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Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Proverbs 2:3

“She’s leaving for home tomorrow. I don’t want her to go. I love her, but she says we’ll never work out. What can I do?”

Slide1That phone call happened over ten years ago but I still hear the panic in his voice. My friend Bill (not his real name) was several years younger than I was. He was just starting out in life and had finally met the girl of his dreams, although she may have referred to it as a nightmare, not a dream.

Bill had a heart of gold but his youthfulness often got him in trouble because he would often act first, think later (and rarely listen). The woman of his dreams had moved to the Midwest for the summer to stay with a friend and see if things could work with Bill. Obviously, things weren’t going well.

As Bill and I talked on the phone I gleaned a few more details about the situation. His girlfriend told him that the summer had been one of frustration and futility. She was going home because it was obvious things would never work out between them and she didn’t want to waste her time trying to get Bill to listen to her.

I’m no ‘Abigail Van Buren’ but I told Bill that if he really loved her he needed to sit her down, ask her to tell him what needed to happen to make things work, and keep his mouth SHUT. This was not an easy skill for Bill. He would often revert to making excuses, or defending himself or pointing out other people’s weaknesses. Silence and listening weren’t a skill he excelled at.

My advice must have worked. Ten years and three kids later Bill and his bride are happily married. I’d like to take credit, but my advice really wasn’t magic. Each of us need to learn the skill of listening in our relationships with each other and especially with God.

Proverbs 2:3 tells us to “Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.” If you are like me, my prayers are often a list of requests for myself or others. I pray for things and events, but not insight and understanding.

It’s interesting that Solomon would pen this proverb. He chose insight and understanding over power or wealth because he knew that with insight and understanding the rest would probably naturally fall into place.

Bill learned a valuable lesson each of us need to learn. We serve a God that is all-wise and all-knowing and his desire is to share with us what he knows so we can make wise choices in life. We will learn far more about God by listening to him than talking to him. Using his word as a foundation be deliberate and passionate about coming to him. Hebrews says we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, not timidity. (Hebrews 4:16)

PRAYER: Father God, life at times confuses me. Other times it scares me. Help me learn how to listen to you so that I can gain the wisdom I need to approach the issues I’m facing in life. Thank you for your passionate desire to help me through. Amen.

 

 

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And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NLT)

do by selfMy daughter showed her independence at a very young age. When it came time to put her coat on she would refuse help by stating in a very emphatic way “Do Byself” which translated as “I’ll do it by myself!” She had far more confidence in herself than we had. We learned early on to give her a couple minutes to get ready because it took her longer without our help.

As parents the idea of independence can be bittersweet for some of us. On the one hand, we all obviously want our children to grow up to think for themselves and be independent. But on the other hand, in reality, during those times of solitude we have to admit it’s hard to see them get to the point when ‘we are no longer needed’. For example when we see our ‘little girls’ or ‘little boys’ drive away in the car for the first time alone.

Independence is a good thing in many areas and our society applauds it. But there are some times when independence isn’t profitable. In the mid-60’s Simon and Garfunkel made a song popular that celebrated independence. “I am a Rock” proclaimed the gospel of not needing anyone for anything. An Island is completely self-sufficient. A Rock can’t be hurt by feelings of inadequacy and can weather even the most violent storms.

While the words made for a good song, independence in the spiritual realm isn’t profitable or even wise. The Apostle Paul and his troop of missionaries/ministers was going through a terrible ordeal. They were under constant attack to the point where they feared for their lives. In spite of the danger, they survived and Paul gave credit for their survival to the power of prayer and not just the prayers of his men, but the prayers of others that knew of him and lifted him up to the Father.

Somehow in the Christian life we’ve bought into the idea that to ask for help is a sign of weakness. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been burned by ‘well-meaning friends’ who take our private requests and make them public or use them as a soapbox to try to fix us. (If you aren’t sure what I mean, read the story of Job and his ‘helpful friends’.)

Once our trust in others has been damaged by others it’s admittedly hard to ask for help. Especially in the matter of prayer when our requests are sensitive. There is perhaps no one in the Bible with a more fiery personality than the Apostle Paul. He was a man’s man. He was a leader. He was about as independent as they came. However, when it came to spiritual matters, I doubt very much that Paul had a ‘Do Byself’ attitude.

Paul knew the importance of surrounding himself with trusted people who would lift him to the throne of grace for strength, wisdom and protection. Each of his prayer partners had a part in his ministry as he states in today’s verse. It’s as if Paul is saying, “many people will be thankful because you prayed for us.”

Have a struggle coming up that you don’t know how to handle? Not sure what the future holds or which direction you need to turn? Surround yourself with people you can trust to pray for you objectively and without judgment.

PRAYER: Dear God. I don’t always ask for help very well. I have far too much confidence in my own abilities. I hesitate to ask others to pray because I don’t want to look weak. Provide me with people I can trust to strengthen me through prayer. Give me the courage to ask for help when I need it. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


I would be disobeying the Lord if I stopped praying for you! I will always teach you how to live right. 1 Samuel 12:23

When those around us fail, the natural inclination of our human nature is to write them off as losers. It would be nice if we could say it’s different in the church, but the reality it’s not. Sometimes we ‘graciously’ offer a grace period in which we test the guilty party to see if they are sincere, but if we are honest, we look more for opportunities to condemn than notice the small steps towards restoration.

The Israelites were notorious for having the attitude of a spoiled two-year-old. Time and again they would rebel against God’s commands, repent and enjoy God’s forgiveness and restoration, only to slip back into their old habits of self-serving, idolatrous living.

After being rescued from Egyptian slavery, miraculously provided for during their trek through the wilderness, protected from enemies more powerful than they were and established in the Promised Land, the Israelites looked around at the surrounding nations and begged Samuel for a king because ‘everyone else gets a king, why can’t we?’

In spite of constant warnings of the dangers of having a human king, God finally relented and allowed them to have a king but not without stern warning. Then the Israelites realized their sin, they repented (again) and asked for prayer (could be spelled protection?).

Samuel’s response challenges our ‘normal, human way of thinking’. He promises to continue to pray for the people out of obedience to God. There almost seems to be a bit of ‘horror’ in his words. NOT praying for the people, in Samuel’s view, would be an act of disobedience to God. But he adds another twist. Samuel didn’t just promise to pray for the rebellious Israelites, he promised to teach them in the way they should go. His actions backed up his prayers. He not only interceded for them, he promised to give them the tools to keep from falling again.

Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he gave the disciples a challenge for the future. He told them to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ Discipleship is building relationship. Discipleship isn’t pointing out the failures of those in our circles; it’s giving them the tools to deal this life attack. We don’t need to be told we are bad, we know that. We need to be shown how to be better.

When the Israelites realized their failure they went to God’s man and received not only prayer for protection but a promise to teach them the ways of Jehovah God. Discipleship takes time and personal interaction. Discipleship isn’t a program but a lifestyle.

When someone you know falls, Paul says to ‘gently restore’ them (Galatians 6:1). Prayer and teaching (time) are two the best ways to restore the broken soul.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you changed everyone you touched by prayer and teaching with patience. Help us to do the same to those in need around us. In your name I pray, Amen.


But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. Luke 1:13

Old Zechariah and his wife had been praying for years. They were a godly couple, most likely seen often in the temple. Zechariah was a priest and, as a result, had to be performing his duties at the Temple on a regular basis. I have a feeling Elizabeth was the kind of wife who showed up on those days to pray, worship, interact with friends and travelers and support her husband.

Both Zechariah and Elizabeth most likely prayed for many things and many people over the years. But two prayers were on both of their hearts. One was for Messiah. The long awaited one. The one who would come to rescue them from bondage. It had been hundreds of years since ‘the promise’ repeated often by God’s prophets of old. Then, silence. Four hundred years of silence! All of Israel longed for the deliverance of Messiah.

From eternal standards, the second prayer on this couples heart was the prayer for a child. Try as they might, this couple just couldn’t seem to get pregnant. Elizabeth was forced to watch her sisters and other family members give birth. I’m guessing ‘Aunt Elizabeth’ was the kind who gave everyone birthday cards and always had a present for every child under the Christmas tree. (Yep, I know. No Christmas trees but go with me on this.)

Now of course, that prayer was probably buried in the back of their minds, perhaps even forgotten. They were far too old to have children. Oh, sure, Father Abraham and Sara gave birth to a child in their old age. But God doesn’t work that way in just common folk. So Elizabeth was no doubt resigned to being ‘Auntie Liz’ the one with no children. Resigned to the questions, the stares and the stories. Zechariah? Just another obscure priest in the annals of history.

Then the Angel showed up.

You know the story. The Angel promised Zechariah a son, a son he would name John. John. God’s Grace Among Us. Zechariah didn’t believe it and was struck dumb for Elizabeth’s entire pregnancy. Who could really blame him? Who could really expect that God could use someone that old after all these years.

But he did.

Most Bible scholars agree that the prayer Zechariah was praying for was for Messiah because he’d long given up on the idea of the sound of little footsteps across the dirt floor. God had other ideas. God answered both prayers on his heart that day. Long after Zechariah forgot his prayer for a child, God still remembered and answered in his time.

That’s the beauty of God’s love. That’s the power of prayer. Nothing in your past will take away from how God can use you in the future.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess to you that I doubt you in my prayer life. I look at my weak attempts to live for you. I remember all my failings. In my mind I’m convinced that my past will bind your hands. Forgive me for my doubt. Empower me to live in the power of your promises and your prayer. In Jesus name, Amen.


Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. Genesis 25:21

You see it in the movies all the time, especially love stories. The beautiful maiden is abused by her attacker. She struggles alone until all hope is lost. Finally, just as all hope is gone and she is about to be defeated by the enemy, in rushes the hero, the mighty warrior. With mighty valor and superior strength he defeats the enemy and rescues his lovely maiden. Of course, the live happily ever after, after all, isn’t that how all fairy tales end?

John Eldredge states, “Every woman is waiting for a knight on a white charger to come and rescue her.” Normally our vision of that white knight is a mighty warrior with weapons far superior to the adversary. What we don’t often think of is that weapon to be prayer.

For nearly 20 years Isaac and Rebekah prayed for a child. In our culture we don’t grasp the significance of that story. Children were as good as gold to a couple. For the husband/father, children were his posterity. Sorry for the chauvinism here but sons were more valuable than daughters because they carried on the family name.

For the wife/mother, children were a testament of her love for her husband and a sign to the community that she was fertile. Fertility was a sign of wholeness. A woman who could not bear children was considered flawed, and perhaps even under the curse of God for some sin committed by her or her parents.

Infertile women were worthless women. Even God likened Israel’s faithlessness to being as repulsive as an infertile woman. Some Jewish components of the Law allowed divorce if a woman was barren for more than ten years. Infertility was always the woman’s problem and never the man’s.

That’s what makes this love story so powerful. Isaac pled for his wife. The Hebrew words here are strong, powerful, risky. This was no casual request to make his wife pregnant. This was a fervent request to rescue his lover from the clutches of the evil enemy of ridicule, self-doubt and emotional distress.

Isaac was a man that understood the turmoil his wife was having. He stood by her physically, but more importantly, spiritually. Our women need men who they can count on to provide physical support to be sure. But more importantly we as men of God need to be willing to plead and beg for our lover’s emotional and spiritual stability as well. We need to take time to listen, to understand, to seek Godly wisdom and most of all, to pray! We need to be Isaacs for our wives. We need to be the mighty prayer warriors that pray for our wives and not about our wives. We need to be the ones to stand by them and help defeat their enemies.

PRAYER: Lord God I pray for my fellow men. May we be men that pray for our wives and not about our wives. Let us do battle on our knees on their behalf. Amen.

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