Jesus Teaches on Prayer

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Building a relationship with anyone takes two-way conversation. Most of us meet a friend face to face, although a lot of friendship interaction these days is done texting, at a distance. But it’s still a back and forth exchange of ideas. When Jesus walked the earth, He had this kind of relationship with His disciples. They’d walk down dusty roads, heading here or there, and converse, batting back and forth ideas about this or that.

Nothing has changed. If we want a relationship with Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit, we need to be talking to them and listening for their feedback. That’s called prayer. In Matthew 6, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines some guidelines for a fervent, effective prayer life. In verses 6-8, He instructs, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

The intimacy of our prayer life is described in these verses, don’t you think? Jesus wants us all to Himself, not distracted by others around us but closely involved with Him. He doesn’t want platitudes. He wants us to speak from our hearts for He already knows what is bothering us, or exciting us. He wants us to talk to Him about life, our worries, and our wonderings.

Then He goes on to teach us to recognize His Lordship. When we pray, we are to begin by verifying the fact that God is Holy. His will for our lives should be our first priority. Jesus said, in verses 9-10, “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” We must first recognize who is in control before we begin to present petitions.

Even though, we know that Jesus already knows what we need before we ask, He likes to be asked. So He further instructs us in verse 11: “Give us today the food we need.” By asking, we acknowledge that all good things come from God. He owns it all, and He is our provider.

Forgiveness has always been a large part of Jesus’ teaching. In prayer, we are instructed to seek God’s forgiveness but then we are reminded that we need to forgive others. Jesus’ words regarding forgiveness are recorded in Matthew 6 verse 12, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Verse 14 and 15 expands on this where He said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

God knows what kind of temptations we face daily. When He walked the earth, He was tempted but He did not give in. He wants us to seek His guidance and assistance in this area of our life so we will be victorious as He is victorious. Jesus adds, in this example of prayer from verse 13, that we should pray, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” God is our protector. We can walk victorious in His strength.

Then we listen. We should sit quietly and reflect on His Word, as we wait for His voice to penetrate our understanding. But the words He already spoke and recorded in the Bible are His words directly to us as well. Listening means to adhere to those words. We’ve asked, now we need to reflect on the answers He’s already given and that still small voice that sometimes comes when we sit quietly and know that He is God. Two-Way conversation.

Bask in His love for you today as you reflect on His answers for your life. Walk confident in His love, His provision, and His protection.

For further study: Study the Old Testament Prayer of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:5-12), of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1) and of Paul (Colossians 1:9-12), Jonah 2:1; Matt 6:7-13; Col 4:2; 1 Tim 2:8; 1 Tim 2:1-4

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Catalyst For Change

Now I speak to every mountain of fear, every mountain of discouragement, every mountain of stress, every mountain of depression, every mountain of lack and insufficiency, and I say, “Be removed and cast into the sea in Jesus name.

On a recent trip to Thompson, Manitoba, my husband and I traveled for none hours north of Winnipeg along a beautiful highway, through forests and bypassing a few scattered, small towns. Not once did we see a dip in the road until we were almost at our destination. Manitoba does not have any mountains, nor does it have very many hills … at least as far as we drove.

On other trips, we traveled through the Rocky Mountains on both sides of the border. Wherever we look we see the majestic beauty of God’s Creation in those mountains. The tree covered hills of the eastern states are also filled with beauty but they, too, are hills, not mountains.

Have you ever felt as if you had a mountain in your life, an obstacle so big that you could not see a solution, a way around it. It could be a mountain of debt, or a mountain of pain. Mountains of this sort come in all sizes and what seems to be a hill to one person is a mountain to another. People who are confronting a mountain need prayer.

The Bible, in Mark 11, verses 22-24 says, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus recognized that people who stand alone are vulnerable. They are so overpowered by the mountain in their life that they can’t see beyond it. It’s overwhelming and can be a source of discouragement.

I remember a time when I was facing a mountain. It loomed larger than its surroundings, blocking out anything else in the room. As soon as I prayed, I began to see the problem from God’s perspective and it was no longer unmanageable. Jesus reminds us that prayer tethered to belief can move mountains.

This is what we offer to anyone we pray for or with. We can help them see the mountain, or problem, from God’s perspective. We can point them to the one who has the answers, and the one who has the resources to accomplish all that we need Him to do in our life … if only they believe. Prayer is a catalyst for change and a lifeline to the source of the all-powerful God of Creation. Who has God asked you to pray for today? Will you stop and obey … right where you are?

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Orchestrated Interruptions

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The phone rings. I place the task I am currently involved in on hold and answer, but my mind is focused on the task, not the caller. Has that ever happened to you? I ask the Lord to open a door, or bring someone into my life who needs prayer or a special word from Him, and when they call, all I can think about is the work I still have to do.

I pray for opportunities to meet new people, to share the love of Jesus with, and when I am asked to speak to some seniors two days in a row, all I can think about is how tired I am already. I even look beyond the opportunities to the time when I’ll be able to put my feet up again.

Jesus took His disciples to Gethsemane and as Mark writes in his book, chapter 14, verse 38, Jesus says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” That’s me. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.

I have experienced many times when God has provided all the strength I need to do what He asks and yet I look beyond the opportunity, instead of finding joy in the opportunity. Jesus knows us so well. We need to pray in order to resist the temptation to grumble and complain, to feel inadequate or weak. Prayer fortifies us, helps us focus on Him and what He is doing all around us. Jesus went off by Himself to pray but He wanted His disciples to pray with Him, where they were. But they gave in to the temptation to rest and fell asleep, didn’t they?

When the phone rings, I need to be thankful that God thinks I can be of some help to the person on the other end. I need to be ready with a word of encouragement or sensitive to a prayer need. Whatever I was working on is not nearly as important as the person on the other end of that line. I need to appropriate God’s power to do the things He’s placed in front of me, and not give into the temptation to say “no” to another opportunity to minister to someone.

Live one day at a time. Look after the things God places in your life today. Open your heart to opportunities to pray for someone or to provide a listening ear. It’s hard to encourage anyone when we are filled with what we could or should be doing instead. Fill your day, as you go about your tasks, in communion with the Father, and you will be more open to God orchestrated interruptions.

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Face to Face Enjoyment

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How do you define prayer? In Ecclesiastical terms, prayer is a personal communication or petition addressed to a deity in the form of supplication, adoration, praise, contrition, or thanksgiving. Further, according to the online dictionary, it is defined as any other form of spiritual communion with a deity. It is also defined as our solution to human problems, a form of devotion, or an earnest request, petition, or entreaty.

When I think of prayer, I think of that lifeline, an opportunity to connect with God, to intimately take the time to commune on a level more personal than just spewing forth words that we’ve memorized. Prayer is the time to talk to our friend, to listen to His answers, and to present our requests with thanksgiving for his future response to those petitions.

Jesus illustrated His need to commune with the Father when in Mark 14:32, He and His disciples went to Gethsemane to pray. “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” Prayer for Him was personal, not something he wanted to share with His friends, but something that He wanted them to understand the importance of. He was not shy about letting them know He was praying, but His time was spent just between Him and His Father.

There is a place for corporate prayer but it’s important that we take the time to sit in personal communion with the Father, getting to know Him, and building a relationship. That can only be done away from the busy-ness our life revolves around, a quiet oasis where we can hear His still small voice, where distractions are few.

Jesus thought prayer was important. If we are truly a Follower of His, then we will also incorporate prayer into our morning, or evening routine. This quiet oasis of face to face visitation with God, a time unlike those hurried petitions that we throw up throughout our day. Take the time, make the time. Enjoy the Father. Let Him enjoy you.

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Walk a Mile in His shoes

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I say that you are a good God and I eagerly anticipate your goodness today.

Have you ever thought about the type of person whose example taught you the most? Maybe you were working your first job or studying at University. You watched the people around you because you wanted to learn the right way of doing things. Sometimes that person led you down the wrong path and you made the same mistakes they made. At other times, you were more discerning and you chose whom to follow with more care. They helped you to grow in your field of expertise, instilling within you habits that have taken you toward success.

Jesus was that kind of example for His disciples. Most of what he wanted to teach them, to help them succeed after He left this earth, He modeled. He modeled kindness and love, non-judgment, and forgiveness. He also modeled prayer. Jesus took the time to regularly seek His Father’s council. He was renewed and refreshed by the time He spent in HIs father’s presence and He wanted His disciples to know that prayer was important.

In Mark 6:46, the Bible records one of these times. “After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray.” Jesus had just preached for several hours, teaching crowds of more than five thousand about living the way God wanted them to. He’d fed them all but afterwards; he went off by Himself to spend time with God. His disciples watched and learned.

The question comes to mind that if Jesus felt it was necessary to spend regular time with God, what makes us think we can skip even one day. We get up in the morning, and without a single thought for God, we begin to slog through our day, stumbling over the obstacles that are placed in front of us. Only when we hit a brick wall, and then only after we’ve tried everything by ourselves to scale it, do we turn to God … a complete afterthought.

Jesus, God’s own Son, knew He needed God’s council to get from one side of the water to the other that day. And He prayed long into the night, approaching the disciples in their boat after the fourth watch. Jesus set an example for His disciples and for us.

Make it a regular habit, beginning before you place your feet on the floor in the morning, to ask the Lord to direct your path, to guide your thoughts and help you be sensitive to His leading for the day ahead. Give Him first place in your thought life, asking His direction often. Jesus sets the example we are to follow. Walk in His footsteps and see where they lead.

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Material Deficiency

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And I speak to this day and I call you blessed. And I declare that I serve a mighty God who today will do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that I can ask or think.

Deborah and Jeremy woke up with the same problems they’d gone to bed with. Their mortgage payment was due in a few days and there was no money in their bank account to pay it. Besides that, the pantry was getting pretty bare and they had three children to feed besides themselves. They hugged each other briefly as they prepared for the day ahead.

“I’m going to ask my father for a loan,” Jeremy said as he began his morning routine. “We’ve tried to sell your car and no one even looked at it. We’ve cut back on all the extras like entertainment and eating out, but still there’s not enough money. I don’t know what else we can do.”

Deborah looked at her husband. “Maybe I need to go to work. We could get a sitter for the kids …”

“… and spend all of your salary on a sitter. You know we decided that the kids need you at home.” Jeremy hung his head. He felt like such a failure.

What Jeremy and Deborah had failed to do was seek and rely on God’s provision for them. Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”  God is waiting for us to look to Him, to ask Him to provide for our needs while we acknowledge that all we have is His to begin with.

I remember once, when I prayed for some additional contracts to come into my husband’s business, I asked God for ten and He provided 15 within the week. I was astounded and yet, I shouldn’t have been. God is able, according to this verse, to do immeasurably more than we could ask.

He provides a job for couples to build a life upon. He places people in their lives to teach them about finances and how to be good stewards of what He has provided. His word teaches His children how to honor Him first with their tithes and offerings. But it also teaches that we are to rely on Him, not on our own understanding.

Jeremy and Deborah went everywhere else first. They tried to solve the problem in their life alone without ever seeking God’s help. Praying to the Almighty Creator should be the first thing we do when a crisis comes. Then we can look for His answer. It may very well be that He will use the people in our life to provide that answer but He is still the provider.

Pray first in all circumstances. Prayer should be the Christian’s first response, not the last resort. Seek the Lord of all Creation to provide answers to your dilemmas and then watch Him work all things out for your good. Praying for material needs is not un-biblical. After all God owns it all anyway.

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Peace, Glorious Peace

I speak to the raging waters in my life; peace, be still

As I’ve traveled around the world, via the internet, I’ve discovered that most people value peace in their life. It takes many forms, depending on the person, but peace is essential to people for a happy co-existence. Peace at home, at work, in relationships, and in their spiritual life is a highly sought after commodity. But what is peace and where does it come from?

In the dictionary, peace is defined as the absence of war or other hostilities or an agreement or a treaty to end hostilities. For those who live in war-torn countries with hostile neighbors, this definition makes sense. But for those of us in relatively safe surroundings, this next definition makes more sense. Peace is the freedom from quarrels and disagreement, a harmonious relationship as in roommates living in peace with each other. It can also mean public security and order. We don’t hear about it often but someone can be arrested for disturbing the peace. Peace is an inner contentment, serenity, peace of mind.

The next question, “where does it come from?” is a lot more difficult to answer. People strive to find peace in their lives by working hard to get along with the people they encounter, the people who matter to them most. Sometimes this need for peace can cause a person to be exploited, taken advantage of. People search for peaceful surroundings or use meditation and exercise to find peace and tranquility.

The author of Peace, however, is God Himself. Peace comes through understanding our relationship with Him, following His call on our life, and placing ourselves under the umbrella of His love and caring. The Bible, in Mark, chapter 4, verse 39, talks about Jesus and His command of peace. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

Jesus controls the weather in this instance but there are many other times when peace surrounded Him and those in His presence. He walked the countryside, not bringing war with Him but peace. When he entered Jerusalem the last time, he rode a donkey, a symbol of peace. It was seen as an act of war to ride a horse through those gates in Jerusalem so Jesus rode a donkey. Peace and contentment come with knowing that God the Father is and has looked after everything for our good. Peace is God’s presence in our problems. All we have to do is appropriate it.

When we are praying with someone, pray with a peaceful attitude. Bring your dependence on God to your prayer, helping those you pray for learn how dependence on Him can bring peace to them as well. Speak peacefully, while seeking His best for their lives and the oasis of Jesus Christ will open their hearts to seek Him for peace, tranquility, and love instead of their own devices. May the peace of God flow through you in a way that others will notice and want what you have. Be prepared to tell them where to find it.

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Faithful Refuge

Any adversity, attack, accidents, and tragedies that were headed my way are diverted right now, in Jesus name.

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The television, every year, shows pictures of storms as they lambaste a coastline or tornadoes that wipe out entire towns. People do what they can to protect their belongings and themselves, but eventually they seek refuge in a storm cellar or a basement room. Sometimes they head for higher ground, forced to evacuate their home by the authorities.

The dictionary describes refuge as a shelter or protection, as from the weather or danger; any place, person, action, or thing that offers or appears to offer protection, help, or relief. Have you ever seen yourself as a refuge? I remember at a recent gathering of women, when one lady approached me, whom she’d just met, to pray with her about her daughter. She wanted me to pray with her separately from the group we were with. For some reason, she trusted I would keep her confidence.

People may be drawn to you for the same reason. They see you as a safe place, a safe refuge. If that’s so, then what is your responsibility to that person? To remain trustworthy, faithful to pray with her and her need, but also to point her to the Savior, our ever faithful refuge. The Bible, in Psalm 91, verse 4, speaks of God, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” The Psalmist describes God as a faithful refuge who will place us under his wings to shield and protect.

Have you ever watched geese or ducks with their babies? When they are little, the mother gathers them under her wings to protect from predators or some such danger, or from inclement weather. She shields them with her body to comfort them, to help them feel secure. That’s how the Psalmist sees God in this verse. People may be drawn to you for that very reason but their ultimate refuge is God Himself.

Take the time to think about the last time you prayed for someone. Was God the one they looked to or you? I had the privilege of praying with a young gal who was depressed because the doctors wouldn’t permit her to go home for a long time, they said. I prayed with her, placing her hand in the Father’s with my words, and her depression lifted. The doctors released her a couple of days later, not because of me but because, with her eyes on Jesus, she responded positively to the therapy she was undergoing.

Keep your eyes on the Father, our refuge, when you are asked to pray for someone. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the right words to point that person to Jesus, and allow Him to be faithful to shield and protect as the Psalmist said. God is our faithful refuge and the one who’s hand we need to place ours and the people we pray for.

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Protect and Provide

My angels are carrying out the word of God on my behalf.

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Picture this. You’re riding down the highway, and a contingent of God’s heavenly angels glide along the asphalt with you, acting as a buffer between you and the oncoming traffic. They provide a hedge of protection to make sure that each part of your vehicle works as it should and that you are safe for the journey.

This is part of the prayer that goes into a Biker Blessing. We ask for God’s provision and protection for those with whom we pray. But is it biblical? Do angels really protect and provide for the people … the children of God?

Not too many years ago, my husband and I experienced an angel who appeared out of nowhere in a gas truck, when we ran out of gas on a remote part of a highway in 100 degree temperatures. Then our daughter called out to God in the midst of an accident and her car was propelled away from a head on collision with a utility pole. Cars don’t skid sideways all by themselves.

David, the King of Israel, believed in angels. He wrote in Psalm 103, verse 20, “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.” Then in Psalm 91, verse 11, he writes, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” David believed that angels were created beings who did what God wanted them to do. All through the bible, we read about angels intervening in people’s lives for a variety of reasons. They were messengers who pointed people to God.

When we pray for someone, God hears our prayers. He decides to take away the problem facing a person, or He decides to walk them through the problem. He might also decide to take them home to be with Him as an answer to their prayer. Along the way, He may use His angels to help in a given situation so praying for His angels to protect and provide is not out of line with His word. We don’t pray to the angel but to God.

Be bold. Be confident when you pray for someone. Give them a word picture to take with them, as they ride on down the highway, of angels surrounding their vehicle. Let them know that God understands their circumstances and cares for them, in every aspect of their life. Your prayer can help them focus on a God who loves them. It can get their attention.

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Reciprocated Commitment

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I have a covenant with God, and by the blood of Jesus I release my divine protection and divine provision.

The Online Free Dictionary describes commitment as the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose; the act of binding oneself intellectually or emotionally to a course of action. A person who’s committed is serious-minded, earnest, and sincere. It has the idea of investing in something with the expectation of a worthwhile result.

When a man and a woman stand before the altar in the house of God and commit their life to each other before God, they expect that their commitment will last a lifetime. For those who are not serious about a relationship, commitment is a dirty word, a chain or restraint. They flee the idea as fast as their short legs will carry them.

Jesus was committed … to us. Before He was born, the people of God had several ceremonies to endure during the course of a year to prove their commitment to God who they knew was committed to them already. The covenant or contract that these ceremonies completed was binding. Then Jesus came to their midst.

He made a new covenant or contract with the early church and it was signed in His blood. He expected that people would make a commitment back to Him when they chose to believe in what He did and who He was. But His commitment was made before He saw a return on His investment.

In Hebrews 8:6, the Bible tells us, “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.” It is believed that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews but that Luke translated it. Paul is telling us in this verse that the new covenant with Christ is better than the old one with better promises. No one could know this better than Paul who lived under the old covenant.

When we have the opportunity to pray with people, we open the door to the new covenant, if they are not already committed to it. We share our confidence in the commitment we have with and from Jesus Christ by the words we speak. We demonstrate the access we have with the Savior through prayer and share our confidence in His commitment to us.

Think about the most important commitment you’ve ever made. Did you make it knowing that your commitment was reciprocated or did you make it with expectation? Are you able to say that your expectations have been fulfilled? Christ made a commitment to us long before we reciprocated and yet He went to the cross anyway. May your opportunity to pray for someone reflect your lasting commitment to Jesus Christ today and always.

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