#022: Does Prayer Have a Purpose?

Pastors tell us we should pray. The Bible tells us we should pray. But if you ask, most believers will admit their prayer life is not what they think it should be.

Prayer

Some will even say, “If God is omniscient (all-knowing) then He already knows my every though and every need, so why do I even need to pray?” Well yes, God does know your heart and your every need, so why do pastors and the Bible tell us we should pray?

To paraphrase Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, there are three reasons for us to pray:

1) We do not pray to let God know what our needs are, but rather, we pray to remind ourselves of the necessity of having recourse to God’s help.

2) We do not pray to make our will known in heaven, but rather, we pray to obtain God’s will on earth.

3) We do not pray to receive from God, but rather, we pray that we might recognize Him as the Great Provider.

Reviewing scripture we find four common types of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. (Sometimes abbreviated with the acronym ACTS.)

1) Adoration. God is worthy of our adoration. Prayer that reflects praise and adoration to God is a good way to begin the process of opening our hearts to Him.

25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

 2) Confession. God knows our sins, but confessing our sins to God cleanses our hearts. We obtain forgiveness for sin through the cleansing blood of our Savior.

13  Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

3) Thanksgiving. God created everything, and all blessings flow from Him, so we should certainly be thankful to Him for His provision in our lives.

20  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20)

4) Supplication. God knows our every need, but making our requests known to Him is the first step to knowing His will in our lives.

6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

So the next time you hear someone wonder why they should pray, tell them what a great privilege it is to have a conversation with our Creator, and teach them how to pray ACTS!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. How is your prayer life? Is it balanced, or does it tend to lean toward one kind of prayer more than the others?

 

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God

 

#021: Having Hope in the Face of Disaster

It seems that every year somewhere in the world some devastating event occurs that takes the lives of hundreds, or even thousands, and often leaves, even more, people homeless.

Jerusalem Ruins, Disaster

This devastation comes in the form of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, disease, and starvation just to name a few. While you may not have faced such devastation yourself, you may know someone who has.

Do you have hope even in the face of disaster? You need to look no further than the book of Lamentations to see an incredible example of hope in God in the face of disaster!

The author (probably Jeremiah) who wrote the poetic book of Lamentations wrote five laments containing 22 verses each (except for the third lament which is 66 verses (3 x 22)). Chapters 1 & 5 are overall summaries, chapters 2 & 4 are more detailed while chapter 3 reveals God’s compassion. Chapters 1-4 are each in the form of an acrostic, with the first word of each verse beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Background: Jerusalem has been sacked by the Babylonian army, the temple has been burned, and the people have been carried away in captivity (587 B.C.). In the book of Lamentations the author describes the siege of Jerusalem, the famine in the city, the flight of the Judean army, the burning of the temple, the palace, and the city, the breaching of the city walls, the exile of the people, the looting of the temple, the execution of the leaders, the captivity of the people, and the lack of expected foreign help. In other words, life is not going well, and prospects for the future are not looking all that promising either! Have you had a time like that in your life?

Lamentations 3:19-24 (ESV)
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

The author confirms that belief in God’s mercy and faithfulness is key to a restored relationship with God. Despite all the disasters, travails, and sufferings of the past he has hope because,

  1. God’s love is steadfast,
  2. God’s love never ceases,
  3. God’s mercies never end, and
  4. God is forever faithful.

Therefore, he will place his hope for the future on God.

Application

What disaster, what suffering, what sin, what error in our life is greater than God’s love for us, His children? The answer is no suffering, no sin, no error, no nothing is greater than His love for us! Our hope for the future is not in man but in our Heavenly Father!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome! Do you accept God’s mercy and faithfulness? Can you appropriate it into your life? Do you sometimes struggle to accept God’s grace?

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God

 

#020: Superficial Spirituality of the Rich Young Ruler

On occasion, what I learn on Sunday, seems to have leaked out of my head by Monday morning. I approach Monday morning at work like any other day, rather than a day that God has given me to reflect His glory to the world. What’s wrong with me?! Sometimes I think I see a little too much of the “rich young ruler” in the mirror and that scares me!

Rich Young Ruler

The Gospel of Mark records Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-31). Of all the people who came to Jesus, this young man was the only one who left worse than when he came. He was rich, young (Mt 19:22) ruler (Luke 18:18) respected by others with manners and morals. He desired spiritual things. He had a number of fine qualities and for these Jesus loved him.

In his Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe notes this young ruler had 4 spiritual shortcomings:

1) He had a superficial view of spiritual things–especially salvation. He thought he could do something to earn or merit eternal life. This belief was common then and this belief still persists today. Many unsaved people think one day God will place their goods deeds on a scale and their bad deeds on the other side, and if the good outweighs the bad they will get into heaven.

2) He had a superficial view of sin, man, and God. Sin is a rebellion against God, it is not just an action, but also an inward attitude that exalts man and defies God.

3) He had a superficial view of Jesus. While he called Jesus Teacher (Good master) we get the impression that he is trying to flatter Jesus because rabbis did not allow anyone to call them good because the word ‘good’ is reserved for God alone. Jesus did not deny that He was God, rather, in this case, He was affirming it since He did not correct the man. We don’t know if the young man got the point Jesus was trying to make.

4) He had a superficial view of the Law of God. He measured obedience to God only through the external measures, not the inward attitudes. From the outside, he was blameless but inwardly he was covetous. And this sin alone would have kept him from heaven. His morality and good manners only served to conceal his covetous heart.

Application

The Christian life is not a single event when you respond to the call “come follow me.” Rather it is a day-by-day decision, with a man it is impossible, but with God it is possible.

Mark 10:17-21 (NASB)
17  As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
18  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
19  ”You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’“
20  And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”
21  Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. How are you doing with your day-to-day spiritual life? Does your filling from the weekend at church carry over to your workweek?

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God

#019: What is different about a Christian Heart?

Christians are called to be a light to the world. That light is to be a reflection of God’s love to His people. It’s something that others will see and want for themselves.

Colossians 3:15

But what about Christians makes us different than everyone else? It’s not like we have a shimmering halo that floats 6 inches above our heads! So what then? According to the Bible, it’s our hearts!

What is different about a Christian heart? A passage in Colossians describes three important attributes of the Christian heart.

 Colossians 3:15-17 (NASB)
15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

The Christian heart is:

1)      Ruled by Christ’s peace,

2)      Indwelt by the Word of Christ, and

3)      Motivated to do all in the name of Christ.

Our hearts are to be ruled by the peace of Christ. To have the peace of Christ we must first accept Him and submit to His will. Setting aside our differences in order to unify and not divide the body.

Our hearts are to be indwelt by the Word of Christ. To have the Word dwell richly in our hearts we must make room in our hearts by removing that which is not of Christ. With wisdom, we are to teach and admonish one another.

Our hearts are be motivated to do all in the name of Christ. To live in a way that reflects Christ in everything we do and do nothing which dishonors Him.

Application

In each case, we have a choice to accept or reject Christ’s direction. In each case, these are commands, imperatives describing how a Christian’s heart is different. In each case, we should be thankful for Christ’s direction and provision:

  • A Christian heart is to be ruled by Christ’s peace, and we are to be thankful for this peace.
  • A Christian heart is to be indwelt by the Word of Christ, and we are to be thankful for the Word.
  • A Christian heart is to be motivated to do all in the name of Christ in a way that brings honor and glory to Him, and we are to be thankful that we can come to the Father through Christ.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. How is the condition of your heart? Which of these three applications is most difficult for you?

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God

# 018: The Benefit of Being Second!

In our results-oriented western culture, we tend to be a competitive bunch—we like to win! A common saying among those in professional sports and business is, “second place is the first loser.” But in God’s plan, we need to, and should want to be, second!

Track finish, Race, Second

On several occasions, Jesus called specific people with the invitation to “follow me.” When teaching the disciples Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Have you ever thought about what it means to “come after” Jesus? Have you thought about what it means “to follow” Jesus?

Simply put to “come after” or “to follow” implies that we are putting God first, and if we are putting God first then where are we? We’re behind him! We’re in second place!

Writing to the Ephesians, Paul says Jesus is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). God has the power to do “exceedingly, abundantly” more than all that we ask or even think!

If you accept God’s power, the safest place for us to be is behind Him, and the most dangerous place for us to be is before Him! When we are behind Christ, when we are following Him, when we allow Him to go before us, He will make provision for us.  When we go before God we are working on our own power, not His!

The benefit of being second behind Christ is we have an all-powerful God going before us who is making provision for us. The safest place to be is being second to Christ—put Him first always in everything!

Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you found yourself putting God second in any areas of your life?

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God