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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

PRAYING THE LOVE OF GOD

I recently finished the rough draft of a book on AGAPE. I have to admit that writing it has been a thrill. One of the things that God pressed on me is that agape, the love of God, the love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have lavished upon one another from before time, is at the heart of our bond with God. And agape needs to be the driving force of our prayer. Let me point out some natural expressions of the love of God that should shape our prayers.
Prayer for the Needy
God cares for the poor. He loves them with a special love. (James 2:5) You can pray in general for ministries to the poor. Thank God for them. And of course real agape and real prayer will give to such ministries. But that is not enough. You can pray for people you may pass every day. You may see them on the side of the road or in the grocery store. You may very well see them in church. And you can pray for opportunities to get the know some of them personally, and find personal ways to pray for each of them.
The neediest people you will ever meet are people who are lost without Christ
Prayer for the Lost
God cares for the lost. Jesus began His teaching in Luke 15 with this parable. Which one of you who has a hundred sheep but loses one of them will not leave the 99 in the open field to go after the one lost sheep? When he finds it, will he not put it on his shoulders with joy? Coming home he will call his friends and neighbors saying, “Celebrate with me because I have found my lost sheep!” Jesus concluded, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Are you praying daily by name for people who do not know your Lord? I assumed many of us would have to look for needy people. But that is not true about lost people. God has placed you in the midst of family members, neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances who need Christ. He has trusted them to you. Pray for a clear witness to them. Pray for softened heart. Pray for every need they have. Pray for His power in their lives.
Prayer of Forgiveness
As Jesus hung on the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”  Who do you think He was praying for? He was certainly praying for the Roman soldiers who were carrying out His crucifixion. I believe He was praying for the multitude shouting, “Crucify!” I believe He was praying for the men who had condemned Him. But He was also praying for me. His whole crucifixion was a powerful prayer for God to forgive me and you. That prayer was a declaration of the will of God from before the foundation of the universe.
Are you praying for God to forgive those who have sinned against you? They probably include people whom you love, people who are close to you. They will include people who hate you. They will include people who hurt you deeply, and people who are not at all sorry about it. This kind of praying requires spiritual growth. And it will be a major factor in your growing more and more in the love of Christ.


Monday, January 9, 2017

WHAT WILL YOU PRAY FOR THIS YEAR?

Have you thought about what you pray for most? Have you paid attention to the prayer requests lifted in your church? Thinking about what you pray is a recurring theme of my blogs, and something I believe is terribly important.
Most of our prayers in public ask God for healing or for God to get us out of some difficulty. I'm afraid many of our private prayers ask God for things, possibly some new toy that we want. But those were not the prayers lifted by the early church, or the great prayers of any age.
The church in Thessalonica endured great persecution from its beginning in Acts 17. In his first letter to them Paul wrote that in spite persecution they welcomed the message. But Paul did not ask God to relieve them or deliver them from persecution. At the end of the third chapter Paul prayed that the Lord would increase and overflow with love for one another and every one, and to make their hearts blameless in holiness before our God at the coming of our Lord.
I am reading The Hiding Place again for the first time in many years. I was pleased to see in my copy a preface by Elizabeth Sherrill. Elizabeth and her husband, John, co-wrote The Hiding Place with Corrie Ten Boom. In her comments Elizabeth listed some things she had learned from Corrie.
“Handling separation; Getting along with less; Security in the midst of insecurity; Forgiveness; How God uses weakness; Dealing with difficult people; Facing death; Loving your enemies; What to do when evil wins.”
These are similar character traits to those Paul prayed for the churches. My suggestion is that you examine your prayers and shift them from comfort to character. What great things is God waiting to produce in you this year?