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Thursday, December 27, 2012

PRAYING FOR THE MESSIAH

At the conclusion of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus Mary and Joseph bring the babe to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. They are met there by Simeon and Anna. Anna had been praying and fasting in the temple night and day into her 84th year. What had she, and as I suppose, Simeon, been praying for all that time. They were praying for the Messiah. Only His presence would suffice for the world.
We too can pray something similar. I often pray for people whose needs are obviously more complex than I can fully fathom. But I can pray for our Lord to touch them personally. He is the only answer that will do.

 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

TREMBLING AT CHRISTMAS


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.[1]

Holy fear has been a natural part of Christmas from the beginning. The angel calmed their fears with the good news of great joy. Today both the fear and joy of Christmas are lost in worldliness. And the lostness is so deeply ingrained in our own hearts as well as our society. Nothing is powerful enough to break its hold upon our hearts but trembling in fearful joy over the good news of great joy that the God of the universe has come to us.



[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 (Lk 2:8–9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

CULTIVATING THE FEAR OF THE LORD


I had a conversation this week with several men about the fear of the Lord. One of the men asked the obvious question of how you develop the fear of the Lord. I have several suggestions on this concern.

First, I think the question needs to be directed in the primary position. The first question is not “How do we raise the fear of the Lord in society?” We must first ask how we cultivate the fear of the Lord in ourselves. I believe there are three crucial factors in developing fear in our own hearts. (1.) We need to expose ourselves to the reality of God primarily through scripture. The absence of the fear of the Lord is an intellectual disconnect from the reality of God. John did not have to cultivate fear when he saw the glorified Christ in The Revelation. Isaiah did not have to work it up in his vision in the temple [Isaiah 6]. (2.) We must ask God to reveal Himself to us. We need to be supernaturally drawn nearer and nearer into God’s presence. (3.) Praise the Lord. Speak about His majesty, holiness, greatness and glory. We are stirred by God’s glory as we express it in our words.

From here we do not turn the question directly to society. We must next ask how to stir the fear of the Lord in our families and in the family of God. The same three steps must be applied to these circles. (1.) We must expose our families conjugal and spiritual to the glory of God primarily through scripture. (2.) We must ask God to reveal His glory to us. And (3.) we must express His glory for the ears of those gathered. This is one obvious means for the fear of the Lord to become contagious.

Now, how does this apply to society in general or to an entire people-group, our own or another? Well these same three elements are necessary. Only here I would suggest that the order becomes crucial and needs to be rearranged from what I have listed in the two categories above. Prayer must be the first element. It may very well be the most deficient in most of our efforts. And where revival or an awakening broke out in the past, prayer, extraordinary prayer, was always most prominent.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

TREMBLING TOGETHER

Most of us are aware that the wonderful directions for worship in Ephesians 5 are plural. We are to sing and pray and give thanks together. But most of us have not thought much about verse 21 the concluding verse of the passage. “Submit to one another in the fear of Christ.” Grammatically this verse is part of a sentence that begins with verse 18. The only active verb from verse 18 through verse 21 is “Be filed.” All of these things, singing, giving thanks and submitting to one another are applications of the filling of the Spirit. We tend to think of the Spirit’s filling as individual. But the verb “be filled is also plural. There is obviously some individual participation in this matter but the picture is of the church being filled together with the Spirit of Christ. In this context verse 21 brings in the fear of the Lord. We often take these words as the reason for submitting to one another. And frankly, I believe that to be a legitimate application. But I also think it is calling us to tremble in together in our worship. The fear of the Lord can be contagious in worship as the Spirit of God moves on the body of Christ.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

WATCHING IN FEAR

A few weeks ago I picked up The Fear Factor by O.S. Hawkins. I believe this is the most important book I have read this year. Hawkins showed how important it was that the church throughout the book of Acts walked in the fear of the Lord. The theses of The Fear Factor springs from Acts 9:31.

“So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it multiplied.”

If any single statement characterizes the church in America it is the absence of the fear of the Lord. We are much more into preventing fear. That may be because we do not understand the difference between the fears of the world and the Fear of The Lord. A good place to see these two highlighted is at the end of Mark 4. After Jesus had taught all day the disciples took Him in their boat across the sea. He lay down on a pillow in the bow and went to sleep. A terrific storm descended on the sea so that experienced fishermen were afraid. They went and woke Jesus, “Master, you not care if we perish!” Jesus woke and standing out on the deck rebuked the storm. Immediately the wind calmed and the storm ceased. The final verse of Mark 4 says the disciples were more afraid. They were terrified. “What kind of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey him!”

Now notice this final fear. It was not fear that Jesus would punish them. It was a greater, all-consuming fear that caused them to tremble because they were in the presence of God. Do you tremble in the presence of God? Such fear will affect our thinking, our living and yes our watching and praying.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

WATCHING IN THANKSGIVING

Colossians 4:2 calls us to be steadfast in prayer. That is certainly God’s call for us in these days. The verse continues, “watching in the same.” This touches the heart of this blog. And the verse concludes with the words, “in thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is a major key to steadfast prayer. Thanksgiving expresses and also produces a joyful attitude in prayer. Thanksgiving develops the faith that keeps us watching and calling upon God in prayer. As scripture calls us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), our thanksgiving is an expression of faith. If you have not given thanks by faith you have certainly not been obeying the command to give thanks in all situations.

“Give thanks, with a grateful heart.

Give thanks to the Holy One.

Give thanks because He’s giving Jesus Christ His son.”

(from Give Thanks by Henry Smith)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

PRAYING IN THE LAST DAYS #3

The Purpose of Prayer
Much praying in these days misses the purpose of God on the earth. Our purpose was dramatically portrayed by the Spirit of God on the Day of Pentecost. Our prayers like the miracle of Pentecost should be aimed at the uttermost parts of the earth, at every “ethnos” [1] or people group on earth. World missions is the purpose of the church in the world. And Jesus said, This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [2]
I have cancer. And that affects my prayer life. I am not interested in aiming my prayers at finding a better parking place at the Old Country Buffet. I sense the urgency to pray for the world.



[1] The Greek word translated “nations” in Acts 2 refers to ethnic groups.
[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 (Mt 24:14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

PRAYING IN THE LAST DAYS #2

Many of us are still familiar with the post-millennial hymn lyrics, “And the darkness shall turn to the dawning and the dawning to noon day bright. And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth a kingdom of truth and light.” However the New Testament says some different things about the last days. In 2 Timothy 3 Paul wrote, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

How do we respond when we see such things happening around us however near or far we are from the end? We can complain at the dissolution of our society. We could gripe at the wrong that we see in politics and the media. Or we can pray. Whatever else God calls us to do in these days, we must pray. We can no longer live under the illusion that anything short of the power of God will accomplish the will of God in our time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

PRAYING IN THE LAST DAYS #1, The POWER of the Last Days

Some of us feel led of God to pray for a move of His Spirit in these days like took place on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. As Peter quoted,

  “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

There is a sense in which the last days began with this momentous event. But Peter was not saying those were the last days. He was saying this is what will happen in the last days. Are you praying for the power of God to be unleashed on the hearts of men in these days? Are you praying to see what only the hand of God can accomplish?

 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

KNEELING IN THE GAP

Are you standing in the gap for the place where you live? In Genesis 18:17 the Lord said to the two men who were headed to Sodom and Gomorrah. “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” And so in the permission of God Abraham pleaded for the city to be spared. Moses interceded for God to spare Israel in their rebellion. Psalm 106:23 says,
Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
God spoke about Israel in Ezekiel 22:30 saying He sought for a person to stand in the gap so He would not destroy them and He found none.
Will you become the intercessor for your neighborhood? For your city? For cities in your region? For America? O that there might be intercessors. Will we wait until the day that Noah, Job and Daniel (Eze.22:30) could not intercede for America to begin to pray seriously about her?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

SPIRITUAL MUSCLE CRAMPS

Awake in the night with burning stomach and muscle cramps; I know this to be typical if only occasional effect of my cancer treatments. I am also having spiritual cramps. I am able to pray while I am up in the night. But my mind will not move on from people I have prayed for whose lives are crashing in sin or its consequences. Some of them were people for whom I had seen great answers to prayer. I understand Paul’s lamentation in 2 Corinthians chapter 11.

“And, apart from other things,
there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”
 
I do not enjoy this trial. And I am tempted to give up on such prayers. But I know the Heavenly Physician is subjecting me to spiritual treatments. I am the silver chalice being purified in this fiery blast furnace. And by God’s grace some of these for whom I pray will yet drink the life changing elixir from God’s vessel that is being formed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

WITHOUT LOSING HEART

Have you ever prayed and not seen answers? Most of us have been discouraged by this phenomenon. Discouragement is one of the primary weapons the enemy throws at our prayer lives. If you wish to be a powerful prayer warrior you must be able to quench his darts with the shield of faith. Luke chapter 18 begins, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The parable Jesus told here was about a powerless widow going to an unjust judge. She was persistent even though her cause seemed hopeless.

2 Corinthians chapters 4 speaks to anyone who longs for supernatural ministry. It begins with the words,

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”

If you are looking on temporal things, you will be discouraged. The words lose heart translate the same word used in Luke 18:1. In the Corinthian passages Paul speaks of our situation as mortals in supernatural warfare; afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. Verse 16 uses the same word again, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” In the presence of God we are renewed in the assurance of invisible and eternal things. Verses 17 and 18 continue, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

ENTERING HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

How do you begin your prayers? I suspect King David and the Holy Spirit inspiring him were not simply speaking of entering the formal temple when they gave us the 100th Psalm. Verse 2 shows us that the psalm is about coming into the presence of the Lord. Verse 4 might well be applied to beginning prayers.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
Discipline yourself to spend time praising God before you do anything else in your private prayers. You will find that changes the whole tenor of your prayers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

LIGHTENING ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP

                               Standing on the thundering alp,

Drenched in heaven's driving tears

With bending knees and tingling scalp

My glasses whining in my ears;

 

He's drawn me to this holy place.

Trembling in His phosphorescence,

I'm wincing from His gleaming face,

Shying from His holy presence.

 

Streamers reaching from my heart

Do not draw the heavens there.

Though I do my trembling part

Heaven draws and meets my prayer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Out of the Depths 2 GLORIFY YOUR NAME!


How do you pray when your heart is troubled? Think with me back to a time when your heart was grieved or broken. Some of you do not have to think far back. How did you pray? Did you pray for comfort? Did you pray for deliverance? Did you ask God to turn your heart ache into joy? Did you ask him to change your circumstances? Those are surely legitimate prayers.
Do you ever ask yourself or God what you should pray in such times? In John 12:27 we find Jesus before the cross asking what He should pray.

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say?

‘Father, save me from this hour’?”

But Jesus knew His purpose in life was not to avoid pain. Is that your purpose in living? It is not your purpose before God.

On this occasion Jesus prayed His purpose and ours.

“Father, glorify Your Name!”

The Father affirmed the rightness of that prayer with a thunderous voice from heaven.

I have glorified it and will glorify it again!”

Some of the people standing around said, “It thundered!” Others said, “An angel has spoken to him!” But Jesus said, “No. This voice was not for my sake but yours.” The voice was for us. Are you asking God to glorify His name?”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

OUT OF THE DEPTHS 1

Have you read Psalm 130 recently? Open your Bible now, or the next chance you get, and read this powerful psalm. It begins, Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

You have probably cried out to the Lord out of the depths of trouble or heart ache. We just received an e-mail from a close friend whose cancer has made a turn for the worse. We cried out with her in desperate prayer. Some of our most powerful praying springs from the depths of trouble.

Troubles often humble our hearts before God. The next stanza of the psalm begins,

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?

But nothing increases the confidence of our faith like praying from the depths. The next verse concludes,

But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

And our hope is made strong as we pray in times when there seems to be no immediate hope. The psalm confirms,

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning.

And such prayers become a powerful testimony. Nothing calls others to join us in prayer like praying out of the depths. The psalm concludes with a call for the people of God to put their hope in the Lord. Crying out to God in trouble will call others to cry out to Him as well.

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

PRAYING FOR PRAYER

Many years ago I was asked to speak at a prayer retreat for a church. They had heard that the church I pastored agreed at the beginning of each year on a few things that all of us would pray for in the year. They wanted to do the same thing and asked me to help them come up with a list. One of the things they thought they should pray for that year was that they might become a praying church. They chose three other things they all believed they needed to pray for. Then they reduced each statement into one word so it would be easy to remember. When they came to becoming a praying church, they simply used the word “PRAYER.” I thought it very appropriate for them to be praying for prayer.

I pray for my prayers. I pray for God to help me discipline myself to spend time in prayer. I pray for God to help me keep my mind focused while I am praying. I pray for God to direct my heart to pray in His will. And I trust the Spirit who aids us in our weaknesses to inspire the prayers of my heart.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

WITH YOU IN SPIRIT


Paul makes a statement in 1 Corinthians 5 about being with the Corinthian church in Spirit. That used to be a fairly common statement especially among church people.

“I can’t be there, but I am with you in Spirit.”

I suppose I am glad we no longer hear that much because the statement was weakened by its use as an excuse for not being at church because of work or a vacation or a ball game or an ox rigorously pushed into the ditch.

But I do think we ought to grasp the full meaning of this phrase. It should especially be used with missionaries serving overseas and for anyone whose heart we genuinely connect with.
 
Connecting with someone by the Holy Spirit means groaning with the Spirit that groans with someone we care about. Paul used this phrase to address a church in the midst of crisis. Being with someone in Spirit means sharing the burden of a Holy Spirit inspired purpose and vision.

Being with someone in Spirit surely includes prayer. Sometime after my cancer and treatments had reduced my endurance I was involved in an outdoor crusade. I preached the first night. But I was too exhausted to go the next night. So I spent the whole time of the service praying for the preacher, the people and the neighborhood where the crusade was held. I was with them in Spirit.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stretching Your Prayer Life 3 STRETCHING YOUR FOCUS

God uses prayer lists to narrow the focus of my prayer life. When I start writing out prayer lists I prayerfully seek what God wants me to believe Him for. Continuing to pray for the people and things on these lists keeps my faith focused in the direction God is leading.

A prayer list also broadens the focus of my prayer life. With a prayer list the Holy Spirit disciplines me to trust God over a period of time. It is one thing to pray for someone today. It is another to commit to pray every day. In time I begin to see God working over the course of the life of a person I am praying for and over the course of my own life as well.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stretching my Prayer Life 2 PRAYER LISTS STRETCH MY FAITH

When I start making a list of prayer requests God always puts people on my list whose problems seem too complex to heal. I am often amazed when they start to turn things around in their lives. Then more often than not they disappoint me terribly. I would give up except I have committed to pray for the list they are on. Continuing to pray stretches my faith far more than seeing answers great or small.

Friday, August 10, 2012

STRETCHING YOUR PRAYER LIFE


If we are going to pray like we have never prayed before we are going to need to stretch our prayer lives. From time to time in the months to come I will make suggestions of ways to increase the quantity and quality of your prayers. But at this early point I am suggesting something so simple that many of you will discount it; a prayer list.

A godly deacon in the church I pastored in the 1970s used to pray, "Lord, help us to pray for all those for whom it is our duty to pray." His prayer reminds me of the words of Samuel after the people had demanded a king. "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." There are people that it is your duty before God to pray for. And the only way I know how to consistently pray for them is to write their names down and discipline yourself to pray for them.

            God can use a simple prayer list to stretch the compassion of your prayer life. As I have made lists and committed to pray for people on a daily basis God always prompts me to pray for people I don't really like. I am often amazed at how God expands the dynamics of my relationship with Him as I discipline myself to pray for that person I am tempted to envy; or to pray for that person who slighted me and so offended my pride; to pray for that person I disagree with; to pray for that person who disgusts or intimidates me. I know of no more effective tool for stretching my shriveled unchristlike attitudes than praying for people God impresses me to pray for on a consistent basis.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

DOES GOD ANSWER VAGUE PRAYERS 3


The process of struggling to hear God’s will in a matter brings us to conviction in what we are praying. When you have struggled over time in prayer you not only begin to hear God more clearly, but you believe more fiercely in what you are asking from God. Although we should be quick to pray, quick thoughtless prayers miss the heart of New Testament teaching. Matthew 7:7-8 calls us to ask, and seek and knock in prayer. But the tense in the original language calls for continual action. It might well be translated as both the Amplified and The Holman Christian Standard Version indicate, “Ask and keep on asking. Seek and keep on seeking. Keep on knocking.” Biblical prayer is not the whim of a moment but theconviction of a life time to the God of eternity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DOES GOD ANSWER VAGUE PRAYERS - 2


If by vague prayers, you mean careless, unfocused, unburdened prayers I doubt if they can be answered.

Last week I shared my experience with vague prayers. But we should never base theology on human experience. What does the Bible say about this matter? Well, first of all I need to say that the Bible never says God does not answer vague prayers. However, it does discourage some things that fall into the category of vague prayers. If by vague prayers we mean careless, unfocused, unburdened prayers, I doubt if they can be answered.

And the Bible does encourage specific prayers. Passages like the story of Jesus asking the blind men what they wanted Him to do for them (Mt.20:32) nudge us in that direction. But other passages like God’s pleasure with Solomon’s request for wisdom (2 Chron.1:11) indicate that it is wise to consider even struggle over what we ask for. Specific prayer often needs to be a process. God takes time to hone our vague praying to the sharpened point of His will in a matter. And His will is nearly always different and greater than I would have prayed at first.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DOES GOD ANSWER VAGUE PRAYERS?-1

I just finished reading one of the best books I have read in years. But I would like to challenge a statement in the book. The author gave a well-known quote from one of the spiritual giants of our day. “God does not answer vague prayers.” To be honest that is not my experience. In the past few years I have celebrated many such answers. In most of these I knew to pray for a person or situation, but just did not know what to pray. In one notable case I sensed a check in my spirit anytime I tried to pray something specific for a particular family. I began simply to take them daily to God asking Him to work in their lives. I was not sure I wasn’t praying for judgment to fall on ungodly people whom He may have raised up like Pharaoh (Rom.9:17). I was astounded when I received news that the couple had started going to church. I was not surprised to hear that the teenage nephew living with them who had been bounced from home to home all of his life was making fun of their church going. Finally I heard that the boy was dramatically saved.
Now I will grant what some of you may be thinking. I do not know if I was the only one praying for this family. And I do not know that God did not work in spite of my weak prayers. However, such questions can be asked about any answer to prayer. I suspect these factors play a part in all praying. I thank God that His work does not depend on my getting prayer right all the time. And if I am praying for someone, I believe God is probably urging someone else to pray as well. That is part of the wonder of the family of God.











Friday, July 13, 2012

WILL YOU WATCH?

I am calling this blog "Watching in Prayer." One of my life verses, Habakkuk 2:1-3, begins, "I will stand at my watch and station myself on the rampart."
To a great extent I see God's church today as watchmen on the rampart in the midst of a spiritual war. There is a great history of this picture in the Bible. One notable example is Ezekiel 33 where God spoke of putting a watchmen on the wall to warn of impending judgment. Jesus gave us another striking use of this picture in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the night He was arrested He took Peter, James and John aside in the darkened garden and asked them to watch with Him. When He returned and found them asleep He asked if they could not watch with Him for an hour. "Watch and pray," Jesus told them and us, "lest you fall into temptation."
Like that fateful hour before the cross, these are crucial days in God's working on the earth. And it is urgent that God's people pray as we have never prayed. Have all the mighty prayer warriors passed from the earth? I am devoting this blog to biblical teachings and encouragement for God's people to watch and pray.
I will encourage you to grow in intimacy with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit as we watch together with Him. And I will share prayer requests and encourage you to pray for God's work throughout the world in these exciting days.
Dave