Heavenly Father, I’m holding on to something which I need to release to you. Give me strength to trust your love. I want to be free and receive your blessings and the only way to do it is to believe you will do what you promise. Give me peace about this decision because I’m fraught with fear of the unknown. I pray this for your glory and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sometimes when I read about the life of prayer some people live or have lived, I feel like such a slouch. Paul, the apostle, mentions several times in his letters to the churches specifically how he prays for them. I believe this may be how I can pray for others, but also how I can pray God’s will into my own life. I certainly need love, strength, spiritual wisdom, and discernment of his will.
Here are a few of the ways Paul prayed for those he loved so much.
“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:18-20).
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light” (Colossians 1:9-12).
Even Jesus’s disciples wanted to learn how to pray more effectively. And he was happy to teach them. When asked, he replied with a model prayer, and this is how he taught us to pray:
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Would you be willing to pray for others and yourself the way Paul did?
Heavenly Father, please give me patience with myself when it comes to prayer, while also opening my heart and mind to hear you more clearly. You speak but I’m sometimes chattering away. Give me words to worship you, pour out my heart to you, and stand in the gap for others. Teach me to pray so that I can become more spiritually mature. Give me insight into your hopes for me and help me to keep things simple.
“Around, around the cobbler’s bench, the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought ‘twas all in fun. POP! goes the weasel.”
As I turned the little crank on my grandson’s jack-in-the-box, it played that familiar song. Like a little kid who had never played with such a toy, I was startled when the clown popped out of the lid. My daughter-in-law had been watching and laughed.
“You always know he’s coming,” she said, “but somehow he always surprises you.” Yes, I had been caught, but I think it’s a natural thing. The little guy does seem to spring out of nowhere. But I guess that’s the point.
Later, I considered how the enemy, Satan, works the same way. I’m just going along, when suddenly, I realize there’s something amiss. That haunting melody of lies is playing in my head and I feel out of sorts. Everything seems to be falling apart. I can’t concentrate when I pray. Even my best Christian friends are getting on my nerves. The pastor sounds like a drone. Oh…I get it…I’m under spiritual attack.
The Bible says that we should be self-controlled and alert because our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. It’s possible for me to let my guard down with Satan taking full advantage of my lazy attitude. Sometimes by the time I recognize the culprit he’s already pounced, robbing me of joy and peace.
Jesus told his followers that Satan is a murderer and a liar. Lying is his native tongue. What is he killing and with what lies does he try to accomplish the kill? Here are a few of the things he’ll use as ammunition:
- You’re so inadequate (as a Christian, spouse, parent, employee, etc.)
- God can’t forgive that sin
- People are out to get you
- It’s okay to indulge this once
- Your attempts to succeed will fail
- And a host of other equally damaging attacks
Recognizing the lies means the difference between victory and defeat. Knowing the difference between his condemning voice and Holy Spirit conviction is the key.
Those in Christ Jesus are no longer condemned but live under grace. God examines our hearts and we can turn to Him to discover the truth of any message we suspect may be a lie.
We don’t need to go looking for the enemy under every rock, but we need to be aware of his schemes. If, indeed, we’re under attack, we stand firm and claim truth. We should also call on a trusted friend to stand with us in prayer. And there’s no substitute for wearing our spiritual armor.
If the enemy is toying with you, like with the little clown who jumped up at me, slam down the lid and walk away. He just needs to be reminded that we know he’s a liar. He knows that he is powerless when we live in the power of Jesus Christ.
Most of the time, I’m not confused about God’s will for me. I don’t fret over what I”m supposed to be doing and how God’s going to use me. If I need to know about those things, I can go to his Word and find out. I can memorize scripture to help me remember those things as I go about my day. His instructions are explained in simple terms and usually take the form of simple acts.
As I become more familiar with God’s will for me, I learn that there isn’t anything mentioned that I cannot do, but often there are things I balk at doing. Having scripture like the one above helps to remind me to keep it simple.
Rejoice. Pray in all circumstances. Give thanks. Put those three together and they spell Worship.
Be a blessing to someone today.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7; emphasis mine).
Truthfully, the current patterns of the world are not worse than ever. Hard to believe, but it’s true.
We are in no more danger sitting at home in our living rooms than the ancients were. There has always been war. We have always seen unrest in families. Children have always, unfortunately, been neglected or abused. Economies crash. People betray us. Loved ones die.
Sin took its toll on Earth and we have never been the same. At one time, it got so bad that God flooded the earth and saved only one family.
Believe me, this is not meant to be a gloomy article or a prophecy about what God has in mind for us if we don’t obey. Today I merely point these things out because they are the reality we have always lived in.
However, for those who trust God in everything, we have hope. We also have peace because we know that, no matter how things look right now, keeping an eternal perspective presents the reality our Lord showed us.
Are you struggling today with unrest in your family? Is someone sick or have a chronic illness? Does your financial situation look sick as well? Is a loved one fighting to defend freedom in a foreign country and you wait while they come home? Are you grieving?
Whatever the situation, God will, if you ask, give you wisdom, strength to endure, and the knowledge you need to come through your struggle. You can be at peace when you understand how faithful he is.
God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Even though he sends the rains, he has compassion on those who suffer. Because God has shown me mercy and because I finally acknowledge that, I can have compassion on people who, a few years ago, I would have shown indignation. I might have even been angry with them without knowing their individual circumstances. It’s a humbling thing for God to show me how arrogant I can be.
Our struggles are temporary like everything else in the world. To keep this in mind also helps to endure and press on. Today, know that I’m praying for you. I don’t know your struggles, but God does, and he’s there for you when you call on him.
Heavenly Father, please help those reading this to know the peace which passes all understanding. Not a peace as the world gives through temporary things, but the peace which you give. Your love for us means you are faithful to provide, to still our hearts, to heal. Thank you for giving your Son, Jesus, who is our Savior and Friend. Amen.
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).
“Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18).
No matter how difficult it may seem to pray for someone who hurts us, it’s always the right thing to do.
Slowly, my mind is changing about judgement calls on people based on their looks, their words and actions, or their attitudes. For a long time I’ve believed it was okay to take notice and immediately place someone in a category. The categories were, of course, arbitrary, based on personal preferences, what I’d been taught was ‘correct,’ and a solid belief that I was probably always right.
What Changed? The Lord has shown me more of Himself. I see him interact with a variety of people in Bible stories and He never seems to judge the way I do. His judgements are true. Whether it’s a Samaritan woman sitting alone at a well, a group of Pharisees verbally abusing Him, a man sitting in a booth cheating his fellow Jews on their taxes, or a Centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant––the Lord sees what’s in their hearts.
I can’t see into hearts.
The best I can do, when I watch someone ‘acting out,’ as I usually describe it, is to pray for that person to find a better way of expressing themselves. Perhaps I will pray for them to find the Light of Jesus. Perhaps the person is already someone who claims to have a relationship with Him; yet they ‘act out.’
That could be me on any given day.
God’s word gives instructions for when we discover what we name as their wrongdoing.
“Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother” (Matthew 7:1-5)
The Apostle Paul makes another distinction.
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12).
In other words, how can we expect anyone who has not seen the Light, to behave as if they have.
Again…That could be me on any given day.
Nevertheless, as disciples of Jesus, we are given warnings and instructions about heeding the teachings and the fruit of those inside the Church.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).
Ultimately, I can never know the motives of one’s heart. Only Jesus knows that. Since life experiences, ill health, daily stress, and any number of things can make me ‘act out’ even when I know it’s inappropriate, I long for the grace of Jesus.
And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I could offer that grace to others as well. To extend graciousness and kindness toward all. To pray for them as I would hope they would pray for me.
Read this quote all day until you have it memorized. Repeat it to your friends any chance you get. Type “amen” in the comments because you believe it’s true. Print it out and post it on your fridge. Do all those things if you want. But…
I’ve discovered if we don’t first deal with whatever is in the former chapters of our lives and get over what’s hurting us (resentment, regrets, open wounds, and unforgiveness for example), real and meaningful progress in life doesn’t occur.
Affirmations are okay. But an affirmation is only something positive we tell ourselves which doesn’t become real in our lives until we’ve acted on it. Take for example one I found on a list for Christians:
“I see others as God’s gift to me.”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I believe this so-called affirmation is true. But if, in my daily walk-about, I don’t treat everyone as the gift I believe they are, my words are hollow.
God’s promises are the same. He offers so much to us that we don’t have to work for. However, even though many of those promises are a faith matter, even the most recognizable work in our lives may be accompanied by His “Now, go.”
Read about a man blind from birth in John 9:1-34. He wasn’t healed simply because Jesus put mud on his eyes. Jesus put the mud there; He did His part. Then Jesus told the man to go wash his eyes in a pool and he’d be healed. When the man acted on Jesus’s instructions, he went home with the gift of eyesight.
A friend of mine used to say, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the worms into their nests.” Quite often, we mustn’t be content to sit and wait for God to simply come through with our need. On the contrary, we’ll discover that there’s work for us to do which coincides with the work He’s already doing for us.
Go ahead and read your “last chapter.” Then ask God how He’d like you to deal with it. I’m guessing that for you, as it was for me, He’s expecting you to do something. Listen with humility to what He’s saying to you.
And be a blessing to someone today.
Occasionally, I ask God a question. It’s not a case of questioning God, which is entirely different. Sometimes I just feel the need to have a conversation in which he makes things clearer. I don’t always understand.
For instance, I sometimes ask, “What’s going on here, Lord?” Hoping he’ll give me insight to a situation or how another person is responding, I check in with him first. Another one I ask is “Will you please direct me here, Lord? I’m not sure which way to go.”
These, obviously, aren’t hard questions for God. He can answer any question. When he wants to. The thing I’ve learned about asking God a question is sometimes he answers in a way I wasn’t expecting. God’s answer to my question might be that I get another situation. When asking for direction, he more often than not leads me to some place I never even considered. Or someplace I thought of but didn’t want to go.
God is in the habit of asking me questions as well. In fact, I get more questions from God than he gets from me. To inspire me toward further spiritual maturity and to being conformed to the image of his Son, the questions are much harder for me than my questions are for him.
Some time ago, God asked me about my motivations and wanted me to be clear on something. Turnabout is fair play with him, for sure. This is what he asked me:
“What is the difference between your devotion to Jesus and devotion to your idea of what Jesus wants?”
This question is one I return to repeatedly. Because I tend to think I know what God wants, my actions will reflect that. If I don’t stop and consider first my relationship with Jesus and remember what his mission is, I create my own mission.
Heavenly Father, I’m so grateful that you’re always working and that your Son is as well. The questions you ask are sometimes difficult for me because I so often think I know the way you work and how you want to work in the world. Please keep reminding me that you are the one in charge, even when I don’t understand what’s going on. You’re the perfect parent and I trust you to raise me as a good Father would. For your glory, Amen.
The graphic below shows a prayer, commonly referred to as the “Serenity Prayer,”* attributed to Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and reportedly written in 1926. Niebuhr was a Lutheran pastor and theologian.
After knowing only the first four lines of the prayer, which I learned in 1984, it wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the entire thing. Even though at the time I hadn’t made a decision to follow Christ, the words made sense. Years after that, I was reciting the whole prayer from memory at a weekly small group.
Today, I believe the three most important words of this prayer aren’t, as some people choose to see them, acceptance, courage and wisdom. They are
“God, I surrender”
For me, surrendering to God creates a serenity and peace I can’t otherwise know.
*Usually Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is quoted using only the first four lines shown here.