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Praying with Purpose: Intercessory Prayer

Intercessory Prayer

What’s the work?

To close this series on prayer seems incomplete because the topic of prayer is so wide and diverse.  Out of curiosity, I placed the word “prayer” in my browser to see what would pop up.

The first thing my search engine offered was “prayer for healing”.  It’s not surprising this would be the first response.  There are so many people sick both mentally and physically.  Regardless of social standing or political position, sickness places us all on the same level.

“Prayers for strength in difficult times” was third on my list (after “prayer”).  There’s so much happening in our world.  We’re concerned with wars, terrorism (foreign and domestic), and global warming.  We continue to struggle with the COVID pandemic with all its “side effects”—uncertainty, volatility, and insecurity.

The work at hand

At this juncture in both our personal life and in our nation’s history, prayer is critical.  What is needed is prayer that is focused on others.  More importantly, this type of prayer, intercessory prayer, is centered on God’s will (Matt. 6:10).  The result is prayer that is intentional, strategic, and purposeful.

Intercessory prayer begins with our understanding God’s will.  God’s will can only be understood through developing a personal relationship with Him.

The man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end. So did the saints of old, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets and the believing members of the holy church in all generations. And so must we if we would follow in their train.[1]

The Model Intercessory Prayer

In reviewing prayers of the Bible, the one I like the most is John 17.  To me, this is the model for intercessory prayer.  We recommend you add it to your future study list.

This prayer comes at the conclusion to the Upper Room discourse of chapters 14-16. It is the closing verse (John 16:33) that introduces this extraordinary prayer: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Jesus Prays

First, Jesus prayed for Himself (John 17: 1-5).  This however was not a prayer for self but the request that God would be glorified.  God is glorified when His name is honored, and praise is given to Him for His works and His ways.  Jesus’ work of salvation and glorious resurrection would “finish the work which God had given Jesus to do” (v.4).

Next, Jesus prayed for His Disciples (John 17:6-19).  This is called the High Priestly Prayer These petitions were for the Disciple’s empowerment.  Through His parables and teachings Jesus had shared who God was (v. 6, Your name).  As they went into a hostile world, Jesus prayed that God would “keep” (guard) them and “sanctified” them (set apart) by God’s truth.  Believers today are kept by the same power of God through our faith regardless of the trials we may face (1 Pet. 1:5-7).

Lastly, Jesus prayed for future believers who come to faith through hearing the gospel (John 17:20-26).  This petition was for love and unity among Christ’s Church.   Christ prayed that believers would experience the same unity He knew with God the Father.  This unity would be reflected in the love believers showed to God and to each other.

The Work of Prayer

Jesus’ prayer presents us with an opportunity to “pray outside the box”.  Let our prayers focus not only on our needs but the needs of the world around us.  We need more prayers for healing (physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational).  Every prayer counts as we deal with these difficult times.

Let us expand our prayers beyond the lust of the flesh, eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16-17).  As we grow in our knowledge of God, may our prayers become more intentional, strategic, and purposeful.  As we pray, may God’s will be done, and His name be glorified forever.

[1]  A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man: Tozer’s Profound Prequel to The Pursuit of God

Praying with Purpose: Praying with Confidence

Praying with Confidence Our Prayers

As we stated earlier, prayer is the connector that releases God’s grace, promises, and power into the physical world.  As Oswald Chambers declared prayer is the “greater work” God has given us to do.

Regardless of the type of prayer we engage in—supplication, intercession, or deliverance—we understand the source of our prayers’ power.  The power does not come from us but from God.  Therefore we can have confidence when we pray.

Confidence builders

Our confidence in God dictates our response to the circumstances in the world and in our lives.  More importantly, it shapes our prayers to the Father.   We pray with confidence because we…

    • Acknowledge our REALITY. Our view of life looks different than the rest of the world.  It is based on the fact that God is sovereign and all-powerful (Ps. 97:1-6).

As citizens of God’s kingdom, we live in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God.  Therefore, we operate according to His Word and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Our reality generates prayers of trust and hope as we face the uncertainties and pressures of 21st century living.

    • Walk in our IDENTITY. Our identity is based on who we are “in Christ”.

In Christ we have been adopted as children of God and have access to spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3) and exceeding great and precious promises that by these we might be partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).  This includes God’s power within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Our identity gives us continuous access to the throne of grace.  Therefore, our prayers have priority.  We are invited to come boldly to God for whatever we need (Heb. 4:16).

    • Honor God’s PURPOSE. Jesus often reminded others that He came to fulfill the purpose of His heavenly Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). God’s purpose for our lives has been identified from the foundations of the world (2 Tim. 1:9).

It is the believer’s great honor to live out that purpose in both our life and through the circumstances God has placed before us.  All things are for God’s glory and our good.

Praying with confidence

As we strive to expand our prayer capacity, it is important that we pray with confidence.  This confidence will lead us to greater faith and belief.  The result will be more of God’s will realized in our lives and in the world.

We close with the Apostle John’s final words to believers concerned with the challenges to their faith and belief in Jesus Christ.  It deals specifically with the certainties of our faith.  Whether certainties or confidence, the result is the same–belief that God sees us, hears our cries, and will be with us.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.      1 John 5:14-15

Meditate on these verses and listen as God speaks to your heart.  Then pray the verses replacing the nouns with your name.  Let God’s Word speak “confidence” into your spirit.

Praying with Purpose: Am I ready for purposeful prayer?

Am I ready for purposefeul prayer?

What we know now

We began this series with the challenge to become more intentional and strategic in our prayers.  We do this by praying According to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15), Believing in God’s ability (Matt. 21:21-22), and being Committed to God’s outcome (Hab. 3:17-19).  When we pray in this manner, we place our trust in God’s love, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty.  Then our prayers become more purposeful.

To pray more purposefully will also require a new attitude.  This attitude is based on the recognition that prayer’s power is underwritten by God.  It is the connector that releases God’s grace, promises, and power from the spiritual realm into our physical world.

Armed with this knowledge, we can begin to pray knowing that our prayers have the potential to affect change not only in our individual lives but also to change circumstances in the world.  This includes the growing uncertainties of 21st century living.

Purposeful prayer 101

My prayer life, like many others, began one-sided:  asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7).  I invested my time in learning what I thought was the “right way” to pray.  I followed the PAPA prayer formula.  I prayed the Scriptures.  I employed the ACTS model (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplications).  I wanted to better communicate with God, but I failed to realize what God really wanted.  He wanted me to listen.

With all these methods, the common thread is that they lead to a relationship with God.  When we’re in relationship with a person, we listen to them hoping to better understand who they are.  In prayer, we dialogue with God.  God speaks, we listen.  We become familiar with His ways: how He operates in the world and in our situation.  We understand His intent for our life and how to best serve Him.

Do we actively listen to hear God when we pray?  Or do we follow the prayer that leads to our desired end?  The Apostle Paul told us  that we sometimes don’t know how to pray.  Therefore it is the role of the Holy Spirit to guide us or redirect our prayers so they reflect the true will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

In all seriousness, it is key that believers know that prayer is not just about getting what we want. Prayer is the greater work God has given us to do.

The Greater Work

Oswald Chambers, early-twentieth-century Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher writes this about prayer:

Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. 

Where do I begin?

Believe that God desires to communicate with us (Gen. 35:13).  God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children.  We cry “Abba Father” knowing He hears our every word (Gal. 4:6).

Know that God wishes to be in relationship with us (James 4:8a).  By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means to restore that which was loss in the Garden of Eden—fellowship with mankind.

Declare your intentions by asking God to help hear His voice. Hearing God is not natural (remember we loss that in the Garden) therefore, we must be intentional (Matt. 11:15).  Set aside time to listen for His voice.

Invite Him into time with you and expect to hear (1 John 5:14).  If you receive a fleeting impression, a scripture, or a song, don’t ignore it!  Ask God to dialogue with you about what you heard.

Purposeful prayer is not a method, but a walk with God where ongoing dialogue occurs.  It’s not about doing but it is about being mindful of our relationship with Triune God.  It is an exciting time of fellowship and discovery.  Are we ready for purposeful prayer?

Praying with Purpose: A New Prayer Attitude

A New Prayer Attitude

Knowledge of God and prayer

Every day I understand why it is important to “grow in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10).  Who can know the mind of God?  God is so awesome and beyond anything I could ever imagine.

Paul shared my awe of God in Romans 11:33, when he exclaimed:  O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

This wonderment of God has expanded my curiosity.  Who is He and what is His will?  These questions have increased my desire for greater intimacy with Him.   They have presented me with new opportunities for a richer prayer life.

A new attitude

As I mentioned last week, this era of change and challenge, requires that we be intentional and strategic in use of our spiritual disciplines.  Spiritual disciplines are a critical part of both our life and our lifestyle.  They aren’t meant to be used only to learn more about the Bible or how to live a holy life.

Spiritual disciplines are designed for us to experience the totality of God—Father God, Savior God, and Spirit.   Through these experiences, we are encouraged, empowered, and enabled to fulfill God’s will and purpose (1 Pet. 4:1-2).

We also need a new attitude about prayer.  This attitude requires a change in our mindset.  We must think and act differently than the rest of the world.  This is often counterintuitive to what we may feel.  However, as new creatures in Christ, we are required to pursue “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).  Jesus made that clear on the Sermon on the Mountain (Matt. 5-7).   This new attitude also suggests that we revisit how we think about prayer and its outcomes.  Our prayer life must become intentional, strategic, and purposeful.

Past experiences with prayer

What has been your experience with prayer?  Who do you pray for and when?  If you’re like me, I tried to follow the “biblical playbook” on prayer.  I prayed for God’s will to be done and for forgiveness of sin.  I prayed for family and friends and my life in general.  I really prayed when things got shaky.

When others asked for prayer, I would promise to do so.  I later learned to stop “at that moment” and pray with them.  Fortunately, in my lifetime, I’ve only had one person ask me not to pray for them.  I honored their request without question.

I am cautious as to who I ask to pray for me.  It stems from the old saints’ warning, “be careful who prays for you—especially if you don’t know who they pray to.”   As I sometimes discover later, that advice served me well.

I have been blessed to be part of several communities of believers who help me regularly exercise my prayer discipline especially in the area of intercessory prayer.  For several years I was part of a soul healing prayer group where we prayed as a team for individuals.  For several hours we prayed, listening to the Holy Spirit as He guided individuals to spiritual healing and release.  It was so powerful.  It was so needed.  It still is.

The Power of Prayer

Today I stand to witness to the power of prayer especially when it is approached with intentionality and strategically. 

Prayer not only changes circumstances but prayer also changes us.  Prayer teaches us patience and trust in the Lord.  It increases our emotional capacity so that we are able to rebound from traumatic events in our life.  Prayer connects us to God when we feel we can’t go on (Ps. 42:11).

The thing we must recognize is the true source of prayer’s power.  Prayer is powerful because it is underwritten by God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Ps. 104:5-9). Prayer is the connector to the dunamis power of God.   Engaging in prayer instantaneously takes us into the throne room of God.

Prayer is so much more

Over my lifetime, I’ve personally experienced God’s power through prayer.  Though the circumstances and situations may have been different, God’s presence has been undeniable.

Prayer connects us with so much more than God’s deliverance or provision. Prayer releases God’s grace, promises, and power from the spiritual realm into our physical world. 

Much like the features of that new car or computer we purchased, I’m sure we are under utilizing the power and potential available to us through prayer.    So, for the next few weeks, let’s explore new ways to expand our prayer capacity.  How can we become more intentional, strategic, and purposeful in our prayer life?

Praying with Purpose: Standing in the Need of Prayer

Standing in the Need of Prayer

Standing in need

Last week you were invited to join us in a Season of Christian Reboot This invitation was based on the importance of doing those things that help us to strengthen our faith.  This is critical especially in these tumultuous and uncertain times.

As we move forward, we must accept the obvious.  Our ability to accurately predict our future is a challenge.  Health pandemics, polarization and division, and economic uncertainty plague our nation.  These are but a few of the areas that affect our personal lifestyles and habits.    The good old days are gone never to return.

Living in this new era of change and challenge, we must do more than “fan the flame” of our spiritual gifts.  We must be intentional and strategic in using our spiritual disciplines as we embark on this new way of living.  The best place to begin being both intentional and strategic is standing in prayer.

It’s me

The song writer wrote, “It’s me…it’s me oh Lord standing in the need of prayer…not my mother…father…sister…brother but it’s me standing in the need of prayer.

I love this song.  It truly communicates my need for prayer.  However, for our prayer life to be strategic and intentional, we need to think of prayer with a broader outlook than our own personal needs.  If we as believers are change agents for God, we need to look beyond ourselves in our prayers.

Since the introduction of WordBytes, the teachings receiving the most attention are those that deal with prayer.   We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  Why?  Because our needs are so great.

Are we serious about prayer?

At the beginning of this health pandemic, we launched prayer calls focusing our attention on the epicenters of the disease.  We prayed for healthcare workers and those battling the disease on the front line.  God answered our prayers, and the numbers began to decline.

People boldly asked the nation to pray that a vaccine would be discovered that would end the ravages of this disease.  We have four vaccines today and numerous opportunities to receive this preventative solution.

We have witnessed the extraordinary power of prayer in the situations we face as a nation.  Are we still praying?  The needs are greater than ever.  There are many more battles to be won on our knees.  And what are we praying for?  Wisdom, grace, patience, deliverance?  Who are we praying for?  Ourselves, our family, our enemies?

We need the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide our prayers (Rom. 8:26-27).  With God’s Spirit as our Helper, we are able to move the agenda of God forward in this world and care for the needs of His people.

Praying strategically

God’s Word tells us to pray for EVERYBODY!  Why?  So that “we may live quiet and peaceable lives” (1 Tim. 2:1-3).  Jesus stressed the importance of being in right relationship with all people (Matt. 5:44).  Imagine the potential of prayer for our divided nation?

We need prayer for EVERYTHING!  Why?  Because prayer changes things.  (James 5:16)  Now is the time to pray not only for our immediate sphere of influence but also for our world.

Imagine the potential of prayer!  Do we have the courage to connect to the awesome power of our God? (Ps. 19:1-3)

ABC’s of intentional prayer

How do we begin to pray intentionally?  By praying…

 According to God’s will.   

 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us.    And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made. (1 John 5:14-15)

Believing in God’s ability.  

  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  (Matt 21:21-22)

Committing to God’s outcome.

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and makes me tread upon the heights.  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

When we pray intentionally and strategically, we trust in God’s love, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty.    God will answer our prayers in a way that glorifies Him AND is good for us.

A New Song

Perhaps pursuit of our spiritual disciplines—prayer, Bible reading, and worship—have “cooled” because of COVID-19.   Has our inability to “gather together” darkened our ability to see God (Heb. 10:24-25)?  Has our identity in Christ been clouded by the challenges we face today?  Have we forgotten that we are the Church?  Wherever we are, God is!

If ever there was a need for intentional and strategic prayer, it is now.  Not self-focused, self-promoting prayers (God hears those, too) but prayer that changes hearts, minds, and circumstances.

We need prayer that calls down the power of God expecting Him to respond mightily to our requests (2 Chron. 16:9).

How am I to pray?

 

Where do I begin? I believe in prayer and have made a commitment to be more intentional in it along with fasting.  As I asked Jesus to help me know how to better hold that time with Him, this question came to mind, “How am I to pray?”  More specifically, how am I to pray during these tumultuous times?  What is to be the area I focus on during my time with Him?

Finding the right fit

Several years ago, I joined a prayer group that prayed for our nation.  In the center of the prayer circle, in which we sat, was a picture of the president of the United States.  Later we prayed for the world.  The president’s picture was then replaced with a map of the world.

I’m sure we used the circle to help us focus our attention and prayersThe Lord already knew who the president was.  And since God created the world (and everything in it), I’m sure geography wasn’t an issue for Him.  Thank God for leading us in how to pray because sometimes we really don’t have a clue.

What does the Bible say?

The Bible provides some general areas for our prayers.  Here are a few to help point us in the right direction.

Who are we to pray for?

  • our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2)
  • our enemies (Matt. 5:44)
  • the saints (Eph. 6:18)

How are we to pray?

  • without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)
  • believing (Mark 11:24)
  • according to the will of God (1 John 5:14-15)

Why are we to pray?

  • so people will come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4)
  • so God’s kingdom will be realized (Matt. 6:10)
  • to keep us from temptation (Matt. 26:41)

Let the Holy Spirit lead

In Romans 8:26-27, the Apostle Paul makes the case for relying on the Holy Spirit to guide our prayers.

(In the same way) the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of God.

Prayer circles are helpful and important to the Kingdom, but sometimes it’s best to let the Holy Spirit lead us in our prayers.  For example, He may lead us to pray for specific people or circumstances.  All the while leaving the outcome to His sovereign will.  This type of prayer, intercessory prayer, invites us to cry out on behalf of another.

“I just want to testify”

In March our church prayed for a baby born prematurely.  The hospital saw this child’s chances of survival as slim to none.  But our church prayed without ceasing.  The hospital was in awe as the baby not only survived but ultimately thrived.   Our baby went home in August as a witness to the power of intercessory prayer.

In April, we invited friends and family to pray for New York City.  They were, at that time, the epicenter of the COVID pandemic.  We prayed, and I tell you, things shifted the following week.  Now New York City is viewed as the model for managing during this pandemic.  And they praise God for His mercy and grace.

At the end of July, our small group prayed that the violence in our city would cease.  While I haven’t been able to access the impact with monthly statistics, I believe our prayers made a difference.  Why? Not because I have the numbers to prove it but because of what God says in His Word.  John writes in the close of his epistle about the certainties of faith, including our prayers.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.   1 John 5:14-15

We asked according to God’s will.  We are commanded not to kill (Exod. 20:13).  It is the Lord’s will that we love one another (Rom. 12:10) and be reconciled to each other (Matt. 5:23).  This is God’s revealed will.  We therefore believe God heard our prayer and that we will have the petitions that we asked from Him.

Pray for this moment

Prayer changes things, especially when guided by the Holy Spirit.  God alone knows where He wants us to join Him in His work.  In doing so, we get the opportunity to observe His glory and His power.  This strengthens our faith and encourages us to pray without ceasing, even when we don’t see immediate results (2 Cor. 4:18).

The failures and faults of 21st century living require more than man can provide.  Why?  Because the problems we face deal with the conditions of the human heart—selfishness, hate, jealousy, envy, and covetedness—just to name a few.

The prophet Jeremiah accurately described our current condition in the world when he said “the heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable​—​who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Man’s heart has not changed.  Only God can heal what ails us.

As we look at the conditions of this world, know that God is ever present and vigilant.  He neither slumbers nor sleeps, and is aware of the people, places, and plans that need our prayers (Ps. 121:4).  Our task is to be more intentional and disciplined in our prayer life.

As a nation we need God’s direction and intervention.  While politicians and special interest groups have their place, we need to place our full confidence in God.  He is the only One who can lead us to His desired outcome for the world (Jer. 29:11).  Let’s put God and His will in the middle of our prayer circle and see where He leads us.

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.

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.