Trade River EFC
Join us for these 40 Days Of Prayer
40 Days of Prayer – Day 1
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
We at TREFC are inaugurating a 40-day call to prayer for our church as we enter into a time of transition, evaluation and search for our next Sr. Pastor. These are strategic days and the task before us is significant – but God is great and he is able to lead us as we respond to his leading and provision. I am sharing meditations on prayer as a tool for us to focus our spiritual lives and to draw on the power of God as we enter into this most important season in the life of our church.
It is evident to me that we are on the precipice of great spiritual growth and that it would be consistent with the admonitions given in the Word of God to move forward in our ministry, even as we are in the midst of transition. Therefore, we are asking our congregation to join us in a 40 Days of Prayer campaign as we move forward together. Each day of these 40 days, I will be sharing a devotional thought on prayer and then giving some suggestions of items for us to pray about during our time of prayer each day.
The theme verse for this campaign is Philippians 19-13
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-13 (NIV)
These verses discuss Paul’s prayer that his readers would abound in knowledge and depth of insight, which I understand to address scriptural truth (knowledge) and the application of that truth (depth of insight). But notice the goal. Paul wants his readers to learn how to make choices in life that are best—not good, but best. Good can be the enemy of best. And the reason Paul speaks of the best is that he is calling his readers to a life of purity and blamelessness, full of righteousness. This requires that we take inventory of our lives, specifically our choices, and evaluate if they are the best choices for the development of a life that brings glory and praise to God and can be used in the ministry of our church.
So, as we begin our 40 Days of Prayer, let’s go before the Lord with the prayer of David as recorded in Psalm 139:23-24.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Take a few moments and listen to the Lord. What is he revealing to you right now? Is there a sin that entangles you? Is there an attitude that gets in the way of the Holy Spirit’s leading? Is there a relationship that needs reconciliation? Is there anything in your life that God is challenging you to address? If you are feeling led, take time to confess it and receive God’s gracious forgiveness and then rejoice in the present grace he gives in Jesus Christ. Let’s begin this 40 Day campaign secure in the grace of the LORD.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 2
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
A Commitment of Extraordinary Prayer, Part 1
Located near Yuma, Arizona, an electrical substation became the focus of attention in our nation’s news the first week in September of 2011. This substation connected enough electrical power to provide the energy needs for Arizona, Southern California and Mexico’s Baja California state – a total of approximately five million customers, both private and commercial. At about 3:30 A.M., one San Diego Gas and Electric Company employee went about his routine maintenance, changing out one piece of equipment. In the process, he interrupted power for his entire region for over 12 hours. Schools were shut down, planes were grounded, businesses and traffic were brought to a halt, hospitals went to generators for back-up power, and two nuclear reactors automatically shut down due to a change in the power grid. It was a genuine mess.
It is astounding to realize the enormous volume of power that this one person had right at his finger tips and to consider how his action–that caused the largest blackout in the history of the South West–was described as ordinary routine maintenance. How could dealing with that much power be considered routine and ordinary?
However, when we think about it, every customer considers plugging into that power routine and ordinary. The normal experience of the normal homeowner or business customer would be to tap into this massive power grid and draw a few kilowatts to light a lamp for reading, activate a hair blower, boot up a personal computer or power a night light in the bathroom! We think nothing of it. That’s just normal–an ordinary occurrence.
I’d like us to think of this power outage and all of its surrounding implications as a picture of how we, as Christians, deal with the presence of the power of God that is at our disposal in prayer. I think it is quite possible that, for some of us, it is the normal experience of our Christian routine to tap into the power of God as an ordinary routine. We routinely say, “Thank you for our food, bless my family, please provide for my needs, make the pain stop.” The reality is, when I bow in prayer, I am tapping into the power grid that runs the universe and is outside the limitations of physical time and space. I am connecting to a power that spoke the world into existence, a power that keeps molecules from exploding and governs the nations, a power that creates life, governs the weather, and sets limits on evil. The truth is that power is anything but ordinary, and when we tap into that power through prayer, that prayer should be anything but ordinary.
As we continue our 40 Days of Prayer campaign, I’d like to challenge us to make a commitment to extraordinary prayer. That is, prayer that is anything but normal and routine maintenance of our lives, prayer that recognizes the power of God that is ours when we bow our hearts before him.
Notice the prayer of the Apostle Paul as recorded in Ephesians 314-19
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The unifying theme of this passage is the power of God (Vs. 16 and18), specifically, the power of God that is extraordinary. Paul prays to the Father, the all-powerful God of the universe, who has glorious, limitless riches at his disposal (Vs.16). Since the power of God is extraordinary, we would be foolish to treat prayer that taps into that power as anything but extraordinary.
Prayer that taps into the extraordinary power of God is extraordinary prayer.
We must not fall into the practice of routine prayer, maintenance prayer, ordinary prayer. Since God’s power is extraordinary power, when we pray, our prayers are extraordinary. It is very unfortunate to believe that extraordinary prayer is about technique, or schedules, or ceremony. I used to think that. I used to think that prayer is extraordinary only when it is inconvenient, difficult, has a high cost or price to my life. Prayer is extraordinary, simply because it taps into the extraordinary power of God.
Jesus taught that all that is needed to move a mountain is faith as small as a mustard seed. That’s not much faith. But the prayer of a person with a mustard seed of faith will tap into the extraordinary power of God and it is that extraordinary power of God that moves the mountain. It is not the amount of our faith—it is the power of the object of our faith. Extraordinary prayer is the prayer of faith in the extraordinary power of God.
As we embark on these 40 Days of Prayer, let’s raise our expectations of what will happen. Prayer is extraordinary, because we are praying to the God of extraordinary power. It is not our prayers that count, but the one to whom we pray that counts.
Here is the application for today. Pray through Ephesians 3:14-19, applying all the pronouns (you) to yourself, praying these verses with “me” and “I” instead of “you.”
40 Days of Prayer – Day 3
A Commitment of Extraordinary Prayer, Part 2
So, how do we practice extraordinary prayer? Continuing in our examination of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, there are four components of extraordinary prayer:
First, pray with a vision of the majesty of God (Vs. 20).
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…
Here is another expression of the power of God. His power is able to do what is immeasurable, more than all we could imagine. I am reminded of Paul’s words only a few chapters earlier in this same letter:
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 Ephesians 1:18-22
Second, pray with an awareness of the presence of God (Vs. 17).
Christ dwells in our hearts. He is present in all of the ebbs and flows of life. Prayer that is steeped in the awareness, often an awe-filled awareness, of the presence of Jesus Christ who lives in and through us is so much more than a magical formula to be repeated. Rather, it is the personal communication, awed and adoring communication, of the redeemed creature who stands in the presence of the Savior God.
Third, pray in gratitude for the grace of God (Vs. 17).
The love of God found in Jesus is a gracious gift. Since prayer is offered by a sinful people, God’s lordship demands that we confess the holiness of God and penitently plead for forgiveness of sin, with assurance that our prayer will be heard. We cannot approach God apart from God first opening the door into his presence through the cross; the cross that offers us forgiveness of sin, freedom from guilt and shame, the gift of newness of life, and the hope of an inheritance in heaven. This brings a marvelous intimacy to prayer.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13
Fourth, pray with the goal of the glory of God (Vs. 21).
Access to the extraordinary power of God in prayer implies that we seek to do the will of God. The greatest desire of the people of God goes beyond deliverance from surrounding enemies and provision of daily needs. The prayer addressed to the Father seeks the glory of his name. That petition asks not simply that we glorify the name of God, but that he may do so. Extraordinary prayer is the petition that God be God, that the glory of his own Being remains and be continuously intensified. Then the pray-er goes on to ask that God’s will be done. His name is to be glorified by the full accomplishment of his own plan for the universe, not our plan for our own little world.
Now this is the element of extraordinary prayer that separates it from prayer that is normal and routine. In the midst of pain, we pray for God to glorify himself– even if that means that our pain continues. Sometimes God is more glorified by the way followers of Jesus handle pain than if he removed their pain. Sometimes we are bitterly disappointed when our plans do not come together. Extraordinary prayer prays for God to be glorified in our disappointment.
To summarize, the four components of extraordinary prayer are:
Vision of the Majesty of God. Pray that God gives you a perspective on your Christian life and the life of TREFC that is beyond what is seen.
An awareness of the Presence of God. Pray that God will impress upon you that he is living in you and through you by his Spirit.
Gratitude for the Grace of God. Reflect on the cross and the truth that Jesus paid the price for all of your sins.
The goal of the Glory of God. Now rejoice in prayer for his love and grace and give him the glory for all he has done with prayers of thanksgiving and worship.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 4
A Commitment of Extraordinary Prayer, Part 3
As we have been discussing extraordinary prayer, you may have had thoughts that this way of viewing prayer is much too complicated. Can’t we just learn something simple, easy, three steps to answered prayer? Can’t you just tell me how I can get stuff from God? How God can get me ahead in life? How I can get him to stop the pain of my circumstance? But that is not how Paul prayed for us. Paul unleashed the extraordinary power of God through extraordinary prayer. The peril of Christians today is microwave faith, pre-packaged discipleship, and instant prayer.
Here is my promise–on the authority of this passage, I can guarantee that if we learn how to pray as we have learned the last two days, our circumstance will change because we will change.
We will experience change in our inner being (Vs. 16).
Our inner being is a way to describe the spiritual side of the human make-up. That spiritual make-up will be changed when we unleash the extraordinary power of God in our own lives through extraordinary prayer.
This verse introduces us to a vital principle of prayer. The power of God is unleashed through the Holy Spirit. It is the ministry of the third person of the Holy Trinity to bring the power of God to our lives and change us from the inside out.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27
When we pray with a vision of the majesty of God, an awareness of the presence of God, gratitude for the grace of God, and with the goal being the glory of God, the Holy Spirit unleashes the extraordinary power of God. The result is inner spiritual renovation. Our will will be conformed to his, our passions will become his passions, his sorrow will be our sorrow, his joy will be our joy.
We will experience growth in discipleship (Vs. 17b-19).
As we learn to pray with a vision of the majesty of God, an awareness of the presence of God, gratitude for the grace of God, with the goal being the glory of God, God will unleash his extraordinary power in our lives so that we will grasp the dimensions of the love of Christ.
The love of Christ is broad enough to encompass all mankind, long enough to last for eternity, deep enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and high enough to exalt him to heaven.
The more we grasp the love of Jesus for ourselves, the more we will love one another. We are loved by Jesus so that we may love for Jesus. We will know the unknowable. Here is a realization of mystery–and growth in discipleship means that we begin to be OK with mystery.
Further, we will be filled with the fullness of God. This can only refer to our eternal state, when we rest in the arms of God in heaven, filled with all that God intended us to be. Result is growth in discipleship.
Extraordinary prayer does change things because it changes us. My promise to you is that if you stay with us for the full 40 Days of Prayer, things will never be the same.
Pray that we would grow in the way we love one another and that we promote unity in the Spirit, submit to one another, encourage one another, and forgive one another.
Pray that we would increase in humility, counting others as being better than ourselves, thus building unity in our body.
Pray that we would be empowered by the Lord to serve with passion and enthusiasm, realizing that we are handcrafted by God to walk in good works.
Pray that we would develop an environment where the biblical role of men as leaders in their homes, as well as at church and in culture, is encouraged.
Pray that God would give us new believers to establish in the faith and to disciple in the Word.
Pray that marriages will be healed, families strengthened, and relationships reconciled.
BUT DON’T PRAY PRAYERS OF ROUTINE MAINTENANCE AND ORDINARY PRAYERS. Pray with:
A vision of the Majesty of God
An awareness of the Presence of God
Gratitude for the Grace of God
The goal of the Glory of God
Then, our circumstance will change because we will change.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 5
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
The history of Israel included the very unfortunate time of divine judgment when God demonstrated his justice by removing the people from the Promised Land for 70 years. When it was time for them to return, God continued to show himself to them as he answered prayer and facilitated the return to Jerusalem. One of those answered prayers happened during the time when Ezra was leading a group on the journey home. Prior to their departure, Ezra expressed his great confidence that the hand of God was on him and the people. He was convinced that God was paving the way for their trip and that he would provide all they needed–and he made that confidence public. But when it came time for them to actually venture out on the road through dangerous country and in the midst of unfriendly people, the temptation was to ask the king for protection as they traveled. Instead, Ezra asked the King of Kings.
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. Ezra 8:21-23
I am very motivated by this story to practice what I preach. How many times have I boasted that God will provide for me and protect me, and then when it came time to take the first step, I wanted extra assurance that things would go well. And how many times as we plan ministry do we boast about how faithful God is and how we know that he will provide, but yet insist that we know every detail and every possibility of how things might progress before we venture out. If we believe that God is leading us, that his good hand is upon us, then let’s act like it. Let’s step out in faith with prayer and fasting, knowing that God will answer our prayers.
Read Psalm 34. Form a prayer of faith and confidence from David’s words of worship. Thank God for the many prayer promises that David expresses. (especially Vs. 8-10, 15-20). Now let’s rest in his promise and watch him provide.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 6
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer has been somewhat of a mystery to me. The Bible says of God that, …even before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely… (Psalm 139:4). So, if God knows our thoughts as we formulate our prayers, even the words we are going to pray, what is the use of praying? Isn’t prayer an enterprise in futility? I would say, “of course not,” and an experience in the life of Israel as they were on their journey to the Promised Land gives us insight as to why.
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of your men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So, Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands up, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hand grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, and the other on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So, Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:8-15
The Amalekites were a nomad group that roamed the plains of Caanan. When the people of Israel, several million strong, ventured into their territory, it was natural for them to consider this an intrusion of their land, so they responded accordingly and made war against Israel. This was the first military-type conflict Israel had ever faced. Up to this point, the Lord fought Israel’s battles for them while the people passively stood by. Remember how God initiated the plagues, the death of the Egyptian first born, parting the water, and the defeat of the Egyptian army? All these things happened as part of their deliverance. These acts of God were evidences that God was providing his grace to his chosen people, reminding them that there was nothing they could do to accomplish their salvation. All of God’s people are saved by God’s grace. It is God’s gift!!
But now that Israel was delivered, a new principle directed their relationship with God. I call it Dependent Responsibility. God displayed that He has plenty of resources–bread from heaven, water from rocks, etc., and the Lord demonstrated that he would give his people those resources but they were not to take them for granted. They had a responsibility. God wants his people to be involved in life but, in so doing, he wants them to acknowledge and express dependence on him. God’s promise is to provide for us. Our responsibility is to move forward at his command but in total dependence. Here is how this principle relates to prayer:
Prayer is an expression of dependence on God. When we bow in prayer we are saying, “Lord, this is way beyond me. I am completely at a loss in my own strength. I’ll move forward, but I depend on you.” When Moses lifted up his hands, it was prayer that expressed dependence on God. His army, under the leadership of Joshua, was composed of slaves. They had no training or experience in hand-to-hand combat or military strategy, and they found themselves in a battle for their lives. Previously, God fought for them, but now they had the responsibility to engage the enemy. But it was not a responsibility fulfilled with self effort, self confidence, and self accomplishment. It was an effort fulfilled through prayer, which is the ultimate expression of dependence on God. When Moses prayed, the battle went Israel’s way. When Moses lowered his hands and stopped praying, the battle went the Amalekites’ way. Prevailing over their enemy was their responsibility, but it depended on God’s power. The only way total victory could happen is if Moses continued to pray–not just pray at the beginning of the battle–pray till the battle was over.
This removes some of the mystery of prayer. God wants us involved in life, but he wants us to rely on him. Prayer is our expression that, in our efforts to fulfill our responsibility in living the Christian life, such as reading and studying the Bible so that we acquire wisdom to make good choices or serving in the local church so we have a healthy church family, we are to be sure we stay dependent on him, and that is accomplished as we pray. Prayer is an expression of dependent responsibility.
Read John 15:1-8. In your prayers today, remember that the goal of prayer is accomplishing things in life (fruit), all for God’s glory. But this is accomplished only as we remain in Jesus, and one way we remain in Jesus is by depending on him for answered prayer. Make a list of the things you believe he is calling you to accomplish for him. Now pray over each one, expressing your dependence on him in every way.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 7
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
There is a very interesting verse recorded in Zechariah 4:6.
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty.
These are words directed to Zerubbabel, the leader, who along with Joshua the High Priest, were in charge of rebuilding the temple following the exile. During this period of Israel’s history, the Temple was to be the placed where God met his people and the central gathering place where they would worship him. Rebuilding the Temple and restoring the worship of Israel was a high priority as God was restoring his relationship with them following the time of judgment at the hands of the Babylonians. But this was a daunting task. There was opposition from Israel’s enemies. However, even more serious was apathy from within. The people had lost sight of the priority of temple worship and spent most of their energy on building their own homes and cultivating their fields. The neglect of the Temple signified a neglect of God.
In our day, following the cross and all of its glorious accomplishments, a central gathering place is no longer required for us to worship the Lord. Jesus made it clear that God is Spirit and that those who worship him do so in spirit and in truth; that is, in our spiritual worship from the heart guided by the truth of his Word. Nonetheless, it is quite possible for apathy to creep into the lives of post-cross believers. We, like the former exiles, can easily become caught up in our own affairs and neglect the things of God.
So, how do we turn our hearts back to the Lord? The answer is in the words from Zechariah. It is not by might, which might be translated as “brains.” Creative programs, intellectual influence, and accomplishment will fall short. It is not by power, which might be translated “brawn.” Physical effort, dedication, and hard work, while significant, will fall short. It is by the Spirit of God that hearts are turned to God. No amount of human creativity and effort will bring about lasting spiritual growth. Yesterday, we talked about “dependent responsibility.” Brains and brawn may be our responsibility, but unless we are dependent on the Spirit of God, they will not produce lasting spiritual fruit.
Here is where prayer plays a significant role. As we pray, our hearts become in tune with God’s heart. As we pray, the hearts of leaders catch God’s vision. As we pray, the Spirit of God begins to accomplish his work and his will begins to take hold in this world. The greatest intellectual activity we can be about is training our minds in the discipline of prayer. The greatest effort we can exert is the hard work of prayer. And, when we do, the priority of worshiping God will be re-established in our hearts and the work of the Gospel will move forward. Let’s continue in our 40 Days of Prayer campaign with a renewed commitment to ask the Spirit of God to do a great work in our hearts and in the heart of our congregation as a whole.
Read Romans 8:26-27. Pray the words of these verses, confessing to God that we do not know how to pray as we should. Confess to him that all of our intellectual and physical prowess falls short as we seek to live for him and serve in our ministries. Ask the Spirit of God to intercede for us as we pray, not necessarily with words, or even sounds, but as we wait in his presence and bring to him the needs and cares of the lives of those in our family and our church family. Thank him that he knows God’s will and that, as we commit ourselves to him, and him only, we can have confidence that God will be glorified. Spend a season of silence in prayer before the Holy Spirit right now.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 8
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for the Healing of America, Pt. 1
2 Chronicles 7:11-14
A casual observation of America reveals a severely broken culture. When Madonna declares that the Super Bowl is a worship service and she is the sermon, we know things are not the way they are supposed to be. Close to home, we see our brightest and best fall in a war that many doubt is just, high school employees have sexual relations with students, people drive drunk repeatedly – some with fatal consequences. Longtime employees embezzle from the restaurant that provided them opportunity, state politics turns into mud wrestling, national politics turns into – well, wrestling in worse than mud. Families are disintegrating, teens drop out of church, and depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders are at an all time high. Our land is sick and in need of a doctor.
As we consider from whence we have come, this state of affairs seems incongruent. Only two hundred years ago French culture analyst, Alexis de Tocqueville, declared that America was the most spiritual nation on earth. What happened to the hand of God that birthed a nation out of the quest for religious freedom and submission to Almighty God? Perhaps we can find some answers from the history of Israel.
The apex of the history of God’s people was the construction and dedication of the Temple, the place God chose to manifest his presence among his people. God filled it with his glory, precipitating a prayer from Solomon that stands as a model of humility and worship. During that prayer, Solomon prayed:
26 When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, 2 7then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. (2 Ch. 6:26-27 NIV)
Solomon’s prayer was, in one sense, prophetic. Israel did sin and God did shut up the heavens, withholding his blessings from them. Solomon’s prayer was also intercessory. He prayed that when this happened, God in his mercy, would forgive the people and restore his blessing – when they would pray and confess their sins. Direct hit!!! God must have been leading his king in this prayer because God affirms it in what has become the most beloved prayer promise found in 2 Chronicles.
11 When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, 12 the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. 13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 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. (2 Ch. 7:11-14 NIV)
Notice Verse 13. God told Solomon that if (when) the people of God sinned against him, God would shut up the heavens so that there would be no blessing on the land. Isn’t that what America has done? And isn’t that what God has done? We have neglected the sanctity of life. We have abandoned the nuclear family, men have abdicated leadership, generally speaking, what God intended for good, we have turned into evil. As a consequence, God has shut up the heavens. There hasn’t been a significant wind of spiritual revival since the early 70’s when students on campuses all across this nation experienced a new Breath of Spiritual renewal. Yet, in Verse 14, God gave Solomon an answer to his prayer of 6:26-27. God promised Israel, and us, that if we humble ourselves, and pray and seek his face and turn from our wicked ways, God will hear from heaven, open heaven’s door of blessing and heal our land.
This week I will unpack this promise and lead us in meaningful prayer that God would hear from heaven and heal our land. God made a promise. Maybe the fulfillment will begin in Trade Rivdr, Wisconsin.
Read 1 John 1:8-10. What sins are in our lives that need to be confessed? We must have some. If we claim we don’t, we deceive ourselves. Ask God to search our hearts and then confess our sins, thanking God for the promise of his forgiveness.
Read Daniel 9:4-19. Make this prayer your prayer for America. Realize that even though Daniel mentions the judgment of God on Jerusalem for their idolatry, the principles of acknowledging God’s rule and the consequences for rebelling against are universal truths and still apply to America, or any country.
Notice this same type of model prayer in Nehemiah 1:1-11.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 9
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying For the Healing of America, Pt. 2
2 Chronicles 7:11-14
The worship of the Lord God has always been an international enterprise. God chose Abraham to be the father of the family from which the Messiah would emerge, not only to rule the people of God, but also to serve them by giving his life as the atoning sacrifice for their sins. But who are the people of God?
1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3 NIV)
The people of God come from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. All people on earth will be blessed by this descendent of Abraham. God’s mission was to the family of Abraham, but equally to all the nations of the earth.
Yesterday, we referred to the prayer of Solomon as he dedicated the Temple. Notice what he prays in 2 Chronicles 6:32-3.
32 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm–when they come and pray toward this temple, 33 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (2 Ch. 6:32-33 NIV)
Solomon knew that the Temple was the place where God showed his glory, and it was his glory that would reach out to all the people of the earth. Several generations later, Isaiah declares this same truth.
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant– 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isa 56:6-7 NIV)
No wonder Jesus was so incensed when he found the Temple Court of The Gentiles converted into a den of thieves (Mark 11:15-17). This was where the nations were invited to pray and give glory to God.
We are now ready to return to the promise from 2 Chronicles 7. God promised that he would hear the prayers of those who were “his people,” those who were “called by his name.” (Vs. 14) Certainly, the immediate context is the Israelites who were under the leadership of the Davidic King, Solomon. But, it likewise includes all of us, who place our faith in the greater Davidic King, Messiah Jesus.
15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Eph. 2:14-16 NIV)
So, is it appropriate for 21ST Century Christians to claim the promise given to Solomon? Are we really God’s people, those who are called by his name? Do we have the hope, that if we pray, God will hear from heaven and heal our land? Absolutely. Therefore, let us commence calling on God!!! America, and every nation for that matter, is not too far from God to receive his blessings.
Read Psalm 2:1-6. How does God view the cultures of the nations? How should we pray for America? (Notice Vs. 6) Is Jesus Lord of the nations? (See Phil. 2:9-11)
Read Proverbs 16:12, 25:4-5. How shall we pray for those in authority in America?
Read Proverbs 14:34. What is the attribute of a healthy culture? How does that influence our prayers for America?
Read Psalm 9. What indicates that God has the right to judge the nations? (Vs. 4-5, 7-8, 15-16, 19-20) What assurance is there for the people of God? (Vs. 9-10) Pray for God to bless America and use the people of God who live here for his glory.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 10
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying For The Healing of America, Pt. 3
2 Chronicles 7:11-14
A reality of life is that spiritual renovation projects always begin with us. But, reality has a way of escaping us. We are insulated by the bubble of self-interest. If you are like me, we can very easily point out everything that is wrong with the world, everything that is wrong with our country, our church, our spouse and kids. When the pastor makes a good point in his sermon, our first thought is, “I hope so and so heard that!”
This week we are discussing the promise from God given to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:11-14, that in response to the prayers of his people, God will heal their land. Wow!! Let’s get to pray’en! But not so fast. The interesting element of the promise from God that he will heal our land is that “his people,” those who are “called by his name,” (see my meditation from yesterday) must humble themselves and pray. This is a message not to our broken country, but to the people of God. When we pray – we must humble ourselves. In order for God to heal our land, he must first do a work in us. Let’s talk about how to humble ourselves in prayer, using a story told by Jesus as our model.
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14 NIV)
This story is a story of contrasts. One pray-er exalts himself, the other humbles himself. One pray-er was right with God, the other was wrong. This story reminds us that God continuously seeks to protect his own honor. Any time we exalt ourselves over God, God is not pleased, and as a result, he will not answer our prayers. The first commandment sets the standard – “You will have no other gods before me – including yourselves!” I remember a conversation when this concept was being discussed and the comment was made that God seems quite arrogant, demanding that everyone honor him. But what is arrogance but thinking highly of oneself when someone else is higher. But no one is higher than God. No one deserves more honor than God, so God cannot be arrogant. He is the highest being in the universe, so demanding that he be honored above all others, is simply adhering to the facts. If we presume to pray and exalt ourselves in our prayers by demanding that God conform to our wishes, or that God acknowledge how wonderful we are, or that God take second place to us, we should not be surprised when our prayers bounce off the heavens right back at us. To humble ourselves is to acknowledge that before God we are nothing and he is everything. He is God and we are not, and that is the way we want it to be.
So, if we want to pray for the healing of our nation, let’s start by examining every area of our lives to see if there is any way that we are putting ourselves before God. Is there a way that God is governing the world that does not meet our approval? Is there a way that God is directing the paths of those in authority (see Romans 13, which teaches that every authority is under God’s direct influence) that does not fit our desires? Are we discontent with God for the way he is directing our personal lives? If there is even a hint of disapproval with God’s sovereign governance of the world – we need to humble ourselves in prayer. Only then will he hear from heaven and heal our land.
Read Matthew 6:5. Is there any way you fall into that trap?
Read James 4:1-3. What is your real motive in prayer? How might you make certain your prayers are humble prayers?
Read James 4:10. What is the promise from God for those who humble themselves before him?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does the life of Jesus outlined in these verses model humility?
40 Days of Prayer – Day 11
Three Lakes Evangelical Free church
Praying For the Healing of America, Pt. 4
2 Chronicles 7:11-14
There is a much-loved verse in Psalm 42 that has inspired much devotional fervor over the generations.
1As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My
soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
(Ps. 42:1-2 NIV)
The psalmist desired God, thirsted after him, and sought him, like a deer panting for the refreshment of water after days without a drink, parched and weak from raging thirst, longing for the cool streams running from snow-covered mountains. This is the heart of one who seeks the face of God. When God spoke to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14, his promise was that his people would hear from heaven. God would heal their land when they humbled themselves and prayed and when they would “seek my face.” Here is an expression that deserves special attention. Today and tomorrow I want to discuss just what it means to seek the face of God.
I think it is important to note the object of this search. Sometimes we think that, when we seek the Lord, we are seeking his favor or his blessings or his guidance. But this expression is much more than that. This expression points us to a heartfelt search for God himself! Certainly God does not have a face. This is a description that describes his presence. It is like the child of a soldier stationed in a faraway land who wants more than a letter from daddy, more than a conversation over the phone when he only hears his voice. The next time you see a family reunion when a child runs to the arms of her soldier dad, notice she takes her hands and strokes daddy’s beard and put her cheeks next to his. They want to feel his presence by “experiencing” his face. God’s “face” is the great good sought after, the divine presence requested, and the intimate conversation encountered. Listen to a string of verses that paints this vivid picture:
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Ps. 63:1 NIV)
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
(Ps. 73:25 NIV)
I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. (Ps. 143:6 NIV)
Seeking God in this way implies that God has been away. Even though he is always present, he has withdrawn the manifestation of his “face”, he has hidden himself, spiritually withdrawn from us and, as it were, shut up the heavens. Isn’t that what we are experiencing in our land? For the people of God, it seems spiritually lonely in America. Our response must be more than a casual prayer before we sit down to a four-course meal. Seeking the face of God is something we do in addition to prayer. Seeking the face of God is a concerted effort to prevail on God to return and to grant us a fresh manifestation of himself to our land.
In the immediate context of this promise to Solomon, repentance plays a huge role in seeking God’s face, a concept I will discuss later this week. In the coming days during our 40 Days of Prayer campaign, I will be referring to many facets of prayer that might unpack this concept further, describing how prayer is incorporated in the other spiritual disciplines, such as meditation, the reading and study of Scripture, and fasting. These are all elements of seeking the “face” of God that are in addition to prayer, while at the same time, are enveloped by prayer. I hope you stay tuned for the entire series.
Read Psalm 27:4. How does this verse describe seeking the face of God?
Read Philippians 3:8 and 2 Corinthians 4:4. What is the face of God?
Ask in your heart, “Would you be happy in heaven if Christ were not there? (See The Gospel Is God by John Piper.) Pray for that all-encompassing thirst for God, to experience Jesus and his presence in your life, and to know the power of the Holy Spirit as you walk by faith every moment of your day.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 12
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for the Healing of America, Pt. 5
2 Chronicles 7:11-14
One of my most fun introductions to a sermon was the day I challenged one of our youth to a video game where we would race cars on a moving track. Each of us had a car and we would manipulate the controller in an effort to steer it so that it would stay on the track. When we failed to negotiate a turn, our cars spun out, with all the appropriate sound effects, both from the sound track and the congregation. But getting off track was not fatal. We simply pressed the accelerator and got back on track. In the meantime, we lost ground in the race, missed out on points, and embarrassed ourselves in front of hundreds of people. My text for the morning was Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1 NIV)
This verse challenges us to live our lives like a sprinter might run a race or a video gamer might play the game. Focus on the finish line and do everything possible to avoid obstacles so that you’re able to finish strong. Two obstacles are mentioned by the author. First are things that hinder. They may not be bad things, maybe not even sinful things, but they hinder us in our race, such as the desire for approval from others, the accumulation of money, and the appearance of success. These things are not sinful in themselves, unless they slow us down in our race. The second obstacle is sin that entangles. Here is the real issue. This category of behaviors includes sins that knock us off the track, sins that prevent us from reaching the finish line. We are to have nothing to do with these activities. We are to throw them off.
Here is how this verse relates to our prayer for America. God’s people have fallen into sins that entangle, such as sexual immorality, divorce, dishonesty at the office, cheating on our taxes, anger, rebellion against authority, selfish clamoring for power, substance abuse, judgmentalism, and on and on. We have allowed our culture to squeeze us into its mold until there is very little difference between God’s people and those who reject Jesus. The promise of God to heal our land in response to our prayers requires that we “turn from our wicked ways” – not the culture, but the people of God.
This phrase might be unpacked to describe two actions. First, it means to stop sinning. I remember preaching on the life of Joseph, a hero of the Old Testament, and how he resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Genesis 39) Within a few days, two people came to me confessing that they were having affairs, asking me to help get free from those sinful relationships. But, this is only half the battle. This phrase also means to start growing. Over the next several months I helped them evaluate what made them susceptible to these affairs, and then got them involved in healthy accountability so they would get back on track in their relationship with God. An eloquent description of this process is found in the writing of Isaiah.
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Is. 55:6-7 NIV)
The point is profound. If God’s people are entangled by sin, our prayers for America are worthless! We are the problem! But if we get serious about our own lives, God will hear our prayers and heal our land. God clearly says that he has no time for those who are called by his name, but who are lukewarm in their devotion to him. In fact, he says he will spit them out of his mouth. (Rev. 3:14-16) With God’s people entangled in sin, is it any wonder that the windows of heaven are closed? But what would happen if we got serious, I mean really serious, about following Jesus? Let’s begin to get our own house in order and then earnestly pray the same for America.
Begin your prayer time today with an honest inventory of your life. Pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24 and write down anything that the Lord brings to mind.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Ps. 139:23-1 NIV)
Now thank God for the promise of his forgiveness.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Ps. 51:1-2 NIV)
40 Days of Prayer – Day 13
Trade River Evangelical Free church
Praying For the Healing Of America, Pt. 6
History clearly teaches us that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, influences on a culture was the power of the Christian message that spread across the Roman Empire through the planting of local churches. The Book of Acts chronicles how the humble beginnings of this movement from God, through people who were scattered from Jerusalem because of persecution, grew into a mighty force that changed the entire culture. Devoted followers of Jesus Christ united together in local churches, clustering around Antioch of Syria, Ephesus in Asia, and Rome in Europe. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of churches organized and the saints of God united. In only 300 years, Christianity became the official faith of the Empire.
The awesome proliferation of the gospel did not happen through individualism. It happened when believers united together. Early in Acts, God poured out his blessings to groups of Christ-followers. It began in the upper room with 120 disciples who were united in prayer. It happened when the crowds gathered at the Temple to listen to the disciples teach. It happened when believers gathered in homes for fellowship, the ministry of the word, breaking of bread and prayer. (Acts 2:42).
The promise of God to heal the nation, given to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:11-14, describes people praying together, not individually. The pronouns in the text are all plural. There is no indication that God intended individuals to pray for their land alone. It was a corporate effort. Just prior to the American Great Awakening of the 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards described “explicit agreement and visible union” in prayer. The result was revival and the healing of America. Can it happen again? Only God knows, but we would do well to pray – together.
I hope you are using these meditations during the 40 Days of Prayer for your personal devotions. But my challenge today is that you find others and pray together. Take these prayer principles to your small group, your Bible Studies, your lunch dates. Pray together with your family. When this campaign officially concludes, we will be gathering together for a prayer gathering, when we will join together in explicit agreement and visible union as we pray. Watch for further details in the next few days.
Review Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. We have discussed the need to persevere in prayer, to be earnest in prayer and not to give up. Apply these verses to the enterprise of prayer for the healing of America.
Read Psalm 42:4; 122:1. Notice how there was gladness and anticipation for prayer and worship together. As you anticipate our Sunday activities, pray that God would give you a hunger for united worship and prayer.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 14
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying For the Kingdom of God on Earth
Imagine for a moment the emotional and mental whiplash inflicted on a child if a parent were to give that child specific instructions on how to nurture a healthy relationship with that parent and then when the child follows those instructions that same parent refuses to develop a relationship.
Here is how that conversation might unfold.
Child: “Dad, what do you want me to do and say that would nurture a
relationship with you?”
Dad: “When you communicate with me, do thus and so, and ask for such and
Child: “If I do thus and so, and ask for such and such, will you have a
relationship with me?”
During the coming days, the child does thus and so, and asks for such and such, but the dad refuses to nurture a relationship with the child. What kind of dad would relate to a child this way? I think we would all agree – a bad dad!
Jesus’ disciples came to him and asked him how to pray, which is in effect, “How do we nurture a relationship with our heavenly dad?” Jesus responds and says, ‘Do thus and so, and ask for such and such.” (I’ll unpack the specifics in a moment.) Since God is a good dad (“Father” is “Abba” which means daddy), we can have confidence that, if we follow Jesus’ specific instruction on how to pray, God will answer our prayers.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 NIV)
9 Jesus responded, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ “
(Matt. 6:9-10 NIV)
Jesus specifically instructed his disciples to pray that the Kingdom of God would come to this earth and that God’s will might be done on earth even as it is done in heaven. If Jesus instructed us to ask for these things, and then we ask for them, we can have assurance that he will grant the request because God is a good dad.
All this week we have been praying that God would heal America. Using the prayer promise given to Solomon, we learned that if the people of God would pray – humbly, seeking his face, and in a spirit of repentance – God would heal our land. Now we read from the lips of Jesus that God specifically instructs us to pray that his Kingdom might be manifest on earth, even as it is in heaven, and that prayer is answered in the local church. Let’s put these two concepts together and see if we can have specific guidance on how to pray for the healing of America.
I would suggest that the way the Kingdom of God is manifest on earth is through the local church. Life in the Body of Christ is a foretaste of life in heaven. God’s Kingdom comes to earth and God’s will is done on earth though healthy local churches. Now apply that concept to God’s promise to Solomon. Who is supposed to humble themselves, who is supposed to seek his face, who is supposed to turn from their wicked ways? The answer is, “Those who are God’s people, those who are called by his name.” That’s the local church.
My conclusion is this – when we pray for the Kingdom of God to be manifest on earth and for God’s will to be done on earth, we are praying for healthy local churches. God’s people, those who are called by his name, make up local churches. If God’s people, those who are called by his name (local churches), humble themselves, seek his face and turn from their wicked ways, God will heal their land. Therefore, let’s pray for the health of our local church. We can have great assurance that God will answer that prayer because that is what he told us to pray. Subsequently, we can have confidence that we are on the way to realizing the promise of God to Solomon that he would heal our land.
Read Acts 2:42-47. What are the specific activities of this first local church? Now pray that these same activities might prosper at TREFC.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-30. Pray that everyone at TREFC would joyfully enter into service according to the giftedness given to them by God.
Read 1 Corinthians 13. Pray that everyone who is part of the TREFC family would grow in love for one another.
Read Philippians 2:1-4. Pray that our TREFC family would nurture humility in everything we do.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 15
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Yesterday we discussed how life in the local church is a foretaste of heaven, and that when Jesus instructed us to pray that his Kingdom would be manifest on earth as it is in heaven, we could faithfully follow that instruction by praying for healthy churches. Today I want to take the thought of praying for the Kingdom of God on earth to its ultimate fulfillment. This thought begins in the Garden of Eden.
When God created the heavens and the earth, he put humanity in the garden. This, according to many biblical scholars, is the first manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. There is the King who is God. He demonstrated that he is the King by virtue of creating out of nothing. But a King needs people to rule, so God created humanity. He also needs a place to rule his people, so he created the Garden of Eden. There we have it – the King, a people to rule, and a place to rule them – the Kingdom of God on earth.
But when Adam and Eve sinned, the Kingdom of God on earth became broken. Immediately the King initiated a plan to redeem his kingdom, which was to bring forth the Redeemer from the family of Adam and Eve. Beginning with Genesis 3:15 and continuing through the entire Old Testament, we observe the generations of the family of the Redeemer, culminating in the birth of Jesus. Through the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the renewed kingdom of God has been established on earth in the hearts of believers. Believers now bow before the King, we follow his rule, and we live on the earth – even though we are not of it. Through local churches, the Kingdom of God is alive and well, but certainly not in its perfect form like it was in the Garden of Eden. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will return to earth and establish a literal kingdom on earth during a period known as the Millennium (Rev. 20) when he will rule, as the Father’s representative, with a righteous benevolent rule. Then, according to 1 Corinthians 15:24, the end will come when Jesus hands the Kingdom of God over to the Father and we have the renewal of the earth, the new Garden of Eden if you will, and the eternal rule of the King over his people on the new heaven and new earth.
So where does that leave us with praying the Lord’s Prayer, when Jesus said to pray for his Kingdom to come on earth? Listen to John’s prayer at the end of Revelation. He concludes his record of the revelation given to him by Jesus, in which Jesus announces that he will return and establish the Kingdom of God on earth for 1000 years.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20 NIV)
John prays, “Come, Lord Jesus” or “Maranatha.” Now, our prayers for the coming of Jesus will not hasten his arrival. God has that time already established. But such a prayer is nonetheless very significant, because it keeps our focus on a time and a life that transcends the one we are living now.
Here is my point. Oh, how many are the times that I have cried out to God in the midst of a particularly difficult time in my life, “Come, Lord Jesus.” That prayer gives me instant relief. I am reminded that there will be a time when there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more problems, no more sin. There will be a time when I will experience the life for which I was created. Just crying out, “Come, Lord Jesus,” gives me the strength to carry on till that reality invades this world and my life is transformed. I look forward to living in the final and renewed Kingdom of God on earth, in the renewed Garden of Eden (survey its description in Rev. 21-22) under the rule of my heavenly Father, and in perfect fellowship with his people. Won’t you join with me, “Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus.”
Read 1 Peter 1:1, 4-5, 17; 2:9-12. Thank God that we are sojourners and exiles from this world and that we have a greater inheritance that is being kept for us in heaven. Then pray for wisdom on how to best honor him during our journey, away from home.
Read John 14:1-3. Thank God for the promise of Jesus’ return and, when he comes, he will take us to a better place.
Read Revelation 20:3-4. Thank God for the promise that we will enjoy an unhindered life in the very presence of God in perfect peace and joy.
Enjoy Psalm 16:11, Psalm 27:4, Psalm 73:25-26.
Now pray the words of Revelation 4:8, 11.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 16
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Assurance of Answered Prayer, Pt. 1
It is always fun to read the signs that fans bring to a ball game. Some express great
confidence that their team will win. Others are not so sure – “You gotta believe.” “Hope, hope, hope.” “This could be our year!” When we consider our prayer life, how is our confidence that God will answer our prayers?
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ’Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity, he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5-8 NIV)
This parable divides into two sections. Vs. 5-7, which opens with the phrase, Suppose you have a friend…. Much of the travel in this part of the country was in the evening because of scorching heat, so in Jesus’ story, this traveler arrived at midnight. In the Middle East there was a very high value of hospitality to travelers, which is a community responsibility, and if someone did not find hospitality, it was scandalous. Therefore, when Jesus suggests that the friend might say Don’t bother me, the anticipated response is, “ No one would ever do such a thing. This would never happen – Horrors!”
The second section is Vs. 8, which opens, “I tell you…” Here Jesus makes a deliberate contrast. Nobody would do what he described in Vs. 5-7. Everybody would do what he is about to describe. The neighbor gives his friend the bread – all he needs. Of course. This makes perfect sense.
The message of the parable is found as we understand the motive of the neighbor who gives his friend the bread, which is described by the word in Vs. 8, translated in the NIV
“shameless audacity.” There are two ways to translate this word. First, it could describe the friend asking for the bread, in which case it would refer to persistence, referring to the way he asked. He was bold or persistent or shameless even audacious in his request. The idea of this parable then is to be persistent and even aggressive in prayer like this friend at midnight, and if you keep on asking, God will finally give you your answer. However, in Jesus’ story, the friend only asks once, and further, if this word is taken to mean shameless audacity, the implication is that God is reluctant to answer prayer and we have to wrestle things from him, which does not fit the context (as we will see in the next two days). There is a second way to translate the word in Vs. 8, and it is much preferred. It could describe the neighbor who was in bed, in which case, the word would be translated shamelessness. Shamelessness refers to the reputation of the neighbor in the eyes of the community. It is a word to describe one’s character, meaning that a person would never act in such a way as to bring shame upon himself. He would always act in a way that would uphold his reputation and spread his good name. Translated this way, the idea of the parable is this: Of course, the neighbor will get up and give his friend all the bread he needs because he would never allow himself to be perceived as a stingy neighbor refusing hospitality to a traveler. The neighbor will not get up and give his friend what he needs because he is a friend or because of anything this friend might do. The neighbor will get up and give his friend what he needs because of who he, the neighbor himself, is and because of his own desire to preserve, and even promote, his good reputation.
The application to answered prayer is profound. When we pray according to the way Jesus instructed us (See 11:1-4), God will most certainly never tell us, “No, I’m in bed and all my family is in bed; go away, don’t bother me.” That would be scandalous!! On the other hand, God will most certainly answer our prayers, not because of anything we do, not because we are his friends, not because we are persistent and bold. Rather, God will answer our prayers because of who God is. God loves to give to us, and giving to us is consistent with who he is. Answering our prayers spreads his reputation of being a gracious and giving God.
If God instructs us to pray for something, he will certainly give it to us because giving to us furthers his reputation – it glorifies him. God loves to give to us!! He will provide for us according to the treasure of his riches. We can have confidence that God will answer our prayers.
Notice Isaiah 48:9-11. How many times does God proclaim that he is concerned with his reputation?
Read Ephesians 1:4-6. What is the conclusion in Vs. 6?
Read Ezekiel 20:14, 36:22-23. What is the motive for all of God’s activities?
Read 1 Samuel 12:20-22. Why does God remain faithful to his people?
40 Days of Prayer – Day 17
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Assurance of Answered Prayer, Pt. 2
Anyone who participates in sports knows how much fun it is when the athletes are free to display their talents and the game is free of infractions of the rules. Staying within the boundaries of the rules guarantees the most fun, for the players and the spectators. But when the athletes venture outside the rules, the game is not as much fun. In fact, it is downright frustrating. Nothing is accomplished if the game is not respected.
The same is true of prayer, although I would hesitate to call prayer a game. I don’t think there is anything that is as much fun as when prayer “works,” when we pray and God graciously opens up the doors of heaven and showers us with blessings. There is tremendous encouragement that this will happen as we pray. Notice the confidence we have of answered prayer from Luke 11: 9-10.
9 So I say to you: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 NIV)
Be encouraged in prayer. We can ask, seek, and knock as often as we want. Notice the anticipated answer – we will receive, we will find, and the door will be opened. We can have confidence that God will answer our prayers.
But we must clarify this principle. The application of this principle requires that we are praying the way Jesus instructs us to pray. Are we praying according to the rules of prayer? Let’s review a few of them.
Remember the Disciples’ Prayer. Are we praying in view of God being our Father, who is holy and who holds the future? Are we praying for our daily bread – our needs and not our greeds? Are we praying for the grace to forgive others, based on God’s gracious forgiveness of our own sins?
Second, are we praying in the name of Jesus?
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14 NIV)
Praying in the name of Jesus reminds us of the point in the parable we discussed yesterday, which refers to the reputation of the neighbor. If God were to answer this prayer, would his reputation be advanced and his glory be proclaimed? Third, we must be praying according to the revealed moral will of God.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 NIV)
To remain, or to abide, refers to resting in the provision of the Holy Spirit. God’s Words abiding in us refers to being saturated with the truth of the Scriptures. Is this prayer the result of the prompting from the Holy Spirit, and does it conform to the tenor of the truth of Scripture?
Finally, what are our motives?
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NIV)
If all we want in answer to our prayers is to further our own personal agenda in life, it probably won’t happen. God is not out to further our reputation; rather, he is committed to furthering his reputation.
Nonetheless, if we abide by these rules of prayer, it is an experience like no other and everyone involved is filled with assurance that God will answer our prayers. “Prayer is never wishful thinking, for it springs from trust in a personal God who wants us to take him at his word.” Wayne Grudem.
Read the following passages and thank God that as you abide by the rules of prayer, you can have the joy of assurance of answered prayer.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 18
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Assurance of Answered Prayer, Pt. 3
There is a phrase that parents use with their children that makes perfect sense to the parent, but that raises serious question in the mind of the child. Do you recognize it? “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Usually these words of wisdom are uttered during a time when a child is receiving the consequence of misbehavior, specifically right before getting whacked on the bottom. Then there are the times when mom and dad assign them chores around the house. “You’ll see the benefit of _when you grow up.” Do you remember our childish thoughts? “Yeah, right. Who cares if my room is a mess? The only one who sees it is me!” Well, in general, if a parent guides a child in his/her growing-up years and it looks like that guidance is misdirected – look again!
This principle applies to answered prayer. Jesus elaborates on this principle in Luke 11:11-13.
11 Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13 NIV)
Here is a description of a very devious father – playing practical jokes on his children. The word for snake here describes a serpent that may be similar in appearance to a fish. It is known that a scorpion rolls itself up in an egg-shaped ball to lure its prey close and then unrolls and attacks. Vs. 11 asks the same type of question Jesus asked in Vs. 5,
“Which of you would do such a thing?” Answer – “Horrors! Never!!” If an earthly father would never play tricks on his children, but rather provide good things when they ask, how much more would God give good things to us.
Now comes the most difficult question that might arise from this section. Can we still have confidence in prayer, even in the tough times, even when the situation is hard, full of pain and suffering, even when there are hard questions that stump us – even when it seems that God is not answering our prayers?
I would answer – absolutely. We have confidence that God is a loving Father and would never give us a snake or a scorpion. If we pray and in response to our prayers it looks like God has given us a snake or a scorpion – look again. The point of prayer is that we can have confidence that God will answer our prayers. It may not be what we want. But, it will always be what God wants. And, it will always be good.
The prayer of an unknown soldier:
I asked for strength that I might achieve
I was made weak that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked God for health that I might to great things
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked God for riches that I might be happy
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for
Almost in spite of myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I among all men am most richly blessed.
Notice the following passages, which are actually prayers, that speak of the goodness of God and then thank him for the promise that he has our best interest in mind as he answers our prayers.
Psalm 106 1
40 Days of Prayer – Day 19
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
The Holy Spirit and Prayer
Isaiah 41:17-19; John 7:37-39
What is the ultimate request that we might bring before the Lord? Yesterday, as we reviewed the promises of Jesus that give us tremendous assurance of answered prayer outlined in Luke 11:5-13, Jesus displays this prize as though it is obvious to all of us. Yet, we overlook it.
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13 NIV)
Of course, we know that it is the Holy Spirit who brings regeneration (John 3), the ultimate gift from God. But I do not believe that this is the context of this promise from Jesus. There is a prayer promise given to those who know the Lord, but who are in need of his provision.
“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. 18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. 19 I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together.” (Is. 41:17-19 NIV)
When we are in need of something fresh in our spiritual lives, we are to cry out to God in prayer. Now notice the promise of God.
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39 NIV)
We, who are this side of the cross, are the recipients of this promise. When we pray, the Holy Spirit brings refreshing, he gives strength, he gives nourishment. He is the power that overcomes the temptations of our fallen human nature (Galatians 5:16-18). He is the one who gives wings to our prayers (Romans 8:26-27). He is the one who comes alongside us, to be for us just as Jesus was to the disciples (John 14:15).
The practical application of this concept is for us to pray that we might be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18) As we are, his power enables us to live well in our circumstances. More about this tomorrow…
40 Days of Prayer – Day 20
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying in the Spirit
Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20
There are many biographies of prayer warriors whose prayer lives seem effortless. I remember reading about one spiritual giant (his name escapes me) who wrote in his journal of spending the entire morning in the field praying, and then returning to his study only to continue another three hours, as I recall, “in sweet fellowship with God.” That story both inspired and troubled me. It inspired me to be more intentional in my prayer life. But it troubled me because, at that particular time in my life, prayer was difficult. I was having difficulty praying 15 minutes, much less the entire day. Since then I have discovered a practical principle that has given me greater freedom in prayer.
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. (Eph. 6:18 NIV)
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21 NIV)
Wayne Grudem reminds us that there are many activities which we do “in the Spirit” (Systematic Theology, Pg. 382). We rejoice in the Spirit (Luke 10:21). We make decisions in the Spirit (Acts 19:21). Our conscience bears witness in the Spirit (Romans 9:1). We have access to God in the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18). We love in the Holy Spirit (Col 1:8). The Apostle John was in the Spirit as he wrote the Book of Revelation. These passages describe living in the power of the Holy Spirit. We experience the joy, truth, holiness, peace, and love of God as the Holy Spirit is given free reign in our lives. But, we can also resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). We can grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), and quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19). In summary – we can welcome the Holy Spirit and tap into all that God has for us, or we can turn the Holy Spirit away and miss out on all the blessings God wants us to experience. So, what does all of this have to do with prayer?
When Paul and Jude talk about praying in the Spirit, they are referring to bowing before God, realizing that all he has for us is surrounding us as we pour out our hearts to him. It is a common experience in my own life to sit in my chair or kneel at my bed and attempt to pray, but everything seems to stand against my efforts. My skin itches, a noise in the room distracts my mind, my nose begins to run, my throat gets dry – things just don’t go well. However, without fail, when I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me, to take over my mind, to control everything around me, things calm down and the prayers begin to freely flow. I feel his love, his peace, his power – his presence. I am praying in the Spirit. But, if I continue to struggle in my own strength, the power and joy that is available is quenched, and my prayers bounce off the closed iron doors of heaven.
So, as you begin your time of prayer each day, recognize that in your own strength, prayer can easily be an overwhelming chore. But when you pray in the Spirit, sweet fellowship with God becomes the highlight of your day.
What are you heaviest burdens? Pray in the Spirit for rest – Matt 11:28-30
What is your greatest worry? Pray in the Spirit for peace – Phil 4:6-7
What is your greatest fear? Prayer in the Spirit for hope – Psalm 13
What sin do you struggle with the most? Pray in the Spirit for a fresh vision of Jesus – Heb 12:1-3.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 21
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer and Fasting
I was introduced to the concept of fasting and prayer by a brother in Christ who was serving with the Navigators. He challenged our men’s Bible study group to set aside one day a week for prayer and fasting. We took the challenge, skipping supper on Sunday, and breakfast and lunch on Monday – a period of 30 hours without food. During that time, we dedicated the times we normally ate to prayer, as well as a concerted time of prayer in the evening. The concept stuck and I have been fasting in one form or another ever since. When I was serving a local church in La Crosse, I participated several times in a three-day conference of prayer and fasting sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. Drinking liquids only, we linked up via satellite with other groups around the country for worship and teaching, and then we prayed together in small groups in each of our individual locations. I have been part of several pastors’ fellowships that gathered at retreat centers for seasons of prayer and fasting. Presently, it is my own spiritual discipline to incorporate a time of fasting into my weekly schedule.
I share these thoughts with you to emphasize that fasting is not an outdated practice that the spiritual giants of another generation practiced, but that is relevant for the 21st Century. Fasting is a normal practice for every Christian. Notice how Jesus puts it:
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matt. 6:16 NIV)
I believe fasting is most beneficial when it is incorporated with prayer, which is why my time of fasting is usually coordinated with a regularly scheduled time of prayer during which I gather with fellow believers to pray for one another as well as for the requests given to us by others in the body of Christ. Fasting seems to increase my humility before God as my hunger reminds me of my own weakness apart from an outside source of nourishment. It is then easy to be reminded of my dependence on God for spiritual nourishment. Fasting also reminds me that ministry involves sacrifice and that giving up the “comfort” of food is a picture of giving up other comforts for the sake of ministry. In general, fasting demonstrates to God that we are serious about our prayer lives.
Notice several illustrations of prayer and fasting given to us in Scripture. Nehemiah prayed and fasted as he considered his role in addressing the broken-down walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:4). When the Jews learned of the plan to persecute them, there was great prayer and fasting (Esther 4:3). Prior to sending Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, the church at Antioch gave themselves to a season of prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2), and during this mission, there was prayer and fasting before appointing elders in the local churches that were planted (Acts 14:23).
In his book, The Power of Fasting and Prayer. Ronnie Floyd writes, “God’s gateway to supernatural power can become ours when we come to our heavenly Father with contrite hearts and obedient spirits in fasting and prayer… One purpose of prayer and fasting is to bring our hearts to the place of being filled with a sacrificial love that results in godly attitudes in our lives. True fasting will draw us closer to God and His purposes.”
Now, be careful to be wise if you have any medical condition that might be affected by denying your body food. Perhaps you could fast from TV, certain desserts, or some other pleasurable activity in your life. The point is, when we sacrifice something for God and replace it with prayer, we are changed. And, isn’t that the point of all spiritual pursuits?
40 Days of Prayer – Day 22
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying the Will of God
1 John 5:14-15
All of us who walk the paths of this life will come to a crossroad, a fork in the road, that presents the opportunity to do something great. Sometimes, our crossroad is clearly in view. Students know the final exam is approaching, musicians know the performance is scheduled, athletes know the game is on the line and they need to make a play. However, sometimes our crossroad is thrust upon us with no warning. It might be an opportunity for a career change, an unanticipated report from the doctor, a downturn in the economy or an invitation to join an effort that may influence an entire community. The question is this – how does a Christian face crossroads? Crossroads are unique to every person and every church. But one way to prevail is available to all, and perhaps a reminder of how Jesus prevailed at his most significant crossroad will help us to apply it to our circumstance.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus was agonizing over the prospect of the cross, the ultimate crossroad in his life. He went to prayer with these words, Not my will but yours be done. (Luke 22:42) I think it is significant that he went to prayer. He cried out to God, his Father in heaven. But notice the content of his prayer. He prayed in submission to the will of God. And, of course, we all know the outcome. Jesus went to the cross, paid the penalty for our sins, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven where he is now reigning at the right hand of the Father. Jesus faced his crossroad in prayer, according to the will of God, and he prevailed for the salvation of mankind to the glory of God.
When we face our crossroads, how can we pray according to the will of God? More fundamentally, how do we know the will of God in our circumstance so we can pray in accordance to it? One answer is to read the Bible and then pray the Bible. God wrote the Bible, it is his breath. If we can make the words of the Bible our prayers, we can have confidence that we are praying according to God’s will and that assures us that we will prevail when we face crossroads in our lives. This week I want to challenge us to pray the words of Scripture, and by doing so, I believe we will be praying according to his will. Notice this prayer promise:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever
we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15 NIV)
This not a magic formula or a spiritual power play. As our prayers are filled with scriptural truth, we will be praying the will of God and that gives us the assurance that, when we face a crossroad, we will experience the blessing of God.
Let’s begin today by praying the words of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Turn to Matthew 6:9 and pray along with me:
“Daddy, who is in heaven, you are daddy to all who love you. You are the perfect daddy. Please help me see you in all of your perfection and love. You are unlike any other daddy–holy, pure, and just. I bless your name Elohim, the Creator of the universe, El-Shaddai, the Lord God Almighty of blessings, and Adonai, my Lord and Master. I bless your name Jehovah-Jaira, the One who sees my needs and provides for them, Jehovah-Rapha, my healer and the one who makes bitter experiences sweet. And you are Jehovah-Shalom, my peace, the peace that passes all understanding which guards my heart and mind in Jesus. And you are El-Elyon, the Highest Sovereign of the heavens and the earth. Thank you that your Kingdom has been born in my heart as I placed my faith in Jesus, but I also thank you that your Kingdom will come in its greater glory when Jesus returns to reign on earth. I pray that you will have your way in my life on earth, and in the lives of all who know you. May you reign in me as you reign in heaven. Thank you that I can rest in the promise that you will provide for my daily needs. Please help me distinguish between my needs and unnecessary desires. Thank you Lord that you have graciously provided for the forgiveness of my sins in the cross of Jesus. On the basis of that gift, I forgive all those who have sinned against me. Help me to let go of any lingering hurt and pain their sins may have brought to my life, and I pray that you might have your way in theirs. Please protect me from the evil one, who has been defeated by Jesus, and help me to prevail over temptation as I walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. I magnify you and exalt your name. Fill my heart with praise, for you are the King of Kings, the great and powerful ruler, the one who deserves our highest worship, both now and forever and ever. Amen.”
In your time of prayer today, pray the words of the following Scriptures. As you do, notice how they echo the thoughts you just prayed from the Disciples Prayer.
Pray Psalm 103:1-6
Pray Isaiah 9:6-7
Pray Ephesians 1:3-11
Pray Psalm 37:1-8 (make the commands your prayer request)
Pray 1 John 18-22
Pray 1 Corinthians 10:13
Pray Psalm 18:46-50
40 Days of Prayer – Day 23
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
The “Win” of Prayer
Whenever a business or organization evaluates its effectiveness, it is common to refer to the “Win.” The bottom line question is this, “Did they accomplish the win?” The “Win” may be an increase in sales, the development of a new product, more members, reduction in debt, or any number of factors. Today I want to remind us of the “Win” for prayer, and yes, prayer has a “Win.”
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified
in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
(John 14:13-14 NIV)
The “Win” for prayer is the glory of God. I have long appreciated the following quotes about the true essence of prayer.
“Prayer is being caught up in where God is going and in what God is doing.” John White.
“Prayer is not an argument with God to persuade Him to move things our way, but an exercise by which we are enabled by His Spirit to move ourselves His way.” Leonard Ravinhill
So often we approach prayer as a way to influence God to do stuff–sometimes for us, but also for others. But this approach to prayer makes God to be a servant at our beck and call. But, that is a problem. If all we have to do is pray, why does God heal some of chicken pox, but allow others to suffer with leukemia? Both people pray. Why does God grant some families vacations, but allow others to struggle just to make a house payment? Both families pray. There has to be more to prayer than treating God like a heavenly vending machine. The “Win” is that God will answer our prayers according to what glorifies him. Remember our thoughts from yesterday when Jesus prayed, Not my will but yours be done.
Bill Hybels in his book, “Too Busy Not to Pray,” reminds us of the several ways God answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is “no.” It may glorify him more for us to deal with our circumstance, trust God in our circumstance, and even for us to change in our circumstance. Sometimes it may mean that the answer is “grow,” when God wants to purify us in our circumstance, and in his time, bring it to a conclusion, but always for his glory. Other times the answer is “slow,” when we see progress, but, from our point of view, the progress is like molasses on a cold day. But even slow is an answer, and if it glorifies God, we should rejoice in it. Of course, our highest praise to God is when the answer is “go.” The point is this. The “Win” of prayer is the glory of God. Today I want to challenge us to pray for God to be glorified in our circumstance. Let’s follow a simple process of prayer today that has as its focus the glory of God. It is the acrostic, ACTS.
A – Adoration. Pray these verses as you adore God, and by our adoration, give God
Psalm 145:9; 15-16
1 John 3:8-10
C – Confession. Pray these verses in an effort to get rid of self-centeredness and to
become God-centered, which is a way to glorify God. Notice ways that we might neglect the glory of God.
1 Peter 3:7
“If Christianity is dull and boring, if it is a burden and not a blessing, then most likely we are involved in a project, not a Person, a system not a Savior, rules rather than a relationship.” Joe Stowell.
If this quote applies to you, ask God for forgiveness and turn to him in renewed commitment to pray for his glory.
T – Thanksgiving. Nothing glorifies God more than a heart of gratitude for what he has
graciously given to us. Pray the thoughts from these verses.
Jeremiah 32:39-41. As these verses apply to the remnant of the faithful, they also
apply to us who trust in the Messiah. What are the promises
for which we can be thankful?
S – Supplication. God is glorified when his children bring him their earnest desires.
Notice God’s delight in our prayers as outlined in these verses. Now wrap your
deepest petitions in the ethos of these passages.
1 Peter 4:11
2 Chronicles 7:14
As you conclude your prayer time today, pray Proverbs 3:5-6, making the commands your petition.
There is a Christian song that summarizes this way of prayer. It is titled, I Live To Worship You. Make it your prayer today.
Down at your feet O Lord, is the most high place.
In your presence Lord, I seek your face. I seek your face.
There is no higher calling, no greater honor,
Than to bow and kneel before your throne
I’m amazed at your glory, embraced by your mercy,
O Lord, I live to worship you.
Worship God with an eye to his glory. That’s the “Win” for prayer.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 24
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Today I want to challenge us to pray that God would glorify himself (the theme of our thoughts from yesterday) by producing fruit in our lives, not just some fruit, not just much fruit, but fruit that lasts. What does ‘fruit” mean? It could refer to the graces of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. It could mean leading others to faith in Jesus, as in reaping a harvest (Matthew 9:35-39). Whatever it means, Jesus wants our lives to demonstrate characteristics of belonging to him. He reminds us that we are like branches that, when connected to the vine, produce fruit, and like a wise farmer who strategically cares for his vines, he prunes us so that they will produce more and more fruit. However, Jesus also reminds us that when the branches are not connected to the vine, they wither and die and are gathered up and burned. The point is that when we produce fruit, we glorify God, and in order for us to glorify God the most, we need to stay connected to Jesus and submit to his strategic care. Then he makes a startling statement:
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and
it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:7-8
It seems that Jesus is making a direct connection between producing fruit and prayer. But I want us to notice a theme that we saw earlier this week. Jesus says, …if you remain in me and my words remain in you…, then our prayers will result in producing fruit. Remaining in Jesus AND submitting to the truth of Scripture directly influences the fruit-bearing effectiveness of our prayers. I am drawn to Psalm 1, which says this same thing.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the
way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. But his delight is
in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like
a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)
So, let’s pray today that our lives would produce much fruit that lasts and so glorifies God, again by praying the words of Scripture.
Pray the words of Romans 12:1-2. “Lord, in view of your mercy, I offer myself to you as a living sacrifice, and by your grace I will not allow the world to squeeze me into its mold. Rather, I will allow your word to renew and transform my mind so that I might follow your will more completely and produce fruit for your glory.
Pray the words of 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, asking God to reveal any area that might be producing rotten fruit. Then confess it and ask the Holy Spirit to help you honor God in your body.
Pray Colossians 1:9-13.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 25
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
“Prayer, Coming To Jesus And Resting”
Very simply stated, prayer is coming to Jesus. An easy picture is to imagine a child who wants something from his dad or who has an exciting bit of information to tell him. In order to make the request or to get his attention, he has to find his dad and then go to him. Once he is in the presence of his dad, the communication begins. This is the process of prayer, entering the presence of Jesus–coming to Jesus.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
The promise of this passage is that in the midst of the hardships and difficulties of life, we will find rest when we come to Jesus in prayer. We live in a broken world, where bad things happen to good people, a world where dealing with pain often becomes a full-time job. Evil seems to rule the day and the burdens of life weigh heavily on us. Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest.”
Notice that Jesus uses the figure of a yoke to describe how to enter his rest. A yoke is a carefully crafted piece of wood that fits over the shoulders of a pair of oxen. This yoke facilitates work, as two animals work together to pull a load that is attached to it. The wood is custom-fitted to each animal, becoming like a broken-in leather glove that is stretched to fit our fingers, or a well-used leather carpenter’s belt, or a pliable baseball glove. The yoke fits the oxen so well that it is easy to pull against and even seems light on the animal. It is important to know that a yoke is always designed for two animals. Customarily, a farmer would join a seasoned animal with a rookie, with the seasoned one acting as a sort of tutor to the rookie.
I hope you are getting the picture. Jesus says to come to him in prayer and in so doing submit to his will and learn from him as a rookie oxen would submit to the yoke and learn from the veteran. This is not a description of religion, which is attempting to accomplish work for Jesus. This is describing a living and vital relationship where we accomplish work with Jesus. Rest in prayer is living alongside of Jesus, joined with him in the custom-fit plan designed specifically for you.
So, as you enter your prayer time today, think about the difficulties and burdens that you are carrying. I encourage you to go to Jesus in prayer and invite him to put his yoke on your shoulders. This will not add to your burden. Rather, it will ease your burden as Jesus takes control and masterfully guides you through your circumstance.
Pray through 1 Peter 5:6-9. Express your desire to submit to God’s plan, specifically designed just for you. Praise him that he is mighty and able to conquer any problem you are facing. Ask for strength to wait for his timing. Thank him that he loves you and cares for you. Thank him that through the cross our enemy, Satan, is defeated. Pray for confidence to stand firm in your faith and, by the authority of the conquering Jesus, command Satan to flee from your presence. Thank God for the rest you enjoy in Jesus.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 26
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer When We Don’t Know What To Do
Admittedly, all of us find ourselves in circumstances where we just don’t know what to do. So, we search for a solution. We read books on the subject, listen to tapes of Christian teachers, consult with our friends, and exhaust every other possible resource. But, at the end of the day, we still don’t know what to do. When this happens to me, I find it very difficult to accept. I am a man of action. When faced with a challenge, I devise a plan and get on with it. However, there are times when I have no idea what to plan, so there is nothing for me to do. I am forced to do nothing. But, actually, that is not true. There is one thing that I have learned to do, and I learned it from the story in John 2 when Jesus was a guest at the wedding in Cana.
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11 NIV)
One application of this story is a principle of prayer when we don’t know what to do. Notice what Mary, Jesus’ mother, did when she noticed that there was no more wine, which was a very serious situation for the host. She simply went to Jesus and said, quite matter-of-factly, “they have no more wine.” She did not have a plan. She did not tell Jesus what to do, because she had no idea what to do. But, she did know Jesus and she knew that he would know what to do. All she did was tell Jesus the problem. Then she demonstrated her faith in Jesus by telling the servants, “do whatever he tells you.”
Here is the principle. When we don’t know what to do, go to Jesus in prayer, state the problem, and then make a commitment to do whatever he tells you to do. There is nothing in the text that suggests that Mary knew he would turn water into wine. But there is an indication that she knew he would do something, and that it would address the problem. How uncomplicated, yet how profound! There is a place for pouring out our emotions to God, for pleading with him according to the desires of our heart. But there is also a place for a simple prayer. “Lord, I have cancer.” “Jesus, my child is wayward.” “God, I just lost my job.” Whatever you are facing, give it to the Lord and trust him to deal with it. And when we think about it, this is a plan and this is something we can do.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 27
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer for Christian Unity
There is a profound difference between unity and uniformity. When the UPS driver drops off a package at our church, he/she wears a uniform that identities him/her. Every driver wears the same uniform. That’s uniformity. When I attend a symphony concert, I listen to a host of unique instruments, each making a different contribution to the composition. And when they follow the score, under the direction of the conductor, beautiful music fills the hall. That’s unity. Uniformity speaks of everyone being the same. Unity speaks of those who are not the same coming together to produce what could not be produced by themselves. In our passage for today, Jesus prays for Christian unity.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NIV)
This passage is part of what is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, a prayer of intercession for his followers. In the preceding verses, he prays for his disciples that they would be protected and empowered in their ministries after he is gone. In this passage, he prays for us, “…those who will believe in me through their message.” I find it striking that his prayer is not that we would accomplish great things, but that we would be one, or that they would experience unity. Notice the characteristics of this unity.
First, Jesus prays that our unity would illustrate the unity between Jesus and the Father. The Father and the Son are two individual Persons with two unique roles in the economy of the Godhead. Yet, the Father and the Son are One. This is not uniformity–it is unity. Jesus prays that we would be one as they are one.
Second, Jesus prays that our unity would illustrate the joyful submission to authority present in the Godhead. Those with equal significance cooperate according to (may I say it?) the hierarchy of authority that is ontologically present in the Trinity. Jesus prays that we would likewise cooperate with one another.
Third, Jesus prays that our unity would illustrate the love of God. When the Father sent the Son into the world, he loved him as he accomplished his mission, which was to give himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin. This was no easy task. Yet, in that mission, Jesus was surrounded with the love of the Father. Jesus prays that our unity with one another as we face our mission, which is difficult, would show the world that God loves us through our ministry to one another in his name, even as he loved the Son.
Therefore, if Jesus spent his last hours in prayer for us that we might experience unity, it follows that our prayers should be occupied with a similar theme.
Pray the words of Ephesians 4:1-6. Pray for a commitment to unity with humility and gentleness. Pray that we would treat one another with patience and that we would bear with one another in love. Pray that the Holy Spirit would empower us to promote unity in our local church as we major on the majors and minor on the minors.
Pray the words of Colossians 3:12-17. Pray for a spirit of forgiveness in our church body. Pray that God would remind us of his forgiveness of our sins, and that we would likewise reach out in forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.
Pray the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Every time the word “love” is found, say, “I pray that I would be…”
40 Days of Prayer – Day 28
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying on the Run
1 Thessalonians 5:17
I have been thinking recently about a way to describe the daily lifestyle of a fully- devoted follower of Jesus. A phrase, that is not original with me, seems to say it well. “I have decided to be a Christian (insert your vocation) rather than a _ (insert your vocation) who happens to be a Christian. What this phrase says is that we are followers of Jesus 24/7. Someone who is fully devoted to Jesus is not just a teacher who happens to be a Christian, but he/she is a Christian teacher. That means that every activity, every decision, every thought is influenced by a Christian perspective on life. We are Christians and that worldview defines us, it guides us, and it keeps us biblically accountable.
If you will give me some grace to jump categories, I would like to suggest that this is the way we should approach prayer. We should not, to keep our illustration consistent, be a teacher who sometimes prays, but a praying Christian teacher. Full devotion to God means being in constant communion with God. I believe that this is what Paul means when he writes to the Thessalonians:
…pray continually… I Thessalonians 5:17
Praying continually does not mean that we cease all of our activity and fall on our knees, close our eyes and say a prayer. Praying continually means that God is in our thoughts and we have an internal dialogue with him on a moment-by-moment basis. We all have heard of people who cry out to God in a crisis with so-called foxhole prayers. What I believe Paul is challenging us to do is live prayerful lives all the time, not just when bullets are flying over our heads. An illustration of this idea is the life of Nehemiah.
When you have time, do a quick read of Nehemiah and notice the times when Nehemiah engages is lifestyle prayer. Now, it is true that when he hears of the condition of the wall of Jerusalem, he takes time out of his life for an extended season of prayer and fasting. But, there are also several times when he prays what are commonly known as arrow prayers.
The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven… (Nehemiah 2:4 NIV)
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. (Nehemiah 4:8-9 NIV)
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9 NIV)
When life happened, the first thing Nehemiah did was pray–even if it was on the run. This internal communion with God is a characteristic of a fully-devoted follower of Jesus. “OK, God, here I go with this meeting.” “Whoa, God, that conversation didn’t go very well.” “God, I need an idea for this paper.” “Lord, what do I do now?” “Wow, God, that song really touched my heart. Thanks.” These are examples of praying continually.
So, when life happens to you this week, turn to God first. Shoot an arrow prayer to him. This is a lifestyle that pleases him and reveals a heart that puts him first. Be a praying teacher, a praying fireman, a praying mom, always seeking the Lord in everything you do.
Read Psalm 34:1-7. Notice the continual communion with God illustrated in these verses. Ask God to instill this type of inner prayer in your life.
Read 1 Chronicles 16:8-13. Notice the lifestyle of prayer in this psalm. What can you do to rise to the challenge of the psalm writer?
40 Days of Prayer – Day 29
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for the Salvation of the Lost, Pt. 1
We all know the last words of Jesus were a challenge for us to engage in the enterprise of evangelism. He told us that all authority was given to him in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), and that he is now delegating that authority to us to speak for him as we go and make disciples of all nations. He also assured us that, as we represent him and his
gospel, we will have the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), giving us the assurance that we will be successful in this ministry. So, with his delegated authority and the Holy Spirit’s power, everything is in place for a great harvest of souls for his glory. Yet, a casual survey of the average church will reveal, not many of us are going. There is great apprehension even to give our testimony when our culture might be listening. To actually share the points of the Gospel and invite someone to place his/her faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life is not the norm. Oh, we say that we might not have the gift of evangelism. Yet, the Apostle Paul tells timid Timothy, who evidently was not gifted in evangelism, to “do the work of an evangelist”
(2 Timothy 4:5). Is there an ingredient that might be mixed into our lives that would give us the courage to speak for Jesus?
We have learned in this series of meditations that prayer is a dependent responsibility in the life of a follower of Jesus. Today I am suggesting that this responsibility applies to evangelism. Over the next three days, I would like to unpack how to pray for the successful enterprise of evangelism, or to put it another way, how to pray for the salvation of the lost.
Let’s start with a passage that shows the heart of Jesus for evangelism.
35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
(Matt. 9:35-38 NIV)
The first thing we notice about this passage is that Jesus is involved in evangelism and that he is doing everything he can to touch as many people as possible. But his influence is limited. He can only do so much on his own. He had great compassion on the lost, who were like sheep without a shepherd, but he could only do so much. That is why he mobilized the disciples, sending them out on campaigns, once as a group of 12 and another as a group of 70. To reproduce himself in their lives gives a much greater exposure of the truth to many more people–exponentially so. But Jesus also knows that even the 12, or the 70, or those who might join the 1st Century Church could not successfully touch the whole world. Therefore, he said to them, PRAY.
Here is our dependent responsibility in evangelism.
First – Pray that God, the Lord of the harvest, would send out workers into his harvest field.
Second – Pray that God might reveal your own personal harvest field and give you a desire for them to know the Lord. Perhaps it is your family, your work associates, your classmates, or those in your neighborhood.
Third – Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with them. Ask God to make you sensitive to openings, aware of their needs that you might be able to meet, or that he would orchestrate a “divine appointment” where it is so natural to talk about the gospel that you cannot avoid doing so.
Finally – When God answers these prayers – pray for boldness to follow through and to share your testimony or the content of the gospel.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 30
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for the Salvation of the Lost, Pt. 2
The view of evangelism that I am presenting in this meditation represents a theological perspective that may be a challenge to comprehend, yet the application is one that is perfectly logical with a practical application for prayer. Let me begin with a brief review of our condition apart from Christ and the miracle of coming to faith in Christ.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…(Ephesians 2:1 NIV)
4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us
alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace
you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)
The truth is that all of us were spiritually dead, and dead people cannot believe, dead people cannot trust, dead people cannot do anything. But God can do anything. God made us, who were dead, alive with Christ.
Now, how did he do that? Once again we are faced with the concept of dependent responsibility. But in the enterprise of evangelism, the responsibility falls not on the one who is spiritually dead, but on the one who is spiritually alive. We discussed yesterday the importance of praying that God would send out workers into his harvest. Paul explains why this is so important.
13…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15 NIV)
This is the cornerstone passage of evangelism. But notice what it clearly says. The preaching of the gospel is what brings about salvation. It is the gospel that works in our hearts to bring us to faith in Jesus. Notice how Peter puts it.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23 NIV)
These passages form a skeletal outline of the journey of a person who comes to salvation. First, they hear the gospel from someone who is sent into the harvest. This gospel, then, does its supernatural work in their hearts and facilitates the process of becoming born again. It is the dependent responsibility of those who are spiritually alive to go and preach the gospel to those who are spiritually dead. God then uses that gospel to bring spiritual life and salvation to those who hear.
The application for prayer is twofold. First, pray that God would send out workers into the harvest. Second, pray that when a person hears the gospel, God would use it to bring them spiritual life.
My challenge is to make a list of people you would like to influence for Christ. Try to identify at least five people. Begin today to pray for them:
That God would bring someone (a worker of God’s harvest field) into their lives to share the gospel with them.
That, when they hear the gospel, the word of God would grip their hearts and cause them to be born again.
The stage is now set for what I believe is the climax of these thoughts. It comes from the mouth of Jesus.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:44 NIV)
Pray that the Father will draw the person on our list to Christ. Pray that God will call them to Jesus. Pray that God will use the word of the gospel to cause them to be born again. And be challenged with this passage from the pen of the Apostle Paul.
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the
may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
(2 Thessalonians 3:1 NIV)
40 Days of Prayer – Day 31
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for the Salvation of the Lost, Pt. 3
2 Corinthians 4:4-6
There is a specific strategy of prayer that adds a powerful dimension to the evangelistic process. It comes from the realization that there is a very real spiritual enemy who does everything possible to prevent people from coming to faith in Jesus. Notice two activities aimed specifically at blocking the power of the Gospel.
First, Satan blinds the spiritual eyes of unbelievers.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NIV)
Satan, the god of this age, prevents the Gospel from penetrating the hearts of unbelievers by erecting a veil over their spiritual eyes. Sometimes we share the Word of God with someone and it bounces off of them like a ping pong ball bounces off a paddle. Satan has constructed spiritual blindness, a barrier to spiritual truth and he reinforces it with his lies (see John 8:44). And if that is not enough, there is another deliberate assault on unbelievers by Satan.
Second, Satan snatches the gospel from their spiritual perception. Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed in which a farmer scatters seed on the ground, the seed representing the Word of God and the ground representing unbelievers.
Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
(Luke 8:12 NIV)
Even though a person might be in earshot of the gospel, Satan snatches it away from them before it can penetrate their hearts and bring spiritual awareness.
These two strategies by Satan combine to make a formidable obstacle for our evangelistic efforts. Yet, it is not one that cannot be overcome.
3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary,
they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV)
The weapons of our warfare against the strategies of Satan are the Scriptures, prayer, and the name of Jesus.
Scripture – 31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV)
Prayer – 26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:26-29 NIV)
The name of Jesus – 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)
Here is a sample prayer we might pray as we go before the Lord on behalf of a friend or loved one who is being blinded and prevented from hearing the transforming gospel. Notice how it employs the truth of Scripture and the power of the name of Jesus. It is taken from The Adversary by Mark Bubeck.
Accepting my position of being “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds,” I bring all the work of the Lord Jesus Christ to focus directly against the powers of darkness that blind and bind __. I pray the victory of our Lord’s incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and glorification directly against Satan’s power on __ life. I bind up all powers of darkness set to destroying __. And I loose ___ from their blinding in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I invite the blessed Holy Spirit to move upon __’s heart and to convict him of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. I plead the blood of Christ over __’s wickedness and wait upon the Holy Spirit to bring him to repentance, faith, and life in the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith I claim him for a life yielded to serve the true and giving God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yesterday I challenged us to begin praying for five people to come to know Christ. As you pray this prayer for them, place your trust in Christ that the power of the gospel will grip their heart and that our loving Father will draw them to himself.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 32
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer Is Spiritual Warfare
In his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper reminds us, “We cannot know what prayer is for until we know that life is war.” As we were reminded yesterday, prayer for the salvation of the lost involves confrontation with our spiritual enemy, Satan, and that certainly speaks of a spiritual battle. Even though we engage him having already won the victory, he will not give up until he is forced to give up by the King of Kings who binds him in chains during the Millennium. But even then, after the Millennium, he will continue his assault on the world. (See Revelation 20:1-3)
The reality of our lives, and especially our prayer lives, is that we are engaged in war against this formidable enemy. Therefore, the Apostle Paul challenges us to keep a warfare mentality in our prayers.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1Timothy 6:12 NIV)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)
The word translated “fight” in these two words is to agonize, to strive, to battle, to enter into spiritual hand-to-hand combat with our enemy in prayer. Listen to how Paul describes the prayer life of a believer.
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. (Col 4:12 NIV)
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV)
Praying in general, and praying for the salvation of the lost in particular, is wrestling and struggling and entering into a spiritual war.
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well.
(1 Timothy 1:18 NIV)
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4 NIV)
Paul makes the ultimate appeal for warfare praying in Ephesians 6, the consummate summary of spiritual warfare.
17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And 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 of the Lord’s people. 19Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.
(Ephesians 6:17-19 NIV)
Earlier this week we discussed that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and that by the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, people become born again. In these verses, Paul makes the connection between prayer and the proclamation of the gospel. There is no break in the grammar between Verses 17 and 18. There is a continuation of the thought. Literally it says, “take the sword…praying…”. How can it be more clear?
So, do we understand that we are at war? If we do, then we have a new understanding what prayer is for.
Read Colossians 2:15.
What does it mean that Jesus “disarmed” our spiritual enemy? See Heb 9:11-14 and Heb 10:5-10.
What does it mean that Jesus made a spectacle of our enemy? See Phil 2:9-11
40 Days of Prayer – Day 33
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Perseverance in Prayer
We have all heard the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” While this is quite simplistic (reductionistic might be a more profound term), it does communicate a very important lesson on prayer, especially if we are considering praying for unsaved friends and loved ones to come to know the Lord. I know of parents who have been praying for their son for 20 years, employees praying for their boss for dozens of years, and friends praying for their friends ever since they can remember. It is tempting to give up and move on to another use of our prayers. But a passage from Luke encourages us otherwise.
1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4″For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 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?” (Luke 18:1-8 NIV)
The point of this story is to contrast an unrighteous judge who gives someone justice just to get her to stop bothering him with our loving heavenly Father who loves to answer prayer. If an uncaring judge can be persuaded to give a persistent widow justice, certainly we can have confidence that God will answer our prayers. The opening verse of this passage outlines three great truths abut prayer, and they can be applied to prayer for a friend or loved one to come to faith in Jesus.
First, prayer is a responsibility. Jesus told his disciples this story to show them that they should pray. While prayer is certainly a privilege, it is also something that should be part of our daily lives. If we truly love the one we are praying for, the highest expression of that love is prayer on their behalf.
Second, prayer is a continual need. Notice that Jesus said his disciples should always pray. Not only does this mean we should pray at all times, but we should also pray in all circumstances. Let’s pray for our loved one as they walk through the various seasons of their lives. Perhaps they will be more sensitive to the gospel after they have children, or when someone close to them dies, or if they encounter a life-threatening illness.
Third, prayer is an opportunity to practice perseverance. Jesus said that his disciples should always pray and not give up. Actually, I would suggest that this is the overriding principle, given the point of the story that follows. Paul Powell in his book, The Complete Disciple, reminds us that often people are prayer dropouts. They simply disregard the discipline of prayer and never get started in their prayer life. But, then he encourages us to persist in prayer so that we do not become drop outs in the enterprise of prayer. By this he refers to those who pray and then get discouraged and overwhelmed with the battle. Not only do they stop praying, but they begin to lose their spiritual fervor altogether. The burden on their heart that they are praying about for so long seems less and less likely to be resolved–so they give up. Jesus said, “Don’t give up.” Keep on praying. God will meet you in prayer and give you the strength to deal with whatever you are facing in your life.
Perseverance is particularly true as we pray for a friend or loved one who persists in rebellion against God. Notice how the Apostle Paul prays for his fellow Israelites.
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1 NIV)
So, let’s commit ourselves afresh to always pray and not give up. And let’s pray for one another to always pray and not give up.
9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order 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, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… (Colossians 1:9-11 NIV)
40 Days of Prayer – Day 34
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for Those in Governmental Authority
1 Timothy 2:1-2
I think most of us would agree that the political climate in our country is contentious. Beginning in our own state of Wisconsin and continuing into the halls of the U.S. Congress, there is not a great deal of cooperation and, in fact, there is evidence of a wide polarization among those representing the various political viewpoints. While our political environment is not yet totally chaotic, it is dysfunctional, and that is cause for concern, not just for the citizens of our land, but more significantly, from a spiritual perspective, for Christian citizens. The political inertia of America is not favoring the sanctity of human life, the support of the nuclear family, the institution of marriage between one man and one woman, freedom of religion, and free religious expression as a legitimate philosophical guest at the table of public discourse. This should not surprise us, as the Apostle warned us in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4 NIV)
So, what is the role of the Christian citizen in this cultural climate? Very simply–PRAY.
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. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV)
Now, this is not to say that we are not to fully participate in the political process and seek to influence our state and federal governments to govern according to biblical ethics. Christians fully engaged in our democracy can have significance influence. But this passage suggests that prayer is a significant influence as well.
Notice the goal of prayer for those in governmental authority–“…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” A casual observation of other governments shows us that this is not to be taken for granted. North Korea has all but silenced the proclamation of the gospel. Saudi Arabia has laws prohibiting Christian evangelism. China and Cuba are countries that are closed to the gospel, along with many of the former Eastern Block Communist countries in Europe. Paul’s admonition to pray seems especially relevant for us in the U.S. as one election cycle concludes only to ramp up for another. I am not for a moment suggesting that one of our major parties has the moral upper hand over the other. What I am suggesting is that if the Christian community gives serious dedication to praying for who ever occupies the seats of authority, we have the best opportunity to continue to enjoy the religious liberty that has been the mark of our nation since its birth, and we will be able to live quiet and peaceful lives as we carry on the work of the proclamation of the gospel. Brothers and sisters, pray for those in governmental authority.
Pray that God would protect our nation from wicked rulers who frame injustice by statute. (Psalm 94:20; Isaiah 10:1)
Pray that God would hear our prayers and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Pray for the prosperity of our community. (Jeremiah 29:7)
Pray for those who persecute us and make life difficult because of our testimony. (Matthew 5:44)
Pray for opportunity to share the gospel and for wisdom as God opens doors for us. (Colossians 4:2-4)
Pray that God would turn the hearts of those in authority toward righteousness. (Proverbs 21:1)
40 Days of Prayer – Day 35
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for the Nations
There is a great hope that people from every tribe, every tongue, every nation will come to faith in Christ and serve the Lord God Almighty. John Piper strings together a series of Scripture passages that brings this truth to the light in Let the Nations Be Glad, pages 49-50.
I will build my church and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it
This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:4)
All the nations thou hast made shall come and bow down before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name. (Psalm 86:9)
I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance. (Psalm 2:8)
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before thee. (Psalm 22:27)
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. (Psalm 66:4)
To him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:10)
These great promises have been the motivation for world missions for generations, and for good reason. When a child of God ventures to an unknown land with these promises, there is great assurance that there will be fruit from the ministry of the Gospel among the people, which brings me to the theme verse for our meditation today.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16 NIV)
This verse echoes the verses listed above, telling us there are men and women, boys and girls, among every tongue, tribe and nation in the world, who will come to Christ, and that it is God will bring them to Christ. He will bring these “sheep” to Christ through the preaching of those whom he sends into the world (John 20:21). And that preaching is energized with power from on high through the prayers of God’s people. As a result, these “sheep” from among all the nations of the earth we will join together in the one true Church and give glory to God in one grand hallelujah chorus of praise.
Do you realize that in the quietness of your prayer room you can be engaged in a worldwide enterprise for the evangelism of the nations? Your prayers give wings to the gospel as it is spread from nation to nation. Let’s take our prayer time today to pray around the world through the ministries of those in our missionary family.
Randy Seig – Trans world Radio
Gospel for Asia
Ken Gregerson – Wycliffe
Trinity International University
Forest Lakes District
Church Planting Director
Church health Director
Director of Student Ministries
EFCA National Office
Tom Becker – EFCA
Anne-Marie Johnson – retired
\David Bliss – retired
Darryl Griffin – retired
Doris Eklblad – retired
Tim Webster – retired
Arrowhead Bible Camp
Poland Evangelical Bible School
40 Days of Prayer – Day 36
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer and Meditation
Psalm 5:1-2; 19:14
It is so easy for me to read the Bible and then say to myself, “There, I did my duty for the day,” and off to my activities I go. When I am really spiritual, I read the Bible and then spend some time praying, and then away I go. But there are many times in my “daily devotions” when I seem to have an encounter with God that is special, deep, and meaningful. Recently, I came across a concept that I believe explains this occurrence.
In his book, Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney suggests that prayer takes on a new dimension when it flows from a three-part sequence of pursuing God – Scripture, meditation, and prayer – in that order. He describes the rich communication of God to us through his Word. Then he reminds us that if we take some time to reflect on that communication, seeking to understand it, apply it, and evaluate our lives by it, we are then moved to prayer and that prayer has a deeper substance and relevance to our lives. Meditation is the middle pursuit between the Word of God and prayer, being connected to both. Notice two thoughts from Puritan pastors of a few generations ago.
“The Word feedeth meditation, and meditation feedeth prayer. These duties must always go hand in hand; meditation must follow hearing and precede prayer. To hear and not to meditate is unfruitful…What we take in by the word we digest by meditation and let out by prayer…” Thomas Manton
“Meditation is the sister of reading and the mother of prayer…Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both is without blessing.” William Bridge
Here is how David put it.
1Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. 2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. (Ps. 5:1-2 NIV)
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps. 19:14 NIV)
In Psalm 5, the word, “lament,” translated literally is meditation. And in Psalm 19, it is the content of his meditation that forms David’s prayer. The sequence seems obvious – Scripture, meditation, prayer.
Here is how Whitney summarizes the sequence.
“After the input of a passage of Scripture, meditation allows us to take what God has said to us and think deeply on it, digest it, and then speak to God about it in meaningful prayer. As a result, we pray about what we’ve encountered in the Bible, now personalized through meditation. And not only do we have something substantial to say in prayer and the confidence we are praying God‘s thoughts to Him, but we transition smoothly into prayer with a passion for what we’re praying about. Then, as we move on with our prayers, we don’t jerk and lurch along because we already have some spiritual momentum.”
Maybe you don’t have time every day to linger over a passage of Scripture in meditation and prayer. I know there are days when I don’t. But I know how important it is to do it, so I have disciplined myself (well, I try to do it as often as I can) to take a time away, maybe a morning or an hour in the afternoon, to practice this sequence. And every time I do, I come away with my heart a bit happier than before I took the time to read, meditate, and pray. Not a bad practice in the life of a follower of Jesus.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 37
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer As Worship
I remember as kids having spirited discussions with my friends about our dads. “My dad can beat up your dad!” “My dad makes more money than your dad!” “My dad is a better ball player than your dad!” At the time, we all thought that our dads could do anything, so, naturally, our dad could do what no other dad could do. In my world, my dad could build anything, fix anything, answer any question, and solve any problem. He was the best golfer, the best fisherman, the best baseball and basketball player, the best trombone player – I think you get the picture. So, you can only imagine how much I looked forward to the time in the afternoon when my dad would come home from work. All I needed to do was go to my dad, and he could take my upside-down world and turn it right-side up. In fact, he could make it better than I could have ever thought or imagined. He was my dad!!!
This is how we can approach God in prayer. Now, there is a difference, because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it as a young boy, my dad could not do everything. But God can. And when we ask him to intervene in our lives, we know he is able to turn it around. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21 NIV)
As we pray, focusing on what God is able to do, we are engaging in worship. It is worship when we pray and acknowledge that God is sovereign, that God is all powerful – actually, he is “all-everything.” (How’s that for inventing a new theological word?) God created this world and he is actively sustaining it. When we bow before him in praise and adoration, when we sing “Our God Reigns,” or “Great is thy Faithfulness,” we are engaging in worship. Remember how the beings around the throne worshipped God in Revelation 4?
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Rev 4:11 NIV)
How much would it change our perspective or our circumstance if we presented our requests and petitions in this attitude? When we come to God with a prayer request, and in the depth of our heart of hearts, believe that God is capable of answering our prayer, that is worship. “O God, you are worthy to receive glory because you are able to answer any prayer I might utter. You are able to heal my son, you are able to provide a job, you are able to reconcile my broken marriage.” These are significant prayer requests, but be encouraged, God is a significant God. Prayer as worship takes all the anxiety out of our prayer life. Rather than pleading and wrestling and agonizing in prayer, thinking that the way we pray or the words we choose influences God, worship in prayer. When we pray as worship, we praise God that he is God. We thank God that he is capable of accomplishing anything, so he is capable of dealing with whatever we are praying about. In fact, he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask.
Yes, my Dad can do anything. And when I pray, it is a great comfort to know that he can do anything. So, I worship him with my prayers. Going to God with my needs, my hurts, my concerns, my troubles, my requests is an opportunity to give him glory as I lay my burden down before him and worship him with my prayers.
Lord, we worship you with our prayers today.
40 Days of Prayer – Day 38
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Prayer and Forgiveness
Bingham Hunter in his book, The God Who Hears, writes, “You won’t catch me getting ulcers,” a man is said to have boasted. “For one thing, I just take life as it comes. For another, I don’t ever hold a grudge, not even against people who did things to me that I will never forget!” Really! I am convinced that if this person remains with this attitude, ulcers are a sure thing. Another sure thing – his prayer life will be anemic at best. Jesus puts it succinctly.
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, 26so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25-26 NIV)
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
(Matt. 6:12-15 NIV)
Surely, this does not mean that we merit God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. (See Ephesians 2:8-9.) Nor does it mean that we can lose our salvation if we harbor unforgiveness. What it does mean is that there is a real problem in the heart of one who eagerly receives God’s forgiveness, but then refuses to grant forgiveness to another.
God’s forgiveness is truly a great gift. When we stand before him we can say with a clear conscience that the blood of Jesus has cleansed us of all our sins. God forgives according to his great mercy, separating our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, and he remembers them no more. That means he will never bring them up again – ever. How can we, who have received such a great gift, withhold that same gift from others?
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13 NIV)
38 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:37-38 NIV)
Here is an application for our prayers. When we go before our Heavenly Father in prayer, our hearts must be clean. We cannot expect that God will accept our worship if we are holding unforgiveness in our hearts. When sin and conflict exist between believers, or even between a believer and an unbeliever, God is troubled, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and our prayers fall flat.
Read Matthew 18:21-22. How does Jesus view forgiveness?
Read Luke 17:3-4. Put these verses in your own words.
Read 1 Peter 3:7. What better way is there to honor our wives than to show them forgiveness?
Bow in prayer and ask God to bring to your mind anyone who has wronged you that you have not forgiven. Write their name down on a piece of paper. Now pray this prayer:
“Lord, I thank you for forgiving me by your great mercy. Because of your mercy to me, I now forgive __ for ( name the sin ). Please help my emotions catch up to this act of faith and obedience that I might be free from any bitterness and that my prayers might not be hindered.”
40 Days of Prayer – Day 39
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Praying for Those in Ministry
People engaged in Christian ministry, especially leadership, often feel alone. The truth is, it is very difficult for people not in Christian ministry to understand the pressure of the responsibility of leadership, especially the loneliness that accompanies it. As Paul recounts all the difficulties and suffering that he experienced while on his missionary journeys (2 Corinthians 11:16-27), he adds a struggle that cannot be measured by physical pain.
Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Cor. 11:28 NIV)
Paul knew that he was commissioned by God to plant the churches that would be the foundation for the promotion of the Christian Gospel throughout the ages until Jesus returned. While he understood the sovereignty of God, there was the realization that God was asking him to faithfully represent him in this world. It was very important, then, to build a support team that would “have his back” through prayer while he was out on the front lines. The Romans were that team. Chapter 16 is well known for the number of brothers and sisters in the Lord that Paul mentions by name. Beginning with Phoebe, the host of the church in her home, Paul mentions over a dozen other fellow workers and supporters. Then he asks them all to join him in his ministry by praying for him.
30 I urge you brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen (Rom. 15:30-33 NIV)
In this passage, Paul asks the Romans to pray for him with specific petitions, all of which relate to specific current ministry projects. He is collecting a freewill offering for the church in Judea and he asks for prayers for protection as he travels with it. He also asked that when he delivers this offering that the churches will receive it with gratitude. Then he asks for prayer that he might have the opportunity to visit with them and be refreshed by their fellowship. Here is a wonderful example of someone in Christian ministry who has organized a prayer team, a group of supporters who are ready to stand in the gap and pray for his ministry.
May I encourage all of you who are in ministry leadership to recruit a prayer team. I believe that every ministry leader needs to have a team of supporters who will be committed to pray for the needs of his/her ministry. Then share your specific requests with them and develop a partnership in your ministry. A while back I contacted several brothers and sisters from several states across the U.S., whom I knew I could trust, and asked them to be on my personal prayer team. I must confess that I have not been very faithful in sending them my list of prayer concerns (confession is good for the soul!), but as I write this meditation, I am renewing my commitment to re-engage this team. How arrogant to believe that I can flourish in ministry without the prayer support of people who care about me and will stand with me in prayer!! If Paul needed that team support, certainly we need it, and even more!
Our ministry pressures may not be of the same intensity that Paul experienced, but the pressure is nonetheless a very real pressure. Let’s not carry the burden alone.
Read Philippians 1:3-8. What from these verses indicates that the Philippians may be another prayer team for Paul?
40 Days of Prayer – Day 40
Trade River Evangelical Free Church
Morning and Evening Prayer
Psalm 5 and Psalm 4
Today marks the last of our meditations during the 40 Days of Prayer at TREFC. I trust that you have found this experience helpful, even life-changing. But my desire for my own life is that I continue to practice a prayer discipline long after this campaign concludes with our Prayer Gathering on Sunday, July 11th at 6:30. With that desire in mind, I share a prayer habit from the life of David for all of us to consider.
Psalm 5 and Psalm 4 indicate that David engaged in a time of prayer every morning and every evening. Perhaps this is why he was known as a man after God’s own heart. Let’s see how it might be helpful to follow his example.
Morning Prayer – Psalm 5:1-3, 11-12
1 Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. 2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Ps. 5:1-3 NIV)
With this prayer, David addresses the LORD, the personal name for God, and then he expresses confidence in his King, the sovereign ruler of the universe. With the conviction that God personally cares about every detail in his life and the confidence that God is able to deal with any difficulty he might encounter, David anticipates, with expectation, the unfolding of the events of the day. As the psalm continues (read Vs. 4-10), David prays about the struggle he faces in this fallen world, asking for guidance to make good decisions (Vs. 8). He prays for grace as he encounters those who are counted as enemies of God (Vs. 9-10). Then notice how he concludes with a prayer of assurance that God will watch over him throughout the day.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Ps. 5:11-12 NIV)
Evening Prayer – Psalm 4:1, 6-8
Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Ps. 4:1 NIV)
As David concludes his day, he prays that God might give him relief from all the stresses he encountered since morning. In Vs. 3-5, David then thanks God that he belongs to the family of God (Vs. 3), which gives him the confidence that God is concerned about his life (Vs. 3). Instead of fretting over the events of the day, he offers a prayer of worship and trust (Vs. 4). Then listen as he fills his mind with thoughts of joy and peace, fitting thoughts to insure happy dreams.
6 Let the light of your face shine on us. – 7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. 8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Ps. 4:6-8 NIV)
I wonder how our lives would be nurtured if we began and ended each day like David did? Instead of rushing out the door, pray in expectation for God’s blessing and protection to accompany our activities. Instead of watching an action movie right before bed, quiet our hearts in prayer that God would relieve any stress of the day and fill us with the joy of our salvation as we sleep.
This is a hard world in which we live. However, if we begin and end each day in prayer, the hardness will soften and our hearts will be filled with God’s grace and strength, and we will begin to grow into a man or woman after God’s own heart.
More morning prayers. Pray the words of these psalms:
16 But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. 17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. (Ps. 59:16-17 NIV)
But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
(Ps. 88:13 NIV)
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Ps. 90:14 NIV)
More evening prayers. Pray the words of these psalms:
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Ps. 16:7-8 NIV)
6 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” 13 Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. (Ps. 77:6-14 NIV)
55 In the night, LORD, I remember your name, that I may keep your law. 56 This has been my practice: I obey your precepts. (Ps. 119:55-56 NIV)