I’m doing a 40 day prayer challenge with a friend. We both made visual lists of the things we want to pray over daily. As we were discussing them, he mentioned that he wants to pray God’s will into his life. I thought it was a great idea, and I added a blank page to my visual. I pray over the things that are near and dear to my heart, but then I pray, “God, these are the things I desire for my life. What do you desire to do in me? What do you want to write into my life? I give you permission to do what you want.”
I’ll be honest, that’s a dangerous prayer, but I believe it’s a necessary one. We all have our own ideas about what’s important to us, and we have things we pray over. At the same time, there are things God is trying to do, and we need to submit to His will. I feel that many times the things we pray for are more our will than His. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus taught us how to pray in these instances. In Matthew 26:39 Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want”(GNT).
We can ask God for the things we want, but I believe it’s import to turn around and give God permission to do what He wants. It’s not so much about giving Him permission as it is that we are submitting to His will. God answers the prayers we pray that are in accordance with His will. He also has great plans for your life, but we have to learn to submit to them instead of insisting we get help accomplishing our own. Prayer shouldn’t be just about what we want. It needs to be about what God wants too.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
What’s one characteristic that you have that makes you successful? Have you ever thought about that? Each of us have natural giftings and characteristics that God gave us that help us to be successful. I like to ask that question because I get a lot of different answers. My answer is usually determination or consistency. Consistency is what dug the Grand Canyon and determination can keep you focused to accomplish anything. I try to be consistent in every area of my life. What you see is what you get. I’ve also learned that there are characteristics that I can learn and implement into my life in order to be more successful. I don’t have to just rely on and use my natural giftings.
In Luke 11, the disciples were talking privately with Jesus and they asked Him to teach them to pray. He taught them what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. As soon as He finished, He gave an illustration to help them understand how to pray better. He gave the example of a person who had a friend show up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Instead of putting them to bed, he needed to serve them some food, but didn’t have any. He then went to his neighbor and knocked on the door to ask for food. The neighbor was in bed and didn’t want to give the food, but the person kept knocking and wouldn’t go away. Because they wouldn’t stop, the neighbor will get out of bed and give him what he needs. Jesus then said our prayers should be like that instead of one and done or asking timidly.
In verse 11, Jesus gave a characteristic that we can al, learn and implement. He said, “Every persistent person will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he needs. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door” (TPT). Persistency. How many times have we been persistent with God like a kid in the grocery store wanting something? We tell ourselves that we don’t want to bother God with our problem or believe the lie that God doesn’t care about our issue. Those lies are meant to rob you of your blessing and to keep you from communicating with your Heavenly Father. Don’t listen to them. Instead, pound on Heaven’s door and let God know you’re not going away until you get what you need. Jesus said every persistent person will get what they ask for. Don’t quit asking. Don’t quit seeking. Don’t quit knocking.
A while back, there was a concert my wife and I wanted to go to. On the day the tickets went on sale, I had two phones, an iPad and a laptop out trying to get tickets. After sitting in their digital waiting room for an hour, a message popped up saying they were sold out. As we got closer to the concert date I began looking at all the resale sites, but the ticket prices were outrageous. As we were driving down the road discussing it, my wife closed her eyes and said, “Lord, it would be awesome if you could give us free tickets to this concert. Amen.” I laughed internally and thought, “No one is going to give up their tickets, but ok God.” The day before the concert she got a message offering her free tickets to the concert. We were both blown away.
In 2 Kings 6, Elisha was the prophet of Israel, and the group of prophets who were with him decided the place where they were staying was too small. They wanted to build a bigger place, but Elisha didn’t think they needed to. After begging him to come, they went to the river to cut down trees to build a bigger place. Verse 5 says, “But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. ‘Oh, sir!’ he cried. ‘It was a borrowed ax!’” (NLT) Elisha had him point to the place where the ax head went into the water. He then threw in a stick and the ax head floated to the surface. The man grabbed it and went back to work.
Both stories remind me that God is concerned about the little things in our lives. Going to the concert didn’t change our lives, but God knew it was something we would appreciate. Sometimes we forget that like a parent, God just wants to bless His kids. We don’t need to feel like we’re bothering Him with the little things. He’s just as able to take care of the “little” requests in our lives as the “big” ones. God simply wants to be involved in our day to day lives instead of being our spiritual 9-1-1 call. He’s looking for relationship with us. If we’re going to have one with Him, then we need to let Him into all areas of our lives including the little ones.
Prayer should be as vital to a Christian as a heart is to their body. You simply cannot survive without it. As I’ve traveled the world, I’ve seen different religions have certain times and certain prayers that their adherents must follow and do. Some have to face a certain way, others have to wear special clothes, and some have to repeat certain mantras. Protestant Christianity doesn’t have any of that so that prayer can be an act of willing worship from the heart. It’s about getting alone with your creator, sharing what’s on your heart and listening to what’s on His. Unfortunately many Christians don’t have a regular time to spend with God and instead only offer up prayers when we need God to solve a problem.
I want to encourage you to find a set time to spend with God each day, not out of obligation, but out of devotion. You don’t have to Pray the entire time. Many times prayer is simply sitting in God’s presence and listening. He knows what you’re going to say before you even say it, and hears your heart when words are not enough. Christianity is about having a relationship with God, and relationships live and die on communication. Prayer is our way of communicating with God and finding direction in our lives. Pick a time and a place to meet regularly with God and watch your relationship grow.
Here are some Bible verses on prayer.
1. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
Psalms 116:2 NLT
2. GOD ’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.
Psalm 145:18 MSG
3. Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you.
Jeremiah 29:12 GNT
4. I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast.
Psalms 91:15 TPT
5. Lord, you know my prayer before I even whisper it. At each and every sunrise you will continue to hear my cry until you answer.
I thank you for this new year and all the blessings you will bring into my life during it. Give me the wisdom to make the best decisions for my life this year so that I follow your plan for my life. I know that this year will have moments where I can’t see your hand at work where I don’t understand what you’re doing in my life. Help my unbelief in those moments and strengthen my resolve to trust in you no matter what. I know that you see the bigger picture for my life and that you have a plan that is for my good.
As Hebrews 12:14 says, help me to be swift to choose peace over competition in every relationship. I also want to run towards holiness in my life. I want to reflect your Son in the things I say and do this year. Let your light shine brightly through me so that I point others to you instead of to me. Help me to achieve the potential you see in me and to fulfill all that you have for me to do in this coming year. I know there are greater things in store for my life. Give me the courage to follow where you lead me.
As Hebrews 12:15 says, help me to make sure that no one I come into contact with misses the revelation of your grace. Protect me from any root of bitterness that may try to spring up in my life. I want to live in your peace and have your compassion flowing through my life. Whatever you are dreaming of doing this year, I want to be a part of making that happen. I submit my will, and the plans I have, to yours. Let 2019 be the year where I do more for you than I ever have. Put people in my life to help me accomplish all you have for me to do, and people that I can strengthen and help as well. Open my eyes to see others the way you do and help me to love them with your love.
I’ve noticed that when people are nervous, there are those who get real quiet and those who ramble on. I find myself in the later group a lot of times. For me, talking helps me to figure out what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. It helps me to sort out the problem, but it also keeps me from listening to good advice and can make others around me more nervous. I was once told, “You have two ears and one mouth. You need to listen twice as much as you speak.” That’s something I have to remind myself of quite often.
When it comes to prayer, I can find myself in the same boat. From the time we are young, we learn that prayer is talking to God. What we’re not taught is that it’s listening to God as well. I think God talks as much or more than we do, but we can’t hear Him over our own talking. Being quiet in the presence of the Lord requires discipline. You have to learn to shut down your mouth and your mind. The silence can be deafening at times, but it’s in those moments where we hear God the loudest.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Quiet your heart in his presence and pray; keep hope alive as you long for God to come through for you” (TPT). Many times there is a nervousness that God may not answer our greatest need. If you’re a talker, quiet your mouth. If you’re the quiet type, silence your mind. God doesn’t answer our prayers on our timetable. If we’re listening to what He says, and trust that what He does is always right and for our good, we can have hope in any situation. God is good all the time, and He sees beyond our most pressing need at the moment. Get quiet and still in His presence today, listen for His voice and give Him freedom to answer His way instead of yours.
One of the greatest pet peeves of parents is when someone who doesn’t have kids tries to tell them how to parent. Usually their response is, “Come back and talk to me after you’ve had your own.” Why? Because how can a person without kids truly understand the struggles of raising a child? They haven’t had to sit up all night with a sick child. They haven’t been asked a hundred times for the same toy. They haven’t felt the embarrassment of their own flesh and blood throwing a holy fit in public. Without them going through those things, parents are less likely to take any advice from them.
One of the purposes of Jesus becoming flesh and blood, beyond dying on the cross, was so that He could understand the human condition. The almighty God took on our frailty so that He could better understand what it is like when we are sick. What it feels like to lose a family member. How hard it is to fight temptation when it comes our way. He went through the entire human experience so He could better empathize with us when we struggle and call out to Him in prayer. He’s not up there telling us to just deal with it. He understands what you and I are going through.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (NLT). Think about that. He understands what you’re going through because He took the time to leave the role of creator to become the created. You and I can now go to Him with confidence in prayer asking for advice, seeking wisdom and looking for answers because He knows what you’re talking about. He’s experienced it and can now empathize with us. Whatever His answer is to our prayers, it’s based on His experiences and on what is best for our future.
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. If life is full of anything, it’s full of decisions we all have to make. Every decision we make has ma consequence for good or for bad. If you’ve made some bad decisions in your life and have suffered the consequences, it can make it hard to make future decisions. There are tough questions we have to answer in life. Which college to attend, what to become in life, who to marry, whether or not to apply for a promotion, which church to attend, should we move, and so many more. Each has its own consequence and we want to make the right decision, but how can we know?
There are two things I do each time. The first is to pray for wisdom to know what to do. James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all” (GNT). Often, wisdom comes at the expense of failure and suffering consequences, but God can give it out when we ask for it. It may take some time in prayer, but in the right moment, God often speaks heavenly wisdom through someone or makes the best choice clear in our minds.
Another thing you can do is ask God to give you peace in helping to guide you into making the decision. Colossians 3:15 says, “The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make.” I often pray, “God, if this is what I’m to do, then give me peace. If not, bring unrest to my heart and mind.” God gives a peace that is beyond understanding especially when there are life altering decisions to be made. Praying for this and experiencing it will guide you through some of life’s toughest decisions. God has a plan and a purpose for each of us, and He’s given us tools to guide in our decisions us as we go. We just need to use them.
There’s a story of a group of college students who went to visit the home of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. They noticed there were indentions on the floor of his room where he knelt to pray each day. After the tour, the class loaded on their bus. When the teacher counted, there was one missing. He went back through the property looking for the student and found him kneeling in those imprints praying, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again!” The teacher quietly walked up, tapped Billy Graham on the shoulder and let him know they had to leave.
I love that story because Billy understood that if God did it in the past for someone else, He could do it again for him. King David understood that same thing. In Psalm 126, David remembered how God had delivered the Israelites in the past. Then in verses 4-6 he prayed, “And now, GOD, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing” (MSG).
What has God done for someone else that you need Him to do for you? God is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He’s done for others, He will do again for you. You need to find your place where there are indentions on the floor, get in them and pray that God will do it again for you. I believe that what we sow in tears through prayer, we will reap as a harvest of blessing. If God hasn’t answered your prayers yet, keep planting those seeds of prayer. He will do it again in time.
Whenever I travel for work, it’s important to stay in contact with my wife. Sometimes when we end up talking I’m at the airport or I’m at dinner or while I’m with coworkers. It’s hard to have good conversations in those places. It’s often noisy, people are trying to get my attention or I’m trying to find where I’m going so I’m somewhat distracted. The best conversations are when I’m away from all the noise in the quiet of my hotel room. Only then can we truly have interruption free conversations where it doesn’t have to be quick snippets.
Luke 5:16 says, “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer” (MSG). Having intimate conversations with His father while He was here was important to Him. People were constantly vying for His attention and needing a miracle. Often, He just wanted to have a quiet conversation. Many times He had those quick conversations in front of people, but very often we read where Jesus went to a desolate place to pray. If it was important for Him to do that, how much more important for us?
At one point, Jesus told us to go into our closet to pray. I don’t know that He meant that literally. I think what He was saying was that we need to find a quiet place where we can have some uninterrupted prayer time. We can’t always go to an out of the way place to pray, but we can find space to get alone with Him. It may be a closet or it could be before everyone wakes up or after they go to bed, but we each need to find time to get alone with God so we can have intimate conversations with Him. I believe the quality of our relationship with Him hinges on it.