Tag Archives: prayer

How to Untangle a Knot

When He was alone with His Disciples, Jesus went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.  Mark 4:34 (The Message)

The crowds and the Disciples were amazed as Jesus taught (Matt. 7:29; 13:54).  He was “never without a story” and used them to help His audience gain a greater understanding of God and to resolve real-life problems.  Mark describes this as “sorting out tangles” and “untying knots.” We conclude this month’s series, “Returning to our First Love”, with an examination of the benefit of listening to God’s voice through His Word to sort out the tangles and knots in our life.

Learning to Sort out My Tangles

Have you ever been faced with a knotted shoe lace or tangled necklace?  It can be frustrating trying to find the biggest knot that will results in the ultimate resolution to your problem.  Knots can impede the full use and benefit of a person’s possession or ability i.e., knots in a tie or tangled chords of a wind chime.

How did you learn to untangle and untie knots?  While I can’t remember my “first knot” or most “frustrating tangle”, I do recall that if I had problems with either of these, my mother was always available to help me based on two things:  First, I had to realize my limitations—I was unable to resolve this challenge on my own and secondly, trust that she was both available and able to help me with my problem.

Life is Full of Knots and Tangles

Our world is full of knots and tangles—the challenges of life that appear to us as “insurmountable messes” we seem unable to resolve.  Life cycle knots—work, family, and relationships.  Personal tangles—financial challenges, health problems, dying and death.  Societal snarls—turmoil, instability, and uncertainty.  Some knots and tangles are the natural result of living in a fallen world; others may be of our own creation. What is the answer to these kinks and twists of living?  How are we to manage these real situations in our lives?  It’s all in the Word.

It’s In the Word  

There’s an old gospel song entitled, It’s All in the Word that retorts:  “The answer to your problems, if you haven’t heard…it’s all in the Word.”  The Psalmist put it more eloquently in saying that God’s Word is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path”—in close proximity to keep us from stumbling yet broad and sufficient to protect us from potential danger and pitfalls (Ps. 119:105).  Psalm 19:7-11 speaks to the great worth of God’s Word.  “Warning and reward” are key benefits in embracing God’s Word.

The world offers futile solutions to life’s knots and tangles.  It suggests resolution through substances (alcohol, drugs, and food), through systems (affiliations, power, and influence) and through stuff (materialism and riches) (1 John 2:15-17).  These answers are temporary and subject to change (2 Cor. 4:18). However, God’s Word is eternal and provides needed insight into His nature and the realities of life, inviting believers to trust, peace, and contentment (Ps. 37:1-6, 23-27).

For those who are willing to listen to Jesus’ voice, there are many promises and privileges (John 10:27).  As believers stay connected to God through His Word and the Holy Spirit, we have access to wisdom and knowledge so desperately needed to navigate these perilous times (Eph. 1: 8).  God may not choose to always remove the knots and tangles in the believer’s life.  They may be needed to mature and strengthen those who chooses to be “trained” by them (Hebrews 12:11).  However, believers can depend on God to always be available and ready to help us “find the big loops” (John 16:33).

Also read:   In God We Trust

SELAH:    Jesus is ready to help you with the tangles and knots of your life.  What are the things that you’ve been unable to resolve?  Draw near to Him is willing and able to help you.

Watch and Pray

Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,

 and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication

for the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

As we continue our discussion on prayer, I’d like to offer another practice to incorporate into your prayer life and that is the practice of “watchfulness”.  “Watch and pray” has been a rally call for the saints since the recording of biblical history.  Whether the call came from Nehemiah and the builders of the Jerusalem wall (Neh. 4:9) or from those who would stand for the LORD (Jer. 51:12; Hab. 2:1), dedication to these two activities has been a resounding recipe for victory.  In our text today, watching and praying is a critical strategy to employ as believers engage in spiritual battle against Satan and his evil minions.  While this letter was written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Ephesus over a thousand years ago, it still holds wise counsel for believers today.

Paul writes this letter from prison concerning conflicts which have risen between the Jewish and Gentile believers.  Rather than maintaining every effort to maintain “unity in the faith” (Eph. 4:3-4), these new Christians had forgotten that the real enemy was Satan—“not flesh and blood, but the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12, NLT).  They are exhorted to “stay alert and be persistent in their prayers for all Christians everywhere.”

Also read:  The Key of the Greater Works by Oswald Chambers

This rendering of “watching” (agrpneo) is used in the New Testament only four (4) times with the first two found in the Gospels (Mark 13:33; Luke 2:36).   In these accounts Jesus speaks to his disciples about watching as it relates to end times and their readiness for His imminent return.  Jesus warns them to be “circumspect, attentive, and ready.”  The author of Hebrews uses watching to encourage “constant vigilance over someone or something”.  The image is one drawn from shepherds and their watch over their sheep.  It conveys the seriousness with which spiritual leaders, “those who have rule over you”, are to exercising constant vigilance over their human flock (Hebrews 13:17).

In our study text of Ephesians 6:18, Paul uses watch to encourage his readers “to be intentional” in their prayers; and their prayers were to focus specifically on the saints of God.  Why?  Because Satan hates the church collectively and believers individually.  Satan especially targets the Church and believers in order to discredit our witness, to discourage our service for the Lord, and to destroy us—spiritually, physically, and emotionally (1 Pet. 5:8).

Jesus was intentional in His prayers for His disciples and His future Church.

Are we then exempted from responsibility to pray for one another?  Are spiritual and moral failures within the church a result of human frailty or are they the casualty of “our failure to pray” and cover our brothers in Christ?  Let us in our daily prayers include those who battle alongside us for the Kingdom of God.  Let no believer fall from Satan’s attack as a result of our failure to “watch and pray.”

SELAH:  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you who He wants you to be more “watchful” for in your daily prayers.  Look for those outside your immediate friends and family.

Pray Without Ceasing

“Never stop praying.” 1 Thess. 5:17 (Phillips Translation)

Last week, I responded to the call of the National Day of Prayer with a personal challenge for believers to move from an occasional, event driven-prayer life to one with greater intentionality and commitment.  For many of us, this may be a very difficult assignment in that most believers, even biblical scholars may admit to feelings of inadequacy when it comes to prayer.  What do you say to the Creator of Heaven and Earth?  We struggle to find the right words or phrase as we attempt to communicate with the Most High God.  Do we use the “ACTS” prayer formula—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication?  Should we follow the Lord’s Prayer outlined in Matthew 6?  Are our prayers to be made in the morning or in the evening?  Do we stand, sit, or kneel?  Should hands be lifted or placed covering our heads?

To add to our personal prayer dilemma, Paul admonishes believers to pray without ceasing.  What does that mean and how do you do it?  To me, praying without ceasing is neither a pattern nor a spiritual event.  It is an attitude we adopt as part of our Christian life style.  Praying without ceasing is

Purposeful.  We come to hear from God.  Our motivation to pray may vary—upon reading His Word, facing a problem or in anticipation of a particular event.  While prayer is initiated by believers, we must also be “eager listeners” as God responds to our petitions and supplications.  He desires to act on our behalf (2 Chron. 16:9).

Relational.  We spend time with God.  It is here that we begin to understand His nature—His ways and His works.  He is “Abba Father”, so we approach Him as the loving nurturer and protector of our soul and life. In prayer we can be “totally transparent” showing Him all our faults and flaws.  He knows our heart (Ps. 103:13-14).

Dynamic.  We can come to God in the morning, throughout the day, or at the close of the day.  Our prayers should never be “repetitive babblings” but genuine expressions of our needs and concerns.  We often do not know how to pray about a particular situation or for a person.  We can depend on the Holy Spirit to guide our petitions (Rom.8:26-27).

Inclusive.  We are sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He identifies the needs of those around us.  Prayer is not just about us.  God will send people through divine appointments who need our prayers. We are to pray for those God “puts on our hearts”—our leaders, our nation, even our enemies. We are to pray for all saints (Eph. 6:18).

As we pray without ceasing, let us take a KISS approach—Keep It Simple Saints.  One of the greatest privileges we have as believers is to bring our prayers to a holy and powerful God.  Let us come to Him ready to hear and obey. Never stop praying.

SELAH:  For your time of quiet contemplation, I leave you with a bit of levity on prayer from a poem that features four men discussing prayer.  I believe God does have a sense of humor!

 

“THE PROPER WAY for a man to pray,”

Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,

“And the only proper attitude,

Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”

Said Reverend Doctor Wise,

“Is standing straight, with outstretched arms,

And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,

“Such posture is too proud:

A man should pray with eyes fast closed

And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hands should be

Austerely clasped in front,

With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”

Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well

Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,

“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,

My head a-p’inting down;

An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there—

Best prayer I ever said,

The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,

A-standing on my head.”

2017 National Day of Prayer: Post Mortem

“I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed…”  Daniel 9:4 (NLT)

It’s been a week since the 2017 National Day of Prayer.  Many Americans assembled in prayer in front of courthouses, as well as in houses of worship, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples.  All convened on that day to pray for change and revival.  This year our “national prayers” were offered up “For Your (God’s) Name Sake!    Hear Us…Forgive Us…Heal Us!”     While I believe in both the power of prayer and the need for spiritual healing and restoration, I don’t believe that our approach—an annual prayer day—is what Daniel had in mind when he prayed for his people (Daniel 9:19).

In a recent article entitled,  Do We Need a National Day of Prayer?  I found someone who, like myself, was distressed with this country’s fascination with this annual invitation to collective prayer:

“There will be a breakfast, prayers offered, and perhaps a sermon or two calling “America back to God.” And afterwards, if history is any guide, politicians will go back to their offices to continue business as usual.  I’m not opposed to praying on May 5th. I’m pretty sure I will be saying a prayer on that day, along with many others who practice such a spiritual discipline. I’ll be praying before and after that day as well, but it won’t be because of a bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. It shouldn’t be the government that calls people to pray. It is the church’s job to call people to pray. The church doesn’t need the government’s sanction or admonition to pray.”

In Daniel 9, we get a glimpse into the past “misbehavior” of Israel before their subsequent captivity and deportation to Assyria and Babylon.  While these deportations extended over  thirty-six (36) years, Israel’s patterns of sin and defiance were clearly warned against by many prophets who came as God’s representatives to warn of the end result of their rebellion (Daniel 9:5-6).  While it was God’s desire that Israel repent, His message was (and still is) clear:

“But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, “then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.  (2 Chronicles 7:19-20)

Daniel’s prayer for the people began with the one thing that seems to escape our nation, in general—the need to confess our collective sin.  If we compare the history of Israel with that of our nation, there are frightening similarities.  Both were once nations “under God” but who gradually and ever so imperceptibly began to question and ultimately rejected God’s commandments and precepts.   As blessed and favored nations, they both began to do what felt “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Prov. 3:7).  They “professed themselves to be wise and became fools, changing the truth of God into a lie” (Romans 1:22-25).

Also read:  The Subtly of Sin

Real change for individuals and nations does not lie solely in intercessory prayer.  Prayer that changes hearts and minds, transformational prayer, must begin with confession followed by a sincere commitment to turn away from sin and turn to God (2 Chron. 7:14; 1 Kings 8:35-36).    Should our 2017 theme instead have been, “Forgive us…heal us…then in Your mercy hear us”?

Envision what our country would look like if we returned to a nation that truly “trusted in God” versus the plans of politicians and social reformers.  Imagine if we loved others more than we loved ourselves.  Wouldn’t it be radical to act on the belief that “we are our brother’s keeper”?  (Gen. 4:9)  Instead of a national day of prayer, let us strive for a “national lifestyle of prayer”:  prayers of confession, prayers of forgiveness, and prayers for wisdom, discernment, and enlightenment.

The Apostle James had this observation about life in the 1st century.  Perhaps there are lessons in his words that can inform us in our future planning for the 2018 National Day of Prayer.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  (James 4:1-3, NLT)

More on prayer next week.

 

SELAH:  Read Daniel 9:4-7 for the next three days.   Each day ask the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants you to pray on that day for our nation and our world.