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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

I love this quote by John Calvin, great theologian and church father in the 1500s:

“Believers do not pray with the view to informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant.  On the contrary, they pray in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word that they may declare that from him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.”

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In our last post, we looked at some of the ways our thinking can become confused when God delays in answering our prayers.  For a review, you can look at Psalm 77:7-9.  The remedy for the confused thinking illustrated in those verses is found in the verses that follow, Psalm 77:10-12.

In these verses, the Psalmist gives us 3 things we can do to get our thinking straight and fight the confusion that can enter our thinking when we have to wait for God to answer our prayers.

  • Remember what God has done.
  • Mediate on what God has done.
  • Tell of what God has done.

REMEMBER

In battling the confused thinking, I need to remember the work of the LORD, both in the history of mankind and in my own history, my own life.  This is a good time to remember that reading through the Bible from cover to cover every year or so will keep the works of God and the deeds of God in my memory.  Also, keeping a journal of what God is showing me and how He has answered my prayers can be a good way of keeping track of my history with God.  When I become confused in my thinking, I can review the records I have kept of how God is working in my life and the lives of my husband and my daughter and my family and friends.

MEDITATE

The Bible teaches that we must bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  By meditating on the Word and the works of God contained in the Word, I can train my mind to be obedient to Christ.  This is what is meant by taking every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  My thoughts can run in all directions and question God and be confused over His nature, but as I meditate on the Word and purpose to allow Christ to dominate my thoughts, I can learn to bring my thoughts through the Word and make them obey what Christ has said and done.  It is a discipline that must be practiced.  It can only be done if I know what the Word says.  I must be willing to sit and consider what the Bible means and how it can be applied to my life.

TELL OF WHAT GOD HAS DONE

How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  Isaiah 52:7.  It is important to learn of  what God has done and to mediate on what He has done, but it is equally important to tell others of what God has done.

When you become confused in your thinking because God has delayed in answering your prayers, and you are tempted to question God’s mercy, His faithfulness or His grace, consider the remedy for confusion discussed above:  Remember . . . Mediate . . . Tell!

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When I pray, I would like God to answer me immediately.  I would really appreciate visitation by a messenger of God to tell me that my prayer was heard and what God’s response will be.  That has not happened yet.  Sometimes, in His goodness and perfect timing, God delays in answering.  This time of silence on God’s part can lead to confusion on my part.  The Psalmist gives a good illustration in Psalm 77, verses 7-9 where he gives 6 statements which illustrate the potential confusion of thought in such situations.

  • Will the Lord cast off (reject me) forever? When God doesn’t answer right away, I can mistakenly believe He has forgotten me.  This is a mistake.  Consider what God says in Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.”  Just because God delays in answering, does not mean He has forgotten me.  I must remember His heart for me as written down for me in His word.
  • Will He be favorable no more? This is similar.  Because God has delayed, does it mean He will never do anything for me again?  Of course not.  God’s purposes towards me are all good.
  • Has His mercy ceased forever? The God of all mercy cannot change His character.  His mercy continues towards me.  It is a mistake to think He has suddenly changed His nature.
  • Has His promise failed forevermore? The promises of God are sure.  They will not fail.  As Paul tells us in Romans 3:4, “let God be true but every man a liar.”  Surely if God has promised to hear me when I call, He will answer.
  • Has God forgotten to be gracious? As with all of the confused thinking that results from unanswered prayer, this seems almost silly.  How would God forget to be gracious?  It is His nature, and that nature, the Bible teaches us, is unchangeable.  In Hebrews 13:8, we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
  • Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? The final example of confused thinking resulting when our prayers are not answered right away by God is like the others.  God is merciful.  It is part of His unchanging nature.

In our finite thinking, we quickly jump to some ridiculous conclusions when God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately.  We will learn in the next post how to cure or treat this confused thinking by countering it with what we know about God.

As you continue steadfastly in prayer, consider whether your thinking has gotten confused.  Remember these things about God:

  • He is always the same.  He never changes.  Heb. 13:8.
  • His thoughts towards you are for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jer. 29:11
  • If you seek God with all your heart, He will be found by you.  Jer. 29:13
  • Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.  Rom. 8:39
  • His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.  Lam. 3:23

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It may seem a strange question, but I am sure to those who don’t know God, the idea of prayer must seem very strange.  I am not ashamed to tell you that I pray to God because I am totally insufficient to solve my problems without God.

I was not always so insufficient to the task.  I spent a good 15 years in charge of my own life with no sovereign over me.  I had turned my back on the God who saved me because I felt “I could handle my life myself.”  I think you can imagine how that turned out.  I ruined my health, I ruined my relationships, and I was left depressed and hopeless most of the time despite having a successful career, my own business, a child and a house.  My sufficiency was woefully inadequate.  Turns out, I could not control myself or others, and I was exhausted from trying to keep everything together.

I was fortunate in that my God did not leave me to my own sufficiency, but rather He came looking for me.  Like the shepherd who lost one sheep and left the 99 others to go find the one that was lost, my God came to find me where I had wandered.  He found me lost, alone, dirty and caked with the mud of the world.  He carried me back to the flock, and He cleaned me up and set me feet on the rock and gave me a new song.   I would never go back by the grace of God.

I pray to God because He alone is able.

I pray to God because He is willing.

I pray to God because He loves me and wants what is best for me.

It is because of God’s goodness that He answers my prayers.

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I grew up with faith in God.  It was not always a saving faith, but I believed in God and knew that when you had a problem (or a complaint), it was to God one should turn.  My father died when I was 3 years old, and some of the adults in my life told me that my prayers were essential to my father getting to heaven.  As a three-year-old, I was motivated to pray.  After all,  if my father wasn’t going to be with me and my family, he needed to be with God.   I knew, instinctively, what to ask for,  I knew who to ask, and I knew why I could expect answers.

I needed my dad to be with God, I believed that God was able to meet my need, and I knew He had the power because He was God.

I agree it wasn’t a sophisticated theology, but it got me on my knees.  I remember praying at night and sometimes in the back of a church and asking God to make sure my dad made it to heaven.  I didn’t doubt.   I didn’t try to contact a back up provider.  I asked, believing and knowing the nature and authority of Him in whom I believed.  These are the essentials of prayer:

Ask believing that the one who is God (and therefore completely able) will answer.

It specifically excludes:

  • Prayers of those who don’t believe in God
  • Prayers of those who doubt God’s willingness to answer
  • Prayers of those who don’t trust in God
  • Rote prayers which lack a revelation of the individual heart and need required for relationship with God

I am a little older now, and I am committed to serving God and allowing Him to be the authority in my life.  I still pray to God believing that He will answer because I know that He is all-suffcicent and all powerful, and He alone is God and there is no other.  I know from my experience in prayer that I may not always like His answer initially, but I know He hears and answers my prayers according to what is best for me.

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The Bible teaches that a believer is guaranteed access to the Father in prayer.

  • Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
  • John 16:23  “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”

So what are the things that interfere with or hinder the prayer of a believer?

  • Iniquity – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”    Psalm 66:18
  • Carnality (asking for selfing desires) – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  James 4:3
  • Violence/bloodshed – “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.”  Isaiah 1:15
  • Rejection of God’s Counsel/advice –  “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD, They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke.”  Prov. 1:28-30
  • Arrogance/Lack of humility – “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18:10-14

Examine yourself to see if one of these is an issue for you.  Don’t let another day go by that your prayers are hindered.  As we will see in some of the upcoming posts, prayer is essential in the life of a believer.  It is both a great responsibility and a great privilege.

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Praying Thru the Tabernacle by Jon Courson is a book that I have bought so many copies of that I have lost count.  I have given copies to just about everyone that I know who loves the LORD and wants to learn to pray better.  Even some who didn’t ask got a copy.  It is a little book which, despite its size, packs a punch.  The book is based on a teaching that Pastor Jon gives on using the Tabernacle as a guide for prayer.  At each “station” of the Tabernacle, the person praying considers where they are and the aspect of prayer related to that piece of furniture or location.

For example, when you are before the bronze altar, you confess your sins.  The  booklet tells you briefly about the location, what occurred there and reminds you of what to pray about there.  When you are before the table of show bread, you pray for your daily “bread”, your daily needs.  It can be used as a devotional.  You learn about both prayer and the Tabernacle.  It is great.  It is available from Jon Courson’s ministry,  Searchlight.

ISBN:  978-0-97894723-0-0

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