small and insignificant. There was this feeling of being “out of control.” One man who had no control over his world that day was Stanley Praimnath. Little did Stanley know when he prayed for his family that morning just how much he would need the blood of Jesus to cover and protect him. Stanley worked on the 81st floor of Tower #2 as a vice president for Fuji Bank Limited. He was at his desk on the phone when he saw the second plane coming straight for him. What can you do in the face of certain death? He jumped under his desk as the aircraft crashed into the building. The plane was burning just twenty feet away from him, but God miraculously helped Stanley and another man make it down all 81 flights of stairs before the building collapsed. Stanley knew that he was powerless to do anything, but God was in control and spared his life. He said, “…it was the handiwork of the Lord that turned that plane. My Lord Jesus is bigger than the Trade Center, and His finger can push a plane aside!”

The psalmist David knew what it was like for his life to be out of control. David’s enemies were trying to murder him. Was David overcome with fear? Was he paralyzed by his attackers? It all goes back to the idea that God is the maker, the creator, as these verses remind us:

  He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever.  Ps. 146:6

 O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Is. 37:1

David had learned that in the same way he had once cared for his sheep keeping the lion or bear from attacking and destroying the flock that God would watch over his children. David rested in the confidence that God was in control.

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 4:23–28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Prayer

How To Pray With A Thankful Spirit

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Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates an incident that taught her always to be thankful. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp. They had not seen Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them it overcrowded and flea-infested.

That morning, their Scripture reading was 1 Thessalonians. It would remind them to rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first refused to give thanks for the fleas. But Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings. During the months they spent at that camp, they were surprised at how freely they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings, without guard interference. It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the barracks. It was because of the fleas.[1]

The opening illustration points out an interesting dilemma we Christians face discussing praying with a thankful spirit. A grateful spirit becomes more challenging during times of oppression, persecution or grief than during periods of bliss. I have had seasoned, and new Christians ask me this question. “Please tell me how we are supposed to ignore all the pain and suffering and have a thankful attitude? What exactly I am thanking you for Lord?” Have you been there? Have you wanted to ask God this question? I want to explore the answer. We will see want answers God provides.

For our text, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:15-18

Be Joyful

One key to understanding the context is to realize Thanksgiving is addressed to God. The significance of this distinction is that our thankfulness is connected to God. We are thankful to God regardless of our circumstances and despite whatever may happen. We are not grateful for what happens to us. Our dedication is to God. The psalmist models this. You will see the psalmist pour his heart out to God in a lament. He is not thanking God for his situation, but the psalmist will lay his case before God. The writer releases his pain. He acknowledges his thankfulness for God’s faithfulness and strength. A sample of this is in Psalm 142. Examine the format below.

Address and introductory cry

With my voice, I cry out to the LORD;

with my voice, I plead for mercy to the LORD.

I pour out my complaint before him;

I tell my trouble before him.

When my spirit faints within me,

you know my way!

The Lament (the real problem)

In the path where I walk

they have hidden a trap for me.

Look to the right and see:

there is none who takes notice of me;

no refuge remains to me;

no one cares for my soul.

Confession of trust

I cry to you, O LORD;

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

The Christian through faith can rejoice in spite of meanness and persecution. The joy for the Christians is the result of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ. That Gospel wells up and overflows in the soul of the believer. This salvation is theirs in Christ. Our earthly joys fade, but for a brief moment due to our circumstances. We can remain thankful because the joy of salvation never fades. It is this joy of salvation that allows us to pray with a thankful spirit. So it is not the situation or some Pollyanna view of a broken world that shapes our thankfulness. We are reminded to rejoice in spite of the many little adversities. Satan will attempt to use against use to lessen and even darken our joy. But the Christian stands in bold defiance on the cross of Christ and declares, “Satan you will not take my joy. You will not ruin my happiness because my life merges into eternal joy.”

Other blog posts in this series on prayer.
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/13/how-prayer-can-be-like-eating-healthy
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/27/learning-to-pray-for-others-from-jesus
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/03/learning-to-pray-for-deliverance-from-jesus

 

[1] Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Prayer

Who Is Really In Charge?

Man Looking Up At Stars

Everything in heaven and earth is subject to God’s will.

 Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.  Acts 4:24

Are We Really In Control?

Let me be honest I like to be in control.  It is the desire of my heart to live my life with the with the grand delusion that I am can determine the outcome of events. Give all the options before me ignoring the reality that I am not is control has worked. Allow me to live the fantasy that life will turn out just the way it is supposed to. That works fine until fantasy smacks head first into the wall of reality.  When that horrible day happens my world gets turned inside out, then I am faced with this jarring question, “Who is really in charge?”

God has a Plan-Trust in Him!

It doesn’t take long to learn the painful lesson that life is bigger than we are.  Try as we might control the things that happen around us, we soon discover it isn’t possible. That’s when we need to learn to be reminded that God is in charge. Wouldn’t life be much simpler and less complicated if we started there?  It is such a bumpier ride to get there through trials and failures. Just come to the realization that GOD IS GOD, and we are not.  He is in control of the daily operation of our lives.  Everything in all creation is subject to his will.  Stop and ponder that for a moment.  When we do, we realize that this truth is freeing.  It takes the pressure off of us.  Humanity is not in control.  We mere mortals can let go of the worry.  Since worry cannot change the end products nor the outcomes, let go of it all.  God has this.

Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

The verse from Proverbs should provide us with comfort.  Our plans fail.  Our dreams do not always work out.  So how do we handle that failure?  Look to the one, God, who determines our steps.  Here is an illustration.

One who resided in the White House for four years with the family of Mr. Lincoln says that the great president once came into the room with slow and cumbersome step and sad countenances and threw himself upon a sofa, shading his eyes with his hands, a complete picture of dejection. Mrs. Lincoln observed his troubled look and asked,

“Where have you been, Father?”

“To the war department,” he answered.

“Any news?”

“Yes, plenty of news, but no good news. It is dark, dark everywhere.”

He then reached forth one of his long arms and took a small Bible from a stand near the head of the sofa, opened its pages, and was soon absorbed in reading them.

Fifteen minutes passed, and on glancing at the sofa his wife observed that the face of the president was more cheerful. His dejected expression was gone, and his countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope. Wondering at the marked change, and desiring to know what book of the Bible had comforted Mr. Lincoln, she walked gently around the sofa and saw that he was reading that divine comforter, Job.—Prairie Overcomer[1]

What lesson does the Book of Job teach us? God reigns!  Nothing happens outside of God divine plan.  He will bring good into our lives even when everything is out of control! That is a great reminder in this election season.  Honestly, there are days I am afraid to turn the radio and television on.  I walk away just feeling dirty from all this.  At those moments when it seems like all is lost, the reminder that God has plans for us gives me comfort. He said this through the prophet Jeremiah.

+ Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.[2]

 + Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.[3]

God is always there reminding us that He has plans for us. He teaches us through each situation to trust Him.  He uses these trials to fully prepared and mature us as His people. Never lose sight of the fact that God is the one who is in charge.

 

[1]  Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (pp. 1647–1648). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Je 29:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Prayer

Jesus Teaches Us to Pray for Unity

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In the vision for my blog I made my readers a promise. That promise was to be real. This past week my soul grieved. In my church body, we are going through a trying time. Our numbers have been declining for the last twenty years or so. This conflict has led to heated debates on what direction we should take. The natural tendency when you are sick is to ignore all the signs. You just hope the illness goes away, or to try radical new treatments to save the dying organization. Both sides of this pendulum are colliding with tremendous force in my church body. And this week I got caught in the middle of it. I am not on either side. I just want to find a way to connect those far from Jesus to Jesus.

At fifty plus years old I have reached a point in my life where I have no taste for fighting anymore. God’s mission is too important. Those far from God are too important. As we look at Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, the next section deals with unity. Jesus prayed that the believers be united. So, today as I a write this, I have a heavy heart. I too wish we could stop fighting against each other and fight against our common opponent Satan and his army.

A Prayer for Unity.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

William Wallace, the leading character in the movie “Braveheart” chastised his fellow Scots for allowing minor issues, internal strife, and power struggles to stand in the way of their fight for independence from the English. “We have beaten the English, but they’re back because you won’t stand together.” I feel that is what is happening far too often in the church. The enemy, Satan, has been defeated. When Jesus Christ rose on Easter Sunday, the message was clear. “Satan, you are finished! Christ is victorious.” But with our internal fights and disagreements, we have turned the sweet taste of victory into the bitterness of defeat. Understand, I realize disagreement is a part of relationships, but what is not normal is the inability to move one. When there are issues that need correcting, the church needs to have those discussions. If we fail to teach the truth of God’s word we are doing the work of Christ a disservice. There also needs to be a desire at the end of the day to work together to do our shared mission.

In this High Priestly prayer notice how often the word “one” is used. “One” it appears in verse 21, twice in 11 and 22. The unity of God’s church should reflect the unity of the Father and the Son. Verse 23 reveals to us the nature of this agreement: the Son is obedient to the Father, and the Father loves the Son (v 23). Paul describes us as many members, but one body (Rom 12:4-5, Col 3:15).

To be crystal clear, to be one is not the absence of opinions. Opinions are healthy. But this unity is the lack of divisions. The church causes the greatest damage when it allows disagreement and disunity to grow in the body like an open sore. That open sore unchecked only festers and swells and spreads until it kills the body. Disunity weakens the effectiveness of the gospel. It scatters the flock. Disunity muffles the church’s witness in the world. The outside world looks at a church without unity and asks, “Who can believe their message?”

Let us not be divided, but united, to grow the church into what God would have it be. A pastor reminded me when I started in ministry, “there is nothing on earth like the local church when it is working right. It has the power to transform and changes lives.” Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ know that He is praying for you.

Jesus wants us to live as children of God. He promises to give us the strength to face whatever comes. Remember to pray for those around you and those far away. Bear in mind that we are to be salt and light to a bland and dark world. Bear in mind that Jesus is praying for us. Be like the tree of Psalm 1, “…their delight is in the law of the Lord…They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in due season.”

Other posts in this series on Prayer:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/13/how-prayer-can-be-like-eating-healthy
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/20/how-to-pray-with-a-thankful-spirit
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/27/learning-to-pray-for-others-from-jesus
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/03/learning-to-pray-for-deliverance-from-jesus

 

Prayer

Learning to Pray For Others From Jesus

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Prayer is such a difficult spiritual discipline.  We often find ourselves with our heart in the right place but the words to say come with lots of difficulties.  I found this illustration funny.

A mother listening to the evening prayers of her sleepy little daughter is astonished and amazed to hear the following:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

And when he hollers let him go,

Eenie, Meenie, miny, mo.”

—Balance Sheet[1]

As we continue to go deeper into this series on prayer, it seems only fitting to take a look at one of Jesus’ most famous prayers.  This prayer in John is referred to by many as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer found in John 17.  Over the next two weeks, this will be our focus.

This prayer was for special people. “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me because they belong to you”(v. 9).  In reading this beautiful prayer through, one big question comes to minds; Who are the people described as “them,” or as “they?” Who are these favored individuals?  Those who share a Savior’s prayers and are recognized by a Savior’s love?  Who have their names written on the stones of his precious breastplate? Who have their characters and their circumstances mentioned by the lips of the High Priest before the throne on high? The answer to that question is in the words of our text.

The people for whom Christ prays are an “unearthly people.” They are a people somewhat above the world.  “They are not of the world.”  Just like our Savior, not of the world.  They were a people set apart for a holy purpose which we will get into more next week so stay tuned.

A Prayer for Security – (v. 11-13)

Now I am departing the world; I am leaving them behind and coming to you. Holy Father, keep them and care for them – all those you have given me – so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I have kept them safe. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. “And now I am coming to you. I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my joy.

This section is unique because it is the only place in the Gospel of John where we find Jesus using the term “Holy Father.”   One Bible scholar, Darby, suggests that Jesus uses this term because he wants God to watch over us like a Father would.

I love that image of an Almighty God with all his power and might watching over each of us with the affection of a loving Father.  That should give us a great sense of peace and calm.  When all else around us is uncertain and at times scary, we have a Father protecting us, with a never sleeping watchful eye.

For those asking the question, “But some Christians under attack and have not some died? Where was the Almighty God when those atrocities happened?”

The prayer is not that God would stop evil from ever happening to Christians, it is to protect them giving into the darkness around them.  Jesus expresses this in his request, “Holy Father, guard them.”  Christians are in direct contrasts with the world which is unholy.  The request for God to protect or guard is in harmony with God’s will. We see that God defends the disciples against all unholiness while they are still in the world. God is holy in that he is absolutely separated from and actively opposed to all sin. God seeks, by his grace, to save men from sin, to separate us from the world and keeps us set apart for himself, separate and holy. Jesus prays to the Father, “…guard them in your name, which you have given me.”

There are two different forms of the word “keep” used in verse 12.  One meaning more “I preserve” the other meaning more “I guarded”.  Jesus is only reminding the Father:

“While I was in the world, I guarded them as a means to their preservation.  Now I am no more in the world, and I come to you, Father to preserve them in your name.”

You almost see this from a parent’s perspective.  You raised your children, kept them safe.  Now they are about to go off to college leaving the safety of your house.   You guarded them while they were with you.  Now you are asking God the Father to protect them because you can’t do it anymore.  That is the essence of what this prayer is capturing.  “Lord, watch over the ones you have placed in my care. I can no longer protect them.”   We see in this prayer the loving heart and concern of our Savior, Jesus Christ. What an abundant blessing our prayers lives could be if we prayed for others with the compassion of Jesus.

 

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1044). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

Other blogs in this series on Prayer:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/13/how-prayer-can-be-like-eating-healthy