Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘prayer’

When Anxiety Collides With Faith: Rough Waters Result

SOURCE:  From a blog post by Dr.Laura Hendrickson

Rats! Yesterday I had a chest x-ray, ordered by my doctor to follow-up last month’s pneumonia. Pneumonia in a breast cancer survivor can be the first sign of recurrence in the lung, so it’s important to check it out. I hated waiting for that second x-ray!

My Plan For My Life

I was counting on a negative result, so I could just forget about it, but there’s an anomaly in my right lung, just beneath the place where my breast cancer was. It’s probably nothing, but it could be serious. This means I need a CT scan, which involves waiting to have it and then waiting to be informed of the results.

My plan for my life included crossing the possibility of recurrent cancer off my anxiety list. God’s plan for my life is not yet clear, but it surely includes continuing to challenge me on this issue for a while. I don’t like it!

Amy Carmichael saw the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27 as a metaphor for the conflict between God’s will and our own hopes.

I can’t even get through on the phone to schedule it, which means I don’t even know how long I’ll have to wait. For that matter, more tests may be recommended by the results from this one or, even worse, the dreaded “re-test in six months to see if it’s changed.”

But striking the place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and was immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves (Acts 27:41 NKJV).

Here’s what she said about it:

Where the will of God and the will of the flesh are in conflict there will be rough water, and if the flesh does not yield to the Spirit there must follow the painful breaking up of hopes and expectations, even as the timbers of that ship were broken up by the violence of the waves.

Exactly! I’m experiencing this discomfort because I haven’t let go and trusted God to do the best thing for me. Even though I recently blogged about this, saying that my anxieties are my friends because they drive me to God in prayer, here I am again.

 My Rough Water

I struggled for a while this morning after I got the call from my doctor. I went to the web to see what the anomaly might mean. I begged God to give me the outcome I wanted. I searched his Word for evidence that I’d get what I hoped for.

Finally, I went to an older Bible to look at a note written during an earlier struggle with uncertainty over my health. Instead, I found an old prayer, written many, many years ago.

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all to thee to be thine forever. Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Use me as thou wilt, send me where thou wilt, work out thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.

I prayed this 34 years ago, as a new Christian. God confronted me with it this morning.

Did I really mean it? Do I still?

God’s Peace

I acknowledged that I do, and the peace came. I don’t want to live with anxiety over my health, but God wants me to. This should be enough for me, because I know that he always brings good from the painful things he ordains for my life (Romans 8:28).

I’m sure that the anxiety will come back. As I mentioned the other day, that’s a good thing, because it drives me to prayer.

How about you? Any “rough water” in your life? Have you talked to God about it yet?

ADDICTED? “RE-TIE” TO GOD

SOURCE–Adapted from:  Stepping Stones

Transformational Thought

Tens of millions of people in the U.S. are tormented by compulsive addictions according to the latest statistics regarding substance abuse and compulsive-addictive behaviors. An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself. Our society, in large part, denies the addiction problem. Treatment centers and state hospitals are closing, program funding is being cut, and insurance reimbursement for treatment is decreasing. The walking wounded are, therefore, on their own to get help for themselves and their families.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Major damage caused by drugs also includes the drug environment and the impurities associated with it, namely, secondary infections, especially with illegal drugs. This lifestyle, regardless of the type of addiction, causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word “religion” has gotten? It doesn’t seem to be regarded today as the original word suggests. The root word is “ligio” (Latin) meaning to tie or bind together. For example, in a tubal ligation a woman has her tubes tied. “Re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God, causing perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does the work.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. People have become unbound with God through their addictions. What we give our time, money, and energy to becomes our god. We become like our object of worship. It’s amazing to consider what we pursue to soothe our discomfort, and the dire spiritual consequences we choose to endure for a momentary thrill.

Today, if you have an overt addiction, know that God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore everyone who has been carried away by addictions.

Let Him in. Trust His ways, and not yours.

Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, restoring us to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items first.

Prayer

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the effects of mood-altering chemicals and behaviors that are self-destructive. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful and comforting name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

 

THE TRUTH —–

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

 


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Originally posted in 2011.

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.

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 Talk to God When You are Suffering

SOURCE:  Edward T. Welch/CCEF

“Why is God doing this to me?”

These words signal a spiritual train wreck in process.

Any version of a “why” question, when it is directed to or about the God of the Bible, is terribly risky. Even if it begins as a simple question, it gradually accumulates other questions about God’s character and promises, while it generates false assumptions about ourselves.

“Why (God) would you do this to me? (when I haven’t done anything like this to you.)”

“Why would a good father allow this to happen to his children? (If I were God I wouldn’t allow such things to happen.)”

Questions like these will only lead us away from God.

It’s okay to question God, but how you go about it really matters. Here are two ways to avoid the God-ward accusations and self-righteousness that can so easily become part of the why questions.

Use his Personal Name

First, ask “Why, O Lord?”

When we use his less personal name (God) we can slip in a few complaints and feel okay about it, but speak to the Lord and everything changes. He is your creator and rescuer. You belong to him. He is both your liege and the lover of your soul. Your response is praise, thanks and humble requests.

This kept the psalmists from going off the tracks.

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

Not surprisingly, this psalmist ends with hope and confidence.

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. . . . The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (Psalm 10:14-18)

The Psalms encourage great freedom of expression. We are strongly encouraged by the Lord himself to speak openly from our hearts. The one thing he asks is that we know whom we are speaking with, which is a normal requirement of any conversation. We don’t talk with a child in the same way we talk to an adult. With the knowledge of his mighty acts in mind, the why question can end well.

Ask in Hope

Second, for a change of pace, and as a way to stay in tune with the psalmists’ style, consider another question.

“How long, O Lord?”

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

This is the much more frequent question of psalmists, and for good reason. The true knowledge of God is clear and inescapable. He is the one who will deliver his people. There is no question that he hears and responds. The only question is when our eyes will be open enough to see his mighty hand in action. Hope is built into the question; an optimistic conclusion is guaranteed.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5-6)

“Why, O Lord?” This takes our why questions and adds humility.

“How long, O Lord?” This question considers our suffering and infuses it with hope.

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Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary.

Not Overly Sinful or Self-Righteous –> But A Hybrid of Both

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/Gospel Coalition

A Prayer about a Third Kind of Luke 15 Son–a Hybrid

     And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Dear heavenly Father . . .

Thankfully, I not beginning this day in a far away country, derelict and destitute, like the younger brother in the story of the prodigal son(s). Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not pained with shame for squandering an inheritance; and neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. And, thankfully as well, neither am I an angry, jaded, mean-spirited legalist—who finds pleasure in judging others—even you.

I’m sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping a fresh cup of coffee, surrounded by more than my share of creature comforts. And yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children. I kind of feel like a Luke 15-third-son right now—kind of a hybrid of the two brothers. I’m not struggling with the extremes of either of your boys in Luke 15—though I carry both of their sinful ways in my heart.

I’m not acting out or medicating in destructive “fleshy” ways presently; and I’m not currently defaulting to my inner-Pharisee. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the wonderful music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing this very moment.

So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that I’ll always find you filled with compassion for me—even when my feelings are not fully engaged with you. As I saunter toward you today, you’re always running towards me in Jesus. As glad as I am to see you, you’re thrilled to see me.

When I’m not as inclined to lift my arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most predictable element in my day. You don’t just, nonchalantly, put your hand on my shoulder; you throw your arms around me in the gospel and hold tight—with tenderness, strength and affection. Indeed, though my love for you wavers, you will shower me with multiple kisses all day long; for you love your children with an irrepressible, everlasting, unwavering love. It’s only because of the finished work of the quintessential Son—Jesus, that you can be so shockingly extravagant, and over-the-top generous with your love.

Because this is the gospel that you’ve poured into my soul, I’ll seek to live to your glory today, neither by sight nor by my feelings, but by the faith you’ve given me to trust and love you. It’s not my grasp of you but your grasp of me in the gospel that matters the most. It’s not the enjoyment of my peace with you but the assurance that you are at peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. Hallelujah, a zillion, zillion times over!!!

So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

Why You Give in to Sexual Sin

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:8, 12)

Why isn’t he [David]  crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? In this psalm of confession and repentance after essentially raping Bathsheba, you would expect David to ask for something like that.

The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease.

People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should.

David knew this about himself.

It’s true about us too.

David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually — joy in God.

This is profound wisdom for us.

A Prayer for Worshiping God Before, In and After the Fire

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-18

Heavenly Father, I am convicted, stretched and encouraged, by the way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego honored you in this story. How refreshing to behold such God-centered, non-utilitarian, heart-engaged, authentic and fearless love for you.

These three friends didn’t worship you because of the gifts you give them, but because of the God that you are. They were firmly convinced that you could rescue them from the fiery furnace; but even if you didn’t rescue them, it would have no effect on their love for you, and trust in you. They would rather be delivered into your presence through the fire, than worship some other false god just to escape the fire.

Father, forgive me when my worship of you varies in response to my perceptions of how well and quick you answer my prayers—how fully you “bless” me, protect me, and grant me relief. As cynical as I am about the “name it and claim it” and prosperity theologies, I’m quite capable of doubting your love when life gets complicated and painful—when I have to wait on you and trust you in the dark and silence. I want to worship you beforethere’s a fire, when I’m in the fire, when the fire’s extinguished, or if you should choose to take me home through the fire.

Lord Jesus, you alone can give me such freedom and love; passion and delight; faithfulness and courage. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire, you were the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around in the fiery furnace—so great is your faithfulness to us. And you were the one who endured the “fiery trial” of the cross—so great is your grace for us. You will never leave us or forsake us—at any time or in any trial. Because of the gospel, “fire” is less about out destruction and more about our purification. You make all things new, including fiery trials

Because of you, Lord Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die; and we don’t have to be afraid to live, either. By your grace, stoke the fire of affection in our hearts for you, so that at the very moment we’re tempted to turn to some false god deliverance or relief, we won’t. So very Amen we pray, in your beautiful and strong name.

 

A Lesson from Hezekiah: 7 Steps to More Effective Prayers

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, which was a much more powerful nation, decided to attempt a take over of Hezekiah’s kingdom. Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan. He went before the Lord in prayer and followed the Lord’s commands. Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared all Hezekiah’s people to death.

Hezekiah heard about it and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be ok, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up. They kept taunting and taunting, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. They sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, basically which, said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

What do you do when you are backed into a corner about to face something bigger than your ability to handle? Well, Hezekiah received the letter with all the threats and began to pray.

We find this account in  2 Kings 19:14-19

What can we learn from listening in as Hezekiah prayed?

Hezekiah got alone with God. There is corporate prayer like we do at church, and there is prayer where a few are gathered, but probably some of the most effective prayer time of your life will be the time you invest alone with God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Immediate. It wasn’t an afterthought. It was prior to making his plans. We are so geared to react that it’s hard for us to go first to God. He may be second or third or when we are backed into a corner and have no choice, but as a habit we need to make God the first place we turn in our lives.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Open and honest. Hezekiah was transparent before the Lord.  I love the imagery here in this prayer story of Hezekiah. He took the letter, went to the house of the Lord, and spread it out before Him. I get this visual image of Hezekiah, and this letter…laying it there on the table, and saying, “Okay, God, what now? What do I do next?”

Are you in a tough spot right now? You may just need to get you some note cards right down all the things you are struggling with….lay them out on a table…then say, “Okay God, here are my struggles…I can’t do anything about them. What now?”

Writing your prayer requests before God is a great idea for 2 reasons.

a. It helps you remember to pray for them.

b. It helps you to watch as God answers. We get more answers than we realize if we only ask.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Honoring, humble and respectful of who God is.  Hezekiah knew his place as king…and he knew God’s place in the Kingdom. Hezekiah was king of a nation and that is an important job, yet Hezekiah willingly humbled himself in prayer, because he knew his place before the King of kings.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Bold. He said, “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD…” Hezekiah had the kind of relationship with God where it wasn’t a surprise when Hezekiah showed up to pray. They talked frequently; probably throughout the day. Because of that relationship, Hezekiah didn’t wonder if God would be there when he came before Him. He knew he could ask God to act on his behalf.

The more you grow in your relationship with God, the bolder your prayers can become, because the more your heart will begin to line up with God’s heart.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Dependent. In verses 17-18 he prays, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.” Hezekiah knew he was out of his league facing the Assyrians. From the way I see that Hezekiah responded to life, however, I don’t think it mattered the size of the battle Hezekiah was going to depend on God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was certain…Because it was based on his personal faith and trust in God.  In verse 19, Hezekiah prayed, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Hezekiah had a faith in God that allowed him to pray with confidence. You need to understand that faith is always based on the promises of God. Some things God has promised to do…some He hasn’t. God has promised to always get glory for Himself and always work things for an ultimate good. He hasn’t promised to rid everyone of cancer or to heal every bad relationship.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for everything. We don’t know His will, but we can’t guarantee God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do.) Sometimes we get upset because God doesn’t do something we asked or wanted Him to do but the fact is He had never promised to do it.

Hezekiah knew God had promised to save His people. He knew God had placed him in the position of authority over them. He had confidence that God would do what He had promised to do. Hezekiah trusted God to be faithful to His word so he was willing to act in faith.

What situations are you dealing with today that you know you are helpless to do on your own and you desperately desire God’s answer?

Get alone with God, spread your problems out before Him honestly, humbly, and boldly; then, allow His will to be done, as you wait for His response.

Holiness or Hardness Toward God?

SOURCE: Oswald Chambers

He . . . wondered that there was no intercessor . . .

Isaiah 59:16

The reason many of us stop praying and become hard toward God is that we only have an emotional interest in prayer.

It sounds good to say that we pray, and we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial— that our minds are quieted and our souls are uplifted when we pray. But Isaiah implied in this verse that God is amazed at such thoughts about prayer.

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other.

Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”?

This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?

Do you find yourself thinking that there is no one interceding properly? Then be that person yourself. Be a person who worships God and lives in a holy relationship with Him. Get involved in the real work of intercession, remembering that it truly is work-work that demands all your energy, but work which has no hidden pitfalls. Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.

“Your prayers are not lost”

SOURCE:  Robert Murray M’Cheyne/Tolle Lege

“God’s children, should pray. You should cry day and night unto God. God hears every one of your cries, in the busy hour of the daytime, and in the lonely watches of the night. He treasures them up from day-to-day; soon the full answer will come down: ‘He will answer speedily.’

Christ never loses one believing prayer.

The prayers of every believer, from Abel to the present day, He heaps upon the altar, from which they are continually ascending before His Father and our Father; and when the altar can hold no more, the full, the eternal answer will come down.

Do not be discouraged, dearly beloved, because God bears long with you—because He does not seem to answer your prayers.

Your prayers are not lost.

When the merchant sends his ships to distant shores, he does not expect them to come back richly laden in a single day: he has long patience.

‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Perhaps your prayers will come back, like the ships of the merchant, all the more heavily laden with blessings, because of the delay.”

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–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Fourth Pastoral Letter: Edinburgh, February 20, 1839″ in Robert Murray M’Cheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 193-194.

Worry brings about a lot (except a solution).

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Living Free

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Worry.

Probably one of the most common traps we fall into. And one of the most useless and damaging. Worry has never solved a problem. But it has caused stress, ulcers, depression, despair, fear, anxiety, and much more.

[S]cripture tells us to replace worry with prayer. Instead of worrying, we are to tell God our needs, remember all he has done for us in the past, and thank him for his faithfulness. As we remember that faithfulness, our faith will grow to trust him now. Then we can experience peace so great that it is beyond our understanding!

And as we live in Christ Jesus and walk in obedience to him, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. Instead of worrying, we will be enveloped in his peace.

Are you worried about something? Finances … your job … a failing relationship … a rebellious child … health problems. The list of things we can worry about seems endless, but the answer is always the same.

Talk to God about the problem. Remember his faithfulness in the past. Spend time thinking about all he has done for you. Make a list! Then thank him … and determine to trust him in your current situation. Circumstances may have changed – but he hasn’t.

Father, I have been so worried about this situation. I see no solution… no way out. But I realize that I don’t have to see the answer. I need to trust you to work this out in your way and in your time. Thank you for your faithfulness and all you have done for me in the past. Help me to trust you now and to experience your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Knowing God My Father: Applying the Names of God to My Personal Life
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Why Do We Pray?

Source:  Taken from the book  The Front Line: A Prayer Warrior’s Guide to Spiritual Battle by John Bornschein

In the powerful work, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Gary T. Meadors observes that dialogue with the Almighty is part of the fabric of the Bible: “Genesis 4:26 first mentions that ‘men began to call on the name of the Lord,’ and Revelation 22:20 closes the Bible with the prayer, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (compare 1 Cor 16:22).

The entire history of redemption is framed in prayer. In between these terminal references we find a database about prayer that is so large it requires description beyond simple definition.”1

Why do we pray? Here are a few key reasons:2

1.  We love Him. Just as a man and woman in love desire to be together and communicate, so we, if we love God, will desire to be with Him and to fellowship with Him in proportion to our love for Him.

2.  We depend on God. He is our source. He is our life (Col 3:4). Through prayer, we receive the comfort, strength, and all the other resources we need in life, both naturally and spiritually. Prayer—relationship with God—is as necessary to the spiritual life as air is to the natural life.

3.  Prayer allows us to resist temptation. Jesus warned His disciples to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41 NKJV). Living a life without prayer can leave us weak and exposed, giving an opportunity for the enemy to gain ground and potentially lure us into sin.

4.  Prayer is necessary for people to invite God to act in salvation. God gave the earth to Adam and his descendants, so we must invite God to work here. If no one invites Him to work on earth, Satan—the “god of this age” because of humanity’s universal rebellion (2 Cor 4:4)—will dominate human affairs, and eventually the judgment of God will come. By inviting God to intercede often and specifically, multitudes can be saved who would otherwise be lost.

5.  God commands us to pray. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (NKJV). Jesus also encouraged His followers to pray: “Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 NKJV).

The need to pray is as great as the authority of God, who commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17 NKJV). Prayer is so vital to all that God wants to do on the earth, and it is so essential to us, that He commands us to do it all the time. We should even deny ourselves sleep and food at times to pray more and with greater power (see Matt 6:16; Luke 6:12; 21:36; Col 4:2; 2 Cor 11:27).

Or, as John Chrysostom wrote:
Prayer has subdued the strength of fire. It has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, burst the chains of death, expanded the fates of heaven, assuaged diseases, dispelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, staid the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In this communion with God, there is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine that is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings!3

—————————————————————————————-

Genesis 4:26 And as for Seth, he also fathered a son, and he called his name Enosh. At that time he began to call on the name of Yahweh.

Revelation 22:20 The one who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Gary T. Meadors, “The Bible and Prayer,” in Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry, comp. Dan R. Crawford (Terre Haute, IN: Prayer Shop Publishing), 10.

Adaptation of list compiled by AllAboutGOD.com, cited in “Why Pray?” National Day of Prayer Task Force, http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org (accessed October 6, 2010).

Colossians 4:2 Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving,

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to show that they must always pray and not be discouraged,

Luke 6:12 Now it happened that in these days he went away to the mountain to pray, and was spending the whole night in prayer to God.

John Chrysostom, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, James: Faith That Works (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 263. Day*� Pa�E �) Force, http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org (accessed October 6, 2010).

Bornschein, J., Butts, D., Branzell, K., & Elmore, D. (2012). The front line: A prayer warrior’s guide to spiritual battle. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.

Thankfulness: An Overlooked Way to Fight Anxiety, Worry, and Sin

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 86-87.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6

Paul knew that we cannot just stop being anxious. Worried thoughts have a way of creeping back into our minds, no matter how hard we try to ignore them.

Therefore, he instructs us to replace worrying with ‘prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.’ When you are in a dispute, it is natural to dwell on your difficult circumstances or on the wrong things that the other person has done or may do to you. The best way to overcome this negative thinking is to replace it with more constructive thoughts, such as praising God for his grace through the gospel, thanking him for the many things he has already done for you in this and other situations, and praying for assistance in dealing with your current challenges (cf. Matt. 6:25-34).

When you remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in the past and ally yourself with him today, you will discover that your anxiety is being steadily replaced with confidence and trust (cf. Isa 26:3). In fact, recalling God’s faithfulness and thanking him for his deliverance in the past was one of the primary ways the Israelites overcame their fears when they faced overwhelming problems (e.g. Psalms 18, 46, 68, 77, 78, 105, 106, 107, 136; Neh. 9:5-37).

Thankfulness for what God has done for us is a very important–but often overlooked–key to overcoming sin in our lives.

Anxiety  is one common area of sin. In this case, thankfulness corrects our perspective, reminding us of God’s past faithfulness and his sure promise to care for us in the future.

The apostle Paul also prescribes thankfulness as the antidote for other sins with which we struggle. In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul exhorts us to put off the sins of our flesh, replacing them with behaviors that reflect our new nature in Christ. He specifically mentions foolish talk, crude joking, sexual immorality, covetousness and debauchery as behaviors that the Christian is to replace with thanksgiving (Eph 5:3-4; 18-20).

So much sin is rooted in selfishness and pride; thankfulness loosens the grip that these sins have on our hearts.

How will I know God’s answer to my prayer?

Source:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

 God often answers prayer in the following ways:

1.  “Yes, you may have it.”
2.  “No, that is not good for you.”
3.  “Wait, I have something better for you.”
4. “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9).

When He answers yes, it’s easy to say, “Praise the Lord!”

But when He says otherwise, we have a hard time finding reasons to praise Him.

Sometimes we don’t take “no” for an answer, and we keep praying!  Or we look for a reason why He didn’t answer our request.  But Scripture never says God will give us exactly what we ask for every time.  He is sovereign.  He has the right to say “no” according to His infinite wisdom.  Oftentimes, it’s for our protection.

Sometimes, God wants to answer our prayer, but the timing isn’t right.  As I reflect on my life, I realize that if God had answered certain prayers according to my schedule, I would have missed His best in every single case.  He may have been waiting for me to grow spiritually in some area so that I could more fully experience the blessings He had in store (Eph. 1:3).  Again, He is sovereign, and His timing is perfect.

God also answers “My grace is sufficient.”  We may pray for years, yet our circumstances remain unchanged.  God seems unresponsive and heaven is silent.  In many cases, the problem isn’t the length, intensity, or nature of our prayers. Oftentimes, God is up to something we don’t know about, something much bigger than we were expecting.  Something that may require a different answer than the one we anticipated.

But rest assured that if God isn’t removing your particular “thorn,” His grace is sufficient.  By an act of our will, we can decide to trust that God knows what He’s doing, even when there’s no logical or rational explanation for our circumstances.  The Father is not offended when we ask, “Why?”  But He’s overjoyed when we trust Him, even though He may choose not to explain.

God always answers the prayers of His children.  As we learn to pray, we will learn to discern His methods.

The Place of Prayer

SOURCE:  R. C. Sproul/Ligionier Ministries

What is the goal of the Christian life?

Godliness born of obedience to Christ. Obedience unlocks the riches of the Christian experience. Prayer is what prompts and nurtures obedience, putting the heart into the proper “frame of mind” to desire obedience.

Of course, knowledge is also important because without it, we cannot know what God requires. However, knowledge and truth will remain abstract unless we commune with God in prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches, inspires, and illumines God’s Word to us. He mediates the Word of God and assists us in responding to the Father in prayer.

Prayer has a vital place in the life of the Christian.

First, it is an absolute prerequisite for salvation.

Some people cannot hear; yet though deaf, they can be saved. Some may not be able to see; yet though blind, they can be saved. Knowledge of the Good News—salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—will come from one source or another, but in the final analysis, a person must humbly ask God for salvation. The prayer of salvation is the one prayer of the wicked God has said he will hear.

What do those in heaven have in common? Several things. They have all been justified, having put their faith in the atonement of Christ. They are all praising God. And they have all prayed for salvation. To be without prayer is to be without God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the hope and reality of heaven.

Second, one of the surest marks of the Christian is his prayer life.

One might pray and not be a Christian, but one could not possibly be a Christian and not pray. Romans 8:15 tells us that the spiritual adoption that has made us sons of God causes us to cry out in verbal expressions: “Abba! Father.” Prayer is to the Christian what breath is to life, yet no duty of the Christian is so neglected.

Prayer, at least private prayer, is difficult to do out of a false motive. One might preach out of a false motive, as do the false prophets; one might be involved in Christian activities out of false motives. Many of the externals of religion might be done from false motives, but it is highly unlikely that anyone would commune with God out of some improper motive. Matthew 7 tells us that in the “last day,” many will stand at the Judgment and tell Christ of their great and noble deeds done in his name, but his response will be that he does not know them.

So, we are invited, even commanded, to pray.

Prayer is both a privilege and a duty, and any duty can become laborious. Prayer, like any means of growth for the Christian, requires work. In a sense, prayer is unnatural to us. Though we were created for fellowship and communion with God, the effects of the Fall have left most of us lazy and indifferent toward something as important as prayer. Rebirth quickens a new desire for communion with God, but sin resists the Spirit.

We can take comfort from the fact that God knows our hearts and hears our unspoken petitions more than the words that emanate from our lips. Whenever we are unable to express the deep feelings and emotions of our souls or when we are completely unclear about what it is for which we ought to be praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26-27 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for in a given situation, the Holy Spirit assists us. There is reason to believe from the text that if we pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit corrects the error in our prayers before he takes them before the Father, for verse 27 tells us that he “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Prayer is the secret of holiness—if holiness, indeed, has anything secretive about it. If we examine the lives of the great saints of the church, we find that they were great people of prayer. John Wesley once remarked that he didn’t think much of ministers who didn’t spend at least four hours per day in prayer. Luther said that he prayed regularly for an hour every day except when he experienced a particularly busy day. Then he prayed for two hours.

The neglect of prayer is a major cause of stagnation in the Christian life.

Consider the example of Peter in Luke 22:39-62. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray as was his custom and told his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” The disciples fell asleep instead. The next thing Peter did was try to take on the Roman army with a sword; then he denied Christ. Peter did not pray and as a result fell into temptation. What is true of Peter is also true of all of us: we fall in private before we ever fall in public.

Is there a right and wrong time for prayer?

Isaiah 50:4 talks about the morning as the time when God gives the desire to pray on a daily basis and about renewed confidence in God. But there are other passages that give times of prayer during all times of the day. No part of the day is set apart as being more sanctified than another. Jesus prayed in the morning, during the day, and sometimes all night long. There is evidence that he had a time set aside for prayer; however, considering the relationship Jesus had with the Father, we know that communion between them never stopped.

First Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to pray without ceasing. It means that we are to be in a continual state of communion with our Father.

Excerpt from Does Prayer Change Things? by R.C. Sproul

Engaging The Unseen Foe

SOURCE:  Jerry Bridges/Discipleship Journal

Issues: Prayer is warfare with a defeated but still powerful enemy. When we allow our prayer lives to remain only on the level of immediate or “felt” needs, we risk the great danger of losing the struggle that God is ultimately interested in.

THERE’S a chapter in the history of the nation of Israel that I believe graphically illustrates the way we tend to operate as Christians.

Second Kings 3 records the account of Joram, the king of Israel, going into battle against the king of Moab. Joram did not seek God’s help or guidance for the fray; he simply made the decision and then enlisted the alliance of his former countryman, Jehoshaphat (king of Judah). Jehoshaphat didn’t pray either. After gathering up the king of Edom, they all went charging into battle.

In verse 9 we find out that they got into a supply problem: they ran out of water in the middle of the desert. Suddenly they wanted God’s help, and only then did they begin to pray (their method of praying was to seek the prophet). Their felt need was the focus of their prayer.

Water for their men and animals was a very important detail for those kings. But they were not out in the desert to drink water: they were there to fight a battle. Notice how God answered when he spoke to the prophet Elisha: “You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you” (verses 17–18). God had not forgotten the objective: to win the battle over the Moabites. The kings, however, had lost sight of why they were out there, because they were preoccupied with their immediate need.

THE TRUE BATTLEGROUND

As Christians, our prayer lives tend to dwell in the realm of water shortages. We seldom operate in the realm of true spiritual warfare. Go to an average prayer meeting, and I guarantee that 75 percent of the prayer requests will be for felt needs: for example, Jim’s neck. Now Jim’s neck needs to be healed, and I hope we are praying about it. But we never seem to get into the battle. As I’ve told my Sunday school class, “The only way that you can get prayed for at our church is to be in the hospital or out of a job.”

One year at Thanksgiving time I flew out to southern California to speak at a mission conference. My goal was to stimulate a vision among students and young military personnel for recruiting laborers for the harvest field. When I arrived at the Los Angeles airport, however, no one was there to meet me.

After wandering around the gate area and the baggage claim for forty-five minutes, I called the conference grounds. No answer. I thought, Well, I’ll get my secretary on this—she knows how to take care of these things. But when I called long distance back to Colorado Springs, no one answered the phone there either! Then I remembered that it was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the office was closed. There I was, stuck.

It was then that I resorted to prayer: “Lord, if there is anyone in this airport looking for me,” I prayed, “help him to find me.” Not having much faith that my prayer was going to be answered, I headed out a nearby door to catch a bus to Pasadena. On my way out, I ran into a familiar-looking man on his way in. He was looking for me.

That was one of the quickest answers to prayer that I have ever experienced. Later on, however, I asked myself this question: “Did I pray as fervently for the real mission for which I was sent to southern California as I did that someone might find me at the airport?” In that airport, I was like Joram and Jehoshaphat, stranded in the desert without water. But the real reason I was there was not to get picked up at the airport, but to have a part in recruiting laborers for the harvest field. Jesus told us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers. That was the real battle.

There are three military terms that I feel illustrate various types of prayer: strategic, tactical, and logistical. Strategic refers to the ultimate objective—to defeat the enemy—and the overall plan, or strategy, to bring him into submission. Tactical means the specific battles necessary to achieve the ultimate objective. Logistical is simply supplying the physical needs of the army fighting the battle.

I believe that 75 to 80 percent of our prayer is for logistical items. For water in the desert. For someone to find us at the airport. For that sick person in the hospital. For the one who lost his job. All of these things are important, and we should be praying for them. But those kinds of things are almost all we pray about.

I would guess that 15 to 20 percent of our prayer effort is tactical, related to specific engagements with the enemy—the spiritual results of the conference I spoke at, for example. But that conference was only a specific operation; the overall objective was raising up laborers.

Very little of our prayer effort is strategic, or focused on our ultimate objective—the battle that God is really interested in. We need to remember that when we pray, we are entering into spiritual warfare. We are engaging a defeated but still powerful enemy: Satan, our unseen foe.

There are four primary aspects of this kind of warfare that are crucial to our success: first, understanding our enemy; second, identifying and learning to use the weapons with which to fight him; third, understanding the nature of our struggle with him; and fourth, focusing on the right objective in our attempts to defeat him.

UNDERSTANDING OUR ENEMY

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul says that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our warfare is with the devil and all of his evil angels. They are the spiritual forces Paul refers to in this passage.

The New Testament tells us four facts about the devil that we need to know in order to combat him. First, he is the ruler, with evil angels under him, of a kingdom in which all of the unsaved are held. When Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers that they were formerly dead in their sins, he was saying the same about us. We used to live in our sins when we followed “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1–2). We all used to follow the devil because we were all in his kingdom, under his dominion. When God commissioned Paul, he sent him to turn the Gentiles, the unsaved, “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

Not only does Satan hold the unsaved under his reign, but he also blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). That’s why witnessing often seems like pouring water off a duck’s back. Our speech comes across like a foreign language; the unbeliever just can’t understand.

When we witness to someone, we are launching an attack upon Satan’s kingdom. We cannot win this attack by our own power, because that person is under Satan’s dominion, and he is blinded by him. Jesus said that we cannot enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions until we first bind that strong man (Matthew 12:29). The strong man is the devil, and we bind him through prayer. That’s why we must enter into battle in prayer before we engage the unsaved in a witnessing situation.

The third fact that the Bible tells us about Satan is that he wars against believers, even though we have been delivered from his dominion into the kingdom of God. First Peter 5:8 says that he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The roaring lion is intended to symbolize the ferociousness of Satan.

When he attacks us in order to ruin us, however, he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In Scripture, light stands for either truth or moral purity. When Paul says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, he means that Satan tries to convince us that his false teaching is the truth. When he tempted Jesus in the desert, saying, “Cast yourself down because it is written, ‘He will hold you up,”‘ Satan twisted the truth.

Second Timothy 2:22–26 tells us that Satan’s masquerade can be so deceptive that he actually takes believers captive to do his will. This is not demon-possession, but rather a diversion of our minds into false teaching, unimportant or peripheral issues, temptations, discouragement, and doubts about the truth of God’s word.

I vividly remember an event that occurred to me while going through an intense spiritual battle. I was looking at a particular promise in Scripture, when Satan planted this thought in my mind: “It isn’t true, is it?” That was just as clear in my mind as if he had spoken in a voice. He was seeking to make me captive to do his will by attacking my mind with false teaching.

We are at war with an enemy who has thousands of years of experience. Satan attacked Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he has been attacking God’s people ever since. He knows his strategy, and he is not locked up in logistics.

But Scripture gives us a fourth (and the most important) fact about Satan: he is a defeated foe.Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus Christ disarmed the powers and authorities and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross.” This is the reason James can tell us, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan has lost the big war. He is now engaged in guerilla warfare against us, and we can defeat him in this day-to-day struggle.

USING THE RIGHT WEAPONS

In 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, Paul gives us a clue to the kind of weapon we need to battle Satan:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The war we are engaged in is for the minds and souls of people. Our weapons are not physical, nor are they those of human logic and cleverness. They are divine.

When you are engaged in battle and the objective is a person’s mind, what are you going to use? The truth. Satan masquerades as an angel of truth, but we combat him with the real truth—the word of God. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God, so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. The list of armor is primarily defensive: helmet, breastplate, belt, sandals, shield and so forth.

In verse 17, however, Paul says, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is theword of God.” There are two Greek words that are translated, “the word of God.” One of them is logos, referring to Scripture in general. The other is a word that focuses on a specific passage of Scripture. In this verse, Paul is referring to the specific word of God—individual passages of the Bible that are brought to bear on individual battles. Just as Jesus answered Satan with specific passages of Scripture from the Old Testament when he was tempted in the desert, so we fight Satan with specific passages of Scripture that apply to the situation at hand.

Our first weapon in battling our foe is the word of truth. In verse 18 of Ephesians 6, Paul gives us our second: “And pray in the Spirit.” The second weapon is prayer. Whether we are evangelizing the lost, discipling believers, or trying to restore a lapsed brother or sister, the weapons are always the same: the word of truth accompanied by prayer in the Spirit. We need the Spirit of God to open our minds and release us from Satan’s captivity.

The battle for the souls of men and women is really not won in the witnessing encounter or the discipling meeting, but in prayer, before we ever get into those situations. Our actions are of course necessary, but it is futile to fight without paving the way by prayer against the devil.

THE NATURE OF OUR STRUGGLE

We are at war against a powerful, unseen foe. And our weapons are the word of God and prayer. In order to use these weapons successfully, we need to have an adequate understanding of the kind of warfare we are engaged in.

Several times, Paul uses a word related to prayer that means to struggle or to agonize. It is the word from which we get our word agony. The same word is translated “fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12—”Fight the good fight of faith.” Paul also uses this word in Colossians 1:28–29: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present every one perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling [or agonizing] with all his energy, which so powerfully works within me.” Here Paul is talking about our first weapon, the word of truth. But in chapter two, verse 1 of his letter to the people at Colossae he continues, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” In Colossians 1:29 Paul means, “I agonize in the ministry of the word.” In Colossians 2:1 he means, “I agonize in the ministry of prayer.” Both indicate intense fighting. Paul wasn’t just praying about those in the hospital and the unemployed. He was in the heat of the battle.

In Colossians 4:12, Paul commends Epaphras for the same kind of struggling: “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling [always agonizing, always waging war] in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Epaphras had his eye on the battle. He wanted these people to grow up in Christ and stand firm in the will of God. He wasn’t just concerned about their logistical or felt needs. He was concerned about the spiritual aspects of their lives. And he waged war in prayer.

Are you in the battle? Have you agonized in prayer lately? Or are you still preoccupied with the material things of your life, as Joram was for the need of water, losing sight of the real battle and the real enemy?

FOCUSING ON THE RIGHT OBJECTIVE

Once we’ve faced the enemy, armed ourselves with the right weapons, and prepared ourselves for the rigors of battle, we can still jeopardize our success by losing sight of God’s ultimate objective in this spiritual warfare.

What is God’s objective? “For God so loved the world.” God so loved people that he gave his only begotten son. Christ died for them. This is God’s objective: people; not being found at the airport, or even having a great mission conference. Those are logistical and tactical operations.

In Genesis 12:3, God promised Abraham, “All people on earth will be blessed through you.” This hasn’t happened yet. Our job is to engage the enemy in warfare, to see that it does happen. God’s plan is going to be fulfilled, but he has ordained that this plan be carried out through prayer.

There are 412 billion men, women, and children on this earth right now. Most of them have never received the gospel. Have you prayed God’s promises into fulfillment for any of those people lately? Are you engaging Satan in battle through prayer? Are you asking God to bind the strong man, and claiming Christ’s victory on the Cross?

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. He told us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise up laborers. The battle is not with unemployment and sickness and transportation arrangements. Those are necessary logistical items, and I am not saying that we shouldn’t pray for those things. God is aware of our friend in the hospital, or the man or woman out of a job. But I think that his attitude toward them is embodied in what he said to Joram: “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.” They are logistical details. He will also hand the enemy over to us.

My challenge to you is this: keep praying for your friend in the hospital, and keep praying for your friend who needs work. But remember that these are light things in the eyes of the Lord. Ask God to get you into the heat of the real battle. Ask him to equip you to engage the unseen foe, and then take your prayer life into the war for God’s ultimate objective. And expect him to hand Moab over to you.

7 Truths You Must Remember in Crisis

SOURCE:  Nathan Rouse

Here are 7 truths worth remembering during such times:

The last few days have brought an unwelcome and unforeseen storm in my life. I’m not alone in this, I’m sure you’ve experienced circumstances and storms that have caught you off guard or maybe experiencing this even now. I want you to be encouraged and strengthened by the knowledge that you’re not walking this journey out on your own.

Here are 7 truths I’m convinced are worth remembering during such times:

1. There is always time to pray! (You’ll “feel” and make things worse if you don’t.)

2. No matter how much you “don’t feel like it”, Read your Bible! It is our compass, our true north when it feels like our life is spinning out of control. We need more truth, not more feelings in crisis. Psalms 46 is a good start.

3. Don’t believe that you have to be depressed because you’ve encountered something heart breaking. Grieve….yes. Harbor it….no.

4. Make it a point to not make any major decisions when feeling overwhelmed. (Unless absolutely necessary)

5. Make sure you’re eating right and getting plenty of rest. You’re going to need all your strength to walk through this season.

6. Remember you can’t fix people or fix every circumstance. Stop carrying that responsibility. The God Almighty position is already filled.

7. Stop what you’re doing now and practice doing #1.

‘ask in MY Name!’

SOURCE:  Paul E. Miller in a post by tollelege

“In Jesus’ name”

“Deep down, we just don’t believe God is as generous as He keeps saying He is. That’s why Jesus added the fine print– ‘ask in My name.’

Let me explain what that means.

Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen.

Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: ‘I want to see the king.’ Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, ‘Jesus, I come in the name of Jesus.’

At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through.

Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus.

‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. Is it one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.”

–Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009), 135.

A Prayer for Serving Our Friends Who Struggle with Depression

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

  Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Ps. 43:5

Heavenly Father, today my heart goes out, and my prayers reach up, on behalf of those who struggle with depression, in one of its many forms. I have friends who live all along the axis from mild melancholy to the relentless pangs of suicidal depression. And my family tree has roots in clinical depression—with many loved ones who’ve struggled with emotional fracture and darkness as a way of life. Father of mercies, grant all of us greater compassion and wisdom for loving those whose mental health is under siege.

Thank you for rescuing me from simplistic views of depression. It’s not as simple a condition as I used to think. I grieve the ways I used to counsel the depressed, and it saddens me to realize how much pressure I put on them get better and “get over it.” Happiness is not always simply a choice.

David asked the right question in a season of duress: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” (Ps. 43:5). Indeed, Father, what are the various reasons for a downcast, disturbed soul, and what does hoping in you look like for each?

Father, for friends who are depressed for no other reason than living with a graceless, gospel-less heart; keep them miserable until they rest in the finished work of your Son, Jesus. May they despair of their own unrighteousness and their “wannabe” righteousness, until they are driven to the righteousness that only comes from faith in Jesus. Sometimes misery is a great mercy.

Father, for friends who suffer from depression generated by chemical complexities, lead them to the right kind of medical care. And help us in the community of faith to be patient and understanding of the complexities involved in their care. The risk of abusing medications is always there, so give us wisdom.

Father, for friends who suffer from depression fueled by the demonic, grant me humility and wisdom. A part of me doesn’t even want to acknowledge that this is an issue at all, but how can I read your Word and dismiss the demonic so lightly? His condemning, blaming, and shaming voice, alone is enough to generate the deepest forms of darkness and a disconnected self. Yet his schemes are multiple (2 Cor. 2:11). Show us, in the Body of Christ, how are we to care for those under the spell and sway of our cross-defeated, fury-filled foe (Rev. 12:12).

Father, for those of us whose downcast-ness is little more than the fruit of blocked goals, idol failures, self-pity or the consequence of our own disobedience, smite us, yet again with the gospel. May we cry, “Uncle!”, that we might cry, “Abba!”

By your great and sufficient grace, I make King David’s affirmation mine. I do and I will yet praise you, my Savior and my God. My hope is in you, Father—for me and for all of my brokenhearted downcast friends. The gospel will win the day. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ compassionate and victorious name.

The God who hears your cries

Source:  The Daily Spurgeon

The God of most men — the God of the unregenerate — is an inanimate God, or, if alive and able to see, he is an unfeeling God, careless about them and their personal interests. “Oh, it is preposterous,” say they, “to think that he takes notice of our sorrows and troubles — and still more absurd to suppose that he hears prayer, or that he ever interferes in answer to the voice of supplication, to grant a poor man his requests. It cannot be.”

That is their God, you see. That is the God of the heathen — a dead, blind, dumb God. I do not wonder that they do not pray to him. They could not expect an answer.

But the God of grace is one who has opened a communication between heaven and earth, who notices the cries of his children, puts their tears into his bottle, sympathises with their sorrows, looks down on them with an eye of pity and a father’s love, has communion with them, and permits them to have communion with him, and all that through the blessed person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “The God Of Bethel.”

I Can’t Pray — But I Can Look At The Promises

SOURCE:  Richard Sibbes/Tolle Lege

“Look at the promises”

“A Christian complains he cannot pray. ‘Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!’

But has He put into your heart a desire to pray? Then He will hear the desires of His own Spirit in you.

‘We know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. ’My groaning is not hid from thee’ (Psa. 38:9).

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in His ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries ‘O Father,’ not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea.

These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt Him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

‘Oh, but is it possible,’ thinks the misgiving heart, ‘that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?’ Yes, He will accept that which is His own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him.

Let not, therefore infirmities discourage us. James takes away this objection (James 5:17). Some might object, ‘If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.’ ‘But,’ says he, ‘Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.’ He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him because he was without fault? Surely not.

But look at the promises: ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee’ (Psa. 50:15). ‘Ask, and it shall be given you’ (Matt. 7:7) and other like these.

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are His own children, and they come from His own Spirit, because they are according to His own will, and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and He takes them, and mingles them with His own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour.

Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is His own.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/1998), 50-51.

God Loves Prayer From a Sincere Heart

SOURCE: by Thomas Brooks as posted by 

God looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are;

nor yet at the geometry of your prayers, to see how long they are;

nor yet at the arithmetic of your prayers, to see how many they are;

nor yet at the music of your prayers, nor yet at the sweetness of your voice,

nor yet at the logic of your prayers; but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are.

There is no prayer acknowledged, approved, accepted, recorded, or rewarded by God, but that wherein the heart is sincerely and wholly. The true mother would not have the child divided. God loves a broken and a contrite heart, so He loathes a divided heart. God neither loves halting or halving.

—Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author.

God is our first, last, and only option

How to Pray in the Storm

Reaching out to God in turbulent times

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Jim Carpenter

What do you do when you’re suddenly in the path of a tornado?

I found out on June 29, 1998, as I huddled in the darkness of the basement, our house shuddering from the force of the wind as it cut a swath through the northern Des Moines metro area. In only minutes, the sky went from a serene blue to an angry charcoal. Rain, whipped by nearly 100-mile-an-hour winds, plastered shredded leaves to the sides of our house and poured through an open window. Broken glass sliced through my office as the window casement was wrenched away. Trees snapped off 15 feet above the ground or were torn out by their roots. My neighbor’s camper landed upside down in someone else’s backyard. Shingles sailed by like flocks of Frisbees.

As the thunder and lightning escalated, the power went out, and the entire house began to tremble. Sirens started to blare. I headed for the basement, and a scene from the movie Twister flashed through my mind—the scene where a man is ripped out of a storm shelter and sucked into the mouth of the monster wind.

What do you do when your house may be leveled by a storm, when you might die? You pray. And not a neat, textbook prayer. You pray in desperation and beg God to spare you and your family. You plead with Him to preserve your house and stay the force of the storm. You cry, “Have mercy! Have mercy!”

When Storms Threaten

Storms swirl into our lives in many forms: a doctor’s grim diagnosis, a financial disaster, a slick road on a dark street, a teenager’s tragic choice. Storms bring us to our knees, cowering in the dark basement of our fears. And so we pray.

When the tornado struck, I had been studying 2 Chronicles 20. Now my Bible falls open to that chapter, the pages permanently wrinkled from the ferocious rain that streamed into my office that day. I realized I had a lot in common with King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah. They, too, were standing in the path of a storm.

An angry alliance of Judah’s enemies was marching inexorably toward Jerusalem, determined to destroy the nation. The word came to Jehoshaphat: “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea” (v. 2). The enemy horde was already on the west side of the Jordan, only 40 miles from Jerusalem!

Significantly, Jehoshaphat didn’t spend any time consulting with his generals. He knew that Judah had no military defense against such a foe. No, “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast” (v. 3).

God’s response to Jehoshaphat’s desperate prayer was gracious and powerful. Looking at desperate times through the lens of the king’s example, I began to discover some principles of prayer for the storms that lie ahead.

Measure the storm by the character and promises of God.

Jehoshaphat brought his people together in grave recognition of the nation’s peril. But then he led them to focus on Almighty God, claiming His power and promises.

First, he focused on God’s attributes.

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

—v. 6

When we gauge the fury of the storm by the power of Almighty God, the storm is absolutely dwarfed!

Next, Jehoshaphat reminded God of His promises to His people.

O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.

—vv. 7–9

Jehoshaphat echoed the words of King Solomon, who prayed to dedicate the temple a century before. The night after that ceremony, the Lord appeared to Solomon and made a promise that His people have been claiming ever since. It must have been on Jehoshaphat’s heart in the middle of the storm:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

—2 Chron. 7:14

Centering our thoughts and emotions in the Scriptures will help us pray through the storm. For years, I have printed four-by-six-inch cards with passages about God’s wisdom, sovereignty, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness. His Word, hid in my heart, helps me ride out storms in confidence.

Our son Zach joined the army (right before the tornado) to finance his college education. At the time, the world seemed to be at peace. But in the months since, the U.S. military has been embroiled in one regional crisis after another.

At times I am overwhelmed with fear for my son. Often, the Lord brings Psalm 91 to my mind, a song of God’s protection. The familiar words quiet my heart: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . . For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (vv. 1, 11).

Then I am able to pray through the psalm, personalizing it for Zach, and once again entrusting my son to my faithful heavenly Father.

Demonstrate helpless dependence on God.

Judah’s assembly was an eloquent testimony to their dependence upon the Lord. Whole families stood together, babies in arms, praying and fasting (v. 13). They knew God was their only hope. If He didn’t intervene, they would be destroyed.

Jehoshaphat ended his prayer with this humble statement: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (v. 12).

The storm forces us to this place of dependence, confessing that nothing else has the slightest chance of saving us—not our possessions or our connections, not our personalities or our education. Not our religion or our luck. Letting God know we know that He is our first, last, and only option is a good thing.

While it is true that we can pray from any position, our posture can mirror the attitude of our hearts. Sometimes I feel the need to pray flat on my face. Other times I stand with hands raised to heaven. Similarly, when we say no to food or to sleep for a time, we remind ourselves—and God—that we are counting on Him and Him alone.

Corporate prayer, fasting, and confession allow us to say, while the storm rages around us, that our hope is in You, Lord. Only You.

Wait for God to communicate.

When Jehoshaphat finished his prayer, there was nothing more to say. While the enemy army drew nearer, “all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord” (v.13). They simply waited.

And God spoke through a man named Jahaziel (v. 14).

The Lord’s communiqué matched their situation perfectly. They were fearful, so He comforted them.

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.

—vv. 15, 17

They didn’t know what to do, so He gave them explicit instructions.

Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.

—vv. 16–17

Prayer was never intended to be a monologue. Learning to practice “listening prayer” has transformed the lives of many of God’s children and prepared them for gathering storms ahead.

So how does God speak? Well, certainly through His Word. He might communicate through the counsel of a friend or through circumstances. Sometimes He even speaks to us through dreams. He might also bring impressions to a yielded mind. For years I have depended upon semi-annual prayer retreats, where I withdraw for a day or two to pray and to listen.

The night after the tornado, the Lord communicated with my wife, Dionne. While we were thankful that God had preserved our lives and home, we were still very discouraged. We had been trying to sell our home for months, and one disaster after another had prevented it.

In the aftermath of the storm, our property looked as if it had been shelled. A dozen of our huge trees were shattered, the remains littering every part of our acre lot and crushing our neighbor’s fence. Our roof was damaged, and the back wall of our garage hung by a few nails. Who would want to buy our house now? We went to bed very depressed.

That night Dionne could not sleep. She got up, grabbed a Bible, and headed for the living room. Desperate for a word from God, she prayed for God to speak.

The Lord led her to Is. 43:1–3:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

The next night, 24 hours after the tornado, we sold our house!

Respond with courageous obedience.

Obedience may not always require courage, but in this case it did.

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa” (v. 20).

Only hours before, the Israelites had been paralyzed with fear. Now, in obedience to the Lord, they rose early to meet an army bent on their destruction. But rather than lead with their best soldiers, “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness” (v.21). They marched forward, praising God with triumphant words from Psalm 136: “Give thanks to the Lord… His love endures forever.”

Did you ever think of worship as an act of courage? In my first year of seminary, a student was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. One of our professors broke the news to us, and before he led in prayer, he said, “In times like this, I don’t know what to do but worship.”

Worship takes courage because it is the ultimate expression of trust. When you stand in the path of the storm, when circumstances are close to destroying you, when you look around and see nothing but chaos, to worship is to say, “My God is bigger than this. I trust Him and His promises more than my eyesight, more than my perception of reality.”

So we worshiped and prayed. Weeks later, we rejoiced that God had chosen to heal our friend.

The summer of our Iowa tornado, Paul and Jule Becker were in the middle of their own storm. Jule was fighting a battle with cancer that had lasted, to that point, seven long years.

As I prayed for Jule with a friend, we sensed God was leading us to organize an intense time of prayer and fasting for her. Her team of intercessors already numbered in the hundreds. In obedience to God’s leading, people all over the world determined to fast and pray, worship and wait. God preserved Jule’s life for another year. But in the end, with great grace and dignity, Jule went to be with Him.

The howl of the wind and the crash of the thunder may threaten to dislodge us from the habits of obedience we normally practice: worship, witness, stewardship. To keep our footing will take courage—the courage to obey even in the darkest hour of the storm.

Expect God’s best.

The Lord exploited the diverse factions of this conglomerate army. Some believe He also intervened with angelic warriors.

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men . . . who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

—vv. 22–23

The invaders were routed. The voluminous provisions they brought became an abundant overflow of God’s blessing. “There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it” (v. 25).

And it all happened without a single weapon being raised in Judah! God’s people prayed a desperate prayer, and He delivered them through the storm.

Sometimes God’s best is victory over the enemy. For Jule, God’s best was not physical healing but homegoing. Either way, God carries us through the storm, connected to His love and buoyed by His faithfulness.

When my wife was a little girl, her parents were missionaries to Jordan. Violence permeated that part of the world then, just as it does today.

One frightening day the political climate turned stormier than usual, and a mob of angry men swirled together. They stood shoulder to shoulder, many men deep, locked arms, and began to march with murderous resolution toward the mission compound where Dionne’s family lived.

The compound was walled on all four sides, but that day the gate was open, and Dionne and her younger brother were playing in the courtyard.

As the mob came nearer, the children were hustled back onto the porch. The family watched in horror as the men marched in rank through the open gate, across the courtyard, and directly toward the front door.

Just as the first group of men reached the front step of the porch, Dionne remembers a dazed look coming over their faces. Suddenly the lead men veered left, marched to the side wall, and clambered to the street. All the men behind followed suit, scrambling over the wall like a stream of fire ants.

Weeks later they received a letter from my wife’s grandmother in Chicago. The Lord had awakened her in the middle of the night and told her to pray for her family in Jordan. Gripped by a sense of imminent danger, she dropped to her knees in earnest intercession. Finally the burden lifted. She was writing to discover what crisis the family might have faced.

The date and time of her prayer matched precisely the date and time of the threatening mob and their sudden detour away from the family.

There are storms coming—that much is certain. Christians have no special immunity from the fury of the tornado. But whether the storm passes us by or visits us with crushing force, prayer is our refuge under the darkening sky. In desperate times, prayer connects us to the God of the storm. The same Jesus who brought peace to a boatload of terrified disciples still reigns today. And the wind and the waves still do His bidding.

Diagnosis: Worry; Cure: Perspective

SOURCE:  Taken from – Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry Network

A pretty interesting book was written about ten years ago titled The Knowing-Doing Gap. It highlighted an everyday phenomenon we see all around us and even in our own lives. The bottom line is, in general, we all know what we should and should not do, but there is a huge gap between knowing it and actually doing it. We shouldn’t smoke…but we do. We shouldn’t overeat…but we do. We shouldn’t worry…but we do.

At Lighthouse Network, we call this our Intellectual Creed vs. our Behavioral Creed. Our Intellectual Creed is what we know we should do, or more exactly, what we know the Bible teaches us to do. Our Behavioral Creed is what we actually do in a given situation.

Maturity, growth, and transformation are measured by how much our Behavioral Creed becomes more and more like our Intellectual Creed.

Our Intellectual Creed: we shouldn’t worry, no matter what the adversity because God is sovereign and in control of all things.

Our Behavioral Creed: we end up worrying about events or the opinions of others, or many other things that are out of our control. But they aren’t out of God’s control. Worrying really interferes with everything in our life from our relationship with God, our interactions with our self and others, and even injures our brain chemistry. In fact, for many, trying not to worry is like trying not to think about something; the more we try, the more anxious we become. So, we even begin to worry about worrying. Trying to fight this battle alone gets to be so counterproductive.

Perspective…how we view ourselves, God, and the circumstances He allows in our lives…is the key to good decision-making. Decision-making is knowing what the right thing to do is, then actually doing it. Will you have God’s perspective or your own? Big difference. Sometimes it is hard to have God’s perspective, but the more time you spend with Him, getting to know Him, the clearer His perspective becomes to you. Stop focusing on worry and put your energy into communicating with God. This strategy will help you achieve freedom from all sorts of negative behavior, including worrying. The idea is simple: replace hurtful, self-defeating tendencies with something wonderfully positive – communicating with your Creator and Savior.

Today, don’t just talk to God…listen to Him as well. He speaks to you through His Holy Word, His Holy Spirit, through other believers, and constantly through the circumstances He allows in your life. As you give yourself over more and more to communicating with Him, you will find your worry-time evaporates and the knowing-doing gap closes. Your Behavioral Creed will match your Intellectual Creed.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I come to You in prayer with a thankful and penitent heart. I confess that I struggle to find the time to communicate with You…yet I seem to always find the time to worry about so many things that are out of my control. I have battled this worry-beast for years and have made little progress. Help me, Father, to focus more on You and less on worrying. Help me both speak and listen to You. I pray in the name of the One whose Intellectual Creed was His Behavioral Creed, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

Luke 12:25-26

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:4-5

A Prayer for Dealing with Hard News and a Hurting Heart

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah   Psalm 62:5-8

Heavenly Father, like me, many of your children begin this day sitting in hard news—news which makes our hearts hurt badly.

The stewardship of a hurting heart is even more important than the stewardship of the money you entrust to us, for from our hearts flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23). The same spring can carry life and death—nutrients and contaminants. What is in our hearts will flow from our hearts… through our thoughts, words and choices.

A hurting heart will look for relief somewhere, so, we pour out our hearts to you, dear Father. For you are a haven of rest, the source of all hope, the rock of our salvation and a refuge of grace. We come to you right now, certain of your welcome and desperate for your care.

Father, in the coming hours, center and settle our hearts. The good news of the gospel must be more compelling than the painful news of the day. Hard news will either harden us before men or humble us before you. By faith, we choose to humble ourselves before you.

Help us to do much more gospel-ing today than gossiping; much more praying than presuming; much more weeping than wondering; much more loving than launching; much more care-giving than detail-seeking. In Christ, you have called us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. In our pain, don’t let us choose to be agents of division.

We pray for friends who are hurting. Bring the healing balm of the gospel. We pray for friends who are angry. Bring the calming power of your Spirit. We pray for friends who want to hurt those who have hurt others. May they revoke revenge and run to Jesus. We pray for friends who only see their sin and are filled with condemning guilt.  May they clearly see the cross and be filled with gospel hope.

Father, we pray for those who are more zealous to be right than Christ-like. Arrest them in their way, before they do more damage to others. We pray for those who need to come into the light. Free them from their darkness, before they do more damage to themselves.

Please, Father, for the glory of Jesus, write stories of redemption from the ink of this hard news. We have never longed more for the Day when Jesus returns to finish making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

What Believers Ought To Do And Pray In Time Of Trouble


SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ligon Duncan [First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS] 

Luke 22:39-46 [reveals] Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

J.C. Ryle’s words about two aspects of this passage are rich. He says: “The verses before us contain Luke’s account of our Lord’s agony in the garden. It is a passage of Scripture which we should always approach with peculiar reverence. The history which it records is one of the ‘deep things of God.’ While we read it, the words of Exodus should come across our minds, ‘Put off your shoes from off your feet; the place where on you stand is holy ground.’ (Exod. 3:5)

“We see, firstly, in this passage, an example of what believers ought to do in time of trouble. 

The great Head of the Church Himself supplies the pattern. We are told that when He came to the Mount of Olives, the night before He was crucified, ‘He knelt down and prayed.’

“It is a striking fact, that both the Old and New Testaments give one and the same receipt for bearing trouble.

What does the book of Psalms say? ‘Call upon me in the time of trouble-I will deliver you.’ (Psalm 50:15) What does the apostle James say? ‘Is any afflicted? let him pray.’ (James v. 13) Prayer is the remedy which Jacob used, when he feared his brother Esau. Prayer is the remedy which Job used when property and children were suddenly taken from him. Prayer is the remedy which Hezekiah used when Sennacherib’s threatening letter arrived. And prayer is the remedy which the Son of God Himself was not ashamed to use in the days of His flesh. In the hour of His mysterious agony He ‘prayed.’

“Let us take care that we use our Master’s remedy, if we want comfort in affliction. Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace. No depression of spirits must prevent us. No crushing weight of sorrow must make us speechless. It is a prime device of Satan, to supply the afflicted man with false reasons for keeping silence before God. Let us beware of the temptation to brood sullenly over our wounds. If we can say nothing else, we can say, ‘I am oppressed-undertake for me.’ (Isaiah. 38:14)

“We see, secondly, in these verses, what kind of prayers a believer ought to make to God in time of trouble.

Once more the Lord Jesus Himself affords a model to His people. We are told that He said, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me-nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.’ He who spoke these words, we must remember, had two distinct natures in one Person. He had a human will as well as a divine. When He said, ‘Not my will be done,’ He meant that will which He had as a man, with a body, flesh and blood, like our own.

“The language used by our blessed Master in this place shows exactly what should be the spirit of a believer’s prayer in his distress. Like Jesus, he should tell his desires openly to his heavenly Father, and spread his wishes unreservedly before Him. But like Jesus, he should do it all with an entire submission of will to the will of God. He should never forget that there may be wise and good reasons for His affliction. He should carefully qualify every petition for the removal of crosses with the saving clause, ‘If you are willing.’ He should wind up all with the meek confession, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’

“Submission of will like this is one of the brightest graces which can adorn the Christian character. It is one which a child of God ought to aim at in everything, if he desires to be like Christ. But at no time is such submission of will so needful as in the day of sorrow, and in nothing does it shine so brightly as in a believer’s prayers for relief. He who can say from his heart, when a bitter cup is before him, ‘Not my will, but yours be done,’ has reached a high position in the school of God.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke)

 

“Thank You” Therapy

God… ‘Thank You’

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“We need deliberately to call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day. We might begin; we could never end; there are not pens or paper enough in all the world.” -George A. Buttrick

It has been said that the most powerful prayer in the world is just two words long: “Thank You”.

When the worries and fears of life suddenly show up at our doorstep, we pray — we ask God for help. Most of us quote the Apostle Paul — “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication…”(Philippians 4:6).

What’s interesting is that the verse continues with these words — “…with thanksgiving”. But, when life is not the way it is supposed to be — when nothing makes sense — when the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming your way — how do you pray “thank you”? I have found reflecting on these scriptures to be a wonderful help:

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17 ESV)

“…come into His presence with thanksgiving…” (Psalm 95:2 ESV)

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV)

“Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving…” (Psalm 147:7 ESV)

Praying when you are burdened, and adding “thank you” is a conscious choice. It’s about choosing to put “life” in perspective, especially when I am troubled and anxious.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), writer of the well-known commentary Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, was robbed one night. On that very night, after the robbery, he penned this prayer,

“I thank thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was not I who robbed.”

When you pray, add a “P.S.” — an “attitude of gratitude”. While you may not understand everything right now, tell God “Thank you” for being there… “Thank you” for your steadfast love… “Thank you” that I can trust your heart even though I don’t understand… “Thank you” for your grace… “Thank you” for____________[you fill in the blank].

An old hymn reminds you to “Count your blessings — name them one by one.”

Pray? Of course.

Ask God for help? Yes.

But be sure to add “Thank You”.

It just might turn your prayers — and your life — around.

A Prayer for Days When You Don’t Feel Like Praying

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

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 through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Dear Father, this is one of those days when I could create a long prayer list and methodically go through it, but I’m not sure I would really be praying. I could go through the motions, but to be quite honest, it would be more ritual than reality—more about me, than the people and situations I’d bring before you. I’m feeling distracted this morning, scattered and not very focused at all.

It’s one of those days I’m glad the gospel is much more about your grasp of me than my grip on you. It’s one of those days I’m grateful your delight in me is not contingent upon my delight in you.  It’s one of those days I’m very thankful for the prayer ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious Father, I have no problem or reluctance in acknowledging my weakness this morning. In fact it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but helps us in our weakness. Just as Jesus constantly prays for us, the Holy Spirit faithfully prays in us through “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I do get the part about you searching our hearts and knowing the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me incredible comfort today.

No one knows our hearts better than you, Father. And you search our hearts to save us, not shame us; to deliver us, not demean us; to free us, not frown upon us; to change us, not chide us. You know my past and future, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in grace. What a glorious and gracious God you are!

And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me—perfectly tuned into my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I surrender right now, Father. I gladly groan to your glory. I collapse on Jesus in this very moment. I will not waste any energy today in the paralysis of analysis, vain regrets, pretending or posing. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including in my unrest and uncertainty.

Father, all I have to do is look at Jesus and know these things are true, for he is the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s because of what Jesus has done, not what I do, that you love me. You have called me to life in him and you will complete your purpose in me. I do love you, I would love you so much more. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

Fighting Our Besetting Sins

Praying the Truth

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article at Discipleship Journal/Sandra Higley

Declaring the truth of what is ours in Christ is a powerful aid in our battle against temptation, sin, and the enemy. [Make use of] these prayer starters as you [ fight your] besetting sin.

— Lord, I take You at Your promise that You have provided everything I need to live a godly and holy life. Through Your strength, I can do anything. (2 Pet. 1:3, Phil. 4:13)

— I praise Your name, El Roi (the God who sees me). You see every struggle, every fall—and You understand because You experienced every temptation I feel. I cling to Your love; nothing can separate me from it. (Gen. 16:13, Heb. 4:15, Ro. 8:39)

— I take every thought captive in Jesus’ name. I know I’m fighting the kingdom of darkness, not flesh and blood. (2 Cor. 10:5, Eph. 6:12)

— I recognize that Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is trying to shame me into keeping my struggle a secret—hidden in darkness. I willingly bring every deed and every thought into Your glorious light. The truth will set me free. (Rev. 12:10; Jn. 3:19, 8:32)

— I confess my sin of __________ and receive Your forgiveness. I refuse to give Satan a foothold of any kind by harboring sin. (1 Jn. 1:9, Eph. 4:27)

— I receive the victory Jesus won for me over sin and death and hell. Thank You, God! (1 Cor. 15:57)

— Lord, I believe and accept that You are able to keep me from falling today and will present me without fault before Your throne. (Jude 24)

— Father, give me a passion for Your Son. As I love Him more and more, I will keep His commandments out of sheer desire to please Him. (Jn. 14:15)

— I choose to submit to You, Lord. I resist this onslaught of the evil one, knowing he has to run. (Jas. 4:7)

— Lord, teach me to stand firm when I’ve stood every way I know how—and then help me to keep on standing. (Eph. 6:13)

— I put on my helmet of deliverance, my helmet of salvation. I have the mind of Christ. (Eph. 6:17, 1 Cor. 2:16)

— I make a covenant with my eyes to look away the minute something tempting comes into view. (Job 31:1)

— Father, I’ve been battling this head-on for so long that I’m afraid the enemy may sneak up from behind; thank You for being my rear guard. My healing will come quickly. (Is. 58:8)

— Thank You, Jesus, that You did not come to condemn me but to set me free. I know my freedom is even more important to You than it is to me. (Jn. 3:17, Gal. 5:1)

— Send Your angels to minister to me right now, Father. I need help. (Heb. 1:14)

— Abba, You say the enemy is a liar and will do everything he can to move me into a place of distrusting Your promises. But Your Word Word is truth, and I renew my mind with it today. I am transformed. I am conformed to the image of Your Son. (2 Cor. 11:3; Jn. 17:17; Ro. 12:2, 8:29)

— Father, I unleash the power alive within me against the enemy who is prowling around looking for a way to eat me alive. That power is the same power that raised dead, decaying flesh and transformed it into a glorious resurrected body. (Eph. 1:19-20)

— I’m feeling weak, Lord. I praise You that You show Yourself strong in the middle of our weakness. (Dt. 3:24, 2 Cor. 12:9)

— I use every spiritual weapon You’ve given me in my arsenal to tear down this stronghold of thoughts. (2 Cor. 10:3-4)

— I renounce the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 Jn. 2:16)

— I take up my shield of faith, Lord. You made it specifically to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Eph. 6:16)

— You promised that there is a way of escape in every temptation. Help me to see it now. Open my spiritual eyes so I don’t miss it. ( 1 Cor. 10:13, Eph. 1:18)

— I know this is a battle of the mind. I refuse every impure thought as if I were in a mental tennis match. I refuse to be outwitted by a fallen, created being. (2 Cor. 2:11, Ezk. 28:12-17)

— Hallelujah, I’ve been set free from sin! I am a slave to righteousness. (Ro. 6:18)

9 Lessons From God Concerning Sickness

Sickness is meant…

SOURCE:   J. C. Ryle

1. To make us think—to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body—an immortal soul—a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery—and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.

2. To teach us that there is a world beyond the grave—and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.

3. To make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?

4. To make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.

5. To send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.

6. To make us pray. Too many, I fear, never pray at all, or they only rattle over a few hurried words morning and evening without thinking what they do. But prayer often becomes a reality when the valley of the shadow of death is in sight.

7. To make us repent and break off our sins. If we will not hear the voice of mercies, God sometimes makes us “hear the rod.”

8. To draw us to Christ. Naturally we do not see the full value of that blessed Savior. We secretly imagine that our prayers, good deeds, and sacrament-receiving will save our souls. But when flesh begins to fail, the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, a Mediator, and an Advocate with the Father, stands out before men’s eyes like fire, and makes them understand those words, “Simply to Your cross I cling,” as they never did before. Sickness has done this for many—they have found Christ in the sick room.

9. To make us feeling and sympathizing towards others. By nature we are all far below our blessed Master’s example, who had not only a hand to help all, but a heart to feel for all. None, I suspect, are so unable to sympathize as those who have never had trouble themselves—and none are so able to feel as those who have drunk most deeply the cup of pain and sorrow.

Summary: Beware of fretting, murmuring, complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise—a good and not an evil—a friend and not an enemy. No doubt we should all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows better than we do how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a “need be” in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world, are often lessons which we should never learn elsewhere.

~ J.C. RYLE

Ever tried manipulative praying? I have…

Adpated from an article at Counseling Solutions

A true story: once upon a time God allowed me the privilege of entering into what I called the “dark night of the soul.” What really happened is that my loving and merciful Heavenly Father escorted me into the crucible of suffering.

It was a time in my life that lasted over nine years.

Though it’s a hokey cliche, I must say, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”

What I mean is that there has never been a time in my life where I felt more in tune to God and there has never been a time in my life where I wanted the unrelenting pain to go away more than then.

I was hurting, angry, bitter, and hopeless, but I knew the Lord was mercifully and incrementally helping me to die to myself.

You see the juxtaposition of the fear/faith tension in John Donne’s Holy Sonnet, where he pleaded with the Father this way:

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blow, burn and make me new.

Has God ever “battered your heart?” What began as knocking, breathing, and shining soon turned into breaking, blowing, and burning?

The beginning of woes for me was 1988. That was 23-years ago. I can look back on it now with more clarity and understanding.

The day God began battering my heart

One of [my] favorite Broadway plays is Les Miserables. One of the characters in the play is Fantine, who lives a mostly miserable life and ends up dying too soon. Her “song” in the play is called “I Dreamed a Dream.” Here is a portion:

I had a dream my life would be So different from this hell I’m living,
So different now from what it seemed…
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…

I understand. During the season of my crucible I was extremely bitter about where my life was and where it seemed to be going. My desire and God’s desire were colliding and I was not one bit happy about the story He was writing for me.

The first four years of my dark night of the soul was spent studying the Book of Job. During that time I read, meditated, prayed, and cried through Job’s struggle. I’ll never forget the day when I arrived at chapter 23 and read these words:

But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. – Job 23:13-15 (ESV)

The words above stunned me. God is changeless, even when suffering is appointed for me! Are you kidding? Are you saying I cannot turn Him back from the course He has me on? Correct. Are you really serious that He is thinking about a few other things for me too? Yes. Then what else is in His mind?

I wonder if I can fake God out?

As I meditated on these thoughts that were really more than I could process, it occurred to me that God released Job from the crucible of suffering and wonderfully blessed him in due time. (Job 42:10) At that point I began to think that He would release me too.

I concluded that all I needed to do was let God know that I had learned the life lessons He was teaching me and that I was not bitter or angry anymore. He needed to know that I was ready to move on to the blessing He had prepared for me. This is how I prayed:

Thank you Father for the privilege of suffering. You have taught me many things and I am grateful for the life lessons. You are merciful. Your work in me has accomplished many things and I am now ready to go to the next thing. I’m ready to be released from this suffering and look forward to much fruitful ministry that I know will grow because of this season you have spent in my life. Amen!

I knew in my heart of hearts this was “manipulative praying.” I was desperate and hurting. I was the one deciding when enough was enough and was unwittingly (okay, wittingly) trying to manipulate God with the hope that the suffering would end. Then I read this verse again:

But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. – Job 23:13 (ESV)

At some level of my heart I knew what I hoped through this kind of praying would not happen. I also knew He was not through with me yet. God sees in the dark and He most certainly knew what I needed then and now. In fact, He knows  more of what I need than I do. The real issue for me was whether I would trust Him as He did surgery on my soul, regardless of how long the surgery would take.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. –Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)

It took nine years for that operation…and, thankfully, He is still relentless in His pursuit of me.

What he desires, that he does. – Job 23:13 (ESV)

Our Soul Enemy

SOURCE:  Tom Eisenman/Discipleship Journal

The first rule of war is to know your enemy.

When the satellite TV company offered us—their “preferred customers”—a three-months-free package of movie channels, my wife, Judie, and I said, “Sure, sign us up.” If nothing else, we’d save a bundle on movie rentals while the kids were visiting us over the holidays.

What were we thinking?

Judie and I had known we’d need to make discerning choices about what we watched. But we totally underestimated the tsunami of violence, nudity, bad language, and unabashed affronts to a godly lifestyle that would flood our home once we got hooked up. Two days later, we called and cancelled.

This experience brought to mind again the Apostle Peter’s warning: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In this case our relationship with God was at risk of being devoured with each image and sound bite.

Devilish Tactics

The Bible clearly teaches that a powerful evil being called Satan rules over dark powers in this world and also over forces of evil that inhabit the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). He appears to be motivated largely by anger and envy; he was banished forever from the very paradise to which we, as God’s children, are now heirs. And so he aggressively opposes both the people of God and the work of God (1 Thess. 2:18,Mt. 13:37–39).

Satan’s aliases suggest the typical strategies he employs against us. He is called the tempter (Mt. 4:3), the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), and the accuser of God’s people (Rev. 12:10). He is always looking for ways to wreak havoc in a believer’s life and will employ any or all of the above tactics—tempting, deceiving, accusing—to diminish or demoralize God’s people. Knowing his tactics will help us stand against him.

How tempting! First, let’s look at Satan’s role as tempter. How does Satan entice us? James describes the evil process this way: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Jas. 1:14).

James leans heavily on fishing imagery in this verse. We are like hungry fish, lured by the bait. The evil fisherman knows us well: our appetites, our obsessions, the potentially dangerous power in our suppressed angers. His lure will be personal and powerful. Whatever our particular desire, he will dangle it in front of us to entice us and drag us away from God.

If you are captivated by sex, Satan will make certain that opportunities to satisfy your fantasies are readily available. If your battle is with envy or jealousy, you will meet people at every turn who have more than you do or who have succeeded in areas where you have failed. If you are susceptible to anger, you will struggle to forgive a person who has offended you, finding it nearly impossible to get the incident out of your mind.

Weapons of mass deception. One can visit the Garden of Eden for a revealing picture of Satan’s next role: deceiver. The entire entrapment of Adam and Eve is a network of lies, deception, and half-truths (Genesis 3).

Satan asks Eve what God said about the tree in the center of the garden. She says God warned them not to eat of it or they would die. Satan responds,

You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

—vv. 4–5

In two brief lines he calls God a liar and implies that God has ulterior motives for withholding His best from the first couple. Further, Satan deceives Eve by suggesting that she can gain equality with God by taking things into her own hands.

Satan will similarly engage each of us. He will subtly invite us into dialogue about what God actually said or, more slippery yet, what God might have meant by what He said. We may find ourselves rationalizing why something we’ve always considered to be wrong might be acceptable in this particular case. Or an inner voice will convince us to indulge in something that will ultimately deliver only grief and pain. I deserve it, we reason, as hard as I’ve been working lately. Besides, everybody else is doing the same thing, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting them.

Remember, the devil has been around aeons longer than we have. He has been studying human nature and behavior from the beginning. He knows what lies we are most likely to believe. And he will not hesitate to use them against us.

I stand accused. Accusation is Satan’s third attack strategy. He uses this tactic to demoralize us and make us feel unworthy of a relationship with God.

Satan moves to the “accuser mode” after he has succeeded at tempting and deceiving us. In his roles as tempter and deceiver, the evil one whispers how sweet sin will be. “After all,” he reminds us, “God is a God of grace, mercy, and love. Nothing to worry about! You can always repent. Forgiveness will be easy.”

But once we take the bait, Satan changes his tactics. We’ve sinned, the glow has dimmed, and now reality hits. In that moment when the shame and emptiness of sin strikes, we’ll likely also hear a sneer within: “And you call yourself a Christian!” Now Satan is all over us about what losers we are, how unworthy we are to name the name of Christ, how undeserving we are of His costly love.

Have you noticed the common thread in these three strategies of the enemy? Whether he is acting as tempter, deceiver, or accuser, all these assaults are launched as attacks on our minds.

Messing with Our Minds

Let’s look at some specific ways Satan may try to invade the territory of our minds.

Commandeering our imaginations. Imagination is a wonderful gift from God. I believe it is given to us so that we can envision all we might do and become according to God’s power at work in and through us. But our imaginations are also vulnerable to Satan’s enticements, lies, and accusations.

Consider Eve. Satan shrewdly set her up to fantasize about grasping equality with God. The image was powerful, exciting, irresistible; any thought of following God in obedience and devotion paled in comparison. She ate, and then she became the devil’s advocate by inviting Adam to join her.

Fostering obsession. Another common strategy Satan employs to keep us off-balance is to feed our tendency to obsess. He will do anything to get our focus off of God and onto ourselves or our problems.

For instance, one person’s obsession might be guilt. As Satan keeps the image of her failures vividly alive, a healthy, active conscience is usurped by obsessive thoughts about how bad she has been. Remember, Satan is the accuser. His barrage of condemnation locks her inside herself and blinds her to the light of God’s forgiving grace.

One of my weaknesses is out-of-control worry. When my concerns are infected by the evil one, it’s like I have a video tape in my mind that won’t shut off. Over and over I replay an ugly list of what-if’s: What if this happens! What if that happens! Satan is playing on my fears, and fear always takes my focus off of God and places it on myself.

We are all vulnerable in some area. The evil one is prowling around, looking for host cells in which to plant one of his powerful obsession viruses.

Confusing our sense of what’s right. As we have seen, the deceiver loves to convince us that taking an action that is against God’s will can actually produce something good.

A person may conclude that it makes perfect sense to murder the doctor at the abortion clinic to save the lives of unborn children. Another might slip into a sexual encounter with a coworker, thinking that a temporary fling is just what’s needed to recharge the romance in a lackluster marriage.

Supersizing the initial pleasure. Satan also messes with our minds by ensuring that a first foray into sensual sin yields the greatest possible pleasure. By supersizing that initial experience, he hooks us into a pattern of committing the sin again and again in an attempt to recapture that first-time intensity. When indulging in the same experience doesn’t do it any longer, we up the ante.

A friend of mine started down this road when she tried marijuana. Over time she wound up addicted to heroin, which gave her the rush she could no longer get from other drugs. Finally clean after years of struggling with the addiction, she described her experience to me as “one big high, and the rest was killing pain.”

This is the nature of bondage to Satan: He works to produce in us a greater and greater appetite for a steadily decreasing pleasure. In the end, there is no pleasure at all. Only the raw hunger remains.

Encouraging isolation. In another mind-messing tactic, Satan tries to convince us that we can deal with our struggles on our own. Once we buy into this deception, we are less inclined to seek help and prayer support when we need it most. So we fail, and fail again, and fail again—and tell no one. Ashamed, we slip away altogether from fellowship with other Christians. Finally, isolated and alone, we pose no threat to the evil one’s deadly devices.

Distorting the truth about the reality of evil. The most effective mind trick of all is to downplay the truth about evil. If we don’t believe we have an enemy, we will spend no time preparing for spiritual battle. The truth is, as soon as we name Jesus as our personal savior we pick up enemies—all those evil beings pitted against the purposes of God. A spiritual battle is raging, and we are in the thick of it. If we refuse to believe it, we play into Satan’s hands.

Master Minds

Though these tactics may sound harrowing, we haven’t been left defenseless. Following are a few biblical strategies for defending ourselves against these attacks on the mind.

Guard your thought life. The Apostle Paul was apparently no stranger to assaults on the mind. He wrote,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

—2 Cor. 10:5, emphasis mine

In Phil. 4:8, Paul urges us to fill our minds with those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This is strong encouragement to make choices that strengthen and guard the territory of our minds.

This strategy helped me recently with a man I have struggled to forgive. He pretended to be my friend but behind my back was spreading rumors about me that helped advance his career. The evil one loves to use a situation like this to plant anger and bitterness. Yet I remembered Jesus’ admonition to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:44). Praying for an enemy is a powerful way to stake out the territory of our minds for the Lord.

Every time ugly thoughts about this man popped into my head and I felt anger rising again, I chose to pray for him. More than once, right after praying for the man and his family, I ran into him in a store or saw him drive by. Encountering him in person helped me sense immediately and thankfully how my thoughts had changed for the better.

Remember who you are. Often we don’t realize the full range of spiritual resources that has been passed on to us. In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that Christians will

know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

—vv. 18–19

If we know the truth about our victory in Christ, nothing the evil one does can steal our hope. A growing knowledge of our heavenly inheritance will sustain us when Satan loads on the doubt or tempts and accuses us. And if we know and really grasp the fact that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to each of us, we will not fear the enemy’s attacks.

I have found it helpful to fill my mind with the truths in Ephesians 1. I’ve not only read this chapter repeatedly, I’ve also committed it to memory so I can carry it with me at all times. When temptations, doubts, or accusations assail me, my immediate response is to choose to remember who I am in Christ and all the heavenly resources that are at my disposal through my relationship with Him. When compared to the reality of God’s truth, the counterfeit pleasures of Satan grow dim. Instead of a one-time supersized thrill at the front end, the pleasures of true intimacy with God keep growing through time.

Give and receive prayer. Nothing will keep our minds more focused and actively engaged against evil than intercessory prayer. Prayer for one another was the mainstay of the early church. For instance, Paul mentions Epaphras, saying, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). Intercession is the primary ministry through which the community of faith can stand shoulder to shoulder with each other while joining with Jesus in our mutual struggle against the powers of evil.

Never give up.

It is important to remember that, no matter how much we learn about Satan’s strategies, we will not be victorious in every struggle against temptation, deception, or accusation.

As I wrote this article, I was often aware that I had—again—fallen short in some area. As always the evil one was right there to accuse me: How can you write about guarding your mind? Look what you’ve done. Yet I did not stop writing.

Yes, I’ve sinned. Yes, I still sin. But I get up, dust myself off, and keep going because I know my security does not lie in a perfect record. I take comfort in God’s promise through Paul: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The Spirit gave Paul this breakthrough insight as he was lamenting his own repeated failures (Ro. 7:14–25).

So yes, it is wise to know the tactics of our enemy. This knowledge will help us stay in the fight and make headway. But the enemy should never be our focus. Our focus needs to be on Christ, who saves us and in whom we have our victory. We finally and fully rest our minds and hearts in the truth that “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).

Prayer Can Help Manage Anger and Sadness

While prayer has been practiced for millennia, a new study looks at the way individuals believe prayer can comfort during hard times.

The 75 percent of Americans who pray on a weekly basis do so to manage a range of negative situations and emotions — illness, sadness, trauma and anger.However, the mechanism by which relief is accomplished has gone unconsidered by researchers. Through the course of in-depth interviews with dozens of victims of violent relationships with intimate partners, Shane Sharp, a University of Wisconsin graduate student, gathered an array of ways prayer helped them deal with their situation and emotions through coping mechanisms such as venting.

Sharp’s interviewees represented a wide swath of the United States in geographic, educational and racial terms, and came largely from Christian backgrounds.  Those who were boiling with anger said they found “a readily available listening ear,” said Sharp, who explores how prayer helps manage emotional pain in the current issue of the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

“If they vented their anger to that abusive partner, the result was likely to be more violence,” Sharp says. “But they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal.”  During any interpersonal interaction, the participants are considering how they look through the other’s eyes. In the case of people who pray, they are considering God’s view.  “During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them. Since these perceptions were mostly positive, it helped raise their sense of self-worth that counteracted their abusers’ hurtful words,” Sharp said.

Prayer is also a handy distraction for some, Sharp’s study found. Simply folding hands and concentrating on what to say is a reprieve from the anxiety of an abusive relationship. The experience isn’t that much different from a conversation with a close friend or a parent, he said.

“I looked at the act of praying, of speaking to God, as the same as a legitimate social interaction,” Sharp said. “Instead of a concrete interaction you would have face-to-face with another person, prayer is with an imagined other.”  That’s not to diminish God’s role by considering him an imagined participant in a prayer, Sharp added.  “On the contrary, I wouldn’t expect prayer to have these benefits for people if they thought God wasn’t real,” he says. “The important point is that they believe God is real, and that has consequences for them emotionally and for their behavior.”

Yet, the consequences of prayer aren’t always positive.

“For some, through prayer they told me they learned to forgive their abusive partners, to let go of their anger and resentment,” Sharp said. “But that’s a double-edged sword. It’s good for those who are out of that violent relationship to let go of it to a certain extent. But if they’re still in their violent relationship, it may postpone their decision to leave, and that can be bad.”

That double-edged sword makes the mechanics of prayer an important topic for new research, according to Sharp. “Religion is often pointed to as a mostly positive or mostly negative thing,” he said. “It’s way more complicated than that.”

Many of those interviewed by Sharp said they believe in God, but don’t belong to a specific church.  “They still pray,” he says. “It’s the most common religious practice you can find. For that reason alone it deserves more attention, and I think future research should consider prayer as an interaction instead of a one-sided act.”

Prayer In The Face Of Frustration

SOURCE:  Taken from a post on Gospel.com

I’m going through a disappointing situation right now. Without getting into the details, a personal situation I was excited for has gone from hopeful to unsalvageable over the past week. To say I’m frustrated would be an understatement.

However, like many frustrating circumstances in life, it has provided daily (often hourly) opportunities to test my commitment to Jesus’ famous words in Matthew 22:37-40:

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It’s easy to love God when life is full of blessings. Likewise, it’s easy to love your neighbor when everyone is being friendly. But what about when your expectations are dashed and your neighbors are decidedly unfriendly? What I’m re-realizing through this experience is that prayer is incredibly necessary. I’ve been praying for God to take my worry and replace it with His grace and His peace. And, unsurprisingly, whenever I can rise above my own issues enough to lay them before God, He has been faithful in answering that prayer.

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation. Have you taken time to pray about the situation? What would it take for you to exhibit God’s love to the people involved?

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