When you read the Gospels, it’s clear that Jesus was a man of prayer. He often went away from the group to pray. I’m sure He prayed a lot with His disciples and in front of them. It was one such occasion a disciple asked Him to teach them to pray like Him. I’m sure they could tell there was a difference in His prayers compared to theirs. There was power and authority in His prayers.
They wanted that and so should we. After the question was asked, I’m sure all the disciples and everyone sat up and started to really pay attention. Now I’m not going to go break down the Lord’s Prayer for you, but I’m going to talk about the importance of not only praying, but praying with a purpose. I think we as Christians miss out on this, and our prayers lack power because of it.
Why don’t we take great care when we are crafting a prayer to the God of Creation? Why do we think it’s ok to just throw something together and hope He hears it and responds to it? I’m not saying that those prayers shouldn’t exist or we shouldn’t pray them, but when it comes to prayers of authority and meaning, we need to think through what we’re saying. The example He gave us was succinct, meaningful, and to the point.
In Matthew 6:9 leading up to the Lord’s Prayer, He said, “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.” He was telling us to let our prayers come from the heart and not a ritual. He wanted our prayers to have purpose and meaning. They shouldn’t be for show, which is why He told us to go to our prayer closet. Prayer should be a connection between you and God.
There are lots of ways to pray and I’m not saying any of them are wrong. God is happy when we speak to Him. But if you’re like the disciple who asked Jesus to teach him to pray knowing that there’s another level, I encourage you to be more deliberate with setting aside time to spend with God. If we set aside alone time for friends, family, and spouses, we should do the same for God. Your prayers can be more powerful and intimate. It’s just going to need to come from your heart and not your repetition.
Joshua 1:8 has always been one of my favorite scriptures. From a child, I’ve heard it said that this verse is God’s secret to success. It says, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (NLT). The secret to success is to know God’s laws, to study them, to meditate on them, and to obey them.
Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” If we will study God’s Word, and put it in our hearts, we are more likely to do what it says and less likely to abandon it. It gives us advice on how to live, what to say, and how to make Godly decisions. The more we study it, the more knowledge and wisdom we will gain. It sheds light on the traps others have fallen into so that we can avoid them.
One of the things we discussed with our guide in Israel was how God wanted all kings to be given a copy of the scriptures and He wanted them to read them daily. He wanted the leaders of Israel to be successful and for their people to prosper. He knew that they would be given all kinds of advice, and that they would need a way to determine if it was good or not. The scriptures do just that. If the advice lines up with God’s Word, follow it.
If God was so concerned about kings reading His Word, you and I should follow that example. There’s not one of us who doesn’t need help in our Christian walk. We all face temptation, but we don’t have to give in to it. When we put God’s Word in our heart, we give ourselves a fighting chance against temptation. Jesus used God’s Word against the devil when He was tempted, and we can do it too. The secret to living a successful Christian life isn’t secluding yourself from the world. It’s having a power in you that’s greater than the world’s attempts to pull you away from God.
In II Chronicles 20, several armies joined together to attack Judah (lower Israel in the divided kingdom). King Jehoshaphat was terrified and not sure what to do when he heard the news. He immediately sent out word to all the towns to send people to Jerusalem to fast and pray. While they were assembled, he prayed aloud for everyone to hear. In verse 12, he prayed something that is key for all of us to pray in such situations. He said, “We do not know what to do, but we look to you for help” (GNT).
Then, the Spirit of the Lord came on a Levite named Jahaziel. He spoke several things to them, but the part I want to focus on comes from verse 15. He said, “The Lord says you must not be discouraged or be afraid… The battle depends on God, not on you.” That should offer relief to you and I. The battles we are facing don’t depend on our ability, but God’s. We don’t have to be afraid of what we are facing because our God is bigger and more powerful.
The Israelites had to show up to the battle in order to win it according to the prophesy. The same is true for us. To calm his men down, King Jehoshaphat told them, “Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will stand your ground. Believe what His prophets tell you, and you will succeed.” Faith is more than just showing up for the battle. It’s trusting what God says despite what you see. If we want success, we have to trust His report more than what our eyes and others tell us.
What happened next is incredible and also a great lesson for us. The king ordered that they praise the Lord for the victory before the battle! When they began to praise, it threw the enemy into a panic, and they defeated themselves. They renamed the valley “Baracah” which means the valley of praise. Praise is one of our most powerful weapons. We need to use it before our battles because God dwells in the praises of His people. God can turn your valley of fear and desperation to a valley of praise if you will look to Him, depend on His ability, show up for the battle, and praise Him.
Positive reinforcement is a great tool to encourage people to continue doing what they’re doing. It rewards them for a job well done. Many companies are like mine where they give bonuses if you meet the goals the company sets for you or if you help the company meet their goals. For me, that last one comes once a year. It’s easy to forget several months in that I will be rewarded next year if I help the company achieve its goals long term. Sometimes it feels like a chore having to do the things I have to do because I forget about the reward at the end.
In II Chronicles 15, King Asa must have been feeling the same. He was the first king in a while to remember God. He got rid of most of the idols and shrines. He even removed his grandmother from the role of queen mother because of her love for idols. He also defeated armies with over three times as many men. God was blessing him, but he was starting to lose sight of the positive reinforcement that God was using to bless him for doing what he was supposed to do.
The spirit of God came on Azariah and he went to the king to deliver a message from God. In verse 7, he said, “But you must be strong and not be discouraged. The work that you do will be rewarded” (GNT). I believe God is saying that to you and I today. He wants to encourage us to continue doing the work He called us to. I know that we can feel like God has forgotten us as we focus on completing and doing the work He’s given us, but He hasn’t forgotten us. We will be rewarded.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” God believes in positive reinforcement. He has given us many promises in His Word to keep doing the work even though it gets tiring and mundane. If we will continue to do what He’s called us to, we will reap a harvest and a reward. Don’t quit doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t give up. God sees what you’re doing even if others don’t. He won’t fail in delivering on His promise to you.
One of the things I talk to sales reps about is the 80/20 rule. I try to teach them to let the customer talk 80% of the time and they should only be talking 20% of the time. If they’re talking 80% and the customer 20%, they won’t have enough information to make a good recommendation. The interaction should be about the customer not them. I think the same rule should apply to prayer.
What if in our prayer time we let God speak 80% of the time and we only spoke 20%? How would our lives change? How would our faith change? We have a greater need to hear what God says then He has of what we have to say. He knows what we are going to say before we even speak. He knows the intent of our hearts. He already knows us inside and out. It’s us who have a need to know Him.
I’m not writing this as someone who has accomplished this consistently with God. I’m writing this as someone who has a greater need to know God more. I use words to fill up my time with God more than listening. When I do listen, He speaks. He’s always speaking to us, but we rarely listen to what He’s saying because we’re too busy talking during the time we give Him each day.
I love how the Message writes the conversation between Jesus and His disciples concerning prayer in Matthew 6. Jesus said in verse 6, “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.” The reason for prayer is to shift the focus from you to God.
Imagine how your life would be different if you shifted the focus from your problems, schedule, bills, hurts, hopes and dreams to God. Mark Batterson once tweeted, “Talking to God about your problems is fine and good, but FAITH is talking to your problems about God.” We fill up our time with God talking about our problems instead of getting to know Him. We tell Him our needs, but never ask what His needs are. We ask for His help, but rarely offer our help.
Most of us would never want to be in a relationship as one sided as that. So why do we think that God wants to? I believe He wants to engage in conversation with each one of us. He wants us to get to know Him on a deeper level than we ever imagined possible. First of all, it takes finding that quiet, secluded place every day. The next step Jesus said was to just be there simply and honestly. He didn’t say to fill the silence with words. Just be there in that moment with God and listen. Open yourself up to what He has to say to you. That’s when you’ll begin to sense His grace and know Him more.
I want to lift up Israel in prayer today. I pray that you would lead and guide its leaders to follow your truths found in the Bible. This country has a long history of following you and leaving your commandments. I’m asking that you bring repentance to this nation followed by revival. I pray not only for the Jews and Israelis who live here, but for the Arabs and other ethnicities and nationalities represented here. Send your revival fire to tall of them.
As psalm 122:6 tells us to, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for all its inhabitants. You know each one by name and love them. I pray that you would protect this city from hate and terrorism. Since the time of David, this city on a set of hills has been a place that has pointed others to you. I’m asking that you would continue to use this city to bring your word to life, but also to bring others to the cross where they will be saved.
May you cause people not to worship the stones and temples erected here, but to use them to find you. It broke my heart to see people worship stones, images, and icons that were designed to point them to you. Open the eyes of all who come here and live here to see you and to out their faith in you. I know that you are alive and well, and that your desire is that none should perish. I know that includes Jews and Gentiles from what I’ve read in your word.
I pray that your love would reign supreme in the hearts and lives of all who live here and in the surrounding territories and countries. I know this is a big request, but I believe it’s in line with your heart. John 3:16 tells us that you loved the whole world and sent your son to die for everyone here. Please hear this request and have your way in this land. As Jesus said, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In Jesus name I pray,Amen
For me, one of the greatest things about taking a trip to Israel is being able to put a picture with a story. For a lot of people, it’s the ability to walk where Jesus walked. There is something about being here that makes the Bible come to life. You get a new appreciation for the stories you have read your whole life. You see the caves of En Gedi that David hid in while running from Saul. The Kidron Valley is deeper than you have imagined. The terrain that Jesus and others had to walk through is formidable. I’d like to share one of my take aways with you.
First, there is a strong, vibrant Christian community of Arabs here. I know most people think all Arabs are Muslims, but that’s not the case. We went to two church services with Arab Christians and felt God’s presence strongly. Not only are there Arab Christians, but there are Arabs who don’t hate Israel or Israelis. These pastors we met reminded us of Romans 1:16 that says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” (NLT).
These men and women are not ashamed of Jesus, and preach His name to Muslims around the Middle East. They know their lives are in danger every time they preach the Good News, but they do it anyway. They know that God loves Arabs and Muslims and He wants them to find the truth. One of the ways they do that is to remind Muslims that the Quran says that not only was Jesus a prophet, but that He’s the Word of God. If He is the Word of God, then they need to see what He teaches and how it’s opposite of what they’re taught.
We have to remember that Jesus didn’t just die for the Jews and the Americans, He did for everyone. John 3:16 says that whosoever “believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” We can’t be picky with whom we share the Good News with. God’s desire is that none would perish. It’s up to us to reach who we can, how we can. As the verse above said, the Good News was for the Jew first and also the Gentile. We can’t be afraid or ashamed of this Good News.
I threw out my back this morning to the point that when I moved, it would tense up and bring excruciating pain. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t make it better. After a few hours, a chiropractor was able to come help me. Where I had pain, he pushed. Where it was tense, he massaged. Little by little he was able to help me move. After a while, he was able to help me stand up so I could walk.
After taking a few steps with help, my back would tense up, and I would need to sit back down. We went through this several times over the period of a half hour. Little by little I was taking more steps, but still had the issue where my back would tense up and force me to sit. Finally, the doctor looked at me and said, “The work has been done. What’s happening now is your fear is impeding your progress. You need to trust the work.”
The fear of this pain is crippling me. It’s causing my muscles to tense and locking up my back. It’s a similar process for many Christians. The work of the cross has been done, but our fear often keep us from progressing in our walk with God. We take baby steps, fear takes over, and we fall. In trusting our minds, we fail to trust the work that Jesus did for us. We have to learn to trust what He says over what our mind says.
We know that II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT). Fear is not from God. We cannot allow it to rule in our minds. If we do, our struggle will be long, hard, and painful. God can give us a mind that trusts Him and the work He’s done. We need to ask Him to let us have the mind of Christ, and then we have to trust in the work that’s been done.
One of the things I learned in Nazareth, was that a carpenter in Jesus day meant more than someone who worked with wood. It was a person who worked with stone also. There wasn’t a different word for the two. It’s interesting to me because it changes how I think about Jesus versus how I thought of Him as just a woodworker. Knowing that Jesus could have been a stone worker as well, brings other verses to life that didn’t quite make as much sense before.
One of the first scriptures I thought of when I heard that was I Peter 2:5. It says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (NLT). You and I are living stones that Jesus, the stone carpenter, shapes, molds, and builds with. No matter how hard our hearts might be, He can use His divine chisel to form us into who He needs us to be.
Another one I thought of was Matthew 16:18 that says, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” I’ve always thought of this verse as just Peter being the Rock, but when we think of what Peter said above, each one of us are the Rock with which Jesus builds His church. We are the ones also who the powers of hell will not conquer. We are stronger than we think and we have the power of God in us causing us to be able to withstand anything the enemy brings.
Go one more step with me. Mark 15:46 says, “Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.” I don’t think it was coincidental that Jesus was buried in a rock. When we become Christians, we accept Jesus into our hearts. He fills the void inside of us just like He did that tomb.
The list could go on and on throughout the Bible. These are just a few examples I’ve thought of while sitting in Nazareth. Jesus was more than a wood carpenter, He was a stone carpenter. He’s a builder who uses what is available. No matter how little or much we think we have to offer, He can use it to build His Church because we carry His spirit inside of us. We are living stones because the One who lives forever, lives in us. We are His workmanship created to do good works, as Paul put it in Ephesians 2:10.
One of the sites we visited around the Sea of Galilee was the church at Tabgha. It’s there to remind us of Jesus feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fish. The church is situated right on the Sea of Galilee near the Mount of Beatitudes. Inside the church is a rock where some believe Jesus broke the bread and the fish. But just below the rock, there is a beautiful mosaic of a basket with four pieces of bread and two fish beside it. This is what was interesting to me.
Our guide told us that the artist put four loaves instead of five because Jesus Himself was the Bread of Life. He would have been the fifth loaf. It’s very interesting to think about. In Mark 6, it’s the disciples who noticed the people were hungry and asked Jesus to send the people away to find something to eat. They didn’t think of Him as bread for the people yet. The people were indeed hungry, but they were hungry for something that satisfies longer than a few hours.
Jesus then did something interesting. He had the disciples seat the people, Then, in Mark 6:41, it says, “Then Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all” (GNT). If you read closely, He gave the bread to His disciples to distribute. To this day, we as His disciples, are asked to take His broken body (the broken bread) and distribute it to the masses.
Another beautiful part of the story is in Verses 42-43. It says, “Everyone ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up twelve baskets full of what was left of the bread and the fish.” This reminds me that Jesus is more than enough. No matter how many times we tell His story, it is just as powerful and fulfilling as the first. Not only is He the Bread of Life, but this bread does not run out no matter how many times, in how many lands, in how many languages it’s distributed. Go into all the world, and preach this good news.