Praying the Will

February 9

“This is the confidence that we have before Him: If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess what we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)

We have been talking about prayer – and about what kind of prayers actually gain God’s attention. Yesterday, our focus was upon praying Scripture (God’s revealed Words) over the situations and circumstances of our lives (and the lives of others who cross our path). The idea is that God has already spoken His Word, and whatever He speaks comes to pass – so what better way to pray effective prayers than to pray words that already have God’s Own creative and miraculous power attached to them.

speaking-gods-word-1This breathes new life into our times of Bible reading and study. Now we are not just learning about God – we are actually mining the gold within those inspired pages. We are turning His Word into powerful prayer strategy – utilizing the glorious truth that God always “watches over His Word to perform it.” Why not activate the power of God’s Word, in a powerfully practical way, in our own lives?

But there is still another reason to open our Bibles and explore the depths of God’s Word to us. In the pages of Scripture, we gain God’s perspective about life and living – AND we come to know the types of things that God wants to do. We gain insight into HIS will.

This is so essential because of our verses for today. Effective prayer comes down to one surprisingly simple concept: asking God to do what HE wants to do.

Most of our prayers are so often consumed with what we want. I think we just might be shocked at how little time we spend seeking God for what He wants to do.

Maybe that’s why our prayers are so often ineffective and unproductive.

We should know better. Right in the center of the Lord’s prayer is the prime directive. God, “YOUR will be done… on this earth, just as it is in Heaven.” (Mt. 6:10) Jesus sets us straight. Our primary focus is not our wants (or even our needs) – our number one goal is seeking God’s will and seeing it done through the invitation of our prayers.

KingdomCome

Think about it. Prayer offers us an amazing opportunity – to personally see the power of the Almighty working through what WE have prayed. But the secret to this kind of powerful praying is found in praying God’s will in any and every situation.

So how do we know God’s will? Three ways…

One) Study God’s Word (as we have already mentioned). It is God’s gift to us to help us to know His will in nearly every situation.

study the bible

Two) Really look at the life and ministry of Jesus. The best way to know God’s will in motion is to study when God came to earth and walked among us. What we see IN Jesus is a ministry absolutely centered in God’s will.

Jesus heals a woman

Three) Learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He is also God’s Gift to us. Where Jesus was “God with us,” the Holy Spirit is “God within us.” This may take some time, but we are ALL capable of hearing that still small voice coming from within us – revealing God’s will to us.

hearingthevoice

The amazing promise is before us… Prayer offers us an unparalleled adventure in living our lives. The Almighty invites us to know His will, pray His will, and to personally witnesses the power of His will through answered prayer, coming directly through us!

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Praying the Word

February 8

“I am watching over My word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:12)

While on this topic of prayer, I wanted to share something that I am still learning.

Prayer_warriorI will be really honest, I am not what you would call a great “prayer warrior.” I do pray – but it is not one of my favorite things to do. Which is strange… because I have studied about prayer (and praying) a great deal. I know the value of prayer – I teach about the power of prayer. I have just always struggled to be that dedicated to prayer. As I’m sure most of you will attest… knowing about something and doing something about what you know are entirely different things.

It’s possible that I might not be alone. There may be some of you who would openly declare the wonder and value of prayer – but when it comes right down to it… you just may have other things you would rather spend your time doing.

There’s a lot going on here… but I think (for me at least) it comes down to that sense of wondering: “Is God really listening? Does He really Personally care about what I am going through? Do the words I’m praying really matter? Am I praying the RIGHT words?”

prayer-in-the-dark

In other words, am I praying the kind of prayers that really get God’s attention? And if I’m not, well… what’s the point?

Don’t get me wrong… I’m sure that God hears all of our prayers – but are there prayers where He actually stops… and LISTENS intently?

I think that there really are those types of prayers – and I am learning just what kind those may be.

Our verse for today brings the manner of prayer that gains God’s attention… to OUR attention. It is subtle… but powerful when we grasp what God is saying.

In short, God is telling us that He wants to do some things on this earth. Powerful things. Miraculous things. God-type things. And there is only one key that “triggers” the Almighty activity of God… It is HIS Word.

God watches

We all know that what God says… happens (see Creation!). His word is powerful. Unstoppable. Whenever God speaks… His Word changes things.

It occurs to me, then, that what we are really wanting God to do is to SAY something in our situations of need, in the struggles of our lives, in the circumstances that require His intervention. IF we can just get God to speak the word over our issue or problem… issue resolved. Problem solved. God is glorified.

But how do we get God to say something over our lives? How do we possibly convince the Almighty to speak over us? What words can we use that could ever gain His attention… or His Voice (maybe, this is why we struggle to pray??!).

The solution just may be this simple… we just need to speak what God has already spoken. Maybe the power of prayer is found in praying God’s already spoken words over our situations, our problems, our concerns – over the loved ones in our lives.

THIS is the lesson I am learning (still!)…

Step 1: Defining the issues of my life (and of the people in my life).

Step 2: Seeking out GOD’S WORDS for that situation (in the pages of Scripture).

Step 3: Praying that Scripture (God’s Word) over that situation or over that person.

An example is in order… In praying for my adult kids, I draw from the apostle’s prayer in Ephesians 3:15-19…

prayer background

It is a simple thing, yes. But it makes sense, that if God truly “watches over His Word to perform it” – maybe the best thing we can do is pray HIS Word.

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Don’t stop now… there’s yet still more…

February

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

pray without ceasing

So how in the world do you pray without ceasing?

First, we need to understand that the apostle is talking about instilling proper perspectives in our lives. He is, in context, talking about the attitudes that should dominate how true Christians approach life and living.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18, there is the admonition to respect and lovingly esteem those who lead the church, to be at peace with each other, to admonish the idle (the lazy!), encourage the faint, help the weak, practice patience always. When wronged, to live without seeking revenge, but instead, to “do good to everyone.” Then the apostle gives us the attitudes that are quoted more often… “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances… for THIS is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

The apostle is inspired to inspire us to live lives consistently focused on what it means to love God and to love people – in a practical, daily manner.

Love God love people

It is to our detriment that we see the Christian life as religious times (when we are doing God-type things) and all the other times (when we can do whatever we want to do). The apostle is reminding us that that type of “Christian” living is not truly Christian at all.

So when it comes to praying without ceasing – we are to live our lives in an attitude of prayer… in the moment by moment recognition that we are always in God’s Presence and He is always attentive to our words. So… make those words count.

Some see this “pray without ceasing” as an encouragement to carry on an ongoing conversation with God. We don’t need to get super-religious about prayer (a special prayer time, a prayer place, a prayer stance, a prayer guide, a prayer language, etc…). There’s nothing wrong with those things, but we just need to adopt the practice of talking with God in the daily course of our lives (even when we are not being particularly “spiritual”). We should talk with God as we would in casual conversation with any person – except the Person to Whom we are talking is the Almighty!

Is God okay with that? Is it wrong to treat God so casually, or so familiarly?

The apostle is telling us that God is more than okay with that… He delights in that. It is actually His WILL for us! He desires to be the daily center of our lives – not just our attention at special times of our lives. He wants to be included in our thoughts at every moment of our day – not just on Sundays, or when we feel we need to be “spiritual.”

This brings us to the conclusion that we need… God has made an investment in us. Because of what Jesus has done, God chose to be with us (every moment of every day) to live within us and work in, and through, us… to His glory.

GodLivesInMe

Prayer, for those who love Jesus, is not meant to be an activity of our lives – it is meant to be the attitude of our lives. It is to be seen as the result of constant, unbroken fellowship with God – a relationship restored through our Savior’s sacrifice!

 

andrew-murray-quote

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But wait… there’s STILL more to prayer

February 6

prayer woman

When we pray, most of us are seeking something from God. We want answers to our prayers (and, mostly, we want those answers to be “Yes!”). But God doesn’t always grant our requests. In fact, much of the time, even our “Yes” answers only come after quite a lengthy season of waiting and praying. Why is that?

It has to do with the fact that prayer is tied so closely to faith – and we no longer need faith for something when our prayers are answered.

A quick reading of the “faith chapter” (Hebrews 11) gives us some really important information… God is keenly interested in our faith in Him. More so than in being our great “Genie in the sky” that only exists to grant us our wishes. If God were to grant us an immediate “yes” to all our prayers, then we would end up like most children who get everything they ever want in life… selfish and spoiled.

spoiled-child

God is not interested in raising self-centered children… He is seeking to raise children who reflect His character and His heart. But to become what God seeks in us requires one very essential thing… being in God’s Presence… a lot!

That is why we are admonished, in Scripture, to Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17) We actually need to intentionally (and constantly) place ourselves in God’s Presence (We will talk about how to do this, tomorrow!).

The point of prayer is to express our trust in God, in faith. And faith requires a constancy. It requires perseverance. It requires a continual resolve to stay engaged until the assurance of God’s answer comes. It requires us to… wait upon the Lord.

Most of us loathe waiting. Especially in our day and age when we can have just about anything we want at a moment’s notice. Waiting is virtually unnecessary…

Unless we want to grow in our relationship with God.

One of most people’s favorite verses is Isaiah 40:31… where Isaiah talks about renewing our strength, and about soaring like eagles, and about running and not being weary, and about walking and not fainting.

eagle-scripture

All of these are glorious promises that come from our God. But we so often neglect the qualifier – the one thing required to ensure that all of those promises of God intersect in our lives.

The qualifier? “They who wait upon the Lord..!”

A real faith must be tested – and there is no greater test for faith than patience. Waiting upon God. Trusting in God. Relying on God. Through every circumstance. In every trial. Even in the darkness of our confusion. God is there. God is with us. And our relentless trust in His faithfulness matters more than we can ever know.

a-relentless-faith

In fact, if you really study Hebrews 11, you come to the understanding that nothing is more important to God than our faith in Him. And nothing pleases Him more than when our trust in Him remains undaunted and undeterred.

This is so true that we are reminded that: “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly (unrelentingly) seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Any meaningful talk about prayer must bring us to the understanding that, at the heart of prayer, is God… being God — and understanding the importance of allowing Him to be God at the time He so desires.

relentless faith

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There’s Still More to Prayer…

February 5

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

earnest-prayer.jpg

Before we leave these well-known verses, we need to talk about the amazing results that prayer brings to our lives.

I find it interesting (and revealing) that the apostle’s mention of the result of our prayers has virtually nothing to do with God giving us what we are asking. This is not what we would expect.

We would expect that the result of prayer should be to get what we are asking God to give us. The result should be the results of our praying. Prayers, like questions, should get answers (and positive answers, at that!).

But the apostle is telling us that the unexpected happens when we pray. And not only the unexpected… it is indescribable.

Something happens within us when we pray – and it has so little to do with getting our prayers answered in the way that we want them answered.

That something is… peace. Unexplainable, undeniable peace. It is not just a “feel good” peace… it is a peace that literally builds an impenetrable shield around our “hearts and minds.” It places us within the confines of God’s unseen (but infinite) protection and floods our spirits with something that can only come from beyond ourselves. fixing our eyes on GodIt is otherworldly. It is capable of shifting our vision from our problem to the One Who’s Presence overwhelms our problem.

This is why prayer is the cure to our anxiety. The God Who is bigger than whatever we are facing, grants us a fresh revelation of just how big He really is. He does this within us. In ways that words just can’t explain, define – or describe.

This is a peace that must be experienced to be truly understood. And it is something that only our (alive) inner spirits can grasp and comprehend.

This brings something new to the table. When we, as believers in Jesus, pray… we are not just praying to get things from God – we are praying to “feel” the touch of God within us. Our prayers are aimed at the “ears” of God, but find their way to His Heart – and, in turn, His Heart finds its way into our hearts. Not only in His Presence is there the fullness of joy… there is also the fullness of peace – the peace that only occurs in the Heart of Almighty God Himself.

Sunset-Background

So in prayer, we find that our solution to our problems is the very Presence of God – reaching out to fill us with the one thing we really need the most. His closeness. His awareness. His goodness. His Fatherly love.

Yes, there is way more to prayer than just getting divine results… prayer is our lifeline to the very Heart and Mind of the God Who loves us infinitely.

And our very real connection with Him, in prayer, is worth more than all the “answers” we could possibly get.

 

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Psalm Three

1PS

February 4

Ps 3

Have you ever had a time in your life when you feel like your world is caving in? It may be no fault of your own… something just happens (right out of the blue) and you are caught in a landslide of unfortunate events.

Or it may have been of your own doing. Something you did (or didn’t do) comes back to rear its ugly head and fill your world with a flood of guilt, remorse, or regret.

This Psalm records when David had one of those times.

The Bible records the circumstances that facilitated the writing of this Psalm, in 2 Samuel 15-18. It is a sad tale of woe, indeed.

King David’s son, Absalom, had been scheming behind his father’s back to put the pieces together to usurp his father’s throne. Then, when he had gathered an army of followers, and everything was in place, Absalom declared himself king over the people. Imagine David’s shock and dismay when he suddenly learned that his very own beloved son was coming to lethally remove him from power!

Caught off guard, David did the only thing he could do… he hastily gathered his stuff and bolted for safety!

It was somewhere in hiding from his own son, that a man of music does what comes most natural… he put his thoughts and feelings in a psalm. This psalm.

What I find most compelling about David’s thoughts is one dominant refrain… “God, you are my deliverer… and you will deliver me in this very situation!”

lord-is-my-rock

David’s approach, in his time of peril, was not to seek blame or to call down fire on those who were trying to kill him – his approach was to trust his life to the Hands of the One Who had always been there for him. The storm was coming and David placed his life into the care of the One Who calms storms.

When hard times come, for any of us, our first tendency is to try and attach blame to someone… anyone. This mess is somebody’s fault! And we want desperately to be able to get control over what is descending all around us. In all honesty, we really want to blame God for His perceived lack of protection in our lives.

David teaches us two things…

First, the worst thing we can do is blame God for our messes. Instead, we turn to Him and place all our trust in His care. God is our “salvation,” our “shield,” and the “lifter of our head.” We trust in Him to do what He does best – mightily rescue us from perilous times (even when, as in David’s case, he had brought this peril upon himself through extremely poor parenting!)

Second, we need to leave all retribution to the wrath of God. Though David did not raise his son well, David didn’t deserve to be mistreated (with such contempt) by his own son. David could have lashed out (who would really blame him!). He could have sought to exercise his vengeance on an ungrateful son. But David’s heart was to leave all vengeance in the Hands of God.

This is also a theme declared by the apostle: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19)

Revenge is such a tricky proposition. It can too easily poison our own souls. David acted with wisdom in seeking to leave everything in the Hands of God.

In the midst of our difficult circumstances and seasons… we are wise to do the same.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwpsDJOyl0o

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Thanks for Tuning In

Speed of Particles

February 3

When I was young, I was a huge baseball fan. Often, in the evenings, I would flip on my radio and listen to the broadcast of my favorite baseball team. This was back in the day radiowhen there was no such thing as digital tuning… I only had a radio dial. Which was a little tricky. You had to dial in the station precisely to get the radio signal. So my radio had a little ink mark that I placed in the proper place so I would always know the general vicinity of the proper station. If the dial was ever moved to another station, I could always get back to my baseball station by turning the dial. But if your tuning was off by the smallest fraction, you couldn’t pick up the station. So many times I would aim for my ink mark, then have to “mess with the dial” to do the fine-tuning necessary to finally listen to the game.

When cosmologists (those who scientifically study the universe) talk about the universe in which we live, they often mention the fact that our universe is astoundingly “fine-tuned” for our existence. The universal laws that govern the universe are so precise, so exact, so meticulously balanced that were you to “mess with the dial” of any of those parameters (even in the slightest degree) you would make the universe, as we know it, an utter impossibility.

fine-tuning

Life would not be possible if any of the laws of the universe were even infinitesimally varied. This is what science tells us. This is a fact we have observed and know.

But the real question is WHY? It is a question that is pondered by many a scientist and philosopher alike. What does all this “fine-tuning” and precision of the universe tell us… if anything?

For all practical purposes… there are two basic options…

One is that, as some cosmologists have proposed, we just got lucky. Everything just sorted itself out on its own and came together as favorable to life, just by pure chance. It could have turned out a trillion other ways (conservatively), but it didn’t. In spite of the staggering odds, it all turned out the way that it is – and there’s no “rhyme or reason” for it. It is the great wonder and mystery of the cosmos.

The other option is that there was an intelligence at work. Something (or someone) so powerful and astoundingly smart… to cause everything in the universe to work by all these laws… with the apparent intention of making the universe suitable for life. This originator specifically designed this universe so that it could support life – and tuned in every factor, every law, accordingly.

Which option seems more likely?

Perhaps an illustration would help. Suppose you were handed a pair of dice and told to roll it on a table to see what numbers would come up most often out of a hundred throws. But by throw ten you realize something. No matter how hard or soft you roll the dice it always comes up seven (one, four – the other, three). You roll some more and the same result. By the time you reach a hundred throws it is almost laughable. Seven every time. What are the odds?

luckyseven

What would be your logical conclusion? “Wow! What incredible luck. Every roll, strictly by chance, yielded a seven. How amazing!”

Or would you conclude (even after a few throws)… “Hey, something is at work here. Someone rigged these dice to come up seven every time. This isn’t luck at all – someone set this up.”

Intuitively, and observationally, every time we see order, functionality, consistency, and practicality we logically conclude that there is an intelligence behind all of it. Random chance does not produce order and consistency. Not in dice throwing. And not in something so absolutely complex as this universe and the laws that govern it.

When science is telling us that the universe is meticulously fine-tuned, in accord with constant universal laws, the most logical conclusion is that there is an intelligence behind it all, who has set everything up to work just exactly as it does.

I just happen to know a Guy…

Creator 1

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Still More to Prayer…

February 2

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Prayer is meant to put us in the place where we turn our eyes from what surrounds us and troubles us, to fixing our eyes on the One Who is our Father.

The apostle is telling us that this is our cure for anxiety. We do not have to rely on our own strength or resources – we are turning our attention to the One Who is our ultimate strength and Who has unlimited resources.

Our inadequacy becomes swallowed up in the all-sufficiency of God.

earnest prayer

Prayer is the eye-turner. Prayer is the faith-response to the knowledge that we are insufficient to face our troubles and fears. Prayer, at its roots, is getting an eye-full of God – and openly placing our trust in His infinite and compassionate care.

So we are commanded to NOT be anxious about anything – because nothing is bigger than God. Notice, the command is not just to stop being anxious. The command is to give ourselves a new plan of action… to focus our thoughts and attention on the One responsible for our every care.

“In everything (whatever is turning our attention away from God and His all-sufficiency) by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

The apostle gives us three things to keep in mind as we turn our thoughts and attention to God, to seek His help in our times of need.

prayer-man“By prayer” = The word for prayer (in the New Testament) literally means “an exchange of wishes.” This is interesting because most of us, when we think about prayer and praying, think in terms of talking to God. But this is not true prayer. True prayer is a conversation between two people. Between us and the Most High. We talk, He listens. AND He talks, and we listen. Most of us are pretty adept at the talking part… but really struggle with the listening part. Perhaps that is why Jesus tells us to “go into our inner room and shut the door.” (Mt. 6:6) We are literally shutting out all distractions and barring all interruptions. The principle is not the place of prayer, but the focus of prayer – removing all encumbrances so when God speaks we can actually hear what He has to say.

“and supplication” = The word used here carries the concept of “hear-felt petition, arising out of a deep, personal need.” The idea is one of desperation – of being so crying-out-to-godovercome by our need that we are impassioned in our pleas. The picture of “supplication” is that of a starving beggar crying out for food. It is a passion that is driven by hunger, in the presence of one who can satisfy that hunger.

If you study people who are great prayer warriors, they all talk about the fact that our hearts must become engaged to the point of pleading with God. Jesus Himself gave us this lesson when He spoke of the widow and the unrighteous judge (Lk. 18:1-8!). Sometimes, God is honestly seeking to know “how much do we really want it.” We can easily forget that one often neglected aspect of faith is that it is relentless. This is at the core of supplication.

“with thanksgiving” = the need to be ever-mindful of the goodness of God. We are His beloved children. He longs to give us good things. And just like any of us, He also yearns for those who receive from Him, to be truly thankful. The apostle is actually calling us to a lifestyle of thanksgiving in prayer. Of conversing about our case, of pleading our case – then thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness.

One practical application of this concept is: instead of merely asking God for things… thank Him, in advance, for doing those things that you are asking! It can revolutionize the way we pray – and place us in the proper place of gratitude for all that God does for us!

thanking-god

There is so much more to prayer than just talking to God and getting things from Him. Prayer is the real conversation between two real persons in real relationship together, living life together. When we see prayer for what it really is, we realize that prayer is an amazing lifeline between us and the God Who loves us.

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More to Prayer…

February 1

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

praying-dorina-costras

When we think about prayer, most of the time we see it as seeking to get things from God. In our minds, prayer is mostly about talking to God and trying to talk Him into giving us the things that we think we need.

There is no doubt that asking God for things is very much a vital part of prayer – but if we see prayer as only getting things from God, we are missing much of what prayer brings to us.

This famous verse teaches us that there is much more to prayer than just seeking God for His answers…

Anxious for nothing

There’s little doubt that anxiety has reached epidemic proportions in our society. Many people live in a constant swell of fear and dread that surrounds and bombards their souls. I’ll bet you know of someone (maybe in your own family) who struggles mightily with fear and anxiety. Maybe that someone is… you!

The question is: what causes anxiety?

In very simple terms, anxiety comes when we look at our situation around us and see ourselves as insufficient. We are face to face with something which causes us to feel inadequate or incapable, and we are overcome with thoughts of weakness – we feel threatened, unsafe, and fearful. Anxiety (and it’s first cousin, worry) leads us to an overwhelming need for self-preservation – which causes most anxious people to turn inward… or to withdraw to whatever “safe zones” they can find… or create. But running or hiding is hardly a solution to the problem.

hiding

The Bible has some interesting things to say about anxiety. The very word itself means: “to be drawn in opposite directions; divided into parts; or to be pulled in pieces.” No wonder anxiety can cause us such problems. When we do not feel strong, all-together, or stable – when we do not feel we are adequate enough to face what is in front of us – we are prone to be overcome with dreadful doubt and fear.

It is quite interesting that the apostle recognizes this all-too-human condition and gives us a powerful solution to our problem. He is inspired to command us: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Why? Because Almighty God is with you. He is walking with you, living within you – and though your circumstances may make you feel like you are not enough… He is!    He always is!

I find it fascinating that whenever God shows up in the Bible, the first thing He has to do is quell our fear. THAT is the first thing on His Mind. Put us at ease. Assuage our feelings of inadequacy in His Presence. We must remember, He does not show up to fill us with fear… but with hope! So His first words are… “Do not be afraid!”

angel-shepherds

Let’s recognize anxiety and worry for what it really is… it is fear! It is the overwhelming sensation of our own inadequacy in the midst of life’s pressing or pressuring moments.

The solution to fear is never to run and hide… but to run to the One Who loves us and reminds us that in His Presence: “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1John 4:18)

The apostle’s solution in Philippians 4:6 is to command us to turn our eyes away from what is making us feel worried or anxious… and turn our eyes TO the One Who seeks to remind us that He is always with us… and He has given us an eternal promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us!

Never leave you

You and I may not be enough… but you and I plus God result in a “can’t lose scenario.” As people of faith, we choose not to focus on our weakness OR the size of the problems we are facing – we deliberately choose to SEE that God is with us!

And in so choosing, our anxiety melts away in the power of His love!

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Prayer 101… The Lord’s Prayer; part 7

January 31

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)

lead us not

This last piece of the model for prayer concerns the everyday spiritual battle of our lives.

We live in a world that is profoundly influenced and driven by one who is the sworn enemy of God. In fact, we are reminded that his influence is so wide-reaching that the apostle was inspired to describe him as the “god of this age/world” whose consuming passion is to “blind the minds of the unbelieving.” (see 2 Cor. 4:4)

We don’t have to take too close a look into culture and society, as a whole, to understand that there is a great darkness at work in, and through, so many people (often without their awareness!). This is nothing new. It has been this way ever since sin entered the world. Evil exists. There is the temptation to do evil. And none of us can escape the influence of evil in this world.

What we need is protection in the midst of temptation. We need help in avoiding that which can so easily overwhelm us… if we are unprepared or unaware.

protection

There are two thoughts in this prayer focus…

One) We are seeking God’s divine assistance in the direction of our lives. We are personally asking God to watch over us – to lead us in paths of righteousness, and away from things that are going to severely test our faith. We are looking to God for His help even before we might need it. We are heading off the threat of evil’s influence before it ever crosses our path. We are intentionally trusting God to guide us in what is right and good – and to give us wisdom when the way might seem dark and confusing to us. This request is preventative.

even-in-the-darkness

Two) We are also asking God to make us the objects of His deliverance. The word usage in this passage carries the idea that we are seeking God to deliver us to Himself and for Himself. In our act of seeking God’s guidance, we are seeking to submit to His will and purposes. This request affirms God’s ownership of our lives – that we are in His care… and that we are actually trusting in His power to deliver us whenever evil may threaten our lives.

surrender-and-submit-everythingWe see this same thought pattern in James’ instruction: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) The key to handling the temptations that are sure to come is two-fold… submission to God (first!) and then, resistance. We cannot rightly resist until we are rightly submitted!

Knowing that we are in a relationship with God is one thing. Acting upon that knowledge is another. Submitting ourselves to God (through each and every prayer) reminds us that we belong to Him and that we are His responsibility. Once we know that we are His, and have submitted to Him, then we are ready to be the recipient of His faithful deliverance from evil.

Whenever we give in to temptation we have lost sight of the fact of Whose we are… and of His commitment to keeping us in His all-powerful care.

This last admonition, of the prayer model, teaches us to confess that we belong to God and (in our real struggles with evil and temptation) we can fully experience what that truth brings to our lives.

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