Prayer


Psalms 81-83 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: “God presides over heaven’s court” and He will judge the judges 

@Psalm 82
Raise your hand if you think the judicial system of our government is always strong, ethical and carries out moral judgments at all times?  I’m sure the response was weak.  Just like our challenges today, Asaph was having trouble finding honorable judges in Israel, “How long will you hand down unjust decisions by favoring the wicked?  Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.  Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”(2-4)  Sounds like an indictment and a mandate all in one.

Needless to say, the judicial branch of the government that interprets and carries out the laws of the land is a powerful entity.  Only when those judgments are based on God’s moral laws can we as Christians be certain that justice has prevailed rather than opinions, social dictates and godless influences.  While many excellent judges carry out their responsibilities across our land, I’m concerned just like Asaph about the decisions of judges that favor the wicked and fail to uphold the rights of our beliefs, traditional families, unborn babies and vulnerable children.

Psalm 82 makes it clear that God is the judge of the judges, and their day in court will come one day.  “God presides over heaven’s court…you will die like mere mortals and fall like every other ruler. Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you.” (1,7-8)  God always has the last word, but in the meantime what can we do?

Clearly, making careful decisions at the ballot box instead of mindlessly approving judicial appointments is a start, as well as voicing our concerns to our local, state and federal government leadership when immoral judgments are made.

Even more critical is praying for them, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)  Our prayers may turn the hearts of immoral or complacent judges to the saving knowledge of God’s truth, and when that happens, we can be assured that we will remain one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and JUSTICE for all. Sounds like a guarantee, a vow…a pledge! 

Moving Forward: I will pray that my judgments today are pure as I preside over my little sphere of influence, and I will pray for all those with significant influence and judgment over my nation. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 10

Colossians 1-2(NLT link) 

Discover His heart: The Creator of all things hears and answers our prayers

There’s just something really good that happens inside of me when family and friends tell me they are praying for me – if I’m discouraged, hope builds within me; if I’m sick, faith starts to mount; and if I’m fearful, peace floods my soul.  We all need prayer, and we’ll take any prayer that is offered to God on our behalf.

On the flip side, I love to pray for the needs of others with hopeful anticipation of answered prayer, watching as our creative God brings solutions.  I’ve learned that promising someone to pray for a need can be easily sabotaged by a busy life, and often those mental notes to pray for someone cannot be found as effortlessly as they once were.  Keeping a prayer journal is helpful, and simply asking God to bring to our remembrance those needs we’ve committed to prayer also brings results.

Then there is the specific prayer request that comes my way now and then that challenges me to find the will of God in how I really should be praying for that need.  I know, I know.  God is bigger than all this.  He remembers all the needs that I forget, and He, of course, knows how to answer every need. However, like most believers, I take prayer seriously because I want my prayers to be effective. 

@ Colossians 1
Paul certainly understood the importance and impact of prayer in the life of a believer and focused on it in all of his letters. In our reading today, he was writing to the Colossians, a group of believers he had never met, to encourage them and to help them stand against an onslaught of heresy that he had heard was mounting in the church.  In verses 9-12, Paul shared an excellent example for us of how to pray for others, whether we remember the exact need or not.  I don’t know a missionary, leader, friend or anyone on the planet who would not appreciate this prayer.

When we pray for others, ask that God will help them:
1)  Know His plan for their lives (9)
2)  Grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding (9)
3)  Understand how to honor and please the Lord (10)
4)  Produce every kind of good fruit (10)
5)  Grow in the knowledge of who He is (10)
6)  Have endurance and patience through His glorious power (11)
7)  Be filled with joy and thanksgiving (11-12)

When we pray to God, we pray in Jesus’ name, and Paul gave one of the most powerful endorsements of Him in verses 15-20 that is found anywhere. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation…He holds all creation together…Christ is the head…Christ is the beginning…through Him God reconciled everything to Himself.”

It’s almost impossible to believe, yet true – this amazing, glorious creator of all things, the Lord Jesus, hears and answers my prayers! 

Moving Forward: With humility and awe that He hears my requests, I will pray for those dear ones in need of His touch today. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 13-15

Philippians 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is waiting to flood us with His peace when we pray 

@ Philippians 4
After struggling through Israeli history in our daily reading for the past week, Philippians 4 is like an oasis – cool and refreshing!  It’s just the encouragement and inspiration we need in this world of budget cuts, unemployment, politics, severe storms and flooding.  Peace!  I need some peace!

How do we get peace?  “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” (6-7). God’s peace is not only quiet calm in the absence of war or struggle.  God’s peace is quiet calm in spite of war or struggle, and that’s why we don’t understand it.

Telling someone not to worry is almost like saying don’t breathe.  A tough situation may be so real, so close that worry is virtually as involuntary as breathing.  Although we can worry and breathe at the same time, it’s difficult to pray and worry at the same time, thus Paul’s advice:  “Pray about everything!”  With a thankful heart, tell Him, instead of the rest of the world, what you need.  It isn’t as though He doesn’t already know exactly what we need; but in our telling, we are demonstrating to Him as well as to ourselves that we have surrendered control of our needs to Him.  Then this unreasonable peace floods our being, and it stands like a soldier guarding our hearts and minds. (7)  That’s how we get peace.

How do we keep it?  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (8)  One time I had a little altercation with Super Glue.  It was my first time using this powerful adhesive, and, hard to admit, I just didn’t read the directions.  I thought I would go through the rest of my life with my thumb and forefinger permanently fixed.  I pulled and pried, rinsed and cried, but finally, it was nail polish remover that unfixed my digits.  Needless to say, I have a deep respect today for Super Glue.  But I think of that moment when I read “fix your thoughts.”

No doubt our enemy or even well-meaning people will come with thoughts to distract us or try to pry us from thoughts that are true and fill us with those based on lies or vain imaginations. We should fix our thoughts on what is honorable and right, not unjust and cruel.  Thoughts that are pure, lovely and to be admired, not unclean or demeaning.  Thoughts that are of value and uplifting.  Stay glued to these thoughts.

Then Paul encouraged, “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me,” (9)  With all this positive, righteous thinking and practicing, there will be little time for negative thoughts and worry.  And this is the really great part, “Then the God of peace will be with you.”(9)  And that’s how we keep it – His peace.

Moving Forward: Moving on today with this promise from Jesus, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 10-12

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

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