Tag Archives: answered prayer

October 15; From A Distance

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 7-12; Daniel’s Prayer

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?

We’re praying!

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.

 

 

Isaiah 36-39; Counting The Days, or Days That Count?

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 hiswe 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.)

Busted.

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.

Psalms 107-117; The Downcast Soul, Part 2

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)

Psalms 5-7; Waiting in Expectation

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.

 

July 27 – Effective Prayer

Isaiah 37-39, Psalm 76

Hezekiah is a pretty good example of effectual, fervent prayer. When he’d gotten a threatening letter from the king of Assyria, he spread those papers out in front of him, and presented them to the Lord. He gave it all, every detail to God.

Then, when he became ill he prayed again. And it wasn’t just a “God heal me” kind of prayer. It was a prayer of faith, of remembering, of trust, thankfulness, and petition. He even wrote it down.

So what can I learn from Hezekiah? God honors the prayers of His people. He wants us to be detailed in our requests. He wants us to lay it all out there and trust Him with the outcome.

Why? Is it so God knows what we want and need? Is it so we can tell God how we want our prayers answered? Do you honestly think you can tell God something He doesn’t know, or manipulate Him into doing what you want? So, if God already knows, and if He can’t be manipulated, why pray?

I believe we pray so that we can recognize God’s hands in the answers to those prayers. Somehow, putting into words exactly what is on our hearts defines things for us. Then, as we see how our prayers are answered, we can recognize how God is working, and give glory to Him.

God answered Hezekiah’s prayers. And I believe, because Hezekiah prayed specifically, there was no doubt in his mind that the answers came straight from God. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person accomplishes great things. (James 5:16) Beginning with hearts that are singing God’s praises.

I want to pray effectively.

 

May 20 – Expect It

Psalms 5, 38, 41-42

David seems to be a man who prayed without ceasing. I think he was someone who was aware of God’s Presence every minute of every day. And he depended on that Presence.

David seems to pray about little things and big things, about personal things, and things on behalf of the nation of Israel.

I’m ashamed to say my prayer life doesn’t come close to David’s. I am convicted about what he said in 5:3:

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. (NASB)

Oh, I pray. I pray for a friend whose body is full of cancer. I pray for my sister still mourning the loss of her son. I pray for a man searching for peace. I pray for our nation, for the Church. I pray, say “amen” then wring my hands about the transgender lies being accepted, worry about the upcoming election, shake my head at the compromises Christians are making, and am tempted to say, “The end is near.”

So why do I even bother praying if down deep I don’t believe God will answer, that we’ve come too far to have hope? My friend is dying, our government is a disgrace, the Church is weak. Oh well. The end is near. I pray and assume nothing is going to change.

If that’s my attitude – shame on me!

David prayed, then eagerly watched for God’s answers. I am reminded God said that if His people – that’s us, Christian – humble ourselves and pray, He’ll heal our land. Do we really believe that? Do we pray expecting God to be true to His Word?

Will you join me in repenting of sin in our lives, then praying believing God can and will heal our land? May God’s will be accomplished in the lives of those of us who know Him. May bodies be healed, hearts mended, Truth revealed and accepted. And may Jesus Christ be glorified because His children prayed expecting Him to answer.