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The Practice of Prayer

December 1st, 2016

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT.

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

Prayer is asking God for only what is His will to provide.

Friendships do not grow without some sincere measure of communication. Why would that be any different between you and God? In the exchange of thought and heart you know God and become known by Him. Think about this: if God does not speak to you any more than you speak with Him, will you ever know Him as well as you could? And if that be true of you, for all intents and purposes you will be living your life without Heaven’s help. That seems to me a needless risk and a frightening possibility.

Prayer is neither mystery nor magic, though it is sometimes treated as both. The Bible clearly teaches the importance of prayer and assures the power of prayer, yet prayer seems not to be the most consistent practice for many. Some are content to keep prayer as a practice to be used only in case of an emergency. If you neglect the practice of prayer at regular times I am not sure how confident or convincingly you will pray in an emergency.

Prayer is a divine conversation, the most important conversation of your day, the communication of your own heart to God and the corresponding knowledge of God’s heart to you. Prayer involves making time for both speaking and listening. And listening may be the more useful and beneficent part of true prayer. When I was a young boy, my father suggested that I consider the fact that God may have given me one mouth but two ears so that I would listen twice as much as I speak, and learn much more in the process. I think that is good advice in life, and especially in the matter of prayer.

Let’s be practical about this incomparable spiritual discipline. Prayer is not primarily for getting your needs met; prayer is not an occasional list of things you need from God. Prayer is about your needs, but that is not its first or more important value. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. Prayer is your opportunity for personal discourse with your Heavenly Father that enhances your communication and relationship with Him.

Prayer is asking God for only what is His will to provide. “This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15 NIV. Effective prayer is neither mystery nor magic. Your prayers are answered when you pray as Jesus taught us to pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Such prayer discovers and releases God’s will. The single thing that makes your prayer most effective is your asking God in alignment with His will.

You can know what the will of God is in any situation. But how? On your own, you cannot fully comprehend the scope and magnitude of God’s will, but you can develop a better understanding of His will by a growing knowledge of God’s Word, the regular exercise of knowing God’s heart through prayer, and by inviting the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer. “And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” See Romans 8:26-28 NLT.

A confident relationship clarifies your requests and emboldens your assurance. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT. Intimidated by the requirement of righteousness? Only Jesus can deem you righteous. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 NKJV. What a wondrous God we serve.

Today, I pray for you to make prayer your joyful practice in all things large or small.

Christian Communications 2016

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Needs and Wants

May 4th, 2016

“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV.

What God withholds, you are best without.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “needs and wants.”

We all have needs and wants. Our difficulty is distinguishing between those; our insistence on satisfying both makes those feel ambiguously similar. God has promised to supply your needs. “And My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus . . Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Philippians 4:19/Hebrews 4:16 NKJV. Sometimes, your wants incorrectly masquerade as needs. But God never promised to provide all you want; wants are forever changing, and many times could be unwise for you. With your wants, you must trust God to know and choose what is best for you.

I have heard it said, “It never hurts to ask.” With God, there is no constraint about your asking. In the context of persistence in prayer, Jesus encouraged, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 NIV. Read Luke 11:5-13 NLT. “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” James 4:2 NIV. How sad it would be if your needs were not met merely because you didn’t bother to ask God.

Beyond the fact that God relates His generosity to your request, asking is a healthy expression of humility as well as an honest confession of reliance upon God rather than yourself. But be advised; God’s promises are not blank checks you can fill in and cash whenever you want. The Bible is clear about times when God does not respond to your requests as you wish. In fact, James also addressed times when you ask but God does not provide, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3 NIV. What God withholds, you are best without.

God is both loving and wise, a Father who delights to meet your needs, and more. But He is not a doting Father who gives you what you want rather than what is best for you. Having God’s attention is not complicated. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15 NIV. God’s liberality is forever aligned with His will. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7 NKJV. Soak your heart and spirit in the Word of God.

In addition to being persuaded of the will of God, Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22 NIV. Believe that what God wills to do, He will do. “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him.” 1 John 3:21-22 NIV. Your needs are provided by the One described as, “. . Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to trust your wants to His love and place your needs in His hands.

Christian Communications 2016

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Asking God’s Help

February 20th, 2016

 

“With thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 NKJV.

Ask for what will most give God pleasure to provide.

My thoughts today are about, “asking God’s help.”

Asking seems such a simple thing; yet people often seem reluctant to ask for assistance. We prefer the illusion of self-sufficiency. Maybe we think our own efforts – experience, abilities, and resources – should be adequate. I am not sure if it is being too proud to ask or if it is a misguided insistence on self-reliance, trying to take care of ourselves before we “bother God” with our needs. God is never bothered by sincere requests for His help. “He who comes to God must believe . . that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV.

It is foolish to presume that God can’t provide your needs, or worse yet, that He won’t. Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11-12 NIV. Love chooses the practical expression of generosity. Giving finds its greatest joy in providing what is needed, or even most desired. Let God be your first resource rather than your last. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Your Heavenly Father is saddened when you fail to ask Him for what you lack and need. James, the brother of Jesus, framed the problem with words of both counsel and caution. “The reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.” James 4:3 NLT. James saw the problem of unanswered prayer as either failure to ask or selfish motives; both are easy to correct. Ask for what you believe will most give God pleasure to provide.

Speaking of common, everyday concerns, Jesus said, “These things dominate the thoughts of most people, but your Father already knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Luke 12:30-31 NLT. He expects only the simplest thing of you. All you have to do is ask, “anything according to His will . . and you know you will have what you asked.” 1 John 5:14-15.

Do not be hesitant to ask, but trust His sovereignty and goodness, and then rest content. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to feel free to ask, confident to trust, and grateful to receive.

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Prayer’s Conditions

July 31st, 2015

“If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14 NIV.

Prayer is a holy discourse, not a monologue.

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

All of us possess a capacity to complicate simple things – things like love, joy, contentment, marriage, loyalty, family, worship, integrity, and such like. Prayer is one of those simple things – nothing more complex than honest, heartfelt communication between yourself and God. Prayer is a sacred privilege but often the last thing we choose to do. Anyone can pray, young and old, saints and sinners alike. Prayer is first communion then communication – sacred communion of your heart with God’s heart, then prayer affords honest communication of your love, thankfulness, and finally your needs. Start with the first, not the last.

Prayer is not without Biblical conditions. There are reasonable factors to answered prayer. “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22. Inadequate marriage and family relationships diminish prayer, “. . so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Read 1 Peter 3:1-8 NIV. An angry and doubting spirit impacts prayer, “Men (should) pray everywhere, without wrath and doubting.” 1 Timothy 2:8. Ungodly behavior interferes with prayer, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to the prayer (of the righteous), but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12 NIV.

Prayer’s conditions are not whimsical; they are clear and fair. John shared the first and most obvious condition. ”If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us . . [and] we know that we have what we asked of Him.” Read 1 John 5:14-15 NIV. God will always answer in concert with His Word and will.

The eternal will of God is faithfully revealed in His Word. Be a student of God’s Word; be a servant to His will. And the Holy Spirit will prompt your heart, spirit, and understanding with the personal application of truth for your immediate circumstance. Prayer is a holy discourse, not a monologue. As you are devoted to the study of God’s Word and diligent in prayer, it is as important that you attentively listen for God in your heart as it is that God actively listens to you.

Prayer is an impassioned invitation for God’s involvement – His grace, peace, presence, provision, favor, wisdom, and direction in your everyday life. That is much more than mere information of your needs and wants, of which He is already aware. Read Matthew 6:8 NLT. When you don’t get the desired response, you might assume God has not heard you, though He has. God would not ignore you, but maybe He is waiting for you to trust His will and way, and pray accordingly. If God seems silent, don’t lose heart. The problem is never that He hasn’t heard your prayers. Pray a prayer God will answer.

Today, in prayer for you, “that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.“ Colossians 4:12 NIV.

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Trust and Confidence

July 22nd, 2014

“He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV.

Self-confidence will fail but confidence in God is well placed.

My thoughts and comments today are about “trust and confidence.”

Confidence is essential for happiness and success. It is easy to admire those folk who seemingly go through life with calm self-assurance, having neither hesitation nor doubt. In reality, they are more like you and me than they may at first appear. They may have learned to manage emotions and measure responses, or have not yet faced serious challenges to their self-reliance. The Bible gives you wise counsel, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NKJV. Self-confidence will fail at inopportune times.

Some people, even the best of them, may disappoint you – some unintentionally, a few others even intentionally upon occasion. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8 NKJV. Trust conveys the idea: “to put your weight upon.” See Proverbs 25:19 NLT. You would not rest your weight upon a broken cane; you would not sit upon a broken chair. Your confidence is no stronger than the foundation upon which it trusts.

Be prepared; there will be times and things in life that rattle your confidence. Confidence is rightly placed on a sure and always trustworthy foundation. Your confidence can rest assured on this unfailing foundation: the Word of God and the character of God.

One of my favorite hymns confesses, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” (The Solid Rock/Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury). “Blessed are all those who put their trust in [God] . . Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Psalm 2:12 NKJV/Jeremiah 17:7 NIV. Whatever the test or circumstance of the moment, you can be confident when you place your trust in God and His Word. They are unchanging.

The Apostle Paul knew where his confidence could rest securely, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV. I love that Jesus is identified as, “The Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV), and “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:6 NKJV). You and I begin much more than we conclude successfully, growing weary in the process or simply finding we do not possess the resources, experience, knowledge, abilities, or determination. What God begins, He completes. On Him you can depend. See 1 John 5:14-15 NAS.

Confidence in God is well placed. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV. See also Hebrews 4:16 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is that you trust completely and rest securely in God.

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