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Friday, April 27, 2007

Pray About Everything

James 4:2 says this:

"You don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it." (NLT)

This simple truth has struck me in a fresh way this week.

Can I Really Ask For Anything?
My 9 year-old son has really grasped the teaching of Jesus in Lk 11:5-8. His persistence in asking for a particular item over the last few weeks has been a perfect illustration of this text. He knows that he can ask for anything. He won't always get what he asks for, he doesn't always understand what's best for himself. But as his parent, it is my responsibility to make the decisions about when to give and when to withhold. And if I withhold I always explain why.

In childlike faith we can come to our heavenly Father and ask for anything knowing that He will say "yes" if it's right for us and "no" if it's not. And if we pay attention we will hear His explanation. Sometimes the answer will not be "yes" or "no", but "this is what you need to do in order to receive what you want."

It's not our problem to try to work out what God wants to give us before we decide whether or not to ask for it. Simply ask, in the childlike way that my son does, and wait for the answer. God is not an ogre who's going to tell us off if we ask for the wrong thing. But He does want us to come and ask both for what we want and what we need. As James says, sometimes the only reason we don't have these things is because we haven't asked.

Prayer College Assignment
Spend some time reflecting on whether there are things you haven't asked your heavenly Father for because you weren't sure if you should. Then take some time to simply ask God for those things. Be prepared for Him to give you His answer and His explanation and if He requires you to act, then do so.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Being The Answer

It has been said that when we pray about something we should be willing to be the answer to our own prayers.

We should also be open to the idea that we can be the answer to other people's prayers. I was particularly struck this week by a very familiar passage in Matthew on the subject of prayer. At the end of the ask-seek-knock teaching in Matt 7:7-11, Jesus says this:

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you." (v 12, NLT)

God Uses People
We know that God uses people to answer prayers. There are countless stories of someone praying for money and receiving it just in time, but no one ever received a physical cheque drawn on the Bank of Heaven and signed by God. There are accounts of food being provided, cars being given (my husband was once the recipient of one of those) and numerous other practical examples of prayers being answered by individuals responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

A Reason for Unanswered Prayer?
The question then arises about what happens to the pray-er if the person called on by the Lord to act fails to do so. Could it be that God sometimes gets the blame for unanswered prayer because one of His people didn't have the nerve to step out in faith and do as they were told?

Seek To Be The Answer
A regular part of our prayer life should be to ask the Lord how we can bless others and seek out opportunities for answering people's prayers. We are, after all, the body of Christ and he delights to use us.

Prayer College Assignment

Do for someone what you would like them to do for you. Ask the Lord to show you what you can do to be a part of the answer to another person's prayer. Then respond.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Badgers In Your Prayer Life?

My father has a problem with a badger in his garden. For months it has been digging up his lawn looking for worms. In Britain badgers are protected animals so there is very little Dad can do. His only option seemed to be to prevent the creature getting in at night.

The Ins And Outs of Badgers
Dad went looking to find any gaps in the boundary where the badger might be finding its way in. He soon discovered the place where it had burrowed under the fence. Dad was sure he now had the solution. He dug down further into the ground and placed a piece of board in the hole so that the badger could no longer get under the fence - problem solved.

The next night the badger was back digging in the lawn, looking for more worms. On investigation Dad found another burrow under the fence right next to the original one. From the displacement of the soil it was clearly not the entrance route of the badger, but the exit. The badger had been in the garden all the time.

The Badgers Within
When we struggle with prayer we often blame external distractions - noise, interruptions from the phone, lack of time, tiredness because of overwork. The truth is that, like the badger, the real problems are within - poor self-discipline, lack of desire and unconfessed sin.

Whatever we try to do to avoid the external distractions we will always struggle with prayer if we haven't recognised our own weaknesses and failings and brought them to the cross.

Prayer College Assignment
Are there badgers in your prayer life? Are there aspects of character or secret sins which hinder you from really connecting with God? Jesus said, "it's not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart" (Mk 7:15, NLT). Deal with the badgers and see how your communion with the Lord is transformed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Prayer Challenge

Here's a quick challenge.

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. His reponse was to give them what we call the Lord's Prayer. It's often suggested that we use this as an outline for our own prayers and it is a good model.

But our relationship with the Lord is dynamic and we don't learn only from His words in Scripture. We also learn through the lessons He teaches us in everyday life.

So how about asking personally, "Lord, please teach me how to pray," and see what happens. I believe you'll find that's where the journey really begins.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Waiting

Waiting on God is possibly the most neglected aspect of prayer.

Essential to Spiritual Health
Most of us are happier talking than listening and we take this into our prayer lives. We present ourselves with our requests and maybe some confession, thanksgiving or praise, but we do not have the inclination to sit and wait. Yet for those who have learned the secret of waiting upon God, it becomes an essential part not only of prayer, but of daily life.

Developing Intimacy With God
Dick Eastman in The Hour That Changes the World describes waiting as "wordless worship" or "silent soul surrender". It is the single most important thing we can do to develop intimacy with God. The psalmist wrote, "be still and know that I am God" (Ps 46:10). Waiting is the key to answered prayer (Ps 40:1 & Ps 130). It is the place to find spiritual refreshing as those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength (Is 40:31).

Bound Up With ChristIn his little book "Breaking Through In Prayer", Dan Chesney says this, "the Hebrew word for 'wait' in Isaiah 40:31 is 'qaveh' which means 'to twist or bind together'. Therefore, as we are waiting (fellowshipping) upon the Lord, our lives are being twisted or bound up together. Christ is literally being melded into our being. The nature, abilities, characteristics and substances of Christ becomes intertwined with our recreated human spirit."

Wait Until He Unveils HimselfAndrew Murraysaid, "Take time in the inner chamber to bow down and worship; and wait on Him until He unveils Himself."

The truth is that until we master the art of waiting on God our prayer lives will be limited for we will be living and praying according to our own agenda rather than that of the Lord.

Prayer College Assignment
Set aside part of your quiet time each day simply for waiting on God. It may seem difficult to start with but if you persist you will be blessed with a fresh experience of Him for He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb 11:6).

Friday, April 06, 2007

KISS

I had conversations with three different people in one week on the subject of prayer and all were struggling with the idea that prayer is difficult. One even told me that she had tried giving an hour a day to prayer many years ago and blamed that for losing everything that was important to her. She gave up.

Obedience Is The Key
We have to be careful that, if we take up a challenge to prayer, it really is God's challenge to us and not our own bright idea. There is no special merit in praying for hours. To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22).

Twice in the past week I have heard prominent Christian speakers talk about a point in their lives when they believed God was calling them to prayer and fasting for an undefined length of time. Each was seeking Him for direction and determined to fast until they knew His will. The amazing thing was that in both cases they received their answer within 2 hours of beginning their fast. God may challenge us to a specific commitment in prayer but he never gives us a yoke that is too heavy for us to bear. Where there is a calling there is an equipping and that is as true in intercession as it is in any other ministry.

Keep It Simple, Saints
Prayer is not meant to be complicated or difficult. It is simply about intimacy with the Lord. The word "worship" means "to move towards in order to kiss". You may be familiar with the acronym KISS - keep it simple, stupid. I'd like to adapt that for our thoughts on prayer. Keep it simple, saint. God doesn't require lengthy, verbose or eloquent prayers. Some of those I've talked to this week have been intimidated by the prayers they've heard others pray. But I am reminded of the Jesus' teaching on prayer in Matt 6:5-8. It is the prayer from the humble in heart that God responds to.


Prayer College Assignment
Think about when you pray aloud in a group setting. Do you fall into the trap of trying to impress others with the quality of your prayers? Do you fail to pray aloud because you feel inadequate and worry what others will think? Ask the Lord to help you to pray authentically when you pray in public.