The Hopeful And Persistent Prayer

prayer, persistence, Matthew 7, Luke 18Has God ever given you an exclamation point?  Has He ever emphasized something so strongly to you that it was just as if He had sent you a personal message that ended in enthusiastic punctuation?  Recently, God did that for me and I want to share the story with you.

Throughout my week I focus on the current Sunday School lesson and I also use a couple of daily devotional guides.  These materials are from several publishers and written with different goals in mind and come in various formats.  I might be in the book of Genesis in my Sunday school material while my prayer guide may have me reading out of the book of Romans.  And because it is God’s word (that is living and powerful) no matter what I am reading it is always timely and effective.

But this one day was a little bit different.  My Sunday school material took me to Matthew chapter 7 and to these verses:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!    Matthew 7:7-11 (NASB)

These verses in Matthew serve to remind us to be persistent in our prayers because we have a God who loves us and desires to give us good gifts.  I pondered these verses for a few minutes after I read them and I felt thankful and encouraged.  And then I flipped over to my prayer guide and it focused on these verses:

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  Luke 18:1-8 (NASB)

In Luke 18 Jesus tells a story about a persistent widow and a secular judge.  The theme is persistence in prayer,  just the same as it was in my prior reading from Matthew chapter 7.  At this point, I felt the exclamation point coming on and I felt very strongly that God was encouraging me to keep praying and to be encouraged and hopeful in my prayers.

I find it interesting and impactful that Jesus ends verse 8 with the question “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  Does it not show our faith when we are persistent in our prayers and hopeful in our expectation of an answer from our heavenly father?  And does it not show a lack of faith and when our prayers falter and we begin to lose hope?  In my mind, Jesus is asking us to remain faithful, hopeful and prayerful up until the very end.  He’s just told us that He is bringing justice “quickly” but it remains up to us not to lose heart and to exercise our faith in God in the meantime.

In case you need it, here is the exclamation point spelled out for you (actually, here are a couple of them): Keep praying!  Keep hoping!  Keep on believing in the God who desires to give you good gifts and will see you through to the end!

The Words We Need Most

prayer, encouragement, Ephesians 3:14-19For just a few moments, I want to talk a little bit about prayer and a lot about encouragement.  We, as believers, need both prayer and encouragement to be spiritually healthy.  Prayer is our line of communication to God through the Holy Spirit and encouragement should make up a large part of how we communicate with each other.  In my experience, prayer is talked about and stressed as an essential spiritual exercise far more than encouragement is in our churches and homes.  In that, I think we might be missing opportunities for growth and fellowship as a body of believers.

For an excellent example of both prayer and encouragement working together, let’s look at the third chapter of the book of Ephesians.

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3: 14-19 (NASB)

Can you read the above passage and not feel encouraged?  I know I can’t!  Paul is telling the church at Ephesus (and by extension, us) that he is praying for us.  And this prayer that he is praying is not a small prayer but is a bold prayer for power, for strength in the inner man and for us to be able to fully understand the love that God has for us.  What an amazing, encouraging prayer!

As modern day Christians living in troubled times, we need amazing prayers and we need strong encouragement.  Just as Paul did in the book of Ephesians, one of the best ways to encourage a fellow believer is to tell them that you are praying for them and then be specific in how you are praying for them.  It’s one thing to tell someone “I’m praying for you”.  And we should be saying that.  But it is altogether better to say “I’m praying that God would touch you and heal your body and encourage you in your spirit.”  That makes it personal and even more encouraging to the receiver.

Along with those prayers we need to make sure our words and our attitudes are uplifting to those around us, and especially to those who are fellow believers.  The people in our churches and homes should be the ones we treat the best and this includes our spouses and children.  They need to hear us speaking grace to them (unmerited favor) and they need to see that we love Jesus and are not ashamed of our calling or position in Christ.

As we go, unbelievers are watching what we do and say and the way we treat each other just might be the thing that convinces them that the love and grace of Jesus is real and necessary.  Our encouragement can be that powerful when it is done in Jesus’ name.

We have such an amazing and unlimited resource in the love of God and the more we give it away and share it with others the more we will feel it in return.  We have a responsibility to take that love and use it to shine light in to the dark places around us and to proclaim the good news to all.  Let’s make sure that we are praying big, bold prayers and that we are always looking for opportunities to encourage those around us.  It just might be the very thing that makes all the difference in the world to them.

 

 

Love, Prayer, Forgiveness and Surrender

love, prayer, surrender, forgivenessIf we were, just for a moment, to talk about a few of the most powerful actions and ideas available to us then my top four would be 1) love in action, 2) prayer, 3) surrender and 4) forgiveness.  In these, Jesus Christ is our model and we can be assured that in order to become more Christlike we must work towards being excellent at all four.

And I say “work towards” because we don’t start our walk with Christ being strong in these areas and none of us, no matter how long we have been a child of God, are perfect in all four.  We’ve all got work to do or perhaps it’s more accurate to say we must continue(or begin) to surrender our selves to the Holy Spirit so that He can work in us and on us.  It is the work of God to change us, it is the responsibility of the person to surrender themselves so that they may be changed.

(So there’s number 3 from our list, right there, and please bear with me even if this is not in numerical order!)  Just as Christ surrendered his position in heaven and left his throne to come and live as a man, and just as Christ then surrendered his life for all so must we surrender our rights and desires to Him.  Our surrender is what allows us to accept Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and it is our daily (or even hourly) surrender that allows us to continue to grow and know Him better.

Closely related to surrender is forgiveness(number 4 from our list).  God forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness and this forgiveness is applied to our past, present and future!  The entirety of the sin debt of every man, woman and child who has ever lived or will ever live has already been paid for.  The enormity of that act is difficult to comprehend but what it means for us is that we no longer have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone or anything.  God forgave it all, every last sin, at the exact moment that the sin debt was laid on His only son Jesus.  For us, who have been so forgiven, we are now free to surrender our right to retribution, hatred, revenge and all thoughts of “getting even”.

Not only that, we must forgive ourselves and not hold on to guilt or failure.  And sometimes, we even need to forgive a situation or circumstance.  Sometimes things happen that aren’t in our plan and are not welcomed or appreciated and if we aren’t careful we can develop bitterness that will poison our lives and everything that we touch.  God’s children must forgive and the only way this can be done is in the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name.  We simply lack the ability to forgive and let go apart from the power of God in us.

So then, how do we access the power of God in us and live lives that are filled with the Holy Spirit?  We do this through prayer (number 2, here it is!) and meditation on God’s Word.  The Bible says we are to “pray continuously” and that we should “always, in everything, make our requests known to God with thanksgiving” and then, once we’ve done that, we can start to be amazed at what God can do through us and around us.  Prayer is powerful, not because of the words we say but because of who we are praying to; Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being.  When we choose to communicate and cooperate with God it will always make an eternal and life changing difference.

And all of this, everything that we do, must be done out of a Christlike love for all people and to show love in action (number 1, here we are!)  Not love in feeling, which ebbs and flows and is only based on human emotion, but love like Christ has for all people and love that motivated Him to give up his own life to save all mankind.  Again, only God can change us to have a love like that and only through prayer, surrender and forgiveness can we share it with others.

God’s love never fails and never changes and He chooses to share it with us.  All that he asks is that we love Him in return by the way that we live our lives and the way that we treat others.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 1:13 (NIV)

 

The 50 Year Prayer

prayer, Luke 1, faithfulnessHave you ever prayed for someone or something that you knew was God’s will but it didn’t seem like your prayers were being answered?  Perhaps you prayed for weeks or months or even years and you saw no outward sign that your prayers were having any effect at all.  How did you react to that situation?  What’s the right answer, for a prayer than seems unanswered?

I believe that God answers all prayers that are prayed in His will.  Sometimes we see the outcome, and if that happens, consider it a blessing and treasure it.  But perhaps much more often God uses our prayers and answers them in ways that we will never see on this side of eternity.  In this, it is our faithfulness that counts and our continued trust and reliance on God’s perfect will and perfect plan.  Even when we can’t see His hand working, we must trust His heart and continue to pray and do what He has asked us to do.

And then there are times when we have all but given up on a prayer but God shows up and answers it in a way that is far above and beyond anything that we could have hoped for or imagined.  In the first chapter of Luke’s gospel, Zechariah had such an experience.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.  Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.  But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5-7 (NIV)

Luke is setting up the story here and he makes sure to let us know that Zechariah and Elizabeth were good, righteous people but that they were childless (which carried a social stigma and some degree of shame during this time period) and that they were very old.  In other words, they were both well past the age at which conception and healthy child birth would have been possible.

 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,  for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Luke 1:11-15 (NIV)

And then something amazing happens.  As Zechariah is going about his priestly duties an angel appears to him and tells him that not only has his prayer been answered but that God is going to gift them with a son that “will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord”.  As we know, Zechariah and Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus and eventually baptized Jesus.  To say that God used John the Baptist in a mighty way would be putting it lightly!

But let’s back up for a moment.  How long do you suppose that Zechariah had been praying for a child?  I think it’s fair to say that this prayer began when he and Elizabeth were married and continued through what would have been the normal child bearing years and it is very likely that this prayer was at least 50 years old.  I also believe that Zechariah, being human, had probably not prayed this particular prayer in quite sometime.  Even as he never gave up on God he gave up on this particular prayer because he couldn’t imagine how God would answer it so many years later.  But answer it, God did, because 50 years and physical limitations are no barriers at all to Him who loves us so!

And don’t you know that Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoiced to have their prayer answered after so many years and marveled at what God had done for them?  I believe if you could ask them, they would tell you that it was worth the wait.

I hope you can see that there’s a strong lesson here for all believers.  God’s not through yet and He’s not finished with us either.  Keep on praying and keep on being faithful and get ready to be amazed.  His answer to our prayers will be perfect and will come at exactly the right time.

 

 

The Christian’s Biggest Mistake

prayer, praise, intercessionI knew something was wrong immediately.  I felt it inside.  As soon as my eyes opened and I was aware that it was morning I knew that I was not well.

Physically fit but mentally and spiritually drained, I climbed out of bed and started my day.  I didn’t get very far in to my morning routine before I felt that I needed to just stop, listen and pray.

God was trying to tell me something and I had been so busy over the last few days that I had neglected my spiritual nourishment and now I was paying for it.  I felt disconnected from the source (Him) and that my roots that  kept me grounded to the Truth had somehow weakened.

Not only had this weakened me spiritually, I was not in a good place mentally.  My attitude had become one of complaint and self-pity instead of constant praise and reliance on God.  I had let my joy be tarnished by the cares of this world and I had not taken all my burdens and cast them upon my Savior as I should have done.

God stepped in, as He so often has in the past.  He put a big STOP! sign in my brain to try and get my attention and help me to focus on what was really important.

So I stopped.  And I listened for Him.  And I prayed with all of my heart.  I told Him everything that had been going on in the last few days and I praised Him and thanked Him for always being there for me.  The more I talked the easier it got and I felt my burdens lifted and peace returned to my heart.

I lifted up my brothers and sisters who were sick and hurting.  I prayed for my family and for my church.  I prayed that the lost might be saved and that God would order my steps and use me as His hands and feet.  I sought Him with my whole heart and as much as possible I wanted to be in tune with my Heavenly Father because He is my source for strength and I am sustained by Him alone.

I am far from perfect.  I make many mistakes.  But the biggest mistake I can make in my life is when I forget to include God and to put Him first.  He loves me so much and all He asks is that I love and depend on Him first and foremost and love and serve others just as He did.

Are you in close contact with Him, right now?  Has He heard from you today?  If not, go find a place where you can be alone with God and don’t hold anything back.  Give Him everything that is on your heart, praise Him for who He is and then listen as He speaks to you.

Don’t make the same mistake I did.

How To Win All Of Life’s Battles

prayer, praise, worship, 2 Chronicles 20It seems to be the case lately that God is taking me on a journey of discovery in His word.  Several times in recent memory I have been reading a Sunday School lesson or studying for a blog post when a verse or group of verses will seem to leap right off of the page and into my heart and mind, grabbing my attention and imprinting a vital truth in the process.

This seems to happen in spurts and although I don’t know exactly why it works that way, I just do my best to listen and to learn.  These teachable moments sponsored by the Holy Spirit are precious to me and I hope that they continue throughout this lifetime and in to the next one.

That being said, I believe that God works and reveals Himself to us in unique and individual ways just as we are all unique and individual.  Such “inspirational” moments may not happen to you in the same way but I do believe that, based on the promises in the Bible, reading, studying and meditating on the good book will cause us to change for the better.  We truly have all of the resources we need in God’s word provided to us by the Holy Spirit and that includes help in all of life’s battles.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 20 we see a glimpse into the life of King Jehoshaphat as the Ammonites, Moabites and inhabitants of Mount Seir arrayed themselves against God’s people.  To really get the full picture of what is transpiring here you should read all of 2 Chronicles 20 but focusing in on the following verses we see something really amazing happen.

 18Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

Jehoshaphat knew that a battle was coming.  He knew the enemy was coming against him and he didn’t run from it or try to hide from it.  He faced it in the best way possible.

 Notice in verse 18 of chapter 20 that the first thing he did was fall on his face before God.  He called all of the people together and as one body they fell on their faces and worshiped the Lord.  After praying and worshiping he encouraged his people to have faith in God (verse 20) and then he did a very curious thing (verse 21).  He put the choir out in front of the army!  And of course you can read the result of this unorthodox battle strategy: the enemy turned on each other and was utterly routed in defeat.

Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel were victorious because they let God fight and win the battle for them.  They were careful to call on His name in faith and then they trusted God to see them through.  They began with prayer and worship and then praised God to begin the battle.  And on hearing the praise of the true and living God the enemy was defeated.

For me, this was a powerful and meaningful lesson from the Lord on how to fight and win the battles that I face in life.  That doesn’t mean that I will always understand every outcome or that things will always go my way but that as long as I am trusting the Lord and fighting with worship and praise then the result of the battle will surely belong to the Lord.

Fighting our battles with prayer, worship and praise as a three pronged strategy is a tried and tested method straight from God’s word to us.  It is a strategy that I have implemented lately to wonderful results and I would encourage you to do the same.

When the Righteous are Afflicted

Psalm 34:19, David, prayer, praiseLife is not easy.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  Striving to live a Godly life is not easy.  Trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is very difficult indeed.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is coming against us.  As if every obstacle that could possibly appear has launched a coordinated attack on us, all at once.  I can assure you, this is not by accident.  We have an enemy that is in opposition to God and all that is good.

And when we visibly declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ and try to stand up for good then we have drawn a line in the sand and planted a flag of battle that the enemy can’t help but see.  As we strive for good the enemy will come against us and will seek any and every way to afflict us, discourage us and try to get us to leave the fight.  (As an aside, I think it’s important to note that evil has no real power over the redeemed child of God.  God holds the lives and souls of the redeemed in His hands and nothing can ever pluck them out or change their ultimate destiny.  God is always sovereign no matter what it might feel like at the time!)

King David, one of my favorite Biblical heroes, knew affliction firsthand.  He had enemies that wanted to kill him from both outside his country and inside his own family.  He struggled with doing the right thing and with his own faith even while trying to lead a country and be true to God and what he knew was right.

In Psalm 34, David speaks about affliction but he also talks about the victory that we have in God alone.  When you have a few minutes you should read the whole chapter.  It isn’t very long but I promise you that it can change your outlook for the better if you read it and let it really soak in to your heart.

Here’s the verse that is the key idea for today:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.  Psalm 34:19 (NKJV)

What a statement!  What a promise!  If can’t help but get a little bit ecstatic when I read it.  Yes, David says, we will be afflicted.  And not just a little bit.  Our afflictions and our trials will be many.  There will be a multitude of things that come against us and no it won’t be easy to be in the midst of the turbulence.  But!  But!  The Lord delivers the righteous out of ALL of his afflictions!  Not just some.  Not just one every now and then.  Every single time we encounter trouble we are promised victory and the power to overcome simply because the Lord has declared it to be so.

You might have many troubles.  And some days it might feel like there is no end in sight and no victory could possibly come from what you are facing.  But take heart, Child of God.  You are not forgotten and God is not a liar.  He has declared that He will deliver you out of that trial and that someday, perhaps soon, your current affliction will be no more.

And when that day arrives you will know that God has delivered you and you can voice your praises to Him and tell others how God won the victory in your life.  This is what happens when the redeemed gather together and tell their stories of redemption!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:1-3) NKJV

Danger Ahead! Too Much Sand, Not Enough Rock

prayer, worship, bible studyDo you ever find it difficult to sit still, put your body at rest and lift your heart and mind up to God in earnest prayer?  I know I do!  It seems our natural inclination these days is to go, go, go and to fill our days with activities and tasks that need to be completed.  We have digital calendars and address books, Facebook reminders, friend requests, email that needs to be read and a million other things that vie for our attention.

Our jobs, our families, our hobbies and even our churches; these are good things and gifts from the Lord.  We have a responsibility to love and care for those around us, especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is absolutely a God-given duty, and not to be taken lightly.

But what about God?  Where does He fit?  He who is high and lifted up, the creator and the one who sustains it all.  He has such great love for us that He gave His only son to go and die a cruel and horrible death on a Roman cross just so we could be redeemed and have the opportunity for salvation and eternal life.  If He is our savior then He must be first.  And for Him to be first we must abide with Him through prayer and through time spent in Bible study and meditation on Him and His word.

This is a lesson that I am still learning but when I am successful in putting it into practice I am always blessed and always amazed at what the Lord can do in my life.  One of the most wonderful truths of God’s love for us is that He desires to work in us, through us and along side of us, if we will allow it.  The all powerful God who needs nothing chooses imperfect vessels such as you and I to carry out His work and to show His love.  If we allow that to happen then there is such great joy and great blessing that is poured out on us and through us!

But before we can be used, we must be connected.  And to be connected we have to train ourselves to slow down and to listen.  We must listen for His still small voice as we lift our hearts and minds in prayer and we must learn to be still and to know that He is God.  We need His Word, the Bible, foremost in our thoughts and His truths written on our hearts so that we might not sin against Him and so that we might be well equipped to serve as His hands and His feet.

This is a process.  It does not happen overnight.  It requires care and attention, focus and effort.  But the rewards are eternal and marvelous, both for us and for those touched by God working through us.

Whatever else might be happening in your life right now, however big or small it might seem, it doesn’t matter as much as the call to pray, to worship and to be still before God.  Be right with Him and He will take care of all else.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them,  may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB)

Three Steps to Experiencing Our Quiet Time in God’s Way

Devotional, Quiet TimeWhat does it take to come before God on a daily basis in such a way that He is glorified and we are blessed?  I believe not only is it scriptural that we set aside time each day to spend with our Lord, but that scripture also shows us the best way to do so.  Here are a three powerful lessons from God’s Word on how to have a better quiet time.

1. Seek Him First and Seek Him Consistently.

But (continually)seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 NASB)

The New American Standard Bible provides a translation of Matthew 6:33 that is very helpful.  Not only are we to seek Him first and above all, we are to do so continually.  In other words, we must be consistent in lifting our Lord above all else in our lives.

If we do this throughout each day then establishing a daily quiet time will be the most natural and desirable thing in the world.  We will want to spend quality time with God every single day and we will crave it.  It will cease to be an obligation and instead become our heart’s desire.

On the other hand, if we are not spending our time each day seeking Him first and foremost then establishing a daily quiet time is going to be that much harder.  If we aren’t living for God during the hours between our quiet times then our fleshly natures are going to make it much more difficult for us to focus on Him for a time of Bible study, prayer and open communication.

2. Seek Him with Praise.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name (Psalm 100:4 NASB)

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are to come before our righteous, holy God in an attitude of thanksgiving and praise.  Acknowledging God as the provider of all that we have and all that we are reminds us of our right relationship with Him: Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.

There is nothing that we have that God needs and yet He chooses to enter into a relationship with us because we are His most special creation and He loves us unconditionally.  Where we sometimes falter in this is when we let our feelings dictate our thankfulness, or lack thereof.  God understands our weakness and our circumstances but even as we are feeling badly we desperately need to call to mind all that God has done for us and all that He is doing on our behalf.  We must praise Him, even when our feelings get in the way.

3. Seek Him with Honesty and Humility.

if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I most often see this verse associated with corporate revival in the church.  2 Chronicles 7:14 offers a wonderful promise for a nation who will do as God asks: humble themselves, pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways.  But the truth is that before revival can take hold in a church or a nation it must first take hold in you and me.  Revival must be personal before it becomes corporate.

It is exactly the same for us in our daily quiet times.  We must come before God and be honest about our sins and our shortcomings.  It is only when we confess our sins and humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He can hear from heaven and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It is not an understatement to say that to grow in Christ as we should, we must be willing to spend time with Him every single day.  Even more than that, we need to be excited about what He is teaching us on a daily basis and willing to hear and obey the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  It is only when we seek Him first and foremost and come before Him with thanksgiving and a humble heart that we can truly experience quiet time in God’s way and with His full blessing.

What Fuels Faith?

prayer, bible study, holy spiritI am of the opinion that you can never talk about or study faith too much.  As followers of Christ, our faith and belief in Him and His saving work is the foundation on which we base our lives.  We have quite literally staked our eternal existence on the fact that Jesus Christ was and is the son of God and that if we believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths this truth that we shall be saved.  This is the first step in our faith journey but it can not and must not be our last.

Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. Psalm 66:20 (KJV)

It was God’s mercy that authored His salvation plan and the same mercy that is still available to us today.  Just as the Psalmist said, because God is merciful He listens to our prayers and does not turn His face away from us when we call on Him.  And that is the key component in the fueling of our faith.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NASB)

John 15:5 is one of my favorite verses because it so plainly states how we can be successful and fruitful followers of Christ.  Out of our faith comes our good works and our faith is sustained by abiding (staying) in Jesus.  And we abide in Jesus through our prayers and time spent one on one with the Holy Spirit in meditation and adoration.

Our day should start in prayer and prayer should be our first response to trouble, to joy, to sorrow, to worry, to doubt, to danger and to most anything that comes our way.  Proper prayer focuses our eyes and hearts on God who is able and who is strong to save.  It is God who delivers us and God who provides the strength that we need to overcome.  And most importantly, it is communion with the Spirit that provides the critical component in stoking the fires of our faith as we stay grounded and rooted in Him.

Prayer as a response must be practiced.  It is not a natural human response.  Unless we are taught and encouraged to pray without ceasing, we will wither on the vine and our faith will be weak and small.  Even after salvation we will more likely resemble the lost and unsaved than the saints of God if we neglect time spent in prayer and study of God’s Word.

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

Do you have a desire to grow your faith in God?  Do you want to know Him better and be a larger and stronger force for good in your home?  The place to start and the place to stay is in prayer and fellowship with the God who can provide all that we lack and so much more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)