By: Glenn Washburn
I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. Not why we pray, how we pray or any other of the theological issues surrounding the issue of prayer; but rather the most important question. The question that plagues each and every one of us who bears the name Christian: Why don’t we pray? Paul says in 1Thessolonians 5:17, pray without ceasing. We, however, never cease to ignore this command. We can’t “IM” Jesus, we can’t “friend” Him on face book, we can’t e-mail or text Him and we can’t even call His cell. The only way we can communicate with Him is through prayer. So, why don’t we?
You might say the answer is that you are just too busy. Your life has become completely overloaded. But you know that’s not the answer because there have been times in your life where there was so much to do that you didn’t know which way to turn; and yet you still found time to turn to Him. Well, you may counter, “I can’t seem to find the words.” But you know that isn’t true either because many times you have sat silent before His throne and still walked away fulfilled. Finally, you may offer, “I don’t want to bother Him with my petty problems and requests.” However, you know that prayer is more than asking, it’s thanking Him as well. You are also familiar with all the scripture verses about sparrows, field lilies and the hairs on your head being numbered. And in your heart you know that He is just as interested and ready to serve you in the seemingly insignificant details of your life as He was when He first called you to Himself. So, I ask again, why don’t we pray?
I believe the number one impediment to prayer is sin. Not the sin of the omission of prayer but the sin or sins that keep us from it. When we fall into sin through deception, ignorance, pride, selfishness or all of the above; that is when we need Him the most. However, it is more likely that we will instead follow Adam and Eve into the bushes to hide from Him. 1John 2:1 says that if we sin there is only one direction to travel:
My dear children, I’m writing this to you so that you will not sin. Yet, if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ, who has God’s full approval. He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father.
Jesus also told Peter in John 13: 4-8 where he needed to go for cleansing:
So he got up from the table, removed his outer clothes, took a towel, and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that he had tied around his waist. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered Peter, “You don’t know now what I’m doing. You will understand later.” Peter told Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus replied to Peter, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t belong to me.”
And yet here we stay, quivering naked in the bushes and complaining, “I can’t go to Jesus. I’m too sinful.” That is like saying, “I can’t take a shower; I’m too dirty.” Doesn’t really make sense, does it?
I think too many of us view holiness as a requirement necessary to interview for the job; if holiness isn’t on our resume, there’s no sense applying. However, holiness isn’t a requirement necessary in order to interview for the job; it’s the experience you are expected to acquire while you’re on the job. Sinlessness, therefore, is not required to come to Jesus, but our life with Him should make our sins an issue of decreasing significance. As one writer put it: “…as Christians we aren’t sinless; but as we grow we should sin less.”
Now, don’t get me wrong; sin is very serious business. 1John 2 goes on to say some pretty scary things in verses 3-15:
We are sure that we know Christ if we obey his commandments. The person who says, “I know him,” but doesn’t obey his commandments is a liar. The truth isn’t in that person. But whoever obeys what Christ says is the kind of person in whom God’s love is perfected. That’s how we know we are in Christ. Those who say that they live in him must live the same way he lived. Dear friends, it’s not as though I’m writing to give you a new commandment. Rather, I’m giving you an old commandment that you’ve had from the beginning. It’s the old commandment you’ve already heard. On the other hand, I’m writing to give you a new commandment. It’s a truth that exists in Christ and in you: The darkness is fading, and the true light is already shining. Those who say that they are in the light but hate other believers are still in the dark. Those who love other believers live in the light. Nothing will destroy the faith of those who live in the light. Those who hate other believers are in the dark and live in the dark. They don’t know where they’re going, because they can’t see in the dark. I’m writing to you, dear children, because your sins are forgiven through Christ. I’m writing to you, fathers, because you know Christ who has existed from the beginning. I’m writing to you, young people, because you have won the victory over the evil one. I’ve written to you, children, because you know the Father. I’ve written to you, fathers, because you know Christ, who has existed from the beginning. I’ve written to you, young people, because you are strong and God’s word lives in you. You have won the victory over the evil one. Don’t love the world and what it offers. Those who love the world don’t have the Father’s love in them.
“Well, that’s kind of confusing.” You may say. “How am I supposed to reconcile 1John 2:1 with 1John 2: 3-15? It sounds like John is saying that if you sin we should come to Jesus and then says if you sin you don’t know Jesus. Which is it?”
The answer is in one little word: if. John says “if you sin” not when you sin. The difference is enormous. Imagine you are going to the airport to pick up your wife, the love of your life. Taking a wrong turn because you weren’t paying attention is no where near the same as pulling off the highway to go to a sports bar so you can watch a couple of innings of the Sox’s Dice-K pitch…no, I mean John Lackey…no wait, I mean…well, you know what I mean (apologies to all of you outside the “Nation”); while telling yourself that you deserve a little fun and she can wait. Even if both scenarios put you at the airport at the same time the difference is night and day. The true lover would never purposefully keep the love of his life waiting so he could kick back and enjoy a little “me time”. Neither are we to be spoiled children throwing our ice cream cone on the ground because our father will buy us another one. We’re children of the King. We are supposed to traveling toward the center of God’s perfect will not testing it.
Let me put it this way. Imagine a large circle with a dot in the center. Inside the circle is in the will of God. Outside the circle is outside the will of God. And the dot is the center of God’s will. Are you traveling toward the center, ignoring any direction that deviates from that path and unloading any baggage that might delay your arrival or are you traveling in circles, unwilling to abandon those items and directions that are keeping you from your destination? Even worse, are you numbered among the foolish ones who are traveling towards the outer edge as they ask themselves, “I wonder how close I can get to the edge without going outside?” The question is the answer. If you are traveling toward the edge or even traveling in a circle when you have a reliable Map in your hand to guide you to the center, then you have replaced “if” with “when”. And if you are not outside yet, you will be soon. STOP NOW!! Turn around or you will be turned away.
Let me tell you a little story about my wife, Ellen. Not long ago Ellen was overwhelmed with accomplishing all the errands and chores she needed to get to after a full day of teaching Kindergarten (and yes, she is still sane). As a result, she had little energy or motivation to clean the house the way she liked it (and ladies, notice the phrase “the way she liked it” because I tried to help…I really did). So, she budgeted, saved her pennies and hired a house cleaner to come in once a week. But here’s the thing, every day before the cleaner was to arrive Ellen would rush around the house and clean it. After all, she couldn’t have the cleaner thinking she kept a dirty house. Ellen would protest that all she was doing was a general pick-up; but the fact remains that she was cleaning for the cleaner.
Is this you? Are you still trying to clean your “house” before the Cleaner arrives? Forget it! He’s a professional. He’s able to clean rooms in your house you have forgotten where even there; and remove grime you can’t see anymore from places you already cleaned. No matter how hard you scrub; you lack the skill, tools and solution to do the job correctly. Just leave it to the Professional. Then, with your house in order, you can jump back in your car and head for that spot that you and yours have been dying to get to since the first day you discovered it was there. And the amazing thing is that your Cleaner just happens to know the best way to get to where you want to go. He’s been there…in fact, He lives there. So, don’t be afraid to ask Him for directions and “if” you get lost, you know Who to call. But pack light because everything you need will be waiting for you when you get there.
Just don’t forget the Map.
By: Robert Perry
I was a missionary in Hong Kong for 15 years. One of my areas was intercession. I led prayer meetings on a regular basis for many years. Through this experience, I learned why I some times found these meetings to be a bit depressing. Jesus was very clear in Matthew 6:9-13 and again in Luke 11:2-4 on how we should pray. We call this “The Lord’s Prayer.” Actually, it is suppose to be “our” prayer. It is a guideline that is rich in insight and wisdom.
More background: I led daily intercession times of 1.5 hours. We prayed for the mission’s work and workers. I had a few who would come to the meetings and begin their prayers, asking God to forgive us for our many sins. Much of the time was committed to this verbalization of sins the participants believed the community was guilty of. I did not experience much joy or freedom in these prayer times. I believe there is a place for this in intercession, but not until we are in the right frame of mind and heart. I don’t think God wants us to come to him and start confessing sins? Let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer. It is a guideline that instructs us a good order of things when we pray. I believe this to be true in our own personal prayer lives as well as in corporate prayer.
The first 2 words: “Our Father”. I love to meditate on these 2 words. “Our” means we are not alone. We are in a family and we have something very special in common. We have a “Father”. So, the first 2 words should be how we begin to pray or intercede. We acknowledge these facts and praise God for them. We “think on these things” and rejoice in them. God cares about relationship. Spending time with this brings us to a place of gratitude and helps put our focus in the right place.
We go on to recognize that God is in Heaven and thus in control. We worship Him (Hallowed be Thy name). His kingdom come and will be done; not our agenda.
Then we ask for our daily bread (intercession requests) Give us this day.
Now we ask forgiveness. Imagine the the difference in our hearts and state of mind when we ask her rather than at the very beginning. Chances are that if we did it in the beginning we would be in the flesh.
What a difference this makes in the atmosphere of the prayer closet.
I thank God for His wise instruction to us in this simple, but very powerful prayer.
TO THE BIBLE Psalm 119:19
“I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.”
The words of our opening verse today were spoken by King David. He was wise enough to know he was a stranger in the earth. His expression shows us something remarkable about his insatiable longing for God’s Word; he said, “…do not hide Your commandments from me.” Why was David so passionate about the Word of God, one might wonder? You’ll see the answer in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” He knew the Word would help and guide him in life; it was a lamp to give him light, and a light to illuminate his path. The entrance of the Word into his spirit gave him understanding and light (Psalm 119:130).
The world is covered with spiritual darkness; that’s why you need the light of God’s Word to navigate your way and chart your course through life victoriously. Be passionate about the Word; let it guide and direct your steps! God’s Word is the light that shows you what reality (truth) is; that is what reveals the real you. Through the light of God’s Word, you see the beautiful things God has deposited in your spirit. You see that you’re more than a conqueror, and that nothing is impossible to you.
There’s so much glory and beauty inside you, but you can only see these good things under the light of God’s Word. God’s Word is the true light. As you study and meditate on it, your path in life will be flooded with light, and you’ll keep growing from glory to glory.
Romans 12:2; John 8:12
Dear Father, I thank you for the glory of your Word. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light that illuminates my path; thus, I see and apprehend the greater levels of glory you’ve ordained for me, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
What area of your life has grey areas where you need direction? Take some time to meditate on Psalm 119:105 and 2 Peter 1:19, till the light of God’s Word dawns on your spirit.
Focus of Prayer
By: Paul George
Most people focus on prayer only in response or reference to how it works; prayer for us has become a means to an end and that end is usually a selfish one. Prayer is some sort of a last ditch effort, it is kind of like a spiritual insurance policy, you are glad you have it; you hope you never have to use it. However, prayer is more than that; prayer is more than just the privilege of communing with God. Prayer is and always will be first recognition of God’s majestic glory and an act of submission to it. All our petitions, all our passions, all our supplications, all our requests, all our needs, all our trials, our problems are all subject, to God’s will. Unfortunately, most people think of prayer as an effort to bring God into line with their own desires, and this is a very predominant movement today in the church.
The Pharisees, the scribes, and the Jewish people who followed their teaching had taken prayer from what God intended it to be, and they made it into a man made perverted traditional exercise by which they drew attention to themselves. They used their prayers hypocritically to show how spiritual they were. They assumed that in their prayers they were informing God of things He did not know. They created a prayer that was illegitimate, perverted, substandard, non scriptural, and Jesus then in confronting them sets the record straight. He says, you are not praying according to God’s standard, now let Me set it right, here is how prayer ought to be verse 9, “Pray then in this way; first, Our Father.”
God is our Father, He is not some kind of a cruel, capricious, immoral being stepping on those who are His opposed subjects, but He is a loving, tender, caring Father, at His disposal all the treasures of heaven, for the behalf of His saints that His name may be glorified. Our Father then means that God is going to hear because He cares, “Our Father who is in heaven,” means He can meet our needs because He has unlimited eternal resources. You do not have to hound God, you do not have to bang away and do something to get Him to respond. He is a loving Father; He is best illustrated in that character in Luke 15 verses 11 to 32 where you have the story called the prodigal son.
Second, “Hallowed be Your name.”
Hallow is to set apart from everything common and profane, to esteem, to prize, to honor, to reverence, to adore as divinely and infinitely blessed the true and only God, and you cannot speak of God in earthy terms, you cannot drag God down to the street talk. God must have titles that are fitting for His power and His holiness. How easy it is in our lifetime to go through it saying, “Hallowed be Your name,” and have no idea what we are even saying. The truth of such a petition is that God is to have the rightful priority place in our heart.
How do we hallow His name?
First, we hallow His name when we believe He exists. You can never honor God; you can never exalt God unless you believe God exists. However, it does not stop there. You can believe that God exists and still not hallow His name. When you doubt God, when you disbelieve God, when you question God, and why He did something you are not hallowing His name; wrong thoughts about God do not hallow His name.
When Job in the 30th chapter of Job, the 21st verse said these words, “You are cruel to me,” he accused God of being unloving. When you think wrong thoughts like that about God, when you do not understand who God really is, you have not hallowed His name. When you allow into your conception of God things that are wrong and unworthy of God you are not hallowing His name. Professing Christians can do this not only by thinking wrong thoughts about God but also by not knowing who God really is. If you do not really know whom God really is you are going to doubt Him; you are going to question Him; you are not going to trust Him; you are going to be disobedient, and you are going to cause others to doubt God, and in all of that, you are not hallowing God. In order to hallow His name you must believe that God is, you must be aware that He is who He is.
Second, we hallow His name, when we are constantly aware of His presence, so that we live everyday of our lives hallowing His name. For most of us, our thoughts of God are sometimes very intense sometimes totally absent. However, to hallow His name is to draw conscious thoughts of God into every daily thought into every daily word, into every daily action. Do you see God everywhere? Do you hallow His name in your living? Is He made manifest constantly, everything you do, everything you say, everywhere you go, do you see God manifest? To hallow God means that we must believe that He is who He is, and that we must be constantly aware of His presence. However, you could do all of those things and still not hallow God’s name if you do not obey Him.
We hallow God’s name when we live a life of obedience to Him. That is the final key. You cannot come to the fullness of hallowing His name unless you obey Him. To say, I believe that You are, I believe that You are who the Bible says You are, I am aware of Your presence in my life, and then to disobey Him cuts off the capability of a person to hallow His name. You see the prayer is not just that God’s name be hallowed in heaven, it’s not just that God’s name be hallowed around the world, it is not that God’s name be hallowed in me, this is the prayer that says, God may I be a vehicle for Your holiness? That is where prayer begins.
How do we hallow God’s name, when both our doctrine and our life are truly Christian? When we have the right thoughts of God, we are hallowing His name. The first part of this prayer is, God, teach me the truth, and help me live it. “Hallowed be thy name,” means in me God, manifest Your holiness by my right knowledge of who You are, and my right living in response to it. That is why First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” That is the way we are to live; Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “Hallowed be thy name,” means God be manifested through me, let the light shine through me so that I may glorify You. How do you do that? How do you obey in that way? How do you really let God be manifested through you, first, by living in obedience to His Word? The Bible says we hallow God by confessing Him as Lord. Second, we hallow God by faith. Third, we hallow God by bearing good fruit. Fourth, we hallow God by praise. Fifth, we hallow God by contentment. Sixth, we hallow God by the proclamation of His truth. Seventh, we hallow God by evangelism. Eighth, we hallow God by unity. Ninth, we hallow God by demonstrating the majesty and the glory of God so that others in seeing us will make the right judgment about whom God is and be drawn to Him.
Lord, teach us to pray.
The Powerful Benefits of Prayer
By: Chris Miller
“Prayer is one of the greatest and most excellent means of nourishing the new nature, and of causing the soul to flourish and prosper.” These were some very meaningful words spoken by Jonathan Edwards over 200 years ago in his famous sermon on prayer. Times have changed and so has society, but Edward’s message remains timeless. Prayer has not changed nor has its amazing benefits.
There are no limits to the rewards of praying to a God who is forgiving, patient, and good to us 100% of the time. In fact, the list truly is endless, and it’s different for every individual, but the following are a few benefits that immediately come to my mind.
First, what is prayer? Prayer is not necessarily the same for everyone, but generally speaking, it is a means of communication with our heavenly Father. It can be done alone or among a group of people. It can be spoken or even sang aloud, or thought inside one’s head. Sometimes no words are necessary at all, but rather it is a period of meditative thought and time spent between God and an individual.
Perhaps it is this meditative process that gives prayer one of its most outstanding benefits. Prayer is healing. Studies have actually shown that those who pray are physically and emotionally healthier than those who do not. Those who suffer depression, anxiety, and even terminal illnesses often have a quicker healing time, and more successful survival rate. Folks recover from illnesses quicker when they are able to faithfully steep themselves in prayer.
Have you ever had to work with a difficult co-worker, or is there something specific that is hard to deal with in your marriage?
Another powerful benefit of prayer is that it strengthens our relationships. When we pray for those we know and love, it helps us to understand that person a little bit better. It allows us to be more patient and understanding in frustrating situations, and knowing that He will answer our prayers in His time makes it easier. Perhaps it is because we are taking action and feel ownership in our relationships, but most likely it’s God’s amazing will that helps to strengthen our relationships through prayer.
Not only does prayer strengthen our earthly relationship, but it also draws us closer to the Lord. It truly helps us establish a relationship with Him, and understand more fully who he is and how he performs miracles in our lives every day. After you’ve begun to pray on a daily basis, you suddenly begin to see Jesus and His miracles everywhere. You see Him in the sunset, feel Him in great gratitude for the roof over your head and the food on your table. You know Jesus; you yearn to be more like him.
“Prayer that is constantly and diligently attended to is one of the best means of leading not only an amiable and pleasant life; but also a life of much sweet fellowship with Christ, and of abundant enjoyment of the light of his countenance,” says Edwards in his speech. To put it quite simply, when we pray, we are growing closer to the Lord we love. We are easing the struggles in our lives and improving our relationships, all the while getting to know Him by learning His word, and applying it to our lives in many meaningful ways.
By Chris Miller. Continually giving thanks to God for his salvation, Chris strives daily to be a follower of Christ. Visit his website for uplifting handcrafted Christian plaques and gifts at Engravenword.com.