The Problem With Praying For Gods Will To Be Done

prayer, God's willThe problem with praying for God’s will to be done is that it sometimes makes for a very short conversation.  If prayer really is supposed to be a conversation between we who are God’s children and our heavenly father then it seems to me that there should be more involvement on our part.

I honestly believe, based on what I have read in the scriptures, that God desires to use people to carry out His will.  People are important to God.  Me, getting involved in carrying out God’s will on earth, is extremely important to God.  When I pray for God’s will to be done, that is a start, but it should not be the ending.

If I really examine my motives, sometimes when I pray for God’s will to be done I am actually trying to absolve myself of any responsibility in the matter.  It is as if I am saying “I don’t know what to do, so you take care of it while I think about something else”.

I think the Lord would rather that I pray “God, make me fit to carry out your will and use me for your glory.  I invite you to use me as your instrument and I am here and available for you.”  If I pray this prayer and really mean it, then God’s plan will be carried out and I will be where He wants me to be.

Ultimately, God’s will is going to be carried out one way or another.  He has the final say, He is the author and the creator and His word stands forever.  That won’t change.  What can change, however, is me and my choosing to work together with Him.  Will I be His willing vessel or will I refuse and miss out on a great blessing?

My responsibility when I pray is the condition of my heart and the motivation behind my prayer.  Am I speaking just to hear myself talk?  Am I really asking for God’s intervention in the life of another or am I just trying to get through my prayer list so that I can go on to something else?  My flesh wars against my spiritual nature and wants to have its own way but through Christ in me I can pray in the Spirit in a way that pleases the Father.

This is a hard lesson and one that I am still working on.  The concept of prayer is a simple one but because it is communication between me (who is finite, flawed and flesh) and God (who is spirit, infinite and perfect) the actual process of prayer is anything but simple.  It takes Jesus Christ to bridge the gap between what I am and who God is and it is only through His work on the cross and His shed blood that I am able to come before God with a pure heart and clean hands.

I want my prayer to be heard by God and I want to pray in a way that pleases Him.  I want God’s will to be done but before I can honestly pray for it I need to ask for God’s will to be done in me and for the willingness to say “yes” to whatever He asks.

Defense Against Bad Ideas

salvation, prayer, bible study, church attendanceNow that we have established where bad ideas come from we need to carefully consider how we can defend against them.  Despite the best efforts of the powers of darkness and despite our own fallen nature we can have victory over evil in this life.  We live in a corrupted world and we inhabit corrupted bodies of flesh with an inborn sinful nature but God has not left us without the power to overcome.

What is this power to overcome and what are the tools that God has given us to do good and not evil?  Here is how I see it:

Our first line of defense is and will always be our salvation and regeneration made possible by Christ’s sacrifice.  Because he died in my place my spirit has been born anew and in my body of death I now hold the spirit of life (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).  This is a powerful truth and it is the foundation for our eternal hope and our assured victory.

Even so, just because we are born again does not mean that God will not allow us to make bad choices or fall to temptation if we are bound and determined to do so.  Even as a saved child of God our ability to choose is sacrosanct.  And without proper training and maturity in God’s word we will continue to make bad choices even while we are on the path to life eternal.

After salvation, we must commit ourselves to growth and maturity.  Just like a baby animal is no match for a predator, we are no match for the schemes of the evil one while we are still babes in Christ.  We need knowledge of God’s word (The Bible), we need to develop an active and vital prayer life and we need to surround ourselves with mature believers who can hold us up and keep us accountable while we grow.

Study of God’s word accompanied by prayer will allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to our hearts and grow us in grace and truth.  God’s word is alive and is able to speak to us right where we are as it teaches us and improves our weak areas. (Hebrews 4:12)  In this way we develop a strong foundation that is able to withstand times of trouble and temptation.

We must also surround ourselves with those who can teach us and guide us in this life of faith.  Believers who have been through what we are going through and can provide Godly wisdom will keep us in good stead as we grow.  We are commanded by God’s word to help each other and support each other (Galatians 6:2) in love and an active, vibrant life of faith is made possible by the support of other believers.

These are the foundation on which we build our defense against bad ideas and temptation to sin.  Still, as we grow in faith and maturity we must also learn where we are weak and what we need to avoid.  There are more distractions than ever for Christians in the world today and nothing will choke our desire for God faster than the cares of this life.  We must guard our hearts and keep our desire for God and His law above all else.  If our main goal is always to love the Lord with all we have then we will not find ourselves often going wrong. (Mark 12:30)

We can have victory because Christ has already won the war.  Our part is simply to continue in faith and make good choices based on God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s instruction to us.  Our defense is sure when we stand on the rock of truth.

A Day of Prayer – Is It Just Today?

prayer, USA, freedomThursday, May 1st is our National Day of Prayer.  Millions of believers across the USA will join their hearts together in prayer, supplication and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father.

Leading up to the National Day of Prayer, the Baptist Association in my county is hosting many “read through the Bible” events in which God’s Word will be read aloud, publicly, from beginning to end.  In 15 minute time slots, we were given the opportunity to sign up and read the Bible as part of this event, which started on Monday morning and will conclude on Thursday morning.  That’s 72 straight hours of Bible reading, out loud and in public!

For my slot on Tuesday morning, I picked up in the 19th Chapter of the book of II Samuel.  While it was a little bit intimidating to stand and read out loud in a public place I consider it a privilege to live in a country where religious expression is still protected by the Constitution.  While many in our great country just want Christians to “shut up and go away” this event provides us an excellent opportunity for us to stand up and be publicly seen and heard.

Throughout this week the USA has been on my mind as a subject of prayer and contemplation.  As children of the Most High God it is our duty and responsibility to pray for our nation and our leaders.  From the greatest to the smallest, we all need God’s presence in our life and a personal relationship with Him.  So many in our land (and in our world) still don’t know the redeeming power of salvation or the hope that God offers all who would come to Him.

This week is an opportunity for us to really seek God’s face and pray for healing, for wisdom, and for a fresh movement of the Spirit of God in our country.  But we don’t need to stop with the National Day of Prayer.  The National Day of Prayer should be the beginning of a fresh call for all believers to earnestly pray for their country, its leaders and its people.

Join with me today and commit to praying for your country.  Even if you don’t live in the USA, your country needs your prayers now more than ever.  Let us commit to going before our Heavenly Father with our prayers, petitions and supplications and watch as the Spirit of God begins to move.

A Prayer For All Of My Tomorrows

prayer, supplication, praise

Lord, I ask that you be in the center of all of my tomorrows.

I am so thankful that you care enough to want to hold me up with your strong right hand as I walk through this life here on earth and also into eternity with you.

I want to know more about you, your great love, your mighty acts and your unseen ways.

Help me to be the person that you have called me to be.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings.  I can’t see around the next corner or even further than the next step.  Everything I do, everything I have and everything I am depends on you.

You are everything.  You created all.  This world and everything in it belongs to you and exists in you and for you.

I am redeemed because of you.

You have set my life on a path to heaven that cannot be changed, no matter how many dark valleys I must walk through.

You have greatly favored me and blessed me beyond my comprehension.

You provide every spiritual blessing for me; may I have the wisdom and the vision to never stop asking to be anointed for the work that you have set before me.

Never let me be satisfied with less than you.  Never let me choose what is good over what is best.  And may I always seek you first in everything that I do.

Show me the areas in my life that need to be brought under your Lordship.  Mold me and form me into your image as I go.

Keep me from evil and from choosing paths that do not bring glory to you.

Give me eyes to see myself as you see me and a heart to love others as you love them.

May I never forget where I come from.  May I never forget how you brought me out of darkness and into the light of your truth and love.  And may I never stop looking forward to all the good that awaits me.

Help me to live a life that is visibly different.

Help me to be humble, wise, firm and courageous in proclaiming the gospel.

I want a heart that longs to give you all while at the same time being generous to my brothers and sisters who are in need.

All of my tomorrows belong to you.  May I always live in such a way that remembers who holds the future and who is the victorious king.

Thank you, Lord, for being with me through all of my tomorrows.

Friday Favorites 12/6/13

prayer journal, prayerFriday favorites is a place where I can talk about and recommend some of my favorite things.  From food to music to technology to great ideas, Friday favorites will feature them all.  If you have feedback on something that’s deserving of a Friday favorite, please don’t hesitate to use the comment section or send me an email at matthew515blog@gmail.com.  I want to hear about your favorites too!

“I will live my life in accordance with God’s Word.  I will strive for His glory”.  The previous sentence is what it says on page 2 of my prayer journal.  What started as just a way for me to record prayer requests and how God answered them has become something more.

I’m not really sure why I was prompted to write such a statement of faith on the 2nd page of my prayer journal except that I just felt lead to do it.  What’s amazing is that every time I read through that page I pray that statement just like the rest of the prayer requests in my journal.  It has become not only a statement of faith, but a supplication to God that He grant me the strength and will to live it.

It is an amazing thing to see God at work and to be a part of it.  My journal has helped me focus on being a faithful prayer warrior and has helped me fulfill one of scriptures commands to believers:

“Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.” (Psalm 111:2 NASB)

Because I take delight in seeing God work, I want to study and remember what He has done in my life and in the lives of those I am praying for.  This is why I now write those things down in my prayer journal and spend time reading and praying through it several times a week.  This practice has greatly enriched my prayer life and it has become a special time between the Lord and I that I always look forward to.

If you want to grow in the Lord and in your communication with Him then I heartily recommend starting a prayer journal.  Grab a blank notebook, it doesn’t have to be anything ornate or expensive.  Begin by writing down just 1 or 2 things that are on your heart right then and there.  Through the days and weeks as you pray over these things God will bring to your mind other things to write down and pray about.  Your journal will grow and along with it your trust and faith in God.

 Today I am thanking God for my prayer journal and for the privilege of calling on Him.  That’s why my prayer journal is today’s Friday Favorite.

The Goal Post

Goals,Dreams,PrayersDespite the title, this post is not going to be about football.  (Although it is rather appropriate considering today is opening day for most college football teams.)  More specifically, this is going to be a post about goals for Matthew515.com with a look back at the previous month.

I want to be completely transparent about Matthew515.com. As the site grows and begins to accept donations and generate income I will, at the end of each month, post those numbers here for all to see.  My hope and prayer is that the site be self sufficient and generate income for my family and to the glory of God’s kingdom as I try to do what He has called me to do.

A word about supporting the site:  Any book or product you see with linked text is an Amazon link.  If you click the link and end up purchasing a product through Amazon this site will get a small percentage of that sale.  Likewise the Amazon banner on the right side of the page; if you click it and then buy anything from Amazon the site gets a small percentage.  It’s a very quick and easy way of supporting the site that doesn’t cost you anything extra.

I have also set a goal for unique visitors each month.  It’s a big goal, and frankly, it’s probably impossible for me alone.  Thankfully, I am not alone.  I have placed my faith and my trust in the Lord and I believe in setting goals that only God can accomplish.  That way, there’s no doubt that He provided and He gets all the credit and all the glory.  I am praying for 10,000 unique visitors per month as a site goal.  Like I said, it’s a very big goal.

August is the first complete month for Matthew515.com after the site was completed on July 23rd.  This being the last day of the month I will post the numbers for August and when we reach the end of September I will post those numbers and so on.  This will give us a very real picture of how the site is growing, how God is working, and hopefully be of interest to you as well.

This has been and will continue to be a journey of faith.  I am excited about what God is going to do and I look forward to each step along the way.  I will work like it’s up to me and pray like it’s up to God and leave the results to Him.  I want to be found faithful and I want to do exactly what God has called me to do.   Please pray for me and my family as we continue this journey.

And now for the numbers:

Unique Visitors: 759 (This is the number we are praying will one day meet or exceed 10,000.  We have a long way to go but this is an excellent start!)

Number of Visits: 1,521 (Avg. of 2.0 visits per person)

Pages viewed: 7,458 (Avg. of 4.9 pages per visit)

Income: $1.57 (Via Google Adsense Ads viewed)

 

Thus ends our first monthly summary and I appreciate you taking the time to read it and to support the site and the ministry.  As always, please leave any comments or suggestions in the spaces below.

Devotional Guides Are Like People

devotionalguidesarelikepeopleDevotional guides are meant to help us as we read and study God’s word.  Devotional guides are written for specific topics, specific books of the bible, specific periods of time and sometimes even about specific Biblical figures.  There’s even a devotional guide for The Daniel Fast book that I just purchased; so far it’s been very informative!

Clearly, there’s a range of devotional guides available and I hope you have one (or more) that you use regularly.

When I make the statement that devotional guides are like people, what I really mean to say is that they come in all shapes and sizes and that their contents are as varied as their covers. At my house is a perfect example of this.   Vicki and I are currently using two very different devotionals on a daily basis that are each excellent in their own way.  And they couldn’t be more different.

Jesus Calling

Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, is tremendously popular.  It is a 365 day devotional that contains a paragraph or two of God talking to you (I say “you” but these are notes Sarah took in her prayer journal as if Jesus was talking to her and that’s how she wrote them down) and then two or three bible verses that pertain to the devotional text.  It’s easy to read.  It’s comforting.  It tends to be short and to the point and is perfect for when you are time crunched but still desire to be spiritually fed.

I have very much enjoyed reading Jesus Calling these past few months and I can see why so many people read and recommend it.  And it’s available in about 12 different sizes and covers and even has a kids version, so there’s likely to be one that fits your lifestyle.

My Utmost for His Highest

Then there is My Utmost for His Highest.  Compiled by Gertrude Hobbs after the death of her husband Oswald Chambers, this is a 365 day selection of his sermons and teachings.  It was first published in 1924 and is considered to be one of the most popular religious books ever written.

My Utmost for His Highest is tough reading.  Not only did Mr. Chambers use larger words and more complex sentences than we are perhaps used to seeing in 2013, he was also a very intelligent man who was not afraid to challenge believers with hard truths.  Mr. Chambers pulls no punches in delivering his sermons and lessons and sometimes what he has to say is difficult to wrap your mind around.  Rather like raw vegetables are the lessons of Mr. Chambers; they may not taste good but they are very good for you.

The really neat thing about both books is that our Lord is in both of them.  “Jesus Calling” contains the same Jesus who said “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  “My Utmost for His Highest” contains the Jesus who told the rich young ruler “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).

The Lord’s Words to Us

Two different statements made by our Lord in two different situations yet both were exactly right for those who heard them.  God always says what we need, when we need it and both of these fine devotional books contain Godly wisdom for those who are searching.  However, do not mistake a devotional guide as a substitute for the Bible!  The Bible has no substitute and is a living word that is designed to speak to you personally, in whatever situation you find yourself.   Make reading the Bible your priority in your devotional time and then, as you feel led, seek out a devotional guide that can enrich and enhance your worship experience.  That’s the only way it should be done.

Are you currently reading and using a devotional guide in your study time?  If so, which one and would you recommend it?  Feel free to comment below.

 

Prayer Closet Warrior Training – Part 2

Prayer Closes Warrior Training 2Yesterday I shared a story from my past that made me take a hard look at how I had been praying.  The Lord led me to the book of Colossians and there I read what Paul wrote to those believers and how he included them in his prayers.  What I read there convicted and humbled me and I realized that I needed to be praying in exactly the same way.  Let’s look at those verses from Colossians Chapter 1.

9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Paul, and those with him, had heard good things about the believers at Colossae; Paul had a fervent love for those men and women.  Paul wanted them to know that he and his fellow believers were praying for them without ceasing and that they were on his mind and heart on a daily basis.  Paul was consistent in his prayers and, like him, we must be also.

Paul tells them that he is interceding on their behalf that they be filled with the knowledge of the will of God and that they not lack for wisdom and spiritual understanding.  In other words, Paul’s greatest desire for his spiritual children was that they know the will of God and that they be able to execute it with wisdom.

The first time I read that it was like a giant light bulb clicked on in my head.  The greatest prayer I can pray for another believer is that they be filled with the knowledge of the will of God and that they have the wisdom and understanding to carry it out!  Those words were powerful to me then and they are still powerful to me now.

10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Verse 10 is incredibly encouraging to me.  What does a man or woman look like who walks worthy of the Lord and is fruitful in good works while increasing in the knowledge of God?  It looks like a man or woman that is blessing everyone they come in contact with and a person that I very much want to be around!

Praying this for someone that you know is putting that person on the fast track to Godliness.  Prayer is powerful and this prayer in particular speaks to a life that is owned by God and lived for God. In my mind I picture a walking, talking, heavenly fruit tree that gives blessed shade and the fruit of good works while lifting their branches skyward in constant praise to the Father.  Oh that we would pray for more people like this!

11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

Paul knows that anyone who is living a life so visibly unto God will come under Satanic attack and that Satan’s greatest weapons are his ability to distract, discourage and accuse.  Paul’s prayer here is for strengthening and for endurance for the trials that will inevitably come, but the news here is still good.  This strengthening comes from God’s glorious power (can you imagine the magnitude of that?  I want to see it!) and includes joy.

We can pray that our brothers and sisters be strengthened and that there might be joy in suffering.  And the amazing thing to me is that this is a prayer that God loves to answer!  God loves to say to His children “This suffering has no power over you, feel my strength and joy and watch as it fills your life”.  I want that to be true for everyone that I know and love, don’t you?

12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Paul begins and ends with thanks.  As always, his focus was on thanking God for His great love and redemption plan.  As we thank God, our focus shifts to Him and away from ourselves and our circumstances.  Thankfulness should be our first and last resort because even if we were to lose everything we had on this earth in an instant, we would still be Children of the Most High God who were bought with a price and redeemed forevermore.

Your salvation is assured.  Your inheritance is being prepared even now.  God wants to lead you home but before we get there we have work to do, and no work for the Kingdom is more important than prayer.

These last 2 days we have focused on prayer for other believers.  Prayer is such a big, important subject that it would be impossible to overstate it and there are other types of prayer yet to be examined.  We will return to the subject of prayer very soon as we continue our Prayer Closet Warrior Training and I hope that God has blessed you as much as He has blessed me through these scripture verses.

If this has challenged you, affirmed you or helped you I would love to hear from you and what God is doing in your life.  Let us always encourage one another!

Prayer Closet Warrior Training – Part 1

prayer closet warrior trainingDo you pray often?  If so, do you pray for other believers?  And when you pray for other believers, how do you pray for them?  Hopefully you are better at it than I used to be.

I used to primarily pray for the safety of my family and friends.  “Lord, keep them safe as they go today” or “Lord, bring them back safely”.  These are good prayers and when prayed genuinely, God hears them.

Sometimes I would also pray for traveling mercies for those who were going on a trip.  This is closely related to the prayer for safety but also includes (I believe) a prayer for ease of passage and a peaceful journey.  This is also a good prayer.

Every once in a while I would see someone hurting, sad or depressed and I would pray that God would comfort them and ease their sorrow.  God comforts His children and we are blessed when we pray for others in this way.  Once again, this is a good prayer.

These three types of prayers made up the great majority of my prayers for others for many years.  I was genuine and prayed from the heart and I believe God heard and answered them.

And then something happened that rocked me to my core and completely changed the way that I prayed for others.

There was a man that I greatly respected.  He held a position of authority in his church and was a pillar in his community.  I had enjoyed his hospitality on occasion, I liked being around him and outwardly he had everything going for him.  When he was arrested for breaking the law by falling to sexual temptation it was like someone had knocked the very breath out of me.

As I began to pray and read God’s word for comfort I came across the book of Colossians.  Right away the Spirit began to speak and to convict me through Paul’s words.

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3 NKJV) is how Paul begins.  Thankfulness is so important in the life of the believer and we are never more open to God’s instruction than when we come into His presence with a thankful heart.  Paul knew this and his letters are filled with thankfulness, just as our lives should be.  Notice at the end how Paul says he is praying always for his friends in Colossae.

9 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

In four little verses Paul shares great wisdom with us.  Paul gives us the recipe for how to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  These four verses are what so convicted me and I realized that I had not been praying as I should.  I don’t think I had ever prayed a prayer like that one in my entire life!

While I had not encouraged this man in his sin I also had not been doing my duty to pray for him as a leader in the community and in the church and more importantly, as a brother in Christ.  I was not lifting my brother up as I should and I share in his failure and his sorrow.

Brothers and sisters, we need each other.  We need to encourage one another, we need to teach and admonish one another and most of all, we need to pray for one another.  We need to take Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae and make it our own.  Can you imagine the net effect this would have on the body of believers if we all committed to praying for each other in this way?

In tomorrow’s post we will go deeper into those three verses in Colossians and examine them closely.  What elements, exactly, make Paul’s prayer so very powerful and so very effective?  And how can we take those same elements and apply them to our prayers today?

For now, I ask that you think about the way that you pray and especially the way that you pray for others believers.  God can use your prayers to meet needs and to perform powerful acts of righteousness here on earth, but only if we are praying for the right things and in the right way.

 

 

The Prayer Journal Experiment

Matthew515 Prayer JournalOn Beyond Evangelical, the author, Frank Viola made a post recently about goal setting and how to include those in your prayer life.

I am very familiar with prayer requests.  They are a regular part of my daily prayers and they are also a regular part of my church experience in both Sunday School and Worship Service.  The idea of the prayer request is that you not only petition God for your request but you also voice your request to other believers and ask that they pray for your request as well.

This is a Biblical practice.  14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:14-16)

Frank Viola’s idea and practice is to take this one step further.  He actually has a journal that he uses to write down his dreams, his goals and his prayer requests and while he is more goal oriented that I am at the present, his idea has a lot of merit.

I now have purchased a small, black journal that I have begun to write down specific prayer requests and also specific praises as God has answered prayers I made before I got the journal.

Right now it is just the first page on which I am working and there are just 6 prayer requests and 2 praises listed.  I am starting small but I am already excited about what God is going to do with this humble beginning.

I know that by being specific in my journal and in my prayer requests that I can watch, over time, how God is answering my prayers and also how He is moving and working in me.  Perhaps some of the things I have written down are not as important as I think they are.   Perhaps I need to be faithful and patient in my current circumstances before God is ready to show me other things.  Perhaps the answers will come shortly or in many years down the road.

The point of this experiment is not the ultimate answer or answers although that is a great benefit.  The point of this experiment is that I be watchful, continuing in prayer and expecting God to show up and be amazing.  And most of all, that I be ready and waiting for His provision.

Do any of you keep prayer journals or a written record of your prayer life?  I would love to hear about it if you would not mind sharing.  Your comments, questions and thoughtful responses are always appreciated.