My mother underlined this verse in her Bible. I can only say, Amen!
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
My mother underlined this verse in her Bible. I can only say, Amen!
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
In one place we see God’s people defeat their enemy “because they cried out to Him during the battle. He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him.” (5:20)
Yet a few verses later, we see those same people unfaithful to God, worshiping idols, and living in harmony with the very people God had defeated earlier. Why would God bother to answer their prayer during the battle when He knew it wouldn’t be long before they turned from Him, and joined the enemy?
Because that is who He is! God is faithful to answer the prayers of a repentant heart every time.
We read that the Jews will pay a price for choosing sin. But what speaks to me is God’s faithfulness to His children. To me.
The truth is, God always blesses me, always defeats my enemy, always draws near to me when I trust Him and am obedient to His Word. It’s at those times when I choose sin, even in the privacy of my heart, that God removes His blessings, and I must face the consequences.
I can shake my head at the rollercoaster ride the Jews lived in the Old Testament, and wonder how they could trust God one minute, and blatantly sin the next. But God is reminding me today that they aren’t the only ones slow to learn.
The Jericho walls had just come tumbling down on Israel’s enemy. Why wouldn’t the Jews assume God would continue to give them the victory? But things didn’t turn out so well for them at Ai. Their defeat put the Jews in a deep depression.
“WHY?” they asked. “Why would God do this to us?” They tore their clothes and fell on their faces, crying out to the Lord. But God was not moved by their tears.
“Quit crying! You have sinned. You have violated my commands.” Then to cap it off, God said, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” (7:12)
I’m on FaceBook, and read post after post of people calling us to prayer concerning this pandemic our world is facing. Many of the blogs I follow are asking people to fast and pray that God will move among us, stop the virus. I want you to know I am praying.
However, today I realize I can fall on my face and cry out all day for God to have mercy, for God to heal our world, only to hear Him say, “Quit crying! You, Connie, have sinned. You, Connie, have violated my commands. And I will not be with you until you get rid of the sin in YOUR life.”
It’s easy to pray for our world, to plead with God to stop the spread of this disease. But the disease that concerns God the most is the disease of sin in my heart- and yours.
I think God would have us search our hearts, to allow Him to break our hearts over our own disobedience, to get right with Him as we confess our own sin and accept His forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. More than the stop of this virus, God wants us to be healed of sin.
I hope you will continue to pray for our world and the stop of this virus. But hear God say you and I both need to deal with the sin in our own lives before He will be moved by our prayers for the world. Oh, there is a fatal disease out there spreading faster than covid19. And there is a cure. His name is Jesus.
Sometimes I run across a person mentioned in Scripture and wish I knew more about him or her. Like Epaphras. Paul describes him as a fellow-worker, someone in ministry with Paul. But Paul also said this about Epaphras:
He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (4:12)
Earlier Paul challenged us to be devoted in prayer, and combined with what he said about Epaphras, I am convicted this morning.
What does it mean to be devoted to prayer, or to wrestle in prayer? And what would happen if we Christians really prayed like that?
I’ve shared that I don’t often stop to pray. I rarely spend more than ten minutes praying at a time. And I don’t even do that every day.
But I don’t think I’m the only Christian who doesn’t pray like we should. I don’t think our world would be in the state it is in if we were all devoted to prayer, if we wrestled in prayer for each other, and on behalf of unsaved people.
I pray we will learn to pray, that we would be devoted to prayer, and not too lazy or too uncaring to stop and wrestle in prayer, crying out to God, pleading, laying bare all our longings and all our cares. God wants to answer our prayers.
But we have to pray.
I Corinthians 15:35-16:24; Acts 20:1-6; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4
Can you recall a time in your life when you would say you were at your lowest point? The pressures of life were such you felt there was no hope; you tried to do the right thing but even that blew up in your face. Why is it when we’ve hit rock bottom we can feel totally alone, like no one understands or even cares to understand what we are going through?
Paul gives us a hint at his lowest low. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he said at some point he had wished he were dead. He was that discouraged. Then he shares with us what he’d learned from that awful time:
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)
Paul, arguably the most prolific missionary/evangelist in the history of the Church, the apostle whose words still instruct and encourage people two thousand years later, needed to be reminded he needed God.
God delivered Paul from that dark place, and continued to deliver him. The apostle tells us it was through the prayers of the Corinthian believers that God did that:
Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (verse 11)
Paul said Jesus’ suffering overflowed onto them, but so did Jesus’ comfort. As a result that comfort overflowed onto the Corinthians. It overflows yet today!
So here are a few things I take away from this passage today:
I asked if you remembered a time in your life when you were at rock bottom. I hope that’s not where you are today. But if you are, or if you are headed there, let me encourage you from Paul’s example. You are not alone. And I am praying for you.
Mark 7:1-8:10; Matthew 25:1-39
I was reminded about the centurion’s dying daughter whom Jesus healed from a distance. In the passages we read today, Jesus is again healing a little girl, this time demon-possessed, from a distance. Both the centurion and this woman were Gentiles – a whole race of people at a distance from God. Yet both put their faith in Jesus, and their prayers for their loved ones were answered – from a distance.
I’m encouraged, and I hope you are, too. I have loved ones who are living at a distance from God. I would imagine you do, too. God is reminding me today that no distance is too great for Him to save. We should never start to believe anyone is too far gone.
Let’s continue to put our faith in Jesus, and pray that our loved ones will accept His amazing grace. That is a prayer Jesus died to answer.
I would ask you to pray for my pastor, his dear wife, and their 30 year old son. They are at his bedside in a Miami, Florida hospital right now as this young man faces a life-threatening condition. He has been living a great distance from God the past few years. But I thank God that His Word has assured me today that no distance is too great for our great God.
We are praying from the distance of several hundred miles, that God will touch this young man’s body and get him through upcoming surgeries. May God give wisdom to all involved, and may He be revealed in every detail.
And we are praying that God will break through Satan’s hold on this young man, and heal his soul, for Jesus’ sake. He may be at a distance, but he is only a prayer away from the God who loves him and gave Himself for him. When you think of it that way, he’s really not all that far away.
Thank you for your prayers. And as I pray this morning, I will be praying for your loved ones, too, who seem to be at too great a distance to come to Jesus at the moment. I’m putting my faith in God, and trusting Him to handle the distance.
Daniel’s heart-felt prayer reveals his agony over his sin, and the sin of God’s people. They were in captivity, prisoners of the Babylonians, and God had made it clear that captivity was a just judgment for their sin. They didn’t like it. But they deserved it.
It probably wouldn’t hurt us to be praying like Daniel prayed, too. We could use a bit of repentance these days, couldn’t we? Ann Graham Lotz wrote a study on Daniel’s prayer, and it’s a good one for today. If you’re inclined, I recommend it.
Why pray, though? Really. Doesn’t a Sovereign God already have things worked out the way He wants? Matthew Henry says this:
“God gives us leave not only to pray, but to plead, not to move him (he himself knows what he will do), but to move ourselves and encourage our faith.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1098)
God wants us to pray, to plead with Him, to boldly enter His throne room and lay our requests for ourselves and others, at His feet. But I respectfully disagree with Henry about one thing. Scripture gives many examples of God being moved by our prayers.
Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20 bought him 15 more years of life, after Isaiah told him God said for him to get his affairs in order. Hezekiah’s prayer moved God.
God was moved when Manasseh prayed in 2 Chronicles 33, and God returned him to Jerusalem.
Jesus said he wasn’t going to heal the Gentile woman, until she pled with Him. He healed her. (Matthew 15)
However, our Sovereign God sees today as the past. So He knows whether or not we prayed for someone.
Do you remember the comic books that had alternate story-lines? You’d get to a certain place in the story and the character would have a decision to make. If you wanted the character to make one choice, the book would direct you to a certain page. If you wanted another choice, you’d be directed to a different page. Same character, different outcome.
I think prayer is a little like that. Someone has a need. And God knows what happens if we pray. He sees the end result of our pleading with Him to answer our prayer on that person’s behalf, to move Him to action. But He also knows what happens if we don’t pray, if we never ask Him to move in the life of that person. Same person, different outcomes.
The difference is prayer.
Two weeks ago, our much-loved pastor announced his resignation, to the shock and dismay of us all. God is undoubtedly leading him to pastor a church in another state. Now we are faced with the responsibility of filling the pulpit left vacant by this dear man.
We all, as members of this body of believers, want God’s will in this matter. Should we assume that will happen because God is Sovereign, and will bring His man right to us? Or should we pray?
The Bible teaches us God hears and answers prayer. So we’re praying. The Bible teaches us God is moved by our prayers, that He is free to work in us when we pray. Pray on!
I know God does have a will as to who our next pastor should be. And He’s not going to play games with us to see if we can figure it out, and call the right man. But God isn’t going to force anyone on us, either.
So our prayer is for wisdom to recognize God’s leading. We are pleading with God to make His way known, that we will move only when He moves us. We want God’s first and best choice for our fellowship. So we’re praying that we will know God’s mind and heart in this matter, and that our next pastor will know it, too.
You can bet I’m praying.
I do like what Henry said in the quote above about praying moving us. About prayer encouraging our faith. When I spend time talking to God, pouring my heart out to Him, loving on Him, I am changed. I am encouraged.
So today, I can honestly tell you I’m excited about what’s ahead for our church, because I am praying.
Maybe it’s my age, but there are three people close to me who are battling cancer right now. One dear lady, after months of body-ravaging chemo, has decided to stop the treatment because it isn’t working. The doctors tell her there’s nothing more they can do, so she has gone into hospice care. Unless God intervenes (and that’s what I’m praying) she is at the end of her young life.
Another friend, who lost her mother to breast cancer just one year ago, has begun radiation therapy after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on her own breast.
The other friend, is a man who beat cancer four years ago, but after a routine checkup was told cancer has attacked his other lung. He wonders if he has it in him to fight that battle yet again.
Hezekiah was facing death. He was sick, and it seemed nothing more could be done for him. But he prayed, and God spared his life, promising him fifteen more years on this earth. There are a lot of important lessons here, and I hope you’ll read these chapters and let God teach you what He wants you to know. Here’s what spoke to me:
God answers prayer.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all prayers are answered the way Hezekiah’s was. My friend, the mother of two teenagers, the wife of a man who loves her, a church secretary whose ministry touched so many lives, finds herself where Hezekiah was, “there’s nothing more we can do.”
But because God has not given her the same outcome as He gave Hezekiah, do we think her prayers are going unanswered? I love what Matthew Henry says on page 880 of his Commentary in One Volume (Zondervan 1961):
“When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer, as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven us, that his grace shall be sufficient for us, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be his, we have no reason to say that we pray in vain. (emphasis mine)
My friend has something so much more important than physical health. If you knew her, you’d know that is true.
Interestingly enough, I was talking to my sister about this topic this morning even before I started studying these chapters in Isaiah. She said we (people) cling so hard to this life, when what’s ahead for believers is so much better than we can even imagine. We’ll get to heaven and say, “What was I thinking?”
Hezekiah did live fifteen more years, but the choices he made during those additional years had devastating consequences for the entire nation. He lived those additional years, but then he died anyway.
Now I’m not advocating we boycott physicians, nurses, hospitals, and medications. I do not believe we should adopt the mistaken philosophy that “God’s will be done” means I do nothing. God told those ministering to Hezekiah’s physical needs to put a poultice of figs over the boil and he’d recover. They did. And he did.
Oh, by the way. I think I know where the whole “God helps those who help themselves” thing started. Matthew Henry, whose insight into God’s Word I usually appreciate, said this about Hezekiah’s recovery: “help thyself and God will help thee.” (page 882 of Commentary in One Volume.)
Seriously, Matt, do you have any idea the can of worms you opened up here? Some people actually believe those words are in the Bible. When the truth of the matter is, the Bible never says God helps those who help themselves. It clearly, repeatedly says God helps those who obey Him.
Read that part of chapter 38 again. God told them what to do, and they obeyed, THEN Hezekiah recovered.
So here’s what I get out of this today: my life is in God’s hands, and I’m ok with that. I want my days to be bathed in prayer, I want my mind steadfastly focused on God, I want to be sensitive to His leading, and I want to obey.
I’ll let Him count the days. I just want the days to count for eternity, for Jesus’ sake.
Yesterday I shared that my soul was downcast. I was discouraged about some things, and downright sad about others. I told you what I felt God’s Word said to do about that.
So I prayed. God revealed some things I needed to confess. So I did. And with that confession I repented, asked God to forgive me, and thanked Him for His faithfulness to me in the past.
Then I told Him what was on my heart. I told Him everything. I know He already knew. But I needed to say it, to put into words the things that were breaking my heart so that I would know exactly what it was that I was handing over to Him. Then I thanked Him again for His faithfulness, and I told Him I trusted Him with each and every situation.
During the day, as those feelings came back, I knew those thoughts weren’t from God. So every time I picked up one of those cares, I prayed and laid it back at the feet of Jesus. It seems that I spent most of the day reaffirming my trust in my Heavenly Father.
Now here is why I love being a child of God. This is why I can say for certain that He is Who He says He IS, that He is intimately interested in every aspect of my life:
Last night I got a text from a friend who gave me a word of encouragement over one of the things that had been heavy on my heart just that morning. My sister in Christ did not know my source of distress. I never hinted to her my discouragement.
But I had poured my heart out to God. He heard. And He prompted my friend to give me a word straight from His heart without her even knowing.
Oh, dear one, do you know Him? Do you trust Him? Are you confident He hears and answers the prayers of His children who pray according to His will?
This is my testimony this morning. I hope it is yours as well:
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2)
David certainly knew what it was to be mistreated, alone, physically and emotionally drained. In Psalm 6 he says things like: my bones are in agony, my soul is in anguish, I’m worn out from groaning, I weep all night.
My sister Peggy’s son Geoff died in a car accident in 2012. I have had losses in my life, times when I felt alone and defeated, agonizing over circumstances. But Geoff’s death is the single most devastating thing I have experienced. I, like David, had sleepless nights when tears drenched my pillow. I ached all over, and groaned uncontrollably.
Now I don’t want to compare my grief to anyone else’s. It’s not a contest. This aunt grieved deeply for the loss of my dear nephew. But who can touch a mother’s grief?
I watched my sister die that day, too. There was no life in her eyes. Smiles were forced. Laughter would occasionally break the mood, but it was short-lived. I will say her faith and hope in God never wavered. That deep trust enabled her to get out of bed each day, and has sustained her to this day. But the sadness was there, too.
I began to pray that God would restore her joy. Every day I’d pray that Peggy would know real joy once again. Then, over a year after Geoff went to live with Jesus, I was talking to Peggy on the phone when she said she woke up that morning and felt joy for the first time.
I was shocked!
“I’ve been praying for that,” I said.
Now why did that shock me? Why would I be surprised that God would answer my prayer?
My pastor shared a while back that he prays Psalm 5:3 to God every day:
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (emphasis mine)
I picture a child sitting in front of the Christmas tree, presents wrapped, waiting excitedly to see his wish list fulfilled.
That’s how David prayed. I think sometimes I pray because I’m supposed to, or because someone asks me to. I pray knowing God can answer prayer. I’m not sure I always pray expecting Him to.
Listen to what David says about God in Psalm 7: I take refuge in You, my shield is God Most High who saves the upright in heart, God is a righteous judge, and
I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (vs17)
David had confidence in God. He could lay out his troubles before God and believe that He would hear and answer his prayers perfectly. Then he would look for the ways God was working throughout the day, expecting to see His hand. Expecting God to answer His prayers.
My Dear Heavenly Father, let me tell you what is on my heart. I want to lay it all out there, and then wait expectantly for the ways You provide exactly what I need, the way You answer my prayers according to Your will. Make me aware of Your hand today, Lord. I will give thanks to You.