When Prayer Is Hard Work – Part 2
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8
We all want what successful people have; we’re just not willing to pay the price they paid to get it. When you see someone with sculpted abs and a well-toned body, they probably spend time sweating in a gym. There’s a reason Paul talks about ‘laboring…in prayers’ (Colossians 4:12). When you pray, you must be passionate, persistent and positive, expecting good things from God. You’ve got to put your heart into it and believe God will do what He promised. It’s not easy to fight off distractions and focus on Him. Don’t expect your fleshly nature to co-operate; it comes to the place of prayer kicking and screaming. And don’t expect your intellect to cheer you on; your self-sufficient nature will always choose prayer as a last resort. But God will urge you, and draw you into His presence. ‘If you draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.’ An unknown poet wrote: ‘I got up early one morning, and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish, I didn’t have time to pray. Troubles tumbled about me, and heavier came each task; “Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”…I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.’ Many problems can be resolved, or avoided altogether, when you take time to pray and include God in every part of your day.
‘Oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear; All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer’ (Joseph M. Scriven: 1855).
When Prayer Is Hard Work – Part 1
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. Colossians 4:12
Paul writes, ‘Epaphras, who is…always laboring fervently for you in prayers.’
Sometimes praying for others feels like ‘laboring’. Once you understand and accept that, not having ‘tingling sensations’ when you pray won’t discourage you. You can smile and tell yourself, ‘This is the way the Bible says it will be sometimes.’ G. Campbell Morgan said, ‘A man may offer a prayer, beautiful in diction and perfect in the number of its petitions. But if it gives him gratification afterwards, that prayer cannot have been truly prayed.’ What did he mean? Simply this: you’ll feel good after you’ve prayed, but your goal isn’t to feel good about the fact that you have prayed, or that you felt particularly good during the process. Observe: 1) Prayer is a duty. It’s like going to work. You do it because it’s a commitment, and because of the rewards it brings. 2) Prayer is a discipline. The old-timers used to talk about ‘praying through’. Through what? Through wandering thoughts, through fatigue, through fears, and every other form of resistance and distraction. When you enter the ‘prayer zone’, Satan will fight you at every turn. But when you stand in the name of Jesus, the powers of darkness will retreat and you’ll prevail (John 14:13-14). 3) Prayer is a delight. It won’t happen every time, but if you’re faithful to the place of prayer there’ll be times when your whole being will be conscious that God is present, answering your prayer and giving you guidance. And even when the answer isn’t completely clear, you’ll leave His presence saying, ‘Now I have peace about it.’
Heavenly Father, help me “wrestle in prayer” for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
The Life God Wants You to Live
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Here are three important truths to help you enjoy the life God wants you to live:
1) Believe God wants you to succeed. Give up the unscriptural notion that this life has no value. God has a special work for you to do—here and now (Jeremiah 29:11). You ask, ‘What defines success?’ Answer: the progressive achievement of a God-given goal resulting in feeling good about yourself. ‘Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do’ (Deuteronomy 29:9). 2) Consult God before you set your goals. The Bible says, ‘We should make plans—counting on God to direct us’ (Proverbs 16:9). If you’re constantly stressed out and confused, you may be on the wrong track. Go back and check with God; what has He told you to do? It’s His will for you to succeed in these six areas: a) spiritual; b) relational; c) physical; d) mental; e) social; f) financial. ‘ Whatever he does shall prosper’ (Psalms 1:3). 3) Invest in yourself. ‘ Though it cost all you have, get understanding’ (Proverbs 4:7). If you’re willing to spend money at fine restaurants but not on good books, your future is already determined. And the first book you need to invest in is a Bible. John writes, ‘And the Word was God’ (John 1:1). That means each time you read God’s Word, you’re depositing more of God into you. Wow! Think how that affects your life! Cultivate a teachable spirit. ‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning’ (Proverbs 1:5). This is the life God wants you to live!
Heavenly Father, let my plans be the plans You have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
The Importance of Patterns
See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. Exodus 25:40
We focus on individual incidents, but the God of the big picture focuses on patterns. He determined twenty-four hours in each day, seven days in each week, four seasons in each year, two people in each marriage, etc. Birth is followed by infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood, old age. Imagine how different your life would be without these patterns! God created us to need patterned lives. Patterns provide predictability, and predictability provides comfort, control and security. Simply knowing that Saturday follows Wednesday helps you get through an exhausting work week. Many of our relational issues would be resolved if we paid more attention to our negative patterns and concentrated on establishing positive ones. Does this conversation sound familiar? The husband asks, ‘Why do you always bring things up just when I’m falling asleep? Can’t you find a better time?’ The wife returns fire, ‘There’s never a better time to get your attention!’ The use of words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ only intensifies the problem. Until you understand and change your patterns, you’ll forever be attempting to put out relational fires. Establishing a simple pattern of spending an hour or two together each week (date night?) assures your wife of a set time to be heard, and your husband an opportunity to listen when he’s alert and responsive. Patterns are God’s idea. The predictability and promise they bring help defuse reactive emotions and establish an environment where you both feel loved and valued!
Heavenly Father, thank You for the patterns that You have set up and help me to use them in the relationships in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Luke 24:30
Taking communion can be a meaningless ritual, or an intimate time spent in the presence of Jesus. Read the story of Cleopas and his companion, they were travelling home to Emmaus when Jesus suddenly appeared and walked along with them. First He opened their eyes to see that the crucifixion wasn’t the tragedy they thought, but a fulfilment of prophecy and God’s way to redeem a lost world; something to celebrate and not be sad about. Later, as He sat in their home and ate supper with them, ‘He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they [knew] Him’ (vv. 30-31). Are you battling fear and doubt today? Are you wondering if God will keep His promise to you? He will! Earlier that day, Cleopas and his companion met some women who had just been to the empty tomb and reported that Jesus was alive. But try as they might, they couldn’t believe it. This story proves that Jesus loves doubters enough to walk with them, take away their fears, and strengthen their faith. And guess when He did it? As they broke bread. So next time you’re taking communion, stop and pray, ‘Lord, speak to me. Show me Your will and Your way.’ That’s a prayer He will answer. Your mind may be confused and your anxiety great, but if you’re spiritually hungry He will show up and meet you at the point of your need.
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see You – in the Sacrament of Your Bread and Wine and in others that You work through. In Jesus’ Name, Amen