Prayer


Psalms 27-29 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He invites us to come to Him without delay

The pleasure of your company is requested…”  When we receive an invitation of this nature to attend an event, we understand that it isn’t an ordinary affair.  Whether it involves a wedding or dining with heads of state or any other celebration, we can assume the dress will not include t-shirts and flip flops and only invited guests will attend.  We’ve heard of political event crashers in recent years, but most intelligent individuals would never approach the royalty of another country or the President of the United States without an invitation because we know the Secret Service would be on us like flypaper – and rightly so.

As we read in the story of Esther, ancient kings held royal scepters which they would raise as an invitation for a loyal subject to approach them.  “When [the king] saw Queen Esther standing there in the inner court, he welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her. So Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter.” (Esther 5:2)  By touching the end of the scepter, Esther showed that she accepted the king’s gracious invitation.  In the busyness of our day, we sometimes fail to respond to our regal invitation from the King of Kings, but the scepter is raised, and He is waiting… 

@ Psalm 27
“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’”
(8)  In a Psalm so full of wisdom, we may read this verse without thinking about its message.  David recalled the Lord speaking to his heart “Come and talk with me,” and the Lord’s invitation spoken once is heard twice in the mind of David.  Yes, David recalls, I have received the invitation!

We hear the Lord’s invitation to come to Him as well, over and over as He whispers to our spirits and through His Word. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!  For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (John 7:37) The royal scepter is raised!

Most certainly, we are not event crashers!   The invitation is real – The pleasure of our company is requested. The royal scepter, the sacrificial Son, has been extended and has made it possible for us to enter His presence.  There is no need to enter through the service entrance or walk along the perimeter of the room as one who should not attend.  “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Clearly, the invitation has been given.  Will we stick it in a drawer with all the miscellaneous items of our lives?  Or will we respond along with David and say, Lord, I am coming.”  This day, this hour, I am coming to you, and tomorrow and the days that follow, I accept your invitation to come.

P.S.  The favor of your reply is requested. 

Moving Forward: How could I ignore such a regal invitation from the King!  Lord, I am coming – I will touch the royal scepter! 

Tomorrow @ Job 19-20

Romans 15-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He burdens our hearts to ambitiously reach the lost 

@ Romans 15
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity on several occasions to share the Good News with those who have never heard it before and there’s nothing quite like that experience.  It was difficult for many of them to accept that there was a hope, a help and a future for the miserable existence they were living out, but when the Lord came and touched them, everything changed.  This was the goal of Paul, “My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.” (20)  Paul’s ambition was a difficult ministry road, but the joy he reaped was immeasurable.

Many missionaries today are sent to areas of the world that have had the Good News for centuries.  The world’s cities are filled with ornate empty cathedrals, and most individuals no longer have even a memory of their function nor do they have a relationship with God.  Their hearts have become cold and dark to the gospel.  In fact, there are children in the United States that only know Christ as a curse word.  And this, too, is a challenging mission.

In Paul’s personal notes in Romans 15, I think we see the heart of a true missionary.  We have the impression that an ambitious person is someone only concerned about personal gain, numero uno.  But Paul had an ambition, a goal>aspiration>objective, that we can only admire, and it begs the question today what is my ambition?

Paul concludes Chapter 15 with a simple request, “Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me…” (vs. 30)  Paul did not have the advantage of slick colored prayer cards to hand out everywhere he traveled, nor did he have a website, facebook or twitter.  But even with these wonderful tools that our missionaries enjoy today, they are making the same request, Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me.  I’m confident that every second of every day there is a missionary somewhere in the world facing a struggle that is more difficult than we can even imagine.  Will I join in their struggle and pray for them?

“I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.” (24)   Paul, so filled with ambition to get the Good News to Spain, allowed the Romans the privilege of assisting him on his journey. When our missionaries present to us the challenge of their righteous ambition, how can we resist the privilege of helping them on their journey to reach the lost?  “How can anyone go and tell them without being sent?” (Romans 10:15)  I think we have an assignment, an ambition, a mission if you will. 

Moving Forward: What is my ambition today?  Is it righteous?  Today I will join in the struggle with our missionaries through prayer, and I will give my offerings with joy to His sent ones. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 28-31

Psalms 12-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He answers our prayers based on His eternal clock

It’s disheartening to me to be around someone who is upset about something, possibly with me, but not willing to express what it is – commonly known as the silent treatment.  Yes, those who easily express their feelings can be annoying at times, but at least we know what problem exists and we can offer a response. Communication is good, especially when it comes from a heart that does not want to hurt and is seeking a resolve.

I don’t imagine that God ever found it necessary to say to David, “Well, David, why don’t you tell me how you really feel.”  Psalms offers many of David’s laments to God that were expressions of sadness, sorrow or disappointment when he faced betrayal and hatred from his enemies.  What I like about David’s laments is that, just like a good movie, they always seem to end well. 

@ Psalm 13
“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (1-2)  How long? I think we have a theme going here, and I’ve certainly sung this song.  At times I am convinced that heaven’s clock needs a new battery.  David asks, “Forever?” and forever is the key to the answer.  God’s timing is not based on the World Clock, it’s based on eternity.

God answers our cry to Him based on the timeless click of His eternal clock because He is more interested in our eternal destination than our temporary lament.  I love Him for that.  Sometimes in the delay, God is orchestrating our answer through others and at other times He is changing our own hearts.  Regardless of how long, He is answering according to our eternal good.

David snapped out of his despair and hope was renewed as he offered a prayer request to God.  Prayer is our indication to God that we have hope that He will respond to our need.  “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’  Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”(3-4)  Restore the sparkle in my eyes – how could our loving God, the One who put the sparkle in our eyes, resist that request!  When we pray without the disguise of contrived words or pretense and speak from our hearts, we touch God’s heart.

David talked himself right into trusting the Lord through his trial, “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (5-6)   With hope renewed, David remembered that he could trust God’s unfailing love.  In fact, God had been so faithful to David in the past that he could rejoice ahead of time for the victory in this trial. Trusting God does not always give immediate answers, but it does give us the encouragement we need.   And finally, David burst into song – a song of praise about the goodness of God.  A great ending!

God understands our laments, but He doesn’t want us to wallow in them.  We can express our feelings, but we should give Him a prayer request as well. In doing so, we are expressing our confidence in Him to meet our needs. Then, filled with hope and trust like David, we will sing songs of praise in sync with the timeless click of His clock.  Tick-tock! 

Moving Forward:  No lamenting for me today. With a heart filled with hope and trust, I’m singing songs of praise, keeping with the beat of His tick-tock. 

Tomorrow @ Job 9-10

Nehemiah 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is always attentive to our prayers

Leaving our church youth pastor position of six years to transition to a state youth position several years ago was a difficult move for us.  We dearly loved our pastor, our youth and youth leadership, and it was a tearful time.  On our last Sunday morning at the church, the youth choir sang, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them…” by Michael W. Smith.  Most everyone cried with us that day as we listened, but, thankfully, we have remained “friends forever” with these dear ones.

Life has kept us running and has afforded little time for fellowship with these friends, but when we have the opportunity to meet, the friendship is still there. We remember our history together, but now all the new details have to be filled in.  This is sometimes how we feel when our relationship with the Lord has grown distant, but today we read about a man whose friendship with God was fresh and up to date.

Nehemiah was a Jew born in captivity in Persia, but he had a profound knowledge of God’s laws and a deep affection for the land of his ancestors.  He was a godly man.  Deeply distressed about the safety of the Jews who had returned to a defenseless Jerusalem, Nehemiah knew exactly Who to talk to about it, “When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of Heaven.” (1:4)  Nehemiah had an intimate relationship with God.  It wasn’t a casual or distant friendship, and he didn’t need to reintroduce himself to God, so to speak – it was fresh.

In his prayer, Nehemiah asked God to give him favor with the King of Persia as he went to speak to him on behalf of Jerusalem’s broken walls.  “The king asked, ‘Well, how can I help you?’  With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, ‘If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.’” (2:4-5)  Right there amid the dialogue with the King, Nehemiah offered a silent prayer to God for His ears only.  There really wasn’t time for getting caught up in the relationship or exchanging sentiments.  No, their friendship was spontaneous and current.

It isn’t as though God doesn’t hear or care about the prayers of a long-lost friend because He knows our prayers before we even pray. (Matthew 6:8)  It’s more about our comfort level in asking something from a friend we haven’t talked to for a long time.  We feel awkward and unworthy to make a request.  We have a tendency to struggle through the situation alone, without help from someone who could assist us.  I can’t count the number of hurting souls I have talked to through the years who felt too distant to approach God for help.

Just like our friendships with distant friends, our relationship with God is but a call away.  He misses us in our absence, and He is ready to hear our heart’s cry.  But I want to be like Nehemiah, ready to offer spontaneous prayers even in the middle of a conversation, at a second’s notice without regret or an apology for my neglect.  I often find myself praying throughout the day to Him, offering a word of thanks, a request or a praise.  And He’s one friend who never seems to get tired of hearing from me. 

Moving Forward: “With a prayer to the God of heaven” I move through this day with confidence that He is listening and answering. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 137-139

Daniel 7-12 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He hears and answers our prayers

“O our God, hear your servant’s prayer!  Listen as I plead.  For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair.  See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.” (9:17-18)  Daniel’s fervent prayer for his people and for his city of Jerusalem arrests me as I read it and reminds me of the need for continual prayer for my city, for my nation.  Because of Israel’s gross sins, Daniel didn’t ask for undeserved help for His people – he asked for God’s mercy.  I, too, cry for mercy.  Lord, don’t give us what we deserve. 

@ Daniel 10
Most of us have experienced times when we pray desperately for a need, but the answer doesn’t come.  Sometimes we feel disconnected from God because of unforgiveness or sin in our lives that seems to block the flow of communication with Him.  Other times our answers are delayed because of God’s testing; and in these moments, our faith is stretched as we grow to trust Him more.  We even have been known to pray amiss, and God cannot answer our prayer.  We learn that Daniel experienced a delay in his answered prayer for yet another reason.

The heavenly visitor said to Daniel, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way…Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.” (12-14)  Twenty-one days…interesting to note that Daniel had been fasting for twenty-one days.

We know Daniel was a man who completely trusted God and whose prayer life was remarkable.  Once again he proved his faithfulness to God by steadfast prayer and fasting until the answer came.  Little did he know that the answer came immediately but was hindered by the enemy; and likewise, we don’t know when the answers to our prayers have been hindered by the enemy.   I am encouraged by our reading today to dare to be a Daniel and pray through the hindrances until the answer comes!

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10)  The good news is that we are not fighting alone.  Like Daniel, we have the heavenly hosts in our army fighting in the heavenlies on our behalf.

When we experience a delay in answers to our prayers, we’re challenged to examine our hearts to know we are free from unforgiveness.  We are challenged to pray according to God’s will and pray that He will remove our desire for anything that is not His will.  Then, whether the delay is a testing or a hindrance, we can pray with tenacity for the answer.  “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)  The answer’s on the way!

Moving Forward:  Encouraged by Daniel’s prayer of mercy for his people, I will pray in earnest for my nation and God’s mercy for us.  And for the many challenges I face today, I’ll pray according to His will until the answers come – they’re on the way! 

Tomorrow @ John 5-6

1Timothy 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: It pleases Him when we pray for everyone to understand the Truth

Mediterranean food, Mediterranean people…I just love them!  From television and movies, we are acquainted with the fun-loving, energetic and, well, opinionated nature of people from that region. Those of us from a Mediterranean heritage have a tendency to live by the motto, “When I want your opinion…I’ll give it to you!”  I’ve wondered if this was why Paul chose young Timothy, whose father was Greek and not Jewish, to minister at the church in the difficult city of Ephesus.  Possibly he would best understand the culture of the region. Regardless, Paul sent some letters to him to mentor his young charge in the ministry there.

@1 Timothy 2
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1-2) The first and best advice Paul could give Timothy was to pray – for everyone.  Pray for those who were believers and those who were not and pray for the Godly, peace-loving members of the church and for those who had caused trouble.  Ask God to help them however is best, intercede with boldness on their behalf and thank God for them, regardless of their mindset or behavior.  After all, we all are a work in progress.

Paul encouraged Timothy to “pray for kings and people in authority.”  To be honest, I’d rather fuss about the president and the congress than pray for them, but prayer is the only thing that will change hearts and the laws of the land and allow us to live as Christians in peace and dignity.  We just read a great example of this in Daniel.  Prayer is the answer!

“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (3) Whether male or female or Jew or Gentile, salvation and truth are for everyone.  Paul goes on to state the truth that we all must understand, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (5-6)  No bias or argument will ever unseat this truth.

And speaking of bias…I’ve always thought that in heaven someday I would like to sit down with Paul over coffee and have a little chat about a few of his teachings regarding women.  There are moments when I imagine the dialogue starting with, “Paul, what were you thinking?!!”  I would only show respect to this giant of the faith, understanding that his influence has changed my life for the good, but his teachings about women such as those found here in Chapter 2 have caused more than a few moments of distress for women in the church through the ages.  Of course, I know that in heaven, absorbed by God’s glorious presence, this will all be immaterial and I’ll just let it go.

We understand that the culture of the Ephesus church demanded these instructions by Paul, “Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” (11) The exciting part of this scripture is that education was now open to women, a freedom that was not a part of the culture.

Just like the sense of free at last that comes to a teenager with a new driver’s license, many believe the Ephesian women were somewhat over the top with their new-found freedom to learn and were disruptive in the church service with their questioning and even with their dress.  This was not good.

I’m certain we all agree with Paul that nothing we do, men and women alike, should be disruptive to the ministry or to the working of the Holy Spirit in our churches.  We should be known, not by our dress or possessions, but by what we have accomplished for Him.  And we should be people who pray for everyone, from the president to the homeless, unbiased, leading everyone to the Truth.

Moving Forward: Challenged once again by Paul, I’ll pray and intercede without bias for my leadership in government, for my neighbors, for my friends and…for everyone. 

Tomorrow @ Number 1-4

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  But my lists keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of a prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I obviously have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

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