The Priority of Love

I am finding a hunger to practice love within the body of Christ.

Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. – Colossians 3:14 HCSB

Agape love is the foundation for mature followers of Christ coming together in unity.

  • “perfect” means “mature”
  • “bond” means “ligaments”

To hold to fundamental doctrines in an arrogant or unloving manner is to violate this supreme virtue.

I have started to work with a real estate investment and development company who have created an offshoot foundation to spur the body of Christ to engage in practical expressions of love within their communities. It is my prayer that holding visioning sessions within the church would enable them to catch the vision that God has for bringing the body of Christ together in order to serve and to serve well.

I trust that the year 2021 will bring signaficant changes in my life as I place love in a greater and higher priority and I pray that the end result will be a mature bond of unity among my family, friends and churches in my community.

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Will prayer, like Thomas’, change things?

I am the Lord, and I do not change. And so you, the descendants of Jacob, are not yet completely lost. – Malachi 3:6 GNT

I love the fact that God is sovereign. I pray not because I need change but rather that prayer is a means that I engage with God. If anything, my prayer time is about God accomplishing His sovereign purposes. Many times that means I am asking Him to intervene. I pray so that I can be part of the plans God has for me and for others.

Here is the engaging part – prayer does not really change things – God does – in Him resides the power of change – not in me or my prayers. So prayer really changes me. Attitude and perspective are two things that come right to mind that change when I am talking with God. I can now deal with relationship issues and how I relate to others because I have prayed – those change because I am now different.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher.”) Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:16,28 GNT

Thomas doubted first but then he prayed. Both he and Mary were the first to have their post-resurrection prayers recorded in the Gospel. They both give great expresssions that encourage me how to start my prayers – “Teacher” and “My Lord and my God!”

The passage 1 John 5:14,15 is one of the most abused passages in the Bible: “This is THE CONFIDENCE that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” The Holy Spirit beyond a doubt put it into the Bible to encourage our faith. It begins with “This is THE CONFIDENCE that we have in Him,” and closes with “WE KNOW that we have the petitions that we desired of Him;” but one of the most frequent usages of this passage, which was so manifestly given to beget confidence, is to introduce an element of uncertainty into our prayers. Oftentimes when one waxes confident in prayer, some cautious brother will come and say:

“Now, don’t be too confident. If it is God’s will He will do it. You should put in, ‘If it
be Thy will.’”

Doubtless there are many times when we do not know the will of God, and in all prayer submission to the excellent will of God should underlie it; but when we know God’s will, there need be no “ifs”; and this passage was not put into the Bible in order that we might introduce “ifs” into all our prayers, but in order that we might throw our “ifs” to the wind, and have “CONFIDENCE” and “KNOW that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him.” – R.A. Torrey

Come before God in prayer

You listened to what is written in the book, and you repented and humbled yourself before me, tearing your clothes and weeping, when you heard how I threatened to punish Jerusalem and its people. I have heard your prayer. – 2 Chronicles 34:27 GNT

I am challenged to follow in the steps of Josiah. Regardless of my place or position in this world I am leading someone. In that role I am called to humbly come before God in prayer for my family, community and ultimately, my country. I can pray confidently knowing that God hears and responds.

But there is still another way in which we may know the will of God, that is, by the teaching of His Holy Spirit. There are many things that we need from God which are not covered by any specific promise, but we are not left in ignorance of the will of God even then. In Rom. 8:26,27 we are told, “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD.” (R.V.) Here we are distinctly told that the Spirit of God prays in us, draws out our prayer, in the line of God’s will. When we are thus led out by the Holy Spirit in any direction, to pray for any given object, we may do it in all confidence that it is God’s will, and that we are to get the very thing we ask of Him, even though there is no specific
promise to cover the case. Often God by His Spirit lays upon us a heavy burden of prayer for some given individual. We cannot rest, we pray for him with groanings which cannot be uttered. Perhaps the man is entirely beyond our reach, but God hears the prayer, and in many a case it is not long before we hear of his definite conversion. R. A. Torrey

Humble and insightful prayer

King Manasseh becomes king, starts to build high places, altars and even an image. He does not listen well and so God brings in the Assyrians. At this point things change.

So the Lord let the commanders of the Assyrian army invade Judah. They captured Manasseh, stuck hooks in him, put him in chains, and took him to Babylon. In his suffering he became humble, turned to the Lord his God, and begged him for help. God accepted Manasseh’s prayer and answered it by letting him go back to Jerusalem and rule again. This convinced Manasseh that the Lord was God. – 2 Chronicles 33:11-13 GNT

Even though Manasseh really messed up, he prayed and God answered. There is something special about a humble prayer that moves God to restore and can cause me to hope.

On his robe and on his thigh was written the name: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:16 GNT

When I am humbled and pray the Lord’s prayer, I know the Kingdom of God shows up.

Now, you priests, try asking God to be good to us. He will not answer your prayer, and it will be your fault. – Malachi 1:9 GNT

Imagine being in a place of responsibility where lives are at stake and there is no prayer of humilty to make a difference? Imagine there is no repentance and there is a continual practice of turning backs toward God? Only a humble prayer to a gracious God is wanting.

Some years ago a minister came to me at the close of an address on prayer at a Y.M.C.A. Bible school, and said,

“You have produced upon those young men the impression that they can ask for definite things and get the very things that they ask.”

I replied that I did not know whether that was the impression that I produced or not, but that was certainly the impression that I desired to produce.

“But,” he replied, “that is not right. We cannot be sure, for we don’t know God’s will.”

I turned him at once to James 1:5, read it and said to him,

“Is it not God’s will to give us wisdom, and if you ask for wisdom do you not know that you are going to get it?”

“Ah!” he said, “we don’t know what wisdom is.”

I said, “No, if we did, we would not need to ask; but whatever wisdom may be, don’t you know that you will get it?”

Certainly it is our privilege to know. When we have a specific promise in the Word of God, if we doubt that it is God’s will, or if we doubt that God will do the thing that we ask, we make God a liar.

Here is one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer: To study the Word to find what God’s will is as revealed there in the promises, and then simply take these promises and spread them out before God in prayer with the absolutely unwavering expectation that He will do what He has promised in His Word. – R. A. Torrey

Through a different kind of prayer

I can say it easier than see it so when I see it I can really say it – trusting in God means I cast my cares on Him through prayer – all for His glory.

Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed to God and cried out to him for help. – 2 Chronicles 32:20 GNT

I am learning that it is all about God receiving all the glory – I am not praying to use God to secure my happiness.

Jesus prayed such a prayer in John 17. If there is a Great Commission and a Great Commandment, this would be the Great Prayer.

“John Knox, on his death-bed in 1572, asked his wife to read to him John 17, ‘where’, he said, ‘I cast my first anchor.’” – Bruce

When I hear someone in prayer, lost in their expressions, there is something holy and awesome about it. Jesus starts off in such a manner and He prays regarding Himself.

“There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son to God Himself.” – Melanchthon, cited in Boice

I think genuine prayer reveals a person’s innermost being – here Jesus touches glory, glorify, sent, believe, world, and love. He directs His prayer repeatedly to God the Father.

Yet there is something different in this prayer; Jesus did not pray just as He told His disciples to pray. “The request of our Lord thus given in John’s seventeenth chapter is clearly no prayer of an inferior to a superior: constantly there is seen in it the co-equality of the Speaker with The Father. The Two have but one mind… Where the Son speaks He is not seeking to bend The Father to Him: rather is He voicing the purpose of the Godhead.” – Trench

How often do I bow my head and close my eyes in prayer. Jesus lifts up His eyes.

“In the sacred record, however, much more space is taken up by our Lord’s intercessions as he nears the end of his labors. After the closing supper, his public preaching work being ended, and nothing remaining to be done but to die, he gave himself wholly unto prayer. He was not again to instruct the multitude, nor to heal the sick, and in the interval which remained, before he should lay down his life, he girded himself for special intercession. He poured out his soul in life before he poured it out unto death.” – Spurgeon

The words lifted up His eyes to heaven also indicate that Jesus looked up in a hopeful sense and was not gloomy or downcast in this prayer. This is actually a prayer of faith and confidence, even victory – all the while acknowledging the reality of the conflict. “We so often understand this prayer as though it were rather gloomy. It is not. It is uttered by One who has just affirmed that He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and it starts from this conviction.” – Morris

When Jesus prayed looking up, His prayer was not about His needs but rather His desire to fulfill the will of God no matter what the cost.

It was a prayer rich in relationship – with a deep sense of familial. As much as He wanted to glorify God, He wanted God to glorify Him too.

This prayer was wonderfully answered. “Yes, the Father glorified his Son, even when it pleased him to bruise him and to put him to grief. With one hand he smote, and with the other hand he glorified. There was a power to crush, but there was also a power to sustain working at the self-same time. The Father glorified his Son.” – Spurgeon

How different are most of my prayers. “In one form or another we are constantly asking the Father to glorify us. Glorify me, O Father, we cry, by giving me the largest congregation in the town; by commencing a great revival in my mission, by increasing my spiritual power, so that I shall be greatly sought after. Of course, we do not state our reason quite so concisely; but this is really what we mean. And then we wonder why the answer tarries.” – Meyer

Years ago when Mr. Moody was young in Christian work, he visited a town in Illinois. A judge in the town was an infidel. This judge’s wife besought Mr. Moody to call upon her husband, but Mr. Moody replied: “I cannot talk with your husband. I am only an uneducated young Christian, and your husband is a book infidel.”

But the wife would not take no for an answer, so Mr. Moody made the call. The clerks in the outer office tittered as the young salesman from Chicago went in to talk with the scholarly judge. The conversation was short. Mr. Moody said: “Judge, I can’t talk with you. You are a book infidel, and I have no learning, but I simply want to say if you are ever converted, I want you to let me know.”

The judge replied: “Yes, young man, if I am ever converted I will let you know. Yes, I will let you know.”

The conversation ended. The clerks tittered still louder when the zealous young Christian left the office, but the judge was converted within a year. Mr. Moody visiting the town again asked the judge to explain how it came about. The judge said: “One night, when my wife was at prayer meeting, I began to grow very uneasy and miserable. I did not know what was the matter with me, but finally retired before my wife came home. I could not sleep all that night. I got up early, told my wife that I would eat no breakfast, and went down to the office. I told the clerks they could take a holiday, and shut myself up in the inner office. I kept growing more and more miserable, and finally I got down and asked God to forgive my sins, but I would not say ‘for Jesus’ sake,’ for I was a Unitarian and I did not believe in the atonement. I kept praying ’God forgive my sins’; but no answer came. At last in desperation I cried, ‘O God, for Christ’s sake forgive my sins,’ and found peace at once.”

The judge had no access to God until he came in the name of Christ, but when he thus came, he was heard and answered at once. – R.A. Torrey