Tag Archives: prayer

(Psalms 42-43) Think On These Things

The forced isolation the world has been subjected to due to the COVID mandates has been devastating for many. Disappointment, depression, and even despair are being experience by scores of people who have never been this low before – and never believed they ever would be. I’ve often said the virus is not the worst thing that has happened this past year.

The psalmist must have been experiencing the same level of low as some people feel today. He asks, “Why, my soul are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil?” (42:5a) He even describes himself as “deeply depressed,” and asks God why He has forgotten him. (verses 6,9). I think many of us have at one time or another felt like God has abandoned us when our souls are in turmoil ourselves.

I actually think the psalmist did something good here. He put into words what was troubling him. We don’t know the answers he came up with, exactly why he felt dejected and in turmoil. But so often in Scripture we are told to search our hearts. Look how many times Jesus, before he healed or forgave someone, asked, “What is it you want?” “What are you looking for?”

We would do well to get out pencil and paper and identify those things in us, too. “Why, my soul, am I dejected?” Sometimes we don’t even know why we are experiencing this level of sadness. I believe God would have us give voice to our troubles. Be specific.

Then, the psalmist did something else: he took his eyes off himself and focused on God instead. He said in verse 1 he longed for God like a parched deer longs for a flowing stream. He remembered God, His goodness and protection.

In Psalm 43 he asked God to send His light and truth, and lead him to Himself. He also demonstrated complete faith in God when he said:

The Lord will send his faithful love by day; his song will be with me in the night…” (42:8)

The Lord WILL, His song WILL…

I know it’s not easy. And if there is a chemical imbalance in a person’s body, he or she needs medication and Biblical counseling to help them navigate their physical need. But here is what I found to be true of my own tough days:

My tears have been my food day and night… (42:3a)

Warren Wiersbe said the psalmist “‘fed’ on his grief (not a wise thing to do) as his tears became his bread. His weeping was as regular as his eating had been.” (Be Worshipful; David C Cook Publisher; 2009; page 162).

Do you relate? Then ask yourself if you are feeding on your grief. Identify those things that are troubling you, but don’t stop there. Lay them at the feet of Jesus. Trust Him. Seek Him.

That’s not to say simply pretend everything is ok. The “Name it and Claim it” thing is garbage. Rather, name it and turn it over (and keep turning it over when you find yourself picking it up again).

Paul tells us to instead think on things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) It’s hard to be down when our thoughts are on our blessings and God’s character.

Some people will say that’s too easy, it can’t work for everyone, that it’s wrong to believe you have the ability to change your thinking and, in turn, your feelings. I am just sharing what God has said in His Word. I’m not making this up.

I know many of us have memorized Philippians 4:6-7 which says:

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 our understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you get that? Paul says to pray, be thankful for what you have (including your position in Jesus through His blood), and be specific about what you want God to do. Now don’t miss this:

The result of that kind of prayer isn’t necessarily the receiving of everything you’ve asked for. The result of that kind of prayer is peace in your heart that only God can give. It’s a peace the world cannot understand. And it’s a peace that will guard your heart and mind against the thoughts and feelings that are putting you in turmoil.

Someone once said, “I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me.” Sounds like that person needs a new diet. Feeding on his grief has become normal. I pray that you, and I, will feed on the Word of God and His promises, that we will think on things that God has told us to think, that we will trust Him, seek Him, and truly look up.

I will confess that following Scripture in this area is like riding a rollercoaster. Some days I can change my thoughts, get busy looking for ways to serve my Savior, and love and seek God with all my heart, mind, and soul.

And some days I fail miserably. I feed on my grief like I’m an addict falling off the wagon.

But I thank God that He is always faithful to forgive when I ask Him to, that He is there beside me to give me the ability to obey Him, to change my thoughts, and focus on Him when I surrender to Him.

Because the Lord WILL send His faithful love to me during my day, and He WILL give me His song in the darkness if I ask Him to. That’s not wishful thinking. It’s true!

Praying for you, and me, today.

(I Kings 13-16) For Generations To Come

Why did God not wipe out the blatantly disobedient people of Israel? One king after another – on both sides of the Israeli teams – obeyed God to differing degrees. Most disobeyed Him unashamedly. Their open rejection of everything God stood for would seem to be reason enough for God to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Why didn’t He do that? First of all, Scripture makes it clear God doesn’t delight in the deaths of His enemies, that His Sovereign will is that no one die without His saving grace. God didn’t – and doesn’t – destroy the Jews because of that one person whose heart is stirred, that one who is softening toward Jesus, and who will receive what the Messiah died to provide.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. (Psalm 103:8)

But here is what occurred to me this morning as I sat here praying about these chapters in I Kings: God had made promises about Israel’s preservation to Abraham and to King David. Why? Because these men had vital relationships with God based on complete surrender and great faith. Neither man was perfect. But both men trusted God, and confessed and repented of sin. They were faithful to God, and He was faithful to them.

I am sure we are all praying for our children. We want God to bless and protect them today and every day. But I’m wondering how many generations of our descendants will be touched by God’s hand of protection, His grace and mercy, because we are living lives of obedience here and now? How many of our children and grandchildren will be blessed because we ourselves are surrendered to God, and demonstrate complete faith in Him? How many years will God continue to answer our prayers long after we are gone from this earthly body?

Our lives are lived in a few decades on this earth. But our prayers live into eternity. Our example goes on without us in the hearts and minds of our children. Our influences influence them whose influence impacts our grandchildren who will have children and grandchildren of their own.

What example of obedience are those dear ones seeing in us today? More importantly, what is God seeing in us that would cause Him to want to answer our prayers for the next generation and the next?

Abraham’s and David’s prayers are still being answered today because they were faithful to God while they had that opportunity. May the same be said of us a few thousand years from now.

(I Kings 8) Be Specific

When King Solomon prayed, he covered all the bases, everything he could think of that would cause God to remove Himself from the people:

When a man takes an oath, when our enemies defeat us, when there is drought, or famine, when foreigners come, when we sin, when there is pestilence, blight, mildew, locusts, plague, illness… may your people return to You. Then God, hear our prayers and forgive.

I’m sitting here realizing that God would have me be more specific in my prayers, too. Not because He needs direction. But because it is a way of searching my heart, of putting my needs into words. It is identifying what I’m asking God to do, so that I will recognize His hand when answers to prayer come.

The Bible teaches that God hears… and answers… the prayers of His people. Let’s be specific.

(I Samuel 1-2) The Bargaining Prayer

It sounds like Hannah is making a bargain with God. If you… then I will…

Is that what are witnessing here? I wonder.

I remember when wearing seatbelts when driving became a law. I, like many, took awhile to get into the habit of buckling up. One morning, as I was heading to work, I was involved in a minor accident. The police were called. And I, who had not been wearing my seatbelt prayed, “God, if you’ll help me not get a ticket for breaking the seatbelt law, I promise I will never drive again without buckling up first.”

Turns out I didn’t get a ticket. And I began fastening my seatbelt every time I drove after that.

Did God accept my deal? Did He accept Hannah’s? We both got what we wanted.

A famous Bible teacher tells of her “salvation experience” by saying that as a divorced mom, she had a driving need to be with a man. Men. She confessed she lived a very sinful lifestyle that made her miserable. She said she didn’t know much about God, but at her lowest point she prayed something like, “God, I give you men, I give you my sons. Do what you will. Just give me peace.” Then she goes on to say at that moment she received the “Prince of Peace.”

Friend, that is NOT salvation, I don’t care who claims it to be. You don’t bargain with God. You don’t trade your sons for peace. Show me in Scripture where that prayer has anything to do with being saved. Scripture tells us peace comes when we humble ourselves, repent of sin, and receive what Jesus died to give us. Not promising to never sleep around again just so you can feel peaceful.

I believe there is a lot we can learn from Hannah. She was evidently a devout believer, a true worshiper of God. The prayer we see her praying was deep, and intimate with the God she loved. And her will, her wants and needs aligned with what God wanted for her.

What I see here is that she wasn’t bargaining with God as much as she was agreeing with Him. My seatbelt prayer, and the prayer of the teacher I sited above weren’t that. We were trying to trade something we had for something we wanted God to do.

Do you want God’s blessing? Then get to know Him. First of all humble yourself, confess that you are a sinner, and repent of sin. Accept the grace of God that is available when you believe the fact that Jesus lived, died on the cross, and rose again so that you can be forgiven. Accept His forgiveness.

Read the Bible. Pray. Worship Him in spirit and truth. Get to know His heart. Set your desires aside and seek His desires for you. Then when you receive the desires of your heart, you’ll realize those were His desires for you all along.

I don’t believe the fact I didn’t get a ticket, or the fact that Hannah got pregnant are signs that we can bargain with God to get what we want. Rather, I believe God blessed us both because of our relationship with Him.

Please don’t bother praying a bargaining prayer. If you need God to do something for you, go to Him on His terms. You have nothing He needs or wants except YOU.

Without Ceasing (Jude)

Do you pray in the Spirit? What does that even mean? Jude encourages us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and pray in the Spirit. (Vs 20).

As I was sitting here thinking about this and asking God for insight, I looked at the verse printed at the bottom of the page in my journal:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with my sister. I’m very aware that she is here. If I have a thought, I can share it and hear her response. Her presence next to me is a comfort, and brings me joy.

I think praying in the Spirit is similar to that. It’s an awareness of the Presence. It’s the natural impulse to share a thought or ask a question, or just to stop and listen. It’s intentional communication with the Spirit who lives in me.

It’s the choice to love God with all my heart, down deep in my soul, not just an emotional feeling of love. It’s loving God with my thoughts, my intellect, my careful reading of His Word.

Paul puts it like this: “Pray continually.” Or in another translation: “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) That is God’s will for you and me.

What a privilege to have the Spirit of God living in me. May I never take that for granted, but always be aware of the Presence. May my thoughts and words include Him, intentionally, lovingly…

Without ceasing.

Church (Acts 3)

That early Church is a model I think the Church in 2020 needs to revisit. Let’s see what the Church looked liked after Pentecost:

  1. They devoted themselves to studying God’s Word. They didn’t do book studies or use Bible helps. They devoted themselves to Scripture. Today we use videos and music, programs which are viewed as important as God’s Word, and sometimes more important. I remember disagreeing with a pastor of mine concerning his focus on the kind of music we were singing. I felt his focus was in the wrong place. His words, said with smirk, “Oh, you’re one of those people who think preaching is the most important part of a worship service.” I think the early Church thought that was the case, according to this chapter in Acts.
  2. They fellowshipped, enjoyed meals together. We Baptists are famous for our pot-luck dinner. But that’s been stopped in 2020. Have we lost an important aspect of being God’s Church?
  3. They devoted themselves to prayer. I learned to pray as a teenager by attending Wednesday evening prayer meeting. I started out with sentence prayers, then felt more comfortable praying aloud. Today, I doubt there are many teenagers attending prayer meetings. My own church schedules Youth Group during our prayer meeting. Prayer meetings aren’t fun. Most churches don’t even offer them any more. I know there are prayer warriors among us. But would you say the Church is devoted to prayer in 2020? They were in the early Church.
  4. They were filled with awe. They saw answers to their prayers. I don’t think the emphasis here is on the miracles the early church saw. I think the emphasis is on the awe they had for God Himself. Yes they were no doubt in awe of the miracles, answered prayer, changed lives. But I wonder if we have lost our awe of God and replaced it with a friendship? Have we become so familiar with God we’ve ceased to bow before His holiness? When was the last time we have stood in awe of WHO God is, and not just because of what He does?
  5. They were together, like minded, and they cared for the physical needs of each other. Today’s Church is often involved in good causes outside the local church, while some of our own number are hurting. That’s not the example of the early Church. Yes, we are called to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, but not before we take care of those closest to home.
  6. They met together as a group of believers every day. Some people today find it hard to get to church for an hour a week, and woe to the preacher who preaches past that hour. We’ve eliminated Sunday evening services, Wednesday services, and offer online and alternative meeting times to make it “convenient” for people to go to church. People stay home and allow their kids to stay home if the service isn’t entertaining enough, or the music not rocking enough. Is that what we see here in the early Church?
  7. They were friends outside of the four walls of the local church. Here’s why that is important:
  8. They enjoyed the favor of all the people, not just church-goers. They took their love of God and love for each other into the community and demonstrated Christian relationships and joy. The result?:
  9. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved! The example presented by those early believers drew lost people to God.

That early Church was the Church within the walls of their meeting places, and outside them. They were devoted to God and obedient to His will. They worked together, worshiped together, grew together, and people noticed.

Makes me wonder what people are noticing about the Church in 2020.

Scripture Fulfilled (Luke 23, John 18-19)

Many times in the Gospels, the writers say something like, “this was done so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” The question is, does this mean God manipulated circumstances in order to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy, or did God give the Old Testament prophets a glimpse at what would happen in the future as the result of choices people would make, and He wants us to make that connection to prove He is Almighty God?

Is it fore-knowledge or causation we see here?

I think the beauty of this idea of Scripture being fulfilled is in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning. And because He exists outside of time, He is able to say what will happen before it happens, because He has already seen it happen.

He didn’t need to cause something to happen because some Old Testament prophet predicted it hundreds of years earlier. The prophet predicted it because it happened. Remember, God sees life on planet Earth in the past. What we do tomorrow is already in the books.

But that doesn’t mean He is not present today, or that we need not pray or obey Him because the end is already known by Him. It means God sees what happened as a result of our prayers, and what happened as a result of our lack of prayer. He sees what happened as a result of our obedience today, tomorrow, next month, next year. And He sees what happened as a result of our disobedience.

We still have a responsibility to Him. He sees the future, but we certainly cannot! Your story is still being written one minute at a time in this life. And the choices you make during those minutes determine the ending He already sees.

Immediate (Mark 8)

I find it interesting, and personal, that it took Jesus two tries to heal the blind man in Mark 8. Or did it?

Some people had brought the man to Jesus for healing, and Jesus took him by the hand and led him to a private spot. This was not going to be a public display of God’s power. This was personal.

Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and laid hands on him. But the man was only partially healed. He confessed he saw, but not clearly. Jesus touched him again, and he was healed.

Now I know Jesus could have absolutely healed him immediately – with a word. (He’d healed people immediately many times before.) So why was this healing a two-parter?

I think it’s something to consider in our day of instant gratification, impatience, entitlement, and self-absorption. We pray and, knowing Jesus is able to answer, we expect immediate results. We don’t want to wait, and we certainly don’t want our request answered in stages.

Then, what if the end result isn’t exactly what we’d prayed? What happens to our faith? What if, when the man in Mark 8 realized his sight wasn’t fully restored the first time, he left in a huff, if his faith was only as good as the immediate? He would have missed the complete healing.

I think of a fellow-blogger who was diagnosed with ALS 24 years ago, is confined to a wheel chair with a mind that is sharp, and a body that will not move. I didn’t know him back then. But I imagine he and those around him prayed for healing. I imagine those prayers are still being brought to God. Those prayers were met in other ways, besides a physical healing. If you want to know more about his journey, check out Unshakable Hope.

Our Good News club is looking at the life of Joni Eareckson Tada. She’s another example of a believer whose physical body was not healed, although there were a lot of prayers to that end. The answers to those prayers came in stages, and the end result looked much different than those praying imagined. But both of these people have ministries today they would not have had if they had been healed of their physical challenges.

As I think about these people, the man in Mark 8, others I’ve prayed for without seeing the results I wanted, I have to ask myself if I really trust God even when my requests aren’t fulfilled in my timing or in the exact way I’ve prayed?

I find it’s not about the outcome of my prayers, but the faith I have along the way. of course I believe God can do anything. He could remove Covid from the world right this minute. That’s not what God wants me to see today, though. God wants me to see Him, to trust Him, to have a faith that is not shattered if answers to my prayers aren’t immediate.

If God answers my prayers in stages, I pray that I will have the patience to see Him working in my life and in the lives of others in the situation with me while we wait. I pray that if the outcome isn’t what I demanded, I will trust Him enough to know and do what’s best for eternity.

I think God is reminding me today to pray, to trust, to have faith that He does all things well, and to rejoice in every step of the way.

4,000,000 answers to prayer

I just want to say something about COVID 19. The virus is credited with taking about 152,000 lives here in the States. Most of those deaths were from underlying medical conditions complicated by the virus. But whether it’s one or 152,000, it is tragic when someone dies.

Many of us are praying that God will stop the spread of what we have come to regard as a deadly plague. We cry out that God would have mercy and heal us. Some question why God hasn’t put a stop to it already.

But yesterday as I was praying I felt God remind me that there are 4 MILLION people who have been healed of this virus. 4 MILLION answers to prayer. Where is our praise for that?

I’m not suggesting we stop praying about this disease. I pray not one more death will come as a result of the virus’ complications, and I am certainly not minimizing the loss of lives connected to COVID 19. But even as we pray for healing, let’s not neglect to praise our merciful God who has spared the lives of millions during the past few months.

When the “powers that be” try to throw fear into us, let’s rest in the merciful God we serve. Let’s praise God for 4,000,000 answers to prayer.

Key To Victory (2 Chronicles 32-33)

The King of Assyria was coming with a vast army to take Jerusalem by force. King Hezekiah built a dam, repaired the wall around Jerusalem, and replenished the army’s weapons. He assembled his troops, then said something to them I think we might need to hear ourselves:

Be strong and courageous! Our enemy has only the arm of flesh, “but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (32:8)

Scripture tells us the Assyrian army was defeated in a miraculous way.

Man can assemble their strongest, bravest, and wisest. Communism, riots, looting, murders in the streets, corruption in government, an entertainment and news media industry backed by evil, can join forces. But the arm of flesh can’t win over the arm of God. Not even a virus can defeat our God.

But let’s not forget before Hezekiah said these words here in chapter 32, before God defeated the Assyrian army, Hezekiah had humbled himself, repented of sin, and Israel was once again worshiping God.

Oh, God can heal our land. I am 100% sure of that fact. But the key to victory lies right in your lap and mine. Are we willing to do what we need to do before God even hears our cries for help? Are you and I ready to confess our sin and repent, to take a stand for the God of Truth? Are we humbled before, and committed to God alone?

Our society, our freedoms, our lives are facing a powerful arm of flesh. Will you join me in serving in God’s army of obedient soldiers in our battle for Truth? The key to victory is God, and we can join Him in this battle when we stand with Him through His Son, Jesus.