God’s people pray always

child-praying-hand

I want to make sure I acknowledge God’s handiwork in my life as it is going on well. For when the eye does or does not see things going well, my Spirit may will definitely say what is true and that should be okay. I wonder how Paul stayed true to his call to go to Jerusalem where he knew he would never be free again. Worse, everyone else knew it and tried to stop him. Yet, it has become a most illustrious example and for me a rule – to pray always, pray without ceasing and to end a time of fellowship with others in prayer.

We lay before God the reasons why we think that what we ask for is the best thing. – J.I. Packer  

 

 

Short and serious prayer

prayer-gratitude-e1509048270814

Samson delivers a powerful 21-word prayer that catches my attention.

Then Samson became very thirsty, so he called to the Lord and said, “You gave me this great victory; am I now going to die of thirst and be captured by these heathen Philistines?” – Judges 15:18  GNT

It speaks to me about who Samson is and about his relationship with God. There was a note of humility in this prayer compared to the choice of words he used just a few verses earlier. I loved the language of honour/shame used in this prayer too. He chose to exalt God as God – His power, His person, and His preeminence.

What makes the prayer so dramatic is God’s response.

Then God opened a hollow place in the ground there at Lehi, and water came out of it. Samson drank it and began to feel much better. So the spring was named Hakkore;[d] it is still there at Lehi. – Judges 15:19  GNT

 Samson prayed, God heard, and God responded. I am beautifully encouraged and reminded that God hears and answers my prayer.

This was real, and the real thing can always call out the fake.

Jeremiah had to do this on a regular basis. I tried to discern what was missing in this sham prophecy.

That same year,[a] in the fifth month of the fourth year that Zedekiah was king, Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet from the town of Gibeon, spoke to me in the Temple. In the presence of the priests and of the people he told me that the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, had said: “I have broken the power of the king of Babylonia. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the Temple treasures that King Nebuchadnezzar took to Babylonia. I will also bring back the king of Judah, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, along with all of the people of Judah who went into exile in Babylonia. Yes, I will break the power of the king of Babylonia. I, the Lord, have spoken.” – Jeremiah 28:1-4  GNT

It sounded good and it made the people who were listening very happy. It did sound a bit “religious” and with too much confidence in regards to prosperity. I say that because there was something missing that needed to be there – where was the counsel that God usual gives in regards to repentance, reform, returning to Him, to prayer, seeking His face and the understanding that all of these actions would prepare them for the favour God would give them?

Then in the presence of the priests and of all the people who were standing in the Temple, I said to Hananiah, “Wonderful! I hope the Lord will do this! I certainly hope he will make your prophecy come true and will bring back from Babylonia all the Temple treasures and all the people who were taken away as prisoners. But listen to what I say to you and to the people. The prophets who spoke long ago, before my time and yours, predicted that war, starvation, and disease would come to many nations and powerful kingdoms. But a prophet who predicts peace can only be recognized as a prophet whom the Lord has truly sent when that prophet’s predictions come true.” – Jeremiah 28:5-9  GNT

This pretended prophecy was one of good will but it lacked an element of intercession for the people – it omitted and depreciated the judgement and the future judgements of walking away from God. A false prophet will give in to the temptation of ingratiating themselves to people by promising peace and there was no gurantee whatsoever of it. May I not find myself yielding to the flatter and especially not persecuting that one giving me the greatest gift of telling me the truth and interceding on my behalf.

So any unperverted mind will conceive of the scriptural idea of prayer, as that of one of the most downright, sturdy realities in the universe. Right in the heart of God’s plan of government it is lodged as a power. Amidst the conflicts which are going in the evolution of that plan, it stands as a power. Into all the intricacies of Divine working and the mysteries of Divine decree, it reaches out silently as a power. In the mind of God, we may be assured, the conception of prayer is no fiction, whatever man may think of it. – Austin Phelps

 

 

 

Child of prayer

Child of prayer

I believe that Samson was a child of prayer and I have to believe that he stood out as a child from the other children because of his religious training.

Samson’s father was used to coming before God in prayer and whenever he faced difficulties, God was there being part of the answer. As with others, it would seem that his intimacy with God was pleasing to Him.

Samson’s mother was also made to look like she followed his footsteps. The honour they had of having an angel visit and the special gift that was given to them (Samson), proved that to some measure. I would say there was some reflection that should up in Hannah (Samuel’s mother).

Samson’s parents would be ones who practiced prayer, and they continued that practice as their son grew up.

“It was a notable event for God to put heaven, in some sense, under the control of Elijah’s prayers, to be obedient to his requests. By his prayers, Elijah kept heaven shut for two years and a half. Then he opened it, and made it suddenly pour with a great rain, from which we may see the miraculous power of prayer”. – John Calvin

Public prayer that He hears and answers

public prayer that He hears and answers

The first serious conflict, that really affected me, was between Paul and Barnabas. These two changed the world as God called them to be missionaries to the world. They did amazing things together and their bond was strong and that went quite a few years back when Barnabas became a friend of Paul when he was known as Saul.

Here is what happened —

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in every town where we preached the word of the Lord, and let us find out how they are getting along.” Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul did not think it was right to take him, because he had not stayed with them to the end of their mission, but had turned back and left them in Pamphylia. There was a sharp argument, and they separated: Barnabas took Mark and sailed off for Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the care of the Lord’s grace. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. – Acts 15:36-41  GNT

I also struggled with the church’s response to the conflict. It seems that they favoured Paul and that all of a sudden Barnabas was of no concern as he left with his nephew to Cyprus. There was no prayer, no sending off, nothing. When Paul left, he was sent with prayers and blessing. Remember, they knew Barnabas much longer than Paul. I am thankful that Paul, in the midst of the disagreement and contention allowed the church to love him and pray for him.

Their prayer was to follow-up with the churches they had met and their prayer was similar to that of Jeremiah’s —

I will give them the desire to know that I am the Lord. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. – Jeremiah 24:7  GNT

There is a boldness that blind Bartimaeus teaches me about prayer. He also teaches me to pray God sized prayers that I can believe in by faith knowing that He will hear and answer them.

 They came to Jericho, and as Jesus was leaving with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up!” they said. “Get up, he is calling you.”

So he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

“Teacher,” the blind man answered, “I want to see again.”

“Go,” Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well.”

At once he was able to see and followed Jesus on the road. – Mark 10:46-52  GNT

I pray that my prayer walk with God will be evident when I pray with others so that my confidence and boldness, even in the midst of contention, will encourage others to know that God does in fact hear and answer prayer.

Prayer is not simply petition, but strenuous petition.  It is not just passive surrender but active pleading with God.  It involves not only submission to the will of God but seeking to change his will.  It consists not merely in reflection on the promises of God but in taking hold of those promises (cf. Isaiah 64:7).  It is often said by those who are attracted to mystical or to philosophical prayer that our petitions change our attitude toward God but that they have no real effect upon God, who is unchangeable and impassible.   My contention is that prayer does effect a change in God’s attitude to us and in his dealings with us. Prayer is reciprocal: it has a definite impact on both parties involved.  That God permits prayer to exert an influence on him is attested throughout the Scriptures (Abraham’s bargaining for Sodom – Genesis 18:22-33;  Nineveh’s repentance after Jonah’s preaching – Jonah 3:10; Moses’ intercession after Israel’s idolatry – Psalm 106:2; the staying of the plague when Phinehas prayed – Psalm 106:30; Amos stopping the judgment of God from falling on Israel – Amos 7:1-6).  In this light we can understand Spurgeon’s contention that “prayer is able to prevail with heaven and bend omnipotence to its desires.”  Prayer in the sense of striving with God in order to alter his ways with his people is utter nonsense to the philosopher… Against the philosophical understanding of prayer Karl Barth insisted that real prayer presupposes a living God who hears and acts – “He is not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts.  He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not.  Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence.  This is what the word ‘answer’ means.”  Christian faith, to be sure, affirms the essential trustworthiness of God’s declared will and purpose for the world; God cannot deny or contradict himself.  Yet Scripture makes clear that God has chosen to work out his purposes in cooperation with his children. His ultimate will is inflexible, but the ways by which he seeks to implement this will are flexible.  He does not change his final purpose, but he does alter his methods for realizing this purpose. He is unchangeable in his holiness and righteousness, but changeable in the giving of his grace.  Prayer, as Fosdick observed, cannot change God’s intention, but it can change God’s action. – Donald Bloesch

 

Begin to pray instead of saying prayers

begin to pray instead of saying prayers

I was reading the comings and goings of so many different judges and the revivals and backslidings that took place before and after each one – you can read about this yourself right here – Judges 10:1-18; 11:1-11

Here is what I understand – if my soul needs help right now and I have only one place to turn to – asking Jesus to fill me with His Holy Spirit. I must have access to the secret place of the Most High – it is His mercy that I depend on to redeem me from bondage and fear. Yet I know this truth – a right relationship with God is not when I call out suddently when help is needed. That kind of confidence has been established because I am serious about my relationship with Him and have committed to the habit of prayer and reliance on His wisdom. Only this kind of a relationship and only this practice of wisdom can bring help when the foundations of earthly things are destroyed.

In the act of praying for those in the front line of ministry, I found these prayer points to be helpful.

  1. Pray for joy in the midst of suffering and for kindness in the midst of slander

The same thing happened in Iconium: Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of Jews and Gentiles became believers. But the Jews who would not believe stirred up the Gentiles and turned them against the believers. – Acts 14:1-2  GNT

Suffering we know – we pray for intimacy with Jesus in the midst of it and that the character of Christ and the power of His Spirit will enable us to respond with grace.

2. Pray for supernatural power to be present.

The apostles stayed there for a long time, speaking boldly about the Lord, who proved that their message about his grace was true by giving them the power to perform miracles and wonders. – Acts 14:3  GNT

3. Pray for Christlike humility to be a mark of character and for patience – read Acts 14:4-18.   Pray against the temptation of being prideful in ministry while it is being accomplished through the power of the Spirit. There will be many ups and downs, even losses.

4. Pray for perseverance.

Some Jews came from Antioch in Pisidia and from Iconium; they won the crowds over to their side, stoned Paul and dragged him out of the town, thinking that he was dead. But when the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe. – Acts 14:19-20  GNT

For many there will be setback after setback, beatdown after beatdown and struggle after struggle.

5. Pray they will make disciples.

Paul and Barnabas preached the Good News in Derbe and won many disciples. Then they went back to Lystra, to Iconium, and on to Antioch in Pisidia. They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. In each church they appointed elders, and with prayers and fasting they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. – Acts 14:21-23  GNT

6. Pray that churches would multiply –  Acts 14:24-28.  Not just multiply them, but fill them with people who know the Word and led by pastors who teach the Word.

Jesus reveals the seriousness of being prepared for ministry and gives this pointer to HIs disciples.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive the spirit out?” “Only prayer can drive this kind out,” answered Jesus; “nothing else can.” – Mark 9:28-29  GNT

Could it be that Jesus was pointing out a flaw in their approach to ministry? Had they left depending on God and had somehow figured out the formula for driving out demons? I think when I am praying, I need to see that my ministry requires a constant attitude of humility and a reliance on Jesus – that is what prayer does.

O Lord, I fall into anxiety and fearfulness, but you faced the most astonishing dangers for me. You were torn to pieces, so bravely, for me, so I could be utterly loved and eternally safe in you. If you were courageous for me facing those overwhelming cosmic evils, I know you are with me now. Therefore, I can be steady as I face my problems. – Timothy Keller