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Sunday, June 25, 2017

FEELING OUR PRAYERS

When I was in high school there was a mature Christian who worked with the youth in our church. He encouraged young people to go through The Navigators’ Bible memory program (TMS) and led what were called deeper life Bible studies. While I was away at college I heard he was extremely ill and nearly died. During that time I prayed sporadically but earnestly for him.
Several years later I saw him again for the first time after his recovery. I was thrilled to see him back at his work. And I told him I had prayed for him. His answer seemed strange to me. He said, “Brother, l felt those prayers.”
I cannot think of any place in the Bible that links prayer with feeling. I think of prayer like Elijah at Mt. Carmel. When fire fell from heaven the people felt Elijah's prayer like you might feel a tornado. Trembling with fear they fell on their faces crying, “The LORD He is God!”
The Children of Israel had to be frightened when the Red Sea parted. Nothing less than the Armies of Pharaoh could have made them walk out into that canyon between two towers of water held in place by the wind. They felt the power of God, but it was certainly not just internal.
Still, in a way I understand what my friend might have meant. The God who works by parting seas and healing the sick also comforts His children. People can feel God's embrace as we pray. I believe someone can be assured of the presence of God because others are praying. And people can know God holds them tightly in His hands because we are praying for them.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

PRAYING IN THE AFTERMATH

Have you ever been too sick to pray? I doubt it. Unless you were unconscious, you were not. You were probably never hurting too much to cry out to God. You were never too upset to pray. When you most upset you had to tell God.
But did you pray as much or as fervently after you began to feel better? I seldom have, and that is a shame. God often speaks clearly to us through illness, even if it is no more than a cold. But it is hardest to hear His voice when we are distracted by discomfort. When you are feeling a little better, you need to pray for sound insights. That is the time you will be able to fathom the depth of what God has been saying in the time of illness.
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Sunday, May 7, 2017

THE SINNER'S PRAYER

I have tremendous respect for David Platt. I pray nearly every day for God to continue to use him mightily. I recommend listening to his sermons. You can find many of them on YouTube. David has shocked people by preaching against telling people to pray a sinner's prayer. He rightly notes that we have been guilty of communicating to people that they can be right with God by praying those words as a sort of ritual without becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I agree with David. But I also believe a person cannot become a disciple without a direct connection with the Lord. That is prayer. We respond to God's embrace in prayer. If we look at the words we use as a conversion prayer, we see this intent.
We encourage people to pray a prayer of the conviction of sin.
Lord I know I am a sinner.”
We also include repentance.
I want to turn from my sins to you.”
If we are going to lead people to invite Christ into their life, we should warn them that they are doing business with Almighty God. They need to be fearful of praying such words without meaning them.
And inherent is the gospel is the fact that we cannot even repent without God's help. People do not come to God by their sincerity. We must come receiving His forgiveness.
I know You died for me. I accept your forgiveness, and Your gift of eternal life. I trust myself to You.”
One of the problems with using the “sinner's prayer” for evangelism is that it is so easy. It is tempting for us because we don't have to enter into a life-long relationship with the person praying. Just get them to pray these words.
It is also too easy for the person coming to Christ. Someone can pray those words without even thinking. I also believe a person can come to Christ and truly be born again without saying the right words. We might suggest that a person think about the decision she is making over night before she prays such a prayer. Of course, we will need to be sensitive to the person and to the Holy Spirit in the situation. But You can trust Him to bring to completion the work He has begun in a person who has heard the gospel.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

IDEAL PRAYER

I want to speak to you today about ideal prayer. I want you to see the nature of the prayer life we are growing into. Before I begin, I need to say that you do not have to be mature in your prayer to connect with God and affect the world. The Bible calls us to pray all the time whether you know what to pray or not. Although we are weak and shallow and immature, we're praying to a God who is infinite, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
At the same time it is important to see what our prayer is growing toward. One of the passages that give us the best picture of the prayer available to us is John 15. Look with me at John 15:7,8.
“If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
This verse begins, "If you remain in me." It is important to see that this is part of the same thought as John 15:5.
“I am the vine you are the branches. If anyone remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus is talking about ultimate continual intimacy. This is related to Paul's command for us to pray without ceasing. Remaining in Him is to live every day in constant awareness of His presence, in constant intimacy with Him. John 17 is essentially in the same context. There Jesus prayed a powerful prayer for us. Toward the end of that prayer He prayed that we would be unified with Him and with the Father, “I in them and you and me.”
John 15:7 continues, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Do His words dwell in your mind and heart? Do you see how this is essential to prayer? You and I are bombarded with influences on every hand. To weed out those influences we need God's voice speaking to us, His word influencing us. What are the Lord's words to us? Are His words only the words Jesus spoke while He walked on Earth? His word certainly includes those. But His word would also include the entire Bible. Everything in the Bible focuses on Him. In John 5:39 Jesus said “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life and they are they which testify of me.” All Scripture is about Him. We see and connect with Him in Scripture.
His word will speak to you in any situation. If you wish to remain in His word, you need to memorize Scripture. I have sometimes had a scripture come to my mind that I had not memorized. That is a work of the Holy Spirit. However, I can multiply the occurrence of that by memorizing verses. Let me tell you something about the very passage that I'm writing to you about right now. These verses struck me some time ago. At the time I really wasn't exactly sure what He was saying to me. But I memorized the verses. Then I put them into my prayer guide that I pray through every day. And I begin to sense God speaking to me more and more.
Strangely enough, I remember getting glimpses of verses like this as a young Christian, and feeling like there was something wrong about them. It it seemed to me that God was saying, “If you pray what I want you to pray, you can have what you pray for. And there is a sense in which that is true. But of course I did not take into account that I didn't know what I would enjoy and what would be best for me nearly as well as God who loved me with everlasting love. It is a little like a child wanting to drive a car. He thinks being in control of that car means he can drive anywhere and anyway he wishes. But to really be in control he needs to stay on the road rather than the sidewalk or the front room of your house. Prayer is more powerful than any car. Remaining and his word matures our thinking. We begin to want what is best for us what is right what pleases God even if we do not understand it.
And the answered prayer that flows out of abiding in Him glorifies Jesus. Many wise people down through history have discovered that selfishness is the source of bitterness and heartache. But in fellowship with Jesus we discover the joy of glorifying our heavenly Father. Nothing else breaks our selfish perspective. And we are able to glorify Him as our prayers bear fruit. As God blesses others through our prayers, people will recognize that we are truly His disciples.

Monday, March 20, 2017

HUNGERING FOR GOD

Do you pray because you hunger for God? Or do you want what you are praying for more than you want God? I recently heard someone tell about being so desperate for something she wanted, that she spent days hunting for things she was doing wrong to repent of so God would  answer her prayer. And she said God did answer.
Do you hear the theology behind that? The notion that we need to get as right with God as possible so he will give us what we really want is not Christian. It is typical religion. You can find this thinking in every religion and cult group. Pharisees would have wholeheartedly endorsed this theology. But Jesus did not teach this kind of devotion. He taught some things that might be mistaken for it. He taught us to pray for what we want and need because He loves us. And He certainly taught repentance because we need it.
But we are to be devoted to God because we love Him. We should be willing to give up what we want in order to draw nearer to our Lord, rather than trying to draw nearer to God, so He will give us what we really want.
Suppose you passed on and left an inheritance for your daughter. And she fell in love and got married. Shortly after they were married her husband discovered he couldn't get his hands on the inheritance. And he told her plainly he was leaving because he really didn't love her, he only wanted her money. Would she feel used? How would you feel in that situation?
I made one of the most important commitments of my entire life as a young person at youth camp. Several years later at the same camp a friend asked me to come off alone with him because he needed to get right with God. One of the first things he told me was if he came home from camp without making a decision for Christ, his dad wouldn't let him get his driver’s permit. Would it surprise you that that his decision didn't make any difference in his life that next year?
How might it change your prayer life if you prayed because you needed God and wanted Him more than you wanted to be healed, or needed help in trouble, or whatever you want God to give you?


Monday, March 6, 2017

PRAYING YOUR SABBATH

I believe we have to some extent lost the concept of observing the Sabbath in these days. I believe we still need a Sabbath rest. Hebrews 4 indicates that Jesus is now our Sabbath. Whatever other applications there are to this truth, it certainly means we rest in our relationship with Him. And the most important facet of observing a Sabbath rest is prayer.
By prayer we come to intimacy with God. It is worth something to devote a day once a week to prayer. I don't think I should never have recreation on my Sabbath. But recreation shouldn't take precedence over prayer.
A Sabbath should include some physical rest. Jesus taught and healed on the Sabbath. But He also took His disciples off for an occasional vacation. But I can pray while I am resting physically.
Are you praying a Sabbath rest?
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Monday, February 20, 2017

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

I want to address Prayer Warriors and those of you who long very much to become prayer Warriors. In the Old Testament book of Esther Mordecai spoke to his niece the queen, saying  “Who knows perhaps you have been raised up for such a time as this.”
You have been raised up for this very day. I am not qualified to determine exactly what kind of era we are living in. The beginning of A Tale of Two Cities may well apply to our age. It is the best of times and the worst of times. We are enjoying the rich blessings of God. We may be on the verge of apocalypse. But it really does not matter what unique day we are living in. God has raised you up to be a prayer warrior in these days.
God may have raised you up to be a prayer warrior in days in which we are so blessed that it is difficult to find time to pray, when there are so many distractions entertainments and blessings to enjoy. You may have to sacrifice watching your favorite your favorite television program or going to a game where your favorite team is playing an archrival. These may be days in which God raises up an army of people who love him more than the things He gives us. Instead of taking long relaxing vacations people take could go on mission trips to pray for people in other countries. This may be a day when people pray despite allurements the enemy throws in front of us.
While I certainly believe this is partially true. I am also convinced that you are raised up to pray in times of great moral crises. You and those around you will face heartache and trials. I believe we are going to see terrible judgment in these days. In fact, prayer movements in history have accompanied or preceded judgment. A case in point is the great prayer revival of 1858. It preceded the Civil War that God brought upon our country because of the sin of slavery. People were able to endure those days, many went to heaven, because of that revival.
I believe the return of Christ is imminent. If that is the case, we are about to enter into the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen. And we may have been raised up to pray that the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever seen will come about simultaneously.
Now, whether the return of Christ is near or not, most of you know that you are going to face severe difficulty and heartache in your life, and your family, in your neighborhood, in your city, in your nation. This is your day! In John 12:27 Jesus admitted that His heart was troubled. And He asked rhetorically if He should pray to be delivered from those days. “But,” He said, “for this purpose I have come to this hour.” You are hear for this very purpose. God has raised you up for such a time as this.