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Archive for the category “Prayer”

Praying for the Healing of America

2 Chronicles 7:11-14

national-day-of-prayerA casual observation of America reveals a severely broken culture. When Madonna declares that the Super Bowl is a worship service and she is the sermon, we know things are not the way they are supposed to be. Close to home we see our brightest and best fall in a war that many doubt is just, High School employees have sexual relations with students, people drive drunk, repeatedly, some with fatal consequences. Longtime employees embezzle from the restaurant that provided them opportunity, state politics turns into mud wrestling, national politics turns into – well, wrestling in worse than mud. Families are disintegrating, teens drop out of church, depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders are at an all-time high. Our land is sick and in need of a doctor.

As we consider from whence we have come, this state of affairs seems incongruent. Only two hundred years ago French culture analyst, Alexis de Tocqueville, declared that America was the most spiritual nation on earth. What happened to the hand of God that birthed a nation out of the quest for religious freedom and submission to Almighty God? Perhaps we can find some answers from the history of Israel.

The apex of the history of God’s people was the construction and dedication of the Temple, the place God chose to manifest his presence among his people. God filled it with his glory, precipitating a prayer from Solomon that stands as a model of humility and worship. During that prayer, Solomon prayed:

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. (2 Ch 6:26-27 NIV)

Solomon’s prayer was, in one sense, prophetic. Israel did sin and God did shut up the heavens, withholding his blessings from them. Solomon’s prayer was also intercessory. He prayed that when this happened, God in his mercy would forgive the people and restore his blessing – when they would pray and confess their sins. Direct hit!!! God must have been leading his king in this prayer because God affirms it in what has become the most beloved prayer promise found in 2 Chronicles.

When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace,the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  (2Ch 7:11-14 NIV)

Notice verse 13. God told Solomon that if (when) the people of God sinned against him, God would shut up the heavens so that there would be no blessing on the land. Isn’t that what America has done? And isn’t that what God has done? We have neglected the sanctity of life. We have abandoned the nuclear family, men have abdicated leadership, and, generally speaking, what God intended for good, we have turned into evil. As a consequence, God has shut up the heavens. There hasn’t been a significant wind of spiritual revival since the early ‘70’s when students on campuses all across this nation experienced a new Breath of spiritual renewal. Yet, in verse 14, God gave Solomon an answer to his prayer of 6:26-27. God promised Israel, and us, that if we humble ourselves, and pray and seek his face and turn from our wicked ways, God will hear from heaven, open heaven’s door of blessing, and heal our land.

Today is the National Day of Prayer. May I encourage you to take a few moments – more if you are able – and enter into prayer that God would hear from heaven and heal our land. God made a promise. Maybe the fulfillment will begin in your community.

  • Read 1 John 1:8-10. What sins are in our lives that need to be confessed? We must have some. If we claim we don’t, we deceive ourselves. Ask God to search our hearts and then confess our sins, thanking God for the promise of his forgiveness.
  • Read Daniel 9:4-19. Make this prayer your prayer for America. Realize that even though Daniel mentions the judgment of God on Jerusalem for their idolatry, the principles of acknowledging God’s rule and the consequences for rebelling against Him are universal truths and still apply to America, or any country.
  • Notice this same type of model prayer in Nehemiah 1:1-11.

Praying About Your Mountain

Read Matthew 17:20-21

All of us have issues in our lives that feel like immovable mountains.  We may be facing a circumstance that is so large that it appears that it is there to stay.  You may feel trapped in a relationship or a job where it seems that no matter what you do, you will end up on the short end.  You may be facing an obstacle that blocks the future, an illness or injury that most certainly will change you life, or a loss that has brought such pain that you are having a hard time putting one foot before the other.   You may be standing at the foot of your mountain, looking up and saying to yourself, “there’s no way!”  Listen to the words of Jesus.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mat 17:20-21 NIV)

Here are a few thoughts about this passage.  First, when we discuss faith, we must always discuss the object of our faith.  Jesus says that we must have faith, but faith in what, or better, who?  If we attempt to reach inside of ourselves and speak to our mountain ion the strength of our faith – and it stops there, not a grain of dust will move.  But if we place our faith in God,  even if it is a faith as small as a mustard seed, and speak to our mountain, saying,  “I have faith in God and God is going to move you.”, get out of the way, an earthquake is about to happen.  Our faith does not move our mountains, God moves our mountain.  All we need is a little faith in him and he takes it from there.

Second, notice that God did not say that your mountain is going to disappear. Rather, your mountain will move.  It may remain within the scope of your vision, but it will no longer directly block your path.  God will move it aside.  This is a profound truth to take in.  Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please him.”  If God totally destroyed our mountains, there would be no need to continue to trust him.  However, if he moved them aside but left them in our vision, we would be able to continue to progress on our journey, but we would still keep our hand clenched in his.  This then paves the way for the profound promise from this passage, “…nothing will be impossible for you.”  That means that nothing will prevent you from progressing toward the goal that holds the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What is your mountain?  You may have several.  Put your faith in God, even if it is a weak faith, and watch God move it aside.  Then, continue to press forward by faith, trusting him to provide, even if your maintain remains in the rear view mirror.

Applications of this understanding of this passage abound.

Praying For One Another, Part 3

Read Colossians 1:9-14

Experts in the social sciences tell us that a person is capable of having a relationship with approximately 70 people.  That means that we know their name, we know something about their family, their employment, and their likes and dislikes.  But that is about all the deeper we can get with that large of a group of people.  Nonetheless, it is important that we pray for one other.  At the time when the Apostle Paul penned the letter to the Colossians, he had yet to visit them personally.  Yet, Chapter 4:2-6 tells us that Paul nurtured a relationship with his readers long distance, telling them of his needs and asking that they pray for him.  He then (4:16) asked them to circulate his letter to other churches, so they could in turn get to know him and to pray for him.  But how do we pray for one another if we only have a brief introduction to the circumstances of our lives?

In my last post I suggested that we pray for one another that we would know God’s will.  Today I will get specific about what that means.

And we pray this so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:10-12 NIV)

Here are six specific prayers we can pray for those 70 people we rub shoulders with once in a while, as well as for those who are on our prayer list, but with whom we don’t have the opportunity to develop a close personal relationship.

Pray that they would…

  1. live a life worthy of the Lord
  2. please him in every way
  3. bear fruit in every good work
  4. grow in the knowledge of God
  5. have great endurance and patience as they live for Jesus
  6. joyfully give thanks to the Father for his gracious gift of salvation.

There is a benefit to learning to pray for one another in this way.  Here are six great subjects to talk about when we have the opportunity to sit down with someone when we do meet them.  Have you ever met someone you know, and then experienced an awkward silence because there is nothing to talk about?  If we learn to pray for one another according to these six subjects, we have instant conversation.  “Isn’t it a challenge to live as a believer in our culture these days?”  “I continually think about the difference between being pleasing to the Lord and making decisions that please him.”  “How have you been experiencing God’s blessing these days?” “What have you been getting out of church lately?  I’ve been learning ___________ in my small group?”  Is there something that is giving you particular stress?”  “I’m so thankful for the grace that God has given me in Jesus.  How is your joy in the Lord? How can I pray for you?”

Actually, these are good discussion points for a date with your spouse!  If we begin with these subjects, it won’t be long before we are deep in conversation.  But if we can’t go deep with our friends, we can pray deeply for them, all 70 of them.  Be encouraged and pray for one another.

Praying For One Another, Part 2

Read Colossians 1:9-14

A very common question from followers of Jesus is “What is the will of God for my life?”  This issue arises when we are faced with choices, like what college to attend, which of two jobs to take, or whether to go to the next level in a dating relationship with Sam or Peter.  We also ask it when we approach a difficult situation, such as whether to stay in a hard job or retire, how to deal with an aging parent or a “challenging” teenager, or how to handle a health crisis.  Then there is the daily concern that God would guide our steps so that we would walk in his will and not fall into an activity or behavior that is out of his will.  “What is the will of God for my life?”  Every believer wants to know the answer to that question.

But I would suggest that in the context of praying for one another over the long haul, this is the wrong question.  Certainly it is appropriate to pray for one another to know the will of God in every circumstance they face, but I would suggest that this is not practical, maybe not even appropriate.  I face dozens of situations that are too personal to discuss, even with my closest confidants.  Yet, I sill desire that people pray for me. The right question is this.  “What is the will of God?” I hope you see the difference.  Asking about the will of God for our lives enters the arena of personal and specific details.  Certainly, God is concerned about every detail of our lives, including the number of hairs on our heads.  But to keep abreast with everyone on our prayer list with this degree of specifics is overwhelming.  Therefore, I would suggest that there is a better way to pray for one another over the long haul, and Paul tells us in this passage.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, (Col 1:9 NIV)

Here we have it.  Paul prays that the Colossians, a people he has never met, will be filled with the knowledge of the will of God.  Then he explains his understanding of what that means.  Paul prays for his readers to be filled with the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.  He doesn’t have to know any of the specific or personal details, yet his prayer is profoundly personal.  I can pray for you, and partner with you as you trust God for all the intimate details of your life, without knowing any of the specifics.  I can pray that the Spirit will give you wisdom and understanding in all of your circumstances, and I can ask you to pray the same way for me.

Now this may seem quite general and even impersonal.  However, as we will see in a following post, it is quite personal and it nurtures a significant relationship with one another.  Stay tuned.

Praying For One Another, Part 1

Read Colossians 1:9-14

I am slowly learning how to live in the age of technology, doing more and more with computers and the internet. But I am still quite protective of my personal handwritten prayer list that is in the back of my leather three ring date book. Until I get a smart phone or an iPad or some other such electronic tool, when I do my times of personal Bible reading, reflection and prayer, I will refer to three pages of prayer requests and names that I have categorized according to family, friends, and ministry partners. I don’t put every prayer request on my list. Often when I hear of a prayer need via an e-mail I will write out a prayer and send it right on to the one who asked for prayer. Other times I will pray over the phone or bow in prayer personally with the person I am with. But these issues don’t get put on my list. The items that make it to my prayer list are the ones that I perceive will be long term prayer concerns – a pastoral colleague facing a challenge in his ministry, the ministry of a friend who just got elected an elder, a former elder from Harvest who is now leading another ministry, a friend who is beginning a new career, a family who is struggling with a wayward teenager, a marriage that is in trouble, a surgery that requires extended recovery, or my children and their educational and spiritual journeys. These are prayer issues that are long term and don’t necessarily have a “quick fix.” From time to time I revise and update this list, but for the most part, unless I make additions, my list will remain for many months, maybe even years. Now to be honest, sometimes this gets laborious and it is challenging to stay encouraged in these prayers. I even have to admit that I get to the point when I really don’t what to pray for them. That is when the words of the Apostle Paul speak to my heart.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:9-12 NIV)

This passage gives us a model of how to pray for our Christian friends and loved ones. In my next blogs, I will unpack this profound prayer and attempt to help us learn how to pray the concepts and principles found in this prayer for one another. But for today, simply pray Paul’s prayer for the people on your prayer list, and make a commitment to pray for them over the long haul.

Day #40 – Morning and Evening Prayer

40 Days Of Prayer

Read Psalm 5 and Psalm 4

Today marks the last of our meditations during the 40 Days of Prayer at Harvest.  I trust that you have found this experience helpful, even life-changing.  But my desire for my own life is that I continue to practice a prayer discipline long after this campaign concludes with our Concert of Prayer tonight and on Sunday (the 4th).  With that desire in mind, I share a prayer habit from the life of David for all of us to consider.

Psalm 5 and Psalm 4 indicate that David engaged in a time of prayer every morning and every evening.  Perhaps this is why he was known as a man after God’s own heart.   Let’s see how it might be helpful to follow his example.

Morning Prayer – Psalm 5:1-3, 11-12

Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.  Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Ps. 5:1-3 NIV)

With this prayer, David addresses the LORD, the personal name for God and then he expresses confidence in his King, the sovereign ruler of the universe.  With the conviction that God personally cares about every detail in his life and the confidence that God is able to deal with any difficulty he might encounter, David anticipates, with expectation, the unfolding of the events of the day.  As the psalm continues (read Vs. 4-10), David prays about the struggle he faces in this fallen world, asking for guidance to make good decisions (Vs. 8).  He prays for grace as he encounters those who are counted as enemies of God (Vs. 9-10).  Then notice how he concludes with a prayer of assurance that God will watch over him throughout the day.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Ps. 5:11-12 NIV)

Evening Prayer – Psalm 4:1, 6-8

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Ps. 4:1 NIV)

As David concludes his day, he prays that God might give him relief from all the stresses he encountered since morning.  In Vs. 3-5, David then thanks God that he belongs to the family of God (Vs. 3), which gives him the confidence that God is concerned about his life (Vs. 3).  Instead of fretting over the events of the day, he offers a prayer of worship and trust (Vs. 4).  Then listen as he fills his mind with thoughts of joy and peace, fitting thoughts to insure happy dreams.

Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.  In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.  (Ps. 4:6-8 NIV)

I wonder how our lives would be nurtured if we began and ended each day like David did?  Instead of rushing out the door, pray in expectation for God’s blessing and protection to accompany our activities.  Instead of watching an action movie right before bed, quiet our hearts in prayer that God would relieve any stress of the day and fill us with the joy of our salvation as we sleep.

This is a hard world in which we live.  However, if we begin and end each day in prayer, the hardness will soften and our hearts will be filled with God’s grace and strength, and we will begin to grow into a man or woman after God’s own heart.

More morning prayers.  Pray the words of these psalms:

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.  You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. (Ps. 59:16-17 NIV)

But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Ps. 88:13 NIV)

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Ps. 90:14 NIV)

More evening prayers.  Pray the words of these psalms:

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Ps. 16:7-8 NIV)

I remembered my songs in the night.  My heart meditated and my spirit asked:”Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never show his favor again?  Has his unfailing love vanished forever?  Has his promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”  Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.  I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”  Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?  You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. (Ps. 77:6-14 NIV)

In the night, LORD, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.  This has been my practice: I obey your precepts. (Ps. 119:55-56 NIV)

  1. Pray for the Concert of Prayer scheduled for tonight and this Sunday, March 4.  We picked those dates to coincide with the scheduled meeting time of most of our small groups in hopes that they would make this their meeting for the week.  Pray for good attendance as well as for a spirit of celebration as we reflect on the 40 Days of Prayer Campaign and spend time together in prayer.
  2. Pray for the Courageous Men’s Bible Study that is being held on Sunday mornings during our Education/Fellowship Hour.  Pray that the men of Harvest would grow in their relationship with God and in their commitment to lead in their marriages and families.
  3. Pray for the Youth Pastor Weekend on March 9-12.  Pray for plans to come together for the two youth events (Friday evening and Sunday morning in Second Story), as well as for the Open House on Saturday and the Elder Leadership Team Dinner on Saturday evening.  Pray especially that Harvest would sense the leading of the Lord as we consider if this is God’s man to lead our Youth Ministry.
  4. Pray for the Financial Peace University group that begins to meet on Thursday, March 8.  Pray for Doug Jones as he leads this 13-week experience.
  5. Pray for the ELT Retreat scheduled for March 23-25.  Pray that our Elders would find clarity on the future vision and direction for Harvest and that they would be encouraged in their mission to lead and care for our congregation.
  6. Pray that the Lenten Season will be a meaningful time of reflection as we anticipate Good Friday and Easter morning in April.
  7. Pray for reinforcements for our Kingdom Kidz Ministry on Sunday mornings.  Pray that God would raise up teachers and helpers to teach and nurture the many  children he has entrusted to us during the second hour on Sundays.  Pray especially for Michelle Opper as she leads this ministry.
  8. Pray that Harvest would grow in nurturing a culture of love and humility as we serve the Lord together.
  9. Please refer to your prayer request insert from Sunday’s bulletin and pray through the specific prayer requests listed.

Day #39 – Praying For Those In Ministry

40 Days Of Prayer

Read Romans 15:30-33

People engaged in Christian ministry, especially leadership, often feel alone.  The reason is that it is very difficult for people not in Christian ministry to understand the pressure of the responsibility of leadership.  As Paul recounts all the difficulties and suffering that he experienced while on his missionary journeys (2 Corinthians 11:16-27), he adds a struggle that cannot be measured by physical pain.

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.(2 Cor. 11:28 NIV)

Paul knew that he was commissioned by God to plant the churches that would be the foundation for the promotion of the Christian Gospel throughout the ages until Jesus returned.  While he understood the sovereignty of God, there was the realization that God was asking him to faithfully represent him in this world.  It was very important, then, to build a support team that would “have his back” through prayer while he was out on the front lines.  The Romans were that team.  Chapter 16 is well known for the number of brothers and sisters in the Lord that Paul mentions by name.  Beginning with Phoebe, the host of the church in her home, Paul mentions over a dozen other fellow workers and supporters.  Then he asks them all to join him in his ministry by praying for him.

I urge you brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.  Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.  The God of peace be with you all.  Amen (Rom. 15:30-33 NIV)

In this passage, Paul asks the Romans to pray for him with specific petitions, all of which relate to specific current ministry projects.  He is collecting a freewill offering for the church in Judea and he asks for prayers for protection as he travels with it.  He also asked that when he delivers this offering that the churches will receive it with gratitude.  Then he asks for prayer that he might have the opportunity to visit with them and be refreshed by their fellowship.  Here is a wonderful example of someone in Christian ministry who has organized a prayer team, a group of supporters who are ready to stand in the gap and pray for his ministry.

May I encourage all of you who are in ministry leadership to recruit a prayer team.  I believe that every ministry leader needs to have a team of supporters who will be committed to pray for the needs of his/her ministry.  Then share your specific requests with them and develop a partnership in your ministry.  A while back I contacted several brothers and sisters from several states across the U.S., whom I knew I could trust, and asked them to be on my personal prayer team.  I must confess that I have not been very faithful in sending them my list of prayer concerns (confession is good for the soul!), but as I write this meditation, I am renewing my commitment to re-engage this team.  How arrogant to believe that I can flourish in ministry without the prayer support of people who care about me and will stand with me in prayer!!  If Paul needed that team support, certainly we need it, and even more!

Our ministry pressures may not be of the same intensity that Paul experienced, but the pressure is nonetheless a very real pressure.  Let’s not carry the burden alone.

Read Philippians 1:3-8.  What from these verses indicates that the Philippians may be another prayer team for Paul?

  1. Pray for the Concert of Prayer scheduled for Thursday, March 1, and Sunday, March 4.  We picked those dates to coincide with the scheduled meeting time of most of our small groups in hopes that they would make this their meeting for the week.  Pray for good attendance as well as for a spirit of celebration as we reflect on the 40 Days of Prayer Campaign and spend time together in prayer.
  2. Pray for the Courageous Men’s Bible Study that is being held on Sunday mornings during our Education/Fellowship Hour.  Pray that the men of Harvest would grow in their relationship with God and in their commitment to lead in their marriages and families.
  3. Pray for the Youth Pastor Weekend on March 9-12.  Pray for plans to come together for the two youth events (Friday evening and Sunday morning in Second Story), as well as for the Open House on Saturday and the Elder Leadership Team Dinner on Saturday evening.  Pray especially that Harvest would sense the leading of the Lord as we consider if this is God’s man to lead our Youth Ministry.
  4. Pray for the Financial Peace University group that begins to meet on Thursday, March 8.  Pray for Doug Jones as he leads this 13-week experience.
  5. Pray for the ELT Retreat scheduled for March 23-25.  Pray that our Elders would find clarity on the future vision and direction for Harvest and that they would be encouraged in their mission to lead and care for our congregation.
  6. Pray that the Lenten Season will be a meaningful time of reflection as we anticipate Good Friday and Easter morning in April.
  7. Pray for reinforcements for our Kingdom Kidz Ministry on Sunday mornings.  Pray that God would raise up teachers and helpers to teach and nurture the many  children he has entrusted to us during the second hour on Sundays.  Pray especially for Michelle Opper as she leads this ministry.
  8. Pray that Harvest would grow in nurturing a culture of love and humility as we serve the Lord together.
  9. Please refer to your prayer request insert from Sunday’s bulletin and pray through the specific prayer requests listed.

Day #38 – Prayer and Forgiveness

40 Days Of Prayer

Read Mathew 6:12-15

Bingham Hunter in his book, The God Who Hears, writes, “You won’t catch me getting ulcers,” a man is said to have boasted.  “For one thing, I just take life as it comes.  For another, I don’t ever hold a grudge, not even against people who did things to me that I will never forget!”  Really!  I am convinced that if this person remains with this attitude, ulcers are a sure thing.  Another sure thing – his prayer life will be anemic at best.  Jesus puts it succinctly.

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.   (Mark 11:25-26 NIV)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:12-15 NIV)

Surely, this does not mean that we merit God’s forgiveness by forgiving others.  (See Ephesians 2:8-9.)  Nor does it mean that we can lose our salvation if we harbor unforgiveness.  What it does mean is there is a real problem in the heart of one who eagerly receives God’s forgiveness, but then refuses to grant forgiveness to another.

God’s forgiveness is truly a great gift.  When we stand before him we can say with a clear conscience that the blood of Jesus has cleansed us of all our sins.  God forgives according to his great mercy, separating our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, and he remembers them no more.  That means he will never bring them up again – ever.  How can we, who have received such a great gift, withhold that same gift from others?

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13 NIV)

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:37-38 NIV)

Here is an application for our prayers.  When we go before our Heavenly Father in prayer, our hearts must be clean.  We cannot expect that God will accept our worship (see yesterday’s meditation on Prayer As Worship) if we are holding unforgiveness in our hearts.  When sin and conflict exist between believers, or even between a believer and an unbeliever, God is troubled, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and our prayers fall flat.

Read Matthew 18:21-22.  How does Jesus view forgiveness?

Read Luke 17:3-4.  Put these verses in your own words.

Read 1 Peter 3:7.  What better way is there to honor our wives than to show them forgiveness?

Bow in prayer and ask God to bring to your mind anyone who has wronged you that you have not forgiven.  Write their name down on a piece of paper.  Now pray this prayer:

“Lord, I thank you for forgiving me by your great mercy.  Because of your mercy to me, I now forgive __________ for (  name the sin  ).  Please help my emotions catch up to this act of faith and obedience that I might be free from any bitterness and that my prayers might not be hindered.”

  1. Pray for the Concert of Prayer scheduled for Thursday, March 1, and Sunday, March 4.  We picked those dates to coincide with the scheduled meeting time of most of our small groups in hopes that they would make this their meeting for the week.  Pray for good attendance as well as for a spirit of celebration as we reflect on the 40 Days of Prayer Campaign and spend time together in prayer.
  2. Pray for the Courageous Men’s Bible Study that is being held on Sunday mornings during our Education/Fellowship Hour.  Pray that the men of Harvest would grow in their relationship with God and in their commitment to lead in their marriages and families.
  3. Pray for the Youth Pastor Weekend on March 9-12.  Pray for plans to come together for the two youth events (Friday evening and Sunday morning in Second Story), as well as for the Open House on Saturday and the Elder Leadership Team Dinner on Saturday evening.  Pray especially that Harvest would sense the leading of the Lord as we consider if this is God’s man to lead our Youth Ministry.
  4. Pray for the Financial Peace University group that begins to meet on Thursday, March 8.  Pray for Doug Jones as he leads this 13-week experience.
  5. Pray for the ELT Retreat scheduled for March 23-25.  Pray that our Elders would find clarity on the future vision and direction for Harvest and that they would be encouraged in their mission to lead and care for our congregation.
  6. Pray that the Lenten Season will be a meaningful time of reflection as we anticipate Good Friday and Easter morning in April.
  7. Pray for reinforcements for our Kingdom Kidz Ministry on Sunday mornings.  Pray that God would raise up teachers and helpers to teach and nurture the many  children he has entrusted to us during the second hour on Sundays.  Pray especially for Michelle Opper as she leads this ministry.
  8. Pray that Harvest would grow in nurturing a culture of love and humility as we serve the Lord together.
  9. Please refer to your prayer request insert from Sunday’s bulletin and pray through the specific prayer requests listed.

Day #37 – Prayer As Worship

40 Days Of Prayer

Read Ephesians 3:20-21

I remember as kids having spirited discussions with my friends about our dads.  “My dad can beat up your dad!”  “My dad makes more money than your dad!”  “My dad is a better ball player than your dad!”  At the time, we all thought that our dads could do anything, so, naturally, our dad could do what no other dad could do.  In my world, my dad could build anything, fix anything, answer any question, and solve any problem.  He was the best golfer, the best fisherman, the best baseball and basketball player, the best trombone player – I think you get the picture.  So, you can only imagine how much I looked forward to the time in the afternoon when my dad would come home from work.  All I needed to do was go to my dad, and he could take my upside-down world and turn it right-side up.  In fact, he could make it better than I could have ever thought or imagined.  He was my dad!!!

This is how we can approach God in prayer.  Now, there is a difference, because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it as a young boy, my dad could not do anything.  But God can.  And when we ask him to intervene in our lives, we know he is able to turn it around.  Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  (Eph. 3:20-21 NIV)

As we pray, focusing on what God is able to do, we are engaging in worship.  It is worship when we pray and acknowledge that God is sovereign, that God is all powerful – actually, he is “all-everything.”  (How’s that for inventing a new theological word?)  God created this world and he is actively sustaining it.  When we bow before him in praise and adoration, when we sing “Our God Reigns,” or “Great is thy Faithfulness,” we are engaging in worship.  Remember how the beings around the throne worshipped God in Revelation 4?

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Rev 4:11 NIV)

How much would it change our perspective or our circumstance if we presented our requests and petitions in this attitude? When we come to God with a prayer request, and in the depth of our heart of hearts, believe that God is capable of answering our prayer, that is worship.  “O God, you are worthy to receive glory because you are able to answer any prayer I might utter. You are able to heal my son, you are able to provide a job, you are able to reconcile my broken marriage.”  These are significant prayer requests, but be encouraged, God is a significant God.  Prayer as worship takes all the anxiety out of our prayer life.  Rather than pleading and wrestling and agonizing in prayer, thinking that the way we pray or the words we choose influences God, worship in prayer.  When we pray as worship, we praise God that he is God.  We thank God that he is capable of accomplishing anything, so he is capable of dealing with whatever we are praying about. In fact, he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask.

Yes, my Dad can do anything.  And when I pray, it is a great comfort to know that he can do anything.  So, I worship him with my prayers.  Going to God with my needs, my hurts, my concerns, my troubles, my requests is an opportunity to give him glory as I lay my burden down before him and worship him with my prayers.

Lord, we worship you with our prayers today.

  1. Pray for the Concert of Prayer scheduled for Thursday, March 1, and Sunday, March 4.  We picked those dates to coincide with the scheduled meeting time of most of our small groups in hopes that they would make this their meeting for the week.  Pray for good attendance as well as for a spirit of celebration as we reflect on the 40 Days of Prayer Campaign and spend time together in prayer.
  2. Pray for the Courageous Men’s Bible Study that is being held on Sunday mornings during our Education/Fellowship Hour.  Pray that the men of Harvest would grow in their relationship with God and in their commitment to lead in their marriages and families.
  3. Pray for the Youth Pastor Weekend on March 9-12.  Pray for plans to come together for the two youth events (Friday evening and Sunday morning in Second Story), as well as for the Open House on Saturday and the Elder Leadership Team Dinner on Saturday evening.  Pray especially that Harvest would sense the leading of the Lord as we consider if this is God’s man to lead our Youth Ministry.
  4. Pray for the Financial Peace University group that begins to meet on Thursday, March 8.  Pray for Doug Jones as he leads this 13-week experience.
  5. Pray for the ELT Retreat scheduled for March 23-25.  Pray that our Elders would find clarity on the future vision and direction for Harvest and that they would be encouraged in their mission to lead and care for our congregation.
  6. Pray that the Lenten Season will be a meaningful time of reflection as we anticipate Good Friday and Easter morning in April.
  7. Pray for reinforcements for our Kingdom Kidz Ministry on Sunday mornings.  Pray that God would raise up teachers and helpers to teach and nurture the many  children he has entrusted to us during the second hour on Sundays.  Pray especially for Michelle Opper as she leads this ministry.
  8. Pray that Harvest would grow in nurturing a culture of love and humility as we serve the Lord together.
  9. Please refer to your prayer request insert from Sunday’s bulletin and pray through the specific prayer requests listed.

Day #36 – Prayer & Meditation

40 Days Of Prayer

Read Psalm 5:1-2; 19:14

It is so easy for me to read the Bible and then say to myself, “There, I did my duty for the day,” and off to my activities I go.  When I am really spiritual, I read the Bible and then spend some time praying, and then away I go.  But there are many times in my “daily devotions” when I seem to have an encounter with God that is special, deep, and meaningful.  Recently, I came across a concept that I believe explains this occurrence.

In his book, Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney suggests that prayer takes on a new dimension when it flows from a three-part sequence of pursuing God – Scripture, meditation, and prayer – in that order.  He describes the rich communication of God to us through his Word.  Then he reminds us that if we take some time to reflect on that communication, seeking to understand it, apply it, and evaluate our lives by it, we are then moved to prayer and that prayer has a deeper substance and relevance to our lives.  Meditation is the middle pursuit between the Word of God and prayer, being connected to both.  Notice two thoughts from Puritan pastors of a few generations ago.

“The Word feedeth meditation, and meditation feedeth prayer.  These duties must always go hand in hand; meditation must follow hearing and precede prayer.  To hear and not to meditate is unfruitful…What we take in by the word we digest by meditation and let out by prayer…”  Thomas Manton

“Meditation is the sister of reading and the mother of prayer…Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both is without blessing.”  William Bridge

Here is how David put it.

Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. (Ps. 5:1-2 NIV)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps. 19:14 NIV)

In Psalm 5, the word, “lament,” translated literally is meditation.  And in Psalm 19, it is the content of his meditation that forms David’s prayer.  The sequence seems obvious – Scripture, meditation, prayer.

Here is how Whitney summarizes the sequence.

“After the input of a passage of Scripture, meditation allows us to take what God has said to us and think deeply on it, digest it, and then speak to God about it in meaningful prayer.  As a result, we pray about what we’ve encountered in the Bible, now personalized through meditation.  And not only do we have something substantial to say in prayer and the confidence we are praying God‘s thoughts to Him, but we transition smoothly into prayer with a passion for what we’re praying about.  Then, as we move on with our prayers, we don’t jerk and lurch along because we already have some spiritual momentum.”

Maybe you don’t have time every day to linger over a passage of Scripture in meditation and prayer.  I know there are days when I don’t.  But I know how important it is to do it, so I have disciplined myself (well, I try to do it as often as I can) to take a time away, maybe a morning or an hour in the afternoon, to practice this sequence.  And every time I do, I come away with my heart a bit happier than before I took the time to read, meditate, and pray.  Not a bad practice in the life of a follower of Jesus.

  1. Pray for the Concert of Prayer scheduled for Thursday, March 1, and Sunday, March 4.  We picked those dates to coincide with the scheduled meeting time of most of our small groups in hopes that they would make this their meeting for the week.  Pray for good attendance as well as for a spirit of celebration as we reflect on the 40 Days of Prayer Campaign and spend time together in prayer.
  2. Pray for the Courageous Men’s Bible Study that is being held on Sunday mornings during our Education/Fellowship Hour.  Pray that the men of Harvest would grow in their relationship with God and in their commitment to lead in their marriages and families.
  3. Pray for the Youth Pastor Weekend on March 9-12.  Pray for plans to come together for the two youth events (Friday evening and Sunday morning in Second Story), as well as for the Open House on Saturday and the Elder Leadership Team Dinner on Saturday evening.  Pray especially that Harvest would sense the leading of the Lord as we consider if this is God’s man to lead our Youth Ministry.
  4. Pray for the Financial Peace University group that begins to meet on Thursday, March 8.  Pray for Doug Jones as he leads this 13-week experience.
  5. Pray for the ELT Retreat scheduled for March 23-25.  Pray that our Elders would find clarity on the future vision and direction for Harvest and that they would be encouraged in their mission to lead and care for our congregation.
  6. Pray that the Lenten Season will be a meaningful time of reflection as we anticipate Good Friday and Easter morning in April.
  7. Pray for reinforcements for our Kingdom Kidz Ministry on Sunday mornings.  Pray that God would raise up teachers and helpers to teach and nurture the many  children he has entrusted to us during the second hour on Sundays.  Pray especially for Michelle Opper as she leads this ministry.
  8. Pray that Harvest would grow in nurturing a culture of love and humility as we serve the Lord together.
  9. Please refer to your prayer request insert from Sunday’s bulletin and pray through the specific prayer requests listed.

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