Tag Archives: prayer

What Have You Done To Me?

1 Kings 17:8-24

When I think about the prophet Elijah, certain pictures come to mind: ravens, a soggy altar on fire, the starving widow, etc. Today I read about the miracle of the flour and oil in the hands of that widow. During a time of famine in the land, the little bit of flour and oil she had when she met Elijah never ran out. She had enough every day to feed herself, her son, and the prophet. Every day she was reminded of God’s power and provision. Every day she had tangible proof that God is greater than her need.

What rejoicing must have gone on in that house!

Until her son got sick and died. How quickly she seems to have turned on Elijah and, in turn Elijah’s God.

“What have you done to me?” she asked. “Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

When God shows up, answers prayer, reveals Himself in tangible ways, it’s easy to get on board. It’s easy to believe in a good miracle-working God who meets our needs, then goes beyond to shower us with blessing after blessing.

But what happens when disaster strikes? The death of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis. The loss of a job or a relationship. What happens when we suddenly find ourselves drowning in sorrow or uncertainty?

“What have you done to me, God?”

Now, I am not assuming the widow’s question was a sin or showed lack of faith. Elijah doesn’t scold her for it. It may have been a natural question to ask considering the circumstances. We don’t know her heart.

But we know God raised her son to life again. The death of that boy gave God the opportunity to reveal that even death has no power over Him. Talk about a tangible object lesson!

So the next time trouble comes, ask. Go ahead and let God know your sorrow, your frustration, your questions. Then follow it up with, “Now, what do you want me to do about this, God? What do you want me to do, to say, to be so that You can be glorified?”

James 1 tells us to count it a joy to face trials of any kind. Read what the apostle says about that if you don’t believe me.

Paul, in Philippians 1 tells us he welcomed imprisonment because his troubles advanced the Gospel. Again, read it for yourself.

These men knew God can use the worst possible situation to pour out his greatest blessings. And, when we ask, He gives us the ability to do and be what He intends for our good, and in order to bring Him glory.

What have you done to me, God? Let’s do this!

Daddy, Help

Psalm 86

We are told that we are powerful and capable individuals who can do anything we set our minds to. It’s a great thought. But it’s a lie. And I bet most of you, if you’re honest, would say it’s a lie, too.

Because we aren’t all that. We were never intended to be all that. We were created to need, and receive from God. The truth is, the most empowering thing an individual can do is to submit to God, admit a need, worship him, and receive His power to meet the need. There is something very freeing about admitting we need God.

Like a 2 1/2 foot child stretching, reaching, straining to get to the cookie jar on the kitchen counter. No amount of stretching is going to gain those extra inches he needs to reach his goal, no matter how much he believes in himself.

But let that child say, “Daddy, help!” and that father will take that child into his arms, lift him up, and place him in a position to open the cookie jar. And, more than likely, that daddy who loves his child, will hug that little one and give him a smooch.

Psalm 86:1-7 did that for me today. It reminds me my Heavenly Father is standing at the ready to forgive, to show mercy and love, to make me happy and help me in times of trouble. I just need to call out to Him.

Now, I know my example is imperfect. You might point out the child could pull a chair over to the counter and crawl up there himself to get to the cookie jar. Possibly. (especially if your name is Caleb and you are my great-nephew). But that child would miss out on that special moment with his daddy, the hug, the love expressed by his father who is bigger and much more capable than he.

And, if we’re pointing out the possibility the kid could crawl up there himself, we could also point out he could fall. The tragedy of that is, there is no need to go through the pain of a fall when all he had to do was ask his Daddy for help in the first place.

I hope, that if you are going through a difficult time right now and you think you have it in you to get through it on your own, think again. You don’t have to. There is no intrinsic value in sucking it up when God is standing there waiting for you to call on Him. And, my friend, the benefit of receiving His help goes way beyond whatever you are going through at the moment.

You have a Father who loves you. Allow Him to pick you up in His capable arms and BE the answer to your problem. I’m praying that today you will pray:

“Daddy, help”

(Matthew 19) The Impossible

Do you believe all things are possible with God? I do, because Jesus said so. But what are the “all things?”

Does this half-verse mean I can do anything I set my mind to because God can do the impossible? If I’m determined to get that promotion at work, or buy that vacation home at the price I can afford, or get my magic number of followers on SnapChat so I can become an influencer, am I to believe I can succeed because God can do the impossible?

Don’t base your view of God on seven words of a partial verse in the Bible.

What God wants us to know in this portion of His Word is that He can save anybody. He wants to assure us that no one has done so much evil, or is so prideful, or has too hard a heart, that He can’t forgive them when they repent of their sin.

These verses should inspire us to pray for the salvation of our loved ones living so far from the Truth we’re tempted to think they have no hope. God wants us to know they HAVE hope!

Keep praying. Keep being obedient. God might use you to do the impossible in that person’s heart and life.

I beg you, don’t use this verse as a magic wand, believing God has promised to make your dreams come true. He’s not that shallow.

(Ezekiel 29-32) I AM The LORD

Egypt was never identified with God. They worshiped idols. They were the enemy of God. Yet the Israelites went to Egypt for help instead of going to God. Big mistake.

But here’s what spoke to me today: God repeatedly sent word to Egypt, warning them what the consequences of rejecting Him would look like. Why? Why would God continue to warn His enemies about the devastation that was ahead for them?

“Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (28:23,24,26, 29:6,9,16,21, 30:8,19,25…)

I am reminded that God doesn’t want anyone to die without Him, that whosoever believes on Him will have eternal life, that anyone who believes on the name of Jesus will be saved.

It reminds me how God continually works in the lives of every man, woman, and child to bring them to the realization that He is the Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one goes to God except through Jesus.

It reminds me that instead of praying God would take away the “plague” of COVID, I should pray that this virus will show the world that He is Lord. Simply praying that God will somehow say the word and the virus would disappear, might be praying against His will that we who have turned our backs on Him will humble ourselves, turn from our sin, so that He can heal our land.

Whether it is a virus, or war, or hurricanes and earthquakes, alcoholism, or cancer, or divided families and churches… whatever the consequences of sin might look like… may it do what God intends it to do.

May we hear Him say in the midst of it all:

I AM the LORD.

(Isaiah 36-39) One And Done

Satan is never one and done. And his tactics haven’t changed since the days of Hezekiah.

First, the evil one tried intimidation to get Hezekiah to surrender to him. Hezekiah went to the Lord, and stood firm.

But the devil isn’t easily deflected. He sent his army. This was war! Hezekiah went to God and in one night 185,000 of Satan’s soldiers were killed as easily as I can wipe out an entire ant colony by stepping on it.

So Satan attacked Hezekiah’s body. The king was sure he was going to die. But instead of giving up on God, Hezekiah went to God. And God gave the king fifteen more years of life.

Take THAT, Satan!

Intimidation, war, physical illness, – none of those altered Hezekiah’s devotion to God. But Satan is never one and done (or three and done). This time Satan used flattery.

No threats. No arrows. Satan used a smooth-talking group of his representatives, and made Hezekiah feel important. Their flattery awakened pride in Hezekiah and he couldn’t wait to show off his accomplishments. More flattery.

Hezekiah never went to God when the Babylonian envoy came for an “innocent” visit. Why would he? It certainly didn’t look like an attack. It didn’t sound like threats. There could be no harm in being cordial, right? Satan (and God) were the furthest things from Hezekiah’s mind.

But this led to Hezekiah’s sin. A sin that would not only effect him, but his family, and the nation for years to come. Big mistake, Hezekiah.

Don’t think Satan isn’t interested in bringing you down, either. You might not be at war, you might not feel threatened. You might be in the best physical shape of your life, successful, respected, adored by many. But beware.

If you aren’t going to God every day, in every situation, if you aren’t discerning and on high alert for Satan’s tactics, you need to stop. There is danger ahead that could take you by surprise, and bring you down.

Because Satan isn’t one and done in your life or mine.

(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.