Light to Live By

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Category: Prayer (page 1 of 5)

Prayer and Discipline

“… train yourself for godliness … to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God … Command and teach these things.” (1 Timothy 4:7b, 10a, 11)

What is the proper relationship between the grace of prayer and the discipline of the believer?

Recently I explored this with our church family. I invite you to join us in pursuing these things. Give a listen: prayer and discipline

Prayer and Expectations

You bow your head and speak to God. What do you expect to happen?

Perhaps you prayed for X. But maybe you didn’t get X.

What happened? Did anything happen? Why didn’t X happen?

Is it proof, as George Buttrick wondered, that prayer is nothing more than “a spasm of words lost in a cosmic indifference”?  (15, Prayer, Philip Yancey)

Apart from getting out of God what I ask of Him, what should I expect when I pray?.

The Bible tells us that quite a lot of things take place when we pray. Consider with me just ten things that happen with you pray.

1. When you pray, God sees you.

“When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father … sees in secret …” (Matt. 6:6)

He is infinite and He not only notices/sees you, He does so with the fullness of His being. You are not just an indistinct movement in the periphery of His sight. He watches you. He’s observing you. He is taking note of you.

2. When you pray, God hears you.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven …” (2 Chron. 7:14)

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

3. When you pray, God delights in you.

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Prov. 15:8, NASU)

And for encouragement, here are a couple of snapshots that show us what God looks like when He is rejoicing … “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD … you shall be called My Delight Is in Her … as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:3-5). “The LORD your God … will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17).

4. When you pray, God draws near you.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)

God has worked a reciprocating component to His relationship to humans. When and as you draw near, He draws near to you.

Remember the story of the prodigal son? The aggrieved father is a picture of God the Father. When the son humbled himself and started out for home, ready to acknowledge that he had no right to ask for anything what picture do we find of the father? He ran to meet his son!

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psa. 145:18)

5. When you pray, God rewards you.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:6)

6. When you pray, God’s will is done.

“… pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:17-18)

It is God’s will that you seek Him. It is God’s will that you speak with Him.

We read this verse and wonder how we are to actually pull of praying “without ceasing”! But don’t let this escape your notice: God desires and wills that not one moment of your day pass without you living it in open, conscious, constant, conversational relationship to Him.

7. When you pray, God honors you.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10)

Notice the directional cues here: “humble” = downward; “exalt” = upward.

This is not, of course, descriptive off spatial direction, but of spiritual, personal direction! You “humble” yourself by willingly exalting God to a place of greater respect, importance and priority than anything else … especially yourself. God exalts you by putting you in a place of greater standing, favor, love, purpose, and importance than you could have ever found on your own.

8. When you pray, you enter God’s presence.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” (Heb. 10:19-20).

9. When you pray, you join God’s conversation.

When you pray, you step into a conversation that’s already going on. God within the confines of His Triune relationships is already talking about you before you lift your voice to Him.

“Christ Jesus is the one who died– more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:34)

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)

10. When you pray, you join in heaven’s worship.

Look what it is you find when, as you pray, you open the eyes of your heart: “… you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24).

When you pray you do that which all who’ve gone before you would counsel you to do. When you pray you do that which you’d be doing if you could see everything as it actually exists. When you pray you do that which you’ll be doing forever.

You prayed for X. You didn’t get X.

But you got all this instead. Good deal? Or bad deal?

Is it worth coming to Him again? And again and again and again and …

 

If you wish, you can listen to the entire teaching here: prayer and expectations

A Preacher’s Prayer

Father,

guard my mouth, set watch over the door of my lips

guard my mind, set watch over the door of my thoughts

guard my heart, set watch over the door of my loves

Father, please

fill my mouth with your words

fill my mind with your thoughts and

fill my heart with your love

Then, Father, use me as you please

In Jesus’ Name, amen

The Agony of Prayer

As we march toward the remembrance of Jesus on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, consider again the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane.

See Him there, prayerfully wrestling with the suffering that lay before Him and the eternal realities that depended upon Him. Having called His Disciples to watch and pray, He stumbled forward, “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matt. 26:39). He rises. He finds the Disciples sleeping. He calls them again to watchful vigilance. Again He withdrew, crying out, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (v.42). Once again, He rises. Again, He finds the Disciples sleeping. Yet again, He withdrew and “prayed for the third time, saying the same words again” (v.44).

Clearly Jesus was wrestling with what the will of His Father required of Him. It made Him “very sorrowful.” So deep was His grief that He thought it might be the death of Him just trying to pray through it all (v.38). Jesus clearly wished for the Disciples to join Him in His struggle that would soon become their struggle. He wanted them to be prepared.

Almost immediately Judas and the arresting mob arrived in the Garden (vv.46-47). The betrayal by kiss (vv.47-50a). The brief, bloody skirmish (vv.50b-51). The rebuke by Jesus of His Disciples (v.52).

Consider then Jesus’ response both to the Disciples for their impetuous fighting and to the arresting mob in their blind arresting. Jesus reminded the Disciples that He could have called on His Father for a host of angel-warriors and been delivered from this entire affair (v.53). His next breath is telling: “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (v.54).

No long later Jesus similarly rebuked the arresting authorities with a question about the timing and circumstances of their actions (v.55). Then He said, “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (v.56).

Jesus’ response to both the Disciples and the arresting party was the same – there was no other way for Him (and them) to fulfill what the Scriptures revealed as the Father’s will. As Jesus struggled with the Father’s will, it was against what He knew the Father had described as His will in the Scriptures.

Picture it! Jesus, if you will, was struggling in prayer over an open Bible as it held before Him the difficult nature of His Father’s will.

It makes me wonder, will I so pray through what the Scriptures require of me as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Will I come to the same place of submission to the Father’s will?

When God’s Word is open before me, holding forth what God requires of me, am I bowed to its authority over me? Am I bowed over that open Bible, praying through what it holds before me, where necessary, weeping and wrestling with my own will and self-preservation? Do I come to the same conclusion as Jesus? Do I say, as Jesus did, “Rise, let us be going” and take the next step of obedience my Father, through his written Word, holds before me?

As difficult as that next step in your discipleship with Jesus may be, He understands—from experience—just what you are going through (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). He too uttered “loud cries and tears” in this struggle (Heb. 5:7). But “for the joy that was set before him” He took the next painful step of obedience (Heb. 12:2). And because He did, so can you, by His Spirit dwelling within you.

Forgiveness Prayer

I recently wrote the following prayer for a professing believer who, despite much study, Scripture memorization and overall maturity in the faith, still struggles emotionally with whether his own sins are actually forgiven by God. He has a clear testimony of faith, is well studied in the theology, is not walking in willful sin. But he struggles. So I wrote this prayer and challenged him to begin each day by standing up, planting his feet and praying this prayer slowly, thoughtfully aloud to God. I offer it in case it may be helpful to you as well.

Heavenly Father, I confess that I struggle to believe you have forgiven me of my sins. Please help me in this.

In view of this struggle, I confess to you all my sins—known and unknown. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24).

Father, I ask you to cleanse me from hidden failures and sins—known not to me, but certainly known by you. Keep me from presumptuous sins; do not let them rule over me (Psalm 19:13-14).

I affirm by faith that, having confessed my sins, you forgive me all of them and that you cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I affirm by faith that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all my sin. I choose now to consciously rest in the declaration of your forgiveness. I rest in the righteousness of Christ provided to me by your decree of justification. I affirm that you have chosen to gift me with the standing of Jesus’ own righteousness and that you now view me not as a sinner, but as your child and son—loved, adopted, embraced, affirmed, made to stand in the grace you have provided to me through Jesus Christ.

By faith I stand against Satan, the accuser of the children of God, and all his demons and forces. I stand against their lies and intimidations. I bring the blood of Christ against them and declare their accusations invalid and powerless.

Lord, I declare that you have cast my sins behind your back (Isa. 38:17).

I declare that you have blotted out all my sins (Isa. 43:25).

I declare that you have chosen not to remember my sins against me ever again (Jer. 31:34).

I declare that you have tread my iniquities under your feet (Micah 7:19).

I declare that you have cast my sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

I declare that you have clothed me in robes of righteousness (Isa. 61:10; Rev. 21:14).

I declare, Lord, that you have cleansed me from all sin.

I declare that you have forgiven me all my sins.

I declare that there is no condemnation for me as I stand in faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1).

I declare, Lord, that you have removed my sins from me as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

I declare that you have pardoned me from all my sin and its judgment (Jer. 50:20).

I declare that you have reconciled me to yourself and I am loved, embraced, cherished, protected and kept by you.

I declare that you have sealed me to the day of redemption by your Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).

I declare that you have canceled the record of my sin debt, having set it aside by nailing it to Jesus’ cross (Col. 2:14).

I declare that you have taken upon yourself, Lord Jesus, the shame of my sin and replaced it with the favor and honor of salvation as a child of God (Heb. 12:2).

I declare that far from being shut out from your salvation, O God, you have made me an heir and a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

I affirm that “you … God [are] ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and [have] not forsake[n me] (Neh. 9:17).

I rest in your redeeming, saving, accepting, blessing, enfolding, inclusive love, O God! Convince me in the deepest parts of who I am of your love for me.

By your Spirit, O God, witness to my spirit, that I am a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Fill me with your Holy Spirit and release Him to spread abroad in my heart your great love, O Lord (Rom. 5:5).

In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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