When Prayers Are Hindered – 1 Peter 3:7

The Best, Sure-Fire Way For A Husband To Hinder His Prayers Is…

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Doctorate Degree

Peter counsels men to live with their wives as a family, not as a “tyrant” or “lord of the universe”.  Many men believe that because they are the head of the household, that they are the “dictator-in-chief”.  But God says:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Rather than taking on the role of “overlord of the galaxy”, men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  He DIED for her:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Men should learn their wives, studying them like a student in post-graduate studies takes the time to learn their subject so well that they are eventually awarded a Doctorate Degree.  In the same way, men should study their wives and know them so well that they know just about everything about her.  If you know your wife, you will be better prepared to understand how she will respond to any set of circumstances, and know her likes/dislikes, hot-buttons (the things that trigger a strong, emotional response that should be avoided at ALL costs), and everything else that she responds to.

In other words, live with her in an amicable way, showing deference to her preference whenever possible…

Radical Respect

Do you like to be treated with respect?  What man doesn’t?  If men want to be respected by their wives, should they not respect their wives as well?  How does a man respect his wife?  He lays down his life for her:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

For a man to respect his wife, he must love his wife.  Not the way that he thinks of love, but how she thinks of love.  That’s why men must put in the time and effort to get their Doctorate Degree in their wives.  In order to love your wife, you must first understand how she perceives love.

To be sure, romance novels, television, and culture portrays this version of love in such a way that the man somehow has mental telepathy and is able to discern out of thin air the very thoughts of the woman of his affection and then responds with lavish gifts grand entries, always dressed just right,and always saying just the right words to give her that feeling that she is intimately known and cherished.  Good luck with that.  While ideal, the Bible says:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

But that doesn’t mean that a person isn’t able to reasonably guess if they understand how to interpret the clues…  (Ladies, this is a HINT:  Don’t be coy:  Yes means yes, and No means no.  Mixed signals may seem like a good idea to test whether a man truly knows their woman, but is God ever deceitful* to test us?)

Holy Heir

Women are heirs with men in the kingdom of God.  They are to be treated as the weaker vessel, not as inferior.  Silk is strong, soft, luxurious, and great for making sheets, shirts, and other items.  Steel is strong, hard, durable, and bright.  However, most people would never consider wearing steel wire braided into cloth for underwear (except as body armor, and only with something a little more soft underneath that…).  In the same way, silk, although strong (spider silk is at least as strong as steel cable in the same diameter…), is not as durable.  Femininity (not militant feminism, as defined in culture) is to be treasured for its soft, supple, warm embrace.  To despise it because it is “weaker” is foolish.

Gracious Gift

God has given His gracious gift of salvation to both men and women, and makes not distinction of separation between them (with regards to respect, for God is not a respecter of persons):

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Since God has done this, should men not treat women as equal but different?

Powerful Prayers

And here is the consequence.  For men who are married, do not expect that God will listen to your prayers if you are not “being considerate as you live with your wife.”  God will not tolerate a man who professes that he knows God, and then treats his wife in a disrespectful, unloving way.  That is the surest way to slam close the doors of heaven for prayer.

Husbands, if your prayers seem to be hitting the ceiling and bouncing right back down, consider that you may need to re-evaluate your relationship with your wife.

Wives, if your husband is trying to reconcile and show you love, will you forever despise him for his mistakes, never forgiving him for his errors?   Will you spurn him to punish him because you are hurt?  Do you want his prayers to be answered by God (what if he is praying for you…)?  If so let God work in him to change him, and take it upon yourself to help your husband to know you better.  Men are terrible guessers.  Be direct; it may not feel romantic, but it certainly will help your husband to better understand your needs.  (And remember – just because every other woman in the UNIVERSE can understand your needs and desires merely by the way that you ask questions with nuance doesn’t mean that your husband has the God-given ability to discern these things [even if the men riding in shining armor on horses in books and movies appear to be able to do so]…)  Also remember, once your husband starts to submit to you and love you like Christ loves the church, God will answer his prayers, especially if they are to reconcile you to him

A Qualifying Question

Husbands, let’s ask a question:  Am I loving my wife as Christ loved the church?

Wives, let’s ask a question: Am I communicating my needs and desires clearly and concisely in such a way that my husband will be able to  clearly understand them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made men and women different yet equal.  Each have a unique perspective with strengths and weaknesses.  Help me, Father, to fulfill my role in every relationship in a way that shows both love and respect.  Help me to submit to one another in Christ, displaying before the world the peace and servant’s heart that Jesus Christ displayed when he washed the disciples’ feet.  Show me how to better serve and communicate with my family, and the family of the church body.  Help remove any stronghold of thought that the world, the flesh, or the devil has placed in my head and heart that has taken root that may be hindering my relationships with others.  Help me to put Your love on display for all to see.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for spell errors and clarity

*Here is a hypothetical situation in the form of a conversation:

Wife: Do you feel like eating out tonight?

(What she REALLY means: “I have had a tough day.  The last thing that I want to do is slave over a hot stove for the next hour or so in order that we can have a morsel of food.  Why don’t we get out and have a romantic night on the town?  I’m going to play the Romantic Guessing Game with you now.  Be on guard – you are being TESTED!  And you better pass if you want me to be affectionate with you later…”)

Husband (response 1):  Not really

(What he REALLY means: “I had a long day at work.  The last thing that I want to do is go home, shower, drive for an hour, wait for an hour, then eat at a restaurant that is over-priced with so many people talking and distractions everywhere…   All I want to do is go home and relax my brain…”)

Husband (response 2): Sure, where would you like to go?

(What he REALLY means: “Sure.  Where would YOU like to go?” BTW, most men won’t turn down the opportunity to eat at a restaurant unless there is something dire going on in their life that is sucking the very life out of them, or they are financially destitute at the time…)

Wife: Oh, anywhere will be fine.

(What she REALLY means: “You know perfectly well where I like to eat.  Pick the romantic restaurant with flowers, music, entertainment, and coziness that I have already picked out in my mind, [restaurant q], so that I can feel loved and appreciated by you.”)

Husband:  OK, how about [restaurant x]?

(What he REALLY means: “OK, how about [restaurant x]? [Wow!  She is letting me pick!  How very gracious of her!]”)

Wife: No, I don’t really want to go there

(What she REALLY means: “OK, it’s time to flex those romantic muscles.  Think REALLY hard, and empathically sense which restaurant I have already picked out in my mind, because we are so emotionally tuned together, and I know you will be able to guess it right because YOU LOVE ME SO MUCH…”)

Husband:  Uh, OK. How about [restaurant y]?

(What he REALLY means: “Uh, OK.  How about [restaurant y]?”)

Wife: (sounding a little dejected) No, I really don’t want to go there.

(What she REALLY means: “I can’t believe you didn’t empathically guess right!  Maybe we aren’t as emotionally close as I thought we were…  I’ll give you another try [deep sigh…]”)

Husband:  All right.  How about [restaurant z]?

(What he REALLY means: “How about [restaurant z]?”

Wife: (Sounding depressed) Never mind.  Let’s just whip something up here at home.

(What she REALLY means: “How could he be such an unfeeling oaf?  Could I have been ANY MORE OBVIOUS that I wanted to go to [restaurant q]?  Does he even know ANYTHING about me?  He NEVER picks the right restaurant when we play Romantic Guessing Game.  He must not really care about me.  I guess I’ll just be the dutiful wife and slave over the oven to feed him, the unromantic buffoon…”)

A better way this conversation could have gone…

Wife: I have had a tough day today.  I would really like to get dressed up and go the that nice, fancy restaurant, you know, [restaurant q].  That would really make me feel loved and appreciated.

(What she REALLY means: “I have had a tough day today.  I would really like to get dressed up and go the that nice, fancy restaurant, you know, [restaurant q].  That would really make me feel loved and appreciated.”)

Husband: Gorgeous, I love you so much!  Of course that would be fine with me!  Let me get showered, shaved, and spruced up for you, my beautiful buttercup!  AS YOU WISH

(What he really means: “I love you so much that I will offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as my spiritual act of worship.  You have shown me your preferences, and given me a deeper understanding into your heart, which I am trying to learn and discern as part of my Doctorate Degree training that I am deeply engaged with you.  Now that I know exactly what you want, I can act on that and make it happen, for I know that it will bring great joy to you, even if I am tired and exhausted.  I want to submit to you, and am willing to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that you feel loved by me.  I look forward to meeting your emotional, relational, and physical needs as you reveal them to me clearly.  Thank you so very much for letting me know!”)

 

 

Building the Body – Colossians 1:9-14

Prayer Is The Fuel For Spiritual Body Building

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Foundational Fuel

Everywhere you look in scripture, people are praying.  They are praying to worship God in praise.  They are praying to petition God for assistance.  They are praying for God’s will to come about.  And here, Paul and Epaphras are praying that the seed that was planted in the church body located at Colossi would flourish.

Prayer is the fuel and only offensive weapon we have in our spiritual warfare:

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Jesus definitively recognized that His disciples should pray.  Notice the words He uses when He talks about prayer:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “If you pray…”, or, “Should you decide to pray…”, or, “Perhaps you should pray…”.  Jesus says, “…when you pray…”.  One of the reasons that we are so weak is that we are not doing what our body-building trainer tells us to do – P R A Y!

Body Building

In this passage, there are several tips to successful spiritual body-building.  And just as Earthly body-builders need to practice and have workouts to keep their physical bodies in top shape, spiritual body-builders need to complete their workouts to keep their spiritual lives in top shape.  God is all about relationship.  Prayer is communication, which is a vital part of the relationship process.

Here are some of the tips and tricks provided to us to up our game in spiritual body-building from Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ:

Dominion of Darkness

Before God the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to us, we were in the dominion of darkness.  Satan was our father, for our deeds were evil and we neither sought out God, nor gave Him glory.  The world, the flesh, and the devil were our constant companions and our advisors.  We were born with a sin nature passed down to us from Adam.  It’s no wonder that we were slaves in bondage to sin.

Crown of Christ

Jesus came to rescue us from our bondage to sin and from sin itself, and reconcile us to the Father.  When we confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, we were moved into the Kingdom of Light.  We have been adopted as children into the family of God.  Jesus is our brother; we are his brothers and sisters.

This seems very basic, but it has profound meaning and implication in our lives.  No longer are we prohibited from experentially and relationally knowing God.  No longer do we look in confusion or bewilderment at who God is; God is revealing Himself to us through His Son in His word and through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

To those who have been given much, much is expected.  How much has God given you?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful in my spiritual body-building exercises?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, the knowledge that You have adopted me into Your family is too wonderful for me to comprehend.  Just as an orphan is stunned after being adopted into a loving family, I am still stunned as I ponder the implications of being adopted into Your family.  You have done great and mighty things on and for my behalf.  You have given me an eternal future with You, access to You in Your throne room any time I need or just want to be there, and you have given me access to the royal treasury by blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You have said that to those who have been given much, more is expected.  Father, what do you expect of me?  Show me that I may do all that you desire for me to do and become in gratitude for all that You have done for me.  Help me to remember my brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray fervently for them that they would be built up in Christ.  Give me Your love, so that it will be on display for all to see.  Help me to yield myself to you completely.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Cry For Righteousness – Psalm 141:1-5

May God Guard Our Speech And Our Hearts From Wickedness

1 I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
2 May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like
the evening sacrifice.

3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
do not let me eat their delicacies.

5 Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
let him rebuke me-that is oil on my
head.
My head will not refuse it,
for my prayer will still be against the
deeds of evildoers.

Critical Cry

When we are in trouble, we cry out to God.  And that is the underlying desire that God places in our hearts – to seek Him out.  David, the Psalmist, cries out to God regularly, and petitions God to hear his pleas.  David remembered that God was sovereign, heard his cries, and would help him in his time of need:

6 In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
7 The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Wonderful Worship

David requests that his prayers be like incense, a fragrant offering to God.  He also requests that his raised arms be like a sacrifice before God.  In his worship and pleading to God, the Psalmist seeks to pour himself out before God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Rock of his salvation.  David recognized the desire that God placed in his heart to please God in everything that He did.  That didn’t keep David from sinning, but his heart was constantly and consistently turning towards God.

Selective Speech

David asked that his mouth be guarded so that he would not speak evil from it:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

David’s sense of God’s holiness and righteousness were paramount in how he lived his life.  We often carelessly say things to people.  David most likely did the same, and asked that God help him with that.  In addition to pleasing and honoring God in this, there is another good reason to ask for this ourselves:

36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Determine Desire

David then asks God to help protect his heart from desiring evil:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

Apart from the protection of God in our hearts, they will become corrupt.  In the beginning, it was so bad, that God could only find eight people on earth who were righteous before He flooded it.  He also said something telling about humans as a race of people:

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

This is NOT to say that God makes mistakes.  He knew that we would do what we would do before He created the Earth.  But the pain of watching sin take hold of the hearts of men and what they would do grieved God, even though He knew it would occur.  That is why He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our final and perfect sacrifice for sin.

God doesn’t make mistakes; He cleans them up.

Righteous Rebuke

David so greatly desired to he draw close to God and do God’s will that he would welcome a rebuke from a righteous man.  To do so would mean that David was somehow in sin, or doing something displeasing to God.  A rebuke from the righteous man would help him to straighten out whatever he was doing wrong, and therefore live in greater harmony with God’s character.  Oil on the head was used as anointing and healing, and David would indeed be blessed if sin that had blinded him was pointed out and addressed.

Evade Evil

David’s prayers were constantly towards the changing of hearts of those who were doing evil.  His prayers weren’t against the evil people per se, but rather against their evil actions.  And while David did get angry enough on at least one occasion to ask that the evildoers have their names blotted from the rolls of the book of life, he generally and genuinely desired that others would join him in his pursuit of God in righteousness and holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I pleading for God to guard my mouth and heart so that I will not sin against him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, time and time again Your word declares You to be holy and righteous.  Help me to have a better and deeper understanding of just how holy and righteous You are.  Reveal to me the ways that I sin against You so that I can address them and walk ever more closely with Jesus.  Please do not overwhelm me, but gently and gradually help me to not only desire to overcome my sin, but to replace the my sinful desires with a longing for You in my heart.  Holy Spirit, Overpower my wickedness with Your holiness, and strengthen me as I turn from all unrighteousness and walk towards Jesus.  Lord God Almighty, You and only You are able to help me to overcome, for You have overcome.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Prayer Meeting Devotional Overview (2/8/17)

Psalm 16:11 – “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Emphasis added)

When this passage uses the word “presence,” it is the Hebrew word paniym which refers to one’s face, or presence. Even in our culture, we understand the nature of personal space. The reality is, we allow some people to come close to our face, but if others come too close we pull away. The difference is the level of intimacy we have with that person. If our relationship is close, we welcome them to be close. Through Jesus Christ, we are allowed to draw near to the very face of God. In that closeness, we find the fullness, or abundance, of joy.

Certainly, we understand the difference between joy and happiness, but sometimes we put too much space between those two concepts. In other words, we allow there to be too much joy with so little happiness. The reality is, true joy will bring with it the emotion of happiness.

The psalmist goes on to say that at the right hand of God are pleasures forevermore. The right side is known as the place of strength and power. In other words, you will know true delight when you stand at the side of God’s power and strength because there is nothing that can come into your life that God is unable to handle.

The Psalmist speaks of finding this joy and delight in the presence of God. Now, this brings up a question we will explore in the coming weeks. Namely, since God is everywhere present, how can we come “into” His presence?

For now, let us ask God to make us a people marked by living and being in His presence.


Note:  This blog has been edited for spelling and clarity.

Prayer with God – Colossians 4:12-13

It’s Time To Wrestle With God

12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Selfless Servant

Paul commends his fellow worker in Christ, Epaphras, in this passage.  He  commends this saint in Christ, and tells the Colossian church that he sends greetings.  This was common in Paul’s letters, and was an encouragement to the churches.  In the dark times in which we find ourselves today, it is a blessing to hear from disciples in other church plantings and to know that they are thinking about us.  After all, the church is not any specific group of believers, but rather all disciples taken as a whole.  Let us not forget that when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it.

Strenuous Struggle

Epaphras was a prayer warrior.  He was engaged in a type of prayer that we should all be engaged.  He wrestled in prayer.  The Greek word for wrestled is agOnizomenos.  This can be translated as wrestles, struggles, or contends.  We get our English word agonize from it.  Epaphras agonized in prayer for the saints.  The burden on his heart was so great, that he was agonizing over the other disciples, and was noted for his burden with the church in Colossi.

This level of prayer goes way beyond the simple thankfulness prayer, or general request for something.  This is a type of prayer where the heart is deeply moved and dedicated to seeing a specific result.  This is the type of prayer where you are praying for the very life of your child to survive some terrible injury or illness.  Epaphras was gifted with the ability to feel that way about the saints, and was commended by Paul for doing so.  Such prayers can be cathartic, but are very demanding and difficult, and take a lot out of the person.  Epaphras was commended for ALWAYS contending in prayer for the brothers and sisters in Colossi.  That IS commendable.

Sturdy Stand

The first aspect of discipleship that concerned Epaphras was that the church of Colossi stand firm in the will of God.  It is so easy to be distracted by the call of culture and duties that we can take our eyes off of the goal.  We are bombarded daily with the call of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to be focused more upon the will of Almighty God as the day of reckoning approaches.  Each of us needs to fill our lamps with oil, so that we will not be caught unprepared.  We each need to put on our wedding clothes in preparation for the return of the groom so that we may join Him in the wedding celebration.

Made Mature

One of the characteristics missing from Western Christians is maturity in their faith.  We are called to grow in Christ, and to draw close to Him.  However, there are many who believe that they are good where they are.  They are happy with the spiritual progress that they have made so far, and think that this is good enough.

However, even Paul had said that he had not yet arrived.  If the writer of most of the New Testament, martyred in Rome for his faith, stoned to death and resurrected, did not arrive, why should any of us think that we have?  There are Christians (and I am specifically using this word rather than disciples) who say that they are baby Christians.  Some of these “babes in Christ” have been walking with God for more than a decade, but are still only ready for the milk of the word.

Not only are we to eagerly desire the milk of the word, we are meant to grow up and mature, tasting and chewing on the meat of the word.  We are to grow into mature disciples, fully and firmly rooted in the word of God.  Staying a babe in Christ for so long is much like living well into adulthood as a child in your parent’s basement.  There is no impetus to grow – as long as the behavior is coddled or ignored, the person never reaches maturity, and as a result, is not productive in society.

While it should not be taken that extended families are in some way wrong as living arrangements, we should have reasonable expectations for our children to grow up and mature, and be useful, productive members of society.  How does the family benefit when a 35-year-old man sits in a basement playing (the latest version of) Halo, doing nothing else but eating their parents food, buying clothes with their money, and ignoring them and everyone else for the enjoyment of a video game?

Maturation is a difficult, time-consuming, arduous endeavor.  It comes with a lot of bumps and bruises, but also with intentionality, discipline, and purpose.  And discipline is the key.  The child does what pleases the child.  The adult does what is good for the family.  It is time that the “babes in Christ” wake up, and take a serious look at their spiritual lives.  There is much to be done, and the rest of the body is trying to cover for you.

Serious Striving

Paul further commends Epaphras for working hard.  This is a characteristic of the mature Christian disciple.  Jesus tells us that we are not worthy if we look back from the plow at what was left behind.  We are to keep our eyes on the goal, and to strive with great purpose towards the way and will of God.  For the path is straight through the narrow gate to life, and broad is the gate and wide is the road towards destruction.  We each need to choose our path.  Paul urges us in the example of Epaphras to choose whom we will serve this day.  Make that choice, and press on towards the goal.  Set your sights upon hearing these words from your Lord and Savior: Well done, good and faithful servant.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I becoming the person that God has called me to become?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the examples that You have provided to me in the Bible.  Help me to research and understand the life of Paul and the ministry of Epaphras.  Guide me and instruct me in the ways that I should go.  Help me to be more intensely engaged while I pray to You.  Give me the heart of a servant, that I may be Your bond-slave.  Stir my heart for my own spiritual development, as well as the spiritual development of the rest of the body of Christ.  Give me a burden upon my heart for the awakening of your disciples who have taken their eyes off of You.  Help me to greatly desire their maturity, as well as my own.  Place upon my heart the desire to spend more time with You each and every day in prayer and study of Your word.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Victory with God – Psalm 20:6-9

May the Lord grant all your requests.

6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

9 Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!

Vital Victory

We have victory in Jesus!  It cannot be understated.  Rejoice in it!  We have been freed from indentured servitude to sin to be free to follow God.  We were born to worship.  Let us worship the One who laid down His life for us.

Regardless of whether we are successful at any secular endeavor in life, we have been made more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.  Since God is for us, who can be against us?  Remember – you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.  When we overcome sin by receiving Christ, we are given special access to God’s victory banquet that will be held in Heaven. Many were invited, but few have been chosen.  We must prepare ourselves for the victory we already have.  Let us not be dawdle with trivial things.

The Challenge of Chariots

Which is easier – to put our trust in an army of the most highly trained, best equipped, and (apparently) loyal army to protect us, or to put our trust in the Lord our God for our protection?

We are often more prone to put our trust in what we can see rather than what we cannot see:

We cannot see the spiritual because of the fall of Adam.  Let us put our trust in God, who is sovereign over all that He has created, rather than in riches or kings or anything on Earth.

Stand Steady

Those who trust in the world’s help will fall, but those who trust in God will stand firm.  Daniel stood firm and prayed to God when he was told he could only pray to the king.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood firm and refused to worship an idol.  There are many others.  The greatest to stand firm was Jesus Christ, who allowed Himself to be crucified for us.

An Amazing Answer

God answers the call of His children.  He has an answer prepared before we even complete the request!  God greatly desires to answer our call to Him!  He eagerly waits to hear from us.  What good Earthly father would ignore their children’s cries for help?  God is truly good, and with compassion and joy desires to answer us.  Let us be patient as we wait for His response!

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I trusting in God for victory, or in someone or something else?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me victory through the victory You provided to Christ through resurrection.  Let me never forget Your sovereignty over all that You created.  Strengthen me in my struggles, and hear my cries for help, O Lord.  You have said that You answer our requests even before they are out of my mouth.  Watch over me this day Lord God.  Grant me victory in every area of my life.  May my path be set straight and upon You and Your Word only, Lord God.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Prayer to Provide Potentates with Power and Protection

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Petition for Penitence

Paul urges Timothy to pray for those that God has placed in leadership over us. One of the best prayers that we can pray for ungodly leaders is that God bring them to salvation.  Many people who love God and hate evil have been asking the question, “What can I do?  All of our leaders are evil!”

The best thing you can do is to pray that God would soften their hearts, send faithful people to witness to them, and that they would give their lives to Christ.  It is only then that they can be the servant-leaders that God calls them to be and to do what is best for the people that they have been charged with overseeing.  This is the only way to break the cycle of selfishness where those elected by us seek to enrich themselves through laws that are designed to exempt them (or, as they see themselves, the “ruling class”) from the penalties that any one of us (or, as they see us, the “peasant class”) would be thrown in jail with the key thrown away.  Without the fear of God – including accountability to God – they will continue to do what is best for themselves rather than what is best for those entrusted to their care.

But we must pray for repentance of God’s people FIRST:

 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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Prayer for Protection

As in the terrible recent days of violence in the United States of America, we need to be on our knees begging God for protection of those in authority over us.  The assassination of five police officers is a great example of why we need to pray this.  If, for some reason, a person has been treated poorly by those in authority over them, it is all the more important to pray for their protection, as it is a blessing to them.  And we are instructed:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;

If you encounter any message other than what you see above, whether it is from TV, Radio, in person, in a book, on the Internet, or from any other source – know that it is contrary to the Word of God.

The Interruption of Intercession

When we pray for the salvation of others, we are in effect asking God to sovereignly interrupt their life.  This can be quite disconcerting to our leaders, especially if their misdeeds are profiting them greatly, or they have committed acts of treason or treachery against the people.  Imagine what must go through their minds: “I have been sinning!  What will the people think?  How can I salvage my career?  What should I do next?  Should I give back all of the money that I received lawfully but wrongly?  Should I publicly announce my faith?  Will I go to jail for my misdeeds?”  There will be unbelievable pressure on these individuals to either keep quiet about Christ.  If they don’t, they will be eviscerated by the corrupt sycophantic media that not only approve of evil, but cater to the evil whims of the existing corrupt elite.  This will impact their lives for eternity, so any temporary loss now is minuscule compared to the great riches of knowing Christ.

Remember that this will be the most difficult issue they will ever have to face, and they will be doing so as a babe in Christ.  It is incumbent upon us to pray not only for their salvation; not only for their Godliness;  but also for the necessary strength to endure as their lives are turned upside down when they encounter the most cruel and insipid hatred that they will ever have to face.

Thoughtful Thankfulness

And in all things, we are to give thanks to God the Father, for this is His will for us.  Give thanks that God hears our prayers.  Give thanks that God is answering our prayers (in His timing in His way for His purposes for His glory).  Give thanks when our leaders come to repentance before God.  Rejoice as the angels do!  Give thought to your thankfulness so that you can be content in whatever circumstances you find yourself, regardless of who is in authority over us.

The Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I praying for the spiritual success of my leaders or just for their Godly replacements?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are fully just, yet full of mercy and grace.  Please work in the lives of Your people, that we would have revival in the body of Christ.  Help all of us to get on our knees and beg You for forgiveness of our sins.  Help us as a nation to turn from our sins, seek Your face, and confess our wrongdoing to You, so that You can heal our land.  Bless those whom You have placed in authority over us that they would come to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior.  Father, we know that this may very well not happen until we as Your people turn away from sin and towards You.  Give the faithful among Your people patience, grace, and peace, as we plead for the rest of the body to come back to reason.  Your blessing upon this country has clouded our minds, and like Sampson, we may go on thinking we are OK but not realize that Your Spirit is departing from us.  Bring Salvation to those in authority over us that Your Holy Name may be praised and blessed by all who hear it.  This we ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Praying to God – Luke 18:1-8

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

We live in an instantaneous culture.  Within milliseconds, we can get answers to just about everything on google.com.  We have instant oatmeal, instant rewards in video games, instant hot food with microwave ovens, instant news, instant communications with just about anyone in the world, and we expect results instantly.

Jesus shows us that we should be persistent in prayer to the Father.  Using this parable as an illustration, He also reveals to us that when He comes, people may very well not be persistent in prayer by saying, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  That should sober us up and give us pause.

This isn’t the only place Jesus exhorts us to be persistent in prayer.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says that those who ask will receive.   In the Greek, the verb “ask” is aiteite. There are two interesting qualities about this.  First, it is an imperative command.  We are expected to do this – it is not merely a suggestion.  Secondly, the verb tense is not a passive, one-time thing that we do.  A better translation would be, “Ask, and keep on asking”.  This is true of the other two imperative commands in that sentence – “Seek, and keep on seeking; Knock, and keep on knocking.”

George Müller, a Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, prayed for five friends of his to be saved.  It took over 50 years for that to come to pass, and George prayed faithfully for all of them.  The last was saved just after George died.  Persistence in prayer pays off powerfully!

We can pray for anything that we want.  God knows what’s best for us and may not give us something that would impede us, even when it would bless someone else.  But even in that, James tells us something interesting:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Our prayers should be aligned with the will of God.  We shouldn’t pray selfishly or for worldly things (to merely gratify the flesh).  When we become a friend of the world, we are an enemy of God.

Daniel, after having a vision, fasted and prayed for three weeks for an answer.  What the messenger said to him when he arrived should give us pause:

A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.

There is a spiritual battle going on, and answers to our prayers may be delayed by them!  We are to be faithful and continue to pray, in full faith that God will answer our prayers.

When we pray, we should have our eyes focused on God and His priorities, not on our own selfish desires.  After all, God is not some cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops the blessing of your choice.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants us to desire Him for who He is, not what He can provide to us.  The latter type of relationship is a vendor-customer relationship, where we have no loyalty to the vendor, we just want the best product at the best price.  He wants friendship and trust, for He loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally [this last one is an act of the will].

So, let’s ask the question:  In my prayer life, am I asking God for the things that are needed to further His purposes, and am I diligently seeking Him for these things even when there may be great delay in the arrival?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of great gifts to us.  You shower us with Your love, affection, mercy and grace, when we justly deserve death and separation from You.  Grant Your servants success this day in all that we do, that whatever we do would honor and glorify Your name.  Give us strength when delay is occurring, and help us to be faithful, even until Your Son comes in the clouds in glory.  Let us not grow weary, but be encouraged by Your people of old who show us how to respond to delay.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen

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Combat Training with God – Mark 9:29

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting (the text in these brackets does not appear in all of the manuscripts)].

Some of the greatest feats in the Bible were done by people who prayed AND fasted.  Fasting is a nearly lost discipline in the American church.  We have been so blessed by God, we truly miss our three square meals (and sometimes snacks in between) each day.  People in Biblical times knew the value of fasting, and its importance.

In Mark 9:14-29, we see a desperate father looking to the disciples for help with his demonically possessed son.  They had tried unsuccessfully to remove the spirit that had seized the boy and tried to kill him.  Luke tells us, however, that Jesus had already given the disciples power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).  So what made this so difficult?  Jesus provides us with the clue in His response to the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t drive it out – this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.

It wasn’t the act of prayer, or even fasting, that made it possible.  It was the relationship with the Father that gave Jesus the ability to drive it out.  Prayer is our first go-to for intimacy with God (although some find it through praise worship).  However, we have a sin nature, and our flesh can cause us problems.  The flesh is constantly crying out, “feed me”, “pamper me”, “I don’t want to”, and all other kinds of rebellion towards God.  Paul said he beat his body into submission.

One of the easiest, or hardest – depending on your viewpoint, ways to bring your body back into submission is fasting.  The flesh greatly dislikes being denied its pleasures – food, sexual gratification, comfort, etc.  When we fast, the flesh initially protests.  But after a while, it calms down, and we experience a type of peace that we don’t normally have when we eat.  As our bodies are brought into submission, we are able to draw ever so much closer to God in prayer.

Jesus knew this spiritual discipline, and practiced it often.  When the Holy Spirit let Him out into the desert to be tempted (tested) by the devil, He was fasting.  He was fasting the day that he drove out the spirit from the boy that was brought to Him.  Jesus is our role model.  We should walk as He walked.  And He fasted.  Even the Pharisees fasted, but to outwardly show their piousness, rather than draw close to God.  Daniel, when seeking an answer, fasted by only eating simple food to mourn and draw close to God.

Are you lacking power in your spiritual life?  Do you require answers in order to move on?  Do you seek a more intimate relationship with God?  Be obedient to God’s word, and fast.  Tell God in prayer that it is the desire of your heart to draw close to Him, and when you fast, He will meet with you in a mighty way.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is my desire to draw very close to You.  Help me to overcome my flesh, and be obedient to Your word.  Help me to set aside time to fast, that I may experience Your presence and power in a more intimate, satisfying, and joyful way.  Help me to bring my flesh into submission through fasting.  Grant Your servant success that it might bring glory to Your name.  This I humbly pray in the character of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Surrender to God – Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

We are given three instructions for discipleship:

  • Deny yourself – Stop acting like the universe revolves around you, see to the needs of others, live according to the Spirit √
  • Take up your cross daily – Bear up under the burdens (responsibilities) of your faith and the responsibilities you have accepted either willingly or as a result of your actions √
  • Follow me – Wait!  What?

How can we follow if we don’t see where the other person is going?  In order to follow Christ, we must walk in His footsteps.  The Greek word for this is akolouthei.  It is an imperative command.  We are expected (commanded) to do it.  The meaning is to walk alongside someone, in lockstep, hips next to each other.  We are to do what Jesus did:

  • Yield every aspect of our lives to the Holy Spirit, regardless of our estimation of our ability to do it by ourselves
  • Depend completely upon God to provide for our every need
  • Spend regular time communicating with our Father in Heaven in prayer
  • Getting direction from God for our daily activities
  • Fast and pray regularly to draw close to our Father in Heaven
  • Study God’s Word to be an approved workman
  • Request that God reveal His calling in our lives, and fulfill that calling, even if it means going to our death

There are others, but this is a good starting point.  To follow Jesus does not mean to walk ahead of Him.  When we do that, we can’t see where He is going, and may miss a critical turn or stop. To walk behind Him at a distance is to miss what He is doing and not being a part of what He has planned.  It is only by akolouthei that we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, for the right reasons, that the outcome would glorify God.

So, let’s ask the question: where am I in my akolouthei?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I come before You to spend time with You today.  Please see to all the needs of Your servant.  Grant me strength to do what You have called me to do today.  Reveal Your will for me as I offer my body as a living sacrifice to You, that I will be able to fulfill it with Your strength, guidance, and discernment.  Help me to walk alongside You as You work in the world today.  Show me where You are working so that I may join You and use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has provided to me to glorify Your Name.  May all praise, glory, honor, strength, and dominion be Yours and Yours alone, forever and ever.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Matthew 4:4

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus must have been reflecting on Deuteronomy the day that the Spirit of God led Him into the desert, exhausted and hungry, to be tempted (this word can also be translated “tested”) by the devil.  Three times the devil tempted Him.  And three times, showing us how to deal with temptation, Jesus quoted the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, 8:16, 8:13).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in the same way we all are.  He was tempted in the three main areas of weakness that all human beings have:

It is interesting to note that before he tempts Jesus in each of these areas, the devil tries to call into doubt the calling and nature of our Savior – “If you are the Son of God…”  He likes to twist the Word of God – in this case, through omission (compare Matthew 4:6 vs. Psalm 91:11-12) – and is the absolute master of Historical Revisionism: the art of lying.  It’s hard to fight an enemy that you don’t know or understand.

It is much easier to recognize the attacks of the enemy once you understand them.  Sometimes we need to just flee temptation.  But our one and only weapon in the full Armor of God is the Sword of the Spirit.  The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  How rusty is our sword?

A short prayer of preparation:

Lord God Almighty, You are Holy, Holy, Holy.  I thank You that you have shown us how to fight against the flesh, the world, and the devil.  Guide me this day in Your Holy Word that I might have a response to temptation in all of its many facets.  Bring to mind your Holy Word as I go throughout the day, that the sword in my armor may be clean, bright, and sharp.  Help me to stand when needed, flee when needed, and fight when needed.  Father, help me also to recognize when to do each of these things.  Prepare me for battle this morning that I may honor you in every area of life.  This I ask in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, My battle commander, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Praying to God – Matthew 6:6

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Recently, a film has come out named “War Room.”  In it, a family seeks help from an older, wiser woman – Miss Clara – when things start to fall apart.  Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read the next paragraph.

Miss Clara prayed for someone to pass on the knowledge that God gave to her on how to pray for her life.  God helped Miss Clara to see that she was at war, and helped her to develop a prayer strategy for every area of her life.  One of the strategies was to dedicate a place, a closet in her home, her War Room, where she strategically and faithfully prayed for everything.  This room became her favorite room in the house.  Miss Clara faithfully passed her knowledge on to her protege, Elizabeth Jordan.

In Matthew 5:6-8, Jesus says, “And when you pray” three times.  Anything Jesus repeats is very important, and indicates that we should pay attention.  The intonation is that we are expected to pray.  Not if, but when.  He even gives us an outline of a prayer strategy in the next few verses.

So, let us ask the question:  What area(s) of our life do we NOT have a DAILY prayer strategy?  Do we consider prayer important enough to go to a secluded place (if at all possible) to communicate with our Creator, who provides for all of our needs?  Have you noticed that God didn’t limit prayer in any way?  He didn’t want us to stop communicating with Him for any reason – nothing is out of bounds (check out David’s prayer – Ouch!).  He does say that anything we ask for in the Name of Jesus, or His character – what Jesus would ask for – would be given to us, especially if two or more of us agree on it.  But we are not limited to that.

Let us thank our Creator today for the wonderful opportunity to talk with Him about anything and everything.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You so love us that you have given us access to Your throne room,  What a privilege You have bestowed upon us.  Hear our cries, O Lord; Please do not turn your face from us when we seek you.  Forgive us our sins; help us to allow Your light to shine in every aspect of our lives so that the darkness may be cast out.  I have so many things to bring to You this day, Lord God.  Let my heart be poured out before you like a drink offering, and may the meditations of my heart be upon You and Your Word always.  Guide me that I may write down and address every area of life that, as I gird myself with Your armor, I will be prepared for what you have planned for me this day.  This I ask in the name of the Son of the One True God, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

A Calling of God – 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

What a high calling!  To carry the requests of the people to Almighty God!  A great privilege indeed.  Oh, the needs are great in this wicked generation. What deep and soul-piercing burden has God placed on your heart to deliver to Him in His Throne Room?

Whatever your burden, bring it to God, who has the power to move Heaven and Earth to bring glory to His name.  Have you ever considered that the rainbow, God’s everlasting covenant with the Earth (Genesis 9:13), required Him to utterly change the very fabric of nature, to alter the laws of physics, to make the sign of His covenant (Genesis 9:12-16)?  What will He then do for you, His royal priesthood, out of love, mercy, and grace, to bring Glory to His name?

A short prayer of preparation:

Gracious Father in Heaven, forgive me my many faults.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, that with clean hands and a pure heart, I may bring my petitions and praises to you in full confidence of your ability and willingness to answer.  I an grateful that Your Holy Word tells us that you have already prepared an answer.  Grant your servant favor this day, as I bring these requests to You, for there is no request too small that You are unwilling to answer.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?