One of the first rules you learn as a child is that you become like those you hang out with. Someone once said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you, you.” We tend to take on attributes, accents and habits of the people we spend time with. I read a study once that showed how kids don’t take on their parent’s accents. They take on the ones of their friends. Think about the people you are around the most. Good or bad, they’ve had an affect on the things you like, the places you go and even the foods you eat. They have changed you as much as you have changed them.
In the book of Acts, the disciples went around preaching and healing people the way Jesus did. They went to the Temple to pray and to educate others on the Scriptures. As they approached the gate one day, a beggar who couldn’t walk asked them for money. Instead of money, they brought him to his feet healed. The religious leaders threw them in jail for it. As they were being questioned the next day about it, Peter spoke up and told them it was done through the power of Jesus’ name. Acts 4:13 says, “The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him” (TPT).
Think about that. They saw the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with Him. Just like you and your friends have an affect on each other’s lives, our lives are affected by spending time with Jesus. The more time you spend with Him, the greater the effect He will have on your life. We, like the disciples, will become more like Him each and every day. You can be an ordinary person and have an extraordinary change in your life, and in the lives of others, by spending time in prayer, reading the Bible and resting in His presence. Just like anything in the Bible, we have to be the ones to take the first step. The change happens after we make the time to spend with Him.
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Prayer to me is like a car engine. I don’t know everything about it, but I know it works. Sure I can point out some parts under the hood and tell you what they do, but I don’t understand fully how they work. I’ve replaced a couple of parts that were easy to do, but for the harder stuff, I go to someone who understands it more fully. They are able to replace anything under the hood and make it run as intended. I take it to them because they know and understand every part of an engine. They also know how to tweak it to get the most out of it.
Every one of us can pray. Every one of us can make it work. We may not understand how it works or what to do to get the most out of it, but we can push the gas and make it go. I know people have broken down “The Lord’s Prayer” and taught me how to pray that way. I’ve been given methods like “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thankfulness, Supplication) to give structure to my prayers. I’ve been shown how to pray intensely so that my prayers have more power. There are so many things we can learn about prayer, but most of us leave the hood closed.
If you’re going to pray more effectively, you’re going to have to spend some time under the hood tinkering. Powerful, effective prayers come out of spending time with the one we’re talking to. They come from intimately knowing the One to whom we pray. They come from understanding what His will is and what His Word says. The more we know what His Word says, the more we pray in accordance with it. The more we pray in accordance with it, the more He answers. The more He answers, the more faith and confident we get. The more faith and confident we get, the more effective our prayers become. James 5:16 says, “For tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!” (TPT)
Don’t be afraid to look under the hood of prayer. Learn what you can. Take time tweaking this and that to make it comfortable for you. Understand there are different types and ways to pray. Your prayers get an audience with the One who created everything you see. It’s worth investing time and energy to make them as effective as possible. Hang around others who get their prayers answered. Learn from them how to pray. Each one of us have room for growth in our prayers. To get better, we just have to open the hood
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In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they had defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God with you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word until we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
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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.
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