When I do not pray I cannot overcome

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The second time and I believe it is the last time Joshua made a mistake in not praying before making a decision came when the Gibeonites came up with a plan. What a call to me when I even think about neglecting to pray. I can be so easily deceived and make wrong decisions. Then when I do not pray and fail, then those who I am responsible to and for, fail also.

The Israelites accepted some food from them, but did not consult the Lord about it. – Joshua 9:14  GNT

It is in my decision not to pray and walk through the word of God that  I am deceived by the evil one.

Here is a great prayer that shows the difference. It starts with a prayer for deliverance.

Save me, Lord, from evildoers;
    keep me safe from violent people.
They are always plotting evil,
    always stirring up quarrels.
Their tongues are like deadly snakes;
    their words are like a cobra’s poison. – Psalm 140:1-3  GNT

 “The persecuted man turns to God in prayer; he could not do a wiser thing. Who can meet the evil man and defeat him save Jehovah himself, whose infinite goodness is more than a match for all the evil in the universe?” – Spurgeon

Then moves to a prayer for preservation.

Protect me, Lord, from the power of the wicked;
    keep me safe from violent people
    who plot my downfall.
The proud have set a trap for me;
    they have laid their snares,
    and along the path they have set traps to catch me. – Psalm 140:4-5  GNT

“The ‘wicked’ may arrogantly desire, plan, and execute; but the Master of the universe cannot tolerate anarchy for long. To this end the plea changes into an imprecatory prayer.” – VanGemeren

There is a time of acknowledging that I am praying to the God of strength and salvation.

I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
Hear my cry for help, Lord!
My Sovereign Lord, my strong defender,
you have protected me in battle.
Lord, don’t give the wicked what they want;
don’t let their plots succeed. – Psalm 140:6-8  GNT

When I pray, asking God to work for me and against those who desire to work evil is important.

In fact, I am encouraged to acknowledge the presence of those evil ones and pray specifically against them.

Don’t let my enemies be victorious;[b]
make their threats against me fall back on them.
May red-hot coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into a pit and never get out.
May those who accuse others falsely not succeed;
may evil overtake violent people and destroy them. – Psalm 140:9-11  GNT

This is a prayer of a heart poured out entrusting the punishment to God in heaven rather than taking it in my own hands.

It is a prayer for simple justice – for the evil they give, may they receive the same evil back. This is not evil for evil, this is like asking God to give us a cover and when the curese comes against us, it bounces off and returns back to the the one cursing.

The idea of course is that when they experience the power of their own curse in their lives that they would be destroyed and overthrown.

The prayer at the end is one of confidence in God being victorious.

Lord, I know that you defend the cause of the poor
    and the rights of the needy.
The righteous will praise you indeed;
    they will live in your presence. – Psalm 140:12-13  GNT

“At the time of the intervention and vindication, ‘the righteous’…will alter their prayers for deliverance…to songs of triumph.” – VanGemeren

I think the ability to be this courageous in prayer comes from a repentant heart.

A noise is heard on the hilltops:
    it is the people of Israel crying and pleading
    because they have lived sinful lives
    and have forgotten the Lord their God.
Return, all of you who have turned away from the Lord;
    he will heal you and make you faithful. – Jeremiah 3:21-22  GNT

The idea of prayer against evil people should translate to spiritual warfare as well.

When they returned to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son! He is an epileptic and has such terrible attacks that he often falls in the fire or into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” – Mathew 17:14-16  GNT

“It is easy to feel Christian in the moment of prayer and meditation; it is easy to feel close to God when the world is shut out. But that is not religion – that is escapism. Real religion is to rise from our knees before God to meet men and the problems of the human situation.” – Barclay

It was because you do not have enough faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!” But only prayer and fasting can drive this kind out; nothing else can – Matthew 17:17-21  GNT

“There are some things which are obtained by a stronger faith, and by more fervent and importunate prayers, than others are. A mercy sometimes seems to come to out of the hand of God with more difficulty, and wrestling for it.” – Poole

There was no point in blaming the boy or his father or the demon, though the demon was strong and had been there long. The fault lay in the disciples. “When the ministers of the Gospel find their endeavours, with respect to some places or persons, ineffectual, they should come, by private prayer, to Christ, humble themselves before him, and beg to be informed whether some evil in themselves have not been the cause of the unfruitfulness of their labours.” – Clarke

I think that I show my faith in and reliance on God when I pray and fast. Prayer is that display with my occupation and my dependence on Jesus.

To pray with a sense of fervency brings a confidence that God will answer my prayer. How can I be moved with a dispassionate one where I give every indication that I am presenting to God an issue that I care little or nothing about?

If prayer and fasting demonstrates that I am willing to identify with the afflicted individual, and shows my regard of the strength of the demonic world as well as my dependence on God, and if it displays my incredible desire to fight and sacrifice for the sake of deliverance, then it all matters.

“He that would overcome the devil in certain instances must first overcome heaven by prayer, and conquer himself by self-denial.” – Spurgeon

For the ways he gives and sustains our physical life. For making us in his image, capable of knowing, loving, serving, enjoying him and other relationships; for preserving our lives thus far— bringing us through injuries and sicknesses so that we are alive today; for the supports and comforts that make our lives enjoyable, pleasant, and bearable; for the successes we have received, goals attained, and for the blessings we weren’t wise enough or capable of achieving but which he sent anyway. For the ways he gives and sustains our spiritual life. For the plan of salvation itself, and how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit planned it from the deeps of eternity; for Christ emptying himself of his glory for us; for his teaching and character that reveal to us the beauty of holiness; for Jesus’ death on our behalf, paying for our sins, fulfilling all the requirements, bringing us into a new covenant relationship with God through grace; for the Holy Spirit, for his power and presence in our lives enabling us to understand God’s truth, know his love and glory, be conformed to Christ’s character, and serve others with his gifts; for the Word of God, the Scripture— for its wisdom and truth, and its power; for the church, its congregations and leaders, who have shaped and formed us, who have helped us grow in faith, hope, and love; for the Christian friends who have given us so much; for the assurance of our salvation, that we can rest in the hope of future resurrection and living with him forever; for being able to know that, no matter what, everything will be all right. – Timothy Keller

Prayer, with repentance, is my heart with God’s

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With obedience comes victory – here lies the interplay between divine instruction and human strategy, success with failure, prayer with repentance and obedience with consecration. What an amazing scenario of the evidence of the tender and sacred relationship between God and I. Joshua’s story moves into that realm.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Take all the soldiers with you and go on up to Ai. Don’t be afraid or discouraged. I will give you victory over the king of Ai; his people, city, and land will be yours. – Joshua 8:1  GNT

When I face setbacks, I pray that I will lament openly before God and be quick to pray, to listen His word and to obey.

The idea of dropping to my knews and surrendering and to pray with all my heart comes from this verse.

Examine me, O God, and know my mind;
    test me, and discover my thoughts.
Find out if there is any evil in me
    and guide me in the everlasting way. – Psalm 139:23-24  GNT

When I have prayed this prayer, God has shown what my heart really looks like – it is never good. It is here, in my invitation to Him to probe, with the desire to be refined, that He reveals truth. Sometimes I have doubted if I really trust God – going through this experience is one of trust.

At the end of the day I want to answer, about Jesus, as Peter did.

Jesus went to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, where he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

“Some say John the Baptist,” they answered. “Others say Elijah, while others say Jeremiah or some other prophet.”

“What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:13-16  GNT

I come to prayer motivated to pray for others but knowing that God wants to be in touch with me – when I pray it is a time where my heart and God’s are in conversation.

For the ways he gives and sustains our physical life. For making us in his image, capable of knowing, loving, serving, enjoying him and other relationships; for preserving our lives thus far— bringing us through injuries and sicknesses so that we are alive today; for the supports and comforts that make our lives enjoyable, pleasant, and bearable; for the successes we have received, goals attained, and for the blessings we weren’t wise enough or capable of achieving but which he sent anyway. – Timothy Keller

 

 

 

 

 

How could I not pray?

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Joshua is my favourite leader in the Bible and I am encouraged by him even through his failures to pray. Those failures cost plenty too and it was not because God was not with him. The story starts here.

Joshua sent some men from Jericho to Ai, a city east of Bethel, near Bethaven, with orders to go and explore the land. When they had done so, they reported back to Joshua: “There is no need for everyone to attack Ai. Send only about two or three thousand men. Don’t send the whole army up there to fight; it is not a large city.” – Joshua 7:2-3  GNT

They had deceived themselves in two ways. One, that the Lord was somehow no longer the commander of the army and that they could do this on  their own. Secondly, they failed to realize that they needed God to walk ahead of them and without inviting Him they could not hear Him say that there was sin in the camp that needed addressing.

This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They retreat from them because they themselves have now been condemned to destruction! I will not stay with you any longer unless you destroy the things you were ordered not to take! Get up! Purify the people and get them ready to come before me. Tell them to be ready tomorrow, because I, the Lord God of Israel, have this to say: ‘Israel, you have in your possession some things that I ordered you to destroy! You cannot stand against your enemies until you get rid of these things!’ – Joshua 7:12-13  GNT

This is where I do not see him praying. He was looking rationally at the plans given to him by capable leaders – his mind was making sense of it all and he thought he could handle it.

The scenario could go the other way too and be a failure – I am sure what happened at the river Jordan was on his mind. He did not want to reject the proposal to move forward and then fail as the people of Israel had done in the past. Either way, the right response was to take the issue to the Lord in prayer to see what He had to say.

Both scenarios fall under a very subtle transfer – a shifting of trust – from the Lord and His promises to his own capabilities.  My takeaway is that when I am evaluating my plans without prayer I have already succumbed to relying on my own human wisdom.

The right thing for Joshua would have been to seek God in prayer. God would have given him, as He did anyway, the insight required to win the battle.

As in so many cases, failure has this way of bringing us back to prayer. Even though Joshua’s prayer was way off when He questions God, it was still prayer. I love how God tells him to “Get up!” It was here in listening to God that Joshua learned of the disobedience and it was here in prayer that he knew what was required of him to do next.

Here I come into a place of thanksgiving. Where I can pray and thank God.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I sing praise to you before the gods.
I face your holy Temple,
    bow down, and praise your name
because of your constant love and faithfulness,
    because you have shown that your name and your commands are supreme.
You answered me when I called to you;
    with your strength you strengthened me.

All the kings in the world will praise you, Lord,
    because they have heard your promises.
They will sing about what you have done
    and about your great glory.
Even though you are so high above,
    you care for the lowly,
    and the proud cannot hide from you. When I am surrounded by troubles, you keep me safe.

You oppose my angry enemies
and save me by your power.
You will do everything you have promised;
Lord, your love is eternal.
Complete the work that you have begun. – Psalm 138  GNT

This seems to be the easy part when God enters into my world, especially after I have failed because I left Him out. I am praying in the reality that I know who God is – that He is personal, alive and active and His character of love and faithfulness are signs of His promise to me – His strength strengthens me.

It seems right that everyone, even those in authority in the world, can join together to praise and honour the greatness and sovereign power of the Lord.

It is because of this that I can ask God for help as I go through my own troubles. This is the prayer that we can all pray and I am thankful that the one who wrote this Psalm has offered it to us.

“However great may be our wonder for you, O Lord, your glory exceeds what our tongues can express”

“Praise to you, to whom all things are easy, for you are almighty.”

“Praise to you from all who understand your truth.” – Ephrem the Syrian

Here is the simplest prayer that I could find and that I could use at any time.

 At this the woman came and fell at his feet. “Help me, sir!” she said.

Jesus answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

“That’s true, sir,” she answered, “but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters’ table.” – Matthew 15:25-27  GNT

Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on this short prayer that anyone at anytime could pray.

“She could not solve the problems of the destiny of her race, and of the Lord’s commission; but she could pray…If, as a Shepherd, he may not gather her, yet, as Lord, he may help her.”

“I urge you who seek the conversion of others to follow her example. Notice, she did not pray, ‘Lord, help my daughter;’ but, ‘Lord, help me.’”

“I commend this prayer to you because it is such a handy prayer. You can use it when you are in a hurry, you can use it when you are in a fright, you can use it when you have not time to bow your knee. You can use it in the pulpit if you are going to preach, you can use it when you are opening your shop, you can use it when you are rising in the morning. It is such a handy prayer that I hardly know any position in which you could not pray it: ‘Lord, help me.’” 

God is a Creator God, the maker, protector, sustainer, and ruler of all creation. He is a God of truth, a speaking God with whom we may have a personal relationship. He is the covenant God, who is faithful to his promises, who has bound himself to us that we might bind ourselves to him. He is the triune God, one and yet three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is not only our King but our Friend and Spouse. Our hearts were made for him to be our only joy. – Timothy Keller

Are my prayers of help or am I not really praying

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The Psalms come into play again today in the arena of prayer and in particular, Psalm 135.

The Lord will defend his people;
    he will take pity on his servants. – Psalm 135:14  GNT

I think my prayer life is important when it comes to the Lord defending me or even having mercy on me.

They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    and eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear;
    they are not even able to breathe. – Psalm 135:16-17  GNT

What if I decide not to use my mouth to offer prayer, praise or confession?

They can neither speak in answer to your prayers and inquiries, nor see what you do or what you want, nor hear your petitions, nor smell your incenses and sacrifices, nor use their hands either to take anything from you, or to give anything to you; nor so much as mutter, nor give the least sign of apprehending your condition or concerns. –Matthew Pool.

What if I have no spiritual life, no symbols of an abundant life and I cannot even offer a breath prayer or praise?

May all who made them and who trust in them
    become[b] like the idols they have made! – Psalm 135:18  GNT

Have I then become a person whose mouth is moving but I am not praying? Have my eyes not seen the truth, or have my ears not heard the voice of the Lord or has the life of God no longer reside in me? Have I lost my God and have become spiritually dead? If I chose the form of religion I have utterly abandoned the invitation of the Holy Spirit to live.

“God’s perfections are matchless and without comparison. Those perfections include his eternal and unchanging character; his presence everywhere; his perfect knowledge of all things; his perfect, unsearchable wisdom; his absolute, irresistible power and sovereignty over all that happens; his unspotted moral purity, beauty, and holiness; and his justice— his inexorable judgment that will ultimately put all things right.” – Timothy Keller

 

The answer before I finish praying

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This is something I innately believe in whenever I pray in public. I sense that God already knows what is going on and now He just wants to see faith in the action of prayer.

 Even before they finish praying to me, I will answer their prayers.  – Isaiah 65:24  GNT

I know my desire to pray comes from the Holy Spirit.  It starts with Him, invades my mind, there I know what He wants to do or give and then I speak them out. Even so, He is ready and willing to hear me pray.

I have not met a person who naturally desires to pray. Until I am loved by God, liberated and renewed and transformed by the Holy Spirit, prayer is not something that comes out of my soul. It is in the being filled with the Spirit of God that prayer becomes something natural and comes from the depth of my soul.

Would it not be true to say even then, prayer is a grace that God provides even before I pray? I cannot even long for God on my own. I am ultimately created to talk with my Creator.

“Our prayer pleases God because He has commanded it, made promises, and given form to our prayer. For that reason, He is pleased with our prayer, He requires it and delights in it, because He promises, commands and shapes it. … Then He says, ‘I will hear.’ It is not only guaranteed, but it is actually already obtained.” – Luther

And then there is the listening – do I have the soil of an open heart toward the Word of God and to my relationship with Jesus?

 And Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!” – Matthew 13:9 GNT

Am I willing to allow His Word to break into my closed or hard heart?

“God is transcendently and infinitely bright, blessed, and beautiful. He is self-eistent – depending on nothing for His being. Instead, all htings are dependent on Him. He is an infinite and eternal Spirit, the only perfect One, the God of absolute glory and importance.” – Timothy Keller