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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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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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Spiritual Practices

October 9th, 2015

“The Father has blessed us . . with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual practices.”

Days can be busy and noisy, leaving you over-stimulated and weary. Everything seems rushed and everyone hurried. All too often, the urgent displaces the important. The pace of our lives and the noise of our surroundings diminish things vital to our well-being. More tragically, you can lose something of yourself somewhere in the noise and busyness. Unrelenting activity produces a confused identity. A conviction of spiritual identity provides: certainty about purpose, clarity of direction, and sufficiency of your God-given gifts and abilities. So much depends upon a true sense of your God-given identity.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude. We are so much like the disciples – often busy and tired. Jesus invited His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV. Time alone with God is where you rediscover your identity in Christ. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV. In his epistles, Paul wrote prolifically about your life, “in Christ.” Read Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV.

Let me suggest Biblical disciplines that strengthen your spiritual identity. Begin with this. Practice Sabbath rest. The Sabbath principle incorporates the whole of one’s life before the Lord. All other spiritual disciplines begin and extend from a heart that practices the principle of Sabbath. More than a day set aside from usual and necessary activity, Sabbath is a deliberate time – without worry or hurry – to reorient your body, soul, and spirit with the Biblical practices that encourage and celebrate your faith. In Jesus, true Sabbath is found. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.

Prioritize quiet and solitude. Practice to be quiet and content in God’s presence. “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother.” Psalm 131:1-2 NIV. Prioritize time in God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. Regular attention to the reading and meditation of Scripture is critically important. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV. Prioritize prayer with thanksgiving. Communicating your heart and gratitude to God results in communion with God. “In everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

Prioritize Praise and Worship. Grow comfortable expressing your heart in joyful adoration. Psalm 100 NIV. Prioritize edifying Fellowship. You were made for community. Acts 2:46-47 NKJV. That is where you grow and serve best. “Let us not neglect our meeting together . . but encourage and warn one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT. Spiritual practices develop a life that abides in Christ, trusts His finished work on the cross, and celebrates your identity in Christ.

Today, I pray for you that your identity is rooted and built up in Christ Jesus.

Christian Communications

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The Practice of Peace

July 29th, 2015

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6 NLT.

The practice of peace begins with prayer.

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

Every day, disputes and differences polarize our lives and relationships. An unfriendly gap widens between religious and secular beliefs. Economic inequality divides communities, nations and our world. Political and international conflicts threaten our personal well-being and global safety on every continent. In today’s world, peace seems elusive. I observe that the less real peace we have in our hearts and homes, the more conflict we cause in every other realm. The God of Peace and the Prince of Peace are the only source of peace.

Incorrectly, people assume that peace is the absence of troubling circumstances. If that were true, there could be no peace at all, because problems are a fact of life. Jesus was clear, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Problems threaten your peace of heart and mind; perspective is at the heart of peace. Your evaluation influences your expectation.

Here is the Apostle Paul’s practical advice: “Don’t worry about anything – INSTEAD – pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT. You can worry, but praying and giving thanks is healthier. Worry and prayer are mutually exclusive. Worry is natural. Prayer and thankfulness are optional, but wiser choices to make. Often, the last things a person tries are the only things that effectively work. The practice of peace begins with prayer. Prayer opens your heart, settles your fears, and provides solutions.

Paul promised that prayer with thanksgiving is the sure path to experience God’s peace – “Shalom” – the peace of God in every circumstance. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NLT. The apprehension you feel when things are unsettled, or the mounting irritation from relational conflict, or the perplexity of spirit are dissipated in the simple, sincere practice of talking with God with thankfulness, reverence, and expectation. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 NIV.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV. You experience peace around you when you welcome the peace of God within you – peaceful dwellings, secure homes, undisturbed rest.

Today, I pray for you that the peace of God within you surrounds and keeps you.

Christian Communications

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Content or Coveting

January 17th, 2015

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV.

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Coveting is the enemy of contentment.

My thoughts and comments today are about being “content or coveting.”

The world surrounding you is incurably materialistic yet increasingly discontented. Commercial advertising fosters discontent, until you not only want more, you think you actually need more. Never confuse luxuries with necessities or desires with needs. Your Father promises to supply all your needs, but not all your wants. Paul was clear, “My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV. Of that you can be absolutely sure.

The complication comes when you covet what you see others have. Coveting is a wicked thing, causing you to envy others to the extent that you would prefer you were so fortunate, and ultimately that they were not. The Bible speaks wisely and practically, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV. Coveting is the enemy of contentment. Contentment is the cure for coveting.

The Bible states a sure and simple truth, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6 NIV. Paul’s reasoning is also simple; “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8 NIV. Know when enough is enough. Discontentment leaves you vulnerable to covetous desires, insatiably wanting what you do not have and begrudging what others enjoy. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10 NIV.

That is the reality that corrupted the bliss of the Garden of Eden, “When Eve saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eye, and desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Genesis 3:6. She saw; she desired; she took. That is a formula for a spiraling regression to discontent. Instead, may your heart pray, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your Word.” Psalm 119:37 NIV.

Years earlier, my friend, Campbell, shared a wise and invaluable lesson with me: the heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen. Looking produces longing; longing creates a need to possess. Having too little money is not your biggest problem; the real dilemma and one that touches every soul is when you covet what others have, thereby loving money as a necessity for supplying your desires without reliance on God.

When you covet what others have, you will eventually doubt God’s willingness and ability to provide your needs. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV. It is simple; present every need to God in prayer, trusting Him to give you whatever is wise for you, consistent with His will, and in His time and manner. Paul found contentment to be a lesson learned, ”. . in any and every situation . . whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Read Philippians 4:6-7, 11-13 NIV. Imagine your life satisfied and content.

Today, my prayer for you is that you avoid struggling to have things you don’t need.

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