Targeted Prayer for Ourselves and Others

This reminds me of my friend Stephanie.

My friend Stephanie is a woman of prayer. She believes in the power of prayer to effect change in her life and lives of her family and friends. She recently was the chairwoman of our Pastoral Search Team and brought prayer into this process continually. Through prayer we were all more closely engaged in the search for a new pastor and linked to each member of the body of believers at our church. It does not surprise me that her favorite portion of scripture is a prayer from Ephesians 3:14-19. The Apostle Paul here is praying for the believers at Ephesus.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Paul knew these things to be true in his own life and ministry and desired that his fellow believers experience the same. Here is what Paul knew:

*God is accessible and he could come before him in prayer (14)

*Believers are all in the family of God under the name of Jesus (15)

*God provides inner strength through His Holy Spirit (16)

*God has vast resources at His command (16)

*Christ lives in our hearts through our faith in Jesus (17)

*God makes us firm in our faith through His abiding love (17)

*We can individually and collectively grasp a portion of how great God is (18)

*We can know through faith God’s unapparelled love, which is more than knowledge

*As believers, we can be filled to overflowing with God’s love, presence and spirit. (19)

Paul knew each of these truths personally. How many do you know? Do you pray for these for other believers you know and experience? The army slogan “Be all that you can be” could be applied here. God wants us to be all and experience all that He has for us. I challenge you to choose one or two of these and pray them for a believing friend so that they may experience God more fully and grow in their faith.

Thanks Stephanie for pointing us to this wonderfully rich passage that puts a priority on prayer and shows us how we are to pray for others while deepening our own experience of faith.

Linda

Simple Directions Produce Great Results

My friend and fellow servant Wayne has chosen as his favorite verses ones from 1Thessalonians 5:16-18. These verses are placed in a paragraph in which Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to be diligent in practicing their faith. Let’s look at the passage as whole and then Wayne’s verses in particular,

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Paul wanted the Thessalonian church to thrive. He wanted them to be working together in faith, encouraging and uplifting one another. He warned against putting the work of others down by asking them to esteem highly those that are working for the Lord and appreciate their efforts for the kingdom. Paul encouraged them to live in peace, working, helping those that are struggling and to be advocates of patience. He wanted them to not try and seek revenge when wronged but seek to do good. Paul does not want them to stop the flow of power from the Holy Spirit into their lives, but to be open to His leading. He also wants them to not believe everything they hear but to test it against scripture and pray for guidance. I particularly love his advice- ‘hold fast what is good’. Rather than focusing on the negative, hold fast, cling, proclaim in your life that which is good and from God. Lastly, he just says stay away from evil. Don’t even let it be in your heart and mind, keeping clear of it.

In the midst of this instructive paragraph come Wayne’s verses. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  These verses give practical actions that will lead to being able to carry out the instructions in the passage. Rejoice always speaks to the heart attitude that God desires. When working for the Lord, do you have an attitude of rejoicing? Are you doing things at church more as an obligation rather than joyfully for the Lord? You will know the difference because joyful service makes for an uplifted countenance and hope in Christ. We are not be be joyful in our service just when we feel good but always. Rejoicing in the Lord brings joy and encouragement to the saddest of hearts. Verse 17 tells us to pray without ceasing. I take that to mean proceed through your day and pray as you go. When you need to make a decision, speak to someone, tackle a hard or boring task… in all things pray! If we can do this, we will see God in all things and know His presence continually!! Verse 18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. This one is really hard to do at times in our lives. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit and true believe in Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”. As believers we need to cling and proclaim the sovereignty of God over all things in heaven and on earth. We know that God’s will is perfect and that He will see to all the details. What might be hard or devastating can and will be used for our good and His glory. How is your faith in this area? Can you trust God for the hard things in your life and know He will bring good out of them? The last part of verse 18 tells us why we need to do these things- rejoice, pray and give thanks because for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  All of these actions are part of God’s will for our lives. He desires these things for us so that we may glorify Him with our lives. What do you consider your purpose in life? In the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 10:12-13 God lays His purpose for our lives:  “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?  All these things- loving the Lord with our heart, mind and soul and seeking to follow His ways, are for our good and His glory. This is God’s will for our lives. He knows we need to rejoice, pray continually and give thanks in all things to keep ourselves in His will and our attitudes aligned with His purpose.

Thank you Wayne for pointing me to this powerful paragraph filled with encouragement and direction. As I serve with you in the cause of Christ, I see your heart attitude of joy and thanksgiving and your desire for prayer. May we all seek to live with these in mind so as to glorify God and walk in His will.

Linda

Holy Week, Monday, Is Your Heart a House of Prayer?

Bible Commentaries give two specific events that Jesus was involved in on Monday before His crucifixion, in what is now known as Holy Week.  Jesus entered the city humbly and triumphantly on Sunday and then cleansed the temple area of money changers and withered a fig tree.  Both actions seem harsh, but they give a picture of the worldly opposition to God’s kingdom.  From both we get a glimpse of divine justice.  You can read the accounts in Matthew 21 and Mark 11.

Jerusalem at Passover was a bustling city with many thousands of pilgrims arriving to make offerings at the temple.  They needed to purchase animals for sacrifice and change money so they could pay the yearly temple tax.  The exchanges were all being conducted in the outer court of the Gentiles.  Here is Matthew’s account from 21:12-14.

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.  (Message)

Jesus was then, is now, and will be in eternity the Righteous Judge.  He saw the true motives of the people desiring to make money exorbitantly and uprooted and cast them out literally.  He placed a priority on prayer and worship when coming to God’s house.  He got right to the work of His ministry, healing and allowing access to God for everyone.

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As we near the cross, take heart from this short snippet in Jesus’ last week. Know that He came to save and set right relationships and motives towards God.  What attitudes do you need adjusted by Jesus today?  Do you attend church to make ‘connections’ with people for business or do you come to pray and reflect on your walk with Jesus?  Looking at the heart is what Jesus did then, and does now in our lives through the Holy Spirit.  Let Him cleanse your heart today and put you on the right pathway with right motives.  May our hearts be right with God today as suggested in this quote by Charles Wesley “Make My Heart a House of Prayer”.  

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, God is accessible to me through prayer and I can trust in His righteousness. I can claim the truths of Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thank you Jesus for making yourself accessible through prayer, your unsurpassed peace for my heart, and for your redemptive sacrifice.

Linda

Ask Jesus, He has the Answers You Need!

John 5:2-8 recounts the healing of a man Jesus encountered at the Pool of Bethesda. The man was disabled and could not get into the pool fast enough when the healing spirit stirred the waters. He was feeling sorry for himself and voiced his complaint to Jesus when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.”

As I meditated on this story, I asked myself what am I not doing because I expect others to do it for me? Am I not exercising because I don’t have anyone to walk with me? (Boy that really hits home.) Am I not serving because I feel the jobs they need done are not enough or maybe they won’t miss me if I’m not there? Am I not calling or visiting friends because I am too busy? Do I want to let someone else visit or call who has more time? Jesus wants us to identify our needs and ask Him. Go to the source for help and not blame inactivity on circumstances or others. Jesus says when we have needs to ask Him. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” It is our responsibility to ask our heavenly Father when we have needs. I also want to add in James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” When we ask, we need to consider why we are asking, is our motivation godly or pure and unselfish? God won’t just give us what we want, especially if we are asking with the wrong heart attitude.

The man in this story had a need and asked Jesus for help. Jesus answered him directly with his command- take up your bed and walk! What do you need to ask Jesus about? Whether it is motivational, spiritual, or physical, Jesus has the answer and will answer. You may have to wait (hard part) but Jesus promises to answer our prayers. If His answer is ‘NO’, then we need to trust in His plans for the future and cling to Him. Psalm 4:3 “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.” Call upon Him. He has the answers to all our needs.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can ask my heavenly Father to meet my needs with confidence and hope, knowing He will answer.

Linda

Ruins at Bethsaida today.

Night to Day, that is You in Christ!

This has been a few stress filled days as I traveled to Los Angeles to attend and speak at the Celebration of Life for my dearest friend Joan. I am home now looking at our picture on my desk, remembering her smile of encouragement, her faith and her being family to me. She encourages me to write and keep speaking out about our beloved Savior.

In today’s passage, Romans 13:12-14 Paul is speaking to the Roman Christians about their behavior. Since they belong to Christ, much is expected because they no longer walk in darkness and have been given the fortitude by Jesus to meet the new high standards He has set for all of us. “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The Roman Christians had just come out of idolatry and the worship of pagan idols. They were asked to give up those practices that focused on the fleshly nature of man and live morally upright lives based on love for one another in Christ. It was a tall order then, and is today too. There are many ‘idols’ that pull us away from focusing on Jesus and, they seek to occupy our time, talents and monies. Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to put on the armor of light. What is the armor of light? I have been pondering this and I feel it is God’s character that was shown to mankind in Jesus. In verse 14, Paul tells them to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’. Both of these phrases, suggest we need to put on the godly character of Jesus in place of our old nature. His godly character has support, armor and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirt that makes it tough enough to withstand than anything we can ever face.

How do we put on this armor of light? First, we need to be committed to Jesus and firmly believe Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” We need to believe in Jesus and His saving work on the cross on our behalf.

Second, we need to spend time in God’s Word getting to know who He is, what He has done, what He will do and how we are to live lives for Him. Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Secondly,(again) we need to spend time in prayer talking with God- Adoring Him for who He is, Thanking Him for all He does or has done, Confessing what you know and He reveals to you as sin and seeking His help by asking Him to intervene in the circumstances of your life. Psalm 46:10 ““Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Thirdly, we need to seek the fellowship of other believers so as to encourage and strengthen each other in Christ.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can put on Christ’s armor of light to successfully live each day. With His armor of light, you will be as different as night is from day in your new life in Him!

Linda

A True Homegoing

My dear friend Joan recently passed and is now in heaven with her Savior. As I speak at her celebration of life today, I’ve chosen 2 scriptures to highlight in memory of her. She was a friend like no other. Our example in scripture of true friends is Jonathan and David. They had each other’s backs, could see good when evil was present, kept their focus on what was right in spite of dangers and loved each other. 1 Samuel 20:42 “Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. Today as I think about bidding my friend good-bye, I know that we will be reunited forever and for now I am to go in peace filled with the knowledge that she is with Jesus. We are and will be forever friends. She was a true friend to me like David and Jonathan.

The second scripture I chose was James 5:16-17 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.” My friend was a prayer warrior. I could call her anytime and ask her to pray and she would. She upheld me before God and covered me with His comfort and love. She would always hold my confidence and I never had to worry that she would speak to others about me. Like Elijah, she was a woman of prayer and prayed fervently for others. She prayed believing all things were within God’s power. What a true gem.

I know my friend Joan loved Jesus. She sought to follow Him, intercede with Him, study about Him in the Word, speak out about Him and worship Him. Now she is rejoicing in heaven, singing praise to her God. I was mightily blessed to have her in my life.

Thanks you Jesus for the gifts of love and hope she brought into my life. I am truly richer for having known her.

Because Christ died and rose from the dead, I can rejoice in the homegoing of my dear friend.

Linda

Bad Hairdo…not to worry!

I had a wake up call today from this scripture found in Matthew 6:25. It is a familiar passage. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? My best friend passed away just last week. The family has asked me to speak at the celebration of life on Saturday. I was fretting as I had a hair appointment for Friday to get my hair trimmed as it was looking shaggy. We are flying out on Friday- hence no haircut. I was distressed so I made an appointment with a friend’s hairdresser and went this afternoon. I received a haircut, but it is shorter than I envisioned. Then I read this scripture and felt a jolt of heavenly reality. I am worried about something inconsequential. My presence and speaking at the memorial is way more important than if my hair is too short.

I see the wisdom in the verses and those small things that make us anxious are not worry worthy and we need to release them. God does not want me spending my time fretting about my hair. I need to focus on being compassionate and bringing God’s presence with me as I go. It made me wonder how much time I waste each week on needless worry. I don’t think I’m a worrier but guess I am. The lesson and truth contained in this verse is: Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can live a life focused on serving Jesus and not be anxious and fretful about each day.

I pray that I can move forward with this lesson in tow and get on with being Christ’s witness right where I am- regardless of my hairdo.

Linda

Thank-filled Hearts Pray

Several years ago I was blogging through the book of Ephesians during Lent. Ephesians 1:15-16 are precious verses that refer to Paul’s thankful attitude about being able to pray for other believers. Let my words increase your thankfulness for the privilege of prayer.

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Do you have good friends of faith?  Do you share your joys and struggles in your daily walk with Christ and praises for answered prayers?  Paul had that kind of relationship with the Ephesians when he lived among them, and it shows in his heartfelt message as he sought to encourage them in their faith.  Ephesians 1:15-16.  “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,”  Paul had brought them to faith and was like a proud ‘papa’ over the continued growth of these believers.  He was thankful for their lives of faith and  prayed for them all the time.

A couple of months ago I was struggling with some health issues and a dear sister in Christ sent me a handmade card with the sentiment “I’m praying for you”.  Just receiving her note encouraged me in my walk that day and each day after as I glanced at the card.  Saying you’ll pray for someone is the most precious gift you can give them,  so don’t say it if you don’t intend to actually pray.  Paul was sincere and serious about prayer and he prayed constantly for those new believers in all the cities where he ministered.

Teaching, preaching, witnessing and prayer were all essential parts of Paul’s ministry.  Even if we do not feel like we can be teachers or preachers we can all witness to the joy and power of Christ in our lives.  We can all pray for those who we encounter who do not know Jesus, for our friends and family,  and for specific troubles or circumstances we know people are experiencing.   We can pray for our leaders at church, in our city and in our country.  Prayer changes things and gives us opportunity to communicate with Father God about the people in our lives.  Praying for others takes the focus off ourselves and acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all things.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can go directly to God in prayer.  He is accessible because of our faith in Jesus.

Today spend some time in prayer for those around you that are hurting, despairing, in poor health, need comfort, strength or are walking down a wrong pathway.  Thank God that they are in your life and that you can lift them up in the name of Jesus. Give thanks for the privilege and power of prayer.

Linda

Suffering and Patience, why me?

As I have been meditating and studying patience, I have seen that it is a godly trait God desires in my new created character in Him. He will develop it through the power of the Holy Spirit within me as I walk with Him daily. I have also seen the need for more patience in my life and realized that it is tied to trust and time. It does not appear in my character over night, indeed it is a growing process as I learn to trust God more and more with each aspect of my life. The last area of patience we’ve only skirted upon is patience in suffering. Scripture is filled with examples of godly men and women who suffered patiently as they waited for God’s perfect timing and resolution of their situations. As they walked with faith and trust, God was manifested in their lives and they brought glory to God. Isn’t that what each of us desires? We want to be found faithful in our walk with Jesus bringing us good and Him glory.

Think for a minute about these Biblical characters and the faith they showed during great times of persecution or suffering. Noah suffered ridicule from the world around him as he worked 120 years to build the ark. Remember it had not rained before the flood and the concept of flood was unknown. Abraham and Sarah waited for their son of promise, Isaac, for years until they were too old to have a child. Miraculously God renewed their bodies and gave them a child. David, the anointed king of Israel, was pursued by Saul for 14 years as he sought to kill him. It was 14 years before Saul was killed and David was crowned king. Daniel and his friends lived in a pagan culture clinging to their faith as the world around them tried to burn or have them eaten by lions. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, etc. for the sake of the gospel. Peter was imprisoned and God sent an angel to lead him out. John was exiled to the isle of Patmos because of his faith. This is just a short list but the Bible gives us many more examples of faith under fire. Even our Lord Jesus was unjustly beaten and crucified, patiently suffering for our sake.

So how do we deal with times of trial and suffering that require us to endure with patience?

James 2:2-4 tells us it is about attitude and will build our character. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We should think about suffering as an opportunity to experience joy as it will reap great rewards.

Romans 12:12 tells us suffering must be bathed in prayer resulting in hope and extended patience in our lives. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us that hard times of suffering call us to encourage one another, build each other up and extend patience to all. “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Hebrews 6:15 gives us hope as we see Abraham as an example of patient faith. “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”

James 5:7-8 gives us an example of a farmer who is waiting for his crops to grow and mature. We need to be like that – waiting and growing until the Lord returns. “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

Considering these scriptures, how do you see or feel God growing your patience? Are you drawn to pray more? Are you patiently looking into His Word to discover the promises God has for you? Are you reacting with anger and are realizing your attitude needs adjustment so that you can be an encouragement to others as you wait? Patience is a virtue to be cultivated with prayer and looked upon as an opportunity for growth in Christ. I’m still working on this as I seek to grow into a more patient, prayer filled person looking to God and His promises with Hope!

Linda

Patience, right now Lord?

Patience is something God desires us to have within our character but in looking at scripture I’m seeing that God has it and wants us to have it too. There is always a function of time involved that often grates against our nature and causes us grief. It is called for in suffering and growth and is a part of life that opens us up to greater blessings from God. I am going to spend a few blogs meditating on patience as I, myself, see the need to increase this God given attribute in my life. I desire to see its fruit in my life.

First, let’s look at patience as something God desires for our character. Jesus wants us to show Him to others with patience. 1 Timothy 1:16 “ But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” We are to be his example to the world of great patience. If that is so, then I need to ask myself, What do I need to do to show patience towards others? How do I cultivate an attitude or ability to be patient?

Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruits of the Spirit. These are attitudes and attributes that come from allowing the Holy Spirit to work and reign within our lives.  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Do you seek to acknowledge the Spirit of the living God in your life daily? Do you pray with expectation and hope, knowing He can do all things? Do you seek to grow in Christ allowing Him to develop His character within you freely? Sanctification, or the process of becoming more and more like Jesus, is a life long journey. It definitively requires patience from God, or Him being longsuffering, with all of our ups and downs, steps forward and backwards! It also requires patient endurance on our part to seek to keep focused upon God and His ways in our life. In Colossians 3:12 Paul writes, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” This having patience with others is not an option for believers. God loves us and calls us to be His examples showing His character to the world.

Meditate on your own patience today. Are you allowing God to use patience to mold and shape your character? Are you seeing progress? If not, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to be able to show greater patience in your life. James 4:2b tells us “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” Boldly ask God for greater patience so you can endure the trials of your life with greater joy.

I’m asking God to increase my patience and turn it to joy today.

Linda

P.S. Just as I am writing, I was called upon to show patience with someone new. A good reminder that patience is something I need to beware of and let God cultivate within me moment by moment. I want my reactions to life to show His character within me. Patience is truly required!