Tag: Prayer (Page 1 of 2)

Pray: “Lord, increase my faith”

When was the last time you prayed that prayer?

I think there is, for many Christians, sometimes, a sense of aversion to praying like that given the great abuse of the subject of faith in ‘television evangelicalism’. People hear well-polished, self-help gurus posing as evangelical preachers saying things like, “Believe that God has abundance coming your way”, “believe God is going to get you that bigger house and that nicer car”, “believe that you will get that promotion”, and they think, “These ‘faith-guys’ are saying ‘believe this and that’ as a guise for inciting materialistic cravings in their hearers! They don’t preach through the books of Scripture. They don’t focus in on the glories and excellencies of the Savior. Rather, every week it’s the same thing: “God wants you to have more”, “Give Him permission to bless you by believing Him”, “Don’t settle for just enough when you can have an abundance”. Thus, the rampant abuse of the subject of faith has inadvertently lead many to forget how important of a subject it is beyond its quintessential role in salvation.

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Focus in Prayer

I have found that a common experience among Christians, myself included, is fighting to stay focused in times of prayer. Have you been there? Perhaps you were there this morning. You know, the times where it seems like to-do lists of things that need to get done come to your mind and you wonder, “Why am I thinking of those things right now?” Or, as you move from one sentence to another or from one request to another, it feels surprisingly difficult to keep a steady stream of thought.

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A Little Prayer is Better Than No Prayer

Yesterday’s Daily Teaching was entitled, “A Little Bible Reading is Better than No Bible reading.” The premise was simple – the potency of God’s word is not determined by quantity. Jesus, for example, spoke short succinct commands when He raised the dead, stilled the sea, and healed the sick. Those words had life-giving power in them; and so does the text of Scripture. Therefore, even a little Bible-reading on a given day is much better than no Bible reading.

Now, with that being said, let us also be reminded that a little time in prayer is so much better than no time in prayer. The publican’s prayer, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 9:13) was brief but impactful (vs.14). Nehemiah’s prayer, prompted in response to Artaxerxes’ question (Neh. 2:4), must have been incredibly short – reading verses four and five of chapter two show how his prayer must have happened in his head in between hearing the king’s question and giving him an answer. But given the fact that the Spirit saw fit to inspire that narrative detail connotes its importance. Consider the length of Solomon’s four-verse prayer in response to the LORD’s appearance to Him in a dream by night (1 Ki. 3:6-9). From what we read in the text, it surely doesn’t look to have taken him even five minutes to pray that prayer. But nevertheless, what he said “pleased the Lord” (vs.10a).

Too often people are not spending time in prayer because they think, “I ought to be giving God more time than just five minutes on my knees.” Granted. I can understand that sentiment. It’s legitimate. But if that way of thinking sounds familiar to you please be reminded – five minutes is much better than nothing. In five minutes you can pray through the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13). In five minutes you can pray through most psalms. In five minutes you can pray through some of the prayers of the apostle Paul (Eph. 1:17-19; 3:16-19; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-14; 1 Thes. 3:11-13; 2 Thes. 2:16-17; 3:5). In five minutes you can tell God how thankful you are in a one-on-one personal way, make mention of about 25 people (give or take) that come to your mind, confess your sins to your Heavenly Father and ask Him to fill you afresh with His Spirit. In five minutes you can enjoy exhaling and remembering that you’re loved, not because of your prayer performance, but because of God’s grace. In five minutes you can pray for your family, your church, your neighborhood, and your elected officials.

And the list could go on.

The point is – you can do a lot more in five minutes of prayer than you might at first realize; which in itself illustrates the reality: a little time in prayer is better than no time in prayer. 

An Exhortation with a Glorious Implication

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).

Usually the exhortation above is remembered within its immediate context of commands: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vs.16-18). And, when remembered, these verses appropriately function as imperatives that Christians ought to embrace at any given moment. Christians always have reason to rejoice; Christians ought to be in constant communion with the Lord; and, regardless of circumstances, Christians invariably have an ample array of reasons to give thanks. And as true as those realities are, I would like to briefly consider the glorious implication behind the middle exhortation: “pray without ceasing.”

Via the apostle Paul, the God of the universe is commanding His people to interact with Him non-stop!
 
Think about that. Could you imagine telling someone, “Please, don’t stop talking to me. Just keep going. Be unceasing in your conversation and interaction with me.” If you did tell someone that, and they took you up on the offer, at some point you’d reconsider and say, “Actually, relax, I need a little break.” Yet, the God who redeemed His people commands them to be relentless in their commune with Him.
 
I think that one of the best ways to heed the command “pray without ceasing” is to see the heart of God behind it. Rather than simply thinking, “this is what I have to do because it is the right Christian thing to do,” we ought to say, “God loves a wretched sinner like me so much that He not only sent His Son to die for me, but He likes me enough to want me to continuously commune with Him?” That kind of thinking sets God’s gracious disposition towards us right before our eyes. And at that point, the desire to pray will hopefully come as a response to such amazing love and kindness.
 
Therefore, may you be exhorted today to think upon the glorious implication behind the exhortation, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17); and then, in light of such magnificent love, humbly and joyfully respond to the imperative and invitation of your God.

Don’t Go Down Envy’s Path

Some years back, as our church was studying through the Book of 1 Samuel, we saw the beginning of Saul being gripped by the sin of envy and oh what an ugly picture it was! Envy quickly led Saul down a path of incredible evil. In 1 Samuel 18 we only see the beginning of that slippery slope but even there the malignant poison of jealousy led him to take his spear into his hand and hurl it at David (twice!) even while David’s hands were ministering to him on the harp.

It was nonsensical; David had done him no harm. But that didn’t matter to Saul; all that mattered was removing the person who was stealing potential limelight and adoration. Saul became obsessed. He became relentless. His mental acumen was continually leveraged to devise ways of having David murdered.

I wonder if Saul’s behavior ever made him wonder: “How did I get here?”

Envy is not only problematic because it is a sin against the Lord of glory but also because of where the Scripture shows us it leads.

Cain envied Abel and it lead to murder. Joseph’s brothers envied him and that almost led to murder. Saul envied David and that lead to numerous attempts at murder.

In Acts 5:17 we’re told that the chief priest and Sadducees were filled with jealousy towards the apostles and they persecuted them. Acts 13:45 tells that when the Jews saw Paul and Barnabas preaching to the multitudes in Antioch they were filled with envy and subsequently raised a persecution against them.

Even the Son of God was handed over to be crucified because of envy. In Matthew 27:17 and Mark 15:10 we’re told that Pilate knew it was because of envy that the chief priests handed Jesus over to be crucified.

James calls any logic, or so-called wisdom, that leads to envy devilish (Jas 3:14-15). He goes on to say that where you find envy and selfish ambition you have disorder and every evil practice (vs.16).

Envy goes places that cause damage and destruction and death.

And, even if it’s kept secret, Proverbs tells us, “envy is rottenness to the bones” (Prov 14:30b).

Nobody wins with envy.

But here’s the good news…

Jesus was the victim of envy so you and I could be free from it (Gal 1:4; Titus. 2:14).

So when envy pops up in your mind, in whatever form it takes – envying another person’s success, another person’s possessions, another person’s health, or looks, or abilities, or circumstances, or family, or children – remember where it led King Saul, where it led others, and where others led Jesus. And then, having recognized the intruder, remember that among the reasons for which Jesus died was so that envy would not have dominion over you. Recognize it. Flee from it. And rejoice in Spirit-given power to do both of those things (Rom 6:14).

And finally, by way of practical instruction, don’t envy, instead, love. Love does not envy (1 Cor 13:4). Therefore, when you are tempted to envy someone, overcome the temptation to envy by praying for him or her. Pray that they would be drawn near to Christ. Pray that God would do great works in their life. Pray that God would use them, work in them, and bear fruit through them. Replace envy with prayer that is desirous to see God do good to that person and to see God glorified in that person.

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