Archive for February, 2014

Prayer and God’s Sovereignty

February 28th, 2014

“When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in Heaven, may Your name be honored.’” Matthew 6:9 NLT.

Prayer trusts God to do what He wills, rather than persuades Him to do what you want.

My thoughts and comments today are about “prayer and God’s sovereignty.”

Life is better when your relationships are meaningful. Communication and cooperation are easier within the context of a significant relationship. From previous experiences together, friends have a lot of things to share with one another and an ease in doing so. You are readily comfortable around people with whom you have pleasant history and respect. Jesus wants you to experience a confirming and comfortable relationship with His Father.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus made it simple enough for even a child, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in heaven, may Your name be honored.’” Matthew 6:9 NLT. Beyond the recitation of words, Jesus teaches an enduring pattern and principles about prayer. Prayer celebrates relationship while confessing God’s sovereignty. Jesus said you are to communicate intimately, with your heavenly Father but also to remember that your desire, therefore your prayer, is for His name is to be honored, “hallowed.”

God is companionable and may be approached confidently, but He is also holy and sovereign, One to be reverenced and obeyed. “Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear.” Hebrews 12:28 NKJV. Godly fear is most commonly translated in this verse as “awe.” Prayer becomes an interaction with God after prayer is your attitude toward God. “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him . .  that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior . .” Psalm 89:7 NKJV/1 Timothy 2:2-4 NKJV.

Prayer flows freely from the heart that is confident in its privileged kinship with God through grace yet bows humbly in submission to His authority. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us . . and we know we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14 NIV. Prayer trusts God to do what He wills, rather than persuades Him to do what you want. When your prayer prizes whatever outcome is for God’s greatest glory, you will enjoy a delight and intimacy with your Father that is unlike any other.

The Bible confidently declares, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man [is powerful and effective].” James 5:16 NIV/NKJV. And who is a “righteous man” whose prayer God hears and answers? Such is one who is absolutely assured God is their Father and is secured in the grace and love of their salvation – “Obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:12-13 NLT. When you pray, Heaven is attentive and your Father becomes involved in all matters of mutual concern.

My prayer for you today is that you speak to God assured of His desire to hear you.

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The Pattern and Practice of Prayer

February 26th, 2014

“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1 NKJV.

Prayer can be your natural posture, priority, and practice, as it was for Jesus.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the pattern and practice of prayer.”

Communication is important. Mutual relationships and meaningful personal and social collaborations require effective communication. A few practical examples are: marriage demands considerate communication; parenting depends on clear communication; friendships rely upon frequent communication. Why would anyone presume that a growing relationship with God can successfully occur without frequent and meaningful interaction?

And how does such interaction with God occur? Let’s consider the practice of prayer as central to a healthy, growing spiritual life. There is no better example or place to begin than with Jesus. Prayer was Jesus’ posture, priority, and practice. The power of His prayers resulted from His practice of prayer. As His disciples observed the intimacy of His praying and were witnesses of the power of His prayers – speaking with indisputable authority, calming storms, healing all manner of sicknesses, casting out demons – they desired to pray as He did. “As Jesus was praying in a certain place, when He finished, one of His disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray . .’” Luke 11:1 NIV.Like you, they wanted their prayers to make a difference in matters of concern to themselves and others. They wanted to be a force for God’s will, and believed their prayers could be that.

Prayer begins with a desire to be taught how to pray, accompanied with a devotion and discipline to actually pray. My friend, Rick, has given me a book of prayers drawn from the Puritan Movement, a religious phenomenon of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This morning, I read, “In prayer, I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. In prayer, I find my heart going after Thee with intensity, and long with vehement thirst to live to Thee. In prayer, I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys; entering into the eternal world I can give myself to Thee with all my heart, to be Thine forever.”

Reading such a prayer exposes the short attention span, shallow thought, or superficial language, to which I can easily succumb in my prayers. Today’s culture encourages slang, inapt chatter, and extempore thoughts of undue brevity through text messages, Twitter, Snapchat, or Facebook. When in His presence, it seems to me that God deserves better. Your words can be simple, but must be sincere; your language can be plain, but must be from the heart. “When you pray, God hears more than you say, answers more than you ask, gives more than you imagine – in His own time and own way.”

To the disciples’ request, Jesus taught a pattern for the elements of prayer, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen]’” Matthew 6:9-13 NLT/KJV. We will look more specifically at these elements of “The Lord’s Prayer,” in upcoming devotionals. I recommend His prayer for your reading and reflection.

My prayer for you today is that you practice praying until it is natural communication.

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Unceasing Prayer

February 24th, 2014

“We have not stopped praying for you.” Colossians 1:9 NIV.

Prayer commits enduring seeds of amazing possibilities into the eternal purposes of God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “unceasing prayer.”

There are many things you can do for others – acts of kindness, encouragement, words of counsel, practical assistance – but there is nothing more helpful or effective than praying for another person. You are only able to help another person within the limits of your awareness and understanding, limited resource, or in observable needs. But what of needs unseen or unsaid?

There are times when you want to help a person, and would help if you only knew how. In such times, I suggest you pray for them. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us . . the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will . . The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” Romans 8:26-27 NIV/ James 5:16 NLT. Prayer is a way that you can touch another’s life beyond your normal reach.  When you pray, you invite God to do what you cannot.

Ambiguous prayers are not likely to have powerful results. The Apostle Paul was faithful and direct in his prayers because he knew the value of others’ prayers for him, “As you help us by your prayers . . many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 NIV. See also Romans 12:11-12 NIV. Paul was steadfast in praying because he knew what his prayers could accomplish, “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom . .” Colossians 1:9 NIV.

Notice that Paul was, “asking God,” not demanding of God. Prayer is not pressuring God; nor is it a passive assumption of what will be will be. Prayer is the sincere expression of your heart’s desire for God’s best for another, realizing that you may not always know the best that God has for them,  but He does. Notice also that Paul did, “not stop praying.” There are crisis occasions necessitating prayer, but more generally, there is need for continuing prayer.

Prayer commits enduring seeds of amazing possibilities into the eternal purposes of God. John had a vision of the Throne of God where those worshipping, “. . held gold bowls filled with incense – the prayers of God’s people . . and the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended before God from the angel’s hands.” See Revelation 5:7-8 NLT/8:3-4 NKJV. Prayers remain ever upon the heart of God. The impact of prayer is not always visible or immediate. Prayers do not expire by clock or calendar; they are eternal! “Pray without ceasing . . this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV.

When you do not know how to pray for someone, pray as Paul did for those he loved. Prayer touches God’s heart and changes others for the better when prayer asks God for, “knowledge of His will, wisdom, and understanding, a life pleasing to God, fruitfulness and growth in good works, patiently enduring with God’s strength, and a joyful, thankful life in God.” Read Colossians 1:9-14 NIV. See also Philippians 1:9-11 NIV/2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you will value the promise and practice of prayer.

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Live Selflessly

February 21st, 2014

“Let your good works shine out for all to see.” Matthew 5:16 NLT.

Love neither notice nor credit from men; both are addictive and destructive.

My thoughts and comments today are that you “live selflessly.”

How you live everyday is important; why you live the way you choose to live is even more important. Summing up the eight character qualities of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), Jesus described the uniqueness of those who exemplify the Kingdom of God as being, “the salt of the earth and light of the world.” Matthew 5:13-16. Salt and light have distinctive purposes, only of use and value when fulfilling their purposes – an appropriate metaphor for us and our use and value to the Kingdom of God on earth. A Godly life offers an enticing flavor to the blandness of life apart from Christ and brilliant illumination dispelling the darkness in which others live.

Jesus said, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16 NLT. Your life and mine are unique only when accomplishing the eternal purpose for which God intends. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT. It is important that you understand the measurement by which your life succeeds. Your purpose is always for, “all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” The first part becomes irrelevant if the latter part doesn’t occur. In an exemplary life, God is the One who is seen and praised.

If your motive is to be seen and praised by men, every effort remains inconsequential. “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11-12 NIV. A meaningful and satisfying life is lived, “for the praise of His glory.” Love neither notice nor credit from men; both are addictive and destructive.

I remember my Dad often quoting, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” (Harry Truman, 33rd president of the US 1884-1972). That is very true. “Having your conduct honorable among [others], that . . they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God . .” 1 Peter 2:12 NKJV. Your most successful achievements might well be the most noble, while you serve merely for His pleasure. But know this, nothing done in His name and for His glory will go unnoticed or unrewarded. “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:18-19 NKJV.

Jesus had strong words about doing even the right things for the wrong reasons – to be seen of men. Matthew 23:5 NKJV. When the Pharisees gave, they did so for the applause of others; they prayed where others would hear and admire. Read Matthew 6:1-6 NIV. For their efforts, they received no reward from God. You live selflessly when you live for the applause and approval of One. See Colossians 1:9-14 NIV. This is a practical way that we can help ourselves and one another: “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 NLT. Any outbursts lately?

My prayer for you today is that all you do is done in love and sincerity.

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Being Worthy

February 19th, 2014

“God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God.” Matthew 5:10 NKJV.

The magnificence of God’s blessing will outweigh your pain.

My thoughts and comments today are about “being worthy.”

Unfortunately, maltreatment is not uncommon in a hurting and unkind world. Don’t be shocked when it happens. It happens with strangers, friends, or even family, in public places, at work, in your home, or even at church, regrettably. On some occasions, you will feel ignored, slighted, overlooked, misunderstood, ridiculed, blamed, or mistreated. Your tendency will be to cause harm because of your hurt. Momentarily, doing so may feel better but only exacerbates the problem.

In our examination of Jesus teaching in the Beatitudes, we have discussed, “Being real, compassionate, submissive, satisfied, merciful, authentic, and peace-full.” Let’s dig deeper. (8) “Being Worthy.” To those who suffer unfairly, their reward will be magnificent. “God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours . . for a great reward awaits you in Heaven.” Matthew 5:10/12 NKJV. Persecution seems a strong word to use for the slights we experience when people around the globe live in the pain of religious, political, or financial suffering. But unfairness and mistreatment hurts whatever its source or severity.

First, take your pain and tears to Jesus. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV. See 1 Peter 4:12-16 NIV. Talk to Him before you speak to others or about them.

Secondly, respond in grace rather than out of hurt. ”Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9 NIV. What was done to you was not right, but what you do in return must be. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14 NIV. See Matthew 5:43-45 NIV.

Thirdly, persevere; the magnificence of God’s blessing will outweigh your pain. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in Heaven.” Matthew 5:10-16 NIV. Jesus spoke of reward for your righteous response when others do awful things to you without cause.

These words of wisdom were found on the wall of Mother Teresa’s room in Calcutta, India, “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

My prayer for you today is that you walk worthy of the One whose name you carry.

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