Tag Archives: prayer

Daniel 7-12; Daniel’s Prayer

Daniel’s heart-felt prayer reveals his agony over his sin, and the sin of God’s people. They were in captivity, prisoners of the Babylonians, and God had made it clear that captivity was a just judgment for their sin. They didn’t like it. But they deserved it.

It probably wouldn’t hurt us to be praying like Daniel prayed, too. We could use a bit of repentance these days, couldn’t we? Ann Graham Lotz wrote a study on Daniel’s prayer, and it’s a good one for today. If you’re inclined, I recommend it.

Why pray, though? Really. Doesn’t a Sovereign God already have things worked out the way He wants? Matthew Henry says this:

“God gives us leave not only to pray, but to plead, not to move him (he himself knows what he will do), but to move ourselves and encourage our faith.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1098)

God wants us to pray, to plead with Him, to boldly enter His throne room and lay our requests for ourselves and others, at His feet. But I respectfully disagree with Henry about one thing. Scripture gives many examples of God being moved by our prayers.

Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20 bought him 15 more years of life, after Isaiah told him God said for him to get his affairs in order. Hezekiah’s prayer moved God.

God was moved when Manasseh prayed in 2 Chronicles 33, and God returned him to Jerusalem.

Jesus said he wasn’t going to heal the Gentile woman, until she pled with Him. He healed her. (Matthew 15)

However, our Sovereign God sees today as the past. So He knows whether or not we prayed for someone.

Do you remember the comic books that had alternate story-lines? You’d get to a certain place in the story and the character would have a decision to make. If you wanted the character to make one choice, the book would direct you to a certain page. If you wanted another choice, you’d be directed to a different page. Same character, different outcome.

I think prayer is a little like that. Someone has a need. And God knows what happens if we pray. He sees the end result of our pleading with Him to answer our prayer on that person’s behalf, to move Him to action. But He also knows what happens if we don’t pray, if we never ask Him to move in the life of that person. Same person, different outcomes.

The difference is prayer.

Two weeks ago, our much-loved pastor announced his resignation, to the shock and dismay of us all. God is undoubtedly leading him to pastor a church in another state. Now we are faced with the responsibility of filling the pulpit left vacant by this dear man.

We all, as members of this body of believers, want God’s will in this matter. Should we assume that will happen because God is Sovereign, and will bring His man right to us? Or should we pray?

We’re praying!

The Bible teaches us God hears and answers prayer. So we’re praying. The Bible teaches us God is moved by our prayers, that He is free to work in us when we pray. Pray on!

I know God does have a will as to who our next pastor should be. And He’s not going to play games with us to see if we can figure it out, and call the right man. But God isn’t going to force anyone on us, either.

So our prayer is for wisdom to recognize God’s leading. We are pleading with God to make His way known, that we will move only when He moves us. We want God’s first and best choice for our fellowship. So we’re praying that we will know God’s mind and heart in this matter, and that our next pastor will know it, too.

You can bet I’m praying.

I do like what Henry said in the quote above about praying moving us. About prayer encouraging our faith. When I spend time talking to God, pouring my heart out to Him, loving on Him, I am changed. I am encouraged.

So today, I can honestly tell you I’m excited about what’s ahead for our church, because I am praying.

 

 

Jeremiah 43-45; If You… I Will…

“God, I promise if You’ll heal my loved one, I’ll start going back to church.” “If you let me have this promotion, or win the lottery, I promise I’ll give lots of money to missions.” “Just answer my prayer and I’ll do whatever you want.”

That’s exactly what the Jews told Jeremiah. But the Jews, like most of us, couldn’t or wouldn’t keep their end of the bargain.

I imagine most of us have been at a point sometime in our lives when we find ourselves trying to cut a deal with God. “If You… I will…” Scripture is very clear, however. God is NOT the Great Negotiator.

Do any of us really think God wants us to love Him so much He’d let us determine the rules of the relationship? Do we think God is so weak He gives in to our lip service like a young mother trying to get her toddler to obey?

Here’s the deal: God is God. Obey Him. Period.

He says if we obey we’ll be blessed. If we don’t obey, there are severe consequences to pay. There is no room for negotiation. God doesn’t need to hear our lofty promises. He demands to see our obedience.

The next time you are tempted to make some promise to God in exchange for something you want, save your breath. There is only one “If you… I will…” that God honors. And He’ll honor it every time. It’s when He says to us…

“If you obey Me, I will bless You.”

 

Jeremiah 26-29; God’s Got Plans

There are a lot of verses in the Bible that seem to indicate God wants His children to be healthy and wealthy, or at least receive the things they ask Him for. 29:11 is one of them.

So is John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

And Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

There are dozens more. You probably can come up with some off the top of your head, too. God promises to bless His people, to answer our prayers. And I believe Him.

But I look at the Bible as a whole and see many, many examples of God’s children not receiving what they ask for. Believers who are sick, tortured, poor. Paul said he prayed three times about something and God never granted him what he wanted.

So which is it? Is God true to His word, or not?

More than we ask or think!

We are short-sighted if we limit God’s promises to the material. Yes, God answers our prayers for physical healing, or financial relief. Sometimes He gives us the desires of our hearts. But not always.

If we limit God to answering only our material needs, we miss out on the greater thing. How does God prosper His children?

I am with you always… (Matthew 28:20)

Peace I give you… (John 14:27)

If you confess your sins… I will forgive… (I John 1:9)

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Remain in me and I will remain in you… (John 15:4)

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am… John 14:3)

There are more. God promises His presence, His strength, His joy, His righteousness, His help in our time of need. Someone told me once that I can believe all that because I’m not hurting, I’m not hungry, I’m not homeless, I’m not being persecuted. But I know there are hurting, hungry, homeless, and persecuted people who know the truth of these promises even better than I because of their circumstances.

The interesting thing to me about this is that, the closer I get to God, the more time I spend with Him in His Word and in prayer, the more I find His desires become mine. I think less about my physical comfort, and more about reaching the lost, or more about the needs of my neighbors. My prayers become more about others than about myself.

My friend, Toni, lived much of her life in great pain. She had a disease called HS from the time she was a child, and doctors were unable to do much to help her. But she never lost her joy in the Lord. She never lost her servant’s heart even on those days it was hard to move.

There is a youth convention in Atlanta held on New Years day each year, and Toni felt led to volunteer on New Years Day last year, 2017. She had such a burning desire, but common sense told her it was too much for her, as her pain had increased to an almost unbearable level. She talked to her husband. They prayed. And they went.

My friend was a greeter at that conference for hundreds of teenagers. Her job was to hold the door, and welcome the kids as they went into the worship services. She said she “fist-pumped” dozens and dozens of young people that day. In fact, she came home with bruised knuckles. But, she said, “I felt called to be a door holder.”

Four months later, she was diagnosed with colon cancer that had already spread. Her pain, that she thought was from her HS, was in fact from the cancer that was destroying her organs. But I will tell you, even with this devastating news, Toni believed in the plans God had for her, plans to prosper (her) and not to harm (her), plans to give (her) hope and a future.

God has plans. His plans include showering you with the forgiveness Jesus’ blood bought for you. He wants to fill you, build you up, be your joy and confidence. He wants to draw near to you, to walk with you, and finally, to bring you home to be with Him forever.

That’s where my friend lives today. She’s finally home.

Our road might be hard. Or we might enjoy the physical comforts of this world. But with Paul, let’s “learn to be content whatever the circumstances… whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need…” (Philippians 4:12-13)

And let’s trust God to bless us with Himself, to give us what we need when we need it and not a moment before. Let’s give Him our hearts, and let Him work out the rest as we obey Him.

Let’s trust God’s plans.

Jeremiah 11-15; Should We Stop Praying?

I hate what’s happening in the United States. I feel like we’re riding inside a snowball, bounding down a  mountain, picking up speed, and getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s out of control. So many mindless people are joining this self-entitled, hate-filled movement. It’s scary.

I thought it was interesting that God told Jeremiah there is a conspiracy among His people. (11:9) I think there is today, too. Satan is conspiring to destroy us every bit as much as he was working to destroy God’s people then. And he uses people to do his bidding. Don’t laugh at the very real possibility that there is an intentional movement in our country today to undermine Truth. And it’s working.

Here’s an important warning. Look at verse 18:

Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me… (emphasis mine)

Jeremiah himself was being led astray. Jeremiah, the prophet of God was falling for the seemingly innocent plan of the wicked. So many people today are being led to the slaughter, and give about as much thought to where they are going as a sheep, just following the crowd.

I am burdened for our country, as was Jeremiah burdened for his. I pray God will lift the veil, that people will see their sin and be appalled by the things they’ve done. I pray that sinners will repent, that Satan will be defeated, that people will stop and think before allowing themselves to be led down a path that will lead to destruction, and I pray that this country will take a bold stand for the truth of Scripture.

But then I read in Jeremiah and hear God say, “Don’t bother praying for these people. I’m not listening. I’m done. And it’s time for them to pay for rejecting me.” (11:14)

Then He says it again three chapters later! (14:11)

What does Jeremiah do in response? He keeps praying. And so will I.

I still believe God is not willing that anybody die without knowing His Son Jesus. I still believe John 3:16-17. I still believe 2 Chronicles 7:14:

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

You might ask, what can one person do? That verse is the answer for those of us who are called by Christ Jesus’ name:

  1. Humble yourself.
  2. Pray without ceasing.
  3. Seek God every day by reading His Word.
  4. Repent of sin in your life.

And here’s what God promises He’ll do:

  1. He’ll hear you.
  2. He’ll forgive you.
  3. He’ll heal our land.

We deserve God’s punishment. He has every right to hate us for the way we treat Him. I don’t blame Him if He’s done with us like He was done with His children in Jeremiah’s day. But as long as I have breath, I will beg Him to have mercy. I will plead with Him to soften hearts, to bring about revival in His Church, to accomplish what He wants to do in the hearts of those who do not yet know Him.

Please, don’t stop praying.

 

 

Isaiah 36-39; Counting The Days, or Days That Count?

Maybe it’s my age, but there are three people close to me who are battling cancer right now. One dear lady, after months of body-ravaging chemo, has decided to stop the treatment because it isn’t working. The doctors tell her there’s nothing more they can do, so she has gone into hospice care. Unless God intervenes (and that’s what I’m praying) she is at the end of her young life.

Another friend, who lost her mother to breast cancer just one year ago, has begun radiation therapy after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on her own breast.

The other friend, is a man who beat cancer four years ago, but after a routine checkup was told cancer has attacked his other lung. He wonders if he has it in him to fight that battle yet again.

Hezekiah was facing death. He was sick, and it seemed nothing more could be done for him. But he prayed, and God spared his life, promising him fifteen more years on this earth. There are a lot of important lessons here, and I hope you’ll read these chapters and let God teach you what He wants you to know. Here’s what spoke to me:

God answers prayer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all prayers are answered the way Hezekiah’s was. My friend, the mother of two teenagers, the wife of a man who loves her, a church secretary whose ministry touched so many lives, finds herself where Hezekiah was, “there’s nothing more we can do.”

But because God has not given her the same outcome as He gave Hezekiah, do we think her prayers are going unanswered? I love what Matthew Henry  says on page 880 of his Commentary in One Volume (Zondervan 1961):

“When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer, as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven us, that his grace shall be sufficient for us, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be hiswe have no reason to say that we pray in vain. (emphasis mine)

My friend has something so much more important than physical health. If you knew her, you’d know that is true.

Interestingly enough, I was talking to my sister about this topic this morning even before I started studying these chapters in Isaiah. She said we (people) cling so hard to this life, when what’s ahead for believers is so much better than we can even imagine. We’ll get to heaven and say, “What was I thinking?”

Hezekiah did live fifteen more years, but the choices he made during those additional years had devastating consequences for the entire nation. He lived those additional years, but then he died anyway.

Now I’m not advocating we boycott physicians, nurses, hospitals, and medications. I do not believe we should adopt the mistaken philosophy that “God’s will be done” means I do nothing. God told those ministering to Hezekiah’s physical needs to put a poultice of figs over the boil and he’d recover. They did. And he did.

Oh, by the way. I think I know where the whole “God helps those who help themselves” thing started. Matthew Henry, whose insight into God’s Word I usually appreciate, said this about Hezekiah’s recovery: “help thyself and God will help thee.” (page 882 of Commentary in One Volume.)

Busted.

Seriously, Matt, do you have any idea the can of worms you opened up here? Some people actually believe those words are in the Bible. When the truth of the matter is, the Bible never says God helps those who help themselves. It clearly, repeatedly says God helps those who obey Him.

Read that part of chapter 38 again. God told them what to do, and they obeyed, THEN Hezekiah recovered.

So here’s what I get out of this today: my life is in God’s hands, and I’m ok with that. I want my days to be bathed in prayer, I want my mind steadfastly focused on God, I want to be sensitive to His leading, and I want to obey.

I’ll let Him count the days. I just want the days to count for eternity, for Jesus’ sake.

Proverbs 21-24; Poverty-Stricken

It’s kind of hard to read these proverbs and not think about people other than myself. I mean, I don’t drink so you couldn’t say I’m a drunkard. I worked for 37 years, and am busy these days serving at my church so I wouldn’t be described as a sluggard. I’m honest most of the time. I’m not a jealous person, and my friends are upstanding, God-fearing people. So these proverbs must be talking to someone else, not me. Right?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“So read it again, Connie,” God seems to be saying. “I’m talking to you.”

So I read these chapters a second time. And a third. I looked at what a couple of people had to say about these proverbs, but mostly I just let God do the teaching about my walk with my Savior.

Which leads me to share my thoughts on the end of chapter 24. At first glimpse it seems to be talking about farming, about making a living. And if that’s all you get out of it, it’s still a good lesson. But when Solomon says he applied his heart to what he observed, I did the same.

What does this passage have to do with me? How can this passage be profitable to me, to correct and instruct me in righteousness so that I can be better equipped to do the good work God has for me to do?

When I take a good look at my relationship with my Savior, I wonder if it is well manicured, or if there are thorns and weeds allowed to grow. Have I neglected to root out sin in my life, am I ignoring the signs? One thing I know about gardening, if you don’t take care of the weed problem the minute it raises its ugly head, the harder it is to get rid of. Once those roots have taken hold, once it spreads, it’s a nightmare, and can take over your whole landscaping.

The same can be said of sin. If I allow sin to exist in my life, even just one more day, it doesn’t stay stagnate. It digs its roots in, and can take over my life. I don’t want Solomon’s vineyard in these verses to be a picture of my relationship with God.

The walls around the vineyard Solomon describes are tumbling. And God would have me look at the wall I’ve built around my heart. Am I really guarding my heart against the enemy? Or have I allowed it to crumble one thought, one TV show, one sin at at time? Is my heart exposed to the enemy due to my lack of care?

I’ve looked today at the land God has given me, this thing called salvation, and considered my care of this precious gift that is mine through the blood of Jesus. God would have me consider the time I spend in His Word, not just reading the verses, but letting the verses speak to me, to meditate on it, memorize it, ingest it so it becomes a part of me and crowds out any of the weeds Satan would try to plant before they take root.

God would have me consider how important is guarding my heart, taking a look at the wall that would keep out my enemy. Is it strong and healthy because I’m praying, being intentional about my walk with the Lord?

Or, and this is what convicted me this morning, am I too lazy to make an effort to make this relationship with God something really beautiful and fruitful?

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (24:33-34)

The picture of a poverty-stricken soul makes me sad. If I’m thinking my walk with the Lord isn’t what it could be, if I feel a bit removed from Him, if I’ve allowed sin to grow like a weed, I need to get up and get to work.

Psalms 5-7; Waiting in Expectation

David certainly knew what it was to be mistreated, alone, physically and emotionally drained. In Psalm 6 he says things like: my bones are in agony, my soul is in anguish, I’m worn out from groaning, I weep all night.

My sister Peggy’s son Geoff died in a car accident in 2012. I have had losses in my life, times when I felt alone and defeated, agonizing over circumstances. But Geoff’s death is the single most devastating thing I have experienced. I, like David, had sleepless nights when tears drenched my pillow. I ached all over, and groaned uncontrollably.

Now I don’t want to compare my grief to anyone else’s. It’s not a contest. This aunt grieved deeply for the loss of my dear nephew. But who can touch a mother’s grief?

I watched my sister die that day, too. There was no life in her eyes. Smiles were forced. Laughter would occasionally break the mood, but it was short-lived. I will say her faith and hope in God never wavered. That deep trust enabled her to get out of bed each day, and has sustained her to this day. But the sadness was there, too.

I began to pray that God would restore her joy. Every day I’d pray that Peggy would know real joy once again. Then, over a year after Geoff went to live with Jesus, I was talking to Peggy on the phone when she said she woke up that morning and felt joy for the first time.

I was shocked!

“I’ve been praying for that,” I said.

Now why did that shock me? Why would I be surprised that God would answer my prayer?

My pastor shared a while back that he prays Psalm 5:3 to God every day:

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation(emphasis mine)

I picture a child sitting in front of the Christmas tree, presents wrapped, waiting excitedly to see his wish list fulfilled.

That’s how David prayed. I think sometimes I pray because I’m supposed to, or because someone asks me to. I pray knowing God can answer prayer. I’m not sure I always pray expecting Him to.

Listen to what David says about God in Psalm 7: I take refuge in You, my shield is God Most High who saves the upright in heart, God is a righteous judge, and

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (vs17)

David had confidence in God. He could lay out his troubles before God and believe that He would hear and answer his prayers perfectly. Then he would look for the ways God was working throughout the day, expecting to see His hand. Expecting God to answer His prayers.

My Dear Heavenly Father, let me tell you what is on my heart. I want to lay it all out there, and then wait expectantly for the ways You provide exactly what I need, the way You answer my prayers according to Your will. Make me aware of Your hand today, Lord. I will give thanks to You.