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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

STRUGGLING FOR PRAYER THROUGH THE YEAR

Have you considered determining some things to commit to pray for all year? I have written in earlier blogs about committing to long term prayers. Doing this helps us get our spiritual teeth into more consequential matters. This kind of praying excludes the trivial. You will not be tempted at the beginning of a year to pray for a better parking place at the donut shop. You will have to think about, possibly struggle in prayer to determine yearlong prayers. You may even find yourself praying for things that will cause you pain.
I recently heard a sermon by Tim Keller on Romans 8:28. He emphasized the fact that this verse does not promise that the lives of believers will be easier or better than that of those who do not love God. This verse cannot be severed from verse 29 which says God will use hard things to make us like Jesus.
As I looked at the passage I realized that we also cannot separate these verses from verses 26 and 27 which begin by saying we don’t know what to pray for as we ought. I thank God that this verse assures us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. He intercedes for me rather than God answering foolish, selfish and sinful prayers I sometimes pray. I am not alone in such foolishness. Elijah prayed for God to take his life. But God interceded by explaining His will to the prophet. In the same way the Holy Spirit brings us into His intercession. As we grow in the Lord we come to understand how He wants us to pray even when what we are to pray for will be difficult or painful. The angel told Ananias that God was going to show Paul how much he would suffer for the name of Jesus.
I am praying for God’s Spirit to show me what He is doing and how I am to pray for His perfecting work in my life. He has already promised that the joy will be worth the sacrifice.
 
 
http://daveswatch.com/ 
 



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

PRAY FOR CHRISTMAS

Like many of you, we have been listening to a radio station that plays only Christmas music this time of year. One afternoon I sat down to listen for a while. For five or six songs in a row they played only “secular” Christmas songs. There are a wide variety of them from Jingle Bells and Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire to Santa Baby and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. As I sat there I began to wonder if the holiday had not been turned back to Saturnalia.


I am not the only one who has grieved over the worldly influences on Christmas. What do we do about this? Am I entirely too impractical, if I suggest that we pray. It is crucial to pray for this most important holiday in American life. It is reasonable for God's people to pray for our country and our world in these days. 


Do you know someone who will be alone in this time when loneliness is most painful? Invite them to your Christmas if you can. But pray for God to comfort them, whether or not you bring them to your home. There are people who are cold and hungry this time of year. It will bless your Christmas to give to one of the many organizations that help meet such needs. Giving will also bless your prayers.


Pray for your own children or grandchildren not to be so caught up in toys and things that they miss the meaning of the season. You may have some traditions or practices that help you do this, but it will require prayer whatever you do.


Do you know someone stressed out by all the rush and cost and effort of preparation? Pray for them by name. Pray for God’s peace that was announced by the angel to the shepherds on the Bethlehem hillside.


I think you will find that nothing blesses your own Christmas celebration like time spent alone in prayer and together with your spiritual family in prayer.


 http://daveswatch.com/ 


 



 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

EXTENDED FAMILY DEVOTIONAL


Like many American families our siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews are scattered across the country. We count ourselves fortunate if we see each other once a year. For about ten years we have been doing something to help bring us a little closer. Mostly at the initiation of my wife and sister we have all purchased (or received as a gift) the same daily devotional book to read through the year. Of course, we can't read them together as if we were in the same room, but we occasionally call one another to talk about a particular devotional. This year several people compiled a list of family birthdays. So as we received our books or as we gathered books to send, we went through them marking each one of our family member’s birthdays with the understanding that we would all pray especially for the person born on that day. In the case of some who are no longer living, we remember them on that day. Interestingly enough, we have been surprised at how the devotionals fit the needs of the one whose birthday it was.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

PRAYING FOR JUSTICE

The heart of mankind longs for justice. I believe this longing is born in us. Have you ever noticed how quick children are to cry, Unfair?


These are certainly days that cause us to cry out for justice on every hand. And I believe injustices ought to anger us when we see them. I don’t believe God is necessarily put off by angry prayers for justice. I could site the deprecatory Psalms where the psalmists cry out for such things as the heads of the wicked enemy’s babies to be dashed against the rocks. Such Psalms point out the condition of our own hearts and that true justice only comes from the heart and hand of God.


Unlike the wrath of God, my anger never produces righteousness.(James 1:20) In fact, I need God to cleanse me from the wickedness that proceeds from my heart and clings to my soul in anger. I even find the selfish resentment and violence in my heart crying out for the painful revenge on a villain in a novel I am reading. It is not real, but it reveals the violence in my heart.


I am praying for justice in everything relating to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. I was grieved to hear it stated on television that the officer repeatedly shot the young man in the back. But of course, the evidence finally released showed that did not happen at all.


I still hate it that unarmed young men have been killed by police. I also sympathize with African Americans who see police targeting blacks. But I hardly think it brings justice to loot stores owned and operated by black people trying to make a living or for businesses to be burned to the ground that were providing goods and employment to a neighborhood.


Interestingly enough much Islamic terrorism grows out of a perverted desire for justice and what they perceive to be righteousness. Boko Haram kidnapped young girls because they were frustrated by what they saw as ungodly western education given to children.


However, we can pray for justice to be brought about even in our fallen world. Pray, pray, pray. And we can be confident as we pray that the day is coming and may be near when Jesus will return and establish the righteousness of God on the earth.


http://daveswatch.com/


 


 


 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

PRAYING FOR CHARICTER


Most of us are leery of praying for patience. We are familiar with the story of a lady asking D.L Moody to pray for her to have patience. The great evangelist bowed onto one knee and began praying for the woman to undergo tribulation. Discomfited, she tapped him on the shoulder and said she needed patience not tribulation. He then rose and showed her Romans 5:3 where Paul, by the Holy Spirit, tells us that tribulation develops patience or patient endurance.

However, I believe we miss the point of this passage when we think we should never to pray for endurance. That attitude reflects the values of our sinful world that believes we should avoid everything painful or difficult in our lives. Paul goes on to say that the patience tribulation produces develops character and character produces hope.

My wife and I recently watched the final episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries on PBS. I found it difficult to watch the first half of the show because Poirot was portrayed as bitter and vindictive because of his pain and physical debilitation. I do not want physical difficulties to be an excuse for bitterness or harsh words from my heart and mouth.

We are to desire God’s transformation of our character so fiercely that we welcome the pain that God uses to produce it. This comes very close to home for me. I thank God that my cancer has not progressed as rapidly as my doctors feared. I know that is a result of people praying for me. But I still deal with constant, if minor, pain. It is easy for this to make me irritable. But that is not the effect I want it to have on my attitudes and behavior. I pray for the endurance that produces sweetness of character as I draw nearer at whatever pace to our everlasting hope.

 

 
http://daveswatch.com/

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ENTERING HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

Have you ever thought about the benefits of giving thanks to God? There are many. I think the most prominent of them is simply closeness to God. We enter His gates with thanksgiving. We come into his presence in praise.


In Leviticus 7 Moses was told to institute a feast of thanksgiving. The barbeque was identified as a “fellowship offering of thanksgiving." We certainly enjoy fellowship with family and guests in our celebration of the Thanksgiving Holiday. If you are separated or estranged from family at Thanksgiving, you will miss your loved ones more than the turkey and dressing. We fellowship around the Thanksgiving table, by the warmth of the fire or in front of the TV watching football or the Macy’s Parade. But the fellowship spoken of in Leviticus 7 was with God Himself. The King James Bible translates it as a “peace offering.” The feast was to initiate and celebrate peaceful fellowship with God.


As we gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving, we also draw near to the person of God to whom with give thanks. It is fellowship with Him that blesses our Thanksgiving table and the fellowship with one another around it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

PRAYER IS NOT A CONDEMENT


Prayer is not the seasoning for the real meat of Bible study. It is not a necessary additive to the real work of the church. It is not something we do briefly before we begin to worship. It is not to be a perfunctory way of opening to a sermon. I think it might better be thought of as the marinade that must saturate every aspect of Bible study. Prayer is the fire that cooks real spiritual meat; that warms the fellowship; that empowers discipleship; that prepares everything we do for and by God on the earth.

My nephew once told me a story from the church in China. A traveling evangelist was introducing the gospel to two remote mountain villages. He was very much afraid he would not be able to return to these new believers for many months. So he devised a plan to disciple them in his absence. He painted scriptures on small rocks and gave them to individuals in the villages. He told each person to memorize the verse and pray over it all day every day for a month. Then they were to share with the church what God told them in their verses. The man needed to leave before any believers were at all mature in the faith. And sure enough he was away even longer than he expected. Years had gone by before he was finally able to make his was back. He feared he would not find anyone remaining faithful. But when he arrived he found the churches thriving with many strong leaders in their midst.

What would God do in your life if you memorized a single scripture and prayed and meditated over it day and night for a month?

 


 

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Like One Who Takes off Your Yoke

Hosea 11:4 has a marvelous phrase describing God's love.
He comes to us "Like one who takes the yoke off our necks." You can almost feel the comfort of the donkey when his master removes the yoke, rubs him down and fills his feed bag.
It is a great blessing to have a purpose given by God. It is crucial to the sense of significance in life to hear our Lord say, "Take my yoke upon you." But He also comes to us as the one who lifts the yoke from our shoulders and satisfies our souls.
I can be overwhelmed by the needs God has allowed me to see and to tackle. But when we come to Him in prayer we trust Him to do what we could never do. We rest in His power. I find myself regularly strengthening my faith by praying, "I am trusting this to You. You are God Almighty."
I also come to Him for solace. I find the comfort of His love in the embrace of prayer. I take a weekly Sabbath from writing, my primary occupation in these days. I occasionally find this difficult. I am anxious to complete something, or my mind is bubbling over with ideas. It is an act of faith to allow my Heavenly Father to remove the yoke. He who owns the field is in charge of the plow He has yoked to my heart. Are you resting in prayer?
 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

PRAYING FOR CONGRESS


This is a big week for politics in America. I need to say I am not sympathetic with believers who put their hope in politics. However hopeful or cynical you may be about the election this week, it is crucial that believers join together in prayer for those who govern our country. In his first letter to Timothy Paul admonished us to pray for them.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Do you pray every day for our president? Are you praying for God’s hand on individuals in Congress?

The reason the scripture gives for this is so we may live peaceful quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. It is important to understand that government affects our lives as much today as it did in the Roman Empire where Paul urged Timothy to lead people to pray for their ungodly leaders. For many of us the complexities of politics are too complicated to unravel. But they are not too complicated for God. I read a review in Books & Culture this week of a book called The Myth of Persecution. The book disputed the stories of persecution in the early church. The author made the pedantic distinction between persecution and prosecution. She said it was not persecution if Rome was simply prosecuting Christians for shaking up the fragile stability of the empire. I suspect the same distinction could be made about much 21st century persecution.

Government effects our lives even if it is not necessarily aimed at persecuting Christians. We are living in days when Christian values are no longer a major influence upon the thinking of those who make the laws and determine the values of our culture. Make no mistake, spiritual and cosmic issues are involved in politics. But we pray to the God who is sovereign over the Kings and governors of the earth.

 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NOW I LAYME DOWN TO PRAY


I pray for a list of extended family members each night after I lie down in bed. I have specific scriptures memorized that I pray over some family members. I have prayed for some of the children on my list every day of their lives.  Of course I sometimes fall asleep before I finish the list. There are worse ways to go to sleep. And since I pray for them in a certain order, I am able to pick up the prayer in the morning as far as I remember praying the night before.

I have done this for years. So I don't remember how I came up with the order. To some extent, I think I developed the list simply by repetition. I do not know how long it takes me to get through the list. In fact, no two nights are quite the same.

I do this each night because of continuing needs in my family. My grandchild has a need this week. My nephew will probably face a crisis tomorrow. And several family members have ongoing problems. But I suspect the primary benefit, like most prayer, is in what God does and will do in me. I believe going to sleep in prayer may help saturate every aspect of my life in the presence of God.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

PRAYER IS A TEAM SPORT


We often think of prayer as a lone vigil. And sometimes it is. But the Scripture also teaches us to pray together. Nearly all the references to the powerful prayer in the early chapters of Acts are plural. "They lifted their voices together in prayer.” (Acts 4:24)
Do you have a Bible study or prayer group where you can share prayer requests? Praying together is one of the most powerful things we do as a church. In Matthew 18:19 Jesus gave us a special promise of answered prayer when we agree together. Nothing binds the church together like prayer.
In Romans 15:30 Paul urged the believers in Rome to strive together with him in Prayer. The word in the original language is "sunagonizomai". This compound word is made up by "sun," which means together and "agonizomai." From this word we get our word agonize. It was an athletic term. It meant to pour your guts out in athletic competition. "Sunagonizomai" was used for teammates striving together.*
Are you striving together in prayer with a missionary, a pastor or a Christian writer? Do you have a prayer team praying with you? Has God given you a special ministry? Do you teach a Sunday School class? Are you trying to witness a co-worker? Do you play an instrument or lead in worship? You need to recruit a prayer team. This will not be easy. Our enemy will fight this any way he can. But you will find your prayer team an indispensable source of power in your ministry and in your whole life.


 

*I made a video on this word that some of you will enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSxBMbnqi44&list=UU8H5AwTr9WcSiRys5_2fWMQ


 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

PRAYER THAT PRODUCES LOVE

Prayer is certainly bound together with love. Prayer is the expression of love. And love ought to be the motivation for our prayers. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus commanded His followers, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” You do not love your enemies, if you are not praying for them. And prayer is a powerful means of developing love for those who are difficult to love. I believe it is an expression of love to pray for someone you bitterly dislike, simply out of obedience. Because God has told you to someone, you struggle to ask Him to work in her life. But as you carry that out day by day, the love of Christ for that person will grow in your heart and mind.


I would like you to try this exercise. Make a list of people you have trouble loving. Maybe it is someone who wronged you or someone you care about. Maybe it is a person whose attitudes or behavior you do not approve. The very thought of them irritates you. Most of us can come up with a list of 4 or 5 such people off the top of our heads. You may ask God to bring such people to your mind. When you have the list, take time to pray for these people every day for a week. You may be tempted to pray for God to bring them into judgment, but you don't want to pray that kind of prayer for someone Jesus died to redeem. I think it is acceptable to begin by praying for God to change them or bring them to repentance.  From there you can ask God to show you how to pray for them. At the end of the week take an assessment of your attitude toward them. It will have changed. You will be drawn nearer to the heart of God.


 
 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

I'M TAKING THIS TO YOU

One of the best things about the discipline of praying for organized lists of people is that God impresses me with difficult people to pray for. It strains my prayer life to pray for people I do not necessarily like. It stretches my faith to pray for people whom I can hardly imagine changing.
I pray daily for family members who have ruined their lives and the lives of others I love. And I find myself asking, "How could God straighten out the mess they have made?" I also pray for people with whom I fiercely disagree. I know I could not change their minds. Can God change their hearts or mine? I am often doubtful when I come to the names of some of these people. I have begun saying, "I am taking this person to You, Father. You can do anything."
This seems to be enough to ease the anxiety of my unbelief. The key to strengthening our faith is in recognizing the greatness and nearness of God. This prayer not only rests in His great power, but also on His ability to understand the complex problems people are facing. I do not necessarily believe this is strong faith, but focusing on God is certainly the step of faith I need in praying for difficult people and circumstances.
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

PRAYER AND GOOD

Most Believers cling firmly to the promise of God in Romans 8:28. I am no exception. But it is important to note that this promise is linked with the promise in verse 26 of God's help in our prayers. Am I saying the promise only applies if you are praying about your difficult circumstances? No, I am not saying that. But I do believe God will use difficult circumstances to teach you to pray. Growing your prayer life is part of the good God is working in your life.
 
God's work in your life depends on His teaching you to pray. The Spirit's intercession for us informs our understanding.  I suppose the Spirit prays things for me without my understanding. I want God to help me keep my job, but the Holy Spirit is praying for me to learn to trust God to care for my family. He may even be praying for God to move me to a place where I will have a greater witness. However, the primary way the Spirit prays in me includes growing my understanding. He shows me Scripture verses or simply whispers into my heart. In John 15:15 Jesus said He no longer calls us servants because a servant does not know what his master is doing. He works in me, teaching me to pray for things that I would never have longed for without His intervention in my life including my thinking and praying.
 
 
 
http://daveswatch.com/
 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

PRAYING ON A MISSION


What do you have to do that wastes your time and strains your patience? Can you pray in that time? For 40+ years I have enjoyed shopping with my wife. I like being with her. However, we made a compromise early on. I would walk along behind her with a book. I used the time well, and she could ask, if she wanted my advice. "Do the pink look better than the blue?" Of course I occasionally got lost from her. When l discovered that had happened, I would go to the cash registers and wait. Several times over the years we had someone at church say someone had told them, "I think I saw your pastor in such-and-such store this week. He was reading a book!"

It may be a little late to keep people from thinking me nuts, but I have discovered that I can pray for people in the store. Today we went to Wal-Mart. I left my book in the car and entered the store on a mission. I couldn't help wondering what God was preparing to do as I prayed for nearly a hundred people up and down the aisles.
Where could you be praying? I once heard a pastor tell about using time he was stuck in traffic to pray for people who were in the hospital. I have read about a wife praying for her husband as she ironed his shirts. You could memorize a list of missionaries, countries or people groups, lost friends or family members to pray for in the dentist's office or wherever. You can even get excited about what great thing God is preparing to do because He gave you a special time to pray.


http://daveswatch.com/

Thursday, September 18, 2014

PRAY FOR PEOPLE EVERYWHERE


I want to return today to a crucial facet of prayer that I have written about before. I want to encourage you to develop the habit of praying for people everywhere you are. You can pray for people you see in the bank or the grocery store. You can pray for people you meet as you walk down the street or even as you are stuck in traffic.

Of course the first question that arises about this is “What do I pray for total strangers?” I have given people guides that they can use to get started, but in fact, I think the best way to pray is to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit brings to your mind as you pray. You will discover that you can often see needs at a glance on people’s faces. I also see a person who reminds me of someone I do know. I pray briefly for the person I see and then at length for the person who is called to mind.

I need to admit that this does not come naturally to me. I have to remind myself again and again to be praying for people around me. Possibly the most important thing I can do to prepare to pray for people everywhere I go, is to begin my day with a sustained devotional time and take intermittent times devoted to prayer throughout the day. But I still have to pray regularly for God to remind me to pray for people as I go through my day. You may find this comes more natural to you. But even if it does not, you will find this to be a powerful blessing in your life.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

THE PRAYER OF SALVATION


I have been among those who complain about the notion of the mouthing of a “sinner’s prayer” as the means to salvation. I wrote a track a few years ago entitled The primary message of Jesus. It was based on the fact that Jesus called people to repent and become disciples. I am not sure we should not quote verses like 2 Timothy 3:12 to people as we present Christ to them. It reads.

“In fact, everyone who wants to lead a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Rote repetition is a misuse of the sinner’s prayer even if its wording includes repentance and discipleship. However prayer is an integral part of discipleship. We must respond to God in prayer.
But I want to focus here, not on the prayer that brings salvation, but the prayer that salvation brings, on the prayer that salvation is. Romans 5:1-2 speaks of access granted us into the presence of God himself.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Those who are drawn by God to Jesus Christ for forgiveness purchased by Him on the cross have access to God. We can pray! Praise God, we can pray! From the point of our redemption every prayer we pray is a prayer of salvation. It is prayer purchased for us at an eternal cost for God’s everlasting glory. When we come to Christ, we begin a life of prayer.

 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS


                                                          Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

We seldom think of Moses as a singer/song-writer. He wrote only one song, at least that we have recorded in the Psalter. It is Psalm 90. In it he prayed to see from God’s perspective. Few things empower our prayers like learning to see from God’s perspective. Like most of the Hebrew songs, this psalm is a prayer. And it is important to understand that only God can teach us to see from His perspective.

In the psalm Moses prays for God to teach us to number our days aright. We naturally count our days. We help children celebrate birthdays. And they come to each new birthday with earnest anticipation. As we grow older we no longer come to birthdays with anticipation. Some of us come to them with dread. Interestingly enough many of us grow old enough for birthdays to become precious again, even a source of pride.

God has used my cancer to show me a little of His perspective. The prospect of a diminishing number of birthdays has helped me see how precious life is, not just every birthday, but every moment. But even being aware of the brevity of life does not help us see from God’s perspective. We can only learn that from God Himself. So Moses prayed for God to teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Are you praying to see and pray from God’s perspective?

 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PRAYING IN REVERENT FEAR


Many people are uncomfortable with the word fear in relation to the Christian life. That may be because we confuse the fear of the Lord with the petty fears of this world. Some Bible translations use the word reverence where the word fear is indicated. I don’t think that is completely wrong. But the word reverence is not strong enough. It does not bring to our minds enough force of emotion. We are to tremble in fear before God. In Leviticus 9 we read about the first offering offered in the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

We come into the presence of our Lord before whom John fell down as a dead man.[1] If you begin by thinking about the majesty and holiness and grace of God you can call upon him trembling in such reverent and joyful fear.

In 1 Peter 1:17-19 Peter writes,

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

 




[1] Rev. 1:17

Thursday, August 21, 2014

PRAYING GOD'S HEART


Whose heart are you praying? It is often a step of growth for a person to move from praying casual prayers to crying out to God with your heart. But it is greater spiritual growth to move to praying God’s heart. But even a new Christian can desire to please God. And you don't have to be a spiritual giant to know the best things that ever happen are the will of God. As we grow in those prayers, We begin to long for those things that God desires.

YOU CAN PRAY FOR THE PURPOSES OF GOD.

Read your Bible daily asking God to show you His purpose and purposes. You can ask God to show you His purposes all around you. You know that God is not willing for anyone to parish. Are you praying for lost people He has brought into your life? You know He desires holiness. It is easy to complain about the wickedness that we see in politics, the media and modern society. But it is more important to pray for God to bring about His holiness.

MISSIONS ARE ON GOD’S HEART.

Are you praying for missions and missionaries around the world? Start with someone you know or know about. Keep in touch with that person. Pray earnestly for God’s mighty hand on them. From there ask God to show you more who take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Ask God to expand your passion for the world that Jesus came to save.

YOU CAN PRAY FOR COMPASSION.

Are you asking God to stir your heart with His love? Ask Him to give you His love for people all around you.

PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH.

Spiritual growth can be painful. We often waste our prayer tmes asking God to make us comfortable. You can pray for God to do what is necessary in your life to make you strong. I sometimes find myself in the midst of pain or difficulty praying for God to keep me from missing the blessing or benefit He intends for me out of the situation. “Father, it would be terrible for me to go through this suffering and still miss what you intend to do in my life.” I find this much more satisfying that simply praying that God will get me out of the painful situation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

STRETCHING YOUR PRAYER LIFE


I am aware that many of you have an aversion to writing out prayer lists. And I understand that this may not be your best way of praying on a regular basis. But I want to suggest using prayer lists to stretch your prayer life. You may want to do this as a temporary experiment. Choose a certain period of time, say a day, a week or a month. Then ask God to lead you to people you should pray for each day for the time allotted.
1. Stretch the selflessness of your prayers.

When I make formal prayer requests I include people that are hard for me to pray for. I put people on my list who I believe are wrong, or some who sin in ways that offend me most. I put people on my prayer list that I am having trouble forgiving or loving. I pray daily for these hard-to-love people stretching the compassion and faithfulness of my prayer life.
2. Stretch the time of your praying.

When I start listing people I need to pray for, my list grows quickly. It takes time to pray for all these people and needs. And spending more time in direct communion with God is good for me. This may be the most difficult part of such an exercise. To have more time for prayer you may have to rise earlier in the morning. You may need to spend your lunch hour in prayer. You will have to skip TV shows and other time consuming activities.
3. Stretch the purpose of your prayers.

By making prayer lists you will stretch your prayers beyond your own personal needs, interests and concerns. This kind of prayer presses you to pray for greater things in the purpose and plans of God.
4. Stretch the faith of your prayers.

I find that praying beyond my comfort zone stretches my faith in what God is able and willing to do when I pray.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

PRAY FOR INSIGHT

What do you do when you read something you do not understand in the Bible? Some things may even offend you. How do you respond?

The faith of many has been sabotaged as they came to something in scripture that went counter to their understanding or confused their theology.

There are several ways people approach this fairly common dilemma. Some study harder, read commentaries, search for explanations by others. This is often the right thing to do. We need to allow difficulties to motivate us to study. However, this can be a dangerous first step. Understanding scripture requires more than diligent study and natural intelligence. It calls for wisdom and spiritual insight. James says anyone who lacks wisdom should ask God. (James 1:5)

Sometimes people try to twist the scripture to say what they already think. I do not need to tell you this is wrong, but we certainly see it a lot.

I also see people getting louder in their affirmation of what a scripture seems to contradict. How many angry retorts have you heard against Paul’s statements about predestination (Eph.1:5) or some other doctrine that Scripture affirms or seems to put forth? Right or wrong this is unspiritual behavior.

Romans 12:14 tells us spiritual things are discerned by the Holy Spirit. He begins by bringing us to the point of meekness. We must submit to God’s truth no matter what. Then ask the Spirit to work patience in your heart to wait on His illumination. I recommend memorizing the verse or difficult passage. Then in patience and meekness meditate on it, praying for God to speak to your heart.

With this Spiritual foundation in place you can go to commentaries and study what others have written about a passage. It is interesting that commentaries seldom delve into passages that trouble us. But that will not keep God’s Spirit from giving you special insight into His truth.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SIN THAT CLINGS TO US

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
Heb. 12:1 e.s.v.


Jesus taught us to pray that we not be led into, or that we might be led away from temptation. But most, if not all of us, are confronted by the fact that that some sin "clings so closely" that we internalize the temptation. To pray against these sins we need to pray about our attitudes. The cynical word, the rude remark or the angry explosion is preceded by an attitude of resentment or self-pity. I suspect something similar is true about pornography or indulging in lusts or severing relationships or whatever sin you fall into again and again.


I can trust these wicked attitudes as if they were from God. I can also pray for God to transform my thinking, and so my faith. It is not unbelief for me to pray, as I often do, "Father, if you don't change my attitude, I will surely fall into sin." But if I believe the sin will solve the problem or meet a need, I am putting my faith in the sin. Especially if your clinging sin relates to angry words, you are tempted to put your faith in them to bring about righteousness. But the wrath of man never brings about the righteousness of God. (James 1:20) I am aware that Jesus got quite angry on occasion. And I suspect we should be angry about some things. But most anger is selfish and foolish. And if resentment is just beneath my skin, I will trust it before I think about calling on God.


I also need to pray for my bad attitudes to be replaced with good attitudes. I need an attitude of endurance when things are difficult. If a runner in a long distance race dwells on how steep the hill he is on, or on how much better he would feel if he quit, he will be less likely to finish. If a runner thinks of anything but putting one foot in front of the other, he needs to be thinking of the finish line that he will reach if he endures the difficulty which is part of the race.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE THRILL OF WORSHIP


Many people worship excitement and thrills today. People are often addicted to new and greater thrills. Part of the reason for this is that all earthly thrills are diminishing. The first time a person experiences a thrill the automatic response may be terror. The next time it may be something like joy. But each succeeding time the intensity diminishes into boredom.

But there is a thrill that works the other way. That is the thrill of pouring ourselves into the worship of God. He is infinite. The nearer we draw to Him, the more we come to understand and experience His Majesty, His glory, the wonder of His being! The more we worship Him, the more we long to worship more and more. Like His compassion and faithfulness, our worship is new every morning forever. (Lam.3:23)

Have you ever thought it would be boring to be one of the four living creatures surrounding the throne of God crying "Holy, holy, holy," forever and ever? (Daniel 6:3) That misunderstands the reality of worshipping the infinite God. Worship is certainly boring if not disturbing to lost people. And indeed they would be eternally horrified in heaven. But God in His grace does not make heaven mandatory for those who reject Him. And the more a person rejects God the harder and colder the heart becomes. However, the more we come to know God, the more we are transformed in His glorious presence and the more we thrill at worshipping Him.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

PRAYING IN A TIME OF CRISIS AND CHAOS


I recently listened while someone described the chaos that "will" follow a nuclear bomb launched by Iran, North Korea or independent terrorists and then exploded in the atmosphere, and/or the calamity following a sunspot, as well as the coming revolution in the U.S. where the hordes and roving gangs will murder us for our food and water. I need to say this caused me to pause.

This would not have bothered me so much had I not been memorizing Joel chapter 1 and thinking about the judgment of these days. I need to say that God is very patient. He waited 400 years for the people of Canaan to fill up their sins. He waited longer to bring upon Israel the judgment promised by Moses for rejecting God's revelation. Judgment is in the hands of God. But whether we face it today or God raises up prophets and prayer warriors to turn aside judgment on America and the world, I believe God is telling some of us to teach believers how to pray in such days. Here are some crucial perspectives for prayer that prayer warriors need to adopt for times of crisis.

1. Learn to Pray in the Perspective of Persevering.

In the midst of flagrant persecution Barnabas and Paul told the fledgling churches that "We must enter the kingdom of God through persecution." Jesus said we would have persecution in the world. And we will. We will need a grace for those days that God will not give until they arrive. But we must encourage one another today that persecution in this world is normal for those of us who are overcoming it. We can trust God to enable us to persevere. His own people will successfully endure hardship.

2. Learn to Pray in the Perspective of God's Protection.

You need to have some of the promises of God's protection memorized. Everyone should have Psalm 46 and 91 memorized. The arrow that flies by day and the terror of the night will surely come. You will need such powerful promises instilled into your heart. And you need to be used to praying through them now even though you will understand those promises far better in the coming judgment and the time of trouble.

3. Learn to Pray in the Perspective of the Purpose of God.

Christianity received a great boost in Europe when the plague was devastating whole cities. Christians showed compassion on those afflicted. They gave them food and water, cooled their fevers and comforted their hearts. Christians and people who lived near them were far more likely to survive the plague. Even in good times life is so much better when it is lived for others in the purpose of God. We can still rejoice even  in days of great trial if we have an ultimate purpose.

4. Learn to Pray in the Perspective of Eternity.

How many of our prayers only consider the immediate? Those are not necessarily bad prayers. But they should not be the primary preoccupation of the children of the resurrection. We are the people of eternity who are not dominated by the tyranny of the temporary. We need to enter the calamitous day already in the habit of praying for the work of God in the climax of history.

 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

FIGHTING DEPRESSION WITH PRAYER


I am a little hesitant to write on this subject for the obvious reason that prayer is far more than an antidote to selfish concerns. The perspective of prayer is far greater than my personal feelings. However scripture does deal with this concern. Psalm 42:5 asks, "Why are you so downcast O my soul." Psalm 130:1 reads, "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord."

Let me suggest several steps in dealing prayerfully with depression.

Pray for deliverance.

 

I have not faced clinical depression in my own life, but I have dealt with it in others as a pastor. And seeing the magnification of the problem helps me see details more clearly in the depression of my own heart. A major issue of depression is that it defends itself. It may be more accurate to say we defend our depression, but the depression seems to take on a life of its own. When I have told someone to do something that might break their depression they immediately opposed it. So start by briefly asking God to deliver you. Depression may even keep you from praying about it.

Turn immediately to praise.

 

You might think you should start by asking God to change the circumstances that have depressed you. Aren't requests the heart of biblical prayer? They are. But prayer is supported theologically and practically by the glory of God; by the grace of God; by His mighty power; by His love and faithfulness. And nothing works more effectively at lifting our spirits than praise. Secular counselors sometimes try to treat depression with self-affirmation. But that often sets the sufferer up for a fall into deeper depression. Praise gets you clear out of the picture. In fact sustained praise is good and necessary for anyone at any time. Have you ever thought heaven would be boring if we spent all day praising God forever? That ignores the reality of praise. Nothing is more thrilling than connecting intellectually and emotionally with the wonder and glory of God.

 

Confess and forgive.

 

Praising God should move us into confession and forgiveness. Depression flows from pride. "I don't deserve bad things." Even a statement like "I am no good." is self-focused. Confession breaks pride. It demands a humble and dependent heart. There is relief in being forgiven. At that point God can lift our spirits because we are no longer estranged from Him. It is important to note that Jesus linked confession and forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us . . . as we forgive. . ." This is so important for dealing with depression. Depression raises its ugly head in the aftermath of anger and continuing resentment. I am amazed that so many people treat anger as some sort of catharsis. We think of having a right to get angry. There is a place for righteous wrath. Jesus certainly modeled it. But anger must be under the control of God or it will destroy the person expressing it. Anger is not a privilege. It is more like a loaded gun.

Pray the word of God.

 

Praying God's word connects to the stability of faith. Much depression is unbelief. Notice I did not say, "simply unbelief." It is complex, but it is unbelief none the less. And it cripples our relationship with God. Some of you may object to this, pointing out men like Charles Hadden Spurgeon or William Cowper, spiritual giants who suffered from depression. But many of the glorious sermons of Spurgeon came forth in victory over his occasional depression. And although Cowper's mental illness was more persistent and debilitating than Spurgeon's, it was God's truth and victory that burst out with "God's wonders to perform." Praying God's word ought to bring us naturally into personal promises God has whispered or thundered into your ear.

Sing.

 

I think singing is an important part of prayer. It usually helps us praise better than we could without it. Most hymns and choruses are filled with great theology. All of us can pray in song. I do not necessarily believe we have to sing well to glorify God, especially in private prayer. However, an important part of honoring God is seeking to improve our  singing for His ears and even for the ears of His children.

Continue your prayer in obedience.

 

Activity is a natural antidote for depression. Praying our plans and God's plans leads us to carrying them out, not after we have prayed, but continuing to pray as we go, as we act, as we step out in faith. "Father, help me, encourage me, keep me going for you." amen

FIGHTING PRAYER WITH DEPRESSION

I am a little hesitant to write on this subject for the obvious reason that prayer is far more than an antidote to selfish concerns. The perspective of prayer is far greater than my personal feelings. However scripture does deal with this concern. Psalm 42:5 asks, "Why are you so downcast O my soul." Psalm 130:1 reads, "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord."
Let me suggest several steps in dealing prayerfully with depression.
 
Pray for deliverance.
 
I have not faced clinical depression in my own life, but I have dealt with it in others as a pastor. And seeing the magnification of the problem helps me see details more clearly in the depression of my own heart. A major issue of depression is that it defends itself. It may be more accurate to say we defend our depression, but the depression seems to take on a life of its own. When I have told someone to do something that might break their depression they immediately opposed it. So start by briefly asking God to deliver you. Depression may even keep you from praying about it.
 
Turn immediately to praise.
 
You might think you should start by asking God to change the circumstances that have depressed you. Aren't requests the heart of biblical prayer? They are. But prayer is supported theologically and practically by the glory of God; by the grace of God; by His mighty power; by His love and faithfulness. And nothing works more effectively at lifting our spirits than praise. Secular counselors sometimes try to treat depression with self-affirmation. But that often sets the sufferer up for a fall into deeper depression. Praise gets you clear out of the picture. In fact sustained praise is good and necessary for anyone at any time. Have you ever thought heaven would be boring if we spent all day praising God forever? That ignores the reality of praise. Nothing is more thrilling than connecting intellectually and emotionally with the wonder and glory of God.
 
Confess and forgive.
 
Praising God should move us into confession and forgiveness. Depression flows from pride. "I don't deserve bad things." Even a statement like "I am no good." is self-focused. Confession breaks pride. It demands a humble and dependent heart. There is relief in being forgiven. At that point God can lift our spirits because we are no longer estranged from Him. It is important to note that Jesus linked confession and forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us . . . as we forgive. . ." This is so important for dealing with depression. Depression raises its ugly head in the aftermath of anger and continuing resentment. I am amazed that so many people treat anger as some sort of catharsis. We think of having a right to get angry. There is a place for righteous wrath. Jesus certainly modeled it. But anger must be under the control of God or it will destroy the person expressing it. Anger is not a privilege. It is more like a loaded gun.
 
Pray the word of God.
 
Praying God's word connects to the stability of faith. Much depression is unbelief. Notice I did not say, "simply unbelief." It is complex, but it is unbelief none the less. And it cripples our relationship with God. Some of you may object to this, pointing out men like Charles Hadden Spurgeon or William Cowper, spiritual giants who suffered from depression. But many of the glorious sermons of Spurgeon came forth in victory over his occasional depression. And although Cowper's mental illness was more persistent and debilitating than Spurgeon's, it was God's truth and victory that burst out with "God's wonders to perform." Praying God's word ought to bring us naturally into personal promises God has whispered or thundered into your ear.
 
Sing.
 
I think singing is an important part of prayer. It usually helps us praise better than we could without it. Most hymns and choruses are filled with great theology. All of us can pray in song. I do not necessarily believe we have to sing well to glorify God, especially in private prayer. However, an important part of honoring God is seeking to improve our singing for His ears and even for the ears of His children.
 
Continue your prayer in obedience.
 
Activity is a natural antidote for depression. Praying our plans and God's plans leads us to carrying them out, not after we have prayed, but continuing to pray as we go, as we act, as we step out in faith. "Father, help me, encourage me, keep me going for you." amen

FIGHTING DEPRESSION WITH PRAYER


I am a little hesitant to write on this subject for the obvious reason that prayer is far more than an antidote to selfish concerns. The perspective of prayer is far greater than my personal feelings. However scripture does deal with this concern. Psalm 42:5 asks, "Why are you so downcast O my soul." Psalm 130:1 reads, "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord."

Let me suggest several steps in dealing prayerfully with depression.

 

Pray for deliverance.

 

I have not faced clinical depression in my own life, but I have dealt with it in others as a pastor. And seeing the magnification of the problem helps me see details more clearly in the depression of my own heart. A major issue of depression is that it defends itself. It may be more accurate to say we defend our depression, but the depression seems to take on a life of its own. When I have told someone to do something that might break their depression they immediately opposed it. So start by briefly asking God to deliver you. Depression may even keep you from praying about it.

 

Turn immediately to praise.

 

You might think you should start by asking God to change the circumstances that have depressed you. Aren't requests the heart of biblical prayer? They are. But prayer is supported theologically and practically by the glory of God; by the grace of God; by His mighty power; by His love and faithfulness. And nothing works more effectively at lifting our spirits than praise. Secular counselors sometimes try to treat depression with self-affirmation. But that often sets the sufferer up for a fall into deeper depression. Praise gets you clear out of the picture. In fact sustained praise is good and necessary for anyone at any time. Have you ever thought heaven would be boring if we spent all day praising God forever? That ignores the reality of praise. Nothing is more thrilling than connecting intellectually and emotionally with the wonder and glory of God.

 

Confess and forgive.

 

Praising God should move us into confession and forgiveness. Depression flows from pride. "I don't deserve bad things." Even a statement like "I am no good." is self-focused. Confession breaks pride. It demands a humble and dependent heart. There is relief in being forgiven. At that point God can lift our spirits because we are no longer estranged from Him. It is important to note that Jesus linked confession and forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us . . . as we forgive. . ." This is so important for dealing with depression. Depression raises its ugly head in the aftermath of anger and continuing resentment. I am amazed that so many people treat anger as some sort of catharsis. We think of having a right to get angry. There is a place for righteous wrath. Jesus certainly modeled it. But anger must be under the control of God or it will destroy the person expressing it. Anger is not a privilege. It is more like a loaded gun.

 

Pray the word of God.

 

Praying God's word connects to the stability of faith. Much depression is unbelief. Notice I did not say, "simply unbelief." It is complex, but it is unbelief none the less. And it cripples our relationship with God. Some of you may object to this, pointing out men like Charles Hadden Spurgeon or William Cowper, spiritual giants who suffered from depression. But many of the glorious sermons of Spurgeon came forth in victory over his occasional depression. And although Cowper's mental illness was more persistent and debilitating than Spurgeon's, it was God's truth and victory that burst out with "God's wonders to perform." Praying God's word ought to bring us naturally into personal promises God has whispered or thundered into your ear.

 

Sing.

 

I think singing is an important part of prayer. It usually helps us praise better than we could without it. Most hymns and choruses are filled with great theology. All of us can pray in song. I do not necessarily believe we have to sing well to glorify God, especially in private prayer. However, an important part of honoring God is seeking to improve our singing for His ears and even for the ears of His children.

 

Continue your prayer in obedience.

 

Activity is a natural antidote for depression. Praying our plans and God's plans leads us to carrying them out, not after we have prayed, but continuing to pray as we go, as we act, as we step out in faith. "Father, help me, encourage me, keep me going for you." amen