Friday, July 30, 2010

Week 5, Day 5 - Pray For Our Country (Part 1)

2 Kings 19:9-20

All week, I have been exploring how to pray for people in our life as well as people who are spiritual, political, and professional leaders. I have always considered prayer important, but I have to admit that the more I study prayer and how to pray for others, the more I realize that I am not praying enough. I have also found my prayers changing from focusing so much on myself and God to focusing on God touching the people in my life. Because I have recently started keeping a prayer journal, I have been remembering to pray for others in my life on a regular basis rather than offering up a quick prayer when I think of it. There is nothing wrong with offering a prayer for someone as they come to mind; however, if that is all our prayer life consists of it is like snacking all day rather than eating full meals. I also want to bring back the idea that God enjoys and wants our participation and gave us the gift of prayer. Isn’t it amazing that our God, who is greater than anything or anyone, gave us the gift of prayer so we can come to Him? Today I want to start looking at how we can pray for our country. Please look up 2 Kings 19:9-20.

King Hezekiah was a king who honored God; in fact, the Bible tells us there was no king in Judah before or after him who trusted and followed God the way he did. Hezekiah turned Judah back to God and took down all the altars that people used to sacrifice to other Gods. As a result, God was with him and made him successful in whatever he did. Meanwhile, in Israel, the Assyrians had attacked and defeated the Israelites and deported them throughout the empire. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was powerful and relied entirely of his strength, so when he came to Judah he began threatening Judah. In 2 Kings 19:9-13, we read the last threat and insult Sennacherib made to Judah and God. Hezekiah prayed to God pleading with Him to save Judah and show all the nations that God is the one and only God. In verse 20, God tells Hezekiah He heard his prayer. I will tell you that God saved Judah by putting 85,000 Assyrian soldiers to death over night (2 Kings 19:35).

Hezekiah recognized something important that today we easily miss; he saw that this wasn’t just a crucial battle to save the country, but it was a spiritual battle as well. Assyria was mocking God and the idea that God is sovereign. This is not a foreign idea today; we have radical enemies that do not look at us just as a country, but they see a spiritual battle as well and insult God. Unfortunately, they refuse to accept that God’s hand allows and disallows rulers and countries to exist (Isaiah 40:21-24). Please read what God’s reply is to Sennacherib in 2 Kings 19:25-28. Just as I wrote yesterday, God is in control, but He wants our participation through prayer. God’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer wasn’t, “I’ve got it under control, why are you praying?” His answer was, “…I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria,” 2 Kings 19:20. Praise God, He hears our prayers!

On Monday, I will continue how we need to pray for our country. Today, I want to focus on the fact that God wants us to pray for our country and for its protection. Are you praying for your country?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Week 5, Day 4 - Pray For All Leaders

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Watching the news, I see the media ready to jump all over our country’s leaders every time they make what appears to be a poor decision. Something I have learned to consider is the fact that I do not have all the details and sometimes what may seem to be a bad decision may be the best decision given the circumstances. I am preaching to myself because I easily find myself getting frustrated with some of the things leaders say or do and I have to remind myself that the media’s perspective is not necessarily correct and the situation may be pulled out of context. My topic for today can be convicting for me because I have not prayed for this county’s leaders or people in authority over me on a regular basis. Just think of what could happen if everyone who followed Christ prayed for everyone in authority over them! I believe the effect would be amazing! Please look up 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

Paul tells us in verse 1 that we need to be praying for everyone and then in verse 2 he explains that includes “kings and all those in authority…” For us, this would mean praying for all our political leaders and anyone with authority over us such as our bosses at work. Paul explains why we should be praying for them, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” When Paul wrote this letter, Nero was the emperor and was known to be a cruel ruler and was persecuting the church. Paul was not saying that we pray for the leaders we like; he was saying that we need to pray for all leaders. Keep in mind that at one time, Paul was also a harsh religious leader and put Christians to death. He wrote this knowing that God can change anyone. In verses 3 and 4 we see that praying for our leaders pleases God who wants to see all men to be saved.

That brings me to an interesting thought: how often have I prayed that our leaders come to know Christ? It is important that we pray for God’s guidance as they have a great responsibility, but it is even more important that they come to a relationship with the only One who can save them. God “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” Isn’t it interesting that God can move His hand at any given time, but He wants us to participate with Him through prayer? We know that all leaders are only in their position because God allows it (Daniel 5:18, 21); however God wants us to participate in His work through prayer. It is amazing to me to think that God, who has the power to do anything, wants me to take part in what He does; it is also a responsibility that I am not to ignore.

Some things that we need to pray over anyone in authority is similar to what we pray for our church leaders:
· Most importantly, pray that they come to know Christ if they don’t already.
· Pray that they have wisdom to make good decisions.
· Pray that they have the strength the follow through with good decisions even when they may face opposition.
· Pray that there is unity amongst all the leaders.
· Pray for physical health.

Are you praying for the people in authority in your life?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week 5, Day 3 - Pray For Church Leaders (Part 2)

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

Yesterday, I began exploring what we as a church should be praying over our church leaders. I looked at how we should be praying that they are able to continue living a life that honors God because they face the same temptations we face. I also looked at how we should be praying that God guides them when they prepare to give their message and that they are able to speak the truth boldly. If you have been in any type of leadership, you know that there is more to leadership than making decisions. Please look up 2 Thessalonians 3:2.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:2, we see that Paul asks that the church pray for them to be “delivered from wicked and evil men.” He also asks for deliverance from men in Romans 15:31. I think this is important to remember because while we have religious freedom here in the United States, our church leaders are still facing opposition from those who do not like the message they are preaching. Even the pastor of your local church faces opposition when he/she preaches a sermon that people didn’t want to hear. Maybe people in the church do not appreciate some of the difficult decisions that a pastor needs to make and the pastor is facing attacks as a result. Sometimes our church leaders are facing someone trying to discredit them even when they are living an honorable life. We need to be praying for them to endure and be delivered from their opposition.

The last thing I want to explore is the idea of unity within the church and amongst the leaders. Philippians 2:1-2 gives us something to pray over the leadership in our church. Whether we are praying for the local church board, or denominational leaders, or leaders in the national or international spotlight, we need to be praying for unity. We need to be praying that they can “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel,” (Philippians 1:27). If your church has one pastor, pray that they can have unity as they interact with the church board. If there are more than one pastor and staff at your church, be praying that the staff and pastors can lead in unity. Pray for unity amongst the lay leadership in your church so they can minister within and outside the church effectively.

As I look back over the last two days please remember to pray the following over your church leaders:

· That they continue to live lives that honor God.
· That they are led by the Spirit as they prepare their messages.
· That they can speak their messages with love and boldness.
· That they can endure opposition that they face.
· That they are delivered from those who oppose their message and leadership.
· That they can have unity with all church leadership and the church body.
· That they are following God’s Will.

Are you praying for your church leaders?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 5, Day 2 - Pray For Church Leaders (Part 1)

Hebrews 13:18 - 19

Growing up in the church, I have seen some church scandals of prominent leaders get thrown into the media spotlight. I have also seen lesser known church leaders gradually slide into a sinful lifestyle which ends up hurting the church greatly. These events hurt so badly because they are our leaders and it can be shocking to see them fall into the very sin they preach against. I think it is important for us to remember that they are human just like us and deal with the same temptations that we deal with. I have known people that joined the staff at a church and became disheartened because they saw the more human side of their church leader, forgetting that every human (whether a leader or not) is going to have gifts given to them by God and they are also going to have weaknesses that they have to learn to work with. We sometimes hold our leaders to a level of accountability that we are not willing to hold ourselves to. However, we need to be careful not to judge them; rather, we need to be praying for our church leaders. What I wrote yesterday, applies for today and we need to make sure that when we pray for our church leaders we are not praying selfish prayers that only benefit ourselves. The early church leaders asked for prayer and we can still be praying the same prayers over our current leaders. Please look up Hebrews 13:18-19.

The author of Hebrews is asking for prayer explaining that they want to continue living honorably and with a clear conscious. A church leader bears the same temptations that we all face and they need prayer to have the strength to resist the temptation. Church leaders know that they are not exempt from living “honorably in every way,” and they desire to live a life that honors God. If we are not praying for our leaders to have the strength to live a life that honors God, then we are doing them a disservice.

Paul lets us know of some other things to be praying over our church leaders in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2. The first thing that Paul asks for prayer is that the message of God will be spread quickly and will be honored. Paul asks for this prayer in Colossians 4:3-4 and in Ephesians 6:19-20. In these verses we see that Paul asks for prayer that they are able to give the message of Christ clearly and that he will be able to give the message fearlessly. He also asks that they pray that the Spirit give him the words to say. We need to be praying for our leaders each week as they prepare to give a message to the church and to those that are seeking.

There are a few more points of how we should be praying for our church leaders that I want to explore tomorrow. Are you praying for your church leaders? Are you praying for them to resist temptation? Are you praying that they can speak the truth of Christ boldly?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Week 5, Day 1 - How To Pray For Others

Colossians 1:9-14

My husband’s Grandma spent her time in prayer every day. She prayed for her immediate family, she prayed for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. She prayed for people in her church, her neighborhood, and for friends of friends. She prayed for missionaries and wrote them letters of encouragement. When I began dating my husband, she prayed for me and when we were married she prayed for me and my husband that our marriage would stay firm. She was a beautiful example of prayer. When she passed away, my husband felt as if he lost his greatest prayer warrior and I understood how he felt because we knew that she was always praying for us. In his letters, Paul gave us some wonderful examples of what to pray for people; please turn to Colossians 1:9-14.

I want to look at some of the things Paul prayed over the Colossians and see how we can be praying those very things in the lives of the people we know. Verse 9 says, “…and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Wow! Just that prayer alone is amazing to me because Paul is praying for wisdom and understanding so that they can know and understand God’s will. When we pray that for a person, we are asking God to give them a beautiful gift so they can make wise choices in their lives and avoid the consequences of poor choices. Paul then spends some time explaining the outcome of such a prayer in the next several verses, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way…” In my opinion, there really is no better prayer to pray over someone or yourself so that we can please God in every way. I want to live a life worthy of the Lord, and I want everyone in my circle of influence to do so as well!

Reading further on we see that pleasing God in every way includes:

· Bearing fruit in every good work
· Growing in the knowledge of the Lord
· Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might
· Having great endurance and patience
· Able to joyfully give thanks to God

Asking God to fill those we care about (and those who have hurt us) with the knowledge of His will through spiritual wisdom and understanding is a prayer that can change a person’s life! We do not have the knowledge to know where a person’s heart is or where God may be leading them, but we do know that when we pray that a person understands God’s will, we are praying a good prayer for that person.

Are you praying for the people in your life? Are you praying that they understand God’s will?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Week 4, Day 5 - Pray For Others

1 Samuel 12:16-25

Yesterday, I explored the importance of asking others for prayer and I looked a little at how we are also to be willing to pray for others. Today, I want to explore at how God expects us to pray for others, even if we do not like what they are doing. When I am asked by someone to pray for them, I first offer to pray for them right then and then I try to write down their prayer request because I am afraid I will forget to pray for them. This summer, I have started a prayer journal which has helped me greatly in praying for others. My friend’s prayer requests are written down and I can also record when they have had an answer or have received what they needed. I want to look at an interesting statement Samuel the prophet made to the Israelites when he explained their sin for asking for a king. Please read 1 Samuel 12:16-25.

The statement I would like to focus on is in verse 23 when Samuel says, “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the LORD by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach what is good and right.” It made me wonder if it was a sin to not pray for other people especially when at the moment that Samuel made that statement he was feeling very frustrated with the Israelites. I did a little exploring and found a few references back to how we are commanded to love others (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 6:27-28). If we pray for ourselves and we are told to love others as we love ourselves then my conclusion would be that we are to pray for others. Not only are we to pray for the people that are friends with us, but we are to pray for the people who have hurt us as well. So, even when we are frustrated with someone’s actions, we are not to stop praying for them when God has placed them on our hearts.

I feel that I need to explain that our prayers for other people cannot be selfish prayers that benefit us. For example, I was once a part of two different groups that had opposite opinions of how something should be done; I was young at the time but I learned a huge lesson about praying for others in that experience. Both groups of people prayed, “God, please let the other group see that we are right!” Well, seeing both groups pray that prayer I realized that a prayer like that doesn’t work because what if they are both wrong, and since they had such differing opinions it was safe to conclude that at least one of the groups were on the wrong track. Praying that the other person would come to our way of thinking and opinion is not a good prayer; when we pray we are to seek God’s Will. When we pray for others, we are not to be asking that our will be done in their lives; we are to be praying that God’s work will be done in their lives. So, when we pray for others we know that not only are we to pray for the people that have hurt us, but we are also to be praying God’s Will for their lives!

Next week, I will be exploring how we pray for others. Are you praying for others? Are you lifting up unselfish prayers for the people around you including those who have hurt you?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Week 4, Day 4 - When Others Pray

Esther 4:1-17

All of us know someone that is a “prayer warrior” and if we truly need prayer that is the person we turn to. There are some people in my life that I go to when I need prayer. These are people that will not just say that they will pray for me, but they will pray for me. When I am faced with a circumstance that seems bigger than me and I need strength and courage I turn to those friends and ask them to pray for me. Usually, those friends will pray for me at that moment and then they will continue to pray for me as long as I need it. The moment in history I want to look at today is about a group of people who were not known for being “prayer warriors,” but they did pray earnestly for an urgent need. Please turn to Esther 4:1-17.

Esther was the Queen of Persia and was also a Diaspora Jew, meaning that after Cyrus had allowed the Jews to return to Israel, her family chose to stay in the empire. At this point the king had no idea that Esther was a Jew, and what I understand about the Jewish laws is that a devout Jew would appear different than the rest of the culture. So, either the king was unobservant (which when reading the story of Esther is highly possible) or Esther and other Diaspora Jews did not observe all their religious laws. Personally, I think that it is probably a mix of both and several scholars believe that the Diaspora Jews did blend in with the Persian culture. This section of scripture is about an enemy of the Jews (Haman) and how he set in motion a plan and law to have the Jews annihilated. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, asked Esther to plead with the king to save the Jews. When Esther realized that she needed risk her life and to go to the king, she asked Mordecai to have the Jews fast and pray. Please look at verse 16, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

I find this very interesting because most likely the Diaspora Jews were blending in with the culture and so they probably were not known for corporate fasting. However, the situation was desperate and Esther was not going to go to the king without having a lot of people praying for her; she knew that only God would be able to deliver them from complete annihilation. Just as I turn to people that I know will pray for me, Esther knew that the Jews would fast and pray because their lives depended on it. Unfortunately, the time I have for this post will not allow me to explore the entire book of Esther which is a wonderful and rich story of how God worked through events to deliver the Jews, but I want to point out that I believe God directed Esther’s actions because she had people praying on her behalf.

Part of our fellowship with other believers is that we can pray for each other. God did not make us to be an island, He wants us to interact with others and lift each other up. Please look up Colossians 4:2-4; this is one of many examples of Paul asking the church to pray for him and others sharing the message of Christ. We also need to be willing to pray for others when they ask for pray and not just say that we will pray.

Are you turning to others to pray for you when you are in need of prayer? Are you willing to lift others up in prayer when they ask?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week 4, Day 3 - Prayer As A Lifeline

Daniel 6:1-11

I have a friend who depends on prayer. She prays every morning and evening for a significant amount of time, but that is not why I say she depends on prayer. I know that she has a beautiful relationship with God and if she didn’t spend time with Him she would be lost. She truly depends on prayer and her time with God as a lifeline. Yesterday, I wrote about how it is easy for us to depend on our skills and talents to get us through, but deep down we know that is not enough. I can look back at times when I made good decisions and attribute it to the fact that I had spent time praying to God about the decision. Today I want to look at someone who, like Nehemiah, depended on prayer. Please read Daniel 6:1-11 if you have not already.

As I was reading through this chapter, there were so many applications packed in this story, but the one that I want to focus on is Daniel’s dependence on God which resulted in a regular prayer life. Because I do not want to lose focus, I am not asking you to read the entire story, but I encourage you to read the whole story at some point because it is wonderful to see how God worked in this situation. What I want to focus on is how Daniel’s dependence on God affected his leadership; in fact, he led so well that other leaders became jealous of him and began a plot to destroy him. They couldn’t find anything that they could charge him with because he led a life of integrity, so they had to trap him with something by making it against the law. As they observed Daniel, they noticed that he spent time in prayer three times a day and they knew that he would not stop praying even if it became a law. These men convinced the king to make it a law that no one should pray to anyone but the king for a month. What was Daniel’s reaction? Please look at verses 10-11. Daniel went home and asked God for help!

Daniel needed that time with God, so much that he broke the unfair law to go to God for help. The jealous men knew that Daniel would go and pray so they went to his house to see him praying and trap him. I am stopping here because I want to point out that Daniel was so consistent with spending time with God, that the men that were trapping him knew when to go and find him praying. I also want to note that Daniel knew he needed God and still spent time with Him even when it was against the law. At this moment, we are told that Daniel was praying for help; and if you finish this story you will see how God answered. As I read this story, the question I ask myself is, “Do I depend on prayer as a lifeline? Do I need my time with God?” In my marriage, my husband and I desire to spend time with each other that we have come to the point of needing to be with each other. I want to be that way with God. I want to crave and need my time with Him. I want to long for Him the way the Psalmist wrote in 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?"

Do you need to spend time with God? Do you depend on Him?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week 4, Day 2 - A Quick Prayer

Nehemiah 2:1-9

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were unexpectedly put in a corner and found yourself saying a quick prayer for help? I have, and my prayer is often worded something like, “God give me wisdom!” I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with praying for help in the moment, but I do think that I also need to just spend time praying every day. That is where I think Nehemiah was in today’s section of scripture. The only difference is that his quick prayer came with a lot of prayer backing it up. Please look up Nehemiah 2:1-9.

Something that I have been learning is to look at details when reading the Bible. There are often details that I plow through that can add significance to what I am reading, so I want to look back at Nehemiah 1:1 and compare it to Nehemiah 2:1. There is a significant clue in the timing of the process of Nehemiah’s seeking God and when he finally had his opportunity to tell the king of his desire. Chapter 1 tells us that Nehemiah first received the news about the wall in the month of Kislev of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign, which is the ninth month of the Jewish calendar. Chapter 2:1 tells us that Nehemiah had his opportunity to tell the king about the wall in the month of Nisan of Artaxerxes’ twentieth year, which is the first month of the Jewish calendar. The Jews also had a twelve month calendar, so we know that there was approximately 4 months between the moment that Nehemiah received word about the wall and when he had his opportunity before the king. Nehemiah had been praying for four months.

After four months of praying, the king noticed that Nehemiah was sad. This was the opportunity that Nehemiah had been praying for! I wonder if Nehemiah found himself caught off guard; maybe he felt his heart pounding because the moment had finally come. When the king asked the question in verse 4, “What is it that you want?” we see that Nehemiah’s immediate reaction was to pray. This was not a last minute prayer; this was a prayer for the moment that had been backed up with months of prayer. Nehemiah knew that his ability to do this came from God and he turned to Him once more in that moment. In America we are so used to convenience, and I think sometimes we pray prayers of convenience. Jesus explained that there are some things that just need a lot of prayer. Please look up Mark 9:14-29. The disciples were unable to drive out a demon and they didn’t understand; Jesus explained that some things take prayer. He doesn’t specify how long, but it does imply that it just isn’t a quick little prayer. My Bible has a note that some manuscripts actually say that it takes prayer and fasting, which implies the idea of something that takes place over time.

Are you backing your life up with prayer so when you are in a defining moment you are saying one last quick prayer?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Week 4, Day 1 - Pray To Plan

Nehemiah 1:1-11

Have you ever been on a committee that had to make difficult decisions or had to plan a large event? When put in a leadership position, sometimes we see and hear things that we wish we didn’t see or hear; we are reminded that we are all human and have various weaknesses. Being on a committee that provides leadership can also be difficult because we need to have a plan or a goal in place and you may already see potential road blocks down the road. Perhaps you are not even on a committee, but you need to set a plan in motion for your finances or your job. Maybe as a leader, you need to tell someone information that will be difficult to hear. Over the next two days, I want to look at how Nehemiah didn’t just pray before making plans, he depended on prayer. Please look up Nehemiah 1:1-11.

Nehemiah was living at a time when many Jews that had been in exile were allowed to go back to Israel while many remained in the Persian Empire. Nehemiah was one of the Jews that for whatever reason remained in the Persian Empire, but he had asked other Jews that were traveling through about the state of the exiles that returned and the city of Jerusalem. He learned that the wall was broken down and the gates had been burned leaving the inhabitants at great risk. Nehemiah was distressed, but his immediate reaction was one that we can all learn from. Verse 4 tells us, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah first turned to God. Nehemiah didn’t go and complain to whoever would listen; he went to God who was the only one that could really help in this situation.

Chapter 1 does not give us an idea of what Nehemiah is thinking as far as the wall of Jerusalem, but we see that after Nehemiah fasted and prayed for days he felt that he needed to go before the king. I wonder if it was through those days of prayer Nehemiah was seeing that he was the one that God was calling to fix the wall. When Nehemiah was ready to go to the king and ask for help, he prayed to God specifically for favor before the king. We see in verse 11 that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, which also means that he had seen what happened when a person did not have favor before the king. The first thing I noticed in that prayer was the humility that Nehemiah had when going before God. He prayed for forgiveness for the nation of Israel and reminded God of the promise He gave Israel when they turned back to Him. It was at the end of a very humble prayer that Nehemiah asked for help going before the king.

Personally, I see someone who started out praying and fasting with no real plan in mind and through that process began to see that he needed to do something. He realized the first thing would be to get favor from the king so he could go and help rebuild the wall. I believe that the process of prayer gave him a plan, yet even after he had a plan, he prayed for help carrying out the first step of the plan. I wonder how often I could have done better if I would have spent serious time in prayer before making plans. It is so easy to rely on our own knowledge and understanding and just plod on ahead; however, when we are humble we see that our greatest success really isn’t our success but it is God’s.

Do you spend a lot of time in prayer before making plans? Do you seek God’s direction and help before taking the first step?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Week 3, Day 5 - When God Says No

Mark 14:32-41

There have been times when I have been given a “no” answer from God. For example, when my husband was first feeling that it was time to move from our church in Michigan I asked God, “Can’t we just stay here? Do we have to make the kids change schools?” God’s answer was clear in my heart as well; I knew that He was calling us out. It is not always easy to accept a “no” for an answer, but I know that I have to trust that God knows what is best. Before I was willing to obey, I pleaded with God and had some very heartfelt moments about not wanting to leave. I believe my willingness to obey came easier because I had hashed out my feelings with God and had prayed and I still knew that this was what He wanted. I understood when the time came for my husband’s interview with the church we are currently at that this was what He wanted for us. A year later, I can look and see how this was a good move for my husband and the whole family and I am so glad that we were willing to obey His call to move. I want to look at Jesus’ moments in the Garden of Gethsemane and how He pleaded with God over something much worse than moving. Please turn to Mark 14:32-41.

This moment was difficult for Jesus because He knew what was coming soon; not only was He going to be physically tortured and killed, but He was going to face separation from God. Please look at what Jesus says in verse 36, “’Abba, Father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.’” Jesus knew that God could take the pain He was about to face away; He knew that everything is possible with God. He asked. But Jesus knew that God wanted what was about to happen. Jesus knew the answer was “no.” Notice what He prayed next in verse 36b, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.” Jesus was willing to continue following God’s will and purpose even when it was going to be the worse pain He had ever experienced. As I have written about the honest and heartfelt prayer, it is important to remember that it doesn’t mean that I am going to get the answer I want to hear from God. The questions that I have to keep on my heart are, “If God says no, am I willing to accept that answer? Am I willing to obey when it is difficult?”

Getting a “no” answer doesn’t mean that God didn’t hear us; it is because He knows what is best. I am not by any means minimizing the pain that a no can give us at times, but we need to be willing to trust that God truly does know and see more than our human minds can comprehend. I look back and think of some of the things that I requested of God, and I can now see why His answer was no. There are other times that I still don’t know why He said no, but I have to trust that it was the best decision. I think of Paul when he wrote about pleading with God to take away a "thorn in his flesh" in 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; please read that section of scripture. God's answer was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness." This was not the answer Paul wanted, but he was willing to accept it.

When God gives you an answer that you do not like, are you willing to accept that He knows what is best?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Week 3, Day 4 - Heartfelt Prayers Affirmatively Answered

Acts 12:1-18

This week I have been writing about honest and heartfelt prayers, but I haven’t explored what happens on God’s part. At times we see an affirmative answer to our prayers, sometimes we feel God telling us “no,” and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like He answered at all. The next few days I want to explore the idea of answers to prayer and our reactions to God’s answers. I often laugh at myself because I see so many times when God has answered “yes” to my prayers, yet each time I am amazed. I think of a time when my husband and I needed a second car and we had gone almost a year with one car. The arrangement was working for us, but not well. Finally, in desperation I asked God, “Would you please give us a car?” Within a few days, a lady from our church had called my husband and said that she was getting rid of her car and she felt led to give it to us. I was astounded, but why? By this point in my life, I had seen God do miraculous things to provide what I needed right when I needed them. I had experienced physical healing as a result of prayer and seen others experience miracles through prayer. As I have thought about this, I think maybe it is because I have also experienced several “no” answers as well. It is kind of like my kids asking me every day if they can have candy and my usual answer is no. If I let them have candy every time they asked, I think they would have health issues later down the road. However, sometimes I say yes, and their excitement over the candy is greater than it would be if they could have candy all the time. I want to look at believers that were also amazed at God’s answer to prayer; please turn to Acts 12:1-18.

The first couple of verses show us that the church was under persecution from the government; it was no longer just the religious leaders. The church just saw the death of a leader at the hands of the Roman government, and now Herod had Peter arrested and was intending to put him to death as well. Verse 5 tells us, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” The word earnestly stuck out at me because I have been studying the idea of honest and emotional prayer. I can just imagine how heartfelt their prayers must have been. They had experienced persecution from the religious leaders, but now they were experiencing persecution from the Roman government and I’m sure it may have seemed overwhelming. Peter was a strong leader and I’m sure the church couldn’t imagine not having his leadership. There was probably desperation in their prayers. But their reaction in God’s “yes” answer always makes me laugh because I sometimes see myself in their reaction. Please look at verse 11 and we see that Peter is amazed when he realizes that he was not having a vision. Then in verse 15 we see that the people who were praying at Mary’s house didn’t believe that Peter was there and in verse 16, we read that they were “astonished.” Praying earnestly doesn't necessarily mean that we're ready for the answer that God is going to give!

I guess sometimes our astonishment isn’t always even the fact that we receive affirmative answers to prayer; it is the way God answers them. He is the creator of the universe, so of course His work is going to be creative. Sometimes we expect Him to answer on a human level that makes sense to us, so when we see a miracle it is amazing. Phillip Yancey defines miracles as, “rare exceptions to the normal laws that govern the planet,” (page 87) in his book Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference? Sometimes He moves in a way that is an exception to normal and when that happens we are amazed. Sometimes He uses normal people and normal events to answer “yes.” I have to admit that it is fun to be amazed by God and the way He chooses to work.

Do you expect a “yes” when you pray? Are you amazed when you see God’s hand at work?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Week 3, Day 3 - Honest Questions

Isaiah 55:8-9

For the last two days I have studied the importance of honesty in our prayers to God. I found that when we are honest with who we are and honest with our emotions, we can grow in our relationship with God. I also studied and found that our honesty is not for God’s benefit because He already knows everything about us; it is for our own benefit. Today, I want to study the idea of asking honest questions. God is not afraid of our questions, in fact I think He expects questions. His ways are not our ways so we are going to have a lot of questions as a result. Please look up Isaiah 55:8-9.

God tells us in verse 8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” God knows so much more than we do and His perspective is so different than ours. He is the creator that knows all, and that means He is going to act in ways that will just not make sense to us. That also means that we are going to be stumped with why God does things the way He does and we are left with the question “why.” Job suffered greatly and admitted that he did not understand why his life was falling apart. In Job chapters 26-31 Job declares his innocence when his friends insisted that he was suffering because of deep rooted sin. He asks God the question “why.” When God answers him in chapters 38-41, He does not answer the question “why;” however, He reminds Job who He is. He points out to Job that He has the world under control as its creator and He cares and knows about everything He made. He points out details about His creation and shows Job that He knows all. Through this interaction between God and Job, Job suddenly sees himself in a new light. Please turn to Job 42:1-6 and see Job’s declaration and repentance. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” When we read on to finish the book of Job, God restored his life and he ended up with more than what he had before.

Something I want to note here is that when we read of people who are very emotional before God and ask Him difficult questions we don’t read about how God destroyed them for asking. There are times in life when we have difficult questions like why do I have a friend that has had to deal with more in her short life than most people deal with in an entire lifetime. Why are there innocent children growing up in utter poverty and starvation in Africa? The important thing is do you still trust that God knows what He is doing at the end of the day? No one ever said that faith was easy and I believe that faith brings us to difficult questions. It is okay to express your questions to God; you just may not get the answer you were expecting. Job didn’t get the answer to the question “why,” but he was reminded that God is in control and knows more than we can ever imagine. What we can a wonderful hope is the fact that God’s way is not our way and that His way is better. Please look at Hebrews 11:40. “God has something better planned…”

Do you feel like you can ask God why? Do you trust that He knows all and knows what is best? Do you believe that God has something better planned?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week 3, Day 2 - Emotional Prayer

Psalm 79

When I am in my professional world such as a music therapist in the past, a school secretary, or now as a ministry assistant and can control my emotions and feeling fairly well. Of course, there are times when someone has said something that may be a trigger for me and then it becomes more difficult to keep how I am feeling on the inside spilling out on everyone around me; however, I am usually able to keep how I am feeling on the inside so I can do my job better. As I look at all the jobs I have held in the past, they have all been jobs that require a lot of interaction with other people and being able to work with people without reacting emotionally to everything that is thrown at me is a good skill to have. That skill falls to pieces when I am at home. I find myself reacting to everything that my children say or do when it rolls off my back anywhere else. I thought about why I have been able to separate my feelings at work but unable to do so at home and I think it is because I have a lot more emotionally invested at home. My husband and children are the people I love deeply and so I feel my emotions stronger with them. I also trust my family and I know they love me for who I am. They are the same as well; they react stronger to me and everyone else in the family than anyone else in their lives. We can be that way with God; after all, He already knows how we feel anyway.

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of an honest prayer; God just wants us to be honest with our needs and desires. Today I want to focus very specifically about our emotions when we are coming to God. In the last two weeks I have heard from a couple sources that reading through the Psalms gives us an idea of how honest and emotional God wants our prayers to be. If you read through the Psalms, you will see when the author can be elated and full of praise and other times very sad. The interesting thing is that sometimes we can also read Psalms that express hurt and anger and they even question God. Please turn to Psalm 79. Scholars believe this Psalm was written after the Israelites were brought into captivity and the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Please notice the heavy emotion that is poured out in this Psalm and in particular notice the questions the author asks. Can you feel the deep emotion in verse 5? “How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will Your jealousy burn like fire?” I don’t believe the author asked these questions quietly as he wrote this Psalm; I can picture him beating his chest and crying out, “HOW LONG?!”

God is not afraid of our emotions, remember He understands them completely because we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26). God wired us with the very emotions He feels. We can come to Him in desperation and hurt as well as joy and praise. When we are completely honest with our emotions, we can experience the healing that we need. If I am not honest with my family about how I feel, they will never know what makes me happy or what hurts me. Likewise, if we are not honest with the deep emotions in our heart, we will never truly grow in our relationship with God.

Have you been emotionally honest in your prayers with God?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week 3, Day 1 - Honest Prayer

I Samuel 1:1-20

I look at my emotional journey from my childhood until now, and I have changed a lot. There are things that haven’t changed about me except to grow more such as the gift of music God gave to me. I still enjoy music and I use it as a language of worship to God. There are other things that have changed tremendously about me since childhood; however, and one of them is my honesty of who I am in my relationships. When I was an adolescent, I had a background of abuse that I was ashamed of. That shame spread to other things about me until I believed no one would like the real me and I would have to play a role of a person they would like. I was a people pleaser to a very unhealthy extreme. I wanted people to like me so desperately, I was willing to be someone I was not. I never shared my fears or weaknesses with anyone because I was sure that I would not be accepted. Over time, God showed me that He made me the way I am because that was who He wanted me to be. It was okay to enjoy classical music and have fun babysitting kids. I also learned that I needed to surround myself with friends that would like the real me. As I have learned to become honest in my relationships, I found my relationships with people growing deeper and more intimate. God wants that from all of us when we come to Him; He wants our prayers to be open and honest and He wants us to let Him know how we really are. Please turn to 1 Samuel 1:1-20 and see how Hannah prayed an honest prayer.

Hannah was a desperate women; she was unable to bear children and her husband’s other wife had many children and taunted Hannah. Hannah had a husband who loved her dearly and wanted her to be happy; however, Hannah felt that she was incomplete without a child. Have you ever had a longing and desperation like that? Have you ever hurt so deeply that you were sure there was nothing else other than the pain you were feeling? When the whole family went to sacrifice to the LORD, Hannah went and prayed in the temple. Please look again at her prayer in verse 11 and try to feel the honesty that was expressed in her prayer. She did not use fancy words, but she expressed her “misery” to God. She bore her soul to God.

God wants that from us; He wants honesty in our relationship with Him. He is honest with us and we can be honest before Him. He already knows what is in our hearts, we read about that last week in Matthew 6:7-8. We don’t need to make it fancy sounding or mechanical; we need to be honest with how we are feeling at that moment. Some of my greatest moments of growth have come from the times when I was feeling a very strong emotion and I brought it to God. Those moments have become such intimate moments between me and God because I was open and completely honest. We don’t have to be someone we are not when we are with God. In fact, God wants us to get rid of all the pretenses and politically correctness. If we are not honest with who we are when we are before the very One who knows who we are, how can we ever expect intimacy in that relationship?

Do you come to God with honesty? Do you lay bare your very soul to Him?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week 2, Day 5 - Corporate Prayer

Matthew 18:19-20

I have already written a few posts about the importance of praying alone and in secrecy. Today, it may seem as though I am contradicting myself as I write about the importance of corporate prayer; however, while the majority of our prayer life should be between ourselves and God there is a time when we need to come together and pray for a common or corporate need. There are several biblical examples of Israel fasting and praying together for a great need such as in the book of Esther and I plan to look at some of those examples in later posts. For today, let’s look at what Jesus said about unity; please turn to Matthew 18:19-20.

I think sometimes these verses get misused and an important point gets missed: “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for…” This is something that needs attention; when we are praying corporately, we need to be in agreement. I have been in groups or committees where we all had different ideas that we wanted implemented; however, the one thing we could agree on was that we wanted to do what God wanted done. So we prayed exactly for that very thing; we prayed that God would give us discernment and understanding of the direction we should be taking. It would not do any good to be praying for our own ideas while praying corporately because there is not going to be an agreement. We need to start where we all agree: we want God’s will to be done!

I also think that it is important to consider that the context that these verses are in is a point when Jesus was talking about how to handle a situation when someone has sinned against you. These verses are mentioned at a point when Christ talked about the church stepping in and dealing with the situation after other efforts were made. To me, it seems that Jesus was speaking about the need for unity among believers; when there is unity He is there. Once again, two or more believers need to be together praying in agreement for God’s will not their own will. We cannot miss the point that we need to be praying within God’s will; we cannot just gather together and pray for something we all agree about and expect to get it. I think we would all agree that it would be great to suddenly come into a large sum of money; however, if this is not what God wants for us we can’t just say that He will do it because there are two or more people together that agree. When we look at these verses with the thought that we can ask for anything, we are missing a bigger picture!

Please look at what Paul said about unity in Philippians 2:1-4 and in Philippians 2:12-15. Unity in life, purpose, and prayer are the key ingredients to be bound together with Christ. When we participate in corporate prayer and a unified purpose with fellow believers we are binding together with Christ. Please look at what Jesus says in Matthew 18:18, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth have been loosed in heaven.” Then He talks about how we become bound with Him in our unity in verses 19-20.

Do you gather in unity to ask that God’s will be done? Are you praying for His will or your own?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Week 2, Day 4 - Fasting

Matthew 6:16-18

There are times when we are sometimes called to go beyond our “normal” prayer time and fast. Fasting is when we give up food for a period of time to spend time humbly before God. It is as if we are telling God that hearing from Him is more important than anything, even food. I have seen many different forms of fasting, and I cannot say if one way is better than the other or if there is even one correct way to fast. I have known people that have given up all food for weeks at a time, and I have seen people fast one meal on one day. I have seen fasts where a person has given up one meal a day to spend time in prayer over several weeks, and I have seen fasts where people give up food for an entire day. I believe that when we feel led to fast it can be for many different reasons, which would also result in different types of fasts. We can fast corporately, of which there are several examples in the Bible, or we can be led to fast independently. Either way, I feel that the most important aspect of a fast is the attitude in the heart. Please look up Matthew 6:16-18.

When Jesus taught about fasting, the Jews had to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement; however, some of the Pharisees fasted up to twice a week. Jesus wasn’t condemning the fact that they were fasting; He was speaking against the fact that they were very public about their fasts in order to gain approval. The point of a fast is not to feel holy or to appear more spiritually disciplined to others, it is so that we can humble ourselves before God. When we begin to be public about our fast and tell everyone of our hunger, it takes away the whole idea of humility. Even when we are participating in a corporate fast, we are still to follow Christ’s directions.

Jesus told His disciples to wash their face and put oil on their heads while fasting. That was not a specific instruction that we are to literally put oil on our heads while we are fasting it was an instruction that we are to continue on and look our normal selves while fasting. At that time, one reason that oil was used was for cosmetic purposes. In fact, just today I was watching the news where it was reported that olive oil is still considered one of the best substances to put in the hair. Jesus was telling us that when we are in public, we are not to make a big deal about the fast and we should actually make sure that we are looking good so we don’t draw attention to ourselves. Our greatest growth can come in our private moments with God.

Fasting can be difficult, but it is worth the time of growth with God. Have you participated in a fast? When fasting, have you kept it between you and God?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week 2, Day 3 - The Lord's Prayer (Part 2)

Matthew 6:9-15

Yesterday, I looked at the first few phrases in the Lord’s Prayer. I wrote how we have a Father in heaven that wants to hear from us! That thought is always amazing whenever I think of how amazing and perfect He is. I also mentioned that we approach God with the attitude that our will (desires and wishes) may not always match God’s perfect will and we need to be ready to surrender to His will. When we approach Him, we want to come to Him with a pure heart of understanding that God knows what is best. Before we finish looking at the rest of the prayer, please read through the whole prayer again in Matthew 6:9-15.

“Give us today our daily bread,” refers to our needs. God wants us to come to Him for our needs and concerns. While I have referred that He is not a vending machine where we do the right things and we get what we want in return, but He is approachable. He does care for us and He wants to help us. We know that God is our provider. Last week I mentioned how sometimes we are uncomfortable asking God for things that we need. For years, I was afraid to ask God for much because I didn’t think it was good to ask. When I think about it, we approach Him as our Father so I shouldn’t feel strange asking God for my needs. I don’t make my children feel bad when they ask me for things; I may not always give them what they want because I know what they need. We can know that God has the same discretion and He is an approachable Father.

“Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” is a strong statement that can be difficult to swallow. A few months ago I studied a parable that taught this same idea that God expects (not wants) us to forgive. After we have received so much mercy from our Father, how could we not extend forgiveness toward others? We are acknowledging that we need to forgive through this statement and if you find yourself struggling with forgiveness, then ask God to help change the attitude in your heart. Any time that I have seen the need to change my attitude toward forgiveness, I ask God to help me. Forgiveness is not always easy to extend to other people. Please read what Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15. This statement is a reminder that we need to be in constant check of the attitude in our heart toward other people because it reflects our understanding of how much we have been forgiven.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” is a statement that expresses trust to me. We know that God will lead us in the way we should go and we are asking for help in the situations that can cause us to fall into temptation. We can ask God to help us avoid temptation and trust His guidance. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that God will not allow temptations to be more than what we can bear and He will always provide a way out. We can pray that we will always be able to see the “way out” when unavoidable temptations arise.

Are you bringing your needs to God? Are you remembering the forgiveness that God has extended to you and forgiving others? Are you praying for help when temptations come?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Week 2, Day 2 - The Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:9-15

Yesterday, I wrote about spending time with God and started looking at how Jesus taught the disciples to pray. I talked about there not being a “magic formula,” and that God just wants to hear from our hearts. I also looked at how Jesus taught that we should be spending time alone with God and we don’t need to pray in front of a bunch of people to appear holy. The other point Jesus made that I looked at was that our prayers didn’t need to be full of fancy words and long sentences. God just wants us to be ourselves with Him. Isn’t it special that God, who created the world and is greater than our minds can comprehend, wants to spend time with us? I mentioned that there is no magic formula to prayer, but today we are going to look at the Lord’s Prayer, which is a model that Jesus gave us to show us what we should include in our prayers. Please turn to Matthew 6:9-15.

Before I begin to write about the Lord’s Prayer, I want to start by saying that there are many theologians who have studied the Lord’s Prayer and have written books about what it means as a model to us. I am not going to be able to delve deeply into this topic in one blog post; however, if we look at it as a model so we can remember what we should be praying about I pray this post will be a good starting point. Over the next two days I will look at what the different phrases in the Lord’s Prayer represents.

The first thing that strikes me when Jesus starts to pray is how He addresses God in this prayer: “Our Father in heaven…” We have a Father in heaven that loves us more than anyone here on earth. No matter what type of family you are from, whether wonderful or dysfunctional, our Father in heaven loves us more! “Hallowed be Your name,” is a reference to how great God is. Jesus was showing us that when we approach God’s throne, we are to come with praise in our hearts; remember that God is greater than anyone or anything we know! While He wants us to approach Him with our needs and concerns, we need to remember that He isn’t a vending machine and He Is God!

“Your kingdom come,” is a reference that we want to see God here where we are. When I was studying Jesus’ parables, many of them referred to the kingdom of God. I looked at how the kingdom of God is present in our hearts when we are doing His work and serving others. We give others a taste of the kingdom of God when we show them God’s love. It is like we are asking God to lead us to where He wants His work done. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” refers to the fact that no matter what we want, we are aware that God knows what is best. We are submitting to the fact that we need to trust that God’s will understands what is best for us and everyone around us. When we are praying for His will we are surrendering our limited vision.

When you pray, do you remember that you are approaching a loving Father in heaven who is holy? Do you trust that God’s will is best?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 2, Day 1 - How Do We Pray?

Matthew 6:5-8

I have worked in children’s ministry for 17 years, and the most common thing I see is a child that does not know how to pray. There are a couple reasons why this may happen; they just may be a shy child and they feel uncomfortable praying in front of other people. Another reason may be that they just don’t know how to pray or what to say. I was a shy child, but when I could have some time alone with God and talk to Him alone, I felt very comfortable. If I had to pray in front of people, I lost all my words and became very nervous. I think sometimes in church we make people feel like there is a magic formula to pray, and we forget that we are talking to God. It is kind of like taking a language class; you are taught the formal way to speak in that language but you are not taught the slang or common everyday way people may talk in that language. So we approach prayer with uncertainty of what to say because we may not say it correctly. Yes, our God is holy and is the King of Kings; however, He is also our Father. Yes, we need to approach Him with awe and an understanding that He is all powerful, but we need to remember that we do get to approach His throne in honesty of who we are. If we can remember that God wants us to converse with Him, we can keep ourselves from being entirely intimidated. Today and tomorrow, I want to look at what Jesus said about prayer; please turn to Matthew 6:5-8.

This section of scripture explains why some of people may be uncomfortable praying out loud in front of other people. Prayer can be a very intimate time with God and it is not to be used as a show of “holiness.” I am not by any means saying that we shouldn’t pray corporately, because corporate prayer is very important and I will be exploring that later this week. I am just saying that our time alone with God is precious and intimate and it was meant to be that way. If the only time we prayed was in public, we wouldn’t get to experience the intimacy of pouring out our souls to God. There are things we can hash out with God in private that we just cannot and should not do in public. For me, a closer relationship with God and a better understanding of who I am in Him is a wonderful reward.

The other point I want to make is found in verses 7-8 when Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” I love that! We don’t need formality and long words and fancy prayers for our Father to hear us, and I love the fact that He already knows what we need. He just wants to hear us. It is like my marriage; I know my husband loves me, but I certainly enjoy hearing him tell me that he loves me. God knows our heart (better than we know our own heart) yet He still enjoys hearing us talk to Him from our hearts. Knowing that God wants to talk with you is so special; doesn’t that make you want to spend time with Him alone?

Are you spending some time alone with God? Are you spending time to pray privately and developing a closer relationship with God? Do you believe that God wants time with you?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Week 1, Day 5 - Just Ask

Matthew 21:18-22

Several years ago I found myself along with my husband carrying a swing set from one yard to my friend’s yard, and while we were carrying the swing set she told me the story of why we were moving it into her yard. She had noticed that her neighbor’s kids were older and no longer playing on the swing set and her children were just the right age to enjoy a swing set. Money was tight, and they couldn’t afford to buy one, so she prayed that if her neighbor truly was no longer using it that God would place my friend’s family on her heart and offer them the swing set. That same day, the neighbor came over and asked my friend if she would like to have the swing set, and there we were that very evening moving it into my friend’s yard! Even though I believed that God provides our needs, I always felt uncomfortable asking but that moment left a mark on my faith walk. I realized that maybe God didn’t mind (and perhaps enjoyed) giving. My kids were just the right age for a swing set as well and we also could not afford to go buy one; however, I didn’t know of any swing set that wasn’t being used, and admittedly I felt kind of silly asking for something my friend just received. I asked anyway. I prayed and asked God that if there was anyone on our street that no longer needed their swing set, that they would see that our children would have fun with it. The next day, the person living next to the church came in to the office and asked my husband if he knew of anybody that could use a swing set. She had a high privacy fence around her yard, so we had no idea that we had a neighbor with a swing set. I learned that no matter how big or small the issue may be God does enjoy showing us He cares. Please turn to Matthew 21:18-22.

This is such an interesting example that Christ gave us about prayer. Did Jesus really need to kill the fig tree? No! I think He was showing us that we can ask for things that don’t necessarily matter if it happens or not; such as the swing set. Neither I nor my friend needed the swing sets we asked for, but God gave them to us anyway. By no means am I saying that we are to become materialistic and ask God for every want we have, I’m just saying that sometimes we don’t get to experience God’s generosity and power because we don’t ask. Since that time my husband and I have asked for things and found ourselves amazed at God’s provision and generosity. We have even received a car for free when we found ourselves needing a car. I also think it is a heart issue. God knows our heart and He knows if we are looking at Him merely as a vending machine or if we look at Him as our Father whom we love and trust enough to come and ask.

There are times that we may ask for things that do not fit in God’s plan and He does not provide those things. I have experienced no’s in my life that at times just didn’t make sense. Looking back, I can see why God said “no,” but at the time I couldn’t understand. It wouldn’t have been good for me or someone else to give me what I asked for. Sometimes I received “no,” for an answer to something I thought I needed only to find out that God just wanted to give me something that was better for me. Please turn to Mark 10:35-40. Sometimes we ask for things that are not ours to have and God will tell us no. But we can ask and trust that God knows what is best and trust His decision.

Do you ask God? Are you missing out on God’s provision and generosity because you do not ask? Do you trust God’s final decision?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Week 1, Day 4 - Prayer Brings Discernment

Luke 6:12-16

I have to start with an apology right from the beginning because the following example is probably something a woman is going to relate to more than a man. There are other examples that I could have picked; however this seemed like a good example. When we shop for clothes, we don’t see the whole picture so it is always good to bring an honest friend to tell us if an outfit really looks nice. Whenever I go shopping, I like to have my husband with me; I can completely trust his opinion on how I look in a certain outfit. Some of you may have a best friend; I have a husband who loves to shop and buy me clothes. I do not get offended if he tells me something doesn’t look good on me because I would rather wear something that looks good (although that doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed when something looks bad). It is rare for me to buy something without him there to tell me if it works for me and on those rare occasions I will not take the tags off until I try it on for him at home and hear his opinion. Having his eyes gives me discernment over what I should buy and what I should put back on the rack. Prayer can also give us discernment when we take the time to listen. Please look up Luke 6:12-16.

Jesus lived a life of prayer, and since we are to live like He lives we should also live a life of prayer. One of the things He would use prayer for was making big decisions. In this section of scripture, we can see that Jesus prayed before He chose His disciples. There are many examples throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that point to Jesus praying before any major event. In this case, it seems that Jesus was probably praying for discernment over who should be closest to Him. Sometimes, when we have to make an important decision, we cannot see the entire picture although we may think we can. That is why it is important to seek God’s wisdom and discernment. Only God can see every facet of what is happening in our lives and we need to seek His advice. There have been so many times when I wanted to do something that seemed right at the moment but I felt like God was saying no. I couldn’t understand at the moment but looking back at those moments later I can see that God kept me from walking into a situation that would have turned out disastrous.

When praying, we can ask for discernment just as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:125 when he said, “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.” We can ask God for help in our decisions and to understand the way God wants us to live. Sometimes God gives us confirmation that what we thought was right is what we should do and other times He shows us that He wants us to do something that we would have not thought of. God will never lead us in way that we should not go.

Do you pray when making big or little decisions? Are you seeking God’s discernment?