Tag Archives: prayer

September 14; The Gold Scepter

Esther 5:1-9:17

Esther went uninvited to the king. People didn’t just do that. It could cost you your life if you went barging into the throne room without the king’s permission. But Esther had a problem, and went to the only one who could help her. Instead of receiving a death sentence, Esther received the King’s acceptance when he pointed the gold scepter toward her.

Our King on the throne of heaven is to be feared much more than anyone feared King Xerxes. Yet it’s nothing for some to go barging into His throne room with complaints and demands as though the King were subject to them. I think the Bible tells us God takes a dim view of that audacity.

Do you pray? I hope so. But have you first accepted the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ blood? If you have not, I think you might need to consider who it is you are approaching. Barging into God’s presence is serious business.

As a child of God, I can go into that throne room any time I want to or need to. You see, I am wearing the royal robes of Jesus’ righteousness. My King is my Father my Savior who holds out the gold scepter to me, then gathers me in His arms. He knows me. He loves me.  He wants me to talk with Him.

And when I, as his beloved, have a problem, I can go to Him without fear, without hesitation, fully trusting that the answer I seek is right there in the throne room. In fact Scripture tells me I can go boldly.

And I do.

 

May 6; Rizpah

Psalms 8, 138, 139, 145; 2 Samuel 21:1-14, 9:1-13

Do you know who Rizpah is? She was the mother of two of Saul’s sons. Her story takes a whopping three verses of Scripture. But this woman has touched me deeply. I’ve read her story many times, but for some reason reading it today has broken my heart.

I’ve sat here and wept for her, and for all mothers, and for us who love children not our own. I put myself in Rizpah’s shoes as she stood helplessly by and watched her sons be executed for crimes their father had committed. It’s excruciating.

I don’t know how old her boys were. Were they babies? Teenagers? Adults? Did they have children of their own? I’m glad the Bible doesn’t tell us. Would the story be less tragic if her sons were grown?

I think the woman was out of her mind with grief. She parked herself next to the dead bodies of her children and for days she swatted flies and chased away the vultures. For days, maybe weeks, she protected those hands she had once held, the feet she had once washed, the cheeks she had covered in kisses, and those arms that had clung to her when her boys were afraid. She was their mother.

I’ve sat here trying to get a handle on why I’m still crying about this woman, when a picture of my own mother comes to mind. How often did I get a glimpse of her, kneeling at her bedside, praying for me and my sisters, swatting flies and chasing vultures? How many times did my mother go to God and plead with Him to hold on to me when she saw me drifting away, to guide me, to accomplish His will in my life? I think my mom was as determined to protect me from Satan as Rizpah was about protecting her own sons from the vultures.

Let’s get on our knees and pray for our children no matter their ages. Let’s storm heaven’s gates and plead with God to protect them from the enemy. Rizpah didn’t just swat a vulture or two first thing in the morning, then go about her day with no thought for her sons. She stayed there day and night, losing sleep, maybe not eating. Nothing was more important than keeping those vultures away.

And nothing is more important than the eternal souls of our children.

May 5; Answers Worthy of Praise

2 Samuel 23:20b-39, 8:15-18, 7:1-29; I Chronicles 11:22-47, 18:14-17, 17:1-27

Like many of us I think, the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to reach for my phone. I did a quick scroll through FB, checked the weather, and opened my email. I was pleasantly surprised to see a notice that a blogger I follow, posted something today. She has not done that for a while, so I took time to read what she wrote. It’s a thoughtful, honest look at prayer, especially those prayers that are answered with a “No.” If you get a chance, check it out at karinasussanto.wordpress.com. It’s entitled, “When The Answer Is “No.”

Anyway, I was already thinking about prayer when I read today’s Scripture and was once again challenged by David’s. The king wanted to build a home for the Ark of God. David wanted to give God a dwelling place He deserved. But when God clearly said, “No,” David prayed, “Ok. Thank you for blessing me in other ways.”

We Christians pray. God wants us to bring our requests to Him. Our prayers are a sweet perfume to Him. However, prayer is not something we do to get what we want. Prayer is something we do to get what God wants for us.

As a parent, did you always give your children everything they asked for? If you say you did, shame on you! Sometimes a parent just knows giving in to every whim is not what’s best for a child. Like a four year old wanting a 22 shotgun. A parent probably knows that isn’t the best gift for the child. A child who loves alligators, and wants a pet alligator, should probably hear Mommy and Daddy say, “No.” Even if a tantrum follows.

It’s hard to accept when we lay out our requests and hear God say, “No.” I can’t think David liked hearing that he would not build that temple. It had been his heart’s desire. But David thanked God anyway.

And so should we. God really does know what’s best. And He really wants to give us His best. We just need to trust Him, and praise Him when He blesses us in other ways.

And He always blesses us in other ways.

I am reminded that God doesn’t deny our requests because He doesn’t want us to be happy. If He denies our requests, it’s because He has something better in mind for us, something more wonderful than we can know at the time. We can thank Him for the “No” because we can trust Him.

So pray. Ask God for you heart’s desire. He might give it to you, or He might say, “No.  But know this: His answer will always be worthy of your praise.

 

April 24; Expect God’s Silence

Psalms 69, 86, 131; I Samuel 28:3-25

Sometimes we humans hurt so badly we might get to the point we’d try anything to make it stop. David cries out, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my  neck.”

Have you ever felt like you are drowning in debt, in depression, in unfair treatment, jealousy, anger…? Been there. Done that.

Saul was out of his mind with fear, and he did what David always did: He went to God about it. How often do we read where David, in the midst of suffering, went to God and received forgiveness, strength, shelter. When Saul goes to God, though, he is met with silence.

Saul does not give up easily. So we read that he goes to a medium who will conjure up the dead prophet Samuel. If God won’t talk to Saul willingly, Saul will try to force God to give him answers.

Not a good idea. This sin is going to cost Saul his life.

Now here is where I think God is pointing me today: Saul, instead of asking why God was silent, instead of dealing with the sin that separated him from God, Saul tried to manipulate God. He tried to get to God through a back door.

Dear one, if you are feeling God is silent, don’t blame God. The only thing that separates you from God is sin. The only thing.

And the only thing that can bridge that gap is the cross. If you have unconfessed sin in your life, don’t expect God to jump when you say “jump.” (don’t expect that anyway). I think I can confidently say, if you have unconfessed sin in your life – you can expect God’s silence.

I know sometimes we don’t get the answers we are looking for. I know God doesn’t snap His fingers every time we ask Him to, even if we stand before Him wearing Jesus’ righteousness. But I believe with all my heart, that at those times when the answers aren’t coming, God is anything but silent.

It’s during those times that God speaks His love in other ways. He gives us the strength we need to wait with confidence. He gives us the chance to bless someone else. He reminds us that He does all things well, and we can trust Him. He gives us Himself.

If you are where David was in the psalm we read today, if you feel like you are drowning, go to God. Tell Him what is on your heart, share your hurt and frustration, ask for His help. But first, confess your sin. Because I believe Scripture tells us if you don’t…

expect God’s silence.

February 12; Talk To Him

Exodus 30:1-33:6

The psalmist likened prayer to incense in Psalm 141:2.

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my  hands be like the evening sacrifice. 

When revealing his vision, John wrote in reference to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, “Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Revelation 5:8)

God told Moses to instruct Aaron and sons to burn fragrant incense as part of their priestly responsibilities. Exodus 31:7-8 tells us they were to burn the incense every morning, then again every evening “so incense would burn regularly before the Lord for generations to come.

We all know what prayer is. It’s that moment when we are faced with a hardship, or a decision, or are in need of healing and we cry out, “Help me, Lord!” And if you are His child, He does.

Or prayer is that quick thank you we blurt out before the food gets cold. Prayer may be a sigh of relief when you have a near-miss on the highway.

I’m not down-playing any of that. God wants us to come to Him with our struggles, and our praise. He delights in answering our prayers according to His riches in glory. But I am reminded today that prayer is not just about me, or even about those for whom I pray.

Prayer is about God.

Scripture tells us our prayers are like a sweet perfume to our Lord. Our prayers are pleasant, maybe even precious to God. After all, the verse in Revelation implies God keeps our prayers in a bowl, like someone who presses a rose in the pages of book in order to preserve it.

God created us to fellowship with Him. When was the last time you actually did that? Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who wasn’t speaking to you? You can hardly call that fellowship.

God told the priests to light the incense in the morning and evening so it would burn regularly. Have you lit your incense yet today? Will you light it again tonight?

Paul tells us to never stop praying. (I Thessalonians 5:16) That constant communication with God is so important, and what a privilege! But it doesn’t take the place of a stop-what-you-are-doing-heart-to-heart conversation with the One who loves you best.

God considers those times of prayer precious. Talk to Him.

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.

 

 

Jeremiah 43-45; If You… I Will…

“God, I promise if You’ll heal my loved one, I’ll start going back to church.” “If you let me have this promotion, or win the lottery, I promise I’ll give lots of money to missions.” “Just answer my prayer and I’ll do whatever you want.”

That’s exactly what the Jews told Jeremiah. But the Jews, like most of us, couldn’t or wouldn’t keep their end of the bargain.

I imagine most of us have been at a point sometime in our lives when we find ourselves trying to cut a deal with God. “If You… I will…” Scripture is very clear, however. God is NOT the Great Negotiator.

Do any of us really think God wants us to love Him so much He’d let us determine the rules of the relationship? Do we think God is so weak He gives in to our lip service like a young mother trying to get her toddler to obey?

Here’s the deal: God is God. Obey Him. Period.

He says if we obey we’ll be blessed. If we don’t obey, there are severe consequences to pay. There is no room for negotiation. God doesn’t need to hear our lofty promises. He demands to see our obedience.

The next time you are tempted to make some promise to God in exchange for something you want, save your breath. There is only one “If you… I will…” that God honors. And He’ll honor it every time. It’s when He says to us…

“If you obey Me, I will bless You.”