Need to pray

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“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

No human hand could repair him but God could. In my brokeness, if I take it and place it in God’s hands, He will heal me.

Then the Lord told me to break the jar in front of those who had gone with me and to tell them that the Lord Almighty had said, “I will break this people and this city, and it will be like this broken clay jar that cannot be put together again. People will bury their dead even in Topheth because there will be nowhere else to bury them. I promise that I will make this city and its inhabitants like Topheth. The houses of Jerusalem, the houses of the kings of Judah, and indeed all the houses on whose roofs incense has been burned to the stars and where wine has been poured out as an offering to other gods—they will all be as unclean as Topheth.”

Then I left Topheth, where the Lord had sent me to proclaim his message. I went and stood in the court of the Temple and told all the people that the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, had said, “I am going to bring on this city and on every nearby town all the punishment that I said I would, because you are stubborn and will not listen to what I say.” – Jeremiah 19:10-15  GNT

God is seen as a terrible person when it comes to sin and sinners. Unbelief does not alter who He is. Obstinacy is my choice and the decision not to “hear” God is also my choice.  I pray every day that God, by His grace, would deliver me from a hard heart, contempt of His word and the lack of desire to obey Him.

O Lord, I fall into pride, but on the cross you made yourself of no reputation and gave up all your power and glory – for me! The more I thank you and rejoice that you did that, the less I need to worry about my own honor and reputation, about whether people are approving of me or not. – Timothy Keller

Constantly consider prayer and praying

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The language in the Old Testament sometimes gets my attention when abused by people living in the grace of the New Testament.

So may all your enemies die like that, O Lord,
    but may your friends shine like the rising sun! – Judeges 5:31  GNT

What scares me most is that these are not opinions expressed but rather prayers that are prayed. How many times have I asked God to punish me for my wrongdoings or for being out of sync with Him because of my sin?  But I am willing to pray against those who do not know God and I want them off the face of the earth so that they will never know Him.

I do want the kingdom of God here on earth but I am sure this is not the way it is going to happen. So I have to read these verses with a different set of lens. I cannot pray that people will be sent to spiritual and eternal damnation.

If I did, I could never have read about the conversion of people like Saul.

The Lord said to him, “Get ready and go to Straight Street, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. – Acts 9:11  GNT

Saul when from persecuting Christians to being a man of prayer. He prayed before, in a religious sense – which raised the question – I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?

God leads us all one step at a time – it is there in that journey I learn that God has a plan for my life. It is amazing to discover that plan and I must constantly be praying with the help of the Holy Spirit.

God, give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye—and then let men or devils do their worst! – George Whitefield

 

Pray for help

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When I am being oppressed, when I am losing things that I value, when those coming against me are stronger than I am, and at the end of the day my suffering overwhelms me – I turn to God for help.

After Ehud died, the people of Israel sinned against the Lord again. So the Lord let them be conquered by Jabin, a Canaanite king who ruled in the city of Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived at Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles. Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he ruled the people of Israel with cruelty and violence for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help. – Judges 4:1-4  GNT

He will hear me if I am repentant, humble and ready to move forward to doing what He asks me to do. When I feel He will not it is because I know I have not met Him in transparency and will find a shortcut by asking someone else to pray for me.

Simon said to Peter and John, “Please pray to the Lord for me, so that none of these things you spoke of will happen to me.” – Acts 8:24  GNT

Simon was the sorcerer who wanted to follow Jesus but ultimately wanted to know how much would he have to pay to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. He was supposed to turn to the Lord and ask for forgiveness but chose instead to ask a human being to act as his mediator. I am pretty sure that Peter knew what was going on and did not pray for him. We never heard of this man again.

When it comes to discernment and understanding, Jesus pulled Himself away to find the will of God. The first instance of this in His minstry was choosing the twelve to follow Him.

Then Jesus went up a hill and called to himself the men he wanted. They came to him, and he chose twelve, whom he named apostles. “I have chosen you to be with me,” he told them. “I will also send you out to preach, and you will have authority to drive out demons.” – Mark 3:13-15  GNT

This came at a critical point in His ministry – He had offended the traditions of the religious leadership and the crowds that followed were really not interested in spiritual things. He responded with prayer and chose the leaders He would begin to train.

“A set measure of bruising of ourselves cannot be prescribed, but it must be so far as (1) that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be had; and (2) that we reform that which is amiss, though it be to the cutting off of our right hand, or pulling out of our right eye. There is a dangerous slighting of the work of humiliation, some alleging this for a pretence for their casual dealing with their own hearts, that Christ will not break the bruised reed; but such must know that every sudden terror and short grief is not that which makes us bruised reeds; not a little `bowing down our heads like a bulrush’ (Isa. 58:5), but a working our hearts to such a grief as will make sin more odious unto us than punishment, until we offer a `holy violence’ against it. Else, favouring ourselves, we make work for God to bruise us, and for sharp repentance afterwards. It is dangerous, I confess, in some cases, with some spirits, to press too much and too long this bruising, because they may die under the wound and burden before they be raised up again. Therefore it is good in mixed assemblies to mingle comfort that every soul may have its due portion. But if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things. And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin.” – Richard Sibbes

 

Necessity of prayer

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I understand the concept of war, even spiritual warfare, but I can say that I have truly missed understood why war matters. When Joshua went to war against the people of Canaan, the people experienced and learned that real power was not in the multitude or in the bravery or in the skill of its fighting men. It was solely in the might of God. The tapping into that might, and the possession of that power only took place when they were faithful to Him. Once Joshua left the scene, here is what they faced.

So then, the Lord left some nations in the land to test the Israelites who had not been through the wars in Canaan. He did this only in order to teach each generation of Israelites about war, especially those who had never been in battle before. They were to be a test for Israel, to find out whether or not the Israelites would obey the commands that the Lord had given their ancestors through Moses. – Judges 3:1-2,4  GNT

There was a generation that did not understand war and the only way for them to understand it was for them to experience it. Necessity teaches me to pray. There was distress in the land with these foreign nations still living among them and God used that in order to bring them back to focussing on Him. If anyone is going to learn to war then at the same time they would be learning to keep the commandments of God. Both were necessary. Blessings come when I listen to the voice of the Lord. Conflicts come to purify my soul and to ensure the kingdom of God is shared and is growing here on earth.

We have three needs – the need for wisdom to know our own hearts and Savior Christ better… the need for watchfulness to even die rather than yield one step to sin… and the need to be ever at war. Not to acknowledge this is the height of madness. We are to be killing sin or sin will be killing us. Owen offers his readers the big picture – he was not merely interested in seeing the believer abstain from a particular sin (or sins); for him, the whole goal of the Christian life was one of Christlikeness, which is only possible by intimately knowing Christ as He is revealed in the gospel.

To mortify a sin is not to utterly kill, root it out, and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. It is true this is that which is aimed at, but this is not (in this life) to be accomplished. There is no man that truly sets himself to mortify any sin, but he aims at, intends, desires its utter destruction, that it should leave neither root nor fruit in the heart or life. He would so kill it that it should never move nor stir any more, cry or call, seduce or tempt, to eternity. Its complete eradication is the thing aimed at. Though there may be a wonderful success and eminency of victory against any particular sin, so that a man may have almost constant triumph over it, yet an utter killing and destruct- tion of it, that it should no longer exist, is not a possible condition in this life – as such, we are to “fight to the end!” This Paul assures us of: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Phil 3:12). He was a choice saint, a pattern  for believers in faith and love and all the fruits of the Spirit, yet he had not “attained,” nor was he “perfect” (v. 15), but was “following after” – he still had a vile body like we have, that will be fully changed by the great power of Christ on the last day (v. 21). – John Owen

 

Pattern of prayer that God will hear

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Charles Spurgeon preached a wonderful sermon on Judges 1:12-15 titled, Aschsah’s Asking, A Pattern of Prayer. Spurgeon showed how the request from a daughter (Aschsah) to a father (Caleb) gives us a “parable of prayer.”

 One of them, called Caleb, said, “I will give my daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who succeeds in capturing Kiriath Sepher.” Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz, captured the city, so Caleb gave him his daughter Achsah in marriage. On the wedding day Othniel urged her[a] to ask her father for a field. She got down from her donkey, and Caleb asked her what she wanted. She answered, “I want some water holes. The land you have given me is in the dry country.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. – Judges 1:12-15  GNT

She thought about what she wanted before she asked and was very definitive with her ask.

“Think what you are going to ask before you begin to pray, and then pray like business men. This woman does not say to her father, ‘Father, listen to me,’ and then utter some pretty little oration about nothing; but she knows what she is going to ask for, and why she is going to ask it.” – Spurgeon

She also asked for help when it came to her request.

“A friend, some time ago, said to me, ‘My dear pastor, whenever I cannot pray for myself, and there are times when I feel shut up about myself, I always take to praying for you: ‘God bless him, at any rate!’ and I have not long been praying for you before I begin to feel able to pray for myself.’ I should like to come in for many of those odd bits of prayer. Whenever any of you get stuck in the mud, do pray for me. It will do you good, and I shall get a blessing.” – Spurgeon

She was confident because it was her father that she was asking.

She went humbly, yet eagerly.

It was encouraging to her to have her father ask her what she wanted. God asks that too when we engage with him. That is why it is good to know what we want.

Asking is important – I would say it is one of God’s pleasures to hear me ask.

She simply came forward and she simply asked for a blessing.

There was an acknowledgement of gratitude for what was already given and that thankfulness was mingled with the ask.

So there was the past blessing which set up the openness to request more and she knew she needed more.

“What is the use of the hearers if there be not the power of the Holy Spirit going with the Word to bless them? Give me springs of water.” – Spurgeon

Obviously this is a great example because she received what she asked for and I believe she received more than what she asked for.

What I love most is that her father in no way offered criticism of her request and did not take it lightly in any way.

While Aschsah had her husband to walk with her during the ask, Jeremiah was stopped for doing the same thing for the people of Israel.

The Lord said to me, “Do not ask me to help these people. Even if they fast, I will not listen to their cry for help; and even if they offer me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not be pleased with them. Instead, I will kill them in war and by starvation and disease.” – Jeremiah 14:11-12  GNT

This is not the first time that Jeremiah was told to stop praying for the people. They may know the motions needed to look like they care about God but He knew how hard their hearts were and decided not to hear them. 

“O, how dreadful is the state of that people in reference to whom the Lord says to his ministers, Pray not for them; or, what amounts nearly to a prohibition, withholds from his ministers the spirit of prayer and intercession in behalf of the people!” – Clarke

The only way I believe God would hear their prayer would be if they all came together to repent, and to call upon His name.

“We begin by admitting the sin for what it is, but then secondly, we forsake it, rejecting and repudiating it. This is to adopt a right attitude towards both God and the sin itself.” John Stott