Tag Archives: prayer

True or False

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.
John 12:10-11, NLT*

You’d think raising someone from the dead would be proof enough of Jesus’ power, even for the priests and Pharisees. The common people could see it clearly enough.

It’s easy for us to say these priests were protecting their own power and didn’t want to acknowledge the truth. That they felt threatened.

That’s likely the case, but these verses make me stop and think.

How often do we deny what’s true because we’re invested in something false? (click to tweet) A belief, a perspective, a plan? Something we’d have to set aside to do life God’s way?

  • I can’t make it to church because Sunday’s my only day to sleep in, to see my friends, it’s the best time to golf…
  • Forget tithing, I can’t give anything at all, because money is tight. Hey, do you want to go out to lunch after the service?
  • It’s okay to sleep with my boyfriend/girlfriend because morals have changed.
  • I’m not bound by the Bible’s words about homosexual behaviour because Jesus would want me to be happy.
  • I don’t need to read the Bible because it’s out of date and confusing.
  • No matter what my friends say, I can trust this particular person. If I have doubts, personally, then I’m not being very loyal.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t complain, but listen to what she/he did!
  • I don’t have to report that money I earned on the side. There’s no paper trail, and the government would only waste the extra tax.
  • And the list could go on for pages…

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. God often teaches us in the small. The point is, we need to be open to see – and to follow – God’s perspective instead of our own. (click to tweet) The best place to start is with reading the Bible and taking time in prayer. Regularly and consistently.

Father God, You see the past, the present and future. You know all things, and You alone are wise. Open our eyes, hearts and wills to what You reveal, and help us to let go of our own cherished perceptions, plans and desires, and to trust You. Because we know You are good and that You love us, we know that Your way is best.

Our song this week is “Thy Word,” sung by Amy Grant.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Our Point of View and God’s

“You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.
John 7:4-5, NLT*

Jesus’ brothers were urging Him to go to Jerusalem, where more people could see His miracles. They clearly believed in His power, but didn’t “believe” in the sense of recognizing Him as the promised Messiah.

Without that crucial piece of understanding, the future they saw for Jesus wasn’t in line with the Father’s actual plan. Jesus, who always listened to the Father and did what He said, knew the path ahead of Him and chose His actions accordingly.

Jesus’ brothers’ advice was aimed at reaching a different goal. So was Peter’s, when he rebuked Jesus for saying He had to die. Jesus’ strongly-worded response included this assessment: “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23b, NLT. In context: Matthew 16:21-23.)

Today, Christians know Jesus is our Saviour, who gave His life and rose again to restore us to relationship with Him. But don’t we still ask or expect things that aren’t in His plan?

In our limited perspective, we ask for what we see as right, not knowing we don’t have the full picture. We ask for what we want, what we think is best. Sometimes that’s selfish and near-sighted, but sometimes it’s clearly the best – at least from our limited, human perspective.

Those are the hard times, when God doesn’t answer as we expect because He sees and knows more. He sees the future, and the ripple effects from the need we’ve been praying about. He sees how to better use this time of struggle.

When we don’t understand, it has to come back to trusting the God who does understand. The better we know His character, the easier it is to trust Him and to surrender to His will and His way.

God our Creator, Saviour and Sustainer, help us to surrender every aspect of our lives into Your capable hands. Give us open eyes and hearts to see more of what You see, and give us the faith to trust You even when we can’t see.

A song I come back to when I’m troubled or confused about the future is the Newsboys‘ “Lord (I Don’t Know).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Feed Your Spirit, by Kimberley J. Payne

Feed Your Spirit, a collection of devotionals on prayer, by Kimberley J. PayneFeed Your Spirit, by Kimberley J. Payne (Kimberley Payne, 2014)

Feed Your Spirit is a short collection of devotionals on prayer. Each opens with a Scripture passage, and closes with a quote on prayer. Each devotional is longer than your standard brief daily reading, and explores an aspect of prayer.

One that I most appreciated was the PATH method of prayer (Praise, Admit, Thanksgiving and Help). Topics also cover prayer walking, gratitude, hearing from God, and the question of “what if God’s answer is no?”

My favourite line reminds me that “Just as His mercies are new each day, His plan for me is new each day.” (Kindle location 296)

This collection of devotionals can be read one-a-day, or in one sitting. It’s free on all ebook platforms. Author Kimberley J. Payne writes about faith, family and fitness. For more about the author or to read her weekly blog posts, visit her website: kimberleypayne.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

More than a Miracle-Worker

“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”
Luke 18:41b-42, NLT*

On the way to Jericho, Jesus responds to a blind beggar’s plea. I love this story, and the man’s cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38, NLT*) can become our own in times of distress. It’s one of the variations of the Jesus Prayer.

Jesus’ approach is different in this brief encounter. (It’s only 9 verses; take time to read it here: Luke 18:35-43, NLT.)

While the crowd tries to shush the man, Jesus stops and commands him to be brought near. He invites (or commands) the beggar to make his petition – a petition Jesus grants with an authoritative response and with none of the touching or further instructions He often gives.

Instead of a dusty road, the actions bring a picture of an elegant throne room. This is a King’s response to a subject’s plea.

At first I wondered why. Jesus is usually more approachable for the common people. Reading the story again, I see a hint of His reasoning.

When the blind man asks about the crowd noise, the people say “Jesus the Nazarene” (or “Jesus of Nazareth”) is passing by. Excitement fills the air. This is the miracle-worker.

The beggar calls Him a different name: “Jesus, Son of David.” From what he’s heard about Jesus, this man’s spirit knows the truth. Jesus isn’t just a travelling healer. Jesus is the promised King. The Messiah.

I think Jesus responds in Kingly fashion here both to meet the man where he is and reinforce his belief, and to give the crowd a chance to realize there’s more to discover.

What difference would it make in our prayer lives if we remembered we’re approaching the King – who welcomes us and who has complete authority to meet our needs?

Jesus, Saviour, Son of David. You are our King, who came in the flesh and defeated death and hell. You save us when we cry out to You, even though we have nothing to offer but ourselves. Thank You for such grace, power and love. Strengthen our faith to believe that You are fully approachable and fully able to meet our deepest needs.

Like 7eventh Time Down sings, sometimes we need to “Just Say Jesus.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Saying Thank You

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!”
Luke 17:15, NLT*

Ten lepers – contagious, shunned and ritually unclean – had called to Jesus from a respectful distance, begging to be healed. Their faith must have been strong, because Jesus didn’t invite them nearer, touch them, or tell them to do anything particular to be healed (like wash in a specific place – see John 9:7).

He simply told them to go and present themselves to the priests. That was the step for after they were healed, so the priests could confirm it and permit them back into the community.

Luke says that “as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (Luke 17:14b, NLT*) Their act of obedient faith allowed them to receive what they’d pleaded for.

Only one came back to say thank you. And he was a Samaritan. Not that a Samaritan shouldn’t have come back, but where were the Jews that Jesus had just healed?

Jesus made a point of showing that those who’d had the most exposure to Him, the most benefit from His teaching, responded with less gratitude than the man from outside Jesus’ main teaching focus. There are a few other examples of this throughout the gospels, and it’s not to put down the Jews. It’s to show Jesus’ wider focus, and to call us who have been blessed with hearing Him to not take Him for granted.

What have you asked Jesus for today? Or what have you seen Him do? Remember to say thank You. (click to tweet this)

God who saves us and restores us to Yourself, if You did nothing else for us we could still never thank You enough for the gift of salvation. But You do so many other things for us as well. Open our eyes to see Your hand in our lives, and give us sensitive spirits to respond with heart-felt gratitude and praise. Thank You for all You do, and for who You are.

Our song for today is Kathryn Scott‘s “How Could I Ever Say Thank You?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Keep Listening

So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.
Luke 8:18, NLT*

Jesus’ warning here is why we need to read the Bible – daily – and to ask God to open our ears and teach us. It’s why we need to spend time with other Christians, not just socializing but also sharing what we’ve seen God do and what we’re learning.

It’s what I’m afraid of for so many people who know God but don’t spend any time with Him. I don’t want to venture into the debate over whether a person can lose his/her salvation. Different denominations have different understandings on that one. But we can definitely lose our closeness with God, lose the ability to hear Him and to please Him. Lose the chance to lay up treasure in Heaven through loving service on earth.

Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be hard. Pick an understandable translation, and begin your reading time with a prayer that God will teach you. He loves to answer that kind of prayer! A physical copy of the Bible isn’t a must. Sites like Biblegateway.com offer various devotions that can come directly to your email.

Prayer isn’t hard either. It’s being quiet with God, listening as well as speaking. It’s spending time with Him – with a willing spirit, ready to adore and obey. It’s relationship time, just like with our loved ones. I have some other posts on prayer here.

We dare not risk losing what we have just because we haven’t taken time or have been too busy for God. Oddly enough, a few minutes with Him at the beginning of the day can make the rest of it fall into place better than expected. After all, He is our Shepherd and does give us strength and wisdom when we ask.

God our loving Father, our strong and caring Shepherd, what a privilege to be in relationship with You. Forgive us for the times we allow ourselves to drift away, and please restore us to intimacy with You. Help us to be intentional in spending time with You, and to listen and obey.

Here’s an unusual song that matches our verse: “Lost the Plot,” by the Newsboys. I like the extra Scripture verses included in the video among the lyrics.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Belief and Trust

“Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.
Luke 5:12b-13, NLT*

Imagine the fervent, desperate hope in the leper’s voice – in his heart.

There was no cure for the disease at the time, and Luke calls it an “advanced case.” He might have been missing fingers, toes… part of his nose.

He believes – he knows – Jesus can heal him.

So he asks. Luke says he begs. There’s no sense of entitlement here. He’s lost all that a long time ago.

Jesus touches him – touches a potentially contagious untouchable. And Jesus heals him. Instantly.

The man is now whole. Clean, as opposed to unclean. Once the priests confirm it, he can go back to his home, his family. He’ll even be happy to go back to work.

Two things stand out to me in this man’s example: his belief and his trust.

He has no doubt that Jesus has the power and authority to heal and cleanse him.

If You are willing” suggests that he knows not everyone who asks gets healed. Even if he doesn’t know that, we do.

Unbelief can cripple our prayers. Remember the father of the demon-possessed boy? “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief”? (Mark 9:24, NLT*) But even believing prayers may be answered with a “no.” Remember how the Apostle Paul’s believing pleas for relief from his “thorn” were denied because it better served God’s Kingdom purposes for the thorn to remain. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

We need to pray “if You are willing, You can…” but we can’t let the “if” become doubt of God’s goodness.

In one sense, of course He’s willing – as in, He doesn’t want to see us hurting, and He loves us. But because He loves us so much, loves the whole planetful of us, sometimes His wisdom chooses to allow an unpleasant situation to continue, for the ultimate good – for us or for others.

“If You’re willing” must never become “If You’re good” or “If You love me” … or even “If I deserve it.” It simply means “You can, so I’m asking, but I don’t know Your full plan.” And we need to trust His heart, however He answers.

Almighty and all-wise God, Your plans and purposes are beyond our understanding, but You have clearly revealed Your heart in Jesus’ life and death. You’ve revealed Your power in His resurrection. If You are willing – if You choose – You can do anything. Forgive us for the times we doubt Your power, and for the times we doubt Your love. Help our unbelief. Teach us to trust You and to live and pray with confidence in Your care.

Trusting the God we know when we don’t know the details or the future… Here’s the Newsboys with “Lord (I Don’t Know)“. I’ve used this one as a prayer before.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Devoted to Prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
Colossians 4:2, NLT*

If we devote ourselves to prayer, it will become an essential part of our daily lives. We’ll find a quiet time to be alone with the Lord to worship, to listen and to speak. We’ll also carry the attitude of prayer with us through the day.

With a mindset of prayer, trouble won’t be something to fight, to complain or fret about. We can lift every struggle to God, as often as needed. Good things won’t be sources of pride or security – or possessiveness. We can thank the Giver and listen for how He might want to use them for His greater good.

Thankfulness in everything doesn’t mean we’re happy about the bad things. It means we’re thankful for a God who invites us to bring Him every need, who has a good plan and the power to complete it, and who loves and never leaves us.

What do you think? Looking at this from a human perspective, I could dismiss it as impossible. Ridiculous. A fantasy.

But on the other hand, wouldn’t you love to be able to live that way? Think of the deep-down sense of peace and security, no matter what life might throw at us.

We can’t just say “yes, God, I’ll live like this, and be suddenly changed – although He may make a dramatic shift that gets us well on the way.

This is a lifetime’s learning, a maturing into life with Jesus. It will take practice, and there’ll be setbacks, but the Holy Spirit within us can change us – if we’ll cooperate.

Father God, You know how many times prayer is not my first response. Or when I give you a problem and then take it back to carry on my own. This isn’t the life of glad, dependent obedience that You want to grow in me. Please help me learn to bring everything to You and to listen to You. Teach me to devote myself to prayer – to communicate with You – and to be alert and thankful. Thank You that You never leave us alone.

Steve Green‘s song, “Jesus, I am Resting, Resting,” captures this idea of prayerful devotion.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Encouragement for the Struggle

For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.
Philippians 1:19, NLT*

Paul trusts Jesus. He’s already been “saved” in the sense of being rescued from the penalty of sin. In context here, Paul is in prison and some of his enemies are trying to make that even harder for him. Likely the “deliverance” he’s thinking of is release from his chains.

If we belong to Jesus, we’re free from the power of sin and death, but there are still “chains” in our lives, binding us in ways that keep us from growing into all God intends us to be.

Attitudes, fears, memories… maybe we struggle with them and get discouraged. This can be our verse of hope. We can ask at least one trusted friend to pray, and we can remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. No matter what we feel.

Holy Spirit, please help us believe that You are at work in us. Help us cooperate with that work, and persevere without giving up. Protect us from discouragement. Thank You for the promise of deliverance. And thank You for Your grace.

Here’s a song that encourages me when the struggle seems endless: “There is Coming a Day,” by Todd Agnew

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Long View

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
Philippians 1:9, NLT*

This prayer is Paul’s deepest longing for these people he loves. They’re enduring hard times, but he asks for this—not for relief from suffering, for health, protection or happiness. In verse 6, he expresses confidence that God will use even these hard times to complete what He has started in them.

He’s praying they’ll hold firm for their lifetimes, or until Christ’s return. Whichever comes first. (Phil.1:10) Either way, Paul is taking the long view. And the highest thing he can ask for these believers whom he loves is that they’ll bring much glory and praise to God. (Phil.1:11)

For ourselves, and for our loved ones, it’s so easy to be distracted by the circumstances. To beg for relief. Rescue.

I’m not suggesting those desires are wrong, but I’m challenged to look at both the immediate need and the bigger picture. To pour out my heart while remembering Jesus’ prayer, “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.” To pray, “Use this.” And in praying for help, to include the emotional and spiritual with the physical. To pray for love, encouragement. Hope. Endurance. Remembering that the ultimate goal is growth for us and glory for Him.

Mighty and loving God, we know that when Your glory is revealed it means people will see Your character and will be drawn to You. Help us be willing to endure hard times if that’s what’s needed for others to see Your goodness in how You sustain us. Help us not to be too quick to rescue others, if You might have a lesson for them in their struggles. Show us how to be Your hands and feet, Your voice of encouragement. Grow us in faith and trust, for the long view.

MercyMe‘s song, “Bring the Rain,” sounds like something Paul would have sung. May the Lord grow this surrendered attitude in our spirits. For His glory, and for our peace.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.