How is your prayer life?

It’s a simple question, but it can be tough to answer. It sounds like, “How has your talking to God been like lately?” or “Sum up your relationship with God at this point in your life.” 

Bible reading, by comparison, is more straightforward and objective. How many pages? How far along in your plan? Which books have you been reading? What have you learned? Prayer doesn’t fit into an Excel sheet quite as easily.

God means for your life, married or unmarried, retired or employed, young or old, to run on the power of prayer. Prayer fuels the engine of your heart and mind. It’s not coffee, or energy drinks or social media buzz; it’s prayer. You need God in and through prayer more than you need anything else. And yet, you probably feel as insecure about your prayer life as you feel about anything. 

Prayer might be the most crucial and most puzzling activity in Christian life. We know we need to pray, but we know we don’t pray enough. And we’re not always sure we’re even doing it right when we do pray. 

The devil hates prayer. Our flesh does not naturally love it. Therefore, it does not come full-born and complete and passionate from the womb of our heart. It takes discipline.

Our understanding of prayer will correspond to our knowledge of God. When God is seen as desiring to bless us, and when we acknowledge that He is sovereignly free to respond to us, prayer will be seen as a dialogue with God. Prayer will lead to greater communion with God and a greater understanding of His will.

Without God, we will not do anything of any real and lasting value, which means we will not do anything without prayer. God will respond when we faithfully pursue this dialogue with Him.


TIP – Listen before you speak – Read something from the Bible (even just a verse) before praying.

 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

When you sit down to pray, let God speak first. Let him have the first word. Put his living and active words into your ears and let them shape and inspire what you say back to him. If you learn something new about him and his ways, tell him.  If the verses raise questions, ask him. Eventually, you can move on to today’s burdens but begin by worshiping him through his word. 

The Path

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23


Do you realize what Jesus is saying – many people are emotional about their faith, are active in ministry, and perform miracles, but the gospel of grace has never transformed their hearts? There are supporters of Jesus who are not fully committed. They are not disciples of Jesus but part-time followers.  

Is there a difference between supporters and disciples? Supporters and disciples appear to do many of the same activities, but their motives are miles apart. Many supporters try to impress God and those around them by being involved in church and service. Disciples do similar activities but do so to know God better and reflect His goodness and greatness to everyone. Supporters serve God if it’s convenient, while disciples serve God based on conviction.


Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14


Jesus compared the way to heaven as a path and suggested that many intentionally widen that path by pushing aside the boundaries recorded in scripture.  Supporters focus on the passages that promise what God will do for them, but disciples take the whole counsel of God seriously. Disciples follow God whether they agree with God’s word or not, whether they understand or not, whether obeying is comfortable or not. Supporters elevate their opinions, feelings, and thoughts above the Word of God, while disciples elevate the Word of God above their beliefs, feelings, and thoughts. Jesus says that because so many have created a wider path, they will miss the gate that leads to eternal life with Him. Many will miss eternity with Him because they think they are playing the game properly. But it is not a game, or a performance. 

Have you ever considered whether you are just a supporter of Christ or a disciple? Do you only trust God when everything is going well? Supporters stick around if God seems to be blessing them, and life is easy, but disciples keep pursuing God and trusting in Him even when their world is falling apart. God asks us to believe in Him, repent, and turn away from our desire to be followers under our own terms. God asks us to acknowledge His grace and forgiveness, repent and turn from those activities we know are offensive to Him, to those around us and even to ourselves. He wants us to turn from being a weekend follower and become a 24/7 disciple. 

Instead of starting your day with a coffee, breakfast, a quick check of the news, or whatever you habitually do, start your day by saying. “You are my God, and I want to be on the path that leads to You. Help me honour and love You this day and every day”. These words may be the start of your journey on the path to being a disciple of Jesus. 

Luke 9:23 “Then, he (Jesus) said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Shameless audacity

So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

Bill Hybels stated, “Prayer is an unnatural activity.  From birth, we have been learning self-reliance rules as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency.  Prayer flies in the face of those deep-seated values.  It is an assault on human autonomy, an indictment of independent living.  To people in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an interruption.”
 
I believe in prayer.  I know what the Bible teaches about prayer.  I know the biblical stories that demonstrate the power of prayer.  But if you were to chart my Christian life, there would be significant gaps where prayer has been missing in action.  At times, prayer felt passive, as if I were not doing anything. My prayers were boring, mechanical, and lacking faith. Like many who have experienced the same struggles, I was not fond of this feeling. I wanted to pray with love not obligation. 
  
The Gospel of Luke has a thought-provoking story about prayer that may change your approach to talking with God. Luke 11 opens with the most general, vague, non-descript statement.  It merely says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.” There must have been something very compelling and different about the way that Jesus prayed because, in the next verse, we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray (we spoke about that prayer last newsletter).  

Then to help us see the importance of continuing prayer, Luke 11: 5-8, Jesus tells the story of a man who has a friend show up for an unannounced visit.  And the man has no food to offer his travelling friend.  So, he goes to his neighbour, and even though it is midnight, he knocks on the door and asks for bread.  The neighbour is irritated and initially refuses to get up and help.  But the man at the door refused to give up and kept knocking and asking for help. Then, the punch line of the story comes in verse 8.  “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet he will surely get up and give you as much as you need because of your shameless audacity.” 
 
God invites us to come to his door and bring our request with shameless audacity. That might sound a little presumptuous and irreverent, and maybe you’re thinking, “I thought we were supposed to approach God humbly.” There is a difference between coming to God boldly and coming to God arrogantly. That is very different from the way we pray, almost sheepishly; “God, if it’s your will and you have time, and it wouldn’t be too much trouble, will you, could you, maybe hear my prayer.” When you are desperate and have a genuine need (like the man in the story), you don’t worry about protocol or policy. You shouldn’t care about image or what people will think.
 
God is not a grumpy neighbour who doesn’t want to be disturbed.  He is a gracious Father who delights in responding to His children. The next time you pray, don’t be afraid to knock on heaven’s door and, with shameless audacity, bring your desires and deepest longings to your Heavenly Father.

Lord, Teach us to Pray

Matthew 6:9-13 shares the teaching on how to pray? It is the given pattern of Jesus to his disciples. This pattern is not from our mouths alone but mostly from our hearts. Our prayers must be in the inner core of our hearts. 

From verses 9-10, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The first word of prayer is heavenly worship which angels are also proclaiming the Glory of our God (Rev. 19). Jesus wants us to be like angels having the heart to give glory into His kingdom. God accepted our worship of praise even though we are imperfect because he understands our inadequate state. In the sight of God, we are righteous because He forgives our sin, and He sanctifies us with His Holy Spirit. 

 “Your will be done” are words of submission to God. Jesus teaches us to pray with a humble heart. We are not asking a small God. He knows what is good for us. He has a much better plan than us. A humble heart is necessary to pray.

“Give us today our daily bread.” God knows everything we need, and He is willing to provide it. Possibly from this phrase, we have two things to consider. “Our daily bread.” It can be our food or our basic needs as cloth, shelter, and house. God has already provided us with these things, and it is ours to work for them. But still, God wants us to say to Him “all of our needs.” “Our daily bread” can also be our Spiritual needs. We need the word of God as our daily bread for our Spiritual maturity. As Christ said, “we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It is true that with the word of God, we can live. His word is powerful to every saint of God.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”. This is another phrase for the cleaning of our hearts. To request of God, our hearts must be in tune and purified. The things that hinder our prayers are in our sin, from our wrong motives. To be effective in prayer, we Christians should trust Him and attach to our prayers “let his will be done.” 

“And lead us not into temptation,” a prayer with supernatural protection from God. God allows temptation to be done for the testing of our faith. We should always pray and ask for his guidance, so He will help us to refute the temptation of evil. Temptation is everywhere, but it has no power to snatch our faith because we are all genuinely controlled by His hands.

“But deliver us from the evil one.” Evil is in every person’s heart because of our corrupted heart, conscience, mind, and all aspect of our personality. But Christ delivered us from sin, and He will lead us from His Christlike Character. The evil one has no space to grow in our life if we are always drawing near to God.

“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” It is for the kingdom of God’s reign forever. Let our lifestyle bring glory to God always.

“Amen.” Amen is a Hebrew word meaning right, true, or correct. It is not the end of our prayer. This word is a word linked to Hope. There’s a hope that God accepts our prayers and listens to us from our prayers. Saying Amen is another way we give glory to God for all the things he has done to us “Amen!”

Rivers of Babylon

In 1978 the Euro disco music group Boney M released a single title,” By The river of Babylon.” It was a very catchy upbeat tune that people bumped and swayed to on the disco floors around the world. The song was based on Psalm 137, which, unlike Boney M’s version, sang of the sadness and misery that the Jewish exiles felt while in captivity in Babylon. It reflects the intense emotions of these exiles who longed to be back in Jerusalem, singing songs of praise to our Lord. 

The final verse in Psalm 137 ends with a disturbing statement, “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

It is a cry against injustice.
It sums up their anger and bitterness at the purge of Jerusalem.

Like these exiles, you and I may feel the same disappointment in our failing society that seems eager to suppress and even eliminate our love of God. We may also desire some form of vengeance on the world around us. But we must remember that God doesn’t sanction killing children, the pursuit of retaliation. He does grant us complete freedom to express our anger. 

Prayer is a safe place to release intense emotions. God doesn’t expect us to “suffer in silence.” In prayer, God can take our hatred and heal it. God can handle our anger, and He wants both you and I to be frank with Him. Psalm 137 is a blunt expression of honest emotions, with nothing held back. Our anger needs to be prayed, not suppressed. 

This psalm accurately expresses the people’s feelings, but there is no divine approval for their reaction. The context helps us understand that this is a prayer in response to oppression, expressing human emotions and not the intent of God. Jesus urges us to pray for those who persecute us. Prayer is a battleground where we wage war with every idea, action, and movement contrary to God’s will. Prayer is rebellion against the evil of the world. And we should be disturbed by sin; our indignation should take us to our knees.


Prayer doesn’t legitimize hate, but it does use it. Hatred isn’t a promising first step toward reconciliation; nevertheless, any first steps in prayer may help us consider better options than what we may have in mind. It is better to pray badly than not pray at all. With spiritual maturity, we begin to see that the foul disease of sin causes people to oppress us. We may start to see our oppressors as pitiful victims of the human condition, marred by an unredeemed sinful nature. We shouldn’t expect godly behaviour from people who reject God. We cannot control the evil around us, but with God’s help, we can keep from responding in kind. When we bring our hurts to God, we can even learn to forgive and thus be healed. 

Will you spend a few moments of quiet time this week and read Psalm 137. Then, ask God to reveal to you that thing in your heart that angers and frustrates you and ask how you can seek reconciliation. 

As we gather by our waters of Babylon, by our place or prayer and reflection, God will dry our tears.

Not a Label

Psalm 139
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

When I have an opportunity to share any of God’s truth, I always like to take people back to the Garden. Back to the place where God created us and revealed that we had been created in His image (“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” Genesis 1:26). We were not created as puppets or mindless robots but individuals with the ability to make decisions. 
 
Created in the image of God does not only mean we may physically resemble Him but that we have His attributes. We were created holy with unselfish love for God and our neighbour. We were able to make the right and correct choices. At our creation, we began living in harmony with God, others, nature and even ourselves.  
 
In the Garden, we did not question our appearance or character. However, when we listened to the serpent, we were tempted to believe there was more to us than God suggested. We then challenged God’s authority, and our image was corrupted, as was our relationship with the world. The first thing that occurred was Adam and Eve labelling each other – they defined themselves as NAKED and associated that with shame. Before eating the fruit, they had no issue with their appearance – they were in harmony with each other and did not judge appearance. They had no self-doubt about their appearances, but once they broke the image, they forgot who they were and started to see themselves as different from what God intended.
 
Labelling assigns terms to people that limit others from seeing them as God created them.  When we attached a label to a culture or an individual, we miss out on knowing them. Satan is the master of labels, both those that others apply to us and those we give to ourselves. He’d love for us to only see each other as labels such as tall, short, chubby, bad drivers and so on. He revels in our superficial labels because it distracts us from who we are, images of our Father in heaven. 

When we erred in the Garden, God did not clap His hands and wipe us off the face of the earth.  He set in place His plan to reconcile us to Him and to fix that broken image. Jesus is that path to reconciliation in that we can go to Him, acknowledge our failures and sins, repent, and seek forgiveness and be on that path to eternity with Him again

Only accept the image God gave you – His image. 

ATTITUDE OF PRAYER

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:5-8

Prayer is something that we are all familiar with, but are we familiar enough with prayer or is it possible that we have become too familiar with prayer. I believe there are instances in our lives where both are true. Many times, prayer has become so friendly that we aren’t earnest enough in it, and then there are times when we feel so inadequate. Whatever the circumstance, I am confident that we all could improve regarding our prayer life. 

As you study the life of Christ, it is quickly evident that He was committed to prayer. He enjoyed an unhindered fellowship with the Father and was in continual communication with Him through prayer. In our text, Jesus addresses various attitudes of prayer, two of which are unacceptable, and one will be heard and answered. 

Jesus had witnessed those who loved to offer prayers in public places. They wanted to ensure that others would see them as they prayed and heard the words they offered. They were not interested in getting in touch with the Lord or even having their prayers answered; they desired the recognition of men. There was no depth or substance to their prayers. They were only offered for show and recognition.

This is not a condemnation of public prayer. Jesus is not teaching that we should never pray audibly in the presence of others. Public prayer can be an effective witness for the Lord. When offered from a pure heart, we can display our faith before others as we pray. The difference lies within the motive. If we are offering a public prayer in sincerity, God will hear that prayer. If it is offered to receive the recognition and praise of others, it is nothing more than words uttered from our lips. There is something within the nature of man that desires praise. If we aren’t careful, we will seek to pray in a way that pleases others rather than making our requests known to God. 

We all know that we can pray anywhere and at any time. We are to be in a continual state of prayer. That is the beautiful thing about prayer; it isn’t reserved for special times and occasions. However, there is a great truth that we need to consider. Jesus encouraged that we have a specific place in which to pray, a prayer closet. That speaks of a storage room, but it also can refer to an inner chamber or a secret room. The point is we need a place where we are comfortable and able to pray. It may be in a particular room, the basement, or out in the garage. It doesn’t matter where it is if we have a place to pray and seek the Lord. We all need that quiet place of prayer and meditation.

God’s people need to understand and exercise the privilege of prayer. We need to come boldly before the throne of grace and make our petitions known. This is not done so that others might think we are holy, but to intercede for the needs of our day! We need to maintain a positive witness among the world, but there are far greater needs than what others think of us. We need to get in touch with God and plead for the souls of humanity and the perils that plague our modern society.

If you are facing needs or difficulties in life, bring them unto the Lord. He already knows, and He is waiting to hear from you. If you have never accepted Christ as your Saviour, He stands ready to save you today. Whatever the need is, bring it to the Lord.

Tell Your Story!

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

We love to talk about the weather or sports or our kids or about politics. But when it comes to talking about our faith, many of us cower like chickens running away from the Colonel. If we know Jesus, we have GOOD NEWS! It’s like a life ring thrown to the person drowning or a fire alarm to rouse the sleeping from a burning building! 

Some people seem to think that a life-witness is good enough; that is, quietly living your life of devotion to Christ before others. It is NOT enough. People need to hear what Jesus means to us, so we need to share our personal testimony. 


Here are a few tips on how to share: 

Practice – Work out what you will say so that you aren’t ever caught off guard. Have a long and short version for different situations.

Pray – Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and to work in the person with whom you are sharing.

Personal – Give enough details to help them understand where and why.

Be yourself – Don’t try to be more “spiritual” than you are. Just tell your story.

Understandable – Don’t use “churchy” words. Say “Bible” instead of “the Word.”

Witness – A witness is someone who tells what they saw, heard, or experienced. You are simply telling your story of how you met Jesus. Relive your experience through words.

Transformed Life – Talk about your life before Christ, how you came to Christ, and the change in your life since being saved.

Evangelize – Take it from telling your story to asking if something like that has ever happened to them. Explain how they can be saved.

God wants us to tell His story through our experiences. If we ask him, he will prepare someone to hear our story. He is not going to set us up to fail but will be with us. The Good news is not meant to be kept secret, and many around us need to be thrown that life-saving truth found in the Good news. 

Youtube has several versions of the song: “I love to tell the story.” Take a few minutes today and play one such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPtzKT-JLw0 and then pray that God helps you tell His story. 


DO IT NOW!

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17, NIV)

Humanly speaking, procrastination is understandable and likely. However, procrastination is not part of God’s best plan for our lives. We don’t often view procrastination as sin, but it is. Sin is not merely doing wrong. It is failing to do what you know you should do when you know you should do it. Knowledge equals responsibility. Procrastination and disobedience are just opposite sides of the same coin.

Procrastination helps us avoid doing the things we don’t want to do, the tasks that require personal discipline and a commitment to godly goals. Wasting time often creates a restless feeling that produces a sense of failure. When the deadline we were supposed to meet has come and gone, or the dreaded task we keep putting off spirals out of control,guilt sets in. We try to rationalize it away when the simple truth is that we have sinned.

Do you realize that it takes as much energy to avoid a task as it does to do it? Procrastination drains energy while action produces power. God empowers us to do what He calls us to do. Truth is for now. God is not impressed with good intentions. Obedience today is the most significant preparation for tomorrow. So do what you know to do today!

Procrastination is about loving self and pleasing self above others. In Romans 12:10, Paul says we should love each other profoundly and honour others more than we love and honour ourselves. The moments God gives us, matter now and eternally. We are responsible for how we spend them. Each moment in time represents an eternal opportunity. Evaluate your life in light of these truths. How well do you invest your time? What one change can you make this week to overcome procrastination? Ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable to make that change.

Come out of The Closet

“But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven” Matthew 10:33.

We are in a time when nearly every day, the headlines talk about someone coming out of the closet regarding their sexual identity or some skeleton they had hidden. Things that were hidden for years are open for all to see and hear and many see this as a good thing.  

Unfortunately, too many Christians keep their Christianity in a small closet. They follow the old admonishment not to discuss religion or politics. The two things that shape a person’s life are not to be discussed. Jesus did not call us to be closet disciples. Indeed, He gives some stern warnings about denying Him. Jesus wants to be in our home, but He also told us to go into all the world with Him. Our faith was made to be made public because we are called to evangelize the world, and we cannot do that silently.

Admittedly, there have been times from the 1st century until now when it was not very advantageous to be publicly known as Christians. Indeed, Joseph of Arimathea was a closet believer until he came forward to claim the body of Christ. Peter denied he knew Jesus when things got sticky. The Disciples did hide until Pentecost. During the Inquisitions, it was not suitable to be known as a Christian that was not a Roman Catholic. In Nazi Germany, it was good to be a quiet Christian and certainly one that did not hide Jews. Being a Christian in communist countries from Stalin on was very treacherous. Christians in areas dominated by non-Christian faith groups live in a day-to-day brink of death mode. In Canada, it is certainly not popular to be an actual or biblical Christian that lives the faith. Nicole, warning people about Hell and Jesus being the only way to salvation will not get you invited to many places. Christ did not call us to a comfortable Christianity. In all those not so convenient times, God has called His people to stand up for Him and be ambassadors and witnesses. He saved them to share until He returns or calls them home. 

Joseph of Arimathea did come out in public. When filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter did repent and stood before thousands of people boldly preaching the Gospel. We are also called to fight the good fight, and you cannot do that by staying at home or denying the faith when it looks like it will not go well.

Christians, “let’s come out of the closet and share the good news”.