Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


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. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


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. 



Thursday, December 18, 2014


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


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.




Thursday, December 4, 2014


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.