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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

How to Pray When Life Falls Apart

SOURCE:  Vaneetha Rendall Risner

In the midst of broken dreams and riveting pain, how should we pray?

Should we pray for healing and deliverance, believing that we just need to ask, because God can do anything? Or should we relinquish our desires to God, trusting that even in our anguish he has the perfect plan for us?

Yes.

When life falls apart, God invites us to do both.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced unimaginable suffering. Sweating drops of blood, he fell to the ground and prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus, in his agony, is teaching us by example how to pray when we’re desperate.

Abba, Father

Jesus doesn’t begin with, “Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth.” Of course, God is Lord of all and deserves honor and reverence. But Jesus chooses a term of endearment: “Abba.” Abba is an intimate, personal term for a father. Jesus is asking his Father to do something for him.

In a similar way, I need to draw near to God in my pain. He’s the Almighty Lord, but he’s also my Abba Father (Rom. 8:15). I need to approach him as such.

Nothing Too Difficult

Jesus knows God can do anything. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. All things are his servants. Nothing is impossible with him.

While I know those Scripture verses by heart too, I often functionally doubt God’s ability to change my situation. I scan my circumstances and assume things will continue as they are. Even as I’m praying, I don’t look for miraculous answers; my prayers become rote recitations of requests more than earnest petitions of faith.

But in Gethsemane, Jesus knows his Father can grant his request. God gives life to the dead and summons into being things that don’t exist.

And I need to remember his limitless power when my situation looks insurmountable.

Remove This Cup

The cup Jesus asks God to remove isn’t mere physical suffering. Disciples and martyrs through the ages have faced physical pain without fear. Jesus is anguished over suffering that’s infinitely deeper. He is facing the terrifying fury of God’s wrath over our sin. And he’s facing that wrath alone, with no comfort from above.

Jesus knows God can change this horrifying situation. So he asks. He wants God to remove the very suffering he was sent to bear, the suffering he willingly came for, the suffering that would secure salvation for his people. Jesus wasn’t coerced onto the cross. He lay down his life of his own accord (John 10:18).

But now Jesus is asking if there is another way—any other way—for God to accomplish his purposes.

So many times I filter my requests. Should I ask God to relieve my suffering when I know he can use it? Is it okay to ask for healing, or is that presumptuous? Should I not ask for anything and just accept what I’ve been given? That posture seems more holy.

Yet, Jesus asks God to remove the cup.

If Jesus can ask, I can too. It’s appropriate to ask God to remove my suffering, change my situation, keep me from further pain. He longs to give me good gifts. I’ve begged God to heal friends, save family members, and give clarity, and he has answered “yes.” But I’ve also pleaded with God to save my dying son, heal my escalating disease, and bring back my husband, and he said “no.” So even though I don’t know how he will answer, my Father still bids me to earnestly petition him for the things I desire.

Not My Will, But Yours

Jesus finally relinquishes his will to God’s. When denied his desire, Jesus accepts the decision completely. He stumbles to his execution without murmur or complaint.

This relinquishment isn’t easy for me. When I keep God at a distance, I can stay detached without expectations. But if I draw near to him and truly believe he can change the situation, I can start to clutch the outcome I want. I may verbalize “Your will be done,” but I’m whiteknuckling my own will.

God often has to pry my fingers off my desired outcome. Though I’ve felt devastated by his “no’s,” as I submit to his will—often with disappointment and tears—he assures me he’s working for my good. I see only part of the picture. He has a purpose in his denials.

The Father said “no” to the Son. And that “no” brought about the greatest good in all of history.

God is not capricious. If he says “no” to our requests he has a reason, perhaps 10,000. We may never know the reasons in this life, but one day we’ll see them all. For now, we must trust that his refusals are always his mercies to us.

Run to Your Father

And now as we wait, still struggling to make sense of the storms in our lives, let us pray as our Savior did. Let us draw near to God, believe he can change our situation, boldly ask him for what we need, and submit our will to his.

Our Father’s plans are always perfect. They will always be for our good and his glory.

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa TerKeurst   Faithgateway

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God

SOURCE:  Dr. Bob Kellemen

There’s nothing more important in life than our relationship with God through Christ.

This is, of course, true for our eternal life. It is also true for our daily life. This is why Jesus taught his disciples—and us—how to pray, how to talk to God.

The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4 

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus teaching us how to pray. Known by many as “The Lord’s Prayer,” I also like to call it “The Prayer of Jesus.” For all eternity, the Father, Son, and Spirit communed together and communicated (John 1:1-18; John 17).

So…when Jesus teaches us how to talk to God, we need to listen.

A Memory Aid: “CHRIST” 

If you’ve heard me teach or read any of my writings, you know I like memory aids. Sometimes, I use alliteration—starting each point with the same letter. Sometimes, like today, I like to use acrostics—using each letter in a word as a teaching devise. We use it to learn how to pray in Christ’s school of prayer.

I’m doing that today with the Lord’s Prayer, or The Prayer of Jesus, using our Savior’s title—Christ—as our memory aid. You see it outlined below.

For a one-sheet, front/back Word document version, go here: The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God.

For a one-sheet, front/back PDF version, go here: The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God 

Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4

Your Daily Prayer Guide: “CHRIST

Prepare to Pray: Meditation“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”

C   Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

H   Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”

R   Radically Commit: Submission—“Thy Will Be Done”

I   Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

S   Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins”

T   Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom”

Learning How to Pray in Christ’s School of Prayer

  • Prepare to Pray: Meditation—“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”
  1. Meditate on the perfect fatherly character of God: Our Father in heaven.
  2. Contemplate the nature of God’s fatherhood: Our Father of holy love.
  3. Reflect on the Body of Christ: Our Father, not only my Father.
  4. Enjoy God the Father’s full attention and acceptance in Christ: Bask in His fatherly grace.
  • Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  1. Praise God for Who He is: Worship, magnify, exalt, and glorify your heavenly Father.
  2. Thank God for what He does: Express your gratitude for all His grace-gifts, for His works.
  3. Pray that the whole world would be in awe of God: All the earth grasping, enjoying, and        exalting the character (name) of God.
  4. Set apart God as the supreme desire of your heart: Let your daily mission statement be to exalt God by enjoying God.
  • Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”
  1. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule in your heart: Surrender to God’s governance.
  2. Pray for a widening of God’s rule in all people’s hearts: Salvation.
  3. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule on planet Earth: Christian living (make a difference).
  4. Pray for the soon return of Christ: Second Coming.
  5. Pray that you will live for God’s kingdom and not for your own: Total allegiance. 
  • Radically Commit: Submission/Direction—“Thy Will Be Done”
  1. Pray for the right purpose: That all you do is motivated by the desire to glorify God.
  2. Pray for calm assurance: The understanding that God’s glory and your good are inseparable, that the Father’s will is always good and best.
  3. Pray for clear discernment: That you will know God’s will for your personal life, family, church, work, community, country, and world.
  4. Pray for radical obedience: That God would grant you the courage to do His will.
  5. Pray for supernatural power: That God would empower you to obey His will.
  6. Pray with brutal honesty: Share the desires of your heart, any confusion, doubts, and perplexity with your heavenly Father.
  7. Pray with other-centered focus: That family, church, community, national, and world leaders would know and do God’s will.
  • Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
  1. Confess humbly (Give): Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, admitting that without God you are and have nothing. Pray for the faith to believe that all you need is God and what He chooses to provide.
  2. Asks unselfishly (Us, Our): Pray for others and for yourself.
  3. Request wisely (This Day, Daily): Pray for today’s needs. Trust God for today’s supply. Ask God to give you nothing more and nothing less than exactly what you need and can handle.
  4. Entreat practically (Bread): Pray for physical, material, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual needs. Pray for freedom from worry as you trust God to supply your every need.
  • Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us”
  1. Acknowledge Sin: Confess known sins and ask God to reveal hidden sins.
  2. Repent humbly: Your debt is immeasurable; His grace is infinite.
  3. Enjoy forgiveness: Claim Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance. Your slate is wiped clean!
  4. Grant forgiveness: Forgive those who have hurt you and sinned against you physically,      emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.
  5. Seek reconciliation: Go to those you have sinned against to restore the relationship.
  • Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil”
  1. Seek protection: Ask God not to allow Satan even to tempt you to sin.
  2. Seek boundaries: Ask God to keep you from situations where you are most prone to sin—your besetting sins, areas of vulnerability, temptations, etc.
  3. Seek victory: Ask God to defeat sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil in your life.
  4. Seek faith: Ask God to help you to trust His awesome power as your only hope for triumph.
  • Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever, Amen”
  1. Trust God (For): Believe that since God is the Almighty, Eternal King that He can answer.
  2. Glorify God (Thine): Pray that God will be glorified by your prayers.

When You Are Waiting For God To Show Up

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Jade Mazarin

A few things to remember when it feels like your prayers aren’t being answered.

Have you been praying for years for certain people or situations?

I have.

I know that God has called these people, and I know who they can be and the healing God has in store. I also pray for situations I yearn to improve, even after years of stagnant. But so far, those miraculous changes I’ve longed for remain seemingly at bay.

It’s easy to wonder if anything will change, when nothing seems to be happening. It’s easy to become discouraged when the physical reality looks nothing like what I think it should.

However, I continue to ask for the healing, the restoring and the saving, that I (and I know He) wants.

The other night while praying, that phrase at the end of TV shows popped in my head: “To be continued.”

“To be continued” arrives at a pivotal point in a show. We’ve gotten invested in the characters; we’ve followed them through a series of events and emotional drama. We may glance at the clock a few minutes prior and wonder how the nicely tied-up conclusion will arrive in time. It’s not looking good at this point.  How is this going to get fixed? we wonder.

Then suddenly, the screen fades to black, with the message “To be continued.”

Typically, when this happens, my reaction is, “No! I want to know the rest of the story, now!” Then again, another part of me is relieved. The story won’t end badly. This mess will somehow be fixed. Of course, now I have to wait.

The Middle of the Story

What if that same “to be continued” is showing up around your prayers or the situations you’ve stopped praying for, because nothing seemed to change?

You might be upset because someone you love is in trouble. You might ache with sorrow for the distance between you and a family member. Or, you could be dragging around discouragement because of a problem you can’t shake. And with all this, you might wonder where God is or if He really cares. But, maybe the reason things seem so dreary is because you’re only in the middle of the story, and God isn’t just going to show up and make things right in the end—instead, you’ll realize He’s been there through it all.

This idea makes me think of Mary and Lazarus. Many of us are familiar with the story—Mary and her sister Martha have a brother named Lazarus whom Jesus raises from the dead. But have you thought about what Mary and her sister go through from the time Lazarus gets sick to the time Jesus resurrects him?

Mary and Martha know Jesus loves them and their brother Lazarus. They know He’d be there in time of need. So when Lazarus gets deathly ill, Mary tells one of His disciples to relay the message. She and her family then wait in expectancy for his arrival.

They wait. And they wait. Three long, drawn out, painfully quiet days, as Lazarus just gets sicker.

And then, no longer able to hold on, Lazarus breathes his last breath.

What were Mary and Martha thinking at this time?

If they were like most of us, I would imagine it was something like, “I thought Jesus loved us. I thought we were special to Him. Why didn’t He come?” Perhaps they felt angry, and a sense of abandonment or betrayal.

When Jesus does show up, Mary tells him, “If you had been here earlier, Lazarus would have lived.” Everyone is grieving what they see to be a tragic end to the story. Even Jesus weeps when He sees their pain and loss.

But what if Mary, Martha and their friends knew that this was not the end of the story? What if they knew there was good to still come?

Out of seemingly nowhere, in a sudden turn of events, Jesus acts. He stands up, walks over to Lazarus and calls him back from the dead.

We’re only in the middle of the story—and God isn’t just going to show up and make things right in the end, we’ll realize He’s been there through it all.

Yes, Jesus loved this family dearly all along—just as they believed He did. In fact, it was His love for them that caused Him to wait to show up. He could have arrived and healed Lazarus when they expected, but instead, He waited for a special moment; for a tremendous finale kind of moment. He chose a way that would display the greatness of His love and the magnitude of His power. He took the opportunity to say to them, “Yes, I love you. And I will show you how much.”

The Real Ending

But what about the times when things don’t turn out beautifully? Maybe you’ve prayed for a loved one to be healed, and they weren’t. We all know there are tragic endings to countless stories—ones that can’t be made better by belief in a changed situation.

Yet, there is still more to the story—at least, to the whole story. In the grand scheme of things, we are still in the middle of God’s ultimate story of redemption. We won’t always get happy endings now, but God has a greater intention for the earth—one to instill perfection into every facet of it. He’s at work in us, through us and with us, even when it doesn’t feel like He’s there.

When I pray for the same things I’ve poured my heart into for years, I remind myself that God is at work, even though I can’t yet see it. When I wrestle with doubting it, I actually say to Him: “Don’t be done with this yet. Make things right.” I ask Him to reveal His glory.

God has a special investment in the end of the story. He will often provide glimpses of His final redemption in our daily lives, that we can look for and hope in. It may not be how we expected, but it will display His creativity. God’s plan does not always match up with our expectations, but it leaves us with more. And He will always reassure of the incomparable finale, when everything is set straight.

Getting on the Same Page with God

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

75% of Americans pray on some sort of regular basis. My guess is that most of their prayers are, “Help!” which is a very good thing to pray!  My guess is that many of those “Help!” prayers are “suggestions” to God about how to “help” certain people—to get a job, to change their behavior, to do certain things. I used to do this—I think I presented God with entire outlines!

It’s surprising that Jesus didn’t pray that way when his best buddy-disciple was about to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him and then told him what he was praying—but he wasn’t praying that Peter wouldn’t do it!  What?

Instead, he was praying that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail. Why? “It would not have advanced Peter toward being the person he needed to become. . . .  How earnestly Jesus longed for Peter to come out right in his time of testing!  But he left him free to succeed or fail before God and humans.” Jesus was concerned about the person Peter was becoming. Jesus didn’t ask God to force Peter to do the right thing. After his failure, Peter’s faith didn’t fail as he made his way back to Jesus. His confidence in God did not fail although his brash self-confidence did.

Instead of praying to fix people, or patch them up, it’s wiser to seek God, to get on the same page as God. What does that mean? We have (and can have) the “mind of Christ.  So we might ask God how to get the “mind of Christ” about a person or situation or problem. It’s better to ask God questions rather than try to give God what we think are the answers.

  • What do I need to pray for this person?
  • What larger issue is at stake?
  • What do I need to know about this person or situation to be of any help?
  • What do I need to say, or not say?
  • What do I need to do, or not do?

This kind of prayer assumes that God will inform us and give us wisdom. It will probably not come in an immediate audible voice but in other ways, often through thoughts that would never occur to us on our own. Such thoughts just don’t sound anything like what we would say.

This kind of conversational interaction with God is possible. You might try it out—ask God a few questions and see what comes to you when you are quiet, what is said to you in an offhand comment by someone else. Then bring that back into conversation with God and talk about it.

PRAYING FOR OUR CHILDREN

Source:  Unknown

…that they will know Christ as Savior and Lord early in life.  Ps 63:1; 1Tim 3:15

…that they will have a hatred for sin.  Ps 97:10

…that they will be caught when guilty. Ps119:71

…that they will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives:  spiritual, emotional, and physical.  John 17:15

…that they will have a responsible attitude in their personal relationships.  Dan 6:3

…that they will respect those in authority over them.  Rom 13:1

…that they will desire the right kinds of friends and be protected from the wrong friends.  Prov 1:10-11

…that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right mate, and that they both will be kept pure until marriage.  1 Cor 6:18-20; 2 Cor 6:14-17

…that they will learn to totally submit to God and actively resist Satan in all circumstances.  James 4:7

…that they will be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ.  Rom 12:1-2

…that they will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or places and that wrong people can’t find their way to them.

WHATEVER IT TAKES, LORD !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/The Angel Stadium Declaration

On April 6, 1980, 205 people attended Saddleback Valley Community Church’s first public worship service. On Sunday, April 17, 2005, 30,000 people gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, to celebrate 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. At the culmination of a three-hour service of worship and remembrance, thousands rose to their feet to read the following together as a commitment to doing God’s will for the next 25 years. It is and will be referred to as The Angel Stadium Declaration: April 17, 2005. I offer it to our devotional readers for the inspiration that it was to me. I suggest you print it and put it where you can refer to it often. That’s what I’m going to do.

Today I am stepping across the line.  I’m tired of waffling and I’m finished with wavering; I’ve made my choice, the verdict is in and my decision is irrevocable.  I’m going God’s way.  There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory.  I will use my life to celebrate His presence, cultivate His character, participate in His family, demonstrate His love, and communicate His word.

Since my past has been forgiven and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.  Instead, I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of His family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems debilitated by temptation or intimidated by the devil.  I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.  When times get tough, and I get tired, I won‘t back up, back off, back down, back out or backslide.  I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace.  I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  However, Whenever, Wherever, and Whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes!  Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Whatever it takes Lord; Whatever it takes!  I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful one.  Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

Your Child Is Not Your Enemy

SOURCE:  Brooke McGlothlin/Gospel Centered Mom/FamilyLife

Here are eight ways we can fight for, not against, our children in their hard-to-handle moments.

When the days of mothering grow long and make a girl weary, and when what you really want to do is lock your child in a bedroom and throw away the key, it’s good to remember this: Your child is not your enemy.

Our goal for our children isn’t to create super kids, nor is it to strip them of all the quirks and traits that make up their personalities. Our fight is to help them grow toward Christlikeness, into the best version of them that they can be.

With that in mind, here are eight ways we can fight for, not against, our children in their hard-to-handle moments.

1.Tell God He can have you. I made this number one because it’s the most important. None of the other steps matter much at all unless you’re willing to let God change you first.

I’ve learned firsthand the importance of allowing God to strip me of old, sinful habits that hinder my ability to fight for my children. In other words, most of the time the battle for my boys involves battling with myself. I’m the parent, and I can’t win if I allow myself to be dragged down to their level. My goal is to rise above and invite them to come with me.

2. Get in the habit of prayer. Every one of us wants to know what God wants us to do so we can just do it and be done. I sometimes feel frustrated because it doesn’t seem like God gives me clear direction when my heart is ready to do whatever He tells me to do. But I’ve come to this conclusion: Most of the time I’m too busy talking to actually hear when He is speaking to me.

That’s why taking a break to pray before I speak, before I react, and before anyone else gets up in the morning, and praying throughout the entire day is so important. God wants to give us direction and comfort, but we’re often too busy juggling life on our own to ask.

3. Embrace the power of a mommy timeout. It doesn’t necessarily take long to recharge if you know what works for you. What gives you a healthy sense of relief almost instantaneously? Is it music? A good book? Reading your favorite Bible passage? Getting on your knees in prayer? Whatever it is—and it may vary from day to day—do that.

You cannot parent your children well when your heart is frazzled. Even if you have to take five-minute mommy breaks multiple times a day, do something to focus your attention on Jesus. Remember that peace has nothing to do with what’s happening around you. Peace comes only from relationship with Jesus Christ. You can’t manufacture it with things or even changes in circumstances. It comes from within as you surrender your life to Christ.

4. Prepare ahead of time. Just as I have my own triggers, certain things tend to agitate my sons. After studying them for years now, I’m beginning to recognize these triggers and to be physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared for the inevitable.

When it’s time to leave the pool, I get their attention about 20 minutes beforehand and let them know we’re leaving in 20 minutes. Then I give them updates every few minutes so that when it’s actually time to leave they’re not taken by surprise.

I don’t think I can overemphasize prayer’s importance as an in-the-moment tactic as well as part of the advance preparation. I pray a lot. For my response as well as for my sons’.

5. Be stronger. When they were very young, I would often pick up my boys and carry them, despite their flailing and kicking, to a safe space for them to calm down. Now I can ask them to go somewhere safe, and they will, albeit not always without emotional drama. We’re fast approaching the day when they’ll be much stronger than I am, so what I’m talking about here isn’t physical strength so much as emotional and spiritual strength.

You may have heard it said that a leader can take his followers only as far as he has traveled. As a parent, you are, by default, a leader. God gave you to your children to teach them, train them, and make it as easy as possible for them to know Him. To lead them well, you don’t have to know the answers to every theological question or have your whole life together; you just have to be a few paces ahead of where they are.

6. Love harder. There are a lot of amazing things about my boys, things I know God will use one day for His glory and purpose in their lives. But for right now, they’re raw and unrefined and often drive me crazy.

One day, they’ll fight for something instead of against it. Until that time, it’s my goal to love them harder than they fight me. If my boys go to bed each night feeling more loved than fought and more a treasure than a hindrance and know there’s nothing they could ever do to make me not love them, I call that day a success.

7. Be a student of your child. There’s no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to raising godly children. Sometimes, I wish there were. Other times I’m glad it’s not up to me to change their hearts. God can do a much better job of that than I can.

What is within my power is to study my son, to really know him—his personality, what makes him happy, what makes him tick, what sets him off, what makes him feel loved. When a mom knows those things, she can tailor her parenting to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the child. It empowers the parent to reach the heart of the child, deep down inside, instead of just trying not to be inconvenienced by his bad behavior.

8. Refuse to give up. I know you’re tempted daily to give up. So am I. When things don’t go as planned, when children continue to be resentful or disobedient regularly, when the clutter grows unmanageable, and the pile of laundry threatens to avalanche, we might be tempted to say, “I quit. I’m not even going to try anymore.”

The circumstances we’re in today are not forever. If we stay the course, we will reap a harvest, even if it happens on the other side of heaven. There’s more waiting for us when we get there. The choices we make today to press on and fight the good fight will make a difference in generations to come, influencing who among our family and friends will get to join us with Jesus. Do not give up.

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa Terkeurst

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

—————————————————————–

Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst

Adult Children: Praying for Your Prodigal

SOURCE:  Jodi Berndt from Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children

I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart. — Jeremiah 24:7

Lauren stared at the photo on her phone, barely comprehending what she saw. It was a picture of her son, William, lying in a hospital bed, his head wrapped in a bloody bandage. He had been assaulted in what he said was a random robbery, and Lauren wanted to believe him. Given what they knew about their son’s current lifestyle, she didn’t know what to think.

Lauren and her husband, Mike, had been lukewarm about William’s plan to move to Chicago when he graduated from college. They understood why a guy from a small town in Alabama would want to spread his wings, but his idea — to launch a neighborhood-based classified-ad service to sell things like used furniture, cars, and household goods — sounded iffy. William had majored in business, but he knew very little about technology and even less about Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. But after a six-month job search closer to home turned up nothing, she and Mike had gotten William a plane ticket and wished him well. Their son was hardworking, creative, and intelligent, so who knew? Maybe he’d be one of the success stories.

And if not, well, what was the worst that could happen?

Lauren had run through a dozen worst-case scenarios in her mind — maybe the business would flop or William would get sick from the city dirt and noise and pollution — but nothing had prepared her for the sight of her son lying in some unknown hospital, more than six hundred miles away. She wished Mike would get home soon; she needed to talk. An orthopedic surgeon, he was usually at the hospital all day on Thursdays, and she hadn’t been able to reach him.

Lauren thought back over the past several months. William had burned through most of his start-up money, and then in an effort to recoup his losses, he had started gambling. His drinking, which Lauren and Mike had hoped would lessen once he got out of college, had gotten worse. Lauren didn’t know much about William’s friends and business associates, but the words from Proverbs 13:20 kept coming to mind:

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Apparently, William had been walking with some fairly serious fools.

When had that started to happen? Lauren didn’t know exactly. William had given his life to the Lord at age twelve, and as he grew, so had his faith. He had been a youth group leader in high school, and when the time came to go to college, he elected to live with a Christian roommate. Lauren and Mike were thrilled when William joined a campus Bible study; surely, the friends and the teaching he’d be exposed to there would help guard him against some of the secular philosophies he would encounter in the classroom.

But things hadn’t turned out that way. Parties, football games, and study sessions with his classmates filled William’s calendar, and he began to drift away from Bible study and other fellowship opportunities. It wasn’t as if some atheist had talked him out of his faith; rather, the shift had come gradually as William spent more time with unbelievers than with his Christian friends. And then, almost as if he was looking for an intellectual reason to account for his behavior, William began to question some of the most basic tenets of his faith. Salvation by grace seemed far too simplistic. And the resurrection? Nothing he learned in any of his science classes made that even a remote possibility; it seemed (as William told his parents during his junior year) to be a story designed to bring comfort and hope to people who would grasp at anything to keep their faith alive. Which was fine for them — just not for him.

Mike and Lauren hadn’t wanted to alienate their son by revealing the depth of their concern or by arguing against some of his claims. Instead, they welcomed William’s questions, pointing him toward authors like Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and C. S. Lewis, apologists whose work they thought might appeal to him on an intellectual level.

“But honestly,” Mike had said, after one of their conversations, “I don’t think he is looking for evidence to support Christianity. I think it’s a moral issue, masquerading as an intellectual one. I think he wants to find a worldview to support his quest for independence and self-sufficiency as he runs away from God, something that will justify his rebellion.”

Prayer Principle

Ask God to work in your prodigal’s mind and spirit, demolishing arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The kitchen door opened, snapping Lauren’s mind back to the present. It was Mike, home from the hospital where he had been making rounds. Lauren showed him the photo and filled him in on what little she knew.

“He says it’s nothing serious,” she said. “Some guys jumped him when he was walking home from work. He says they took his wallet…”

“Maybe they did,” Mike said, “but we aren’t sending him any more money.”

He picked up the phone and enlarged the photo. “It looks like a good bandage job at least. He’ll be okay.”

Lauren knew Mike wasn’t being callous or insensitive, and that he was hurting just as much as she was. He was just being practical. But for a mom, it wasn’t that easy.

“Mike, I want William to come home,” she said softly.

“I think he should,” Mike agreed, “but we can’t make him do anything. He’s literally living the life of the prodigal son — he got us to give him some money, and then he went away to a distant city and squandered it all in wild living. For all we know, he has been eating with pigs!”

Lauren knew the story Mike was talking about. It was a parable in Luke 15, one Jesus used to illustrate the heavenly Father’s love and the power of redemption. In that story, the son finally comes home, confessing his sins and giving up any claim he had on the family name. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” he says. “Make me like one of your hired men.” (Luke 15:19)

Lauren loved that parable — especially the part where the father sees the son in the distance and, throwing dignity to the wind, runs out to embrace his boy in a very public, very emotional reunion. It was perhaps the best illustration she knew of to show how God feels about us, and how utterly ecstatic He is when we acknowledge our own unworthiness and turn to him.

Missing from the story, though, was an account of the prodigal’s mother. Surely, she had longed to hear from her boy, to receive some word that he was at least alive. And certainly, when she heard the sound of his greeting, her heart would have leaped right along with her husband’s. Who knows? She might have even beaten him down the street.

Lauren knew the story wasn’t about a literal, historical family, one with a real mom and dad. But if it had been, Lauren knew one thing for sure: that mama would have been praying.

Prayer Principle

God knows what it’s like to grieve over a prodigal child — and to rejoice over his return.

Listening to Lauren and Mike, I was reminded of any number of similar accounts people shared with me as I worked on this book. Mothers and fathers told me about their kids’ faith; how they’d grown up in the church, attended Christian camps, or gone on mission trips; and read The Chronicles of Narnia at bedtime. These parents, like so many I interviewed, had done everything in their power to produce Christian kids — and sometimes, as one parent put it, “A plus B really did equal C.” But sometimes (a lot of times, actually), it didn’t.

I think my favorite comment came from a mom whose daughter has walked a path no parent would choose for a child. Looking at all of the bad decisions (and tragic consequences) the girl has experienced, and stacking those things up against verses like Genesis 50:20 (“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good”), this sweet mama summed up her perspective like this: “I don’t know what God is doing in my daughter’s life, or why she does the things she does. All I can figure is that she is working on her testimony. And it’s shaping up to be a good one.”

For parents who’ve staked their trust in the Lord (and for those who believe, as author Max Lucado puts it, that “we see a perfect mess; God sees a perfect chance to train, test, and teach”1), the idea that our kids are still “working on their testimonies” is a lifeline to hope. And it’s not just their stories that are still being written; Lauren and Mike don’t know what the future holds for William, but they’d be the first to tell you that his experience has shaped their own spiritual journey in a powerful way.

“We’ve prayed more than ever before,” Lauren told me, “and we’ve learned to wait on God. It’s hard not to let fear and worry cloud the picture, but the more we look into the bright light of God’s love, the more those dark things are obliterated. This trouble has been a gateway for us to get to know God better; our prayer is that it will also be a gateway for William.”

Prayer Principle

The light of God’s love is what scatters the darkness. Tether your prayers to the brightness of His promises.

“We’ve learned that we are completely helpless,” Mike added. “We cannot change or control our kids’ lives; all we can do is trust in a God who has given us great and precious promises.”

Mike is right. We are helpless, at least insofar as it comes to dictating the way our adult children think and behave. Many of them are out of our reach, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But they are not out of God’s — and He invites us to join Him in the work He is doing, through prayer. We are not helpless there; even when we have no idea how to pray, God has us covered. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness,” Paul writes in Romans 8:26.

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Max Lucado, You’ll Get through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times (Nashville: Nelson, 2013), 10.

Too Overwhelmed To Pray

SOURCE:  Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Your Helper in Prayer: Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit

When I think of Charles Spurgeon, my mind goes to one story before anything else. I once heard that when Spurgeon’s depression flared, his wife Susanna propped him up and pushed him back into his chair so he could continue working. I was so taken aback by my imagining of this scene — it made me think about all of the times me and the other women in my family had been that low in depression. Spurgeon’s weakness ran much deeper than work-related stress, and was not just a symptom of physical exhaustion.

This kind of weakness is hard to overcome. Spurgeon touches on this deep weakness in his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer. The reason the Father gives us his Spirit to help us pray is because we are weak; we don’t know how to pray properly, we often don’t feel like praying, and we struggle to put our worst life pains into words.

Spurgeon brings out the beauty of this doctrine by explaining that God is not angry because of our failures in prayer, but has compassion on us as his children. Instead of acting the disinterested King who says, “if you do not have grace enough even to ask properly, I will shut the gates of mercy against you,” God says, “I will write out your petition for you, I will put it into proper words and use fitting phrases so that your petition shall be framed acceptable.”

“If you cannot put two words together in common speech to men, yet [the Holy Spirit] will help you to speak with God; ah! and if at the mercy seat you fail in words, you shall not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God…never reads our petitions according to the outward utterance, but according to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying…

God knows our needs without hearing words, like a mother knows the needs of her baby when it “makes very odd and objectionable noises, combined with signs and movements, which are almost meaningless to stranger” but are understood by the mother who “comprehends incomprehensible noises.” If that were not intimate enough, the Spirit even claims our groanings “as his own particular creation.”

Prayer is for your own benefit and comfort—it’s an “outlet for grief” and a “lotion” to “bathe our wound in.” Rely on the Spirit to help you know what to say in prayer, and in the worst times, when you do not have the words or the strength to say anything, know that the Spirit is propping you back up into your chair so you can press on.

Why Keep Praying When There Is No Answer?

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers” (Ephesians 6:18 NLT).

Why should you remain persistent in your prayers when you don’t get an answer? Here are four reasons.

Persistent prayer focuses your attention.

When you pray a prayer request over and over, it’s not to remind God. He doesn’t need to be reminded! It’s to remind yourself that God is the source of your answer and all your needs. If every prayer you ever prayed were instantly answered, two things would happen. First, prayer would actually begin to hurt you because sometimes we pray for things that are not God’s will, or we make mistakes because we see with a limited perspective. Second, you’d never really develop a deep relationship with God, because he would become just a vending machine. If every time you prayed you instantly got results, all you’d think about is the blessing. God wants you to think about the Blesser.

Persistent prayer clarifies your request.

A delayed answer gives you time to clarify exactly what you want and to refine your prayers. When you pray persistently to your heavenly Father and you say something over and over again, it separates deep longings from mere whims. It says, “God, I really care about this.”

It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer your prayers. He does. It’s just that he wants you to be certain what you really want.

Persistent prayer tests your faith.

James 1:3-4 says, “When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (NLT). The only way you can grow to spiritual maturity is to have your faith tested. One of the ways God tests your faith is by delaying some answers to your prayers.

Persistent prayer prepares your heart for the answer.

When you make a request of God, God almost always wants to answer in a greater way than you’ve prayed. Sometimes God denies your prayer request because you’re thinking and asking too small. He wants to give you something bigger and better. But first, he has to prepare you for it. So God uses delays in answering prayer to help you grow, to help you get ready, to help prepare you for a bigger and better answer.

Remember, “God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NCV).

Reflective Praying: A Simple But Powerful Way To Pray

SOURCE:  DR. BILL BELLICAN

WHAT IS REFLECTIVE PRAYING?

— UNIQUELY APPLIED SCRIPTURE FOR USE IN TIMES OF NEED, DISTRESS, DESPAIR, CONFUSION, HOPELESSNESS, FEAR, HURT

— A SPIRIT-LED WAY TO READ – MEDITATE – PERSONALIZE – INTERNALIZE – PRAY THE WORD OF GOD

Introduction

(Based on Psalms for Prayer/T.M. Moore)

The man who prays the psalms will make the thoughts of the psalms his own.  He will sing them no longer as verses composed by a prophet, but as born of his own prayers.  At least he should use them as intended for his own mouth, and know that they were not fulfilled temporarily in the prophet’s age and circumstances, but are being fulfilled in his daily life.

Abba Isaac, quoted in Western Asceticism

He who recites the Psalms is uttering them as his own words, and each sings them as if they were written concerning him….He handles them as if he is speaking about himself.  And the things spoken are such that he lifts them up to God as himself acting and speaking them from himself.

Athanasius, quoted in The Letter to Marcellinus

Our purpose in praying the psalms is to be able to appropriate the words of the psalms as though they were our own words, to know and use these Spirit-given prayers as our own prayers, and to be carried along by them in the power of God’s Spirit as we come into the very presence of God.

Like any worthwhile goal, achieving this will take time and concentrated effort.  Begin praying the psalms as a regular discipline.  Learning to integrate Scripture into all our prayers can only serve to strengthen our prayers, to give us more confidence in prayer, and to provide us with words to use in coming before God’s throne of grace as often as we have opportunity or need.

The Reflective Praying Process

…but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  Rom. 8:5b

And by him (the Holy Spirit), we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Rom. 8:15b

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  Rom. 8:26, 27.

Reflective Praying is a specific application of praying Scripture.  As you read Scripture, (especially the Psalms), appropriate the words of Scripture as though they were your own words.  Take these words and let them give an uncensored and honest voice to your specific situation, needs, and emotions.  Ask the Holy Spirit to carry you along as you reflect your heart of prayer to the Lord.

The specific steps to take are:

(1) Make sure you have a comfortable, modern translation of the Bible.  As

you read a passage or Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind,

imagination, and awareness to what he wants you to notice. He always

will help in our weakness and inability to know best how to pray (Rom.

8:26-27).

(2) While reading, use a highlighter to note a word, phrase, or paragraph

with which you resonate.  The Holy Spirit will call your attention to

what to highlight.  In so doing, he wants you to know that you can talk

to the Lord about what these highlighted portions are stirring in your

heart and soul.

(3) When finished reading and highlighting and with your Bible and eyes

open, focus your attention on just the highlighted parts.  Personalize, expand,

amplify, and apply  these highlighted portions to your current situation

and honestly reflect your feelings and words to the Lord. You are not

reciting or reading Scripture to the Lord.  You are telling him in light of

what you highlighted how you are affected, what you can or cannot do, the

tensions you have, the struggles you experience, how you feel about God and

his closeness or, even, perceived distance.  Ask questions, pause and listen, and

express yourself in a very real, personal, and natural manner to convey to the Lord all that you need to say.

Again, the goal is to willingly invite the Holy Spirit to draw you into a very intimate, personal, uncensored, unashamedly honest conversation with the Lord.  It is not that the Lord needs you to inform Him what’s on your mind and troubling your heart.  He already intricately knows these things.  The Holy Spirit desires that you fully realize you freely can bring the entirety of these things to the Lord without fear of condemnation or rejection.  Quite the contrary, He longs to interact with you at this level of honesty and vulnerability as He so loves the relationship with you…and…He wants you to grow in your love of this relationship with Him.

Don’t Stuff Your Pain, Tell God About It

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Get up, cry out in the night, even as the night begins. Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19a NCV).

Think you’ve had a bad day?

The biblical character of Job had a Ph.D. in pain and loss.

In the very first chapter of Job, after everything fell apart in his life, “Job stood up, tore his robe in grief, and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped”(Job 1:20 GW).

Job expressed his pain to God. When you have a major loss in your life, the first thing you need to do is tell God exactly how you feel.

This may surprise you, but God can handle your anger and frustration. He can handle your emotions. Why? Because he gave them to you. You were made in the image of God, and he is an emotional God.

When your 2-year-old has a temper tantrum and beats on your knees, you can handle that. In the same way, God is bigger than your emotion, and it’s okay to tell him exactly how you feel. When you prayed for a promotion but it didn’t happen, when a loved one walks out of your life, when you get the dreaded call saying, “It’s cancer,” you can tell God, “I’m mad. I’m upset. I’m sick. I’m frustrated. I’m ticked off. I doubt.” God can handle your complaints, your questions, your fear, and your grief. God’s love for you is bigger than all of your emotions.

My kids know I love them. They know that I’ve been on this planet longer than they have and that I’ve had more experience than they have. But my children sometimes question my judgment. Can you believe that?

I’d rather have an honest, gut-level conversation with them than have them stuff their frustration and disappointment inside. God is the same way! He would rather have you wrestle with him in anger than walk away in detached apathy.

The right response to unexplained tragedy is not “grin and bear it.” Lamentations 2:19a says, “Get up, cry out in the night, even as the night begins. Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (NCV).

Divine Words for Desperate Parents

SOURCE:  Nancy Guthrie/The Gospel Coalition

I’m not exactly sure how it happens, but almost as soon as we visit the doctor to confirm we’re pregnant we start getting coupons for formula and diapers and magazines that include all kinds of articles about how to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. All of these “five steps to . . .” and “ten ways to get your child to . . . ” articles can fool us into thinking if we try hard enough and do everything right, our child will become and do what we want.

But anyone who’s been a parent for long knows parenting requires a lot more than simply following the right steps to success. To raise a child toward godliness, we need much more than the good advice parenting experts have to offer. We need what only the Scriptures have to offer.

We need the commands and expectations of Scripture to keep us from complacency, and the grace and mercy of Scripture to save us from guilt. We need Scripture to puncture the pride that rises up in us when our child is doing well and we’re tempted to take the credit. And we need Scripture to save us from the despair that threatens to sink us when our child is floundering and we’re tempted to take all the blame.

While we have influence and responsibility, we don’t have control over our child. We can teach our child the Scriptures, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit in our child’s life. We can confront sinful patterns that need to change, but we can’t generate spiritual life that leads to lasting change. Only the Spirit can do that.

What we can do is pray for and parent our child the best we know how. We can keep trusting God to do what we cannot.

But how or what do we pray? The Scriptures help us with that, too. In particular the Psalms—divine words God has given us to talk and sing to him—provide us with not only wisdom and perspective for parenting, but also with words for prayer.

In His Grip, Not Ours

From the time they’re newborns, we’re concerned about our children’s progress. We want to know what we can do—what we can feed them, what we can teach them, how we can train them—to keep them moving toward a bright future.

During the school years, our parental fear or confidence rises and falls on how well our children are progressing in school and sports, as well as physically and socially. As they emerge into young adulthood, we can’t help but set mental timelines for them to finish their education, find a mate, and establish a career. And all along the way, we often think and act and feel as if it’s up to us and our children to chart out a path for their lives—and to make it happen.

But King David knew otherwise. He recognized he wasn’t ultimately in control of where he came from or where he was headed. Nor did he want to be.

I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. (Ps. 31:14–15)

Our child’s future is not in our hands. It’s not under our control. It’s not in their hands either; it’s in God’s.

Meditating on Psalm 31 helps us to pray: Lord, I find myself obsessing over many aspects of who my child will be and what he will do. But I know my child’s future is not in my hands. And deep down I don’t want it to be. The safest place to be—the place of favor and blessing—is in your hands.

In His Strength, Not Ours

As parents we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. We’re well aware of our deficiencies and our hypocrisies. We’re determined not to raise our own children in some of the ways we were raised, yet we instinctively repeat similar patterns. We want to listen, but we’re distracted. We want to play, but we have so much work to do. We want to engage helpfully, but so much of what we throw out there doesn’t seem to stick. Even our most brilliant efforts at parenting don’t always work well.

In Psalm 103 we find good news for those of us who have failed our child, good news for those of us who have been angry, impatient, or cold.

The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust. (Ps. 103:13–14)

We have a Father who is tender and compassionate toward us. He’s not pointing fingers or putting us on trial. He is mindful of our limitations and frustrations. He knows how weak we are in faith, in discipline, in consistency, in wisdom, and in relational skills. He remembers we are dust, doing the best we can in a world we don’t control to raise kids we don’t ultimately control. We have a Father who works in and through our weaknesses to put his own power and strength on display.

Meditating on Psalm 103 helps us to pray: Father, we need your tenderness to release us from our regrets, and we need your compassion to assure us of your long-term commitment to see us through all the seasons and struggles of parenting.

By His Voice, Not Ours

When we read Psalm 29, we get the sense that David is looking up at the sky, watching the progress of a storm sweeping over Israel. But he’s not just watching it. He’s hearing what the Lord is saying to him through it.

The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders.
The LORD thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. (Ps. 29:3–5)

The Lord’s voice is shattering. The same voice that splits the mighty cedars of Lebanon can cut through any resistance our children have toward God.

The Lord’s voice is striking. It can speak to our children like a gentle rain of gradual understanding or like a lightning strike of life-changing insight.

The Lord’s voice is shaking. It can jolt our children out of their apathy and comfort.

The Lord’s voice is stripping. Just as it leaves the forest bare, it can peel away negative attitudes and arguments from our children’s hearts and minds.

Meditating on Psalm 29 helps us to pray: Lord, we long for our child to hear you speaking. Won’t you sweep down over our home in the way David saw you sweeping through Israel? Come and let your mighty, majestic voice be heard.

In His Timing, Not Ours

How hard it can be to wait on God. When we’ve prayed for months or years and see no visible signs of change, no tangible evidence of God at work, we can begin to lose hope. We wonder not only if heaven is closed to us, but if there’s really anyone there, listening and able to act.

I am sick at heart. How long, O LORD, until you restore me? (Ps. 6:3)

When we’re sick at heart over the direction of or difficulty in our child’s life, we can be sure God will restore us to a healthy confidence that he is at work. When we’re worn out from sobbing over the pain in our child’s life, we can be sure the Lord has heard our weeping. He has heard our pleas and will answer. It may not be today or tomorrow. In fact, God may not accomplish all the healing and restoration we long for in this lifetime. But we can be sure the day will come when his work in our lives and in the lives of our children will be brought to completion. And in light of eternity, it won’t seem it took very long at all.

Meditating on Psalm 6 helps us to pray: Lord, I am impatient for you to accomplish all you intend in my child’s life. But I am not hopeless. Even when I don’t see you working, I will trust you are. Even when it seems it’s taking too long, I trust you to accomplish all you intend to accomplish, and I have faith you will complete it on time.

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Adapted from Nancy Guthrie’s The One Year Book of Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids.

PRAYERS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE A STRESSFUL WEEK

SOURCE:  Nicholas Hemming

Call out to God for peace and rest

After pulling into your driveway and gathering your belongings, you realize you lack the energy you need to stand up, walk to your front door and get on with your evening. So you drop your head on your steering wheel, hoping a 30-second nap will cure your ills. It doesn’t. Fifteen minutes later, you’re still in the car, wondering how your week spiraled out of control so quickly.

In the midst of your chaos—overwhelming work responsibilities, repairs to your house and car, logistics for your family—you’ve lost all sense of reason. That’s why you’re napping in the car. But what else can you do? You’re tired, frustrated, stressed and in desperate need of a vacation.

Does this sound familiar?

Maybe your family commitments recently ramped up and you’re struggling to stay afloat. Between keeping your house tidy, cooking at least two meals per day and driving your kids to and from soccer practice, you barely have enough energy to get to your office—let alone accomplish anything on your to-do list.

Or maybe you’ve endured a week when you haven’t seen eye to eye with anyone. You’ve argued with your boss, burned bridges with close friends and constantly fought with your spouse. You keep wondering if you’ve run into a stretch of bad luck or if you’ve simply felt more combative lately. Either way, you’re angry, exhausted and ready for the week to end.

In these moments, when you can’t seem to overcome your stress, you can turn to God’s Word for peace. And you can call out go God for rest. These four prayers will get you started:

Lord, I’m exhausted. Help me to find rest in you.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28 (GNTD)

Lord, I’m frustrated. I so badly want to take a break, but I feel trapped by all my responsibilities. Give me your joy today.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (GNTD)

Lord, I know I’ve wronged my friends and family during this stressful week. Help me to approach them with humility.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.Ephesians 4:2 (GNTD)

Lord, I constantly feel unsettled. I need your peace today.

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”John 14:27 (GNTD)

PRAYERS TO HELP YOU ENDURE A MISERABLE JOB

SOURCE:  Nicholas Hemming

When you’re about to lose it at work, call out to God for peace and hope.

With a yawn and a sigh, you grab your lunch, saunter out your front door and casually climb into your car. After years of enduring a miserable job, you’ve grown accustomed to dragging your feet. Why should you hurry?

When you arrive at your desk, you know exactly how the day will unfold. Your boss will walk by and ignore your existence. You’ll have at least two angry emails waiting for you. And your co-workers will give you a half-hearted grumble when you greet them. That’s just how things go in your workplace. And that’s why you drag your feet every morning.

Do you feel miserable at work?

Whether you can’t stand your daily responsibilities, work for a difficult boss or feel overworked and underpaid, the process of surviving a challenging job can feel suffocating. You’d love to start applying for new jobs. But the whole process—updating your resume, interviewing, trying to figure out if you want to relocate, starting over with a new boss—overwhelms you. So where can you turn?

In these moments, you can call out to God for peace and hope. And you can open your Bible and meditate on reminders of God’s presence with you. These three prayers will get you started:

Lord, I’m losing patience with my boss, my co-workers and my entire company. Fill me with your peace today.

You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.Isaiah 26:3 (GNTD)

Lord, I feel trapped in this place. When I’m here, I constantly feel agitated and annoyed. Fill me with your joy today.

Light shines on the righteous, and gladness on the good. All you that are righteous be glad because of what the Lord has done! Remember what the holy God has done, and give thanks to him.Psalm 97:11-12 (GNTD)

Lord, I need a job that better suits me. Fill me with your hope today.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (GNTD)

(Should I Pray) Whatever It Takes, Lord?

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

Whatever It Takes, Lord

We want to be people who love Jesus with all our heart, who trust him fully, follow him faithfully, and bear maximum fruit for his name. We want to be filled with as much God as we can possibly hold (Ephesians 3:19). We don’t want to be lukewarm (Revelation 3:16), or waste our brief life here on earth (Ephesians 5:16).

So let’s lace our prayers with whatever it takes requests.

The Safest Prayer

Over the years, many people have told me they fear praying “whatever it takes” because God just might actually answer. And if he does, he might make them do hard things or go to hard places where they might suffer. He might take away people and things they love. He might make them miserable.

Praying whatever it takes feels dangerous.

I understand this fear. I used to feel it, too. We look at what some saints endured and we think, “No thanks.” But if we read Hebrews 11, we find that saints who seemed to pay a significant cost to fully follow God were not holy stoics who chose obedience over joy, but holy hedonists who, like Jesus, chose costly obedience for the sake of their joy (Hebrews 12:2). They considered any hardship they endured worth the cost because the joy of their reward was so great (Hebrews 11:26).

After years of praying whatever it takes, I can tell you my former fears were misplaced. I used to fear the wrong thing. It isn’t dangerous to pray this way; it’s dangerous not to pray this way.

Whatever it takes praying is a means to experiencing inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8), not misery. I’ve learned that choosing not to ask God to do whatever it takes out of fear I might lose something is like declining Thanksgiving dinner because I fear giving up my bag of Cheetos.

We are never safer than when we are in Jesus’s hands (John 10:28). And the safest way we can pray is to ask God to do whatever it takes for Jesus’s joy to be in us and for our joy to be full (John 15:11).

God Only Wants to Give You Good Gifts

I don’t want to mislead you. God’s answers to my prayers have resulted in some of the most difficult experiences of my life. But hear me: I would not trade any of those experiences for the world. They’ve only encouraged me to pray all the more because of the joy-infused hope I’ve tasted through them (Romans 5:2).

It is true that God frequently answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect. But he only does this for our joy. God is always pursuing us with goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6). Listen to how Jesus describes the Father’s disposition toward us when he encourages us to pray:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

The Father has no desire at all to give us misery when we ask for joy (Matthew 7:9–10).

Don’t Be Afraid to Pray, “Whatever It Takes, Lord”

So don’t be afraid to pray, “Whatever it takes, Lord.”

All we are doing is asking our Father for what will make us and others most happy (Luke 11:13;Matthew 13:44; Ephesians 1:17–18; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 4:3). This will not endanger our joy, but result in more of it (John 15:11; Psalm 16:11).

Any suspicion we have that God will make us miserable in answer to our earnest prayers for more of him is a demonic deception. Satan is casting a lying light on Scripture and our experience, playing on our fears, so that he can cheat us out of the joy God wants to give us. We must not let our unbelieving fears determine the nature of our prayers.

That’s why it’s actually more dangerous not to pray such prayers. We live in a cosmic war zone, opposed by spiritual forces of evil far beyond our strength (Ephesians 6:12). We really need God to do whatever it takes to defeat them. And he chooses to do so often through our prayers (Romans 15:18;Philippians 1:19).

So let’s boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), and ask for as much of it as we can get, whatever it takes. For it is asking the One we love most to give us what we need most that will make us most happy. We should not fear, for there is no safer prayer.

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Doing “Honest Business” With God

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

The First Step to a Clear Conscience

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT, second edition).

The first step on the path to a clear conscience is to take a personal moral inventory or a personal spiritual assessment.

You need to sit down with God in a quiet space by yourself when you’re unhurried and say, “God, I’m going to do business with you. I’m going to make a list of anything that’s between you and me that’s wrong in my life. Help me to see the things that I know are wrong and the things that I don’t know are wrong.” Ask God to clear your mind and reveal your sins.

You can pray Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT, second edition). You’re saying, “God, turn your spotlight on my inner self. Find the stuff in me that’s entangled me and that’s holding me back.”

It’s important to take your time. Don’t rush it! Don’t say, “God, I’ve got five minutes for you to reveal every sin I’ve ever done.” Take your time. Write it all down.

Why is it important to write it down? Writing makes it specific. Thoughts disentangle themselves through the lips and the fingertips. You speak it, and you write it. If you haven’t written it down, you haven’t really thought about it.

Let me ask you a very important question. How serious are you about wanting God’s blessing on your life? Enough that you’re willing to be gut-level honest? Are you willing to be honest with God? Are you willing to be honest with yourself? Are you willing to be honest with other people? Or are you just going to live in denial? Denial and God’s blessing do not go hand-in-hand.

If you’re serious, then you’re just a step away from liberation! You are one step away from a feeling of joy and purity that you’ve never experienced. You are so close to freedom from the habits and hurts and hang-ups that are messing up your life.

Don’t procrastinate. There is nothing more important in your life than to have the blessing of God. Take time today, get alone by yourself, and do a personal spiritual assessment. It will change your life!

10 Prayers for Great Parenting

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord,

Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations.

Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion.

Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes.

Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly.

Grant me teachable moments and prompt me to use them to impart uncompromising truth into their life.

Allow me to see my children as the individuals you created them to be and help me encourage them to thrive in your purpose for their life.

Let them see our home as a safe, fun, welcoming environment.

Continually remind me time paces quickly and to embrace and enjoy each season.

Keep building my character so my children have a model to follow.

Above all – let my children know and experience unconditional love.

In Jesus name,

Amen

Praying for a Breakthrough

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.

But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.

This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.

Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces

This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).

But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means except that these forces are very strong.

Daniel’s Example

Daniel 10:12–14 gives us a brief glimpse of what’s happening. Daniel had been praying and partially fasting for 21 days to gain greater insight into the revelations he had received (Daniel 10:3) when an angelic being finally showed up with an answer to his prayers. This messenger said that he had been trying to get to Daniel for those 21 days, but had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The chief angel Michael had to come and free him.

This experience of Daniel is an example to us. It’s not a formula that can simply be boiled down to pray and fast for 21 days and Michael will come help you overcome cosmic forces. But it is an example of what is taking place outside of our sight. God does not want us to know more about the angelic realm than what he has revealed in Scripture, otherwise Scripture would have revealed more. But he clearly wants us to know that there is more going on than we see so that we will pray to him and fast until he gives us an answer.

When God Moves, Satan Responds

The consistent pattern throughout the Bible is that every significant move of God is preceded by a season of increasingly difficult, discouraging opposition. And if we take Ephesians 6, Daniel 10, and other warfare texts seriously, we can understand why: God is invading what Satan considers his territory. God’s kingdom is breaking through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).

If we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking a strategic location. But if we are, we are on to something. Where the enemy is fortifying his forces is where we must focus our assault.

And where the enemy is fortified, there is going to be a fierce fight if we are going to achieve a breakthrough. We are going to receive volleys of flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). We are going to be attacked on the rear. There will be spies in the camp. There will be jeering and intimidation and accusations. There will be efforts to destroy our morale and determination.

A Call for Breakthrough Determination

So this is a call for holy determination. Keep praying and don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Just like in any large-scale war, there are many battles. Some breakthroughs are achieved relatively quickly; others require long, persevering endurance. But either way, breakthroughs require a determination to keep up the assault.

Usually breakthroughs are not achieved by prayer alone — there are works to be done and courage to be exercised. But real spiritual breakthroughs are not achieved at all without prayer. Concentrated, specific, persistent, prevailing prayer, often engaged in by two or more (Matthew 18:19), is needed to weaken our spiritual opposition. And fasting is a wonderful help. “Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan” (A Hunger for God).

So if you’re praying for a breakthrough and not seeing it, and in fact experiencing more temptations to discouragement, frustration, weariness, doubt, and cynicism than before, do not give up. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily. You’re up against more than you know. But “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and he will give you justice (Luke 18:8).

Don’t lose heart. Grow determined. There’s a breakthrough ahead.

Change The Way You Pray

SOURCE:  Paul Tripp

At some point in our life, we had to memorize The Lord’s Prayer, but just in case you need a refresher, here’s the first half again: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

As historic as these words have been for the church, I’m afraid that they have simultaneously become some of the most clichéd words in the Christian faith. In this case, I think we have memorized one of God’s most important commands without actually understanding what he’s telling us to do.

Remember, Jesus says to his disciples, “Pray then like this” before delivering these lines. So what is Jesus telling us to do? Change the way we pray, and pray for God to glorify himself.

I know for myself – and I know I’m not alone – that so much of my prayer has nothing to do with the glory of God. Regrettably, in much of our prayer, we’re actually asking God to endorse our pursuit of self-focused little glories. But we phrase it in a way to make it sound not so selfish:

  • “God, give me wisdom at work … (so I can make more money and acquire more power)”
  • “God, alleviate my financial woes … (so I have more money to spend on the pleasure and possessions that will make me happy)”
  • “God, help my child to be more respectful … (so that my evenings will be more peaceful so I can get the things done that I want to get done)”
  • “God, work in the heart of my spouse … (so I can finally experience the marriage of my dreams)”
  • “God, give me a better relationship with my neighbor … (so he will like me enough to make his dog quit trampling on my flower beds)”
  • “God, please heal my body … (so that I can do the physical things I love to do)”

We need to change the way we pray.

The first thing we should do in prayer is to ask God to glorify himself, or love himself, more than anything else.

But doesn’t that seem selfish and narcissistic of God? I thought he was generous, selfless, and loved the world so much. These are all very good questions, and worthy of answers.

First, don’t evaluate the character of God as you would a human being. God is not a man and cannot be judged by the same standards he has set for human beings. For a human to be obsessed by his own glory would be a horrendous spirit of pride and self-aggrandizement. But not so with God. God is a being of a different kind, in a position unparalleled in the universe.

Second, if God were to deny his own glory, he would cease to be God. To be God, he must be above and beyond every created thing. Willingness to subjugate himself to anything other than himself would cause him to no longer be Lord over all.

Third, God’s zeal for himself is the hope of the universe. If God would forsake his glory (and therefore, his glorious purposes), all of his promises would have less value than the paper on which they were printed, and the hopes for the salvation of every sinner would be dashed.

Finally, by calling us to pray for God to glorify himself, Jesus frees us from our self-destructive addiction to self-glory and the endless catalog of false glories that comes with it. God’s unshakable commitment to his own glory is the most loving thing he could ever do for us. It’s what redeems us from us and breaks our bondage to all the things in life that we wrongly think will give us life but lead only to emptiness and ultimately death.

I hope this helps you to change the way you pray!

That Which Is Unseen Is REAL !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

Daring Faith

The Unseen Battle Over Your Prayers

“We are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.” (Ephesians 6:12 TEV)

There is an unseen battle going on in a realm that we don’t even understand. We don’t see it. We don’t feel it. But there is a spiritual war in other dimensions between good and evil, between God and Satan, between angels and demons.

And the fact is, you’re caught right in the middle. If you’re a child of God, Satan hates you. And he wants to mess you up.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:12, “We are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age” (TEV).

When you send up a prayer, there’s often a battle over how it’s going to be answered. While you’re in the waiting room, Satan starts throwing darts at you — the dart of doubt, the dart of discouragement, the dart of disappointment, the dart of delay, the dart of depression. The Bible says to be aware that he’s going to try to get you down.

The truth is, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about the spiritual warfare that’s going on behind your prayers. But we do get a glimpse of it in the book of Daniel.

Daniel had a vision of an angel, who said, “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. The [evil] angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13).

Are those the wildest verses you’ve ever seen? It says that Daniel had a prayer that wasn’t answered for a while, and he was starting to get discouraged. The angel showed up and said, “I’m here to give you the answer. We heard it from day one, but we’ve been in a battle over this, and it was such an intense battle that Michael the archangel had to come down and help me with this battle so I could come and tell you that the answer is on its way.”

The same thing is sometimes happening when you are waiting on your answer from God. You can’t know what kind of intense battle is going on over your prayer, but you can remember this: A delay is not a denial. When an answer to prayer is delayed, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be answered. It just means God is fighting for you.

Don’t be discouraged. Keep praying!

 

What Does It Mean to ‘Hear From God’?

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.comJade Mazarin

Hearing God speak to us is like an art. Much to our frequent frustrations, it’s not as easy as hearing the audible words of a friend or mentor.

We don’t always get clear direction from God. Often, we’re called to just move forward trusting Him, even if we don’t know exactly what He’s pointing us toward. After all, God is more concerned about who we are becoming than exactly what we’re doing, so we often hear His voice in moments of conviction or assurance rather than instruction. Sometimes, we just need to hear what’s true—about ourselves or about a given situation—to obtain the comfort and freedom we desperately need.

In Jeremiah 33, God tells us “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jesus also says that we live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is why we long for it so much, and why it’s so worthy of our pursuit.

But how do we maneuver this task of hearing from God, especially when we’re already asking and not getting anything back? Here are some strategies that, depending on the situation, may be useful to you.

Take Time to Really Focus

We all have those moments when we pray a sentence or two while we’re going through the day. Those are great, because they reflect our belief that God is with us at all times. But, especially when we really feel we need guidance, it’s important to also take some time out of our day to really focus solely on that prayer.

Sometimes, we need to take a break from constant petitioning, just start praising and see what happens.

That may go without saying, but I find that we don’t always put forth the effort. It’s easier to speak a few pleading sentences than to really sit or kneel, and devote your time—and total mental energy—to only that petition.

Often, this means laying aside the things that are worrying us and giving our minds a break so we can be open to whatever God might have to say.

David gives us an example of this in Psalm 40: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.”

Ask Him to Help You Hear

I don’t only ask God to speak to me. I also ask Him to enable me to hear. God’s messages are often quieter than the audible noise we are accustomed to. They require sensitivity to pick up on. They also require openness.

Sometimes, part of us doesn’t want to hear the message. Likewise, we may not expect Him to speak in a certain way or even through a certain person, so we might not recognize it when He does. The Holy Spirit, however, can help you notice and be receptive to His words—which are always those we need, even if we don’t know it—if we invite Him to do so.

Unite with God Through Praise

Praise is a special route we can take into the presence of God. It connects us with His spirit, allowing us to see beyond our circumstances. In this place, things become quieter, and we are opened to His peace. Even if we don’t yet hear something specific, we will at least leave that time with more comfort, and more readiness to receive.

Sometimes, we need to take a break from constant petitioning, just start praising and see what happens.

Recognize the Purpose of Silence

It can be so frustrating to us when we don’t hear from God. But if we’re encountering silence, there may be a reason for it. It’s not that we’re unworthy, or that God doesn’t care or isn’t able. The purpose for silence, rather, may be the infinitely more precious thing of our development. There are times when God is simply more concerned about our inner growth than what we do with one decision (even if that decision feels huge at the time).

Ask God to Influence It All

When I continue to be unsure how to proceed, I often ask God to influence every circumstance. I like to ask God to carry me as a current carries a boat—I know He already is, but it is to remind myself. I love the image of Him directing me, without me having to figure things out or rely on myself. It allows me to rest and know everything will work out. These prayers come with the faith that God is greater than anyone or anything, and He knows how to accomplish His will in our lives.

As Philippians 2 tells us, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Discern if It’s His Voice

A common concern when people think they heard from God, is whether the message is just from their own thoughts. If you’re wrestling with this question, consider these things:

Are you likely to think this type of thought? If it’s more freeing and kind, or more insightful than something you usually come up with, it could be God. Ask yourself if it reflects the nature of God. Be aware of how it makes you feel—peaceful and loved, or confused and condemned? If it’s an instruction, see if the thought continues—does it stick with you through the next several days and months?

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63).

Putting It All Into Practice

Many of us seek a formula for how to hear from God. Do this and get that result. But that’s not the way God works. There is a healthy place of seeking God from our hearts, while being open to His leading.

Ideally, our seeking should flow from a living relationship with God. It is purposed not to reach certain outcomes, but as a reflection and development of a close communion; a relationship of love.

Scripture says the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray. Our main task, I believe, is to rest in the present moment, seek Him with genuineness, and know that He is working for and through us, each step of the way.

Go Ahead and COMPLAIN to God (but don’t GRUMBLE)

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

How to Complain Without Grumbling

When we complain, it is frequently evil. But complaining is not necessarily evil. There’s a faithful (believing) way to complain and a faithless (unbelieving) way to complain.

The Bible often refers to faithless complaining as grumbling and warns us not to do that (Numbers 14:26–30; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14; James 5:9). Grumbling complaints directly or indirectly declare that God is not sufficiently good, faithful, loving, wise, powerful, or competent. Otherwise, he would treat us better or run the universe more effectively. Faithless complaining is sinful because it accuses God of doing wrong.

But faithful complaining does not impugn God with wrong. Rather, it is an honest, groaning expression of what it’s like to experience the trouble, anguish, and grief of living in this fallen, futile world (Romans 8:20–23). God does not mind this kind of complaining. In fact, he encourages it — and teaches us how to do it in the Bible.

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. (Psalm 142:1–2)

How God Wants Us to Complain

Most of these biblical and righteous complaints are contained in what we call the psalms of lament. The Book of Psalms contains the prayers and hymns that God chose to teach us how to express ourselves to him in worship. About one-third of these psalms are laments. And they are precious gifts from God.

In these laments, the writers pour out to God their sorrow (Psalm 137), anger (Psalm 140), fear (Psalm 69), longing (Psalm 85), confusion (Psalm 102), desolation (Psalm 22), repentance (Psalm 51), disappointment (Psalm 74), and depression (Psalm 88), either because of external evil or internal evil or darkness.

These psalms are expressions of God’s profound and deep compassion for us (James 5:11). He knows that we frequently will experience bewildering pain and therefore will frequently need to express our pain to him.

God wants us to pour out our complaints to him and tell him our troubles (Psalm 142:2). He wants us to do it privately, like David did when he wrote Psalm 142 in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22). And he wants us to do it corporately, as when the people of Israel would sing Psalm 142 together.

He wants us to tell him exactly what it feels like, as when David exclaimed, “no one cares for my soul” (Psalm 142:4). And he wants us to remember that despite how things look and feel right now, because of his very great promises (2 Peter 1:4), someday these troubles will no longer afflict us, as when David expressed his hope: “You will deal bountifully with me” (Psalm 142:7).

The psalms of lament are treasures for the saints. They give inspired voice to our troubled souls. They model for us how to complain to God in a way that honors him. And they are themselves expressions of God’s merciful care for us, because in them we see that we are not as alone as we feel, and that God indeed does understand.

And if we have ears to hear, these psalms will also guard us from expecting too much in this age. God does not always intend his saints to experience prosperity. Rather, the psalms of lament remind us of the truth of Jesus’s statement, “In the world you will have tribulation,” and point us to our great hope: “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So go ahead and complain to God, but don’t grumble. Learn from the lamenting psalmists how to be a faithful complainer.

A PRAYER FOR BROKEN HEARTS, CRUSHED SPIRITS, AND WEARY FRIENDS

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Ps. 34:18

     Dear Lord Jesus, there’s no Savior like you—none so merciful and kind, present and loving. The brokenhearted don’t need to “buck up” and be brave when they see you coming. The crushed in spirit don’t need to pull themselves together, as though you would be greatly disappointed to find us less than conquerors.

     We praise you that the gospel frees us from posing and pretending, spinning and hyping. Jesus, you have no need for us to be anything other than we actually are. You are nearer than the next breath to those who are in need of fresh grace. That’s why we bring a wide array of weary friends, including ourselves, to you today.

     Jesus, we pray for friends struggling with dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings. Whether the dream was for a loving marriage, emotionally healthy kids, the “good-health gene,” or a longer career, you meet us right where we are, no matter what the disappointment is. Show us how to encourage our friends, without minimizing their pain. May your grace prove to be sufficient, and our friendship helpful, over the long haul.

     Jesus, we pray for weary friends serving on church staffs or in vocational ministry. Many of them wake up today disillusioned, depleted, and despondent. Though all of us are targets of spiritual warfare, those who labor in the gospel bear unique challenges. Show us how to wrestle in prayer for our friends, and to encourage them in practical ways.

     Jesus, keep our betrayed friends from bitterness, our wayward friends from disaster, and our depressed friends from harmful non-solutions.

     Jesus, for those of us who don’t feel crushed in spirit but rather feel disconnected in spirit, help us sort through the issues. Show us what is repent-able and what is repairable; and bring quiet to our noisy hearts so we can hear you speak. Convince us, yet again, that we need your presence much, much more than we need circumstances and people to change.

     Jesus, today and every day, we declare that our hope is built on nothing else, nothing less, and nothing more, than you and your finished work on our behalf. So very Amen we pray, in your near and compassionate name.

How To Ask For Help

SOURCE:  adapted from Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch

Asking for Help Is Hard

Asking people for help makes calling out to the Lord seem easy by comparison. The Lord already knows we are weak and needy, but other people? That is a different story. They may not know, and we desperately want to appear competent before them. Even though spiritual neediness is one of the most attractive acts of a human being, we have our own views of strength, honor, and what is most becoming, and pleas for help are not on that list.

But it really should be simple.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25; also 1 Cor. 1:10–11; Eph. 6:19–20; Col. 4:3). Apparently, he was no longer embarrassed by his weakness and need. Paul was thoroughly schooled in rejection and humiliation. He was once a noted up-and-coming Pharisee, and then—he became nothing. He was nothing before his Hebrew kin, and he was of no reputation before many of the churches he founded. Having learned that Jesus made himself of no reputation before others, Paul was unconcerned about his own reputation. That is how he was able to ask for prayer.

If we desire to be perceived as competent and in control, we will not ask for prayer. If we know that humans, by nature, are spiritually needy, and God’s plan is that we turn both to him and to other people for help, we will ask for prayer.

How to Ask

Whether we have never asked anyone to pray for us or we do it every day, the goal is to grow both in how often we ask for prayer and how we ask for it.

How often? We want to ask more than we do now.

How to ask? We want to ask for prayer about both circumstances and matters of the heart that sit below the surface, for things seen and things unseen. We take the skills we have learned in personal prayer and ask others to pray with us.

First, we put our burdens into words. Second, we attach words of Scripture that capture both our real needs and God’s purposes and promises. That is, we pray for what we know our Father wants to give us.

Example 1: I’m So Behind

First, the burden: “I have been so tired. I feel like I am always a few steps behind on everything.”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I would rest in Jesus?” The Scripture that shapes this prayer is from Matthew 11:28–30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Example 2: My Daughter Is Sick

First, the burden: “This is so hard. Would you pray for healing for my daughter?”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you also pray for perseverance and that I would be able to fix my eyes on things that are not seen?” (Heb. 6:11 and 4:16–18).

Example 3: I’m Too Impatient

First, the burden: “I have been so impatient with my kids recently. I need help.”

Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I will know Jesus’s unlimited patience toward me so that I will pass that on to my children?” (1 Tim. 1:16). Or, “Would you pray that I will see my anger as my problem and not theirs? I want to see that anger is murder and the problem is that I demand something and am not getting what I demand” (James 4:1–10).

Example 4: I Need a Job

First, the burden: “Would you pray that I will find work?”

Second, we attach Scripture: “And would you pray that I will trust the Lord for manna each day rather than get swamped by my anxieties?” (Matt. 6:28–34).

And sometimes our request for prayer can be very simple and desperate: “I feel undone. Would you pray for me? I don’t feel that I can pray for myself, and I don’t even know what to pray.”

If you have prayed for someone, you know it is a privilege. Other people will feel the same way when you ask them to pray for you. Once we get the knack of asking, we can ask for help for some of our other burdens in life, such as looking for a job or cleaning up an apartment. We can even let people know our financial needs.

Recognize Help When It Comes

Once we’ve prayed and asked others to pray for us, all that’s left is to keep watch. We assume “that if we pray according to God’s promises, we will see him on the move. So we wait expectantly, and then we acknowledge his work when it comes.

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Edward T. Welch (PhD, University of Utah) is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation.

“Jesus can understand you”

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“If any reader of this paper desires salvation, and wants to know what to do, I advise him to go this very day to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first private place he can find, and entreat Him in prayer to save his soul.

Tell Him that you have heard that He receives sinners, and has said, ‘Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37.)

Tell Him that you are a poor vile sinner, and that you come to Him on the faith of His own invitation.

Tell Him you put yourself wholly and entirely in His hands,—that you feel vile and helpless, and hopeless in yourself,—and that except He saves you, you have no hope to be saved at all.

Beseech Him to deliver you from the guilt, the power, and the consequences of sin.

Beseech Him to pardon you and wash you in His own blood.

Beseech Him to give you a new heart, and plant the Holy Spirit in your soul.

Beseech Him to give you grace, and faith, and will, and power to be His disciple and servant from this day for ever.

Yes: go this very day, and tell these things to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you really are in earnest about your soul.

Tell Him in your own way and your own words. If a doctor came to see you when sick you could tell him where you felt pain. If your soul really feels its disease you can surely find something to tell Christ.

Doubt not His willingness to save you, because you are a sinner. It is Christ’s office to save sinners. He says Himself, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (Luke 5:32.)

Wait not, because you feel unworthy. Wait for nothing: wait for nobody. Waiting comes from the devil.

Just as you are, go to Christ. The worse you are, the more need you have to apply to Him. You will never mend yourself by staying away.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.

Just as a mother understands the first babblings of her infant, so does the blessed Saviour understand sinners. He can read a sigh, and see a meaning in a groan.

Despair not, because you do not get an answer immediately. While you are speaking, Jesus is listening. If He delays an answer, it is only for wise reasons, and to try if you are in earnest.

Pray on, and the answer will surely come. Though it tarry, wait for it: it will surely come at last.

If you have any desire to be saved, remember the advice I have given you this day. Act upon it honestly and heartily, and you shall be saved.”

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–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 85–86.

Aging: Accepting the Changes

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Accepting the Changes that Come with Aging

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isa. 46:4(NIV)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Cor. 4:16 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, a brief conversation with aging friends yesterday reminded me of the inevitable—we’re all getting older.

And with the increase of years, comes changes over which we have little, or no control. Those changes are either going to drive us to you; or to denial, self-absorbing sadness, or foolish ways of medicating our pain and fears. I choose option #1.

Thank you for your promise to sustain us—when our energy is abating; to carry us—when we cannot carry as much as we used to, or even carry ourselves; and to rescue us—when we get entangled in ways of thinking and choosing that contradict your great love for us in Jesus.

Father, thank you for the promise that age doesn’t preclude flourishing and fruitfulness. By your Spirit and grace, keep us ever full of “sap and green”. You are our Rock and righteousness—our stability and standing in grace are inviolate.

Though outwardly we are “wasting away”, we will not lose heart—in fact, we will thrive in heart; for you will bring to completion the good work you began in us. As our eyesight grows dimmer, let us see the beauty of Jesus with increasingly clarity. As our hearing gets fainter, let us hear your voice louder than ever, declaring us to be your beloved children of grace—in whom you delight, and for whom you’ve prepared an eternity beyond anything we can hope or imagine.

So very Amen we gratefully pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

Why Hasn’t God Healed Me?

SOURCE:  DR. LARRY KEEFAUVER/Charisma Magazine

The invitation had just been given for anyone who needed prayer to approach the altar. John came forward, kneeling in silent contemplation–silent except for the tears streaming down his cheeks.

I stood behind the prayer rail and knelt in front of him as he extended his hands to grasp mine. His body trembled as he sobbed. Behind him stood his wife, one hand resting on John’s shoulder and the other raised heavenward as she prayed silently and wept openly.

“I just got back some tests on Friday,” John whispered. “The doctors say I have prostate cancer. Pastor, I don’t know if I have enough faith to go through this. Will you pray for me?”

As I anointed John with oil and prayed with him for healing, my mind pondered the phrase “enough faith.”

For years I have heard preachers imply that faith in some way is quantified. The myths seem to circulate unabated: “If Susan had just had enough faith, she would have been healed,” or “When Bill’s faith gets strong enough, he will be healed,” or “If everyone in this room all believed at the same moment, then all would be healed.”

But is healing really based on your faith alone? What should be your perspective when God doesn’t heal immediately?

If you are to understand why God doesn’t always heal now, you will have to peel away the layers of myth that have been so tantalizing to embrace. You will have to dig deep into the Scripture for yourself instead of consuming the “fast food” of your favorite popular name-it-and-claim-it theologian. And you will have to decide to walk by faith instead of simply mouthing the platitudes of faith that have so easily supplanted God’s Word in your daily confessions.

The truth is, while the lack of faith may hinder healing, healing does not depend on faith. I have witnessed both the faithful and the faithless being healed. And I have seen those of great faith die. In fact, everyone Jesus healed eventually died.

Those around the tomb of Lazarus lacked faith, and certainly Lazarus was in no position to exercise faith–he had been dead four days (see John 11:39-40). Yet Lazarus experienced a wonderful healing: He was resurrected.

A man once said to me after a friend’s funeral: “Life’s greatest enemy is death. She lacked faith. She doubted. So she lost and thus died.” Yet this deceased friend was a believer who had surrendered her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. She lives eternally with Christ in heaven. How silly to suggest that people die because of a lack of faith. Does this mean that people with enough faith will never die? Of course not!

If death were the enemy, why would Paul write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” or “We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:7-8, NKJV). We must avoid the myths of faith and healing and embrace the truth revealed in Scripture.

The Myths of Faith Healing

Some believers focus exclusively on faith as the key to healing. Yet Jesus healed many who apparently had no faith. Some were healed because their friends had faith. Others were bound up by demonic spirits and healed by exorcism, even against their wills.

The truth is that God heals. The myth is that God always heals now at the initiative of our faith.

Faith teacher Frederick K.C. Price has asserted: “The seventh method of receiving healing–[which] I believe is the highest kind of faith–is the highest way to receive healing…If you believe you receive it, you will confess that: ‘Bless God, I believe I am healed. I believe I have received my healing…I believe that it is so. I believe that I can walk in divine health all the days of my life.’ You are reading after one man who will never be sick, and I’m not being presumptuous.”

Myth is mixed here with truth. The highest kind of faith is, “I believe in Jesus,” not just, “I believe.”

It is true that faith must be our initiative. But even our initiative comes through the prompting of the Holy Spirit: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Our faith helps us receive healing, just as the lack of faith hinders healing. But healing does not depend on faith. Healing depends on the Healer.

Healing is the will of God. Canadian evangelist Peter Youngren wrote: “Jesus clearly shows us God’s will in healing…the Word of God declares that ‘great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all’ (Matt. 12:15). When Jesus healed all, He was obviously doing the will of His Father, because He only did that which the Father wanted Him to do.”

Youngren adds: “This is why you can come with boldness asking God for healing. God is on your side. He wants the best for you. He is good.”

So, if God wills all to be healed, then can your faith move His hand to heal you? In the words of the Hertz rental car commercial: “Not exactly!”

Your faith moves Him to save you (see Rom. 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8). And in your salvation is your healing: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'” (Matt. 8:17; Is. 53:4-6).

But your faith does not effect your healing now. When you are healed rests entirely on what the sovereign purposes of the Healer are.

Consider this biblical example. In John 5 Jesus healed one paralytic at the pool of Bethesda though a multitude thronged that place daily to be healed. Why was one man healed at that moment while others were not?

John 5:19 gives the answer when Jesus confessed, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.'”

Bible scholar Jack Deere correctly observes that the initiative for the miraculous in Jesus’ ministry did not begin with Him but with the Father. “He healed only the people He saw His Father healing,” Deere writes. “The only firm reason for the healing of the paralytic that we can derive from the context of John 5 is that the Father willed it, and Jesus executed His Father’s will…We are ultimately faced with the conclusion that sometimes the Lord works miracles for His own sovereign purposes without giving any explanation for His actions to His followers.”

The second myth about healing is that if you stand fast in faith, you will be physically healed in time and space. Ken and Gloria Copeland have declared that healing will come if we have faith in our hearts and God’s Word in our mouths. But, they add: “It may take time for it to manifest in your body. So stand fast in faith, giving thanks to God until it does. Focus on God’s Word, not on physical symptoms.”

In what do we “stand fast”? The “rock” on which we stand isn’t faith or healing but Christ alone–the Healer. In Hebrews 10:23 we are admonished to hold fast to the profession of our faith. But in what is our profession of faith? Certainly, it is not in faith or in healing.

Be careful that your faith is not in faith itself–or, worse yet, in a faith teacher! Just believing hard enough, long enough or strong enough will not strengthen you or prompt your healing. Doing mental gymnastics to “hold on to your miracle” will not cause your healing to manifest now.

So what is faith? It is more than believing in your heart that God heals. The truth is that God is the God who heals. Faith is trusting the God who heals. Faith is a radical, absolute surrender to the God who heals. Faith is not holding on for your healing but holding on to the God who can do the impossible.

The truth is that your healing may manifest in eternity, not in time. If your trust is in God who heals, then when He heals you is secondary to belonging to the Healer. Certainly you will thank Him if He heals you today. But if your healing comes beyond death in eternity, will you praise Him now for that?

Paul did just that: “‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:55-58).

The third myth about healing is that if you just confess your healing, you will be healed right now. But you should confess the Healer, not your healing.

In his best-selling book, The Bible Cure, Dr. Reginald B. Cherry encourages us to “speak to the mountain” of our illness when we pray. That is important in prayer. But praying it and saying it won’t make physical healing manifest now.

Positive confession does not effect healing. If that were true, anyone who believes in mind-over-matter mental exercises could heal people. Only Jesus heals.

Our confession should be in Him, not in being healed now. Jesus sternly warned: “‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven'” (Matt. 10:32-33).

It’s time we throw out the lies that cloud the truth about faith and healing. It’s time we embrace the scriptural truths that shatter shallow myths and bring us freedom to confidently trust God.

Freedom in the Truth

When God doesn’t heal now, you can apply essential truths about faith and healing that are anchored in Scripture. I’ve identified four key actions we should take when we face a serious illness:

1. Have others join their faith to yours in bringing your infirmity to Jesus. “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40; Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; 2:3-12).

Don’t try to face sickness alone. An essential key to healing in the New Testament is the power of corporate faith and praying in agreement with others (see Matt. 18:19-20). When you gather with others to pray, the presence of Christ dwells in your midst. Because He is the Great Physician, with His presence comes healing power.

Throughout the healing miracle accounts in the Gospels, we observe that friends brought the sick to Jesus. In Mark 2, a paralytic man was brought by his friends to Jesus. The Syro-Phoenician woman brought her daughter to Jesus (see Matt. 15:22; Mark 7:24-30). A father brought his demonized child to Jesus (see Matt 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42).

Join your faith with others to seek the Great Physician. When sickness has weakened, fatigued and discouraged you, seek out others who will pray in faith.

2. Seek to receive a touch from God. The woman with an issue of blood exercised her faith by going outside and searching for the Healer. She did all she knew to do to reach out through a crowd and touch Jesus (see Matt. 9:20; Mark 5:25-27; Luke 8:43-44).

When you are sick, you might be tempted to isolate yourself from settings in which you can touch and be touched by the presence of Christ. At times, you may not feel like going to worship services. You may feel too weak to sing and praise God. You may be too tired and discouraged to call the elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray in faith for you.

Resist this temptation to stay at home in isolation. Healing flows through the body of Christ. His body is the church. Break out of your loneliness and seek the Healer.

3. Submit yourself to the authority and will of Christ, trusting Him as your Healer. The centurion’s faith in Christ opened a door for his servant to be healed (see Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Likewise, the authority for your healing does not rest in you or your faith. Claiming your healing and speaking the right words do not guarantee your healing now or at any future time. Your faith opens a door for you to receive your healing from Christ.

I prayed with a woman who demanded that God heal her. When I questioned her attitude, she exclaimed, “I have the authority as a child of God to command God to fulfill His promise of healing for me.” She believed a common myth that has been spread by some faith teachers, who believe that we can command God to do our bidding.

Our authority isn’t over Christ but in Christ. We reign with Him in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:4-7). The sons of Sceva presumed to have healing authority but quickly learned that authority rested in the person of Jesus, not simply in the repetitious use of His name (see Acts 19:13-16).

The truth is that all authority for every matter, including healing, rests in Jesus: “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matt. 28:18). From Christ we receive imparted authority to say what He says and to do what He does. Submit to His authority for your healing.

4. Believe on His Word, not someone else’s advice or counsel. Whenever Jesus spoke the Word, people were healed (see Matt. 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7). The psalmist said, “He [the Lord] sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps. 107:20). Listen to the Word of the Lord for your healing. No one else’s word, faith or assurance will do. When God doesn’t heal now, trust His voice and believe His Word.

Proverbs 4:20-22 reads: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”

When God doesn’t heal now, trust His Word–not your circumstances or human advice. God has not abandoned you. He’s not taking a vacation. He is right there by your side as you put your trust in His tender care.

 

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Dr. Larry Keefauver is a former editor of Ministries Today magazine and founder of Your Ministries Counseling Services and PowerHouse Families. He is the author of Lord, I Wish My Teenager Would Talk With Me(Creation House).

Praying in the SPIRIT

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Praying in the Spirit

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Heavenly Father,

How we praise you for the gift of the Holy Spirit—who has marked us as yours and who makes us like Jesus. What comfort, assurance and peace we have in knowing that nothing can separate us from your love; nothing will disconnect us from your will; nothing is left up to chance. You will bring to completion the good work you have begun in us and in your world—and you will do so by the power and presence of your Spirit. For so glorious a gospel, so grand a salvation, and so great a hope, we worship and adore you.

As we lean into this day, we gladly give ourselves to the work of your Spirit in us and through us—in particular, our calling to “pray in the Spirit.” We would surely despair if we had to pray in the smallness of our strength, or on the basis of our godliness, or by the limitations of our perspective.

So Father, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the revealing of your glory, we bring our prayers and requests to you. Do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. Startle us with your faithfulness. Shock us with your goodness. Astonish us by your generosity. We won’t mind being embarrassed by our lack of faith if it will highlight the greatness of your love.

We bring you our children and the children of our friends. Make the gospel beautiful and believable to them, Father. May we neither despair of our failures nor rely on our parenting for their salvation. Capture them and free them for your purposes and praise.

We bring you our churches. Bring renewal, bring restoration of first love, bring deep repentance. Free us from our boring ingrown-ness, our paralyzing pettiness, and our predictable sameness. Stir us up, shake us up, and send us out. Make us like gospel fountains, for our cities and communities.

We bring you our friends. Wounded hearts, broken marriages, strained relationships, depleted finances, destructive addictions, failing health… Holy Spirit, bring your resurrection power to bear. Work miracles in our midst, for the fame of Jesus and the glory of God.

We bring you ourselves. Nobody needs the gospel more than us, more than me, Father. Gentle us, refresh us… let us hear you again, singing over us in Jesus; let us experience your great and transforming delight; quiet our restless hearts with your irrepressible love. So very Amen we pray, in the Spirit and in Jesus’ name.

Be Yourself in Prayer

SOURCE:  Desiring God/Stephen Miller

Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.

I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.

You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.

1. Slow Down and Be Okay with Silence

There is no need to use filler language to take up every ounce of space in prayer, as if the Lord can’t handle the silence or doesn’t have time to listen. You don’t have to speed through like an auctioneer. I can’t imagine how I would react if someone came up to talk to me like, “Stephen Miller, just… just Stephen, we should just go to lunch together, Stephen Miller. Just let’s just go grab… just a burger, Stephen. Stephen, I know you like a good burger from time to time, Stephen Miller. Stephen, just then we could just grab a frozen custard, Stephen Miller.” I know that I am not God, but in my flesh, I might be too weirded out to get a burger with that guy. If we would naturally react to someone talking to us that way, why do we feel the need to speak that way to God? He knows our hearts. Slow down. Be okay with pauses. Perhaps God wants to speak to you in the silence.

2. Pray to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

God is Trinity. One God, three distinct persons, each person fully God. It is truly a great mystery, and I don’t know that we will ever understand it this side of Heaven. Yet each person within the Trinity is distinct. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit. We rightly relate to God as a Trinity, adoring and thanking and pleading with Father, Son, and Spirit in our prayers. Yet while doing this, it can be easy to get confused and begin to thank the Father for dying on the cross and so on and so forth.

While God knows what we mean and sees past our broken prayers, this has got to confuse people who are listening to our prayers, trying to pray along in agreement. When you pray, consider the person of the Trinity to whom you are praying. The Father sends the Son to be the Savior of the world. The Son came obediently, died in our place, rose from the dead, then sent his Spirit to convict of sin, to convince of truth, and to equip and empower us. So as we pray, pray with that in mind.

3. Use Normal Language

My great Grandpa was a firm believer that the only inspired word of Scripture was the King James Version. When he quoted scripture (and he could quote most of the Bible I think), it was always KJV. While he was one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life, it was odd to me when he began to pray out loud, because he prayed in old English. “Our Gracious Heavenly Father, Thou hast bestowed upon us this bountiful feast and the glory belongest to Thou and Thou alone. Wouldst Thou blesseth this meal by Thine own good pleasure…” Then, once he said amen, he would resume speaking in modern language. When you pray, there is no need to speak like someone from a bygone era in order to sound more spiritual or reverent. Use normal language, and pray like yourself.

4. Use Your Normal Voice

We have all heard the hyped-up emotional vocal inflections of a man trying to sell a prayer the way a voice-over actor sells a product. He may talk like Ron Burgundy in real life, but as soon as he begins praying, his voice takes on a reflective Enrique Iglesias whisper that sounds a bit like being on the verge of tears while trying to woo someone into making an emotional decision. We should pray with all of our emotions and affections, but it must be sincere and authentic. If you’re moved, be moved, but be real about it. No need to alter your voice or manufacture emotion. God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.

5. Keep It Short and Simple

Our prayers can be simple and still faith-filled. I often say that God can use a three-minute worship song as much as a nine-minute worship song. The same is true of prayer. God won’t hear us any more because of our long-windedness. Prayer isn’t a love bank where many words equal a more substantive deposit. Our prayers don’t have to be long or eloquent. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them a short prayer that exemplified the vertical (glorifying God) and the horizontal (edifying others) aspects of prayer. When praying with others, aim to build them up with short, thoughtful prayers, and if you feel the need to pray longer, go to God “in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

It’s never too late to be yourself. God is looking for a relationship with us, not whomever it is that we are trying to act like when we come to him. Prayer starts with our adoption in Christ. That’s why Jesus taught us to begin with God as “Our Father.” There is an intimate reverence there — a humble familiarity.

Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.

A PRAYER ABOUT HEALTH CONCERNS AND HEALING

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

     I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD.  Jer. 30:17 (ESV)

     Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.   3 John 2 (NIV)

     Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Tim. 5:23 (NIV)

     We who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 1 Cor. 15:52-53 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father,

My stuffed-up head and slightly sore throat are mere irritants, compared to the health crises many of us face as this day begins. How we long for the Day of no more cancer, no more dementia, no more heart disease, no more respiratory issues, no more Ebola and AIDS, no more disease of any kind—the Day of perfect health.

Thank you for the promise of a resurrection body that will never get sick, wear out, or die. Thank you that our life in the new heaven and new earth will not include visits to the ER, health insurance, medical bills, hospitals, nursing homes, palliative care, or funeral homes. Hasten that Day, Father, hasten it.

Until then, we will pray for healing—thankful that Jesus’ finished work has secured the redemption of our whole being—mind, body, and spirit. Though we’d love for you to answer all of our prayers affirmatively, and on our timetable, we will trust and love you when you grant us sufficient grace instead of instant healing (2 Cor. 12:7-12).

Father, we will also seek to take care of these “tents” in which we live (2 Cor. 5:1-5). Thank you for good food, opportunities for exercise, the gift of sleep, clean water—gifts you’ve given us by grace—gifts you intend us to share with others. Indeed, Father, may our suffering make us more sensitive to the sufferings of others. Even as Jesus joyfully fulfilled the law for us, grant us great joy in fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), as we bear one another’s burdens.

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

Lord, Forgive all, All, A-L-L My Sins

SOURCE:   tollelege

The Valley of Vision — “Pardon all my sins”

Merciful Lord,

Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
all the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of morose, peevish and angry tempers,
of lip, life and walk,
of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,
of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,
of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,
of deficiency in outspoken zeal for His glory,
of bringing dishonour upon Thy great name,
of deception, injustice, untruthfulness in my dealings with others,
of impurity in thought, word and deed,
of covetousness, which is idolatry,
of substance unduly hoarded, improvidently squandered,
not consecrated to the glory of Thee, the great Giver;
sins in private and in the family,
in study and recreation,
in the busy haunts of men,
in the study of thy Word and in the neglect of it,
in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,
in time misspent,
in yielding to Satan’s wiles,
in opening my heart to his temptations,
in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,
in quenching the Holy Spirit;
sins against light and knowledge,
sins against conscience and the restraints of thy Spirit,
sins against the law of eternal love.

Pardon all my sins, known and unknown,
felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed,
remembered or forgotten.
Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.

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–Arthur Bennett, ed., “Sins,” in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1975), 87

 

Jesus’ Compassion For Me Is “ALWAYS”

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Resting in the Current Compassion of Jesus

     And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matt. 9:35-36

Dear Lord Jesus, there are so many reasons to love you—so many reasons to risk being completely honest and vulnerable with you. Today I’m particularly thankful for your compassion.

When you looked at crowds of harassed and helpless people, you didn’t ignore them; you weren’t irritated with them; and your body language never shamed them. Sympathy beat within your breast; kindness overflowed. I praise and bless you, for having this same compassion for each of us today.

You don’t despise our brokenness and my weakness. I believe this; I would believe it even more. Free me from my residual posing and pretending, Lord Jesus. There is no more welcoming place than the gospel. There is no safer haven than your love. There is no greater, richer, more certain acceptance that what we have in you.

If your kindness leads me to repentance, then your compassion leads me to the freedom of vulnerability. So here I am… I wish I could speed up my sanctification, Lord Jesus; I wish I was already over certain things; I wish old wounds still didn’t carry present power; I wish I wasn’t triggered to anger, insecurity and fear by certain people.

I wish I were freer to be in the moment, without concerns for the next thing and the next. I wish I were more spontaneous, relaxed and welcoming of strangers… This really isn’t a “wish list” as much as it’s the cry of my heart for the gospel to do its work in my life, Lord Jesus.

I am so thankful that one-Day we will be as loving and as lovely as you. I am so thankful that the Father will complete the good work he has begun in each of his children. You are the Good Shepherd, and I trust, love and adore you. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and healing name.

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