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20 Quotes from Prayer Changes Things

I love good quotes about prayer. They motivate me, and I’ve put different ones on my prayer lists through the years to help me pray. Last time I put my favorite quotes from a recent book on prayer, Enjoy Your Prayer Life, and I promised I would follow up with a list from another short book on prayer I recently read in quarantine, Prayer Changes Things: Curing Timid Piety. So here goes – feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite. At the end I share my favorite from the last list…and this one. Enjoy!

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On Petitionary Prayer

“Almost all prayer in the Bible is petitionary. By that I mean: in prayer, we ask God to do things in the earth. More importantly, we ask God to change things. Prayer actually is asking God to change the status quo. Things are a certain way — our hearts are cold, or a relative has cancer, or we lack money for our bills, or our children are drifting from the Lord, or we need direction for a decision, whatever — and we ask God to change the way things are…When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told him to utter petitions.”

On Godly Dissatisfaction

“Godly dissatisfaction is when things are out of kilter, displeasing or harming us or impeding the gospel or the kingdom of God, and we ask God to change them. There’s nothing illegitimate about that kind of dissatisfaction. We need more of it, in fact.”

“If we are perfectly willing always to accept the way things are as God’s unchangeable will, we will never be great people of prayer.”

Prayer Changes Things

“Prayer changes people. I don’t mean by that that if we pray, the act of prayer will change us. Of course, that’s true. When we pour out our hearts to God, we get much closer to him, by the very nature of prayer itself. Our minds and hearts are riveted to spiritual things. We gradually lose our worldliness. God changes people who pray. I mean something else. I mean that we should pray for God to change people, and he will change them. Just as God raised this child in answer to Elijah’s prayer, so he can and will raise sinners to eternal life because of our prayer.”

“God says he’s going to do something, and then people pour out their hearts before God, and then he changes his mind. This happens again and again in the Bible, so many times, in fact, that we might want to say that it’s in God’s nature to change his mind when his people, and even sincere, humble sinners, pour out their souls to him. God delights to make himself open to change in the face of the heartfelt prayer.” (If this quote makes you nervous, good, but in the book he refutes the heresy of process theology.)

“God’s stated purposes can be changed if we pour out our hearts in prayer. This is another way of saying that God has made himself vulnerable and susceptible to man’s pleading. Therefore, when something bad has happened, or when someone has committed some terrible sin, don’t just sit and wait for God’s judgment. Get on your knees and beg God to avert his judgment and to lead them to repentance.”

Prayer is Fundamental, Not Supplemental

“Prayer is a basic but powerful part of Christian living. The Bible doesn’t envision that we can live as a Christian without living a life of prayer. The church that does not major on prayer is not acting as a Christian church. The church not routinely getting prayers answered is not a normal Christian church. If you don’t believe this, I simply ask you to read the book of Acts. The primitive church prayed, and that church routinely got answers to prayer. In short: if we’re not praying, and we’re not getting  answers to prayer, there’s something terribly wrong.”

God’s “Vulnerability” to Our Prayers

“God is vulnerable to our appeals to demonstrate his great power and vindicate his great honor in the earth because he desires to be praised and is worthy to be praised.”

“When we pray, let us pray bold, daring prayers, because those prayers honor God. Paltry, unbelieving prayers do not honor God, and it’s therefore no wonder our age is marked by defeat, apostasy, and depravity.”

Praying with a Routine

“The same Spirit who leads prophets to speak spontaneously leads them to spend time in prayer every day at the same time, and in the same way. Godly habits and customs aren’t somehow less spiritual than godly spontaneity.”

“Make a prayer list. There’s nothing whatsoever sub-spiritual about a written prayer list. Unless your memory is superhuman, there’s no way you can remember everyone and everything you need to pray for. It might not be necessary to pray through the entire list every day, but you probably need a list. In fact, if you can remember every person and everything you want to pray for every day, I suspect your prayer life is quite paltry. Your memory is not good enough to recall everyone and everything you need to pray for.”

“Daniel had learned to pray (v. 10c). It was his custom. We’ll never be people of prayer until prayer becomes a custom and habit. If we wait to pray until the exigencies of the moment, we’ll never be people of prayer.”

Pray for Yourself!

“One of the great errors of false prayer piety is the notion that it’s self-centered to cry out to God to help us and give us good things. This idea is both perverse and counterproductive.”

On Persevering Prayer

“If you are praying, and praying for a long time, and your prayers aren’t answered, don’t stop praying. Don’t assume that your prayer isn’t in God’s will. Only rarely in the Bible does God reveal that the prayer of a godly person is not in his will (Jas. 5:16)…persevering prayer is an indispensable component of the Christian worldview.”

“We say too soon, “Thy will be done”; and too ready acceptance of a situation as His will often means feebleness or sloth. It may be His will that we surmount His will. It may be His higher will that we resist His lower…Prayer with us has largely ceased to be wrestling. But is that not the dominant scriptural idea?” (quoted from P.T. Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer)

“If we do not receive…answers, we should persevere in prayer, and we should not warp the Bible to conform to our paltry experiences but ask whether we have not met the conditions God lays down for answering prayer.”

Replacing Prayer with Other Activity?

“(Our 18th and 19th century forebears) prayed frequently and fervently. We pray infrequently and languidly. They called prayer meetings. We call staff meetings. They had revival and reformation. We have apathy and apostasy. A leading reason for these distinctions is that they were inclined to believe what God said about prayer. We are often less confident in God’s word when it comes to his promises about prayer. A blunter way to say this is: we commit the sin of unbelief.”

Praying in Faith

“The default assumption of Christians is that God will answer their prayers. To shy away from this truth is to bear an evil heart of unbelief (Heb. 3:12).”

“This confidence of obtaining what we ask, a confidence which the Lord commands, and all the saints teach by their example, we must therefore hold fast with both hands, if we would pray to any advantage.” (quoted from John Calvin, Institutes)

“We do not really believe the Bible if we do not believe God’s promises to answer prayer.”

– Sandlin, P. Andrew. Prayer Changes Things : Curing Timid Piety . Center for Cultural Leadership. Kindle Edition.

Now, share your favorite below! From the last article, I copied the following quote to have on my quarantine desk: “The Son gives us his name to pray in so that we pray as him.”

From this list, there are a lot of great ones, but here’s one I especially appreciate: “Make a prayer list…Your memory is not good enough to recall everyone and everything you need to pray for.”

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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14 Quotes from Enjoy Your Prayer Life

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I think Christians need to read a book on prayer (or listen to a sermon on prayer) regularly. At least I feel this need – otherwise, it’s easy for me to turn to self-sufficiency, otherwise known as foolishness. And lately, I’ve been encouraged in my prayer life by two short books on prayer, both recommended to me by fellow pastors (Thanks, Matt Hoaglund and Forsell Gappa!) Today I offer 14 quotes for your encouragement from the first of these recommendations, this one from Matt – Enjoy Your Prayer Life, by Michael Reeves, also the author of an absolutely delightful and easy to understand (believe it or not) book on the Trinity. So here goes – feel free to count this as your regular encouragement – and pray!

Prayerlessness always goes hand in hand with a lack of Christian integrity. This is even more so for Christian leaders – to put it bluntly, if they are not enjoying communion with God, then they are selling a product they don’t really believe in.

So what is prayer? It’s never been put better than by John Calvin, who in his excellent little chapter on prayer in the Institutes calls prayer ‘the chief exercise of faith’. In other words, prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. This also means that prayerlessness is practical atheism, demonstrating a lack of belief in God.

Your prayer life reveals how much you really want communion with God and how much you really depend on him. I stress it absolutely does not tell you about your security as an unrejectable child of God, but it does tell you, very accurately, how much of a baby you are spiritually, how much of a hypocrite you are, and how much you actually love the Lord.

Naturally we’re rubbish at prayer because we’re sinners. Yet the solution – what will give us the true life of real communion with God – is the gospel of Christ that awakens faith.

…in Luke’s account…the friend doesn’t immediately answer and give the bread, for we are to understand that our heavenly Father and Friend wants us to persevere in our prayers. Of course, God could give to us and bless us without our asking – and how he regularly does that in his grace! But the God of fellowship wants fellowship with us. He wants us to argue his promises and his character with him, for then who he is becomes an ever more conscious reality for us.

You therefore see repeatedly in the Old Testament that when Israel no longer called out to him, he wouldn’t help them. For he wants us to know that blessing comes only from him. Blessing is not natural, and ultimately it can be found nowhere else.

John Calvin said that we pray, as it were, through Jesus’ mouth. The Father has always longed to hear the prayers of his dear Son – and we pray in his name. The Son gives us his name to pray in so that we pray as him.

When you default to thinking of prayer as an abstract activity, a ‘thing to do’, the tendency is to focus on the prayer as an activity – which makes it boring. Instead, focus on the one to whom you’re praying. Reminding yourself who you are coming before is a great help against distraction, and changes the prayer.

If God was a single, independent person, independence would be the godly thing. That would be how to be like him. But as the Son always depends on the Father, that is the nature of Christian godliness. Being a Christian is first and foremost all about receiving, asking and depending. It’s when you don’t feel needy (and so when you don’t pray much) that you lose your grip on reality and think or act in an unchristian manner. In fact, as you grow as a Christian, you should feel not more self-sufficient but ever more needy. If you don’t, I’m not sure you’re growing spiritually.

Prayer, then, is enjoying the care of a powerful Father, instead of being left to a frightening loneliness where everything is all down to you. Prayer is the antithesis of self-dependence.

Instead of chasing the idol of our own productivity, let’s be dependent children – and let the busyness that could keep us from prayer drive us to prayer. Only then – like the Son – can we actually be fruitful.

True intimacy is an acquired thing, something that develops – but it only develops with honesty. So if your prayer life is a bit ropey, I suggest starting again by stammering like a child to a Father. Cry for help. Don’t try to be impressive.

The prayer meeting is such a battle of flesh against Spirit: will you bludgeon your brothers and sisters with your impressive prayers and actually ignore God, or will you truly go to your Father and seek blessing for them? It can be a formality, a chance to compete with each other – or it can wonderfully foster unity.

Do you feel you don’t have the time? That’s revealing of self-dependence, probably. Do you not see the Father as one you actually want to spend time with? That’s revealing, and you’ll need a new sight of the glory of Christ to re-awaken faith. Might it be that, deep down, you struggle to believe this truly is the Lord’s world? Prayerlessness often indicates that mindset.

Lastly – why don’t you share a comment below of your favorite of these quotes? I took a portion of one of these above and wrote it out on a notecard so I can see it on my desk. Tell me your favorite, and when I publish the next set of quotes from the other book…I’ll tell you mine!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Pastoral Prayer During the Pandemic

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I led the pastoral prayer this past weekend at Edgewood, and I have included it below for those who might be inclined to use it once or twice for personal prayer during these challenging times.

There are so many things to pray for these days. Yes, safety and health…of course. But in these unique days, many people are asking about eternity. That makes it a significant time for Kingdom work…and so we plead, “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

Of late, I am enjoying a book of prayers in my own devotional life: Piercing Heaven, Prayers of the Puritans, edited by Robert Elmer. I find it helpful to read (and pray!) the prayers of others from the past. They help me to think outside of the box in my own praying, which if I’m not careful, can fall into ruts. You’ll note that the prayer below is itself based on that particular famous prayer taught by Jesus, along with various verses from around Scripture. Here’s to rut-free praying…

Our Father in heaven, we praise You today as the Sovereign God, Who rules in majesty and glory. You are the One to Whom Job finally said, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” So we too are of small account, and yet in our smallness, you have adopted us as your children. Oh, glory to your name! We worship You for your might – As Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God, behold thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for thee.” And in Your might, You have worked a great salvation. We confess that You are mighty to save. And You have not only saved us, You have delighted in us, You have quieted us with Your love. You rejoice over us with loud singing. And so…we worship You.

And as we worship, we pray that others would worship You as well, so that Your name would be honored. The recent events in our world are causing billions of people to wonder at who or what they have been worshiping. Oh Lord, in Your wisdom, You have allowed this pandemic, and now, we pray that You would use it to bring multitudes to their knees in worship of You, the One True God. Use this pandemic to stem the rising tide in our culture of secularism and unbelief and apostasy. Many of us have for years been praying that loved ones would turn to you…would trust in You. O God, please, please, use these recent events to that end. Bring the prodigals home.

And cause us to do Your will. Cause us to speak Your Gospel word. Do not let us, Your chosen people, squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Good news. Make us wise…and yet in our wisdom make us bold and daring. Your word tells us to be ready to give an answer to those who ask the reason for our hope. So first, Father, fill us with hope…where there is fear among us, push it out by the power of Your Spirit, and would You, the God of Hope, fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of Your Holy Spirit, we would abound in hope. More hope, Father! Where there are those among us struggling with assurance of their salvation, fill them with an assurance from Your Holy Spirit, Father. Spirit, bear witness with their spirit that they are your children. Fill Edgewood Community church with hope so those around us will look to You!

Give us this day our daily bread. We ask of course, for health and protection during this crisis, and we ask in particular for protection for those most vulnerable among us. We ask for your protection of the seniors who call Edgewood home, and for the seniors not a part of our church but who are dearly loved by the people of our church. O God, protect. Keep safe those in our body with compromised immune systems. You have said, “You do not have, because you do not ask”…well, we’re asking. We’re asking. Protect the people of our church, Heavenly Father, and do it so that we can continue to serve and honor you with our lives.

And forgive us our sins. We confess that we are a sinful people. Born in iniquity. Conceived in sin. Purge us with hyssop and we will be clean. Wash us and we will be whiter than snow. Let us hear joy and gladness again. Let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Blot out all our iniquities and create in us, clean hearts…then we will teach transgressors your way, and sinners will return to you.

And lead us not into temptation, but lead us into holiness…and God, protect us from the evil one. He has plans…Thwart them. He has schemes…Frustrate them. Counter them. And protect us from him and his minions.

For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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A New Way to Pray for Someone

I just took a walk on the boardwalk behind the church this afternoon, and as I was praying for my kids, I had an idea, “What if I took The Lord’s Prayer and used it to pray for them?” Okay, so it’s probably not a “new” way to pray, but I don’t personally remember using the format of the Lord’s prayer exactly this way before.

Of course, in the end, The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for the whole Christian community, as the requests are always for “us” and “our”, but there are certain principles within it that can teach us what is important to pray specifically for individuals that we love. So, here’s how it might go, praying for an imaginary Christian friend named Bob:

Our Father: Pray that Bob would know God’s love, that is, the love of his heavenly Father. “I pray that Bob would know deeply how much you love him. I pray that he would know the height, and width and length and depth of the love of Christ, that he would know the love that surpasses knowledge and be filled up with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3).”

Who art in heaven: Pray that he would grow in his understanding of God’s sovereignty and power. (Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3 ESV) “Oh, Father, that Bob would know your limitless power in light of what he is going through today, and that as a result of knowing your power, he would seek You for help and answers.”

Hallowed be Thy Name: Pray that his life would bring glory to the name of God. “Lord, may Bob’s life honor You. Use him to bring glory to your name. May he always treat Your name as holy and honored.”

Thy Kingdom come: Pray that he would be used in the furthering of the Kingdom of God. “Father, I know that Bob is trying to reach his neighborhood for Christ. Go before him. Use him to speak words of life. Give him boldness in speech today.”

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Pray that Bob would know God’s will for his life, and walk in God’s ways. “Lord, give him wisdom about the decision he needs to make, and help him to live his life today in complete obedience to you.”

Give us this day our daily bread: Pray for whatever spiritual, emotional, relational, or material needs he has. “Father, he’s been unemployed for two months now. Please provide a job for him that fits his gifts and provides for all his material needs.”

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us: Pray for Bob to have a sensitive heart regarding sin in his life, and to always remember the glorious gospel and the price that was paid for him. Pray that he would keep “short accounts” with God. And pray that he would be a person of grace, freely forgiving anyone who wrongs him.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Pray that God would keep him from sin, and protect him from Satan. “Lord, you know that Bob is struggling with ________. Help him to walk in holiness. And I don’t know what plans Satan is making against him, but thwart the enemy, Lord!”

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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A Great Secret of Prayer…

Here is John Calvin from his Institutes of the Christian Religion expressing a great truth about prayer:

“If we would pray fruitfully, we ought therefore to grasp with both hands this assurance of obtaining what we ask, which the Lord enjoins with his own voice, and all the saints teach by their example. For only that prayer is acceptable to God which is born, if I may so express it, out of such presumption of faith, and is grounded in unshaken assurance of hope. He could have been content with the simple mention of faith, yet he not only added confidence but also fortified it with freedom or boldness, that by this mark he might distinguish from us the unbelievers, who indeed indiscriminately mingle with us in our prayers to God, but by chance. The whole church prays in this way in the psalm: “Let thy mercy be upon us, even as we have hoped in thee” (Psalm. 33:22, Comm.). Elsewhere the prophet lays down the same condition: “In the day when I call, this I know, that God is with me” (Psalm. 56:9 Comm.). Likewise: “In the morning I will make ready for thee, and watch.” (Psalm. 5:3 Comm.). From these words we conclude that prayers are vainly cast upon the air unless hope be added, from which we quietly watch for God as from a watchtower.”

What is He saying? Don’t pray unless you “add hope” that God will answer! Grasp with both hands the truth that God answers prayer, and never let go of that truth. Prayers should always be sent to heaven with an “assurance of obtaining”. Look in particular at the verses Calvin quotes. He is saying that our heavenly Father wants us to be confident in praying; He wants to know that His mercy will be upon us (answers will come) according to how we have hoped in Him.

So pray an “acceptable” prayer today…the kind of prayer which believes a prayer-answering God is hearing you.

 

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Ten Books I’m Reading (or Recently Read)

libraryWe’re redoing our church library and the pastoral staff was asked to compile a list of books we’re reading to make a nice section of recommendations for the church. Here’s what I came up with…

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

I read this for a Sunday school class back in my college days and recently started it over. It’s a classic for a reason, as Packer, an Anglican, provides a glorious overview of the Christian faith. The back cover is full of recommendations from a who’s who of 20th century Christianity. If you’ve never been exposed to this gem, don’t wait any longer.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath

I “read” (listened to) this on our recent 6,100 mile road trip. Rath, the bestselling author of Strengthfinders 2.0, packs his book full of research based facts to motivate you to eat better, exercise more, and sleep well. It’s amazing how your quality of life improves as you put all three together. Each of the 30 chapters has a tip based on research regarding each of the three areas to help you be the best you can be.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This Pulitzer-prize-winning book tells the tale of a father and son traveling south together in a post-apocalyptic world. So far, it is a lesson in loving a child, and McCarthy’s writing deserves the praise it receives.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Diane and I listened to this testimonial whenever Annie was otherwise engaged on our big trip. It’s one of those books that manages to be informative and delightful all at once. Qureshi was raised in the west but in a devout Muslim family. The book takes a nice tone as he honors his parents and his childhood faith, giving us all reason to pause and wonder whether we are taking Christianity as seriously as his parents took Islam. If you want to understand what it means to leave the life of a Muslim to embrace Christ, start here.

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Do you see a pattern? Yes, I’m thinking about health (which doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing anything about it!) This book tells the story of how Americans have gained on average (I forget the statistic exactly) 25 lbs. over the last few decades. How? Two words: processed foods. If you are looking for motivation to put down the Cheetos and turn away from the lunchables, pop-tarts, and cold cuts, pick this one up.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Another “listen” on the road trip, but this one we played for all of us. And we loved it! It’s a novel for everyone, telling four different stories of four children and the various injustices they encounter and seek to overcome in life…and the music that helps them through. The author ties the stories together beautifully at the end. I had a serious lump in my throat. Read this one (or listen to it – a lovely musical score goes along with the audio version) with the whole family.

What is an Evangelical? by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Along with Seeking Allah…, I read this book in light of the recent controversy at Wheaton College (where Josh and Elisabeth attend). It was at this august Evangelical institution that a Political Science Professor said in December 2015 that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. They don’t…but that question has never received more attention than it did in the last few months. This is a short read, and Lloyd-Jones defines an evangelical in three chapters, recognizing that true Christianity exists outside of evangelicalism, but wisely pointing out that if you reject evangelicalism, you may be going to heaven, but you probably won’t take anyone with you. After all, the “Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) In Lloyd-Jones’ words, apart from an evangelical faith, Christianity loses its “converting influence.” I doubt he would consider the (now former) Wheaton professor to fill the bill.

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Redeemer church in Manhattan, pastored by Keller, is known not only as a church that proclaims the gospel, but as a fellowship that is “for the city”, caring for the “least of these”. Keller lays out the strong biblical case to be a people who live for the poor and needy and spread “shalom” wherever we go.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The sport of crew (a.k.a. rowing) takes center stage in this engrossing true tale of 9 college kids going for gold against Hitler’s best in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m a sucker for a World War 2 story, and though this isn’t quite that, it’s close, and I delighted in the story. I’m not the only one. Though it was only published in 2013, it is one of the all time top twenty best-selling non-fiction books at Amazon.

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Those who know me well are not surprised to find two Keller books on this list. He’s a modern day C.S. Lewis, and if my layman predictions are right, he will still be read 100 years from now. If you want to give your prayer life a shot in the arm, apparently Timothy Keller practices what he preaches, and he is an faithful guide. His spirit throughout is humble and yet informative.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Surest Road to Victory

About 30 years ago, I was in college, visiting a friend’s dorm room at the University of Illinois. For whatever reason that day, I picked up a devotional book he had – which one I don’t know – and it included this little story of Joash and Elisha at the end of the prophet’s life, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned.  In fact, I either wrote down what I learned in this book, or I memorized it on the spot. It now serves as one of the little motivational quotes I sometimes put at the top of prayer lists, but before I get to the quote, here is the Bible story it was based on, from 2 Kings 13…

Elisha the great prophet of God was about to die. Joash was King of Israel at the time, and even though Joash has not fully followed God, even he realizes that if Elisha “sleeps with his fathers”, all hope is lost, because he’s the only one who seems to have a direct connection with the God of Israel.

So Joash comes to see Elisha on his deathbed, and this is what happens:

Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 2 Kings 13:14 (ESV)

So it’s almost a comedic scene, for Elisha is the one who is dying, but King Joash comes before him crying about his weak army. But it just so happens that Joash has come to the right guy.  Elisha makes a plan…

And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 2 Kings 13:15 – 17a (ESV)

Do you follow what has happened? Elisha has instructed the king to take up his bow and some arrows.  Something symbolic is about to take place.  Then the king draws back the bow, and then Elisha apparently gets behind him, almost like a master archer teaching a novice how to shoot, but only for a moment because then it seems he takes away his hands and he tells the king to open the window. He tells him to shoot…and the king shoots. It seems that Elisha is symbolically transferring God’s power to the king in an upcoming battle against Syria. And Elisha provides some running commentary…

And Elisha says, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 2 Kings 13:17b (ESV)

But you see that’s just one battle against their dreaded enemy.  The king needs to fire some more symbolic arrows to defeat the enemy completely.

So look what happens next.

And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 2 Kings 13:18 (ESV)

So Elisha says take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Apparently he wants the king to fire the remaining arrows out the window, symbolic of the future victories Israel will have in other battles against this feared enemy. Now we don’t know what’s going on in the king’s mind, but we can guess.  He has already begun to think that he is wasting his time coming to see this dying prophet.  Here the prophet is asking him to shoot arrows at nothing out the east window, when he really thought the man was going to pray a prayer to simply make all the Syrians die, or something along those lines.

So the king takes the arrows with his bow and his mind is now full of doubt and skepticism, perhaps he looks at Elisha funny and then fires off three arrows.  But that’s it.  He’s got his hand full of arrows, but he fires off only three.

Now look at Elisha’s reaction:

Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” 2 Kings 13:19 (ESV)

And then the story concludes: So Elisha died, and they buried him. 2 Kings 13:20 (ESV)

Now thirty years ago, I read this pithy quote about that little vignette, and it always stuck with me…

“Let it be said to his shame that he did not believe enough, so he did not obey enough.  It is what happens in the secret chamber that determines the amount of victory we have in the actual battle of life.”

Joash was told to do something to ensure victory over Syria, and yet…he thought it foolish.  Surely firing arrows into the ground could not lead him to victory over the Lord’s enemies.  But shooting those arrows out the window was the method God determined to use.

Similarly, our Heavenly Father tells us to pray, but too often we are like that foolish King looking at the prophet like he’s an idiot. Prayer is God’s chosen means for us to win battles, lots and lots of battles. We simply need to get on our knees…and start firing off arrows.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Is It Okay to Ask God for Personal, “Selfish” Things?

A friend of mine saw my post on a daily prayer list in 2012 and sent me this note:

“Roger, I tried writing a list of 10 – 50 prayers and I am finding difficulty in doing this.  Specifically, I am finding difficulty in praying for specific things for myself.  Any help with this will be appreciated.”

It’s a great question.  On the one hand, there are people who refuse to ask anything for themselves, and some of these even announce somewhat proudly that this is their stance, and then there are others like my friend, who feel, well, wrong about presenting personal needs and desires to God.

Here are a few thoughts in response:

  1. Delight yourself in the Lord, and then pray for whatever your heart desires. (Psalm 37:4)  The Lord is my chief good.  He is my great desire.  I want to know Him and walk with Him and delight in Him all of my days.  With this in mind, then, I think we should pray boldly for our needs and desires, but ask God to make our desires, His desires.  I prayed for a godly wife for a long time, and then after meeting Diane and marrying her, we had two miscarriages, and I got serious praying for children.  I have certainly prayed for money or material goods along the way in life. I suppose these were selfish requests, but God “…knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”  (Psalm 103:14 ESV).  So confess your weakness and ask boldly.
  2. Never ever ask with a demanding spirit.  This seems to be one of the problems with the Israelites’ petition for a King (1 Samuel 8:5 – 7), which displeased God. And though Job was a godly man, he too got a little overzealous in demanding an audience with the Judge of all the earth, so God answered Him out of the whirlwind.  Therefore, whatever you ask the Lord for, ask with faith, that is, knowing God can answer; but also ask with humility, remembering that He is a loving Heavenly Father Who knows whether or not your request will be a blessing to you and His Kingdom.
  3. Pray the Lord’s Prayer.  If you organize your prayer times like Jesus taught us to, you will always ask for Kingdom-minded and God-oriented items first.  The Lord’s Prayer is a guide to asking, and I’ll be writing a post on how to pray The Lord’s Prayer before too long, but suffice it to say that the first three requests are 1) …that people would honor God, 2) …that His Kingdom would be advanced, and 3) …that His will would be done. That said, if you use another form like ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), no problem – you don’t have to pray in the form that Jesus taught, but it sure works well for me. It is the basic form for prayer I use every day, and I do think it keeps our hearts oriented on what’s important.
  4. Pray in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but Yours be done.”  This dovetails with not having a demanding spirit.  There are some things I pray for in particular, and I frankly wonder if they are God’s will, and when I get to these on my list, I have that sense, whether I say it or not, “Lord, I certainly hold this with an open hand, and I’m not sure I’m in your will here or not, so work it out according to Your infinite wisdom.”
  5. The bottom line is, pray for your needs and desires, just like a child asks His father, and trust Him to answer according to His will.  No one is so mature that they can always know what they are asking is purely unselfish.  My motives are a mixed bag, and I’m sure that’s true for all of us.  So just pray – pray, pray, pray…and glorify your Heavenly Father when He answers!
 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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3 Truths To Encourage You to Pray

I forget that prayer matters. I forget God answers prayer. Though my loving Heavenly Father has been answering my prayers for years, I am too often like those Israelites who in one moment were miraculously delivered through the Red Sea from slavery, but in the next are crying out that God has forgotten them. I forget what He has done, and I forget that He answers my requests.

So, to counteract this, a number of years ago, I began writing little truths to myself at the top of my prayer lists. And I think I’m onto something with this practice in light of what Paul wrote the Philippians: “Whatever is true…think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). I change these little notes every so often, because they get familiar, and I don’t “see” them anymore.

So here are just a few truths/ideas I have put at the top of lists over the years. I’ll post more at another time. But for now, perhaps these will move you to your knees…

  1. “Prayer is fundamental, not supplemental.” This sentence came from hearing the Scottish pastor Eric Alexander speak at the Urbana ’84 Missions conference. It has called me to prayer again and again. Too many times we can fall into thinking of prayer as a nice thing if we manage to find the time, but not really that important. But on the contrary, it is essential…fundamental, the most important part of the day, not a minor “add-on”.
  2. Collect as many jars as possible. This little idea came out of my meditation on 2 Kings 4 years ago. The story goes that a widow came to Elisha in dire financial straits, with only a jar of oil left to her name, about to have her sons taken in slavery to pay her late husband’s creditors. The prophet told her to go to neighbors and collect empty jars. “Do not get a few,” he said. So she and her sons went knocking on doors, not knowing why they were begging jars. When all the vessels were assembled, Elisha told her to begin pouring oil from the one full jar in the house. As she did so, her sons kept bringing her more empties from what had been collected, and when the last jar was filled, the oil stopped flowing. Elisha told her to sell the oil and pay her debts. And I began to think that prayer was like collecting jars. You do not have, because you do not ask, James said. How many things do I not have…because I haven’t asked, in other words, because I haven’t collected jars. I think that when that oil stopped flowing, she must have thought, why didn’t I collect more jars? And I think that when we get to heaven, we might just think, “Why didn’t I ask my heavenly Father for more?”
  3. Roger – this is the main work you have been called to.  It is. There are so many things a pastor does, and for that matter, there are so many things a mom or dad does, but the main work I am called to is prayer. There is no more important thing I do, either as a pastor, or as a father, or husband. I am called to pray.
 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Smell That God Loves

Yeast free healthy homemade breadPerhaps you’ve heard before that if you want to sell your house, when someone is coming for a showing, you should have fresh bread baking in the oven. If the scent of delightfulness is strong enough, people will pay full price without a counter offer. Well, okay, I doubt that is really true, but I’ll bet that a good smell wafting through the house does make people more favorable to some sort of purchase. Smells have a powerful effect on us. And here’s the wonderful thing: Scripture says that God can smell our prayers. And it’s like homemade bread baking in the oven to Him.

Okay, not homemade bread, but incense; however, since incense isn’t such a common thing in our culture (at least in my neck of the woods), I prefer to think about homemade bread, or maybe a lovely perfume on the wife of my youth. Whatever you want to compare it to, God apparently likes the smell of our prayers…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 (ESV)

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Revelation 8:3-4 (ESV)

Golden bowls full of wonderful smells – that is how our Heavenly Father thinks of our prayers. But why does He delight so much when we seek Him? Well, for one, God delights to be trusted in. But an even greater reason may be that He just plain likes being with you.

Pastor R.T. Kendall (successor to D. Martyn Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel in London) relates the story he heard from an evangelist named J. John. The evangelist was in the company of a woman named Sister Theresa (not the famous one) noted for giving a prophetic word and so, he asked her for one. She took some time but came back with a long list of very accurate items regarding him and his ministry. But the last thing she said changed his life:

“God likes your company and asks that you give Him two hours of your time every day.”

God likes your company. Indeed, He not only loves you. He also likes you. Now, by the way, I don’t think you need a prophetic word to come to an understanding of this, but apparently, the word from Sister Theresa helped the evangelist…as R.T. Kendall relates:

“J. John took her seriously, and I can tell you—he has told me more than once—he was never to be the same again. I personally think it explains, at least in part, why J. John is one of the greatest evangelists today, not just in Britain but also throughout the world.”

“What does prayer do for God? For one thing, He likes your company. I cannot imagine a greater motivation to pray than that God enjoys having me in His presence. He enjoys my company. He delights in listening to me! He doesn’t get bored with my repeated requests. He doesn’t moralize me if I get it wrong in what I ask for. He doesn’t laugh at me if I put out silly, even impertinent, requests. He never makes me feel stupid. There is no rejection, only total acceptance.”

Amen, and amen. So…start the heavenly oven, will you? Your Heavenly Father waits to delight in the smells you will send His way.

For Monday, December 14th: Revelation 9

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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