Saturday, May 9, 2009

Distractions to Prayer

Distractions to Prayer

No one who has tried to pray for more than a few seconds at a time would claim that he is never distracted. It is astonishing to note how insistently and immediately irrelevant matters come to mind, noises occur, things to be attended to are remembered, people interrupt, and even physical discomforts or pains bother us which we had not noticed until we tried to pray. These things are, of course, the work of the master saboteur of souls, who knows how to render our spiritual machinery useless, by the loosening of the tiniest screw or the loss of the smallest nut.
Distractions can be useful. They provide constant reminders of our human weakness. We recognize in them how earthbound we are, and then how completely we must depend on the help of the Holy Spirit to pray in and through us. We are shown, by a thousand trivialities, how trivial are our concerns. The very effort to focus, even for a minute, on higher things, is foiled, and we see that prayer--the prerequisite for doing anything for God--cannot be done without Him.
We are not, however, left to fend for ourselves. "The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God" (Romans 8:26-27 JB).
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Notes on Prayer

Some readings on prayer, by Elisabeth Elliot:

Notes on Prayer:
Prayer is no game. Even if you are part of a "team," as when others join you in prayer, you are not cheered on by spectators or coached by any experts. You won't get any trophies--not on this side of the Jordan, anyway. It's not likely you'll get any credit at all. For some people prayer might fall into the category of "fun," but that's not usually the reason we pray. It's a matter of need and responsibility.
Prayer is work because a Christian simply can't "make a living" without it. He can't live a Christian life at all if he doesn't pray.
Prayer is the opposite of leisure. It's something to be engaged in, not indulged in. It's a job you give first priority to, performing not when you have energy left for nothing else. "Pray when you feel like praying," somebody has said. "Pray when you don't feel like praying. Pray until you do feel like praying." If we pray only "at our leisure"--that is, at our own convenience--can we be true disciples? Jesus said, "Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences" (Luke 9:23 LB).
The apostle Paul did use an analogy from sports to describe prayer. He said we "wrestle." In the wrestling of a Christian in prayer, "our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil" (Eph. 6:12, Phillips). Seldom do we consider the nature of our opponent, and that is to his advantage. When we do recognize him for what he is, however, we have an inkling as to why prayer is never easy. It's the weapon that Unseen Power dreads most, and if he can get us to treat it casually he can keep his hold.
Prayer is like incense. It costs a great deal. It doesn't seem to accomplish much (as we mortals assess things). It soon dissipates. But God likes the smell. It was God's idea to arrange the work of the tabernacle to include a special altar for incense. We can be pretty sure he included all that was necessary and nothing that was unnecessary.
Christ prayed. He offered thanksgiving, he interceded for others, he made petitions. That the Son--co-equal, co-eternal, consubstantial with the Father--should come to the Father in prayer is a mystery. That we, God's children, should be not only permitted but commanded also to come is a mystery. How can we change things by prayer? How "move" a sovereign and omnipotent God? We do not understand. We simply obey because it is a law of the universe, as we obey other laws of the universe, knowing only that this is how things have been arranged: the book falls to the floor in obedience to the law of gravity if I let go of it. Spiritual power is released through prayer.
One way of laying down our lives is by praying for somebody. In prayer I am saying, in effect, "my life for yours." My time, my energy, my thought, my concern, my concentration, my faith--here they are, for you. So it is that I participate in the work of Christ. So it is that no work of faith, no labour of love, no smallest prayer is ever lost, but, like the smoke of the incense on the golden altar, rises from the hand of the angel before God.

Pray Hard, Work Tirelessly:
Sometimes we think of these two things as in opposition. The Bible never places them so, but shows how perfectly they harmonize. Prayer is one kind of work, necessary to the proper doing of all other kinds. When we pray, we are in touch with God, expectant, trusting: He is at work. He does what we cannot do. We are to be at work also, doing what we can do.
In Paul's closing remarks to the Christians in Colossae he includes greetings from Epaphras.
He prays hard for you all the time....He works tirelessly for you. (Col 4:12-13 NEB)
As we pray, the Lord frequently shows us what we ourselves can do to cooperate with Him in bringing about the answer. Let us listen as we pray. Then let us go out and work tirelessly.

Why Bother to Pray?

If God is sovereign, and things will be as they are going to be anyway, why bother to pray? There are several reasons. The first is really all we need to know: God has told us to pray. It is a commandment, and if we love Him we obey his commands.
Second, Jesus prayed. People sometimes say that the only reason for prayer is that we need to be changed. Certainly we do, but that is not the only reason to pray. Jesus was not being made more holy by prayer. He was communing with his Father. He was asking for things. He thanked God. In his Gethsemane prayer He was beseeching the Father to prevent what was about to take place. He was also laying down his own will.
Third, prayer is a law of the universe. As God ordained that certain physical laws should govern the operation of this universe, so He has ordained the spiritual law. Books simply will not stay put on the table without the operation of gravity-- although God could cause them, by divine fiat, to stay. Certain things simply will not happen without the operation of prayer, although God could cause them, by divine fiat, to happen. The Bible is full of examples of people doing what they could do and asking God to do what they couldn't do. In other words, the pattern given to us is both to work and pray.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pick Up Your Cross

Jesus invites us to be his disciples. If we choose to accept his loving invitation, we must understand that there are certain conditions to be fulfilled. One of them is a willingness to accept the cross. Is this a once-for-all taking up of one particular burden? I don't think so. It seems to me that my "cross" is each particular occasion when I am given the chance to "die"--that is, to offer up my own will whenever it crosses Christ's. This happens very often. A disagreement with my husband can cause an argument and harsh words, even if the matter is ridiculously small--"When are you going to get that dashboard light fixed in the car?" I have already mentioned the light three times. It may be time to keep my mouth shut, but I don't want to keep my mouth shut. Here, then, is a chance to die. A decision which affects both of us may be a fairly big one, but we find ourselves on two sides of the fence. One of us, then, must "die."
It is never easy for me. Shall I make excuses for myself (that's the way I am; it's my personality; it's the way I was raised; I'm tired; I can't hack it; it doesn't turn me on; you don't understand)--or shall I pick up this cross?
Perhaps my illustration seems to trivialize the cross of Christ. His was so unimaginably greater. What cross could I possibly take up which would be analogous? Just here is the lesson for me: when Jesus took up his cross, He was saying yes with all his being to the will of the Father. If I am unwilling to say yes in even a very little thing, how shall I accept a more painful thing? What sort of practice does it take for a disciple to learn to follow the Crucified? A friend hurts us, a plan goes awry, an effort fails--small things indeed. But then cancer strikes, a daughter marries unwisely, a business folds, a wife abandons her home and family. The call still comes to us: Take up your cross and come with Me. With You, Lord? Yes, with Me. Will You give me strength and show me the way? That was my promise--is it my custom to break promises?
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Die Quickly

To hold onto something with a desperate grip is not the way to die. Death is a painful process, and restoratives offered to the dying wretch bound to his wheel only prolong his agony. There are times when the thing to do is simply to die. I am thinking, of course, of dying to the self. We clutch so tenaciously to our rights, hopes, ambitions, something to which God has perhaps said a plain no. If would-be comforters offer us consolation and sympathy, if they assist us to strengthen our grasp when it should be loosened, they do not love us as God loves us. The way into life is death, and if we refuse it we are refusing Him who showed us that way and no other. The love which is strong as death is not only willing to save the beloved, it is willing to seem, if necessary, pitiless, insensitive, unloving, if that is what will help the beloved to die--that is, to be released from the bondage of self, which is death, and thus enter the gateway of life.

Archbishop Fenelon wrote to the countess of Montberon, "You want to die, but to die without any pain.... You must give all or nothing when God asks it. If you have not the courage to give at least let Him take."
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Faith Is Holding Out Your Hand

Sometimes when I was a child my mother or father would say, "Shut your eyes and hold out your hand." That was the promise of some lovely surprise. I trusted them, so I shut my eyes instantly and held out my hand. Whatever they were going to give me I was ready to take. So it should be in our trust of our heavenly Father. Faith is the willingness to receive whatever He wants to give, or the willingness not to have what He does not want to give.

I am content to be and have what in Thy heart I am meant to be and have.
--(George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul)

From the greatest of all gifts, salvation in Christ, to the material blessings of any ordinary day (hot water, a pair of legs that work, a cup of coffee, a job to do and strength to do it), every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights. Every one of them is to be received gladly and, like gifts people give us, with thanks.
Sometimes we want things we were not meant to have. Because He loves us, the Father says no. Faith trusts that no. Faith is willing not to have what God is not willing to give. Furthermore, faith does not insist upon an explanation. It is enough to know his promise to give what is good--He knows so much more about that than we do.
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Last weekend (March 28th) there was a Voice of the Martyrs conference in Mississauga, Ontario. We were immensely blessed to hear from Mr. Kim Sung Min, who shared his story. It was a very powerful story to hear, and the church where the conference took place recorded his speech. So I want to link to it here, in hopes that you'll get a chance to listen to it yourself!

Here is some information from The Voice of the Martyrs blog about Mr. Kim:

Kim Sung Min, a former propaganda officer for the North Korean Army, is now fighting for the freedom and faith of his home country.
Once a diehard socialist, Mr. Kim became disillusioned when he saw the lack of freedom and opportunity in North Korea while serving in the military. After defecting, being arrested and escaping again, Mr. Kim began spreading a new message of hope and liberty.
Mr. Kim’s eyes were opened to the modern-day Holocaust that was going on around him in North Korea, where Christianity is illegal and even failing to keep a portrait of Kim Jong-Il clean can mean being sent to a political prison camp. Like thousands of other North Koreans, he defected to China. But his newfound Christian faith compelled him to spread that message of hope to his fellow North Koreans. So, he became a prominent freedom fighter and advocate for religious freedom for North Korea.
Mr. Kim founded Free North Korean Radio and now is leading another effort—training North Korean exiles through Underground University to return to their homeland to serve and grow the North Korean church. Mr. Kim serves as Dean of Underground University in Seoul, South Korea — a joint project of Seoul USA and The Voice of the Martyrs-Canada.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Being a Lens

Being a Lens

Scripture verses: Psalm 35:22-28; Philippians 1:20

Each of us is a lens that magnifies what we live for. People can look at and through our lives and see what is really important to us. The athlete magnifies his sport, his team and his winning record. The musician magnifies the instrument he plays. The scholar magnifies his discipline. As God's people, we should magnify the Lord.
The sinner, however, wants to magnify only himself. David said, "Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion who rejoice at my hurt; let them be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves against me" (v. 26). Notice the phrase "who magnify themselves against me." Whenever you live to magnify yourself, you are always against someone else. This means competition. And God doesn't want us to live competitively.
Our great desire should be to magnify the Lord, not ourselves. David said, "Let them shout for joy and be glad, who favor my righteous cause; and let them say continually, 'Let the Lord be magnified'" (v. 27). The Apostle Paul said, "Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" (Phil. 1:20). Are you magnifying the Lord today? Can people listen to your words, look at your life, measure your actions and say, "She belongs to the Lord. He belongs to the Lord"? It's important that people see the Lord, not us.
The most important quality of a lens is cleanliness. When the lenses of my glasses get dirty, I see the dirt. So I have to clean them. When we are dirty, people see us rather than the Lord. Let's keep our lives clean today. Let's magnify the Lord together; He is worthy of all praise.
Christians are on display before the world. What an opportunity and responsibility you have to impact others for Christ! If you love the Lord, you will want to magnify Him. Watch your words and actions. Are you living for Jesus? Keep the lens of your life clean so that He may be magnified through you.

By Warren Wiersbe

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

O For A Closer Walk With God

My pastor had mentioned a hymn by William Cowper, who is one of my favourite hymn writers. But this was one I had never heard. So I looked it up and have really come to appreciate its words and so I thought I'd share them today:

O For A Closer Walk With God
by William Cowper, 1772

O for a closer walk with God,

A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.

Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Isaiah 53

I love reading different translations of the Bible. Often I find that reading a different translation helps me understand a specific verse I've been looking at. This week I heard someone read Isaiah 53 from The Message, and I loved the way it was worded. I've never turned to The Message while studying Scripture, but sometimes I find the simplicity of the wording in it to be very impacting; like this section in Isaiah 53:

1 Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have
thought God's saving power would look like this?
2-6 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.
7-9 He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.
10 Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.

Friday, February 27, 2009

"O Lord!"

The following is an excerpt by Elisabeth Elliot from her book On Asking God Why. It contains a bit of her personal story - of some of the trials she's faced - and how God has led her through them. It is a great reminder of God's constancy, no matter how we feel.

Thirty years ago I was standing beside a shortwave radio in a house on the Atun Yacu, one of the principal headwaters of the Amazon, when I learned that my husband, Jim Elliot, was one of the five missionaries missing. They had gone into the territory of the Auca Indians, a people who had never heard even the name of Jesus Christ. What did I do? I suppose I said out loud, "O Lord!"

And he answered me. Not with an audible voice (I've never heard him speak that way in my life). But God brought to mind an ancient promise from the Book of Isaiah: "I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned....For I am the Lord your God" (Isaiah 43:1, 2).

l am the Lord your God. Think of it! The One who engineered this incredible universe with such exquisite precision that astronomers can predict exactly where and when Halley's comet will appear--this God is my Lord.

Evelyn Underhill said, "If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped."

Can we imagine that God, who is concerned with so many stupendous things, can possibly be concerned about us? We do imagine it. We hope he is. That is why we turn to him in desperation and cry out, as I did, "O Lord!" Where else can we possibly turn when we have come to the end of our resources?

Does God love us? Karl Barth, the great theologian, was once asked if he could condense all the theology he had ever written into one simple sentence.
"Yes," he said. "I can. 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'"

Think about the account of the Crucifixion in Mark 15. Jesus was fastened to a cross. It was a man-made cross, and man-made nails were hammered through his hands--the hands that had formed the galaxies. Wicked men put him up there. Then they flung at him a bold and insolent challenge: "If you're the Son of God, come down! Then we'll believe."

Did he come down? No. He stayed there. He could have summoned an army of angels to rescue him, but he stayed there. Why? Because he loved us with a love that gives everything.
Because of the love of the father for us, he gave his son. Because of the love of the son for his father, he was willing to die, "so that by God's gracious will, in tasting death, he should stand for us all" (Hebrews 2:9).

When I heard Jim was missing, my first response was "O Lord!" God answered by giving me a promise: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you."

Was that enough for me? Was that all I wanted? No, I wanted Jim back alive. I didn't want to go through that deep river, that dark tunnel. Five days later I got another radio message: Jim was dead. All five of the men were dead.

God hadn't worked any magic. He is not a talisman, a magic charm to carry in our pocket and stroke to get whatever we want. He could have sent a rescue squad of angels to save Jim and the others, but he didn't. Why not? Didn't he love us?

Fourteen years later God brought another man into my life. I thought it was a miracle I'd gotten married the first time! Now, once again, I was a wife.
However, Addison Leitch and I had not yet reached our fourth anniversary when we learned he had cancer. O Lord, I thought, another dark tunnel. The medical verdict was grim, but we prayed for healing. We did not know positively what the outcome would be, but we knew our Father. We had to keep turning our eyes from the frightening things to him, knowing him to be utterly faithful.

Whatever dark tunnel we may be called upon to travel through, God has been there. Whatever deep waters seem about to drown us, he has traversed. Faith is not merely "feeling good about God" but a conscious choice, even in the utter absence of feelings or external encouragements, to obey his Word when he says, "Trust Me." This choice has nothing to do with mood but is a deliberate act of laying hold on the character of God whom circumstances never change.

Does he love us? No, no, no is what our circumstances seem to say. We cannot deduce the fact of his unchanging love from the evidence we see around us. Things are a mess. Yet to turn our eyes back to the Cross of Calvary is to see the irrefutable proof that has stood all the tests of the ages: "It is by this that we know what love is: that Christ laid down his life for us" (John 3:16 NEB).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.8

Chapter 8:

Motivations To Prayer

How devoted are you to prayer? Do you pray as often and for as many things as you ought? If you are like most of us, you will answer with a definite “no.” Every Christian ought to ask, “Is something lacking in my spiritual life? Am I really motivated to pray if I don’t pray as I should?” Scriptures give us plenty of motivations to overcome our lack of prayer. For example: Psalm 37:4; Luke 11:9-10; 1 John 5:14-15
More motivations are:

  1. A Desire For The Lord’s Glory – Our desire for the Lord’s glory should be the first and foremost motivation for prayer. When we pray for God to be exalted, that His plan and promises be fulfilled, we are not praying for self; we are praying for Him, because we desire that the Lord be glorified.
  2. A Desire For Fellowship With God – Another motivation to prayer stems from a genuine longing to be in the presence of God. That longing often begins when our heart feels lonely, estranged, or cut off from the Lord and therefore cries out for fellowship with Him. (ie: Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1-2; Psalm 84:1-2)
  3. A Desire For Needs To Be Met – Christians should also be motivated to pray because they desire the Father to answer the concerns of their hearts with power and blessing. We need to pray for our needs every day, even if it’s simply to thank God for so mercifully supplying them when we don’t deserve anything.
  4. A Desire For Wisdom – (James 1:5) If you believe that you don’t need divine wisdom as you live in a sinful world, you’re really deceived. When Jesus taught us to pray, He said, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). That is a prayer for spiritual discernment, or spiritual wisdom.
  5. A Desire For Deliverance From Trouble – Periods of great difficulty tend to prompt us to unceasing prayer as we realize there is no human way of deliverance from our dilemma.
  6. A Desire For Relief From Fear And Worry – All believers can identify with the desire for relief from fear. If you’re in distress and experiencing fear, worry, anxiety, and depression, what should you do? Go to the Lord in persistent, continual prayer and you will experience His peace and find the right answers to all your questions and problems. (Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 4:1)
  7. A Desire To Offer Thanks For Past Blessing – If we have a thankful heart and remember all that the Lord, in His goodness, has done for us in the past, that ought to motivate us to pray and at least offer God a simple thanks. (ie: Psalm 44:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
  8. A Desire To Be Free From The Guilt Of Sin – Along with Psalm 51, Psalm 32 is a classic psalm that addresses the penitent believer’s desire to be freed from sin’s guilt. The desires that motivated David ought to prompt us to incessant, penitential confession so that we also remain free from the guilt of unconfessed sin, and have the joy of salvation.
  9. A Desire For The Salvation Of the Lost – When you’re compassionately concerned about lost people, you will be moved to pray for their salvation. (ie: 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Romans 10:1; 2 Peter 3:9). If we don’t pray unceasingly for the lost, then something is lacking concerning our compassion for them and we need to ask God to give us a new desire to pray for the unsaved.
  10. A Desire For The Spiritual Growth Of Other Believers – Paul was a model in praying for others’ spiritual growth (Ephesians 1:15-19; Ephesians 3:14-21; Colossians 1:9-12). We often take for granted that fellow Christians will increase in their knowledge of the Lord. But He wants us to make that increase an object of regular prayer.

The Key To Prayer Motivation

If we are not following the mandate to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), something is wrong with our desire to pray, something is missing at the motivational level. …The only sure way to prompt and sustain a quality prayer life is to maintain a regular and disciplined study of the Word of God. The more you find God’s person, character, and majesty revealed on the pages of Scripture, the more you’ll want to fellowship with Him through prayer. And the more you study the Bible and discover how God wants to provide everything to meet all the needs of His children, the more you’ll be prompted to pray to that end. Etc.
The apostle Paul admonished us to “pray without ceasing,” and that should be our way of life. Start today!

A Prayer Of Charles Spurgeon:

Draw us nearer, Lord, draw us into the inner Sanctuary; draw us within the place which once was hidden by the veil which Christ has rent; bring us right up to the throne of grace, and there beholding the glory of God above the Mercy Seat may we have communion with the Most High. Today help Thy people to put on Christ. May we live as those who are alive from the dead, for He is the quickening Spirit; and may we feel Him to be so. If any part of us is still dead, Lord, quicken it. May the life which has taken possession of our heart take possession of our head; may the brain be active in holy thought; may our entire being, indeed, respond to the life of Christ, and may we live in newness of life. We would fain fall down on our faces and worship the Son of God today. It is such a wonder that He should have loved us; and He has done such wonderful things for us and in us that we may still call Him God’s unspeakable gift. He is unspeakably precious to our souls.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Psalm 37:4 - Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Luke 11:9-10 - So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

1 John 5:14-15 - This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Psalm 42:1-2 - As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 63:1-2 - O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Psalm 84:1-2 - How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Matthew 6:13 - And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 4:1 - Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

Psalm 44:1-4 - We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 - We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 - 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 Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Romans 10:1 - Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Ephesians 1:15-19 - For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.

Ephesians 3:14-21 - For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Colossians 1:9-12 - For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 - pray continually

Monday, February 23, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.7

Chapter 7:

Hindrances of Prayer

If you are like most believers, you find that prayer, in spite of its amazing, blessed benefits, is a difficult spiritual duty to fulfill. There are some important reasons why prayer is so often difficult for us – what we might call hindrances to prayer. The main hindrance is the general presence of sin. And the other most common hindrances to our prayers are:

  1. Carnality And Unconcern – When we were born anew, God imputed to us Christ’s payment for sin’s penalty (1 Peter 3:18) and removed sin’s controlling power (Romans 6:5-7; Galatians 2:19-20), but the tendency to evil remains within us. One word that best characterizes our flesh is “selfishness,” the tendency to focus on our own will and interests and against God’s. Such self-centeredness easily hinders us from praying as we ought. Our carnal selfishness also makes us totally unconcerned about the needs of others. Before you go to the Lord in prayer, make sure you are not being indifferent to the needs of others, or praying for yourself as if you were isolated.
  2. An Unforgiving Spirit – An unwillingness to forgive others is another specific sin that can hinder prayer (Mark 11:25). Before God will hear your prayers, you need to forgive anyone who has offended you. We cannot truly worship God or expect Him to answer our prayers if we harbour resentment or bitterness for someone. How can we ask God to pour out all of His love, mercy, and grace on us – undeserving sinners – if we won’t forgive and be reconciled to another undeserving sinner? When we refuse to forgive we also forfeit the inner peace, spiritual power, and spiritual growth that the Lord would otherwise grant through our prayers. Before you ask God to be gracious to you, do some self-examination to make sure you are treating others with the same kind of gracious, forgiving favour you want to receive from God.
  3. Doubt – (James 1:6-7) God requires the right kind of asking when we come to Him in prayer. We must ask without doubting, which means our prayers have to be accompanied by authentic trust in God’s character, purposes, and promises. Prayer that doesn’t trust the Lord’s promises, or doubts that He is trustworthy or able is a terrible affront to God.

A Prayer Of John MacArthur:

Father of the Lord Jesus, help us to approach You with deepest reverence, not with presumption, and not in servile fear but with holy boldness. You are beyond the grasp of our understanding but not beyond our love. And You know that we confess to love You supremely for You are supremely wondrous, good, perfect, and glorious. Our hearts melt at the love of Jesus, our brother and our Saviour, our Lord and our friend, our eternal bridegroom, dead for us, alive for us. We are overwhelmed that He is ours and we are His. He has given for us and given to us. And we thank You for the gift of Christ, and we offer in response our worship.

Scripture verses mentioned:

1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

Romans 6:5-7 - If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Galatians 2:19-20 - For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Mark 11:25 - And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

James 1:6-7 - But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.6

Chapter 6:


God wants to hear what burdens us, and we do not need to be afraid to take those burdens to Him. We cast all our cares on the One who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

The Objects Of Our Petitions

Prayers of most saints rarely get beyond making petitions for their own and others’ physical needs, when we should be far more concerned about spiritual matters. Paul commands us to pray “for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18), and illustrates praying for others in two prayers recorded in his epistle to the Ephesians. Paul first prayed for the believers’ understanding of their spiritual resources in Christ; then he prayed they would know how to experience God’s power in their lives:

A Petition For An Understanding Of Spiritual Resources – Ephesians 1:15-23
It is vital that all Christians comprehend what their spiritual resources are, but apart from supernatural spiritual insight, even the most intellectual believer can’t grasp the full range of spiritual privilege. In this prayer, Paul is in essence asking God through the Holy Spirit to give the Ephesians wisdom and enlightenment. “Wisdom” refers to the practical application of the truth revealed. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians and all believers is that they both know the deep truths of salvation and that they appreciate and apply them more and more. To assure that will happen, he wants all to know:

  1. The Greatness Of God’s Plan – Paul’s petition seeks a divine grace from God that has “the eyes of your understanding… enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). Paul wants us especially to apprehend two specific aspects of God’s great plan: the hope of His calling and the riches of His inheritance. It is an immeasurable, incomprehensible blessing for us as believers to know the immense privilege of being in Christ. In fact, all God’s riches are ours because we are part of His plan – that’s why Paul prayed that we would have the joy of that understanding.
  2. The Greatness Of God’s Power – (Ephesians 1:19-20) The apostle prays that we would be energized by God’s mighty power, the same power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead (Colossians 2:12).
  3. The Greatness Of God’s Son – (Ephesians 1:21) The Father has elevated the Son far above all other beings… none is equal or superior to Him. As we endeavour to serve the Lord, we need to remember Christ’s divine presence in us (Colossians 1:15-18; 2:9) and His sympathetic understanding of us (Hebrews 4:15).
So Paul prays that fellow Christians apprehend the spirit of wisdom and revelation as they experience the greatness of God’s power and rely on the greatness of His Son – all of which is according to God’s great eternal plan. That is an example of how we should pray for fellow Christians – for their grasp of the glories of redemptive theology.

A Petition For The Release Of God’s Power – Ephesians 3:14-21
This prayer outlines for us five aspects of divine power that are available to all Christians:

  1. Inner Strength – (Ephesians 3:16) All who know Christ need inner strength to cope with the stress and pressures of everyday living, thus Paul prays that the Ephesians “be strengthened with might.” That emphasizes the tremendous spiritual strength available to the believer’s inner person. Such strength comes “through His Spirit,” which simply means believers must be Spirit-filled, living in Spirit awareness, and submitting to the authority of the Holy Spirit in everything they think, say, and do.
  2. The Indwelling Christ – (Ephesians 3:17) Paul’s second petition is that Christ would dwell in Christians’ hearts. But this indwelling cannot happen if sin and disobedience are present. Only when the Lord controls every aspect of our lives can He really be at home in our hearts. Jesus wants to “settle down” in the heart of every believer, and we should pray toward that end, not only for ourselves but also for our fellow Christians.
  3. Incomprehensible Love – (Ephesians 3:17) When we are spiritually strengthened inwardly by the Holy Spirit and Christ indwells us, our lives will radiate the incomprehensible love of the Lord Jesus. Before we can love other people – even other Christians – as we ought, we must not only be rooted and grounded in love, we must comprehend it. In the Greek, “comprehend” means “to seize” something and make it your own. That’s what Paul prays the Ephesians will do – take hold of the love of Christ in all its dimensions.
  4. Infinite Fullness – (Ephesians 3:19) Paul is asking that the Ephesians would possess (as much as possible in the Spirit’s power) the essential, undiminished characteristics of God. We as believers can possess God’s fullness – His essential characteristics. We are thereby able to communicate godly love, wisdom, holiness, and graciousness to the world around us. Christians communicate who God is not only by speaking the Scriptural truth, but also by displaying the essence of His character in their lives.
  5. Immeasurable Power – (Ephesians 3:20) Only when we are aware of our own inadequacies and lack of power will we truly see God’s power at work through us in serving the church and evangelizing the world. This is an awesome blessing to contemplate, and worthy of much prayer for others and ourselves in the Body of Christ.

A Prayer Of John MacArthur:

Our sovereign Lord, we praise you continually for permission to approach Your throne of grace and to spread before You our wants and our desires. We are not worthy of Your blessings, we are not worthy of Your mercies. We have no righteousness of our own. We acknowledge our self-despair. Yet we remember there’s hope in You because the Lamb has taken away our sin. We thank You that we have been drawn to Him, to hear Him, to trust in Him, to delight in Him, and to delight in Your Word and Your law. Preserve our minds from error. Preserve our hearts from the love of idols. Preserve our lips from speaking deceitfully. Preserve our behaviour from stain of sin, our character from any appearance of evil, and may we live as harmless, blameless children of God without rebuke in the world, holding forth the Word of Life that others may see Christ in us and be drawn to Him. These things we ask for His glory and in His name.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Ephesians 6:18 - And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Ephesians 1:15-23 - For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[
a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Colossians 1:15-18 - He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Colossians 2:9 - For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Ephesians 3:14-21 - For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.5

Chapter 5:


Christians cannot grow unless their lives are characterized by praise. If you want to glorify God, praise Him. (Psalm 50:23)
What does it mean to praise God? According to the Bible, praise involves three elements:

  1. Naming God’s Attributes – Scripture powerfully and extensively reveals the character of God, enabling us to praise Him better (for example: Habakkuk 1:12-13). It is a good habit just to review God’s character when you pray and remember that He is a God of infinite love, glory, grace, majesty, mercy, and wisdom. He is invincible!
  2. Naming God’s Works – God’s attributes are manifest in His works. Whenever we have a problem we don’t know how to solve, we should praise God for His wisdom and might, as demonstrated in biblical history. It is reassuring to praise God in this way. When you spend time in praise, reviewing all that God is and all He did for His people in Old Testament times, what Christ accomplished for sinners, what God did through the disciples in the first century, and what He has done through the history of the church, your problems pale in comparison to the Lord’s power. Praise bolsters confidence in God because He has proven Himself trustworthy in the past. So when we praise God before bringing Him our problems, we can be confident that He will solve our troubles with wisdom and power – because it is His very nature to do so.
  3. Offering Thanks – Naming the attributes and works of God easily leads to thanking Him for all He has done, is doing, and will do. At the heart of all praise is thanksgiving. The apostle Paul emphasized the need for gratitude when he wrote Philippians 4:6. Thanksgiving is the antidote to worry. Instead of praying to God with doubt or discontentment, we can approach God in a spirit of thanksgiving. That’s because God promised not to allow anything to happen to us that would be too much for us to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Romans 8:28 establishes the overarching principle we need to keep in mind… God’s providence should cause us to be thankful for anything that happens in our lives. Because God actually uses all difficulties for our good, there is nothing we cannot thank Him for.

So be filled all the time with praise. In so doing, you’ll find yourself released from fear and worry. Give every situation over to God’s sovereign control, trusting Him because you know His history of wisdom and power and you understand His promise to supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19). Nothing about you escapes Him (Psalm 139:3). You know He cares about you (1 Peter 5:7), and He has the power to overcome every difficulty (Psalm 62:11). But He uses suffering to perfect you to be like Christ (Philippians 1:6), and His power and understanding are infinite (Psalm 147:5).

A Prayer of John MacArthur:

We thank You, Father, that You have been gracious to us and so we sing of Your mercy, we sing praised to You. Our faith is in You, our expectation is from You. Our love goes out toward You. We believe You. We submit to Your Word. We are eager to do Your will. We trust in Your promises. We rest in Your providence. We thank You that the court of conscience affirms that we are Yours through the witness of the Spirit. We thank You that we do not need signs and wonders to believe, for Your Word is more sure. We have cast our anchor in the port of peace, knowing that we are secure in the present and the future from all the storms that rage because we’re held in the nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge, O God, that You are good and wise and just and holy and merciful. You are the fountain, the source of all law. You’re also the fountain and source of all grace to those who having broke Your law come to You for forgiveness. We yield to Your sovereignty, wanting only what You want for us. We ask that You would grant us silence in our heart in place of murmuring and complaining. May our truest wishes be those things that advance the kingdom and not our own will. May we never find fault with Your providences. May we only look for Your mercy in them all knowing that trouble draws us to You and that’s where we need to be for joy and blessing. When we sin and are rebellious, help us to repent, take away our mourning and give out music. Remove our sackcloth and adorn us with the garments of joy. Take away our sighing, fill our mouths with song. And when we are restored and rest again in You and walk in the light of Your truth, may we know the fullness of Your blessing. These things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Psalm 50:23 - He who sacrifices thank offerings honours me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.

Habakkuk 1:12-13 - Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die.O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (ESV)

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Philippians 4:19 - And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 139:3 - You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 62:11 - One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong.

Philippians 1:6 - being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Psalm 147:5 - Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.4

Chapter 4:


All Christians who take honest spiritual inventories are cognizant of personal sin. We know God hates sin and thus are unnerved over our own iniquities. So Christians continually confess their sin.
The daily forgiveness Jesus taught us to pray for is a familial forgiveness. It is the remedy for God’s fatherly displeasure when we sin (Hebrews 12:5-11). As long as we live in a sinful world, with our sinful tendencies, Christians need daily cleansing from the defiling influence of our sin… the forgiveness we seek in our daily walk is not pardon from an angry Judge (justification – which we have), but mercy from a grieved Father.

True confession of sin is not just admitting you did something wrong, but acknowledging that your sin was against God and in defiance of Him personally. True confession also involves a penitent attitude – turning away from the evil thought or action. You have not honestly confessed your sins until you have longed to be rid of them. Thus real confession includes a brokenness that inevitably leads to a change of behaviour.

The Purpose Of Confession

Confession is a healthy beginning for prayer because it provides a reminder that we do not deserve anything God gives us. A materialistic perspective on prayer gets eliminated when we go before God with the brokenness and the contrite heart of people who confess their sins. When we affirm with God that we deserve nothing, we end any self-centeredness in our prayers.

A second reason for confessing sin is this: When any believer confesses his sin, God can chasten (discipline) him without being thought of as unfair. If He chastens us because of our sin, we know we deserve the correction.

The Elements of Confession:

  1. A Right View Of Sin – A right view of sin is the recognition that sin deserves judgement. A right view of sin also recognizes an urgent need for cleansing. Sin leaves a deep stain, and only a total cleansing will suffice. Just as Christ stooped to wash the disciples’ feet, we need to allow Him to cleanse us from the dirt of the world every day. Another crucial part of having a right view of sin is accepting full responsibility for it. A right view of sin also recognizes that we sin because it is in our nature to do so. Sin is not an anomaly, nor could we stop sinning even if we wanted to. We are sinful at the very core of our humanity.
  2. A Right View Of God – God’s holiness: (Psalm 51:6) God is not concerned with external behaviour but with the thoughts and motives of our hearts. God’s authority over sin: (Psalm 51:7) God can and will change your sinful habits, but He requires your trust in His authority over the powers of evil. God’s mercy: (Psalm 51:9) God has the power and desire to pardon sin in those who exhibit genuine repentance.
  3. A Right View Of Self – We are to live godly lives/turn from sin if we want to be used by God to convert sinners to Him. We are to live godly lives for the sake of God Himself. And we must be holy for the sake of the saints.
True confession can occur only when we see God for who He is, when we see sin for what it is, and when we see ourselves for what we really are.

A Prayer Of Charles Spurgeon:

We might well start away and flee from Thy face if we only remembered our sinfulness. Lord! we do remember it with shame and sorrow; we are grieved to think we should have offended Thee, should have neglected so long Thy sweet love and tender mercy; but we have now returned unto the “shepherd and bishop of [our] souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Led by such grace, we look to Him whom we crucified, and we have mourned for Him and then have mourned for our sin. Now, Lord, we confess our guilt before Thee with tenderness of heart, and we pray Thee seal home to every believer that full and free, that perfect and irreversible charter of forgiveness which Thou gavest to all them that put their trust in Jesus Christ. We bless that glorious one who hath come “to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins” (Daniel 9:24), to bring in everlasting righteousness, which righteousness by faith we take unto ourselves and Thou dost impute unto us.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Hebrews 12:5-11 - And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Psalm 51:6 - Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Psalm 51:7 - Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:9 - Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.3

Chapter 3:

Continual, Persistent Prayer

Prayer is a way of life for true believers… prayer is like breathing. The natural thing for us to do is commune with God. Prayer should flow naturally and continually from our hearts… we should be in constant communion with God.

Think of prayer as living in continual God-consciousness, in which everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, living in deep awareness of and surrender to our heavenly Father. Living in unbroken communion with Him makes life a continually ascending prayer. All your thoughts, deeds, and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with your heavenly Father.

God’s greatest desire, and our greatest need, is to be in constant fellowship with Him now, and there is no greater earthly expression or experience of that fellowship than prayer.

Persistent Perseverance:

Prayer is not easy. Just because we can talk to God anytime throughout the day certainly doesn’t mean we will. But… to “continue earnestly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2) is to courageously and persistently bring everything, especially the needs of others, before God. The matter of perseverance is taught in two parables: Luke 11:5-10 and Luke 18:2-5.

God longs to respond to His chosen children who are persistent in prayer – so just keep praying without ceasing and don’t give up. Keep knocking. Keep asking. Keep seeking.

(But remember – we can never, by our persistence, force God to do what we want against His will; but we do need to demonstrate to Him a heart of compassion and the genuineness of a concerned and caring soul)

Constant Alertness:

If we are to persevere in prayer, we must also be on the alert to situations that need our prayers. We need to keep our eyes open – to be alert to the spiritual needs of others. As we become sensitive to what is happening around us, we learn what to pray.

A Prayer Of Charles Spurgeon:

O Thou blessed God! The joy of knowing that we are Thine forever, Thine in trials of life, and Thine in the last dread of death, and then Thine in resurrection, Thine throughout eternity! We do therefore worship Thee, O God, not as a constraining nor under terror or pressure, but cheerfully and gladly, ascribing unto Thee praise, and power, and dominion, and glory, and honour, world without end. We wish we knew how to do something for Thee. We pray that we may be helped to do so ere we die; yea, that every flying hour may confess that we have brought Thy Gospel some renown; that we may so live as to extend the Redeemer’s kingdom at least in some little measure; that ours may not be a fruitless, wasted life; that no faculty of ours may lay by and rust; but to the utmost of our capacity may we be helped of the Divine Spirit to spend our whole life in real adoration.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Luke 11:5-10 - Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'
"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Luke 18:2-5 - He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.2

A summarized look at Chapter 2 of Lord, Teach Me To Pray

How Should We Pray?

There are many ways to pray – pray on your knees, pray with your hands up, pray with your hands folded, read a prayer out of a book, pray aloud, pray silently, or pray in many other ways. But Paul says that we are to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18). If we are going to be praying all the time, we must be able to pray in all kinds of different ways.

When is the best time to pray? Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray.” Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Luke 6:12 says that Jesus “continued all night in prayer to God.” Prayer ought to characterize our whole way of life.

There are no set formulas for prayer – but the following are guiding principles:

  1. Ask In Christ’s Name – When Christ commands us to pray in His name, He wants us to pray consistent with who He is – His person, His will, and His purposes. When we truly pray in the name of Christ, we ought to be seeking to align ourselves with the will of God. So don’t get in the habit of adding “in Jesus’ name” to the end of your prayers with little or no thought for the reason you’re doing so. Rather, realize to whom you are praying and why. You are coming to the Lord of the universe to be used by Him in the accomplishment of His will in your life. (Note: MacArthur says that he closes his prayers with: “This I ask because I believe this is consistent with the will and person of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Because that thought pervades his prayer, it allows him to filter out all unnecessary and selfish requests)
  2. Ask In Faith – All Christians need to approach God believing in His wisdom and power. He wants to see us trust Him. …If you don’t believe God’s promises, the Bible says you make Him a liar (1 John 5:10). As Christians, we dishonour God when we doubt Him. Unbelievers ought to be able to know Christians as those who live confidently because our trust in God is evident.
  3. Ask In The Spirit – In times that we simply don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit helps out (Romans 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit is constantly praying for us. Ephesians 6:18 says we are to pray “in the Spirit.” That simply means that because the Holy Spirit always prays in the will of God, we need to line ourselves up with Him. Offer prayers that are consistent with the Spirit’s prayers so that you are committed only to God’s will. Praying in the Spirit is the same as praying in the name of Christ – praying in a manner consistent with who He is and what His will is. …But how do we do that? By walking in the fullness of the Spirit. As our lives are filled with the Spirit, as we walk in obedience to Him, and as we are constantly communing with God, the Spirit of God will govern our thoughts so that our prayers will be in harmony with Him. That is supernatural praying – when the Spirit of God pulls you into His praying patterns.
  4. Ask From A Pure Heart – James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We need to ask from a pure heart for God to consider our prayers. What is the righteousness James refers to? A personal and practical righteousness. We are commanded to live righteous lives. What James is saying is that if you expect God to answer your prayers, you must be committed to living a righteous life. (other verses about this: 1 John 3:22; Psalm 66:18; Psalm 34:15).

A Prayer Of Charles Spurgeon:

… Lord, help us to do Thy will. Take the crippled kingdom of our manhood and reign Thou over it. Let spirit and body be consecrated to God. May there be no reserves; may everything be given up to Thee. Reign forever! Pierced King, despised and nailed to a tree, sit Thou on the glorious high throne in our hearts, and may our lives prove that Thou art Lord over us; by our every thought and desire, and imagination, and word, and act, in every respect being under Thy divine control.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Daniel 6:10 - Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

1 John 5:10 - Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

Romans 8:26-27 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

1 John 3:22 - …and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.

Psalm 66:18 - If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

Psalm 34:15 - The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Teach Me To Pray, pt.1

I recently borrowed a book from a friend called Lord, Teach Me To Pray, by John MacArthur. It turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read about prayer. He covers many topics and questions about prayer, and I found it to be full of great encouragement and words of inspiration to apply to my own prayer life. So I thought I’d jot down some of the highlights of the book, and share them in here. I’ll do this chapter by chapter for the next little while.
So, beginning today is chapter 1:

Why Pray?

Because we know that God’s power is invincible and His will unhindered, we should have unwavering faith in coming to His throne in prayer. Any view that strips believers of their passion to pray is disobedient Christianity.
The Bible details at least five reasons we ought to pray:
  1. Prayer Is Commanded – (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) This is not a mere suggestion – we don’t have the option to ignore it because we can’t determine how our prayer fits into God’s plans. Even though we cannot know how our prayers work within God’s eternal rule and purpose, we are to pray.

  2. It Is A Sin Not To Pray – Because we are commanded to pray, it is an act of disobedience if we don’t pray. Prayer is a duty, and the neglect of prayer is therefore a sin.

  3. Prayer Gives Glory To God – The primary issue in prayer is not obtaining what we want but allowing God to display His glory. The eternal benefit of prayer is that it magnifies God’s glory. (Daniel 9:16-17)

  4. Prayer Aligns Us With God’s Purposes – Often we pray with the idea that we can pull God into line with our plans. But that is not the goal of prayer. When you begin to seek God’s purposes in your prayers, your heart will be aligned with His will.

  5. Prayer Results In Answers – God answers prayer, and that alone should be reason enough to pray. (James 5:16)
God sovereignly uses our prayers to fulfill His perfect plan. Therefore, our petitions should reflect our heart’s desires. At the same time, we show our willingness to surrender our will to God’s own holy purposes.

A Prayer Of Charles Spurgeon:

Our Father, Thy children who know Thee delight themselves in Thy presence. We are never happier than when we are near Thee. We have found a little heaven in prayer. It has eased our load to tell Thee of its weight; it has relieved our wound to tell Thee of its smart; it has restored our spirit to confess to Thee its wanderings. No place like the mercy seat for us.
We do bless Thee, Lord, for instituting the blessed ordinance of prayer. What could we do without it, and we take great shame to ourselves that we should use it so little. We pray that we may be men of prayer, taken up with it, that it may take us up and bear us as on its wings towards heaven.

Scripture verses mentioned:

Ephesians 6:18 - And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 - pray continually

Daniel 9:16-17 - O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary.

James 5:16 - Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Snoodle's Tale

I don’t have any kids; instead, I am “Auntie Jess” to my best friends’ kids, and as such love to spoil my dear “nieces & nephews” and make my home a fun and comfortable place for them to come to. My “niece” Gracie comes to visit regularly and has made herself right at home. She goes straight into my office to her toy shelf and gets all the toys she wants to play with that day, or, more commonly lately, she goes to my living room entertainment unit and grabs the remotes for me to turn on the TV, and then grabs her new favourite thing to watch here – a Veggie Tales DVD called “God Made You Special.” I’m thrilled that Gracie is starting to like Veggie Tales. She doesn’t quite know what to make of it sometimes, but she dances to the music and seems to be enthralled with the animation. The funny thing is, is that I know most adults are just as excited to watch Veggie Tales as their kids. And now I see why!
There is a story on this DVD called “A Snoodle’s Tale,” which is a very well-known Veggie Tales story. And it is my favourite! It’s a sweet little story with a very good message. I can’t wait until Gracie is old enough to fully understand it!
I thought I’d post the story here for you to enjoy. Yes, perhaps that seems a tad immature… but I really think that the story is a great little read. If you have a young child, perhaps you can read this to them sometime! I’m confident in saying that they’ll enjoy it. :)

A Snoodle’s Tale

Far, far away in the land of Galoots, where the biggle-bag trees bear their biggle-bag fruits, and far-lilly bushes all blossom in yellow, and thimbuttle plants squirt snooberry jell-o…
Here where the mountains of rocky-ma-goo rise high o’er the meadows of gilda-manjoo; where sunsets are painted with purple and blue, you’ll find a small town, not much bigger than you.
Welcome to Snoodleburg, home of the Snoodles! A curious folk who eat pancakes with noodles and spend half their days making sketches and doodles, and cutting their hair into shapes like French poodles.
Now, right in the heart of this curious town is a curious building – the tallest around! With a clock at its top and a chute at its bottom, ‘tis pink in the Spring and turns red in the Autumn. But weirder by far than its colour or height is what happens there every fourth Tuesday night. As strange as it seems, it has been demonstrated that Snoodles aren’t born, but rather, “created.”
Every fourth Tuesday at quarter past nine, the tower would shimmy, and rattle and whine. And as the town nibbles on biggle-bag fruit, a shiny young Snoodle will drop from the chute! That’s where they came from, though no one knows why; nor who could have built the tower so high. These “mysteries of life” befuddled most Snoodles, who’d much rather focus on pancakes and noodles and cutting their hair into shapes like French poodles. Yes, most found the tower too noisy and strange, until one small Snoodle made all of that change.
This little Snoodle was much like the others; he came without siblings – no sisters or brothers. He came without money, no mom or a dad… the pack on his back was all that he had.
“This is peculiar,” the little guy said. “I came from a chute and I fell on my head! What do I look like? What am I for?” He pondered those questions, and then thought of more. “Checking my bag is a good place to start.” He pulled out some paints. “Maybe I’m good at art!”
The next thing he found was a Snoodle-kazoo. “Hey, what do you know! I can make music too!” Then back on his pack he pulled a small string, and out from the sides popped two little wings.
“Amazing!” he said, with a gleam in his eye. “I can paint, play kazoo, and now I can fly! Wait ‘til the others see all the great things I can do with my paints, my kazoo, and my wings!”
So he packed up his paints and his Snoodle-kazoo, and he hopped off to show them all what he could do.
There from the top of a short, stubby wall, the big Snoodles heard the new small Snoodle call:
“Come watch me, you guys, as I head for the sky!” He straightened his wings with a gleam in his eye, then he jumped and he flapped like the red-snootered finches that fly from the plains to the peak of Mount Ginchez. His flight, unlike theirs, covered only 12 inches.
“You call that flying?”
“You think you’re a bird?!?”
“We’ve never seen anything quite so absurd!” The old Snoodle snorted, he sniggered, he shook, “I’ll paint you a picture to show how you looked!”
The brushstrokes were skilful; the colours were coolish. The story they told made the young one feel foolish.
“Take it from us,” said a Snoodle named Lou. “Flying just isn’t what you’re meant to do!”
The young Snoodle drooped. He felt his heart sag. The painting, the old Snoodle placed in his bag. “Carry this with you,” the old Snoodle said. “So visions of flying don’t go to your head.” The weight on his back was as heavy as lead.
So under the weight of the picture he bore, he hobbled along, feeling lonely and sore. ‘til up far ahead on a bench near the tower, he spied a bright bundle of far-lilly flowers. His heart started lifting – “What beautiful things!” Then he remembered, “I’ve got more than wings!”
So quickly he dug the paints out of his pack and hoped that with art maybe he’d have the knack.
“I did it!” he yelled to the Snoodles in town, then held up his picture as they gathered ‘round.
“You did it alright,” said the Snoodles, replying, “you showed you’re no better at painting than flying!” Then one of them laughed, and while eating a waffle, painted a picture than made him feel awful.
“You’re puny!”
“You’re silly!”
“You’re not all that smart!”
“You can’t use your wings, and you’re no good at art!”
That picture, too, was placed in his pack and made his heart slump just as low as his back.
“I’m ugly, I’m foolish, and so very small. I don’t think I should be with Snoodles at all.”
And so he decided to get out of town. His wings hung so low, that they dragged on the ground. He walked past the tower and out of the city; he walked through the fields and thought, “My, this is pretty!” The far-lilly bushes all blooming in yellow, and thimbuttle plants squirting snooberry jell-o.
“I might like it here,” said the small Snoodle fellow.
Then feeling some warmth coming back in his chest, he thought he would sit for a moment and rest. But try as he might to sit down with grace, the weight on his back knocked him flat on his face!
“Ha! That’s a hoot!” said a voice from behind. A farmer stood up with a thimbuttle vine. “Why, you need a picture, my Snoodleburg bud, lest you forget how you look in the mud!”
And so in that instant the picture was done, and placed in his backpack, which now weighed a ton!
The poor Snoodle struggled, he wobbled, he groaned; he stood to his feet and he said with a moan, “Is there anywhere I can be truly alone?!?”
Just then overhead flew two red-snootered finches, winging their way toward the peak of Mount Ginchez.
“I see,” said the Snoodle, “then that’s what I’ll do. The home for those finches will be my home, too.” So, painfully struggling under his pack, the small Snoodle inched up the big mountain’s back. He crawled over boulders in rain and in lightning. He trudged on and on, though the journey was frightening. ‘Til finally on Sunday at quarter past two, he spied all the meadows of gilda-manjoo and realized he was on top of Mount Ginchez, alone with the wind, and his thoughts and the finches.
He thought of the Snoodles; he thought of the tower; he thought of the bell that would chime on the hour. He thought of his pack and his very long walk. He thought it so loudly he heard his thoughts talk!
“Hello,” said his thoughts, “you’ve made quite a climb!”
“That voice,” he remarked, “doesn’t sound much like mine.”
Then he turned and he noticed he wasn’t alone – for a man stood behind near a cave in the stone. He looked like a Snoodle, though quite a bit bigger. “Maybe a giant,” the small Snoodle figured.
“I’m going!” the Snoodle boy said with a huff. “And don’t paint a picture – I’ve got quite enough!”
“But first, come inside,” the man said. “Have some tea! I’m so very pleased that you’re visiting me!”
The Snoodle boy stopped, though he’d only gone inches, and stared at the stranger he’d found on Mount Ginchez. He didn’t seem angry; in fact, he looked kind. The poor little boy was confused… “Are you blind? I’m puny! I’m silly! I’m not all that smart! I can’t use my wings, and I’m no good at art!”
The stranger leaned down with a pain in his heart. “Who told you these things?” he asked, “how do you know?”
“These pictures I have in my pack tell me so.” The small Snoodle sniffled and started to go.
“First, if you please, let me look at this art that makes your pack heavy and weighs down your heart.”
Then, picture by picture, he unpacked the bag that bent the poor Snoodle and made his wings sag.
“Dear boy,” said the man, “these look nothing like you!” Then into the fire the pictures he threw.
He rose from his chair, saying “wait there – you’ll see that what you need most is a picture from me!” The Snoodle sat patiently, sipping his tea. Then from a room in the back he returned, and said, “Dear little Snoodle, it’s time that you learned what you really look like!” And he threw off the sheet. What the boy saw warmed him right to his feet. The boy in the portrait looked older and strong, with wings on his back that were sturdy and long, and a look in his eye both courageous and free.
“Sir?” asked the boy, “are you saying that’s me? I’d like to believe it, but sir, I’m afraid to.”
“I know who you are,” the man said, “for I made you. I built the tower and set it in motion. I planted the meadow, put fish in the ocean. And I feed the finches – though most Snoodles doubt it – not one of them falls that I don’t know about it. I’ve seen you fall down in the mud and the goo. I’ve seen all you’ve done, and all you will do. I gave you your pack, and your paints and your wings. I chose them for you – they’re your special things. The Snoodle-kazoo is so you can sing about colours in Autumn or flowers in Spring. I gave you your brushes in hopes that you’d see how using them, you could make pictures for me. Most of the Snoodles,” the old one said sadly, “just use their paints to make others feel badly.”
The young Snoodle pondered the things he’d been told. Then wondering something, grew suddenly bold.
“But sir, if you made this incredible land, can’t you make Snoodles obey your command?”
The big one smiled warmly, then said to the small, “A gift that’s demanded is no gift at all.”
With that the small Snoodle reached into his pack, and pulled out the picture he’d made ten miles back. “They’re far-lillies, sir, from over the bridge.”
The old one beamed bright and said, “That’s for my fridge!”
After the small Snoodle’s picture was hung, the old one bent down to the face of the young. He said, “Here’s what you look like; here’s how I see you. Keep this in your pack and you’ll find it will free you from all of the pictures and all of the lies that others made up just to cut down your size. And lastly, your wings – you know what they’re for. But no just to fly, son, I want you to soar!”
“But sir,” said the Snoodle, “how can I fly? This picture’s so big, I won’t get very high!”
“But this picture’s special – it’s bigger, it’s brighter – carry it close and I think you’ll feel lighter.”
As soon as he heard it, the Snoodle looked down and noticed that he was an inch off the ground! He laughed and he leaped, and he flew from the cave feeling now older and stronger and brave. And he flew through the clouds and he flew with the finches, and soared up and down ‘round the peak of Mount Ginchez. He flew over far-lilly bushes in yellow, and thimbuttle plants squirting snooberry jell-o. He flew over biggle bag trees and their fruits, in big, lazy loops o’er the land of Galoots. Then hurried back home to the center of town, where the Snoodles all stood with their wings on the ground.
And starting precisely at quarter past two, he told them the story that I just told you.