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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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A Prayer Strategy

January 22nd, 2014

“After they prayed . . they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4:31 NIV.

Prayer and faith are the door through which God enters powerfully.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a prayer strategy.”

There will be times when you have to do something, but don’t know what to do. You will experience situations, unfamiliar or even desperate. The Bible is filled with times and places when people have felt much like you do. Consider Moses facing an impassable Red Sea while pursued by Pharaoh; imagine Daniel awaiting imminent death from ravenous lions; the Apostle Paul endured a terrible storm in a ship being torn apart, and sailors ready to abandon ship; feel the isolation of the Apostle John, callously exiled to die on a remote island. Inevitably, they and others turned to God in their worst circumstances and God did not fail them. You are wise to study others’ faith and its results, and to learn from their experiences.

The Bible reports of Peter and John that the religious leaders, “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” If you spend time with Jesus, others notice a difference. Soon after Jesus’ ascension, Peter and John were arrested and threatened with worse if they dared speak of Jesus again. Read Acts 4:21-33 NIV. Jesus always had faced the opposition, always knowing what to do. But Jesus was no longer with them as before; they were on their own. “After they prayed, the place was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 NIV. Like those early disciples, this is what you do when you don’t know what to do.

(1) First, pray with faith. “Lord, behold their threatenings.” Acts 4:29 NIV. Prayer is too often the second, third, or last thing you think of doing when facing threatening situations. Begin with prayer; then, you may not need to worry. Here is good advice, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer . . let your requests be made known to God . .” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

(2) Ask God for what you lack. “Lord . . enable Your servants . . with great boldness.” Acts 4:29 NIV. They had reason to be afraid, but fear like faith is really a choice. Fear thrives when you feel threatened. Faith grows when you choose to let God be God. Stop listening to your fears; listen for God’s assuring word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV. The Word in your heart makes you bold in your faith.

(3) Expect God to do the extraordinary. “Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 4:30 NIV. Why pray at all, if you aren’t going to expect something spectacular from God? 2 Chronicles 16:9 KJV. Give God an invitation to display His power. Genesis 18:14 NKJV.

(4) Prepare yourself for things to change. “After they had prayed, they . . spoke the Word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 NIV. More than expected happens when you pray; not a lot can happen until after you do. Prayer and faith are the door through which God enters a desperate situation powerfully. And His entrance is to fill you with His abiding Spirit. See Ephesians 5:18-20 NKJV. A Spirit-filled heart expects something marvelous and miraculous from God. “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you rely on the power of the Spirit in every situation.

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Fretful and Worried

December 4th, 2013

“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life.”  Matthew 6:25 NLT.

Unbelievable peace will envelop your heart and mind when you remove worry.

My thoughts and comments today are about “fretful and worried.”

Being told, “Don’t worry,” though usually well intended, is not normally very productive. There are things and times everyday that invite you to feel anxious. Feeling anxious is unsettling, even distressing. Sometimes such feelings are rooted in things that have already happened. At other times, being anxious is about a present situation that is concerning to you; then, sometimes anxiety attaches itself to a future, undesirable possibility. The corner of “fretful and worried” is not a good place to live.

Whatever the origin or focus of your concerns, God’s Word is clear, “Don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough . . Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not . . Your Heavenly Father already knows your needs and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Read Matthew 6:25-34 NLT. Feeling anxious is a warning that you are failing to see God in the moment and, in some measure small or large, considering your future apart from Him.

Worry is never beneficial. Worry adds nothing good to your well-being and relationships, while taking from you much that is good; worry changes nothing, except to diminish your confidence and distort expectation. “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom. Worry offers a false promise of solutions it never delivers.

(1) There are options to being fretful and worried. “Do not be anxious about anything . .” Read Philippians 4:6-8 NIV. By itself, that would be good advice, but it gets better. (2) A healthy, positive action that God rewards can fill the emotional void you previously occupied with anxious worry. Paul continues, “. . but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.“ When you refuse to indulge your anxious feelings, prayer and thanksgiving replace your previous anxiety.

(3) Unbelievable peace will envelop your heart and mind in ways you cannot foresee. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (4) The victory over worry and the anxiety it causes begins in your heart and mind; submit your emotions and thoughts to Christ. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true . . noble . . right . . pure . . lovely . . admirable . . excellent . . praiseworthy. Think about such things.”

Conquering emotional anxiety and mental apprehension requires vigilance and Godly strategy. “We do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the power to demolish strongholds. We demolish every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV. The Word of God is stronger than worry.

My prayer for you today is that you are free from anxious thoughts and troubling worries.

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Economic Uncertainty

November 26th, 2012

Economic Uncertainty

Government is not the solution to economic uncertainty; God is.

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances.” Philippians 4:11 NAS

Economic uncertainty seems the rule and not the exception presently. Each day’s news is filled with more bad news than good as it pertains to finances, whether on the global, national, local, or personal levels. Everyone suggests a different solution; no one solution seems effective. While political parties exonerate themselves while caustically blaming one another, the economic problems stubbornly grow more ugly and personal, and individual families suffer the consequence. Unemployment is not a percentage; it’s people. Our nation, like many other nations, faces economic challenges bigger than borrowing and spending can solve. See Proverbs 22:7 NIV. Nationally, this is not the first time, maybe not even the worst. Ask your grandparents or great grandparents.

Individually is a good place to begin, rather than nationally or internationally. I would first suggest that government is not the problem; you and I are – our incessant wants, insatiable appetites for more, sense of entitlement, and unrealistic expectation all that will be at another’s expense. The origin of the current economic uncertainty is first moral and spiritual, only then financial. As citizens, we have allowed the government to tax unfairly, spend unwisely, borrow indiscriminately, and grant government favors at public expense. But we are the government, by means of duly elected and appointed leaders. In the closing words of his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln vowed, “. . that Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” 1863. Of, by, and for the people remains the guiding principle upon which any government governs.

Likewise, the government is not the solution; God is. The problem of resolving personal economic uncertainty begins with each individual. The Bible’s counsel is this: “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NASV.

No one in today’s increasingly secular, materialistic society can avoid financial anxiety or be naturally content. Incessant advertising and irresistible marketing subtly erodes contentment. There is good news. Like Paul, you can say, “. . I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:11-12 NASV.

My Dad taught me simple, practical principles of money management, “Work hard. Remember, God is your Source. Tithe first. Never spend all you earn. Save some. Spend wisely.” That’s Biblical economics, wise stewardship, and sound money management. Hebrews 13:5 NIV/2 Corinthians 9:6-11 NKJV. And tithing, giving, and generosity are what God honors and rewards. See Malachi 3:10-12 NIV/Luke 6:38/Acts 20:33-35 NIV. Be certain of this truth, “My God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you know the provision and blessing of God on all.

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Why Worry?

November 3rd, 2010

“Give your worries and cares to God . . for He cares what happens to you.” 1 Peter 5.7 NLT

“Worry results from your helpless feelings of inability to control or change things.”

My thoughts today consider, “why worry?”

I’ll bet you cannot remember what you worried about a month ago. A week ago? Even yesterday? You would remember – in fact you could not forget – if what you were worrying about had actually happened as you feared it might. So much worry is needless.

People worry about a past they cannot change, or a future they cannot control, while frittering away amazing opportunities today. How is that working out for you? Why worry? Worry comes from your helpless feelings of inability to control or change people or things about which you are concerned.  When did you presume that you could, or should, control or change everything about your life and circumstances that is uncomfortable now or uncertain tomorrow?

Jesus said that most of your worry is about not having enough, not being secure, or what might happen tomorrow. The first are needless because, “Your Father knows what you need,” (Matthew 6:32) and the latter is pointless because, “As your days are, so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25. Strength is daily, measured and given sufficiently to the demands of that day alone. You cannot change tomorrow’s cares no matter how much of today’s strength you apply to it. Worrying adds nothing good to your life and takes valuable things from it. So why worry?

The Bible urges you to “give your worries to God.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT. But how do you do that? God has good advice for you, “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice! . . Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses everything will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7.

In the above verses, the antidote for worry is simple and practical: (1) find a reason to rejoice – (2) worry about nothing – (3) pray about everything – (4) be thankful at all times – (5) talk it over with God – (6) keep His peace in your heart and mind. You can worry, or you can talk to God. It’s hard to do both successfully, especially at the same time. It’s a choice you make.

Worrying fills your thoughts with panic; trusting fills your heart with peace. Peace or panic – which will you choose today? The cure for worry is to remember that your God “cares about what happens to you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT. God cares; He really does. Now, go get some rest and let God work!

My prayer for you today is that your heart will be worry-free and peace-filled.

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