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Archive for the tag “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 #14 – Praying on the Run

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17 

40 Days Of PrayerI have been thinking recently about a way to describe the daily lifestyle of a fully- devoted follower of Jesus.  A phrase, that is not original with me, seems to say it well.  “I have decided to be a Christian      (insert your vocation)    rather than a _  (insert your vocation) who happens to be a Christian.  What this phrase says is that we are followers of Jesus 24/7.  Someone who is fully devoted to Jesus is not just a teacher who happens to be a Christian, but he/she is a Christian teacher.  That means that every activity, every decision, every thought is influenced by a Christian perspective on life.  We are Christians and that worldview defines us, it guides us, and it keeps us biblically accountable.

If you will give me some grace to jump categories, I would like to suggest that this is the way we should approach prayer.  We should not, to keep our illustration consistent, be a teacher who sometimes prays, but a praying Christian teacher.  Full devotion to God means being in constant communion with God.  I believe that this is what Paul means when he writes to the Thessalonians:

…pray continually…  I Thessalonians 5:17

Praying continually does not mean that we cease all of our activity and fall on our knees, close our eyes and say a prayer.  Praying continually means that God is in our thoughts and we have an internal dialogue with him on a moment-by-moment basis.  We all have heard of people who cry out to God in a crisis with so-called foxhole prayers.  What I believe Paul is challenging us to do is live prayerful lives all the time, not just when bullets are flying over our heads.  An illustration of this idea is the life of Nehemiah.

When you have time, do a quick read of Nehemiah and notice the times when Nehemiah engages is lifestyle prayer.  Now, it is true that when he hears of the condition of the wall ofJerusalem, he takes time out of his life for an extended season of prayer and fasting.  But, there are also several times when he prays what are commonly known as arrow prayers.

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven… (Nehemiah 2:4 NIV)

They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.   But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.  (Nehemiah 4:8-9 NIV)

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9 NIV)

When life happened, the first thing Nehemiah did was pray–even if it was on the run.  This internal communion with God is a characteristic of a fully-devoted follower of Jesus. “OK, God, here I go with this meeting.”  “Whoa, God, that conversation didn’t go very well.”  “God, I need an idea for this paper.”  “Lord, what do I do now?”  “Wow, God, that song really touched my heart. Thanks.”   These are examples of praying continually.

So, when life happens to you this week, turn to God first.  Shoot an arrow prayer to him.  This is a lifestyle that pleases him and reveals a heart that puts him first.  Be a praying teacher, a praying fireman, a praying mom, always seeking the Lord in everything you do.

  1. Read Psalm 34:1-7.  Notice the continual communion with God illustrated in these verses.  Ask God to instill this type of inner prayer in your life.
  2. Read 1 Chronicles 16:8-13.  Notice the lifestyle of prayer in this psalm.  What can you do to rise to the challenge of the psalm writer?

Specific prayer requests for this week include:

  1. Pray for the candidate that the Youth Pastor Search Team is recommending to the ELT.  Pray for continued guidance as this process continues.
  2. Thank God for the many ministries and dedicated ministry leaders of Harvest  (refer to the back cover of the Harvest Directory).
  3. Pray that we at Harvest would continue to grow in loving the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul.
  4. Pray that our leaders would lead with humility so that we would nurture unity within the body of Christ and experience a reciprocal spirit of submission, encouragement, and forgiveness.
  5. Pray that we would excel in serving Jesus according to our gifts and passions in order to further the ministry to those in need.
  6. Pray that our men would be encouraged to step up to their biblical role of leadership in their families, church, and community.  Pray especially for those who will be attending the No Regrets conference today.
  7. Please refer to the Prayer Request insert in Sunday’s bulletin and pray for those needs.

Day #13 – A Prayer for Christian Unity

Read John 17:20-23

40 Days Of Prayer There is a profound difference between unity and uniformity.  When the UPS driver drops off a package at our church, he/she wears a uniform that identities him/her.  Every driver wears the same uniform.  That’s uniformity.  When I attend a symphony concert, I  listen to a host of unique instruments, each making a different contribution to the composition. And when they follow the score, under the direction of the conductor, beautiful music fills the hall.  That’s unity.  Uniformity speaks of everyone being the same.  Unity speaks of those who are not the same coming together to produce what could not be produced by themselves.  In our passage for today, Jesus prays for Christian unity.

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that  you have sent me.  22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they    may be one as we are one:  23 I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  (John 17:20-23 NIV)

This passage is part of what is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, a prayer of intercession for his followers.  In the preceding verses, he prays for his disciples that they would be protected and empowered in their ministries after he is gone.  In this passage, he prays for us, “…those who will believe in me through their message.”  I find it striking  that his prayer is not that we would accomplish great things, but that we would be one, or that they would experience unity.   Notice the characteristics of this unity.

First, Jesus prays that our unity would illustrate the unity between Jesus and the Father.  The Father and the Son are two individual Persons with two unique roles in the economy of the Godhead.  Yet, the Father and the Son are One. This is not uniformity–it is unity.  Jesus prays that we would be one as they are one.

Second, Jesus prays that our unity would illustrate the joyful submission to authority present in the Godhead.  Those with equal significance cooperate according to (may I say it?) the hierarchy of authority that is ontologically present in the Trinity.  Jesus prays that we would likewise cooperate with one another.

Third, Jesus prays that our unity would illustrate the love of God.  When the Father sent the Son into the world, he loved him as he accomplished his mission, which was to give himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin.  This was no easy task.  Yet, in that mission, Jesus was surrounded with the love of the Father.  Jesus prays that our unity with one another as we face our mission, which is difficult, would show the world that God loves us through our ministry to one another in his name, even as he loved the Son.

Therefore, if Jesus spent his last hours in prayer for us that we might experience unity, it follows that our prayers should be occupied with a similar theme.

  1. Pray the words of Ephesians 4:1-6.  Pray for a commitment to unity with humility and gentleness.  Pray that we would treat one another with patience and that we would bear with one another in love.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would empower us to promote unity in our local church as we major on the majors and minor on the minors.
  2. Pray the words of Colossians 3:12-17.  Pray for a spirit of forgiveness in our church body.  Pray that God would remind us of his forgiveness of our sins, and that we would likewise reach out in forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.
  3. Pray the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Every time the word “love” is found, say, “I pray that I would be…”

Specific prayer requests for this week include:

  1. Pray for the candidate that the Youth Pastor Search Team is recommending to the ELT.  Pray for continued guidance as this process continues.
  2. Thank God for the many ministries and dedicated ministry leaders of Harvest  (refer to the back cover of the Harvest Directory).
  3. Pray that we at Harvest would continue to grow in loving the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul.
  4. Pray that our leaders would lead with humility so that we would nurture unity within the body of Christ and experience a reciprocal spirit of submission, encouragement, and forgiveness.
  5. Pray that we would excel in serving Jesus according to our gifts and passions in order to further the ministry to those in need.
  6. Pray that our men would be encouraged to step up to their biblical role of leadership in their families, church, and community.  Pray especially for those who will be attending the No Regrets conference this Saturday.
  7. Pray for Team 56 as they hold a sleepover tonight.  Pray for their leaders and youth to experience good fellowship and to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
  8. Please refer to the Prayer Request insert in Sunday’s bulletin and pray for those needs.

Day #12 – Prayer When We Don’t Know What To Do

Read John 2:1-11

40 Days Of PrayerAdmittedly, all of us find ourselves in circumstances where we just don’t know what to do.  So, we search for a solution.  We read books on the subject, listen to tapes of Christian teachers, consult with our friends, and exhaust every other possible resource.  But, at the end of the day, we still don’t know what to do.  When this happens to me, I find it very difficult to accept.  I am a man of action.  When faced with a challenge, I devise a plan and get on with it.  However, there are times when I have no idea what to plan, so there is nothing for me to do.  I am forced to do nothing.  But, actually, that is not true.  There is one thing that I have learned to do, and I learned it from the story in John 2 when Jesus was a guest at the wedding inCana.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, 2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”  They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.  He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.  (John 2:1-11 NIV)

One application of this story is a principle of prayer when we don’t know what to do.  Notice what Mary, Jesus’ mother, did when she noticed that there was no more wine, which was a very serious situation for the host.  She simply went to Jesus and said, quite matter-of-factly, “they have no more wine.”  She did not have a plan.  She did not tell Jesus what to do, because she had no idea what to do.  But, she did know Jesus and she knew that he would know what to do.  All she did was tell Jesus the problem.  Then she demonstrated her faith in Jesus by telling the servants, “do whatever he tells you.”

Here is the principle.  When we don’t know what to do, go to Jesus in prayer, state the problem, and then make a commitment to do whatever he tells you to do.  There is nothing in the text that suggests that Mary knew he would turn water into wine.  But there is an indication that she knew he would do something, and that it would address the problem.  How uncomplicated, yet how profound!  There is a place for pouring out our emotions to God, for pleading with him according to the desires of our heart.  But there is also a place for a simple prayer.  Lord, I have cancer.”  “Jesus, my child is wayward.”  “God, I just lost my job.”  Whatever you are facing, give it to the Lord and trust him to deal with it.  And when we think about it, this is a plan and this is something we can do.

Specific prayer requests for this week include:

  1. Pray for the candidate that the Youth Pastor Search Team is recommending to the ELT.  Pray for continued guidance as this process continues.
  2. Thank God for the many ministries and dedicated ministry leaders of Harvest  (refer to the back cover of the Harvest Directory).
  3. Pray that we at Harvest would continue to grow in loving the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul.
  4. Pray that our leaders would lead with humility so that we would nurture unity within the body of Christ and experience a reciprocal spirit of submission, encouragement, and forgiveness.
  5. Pray that we would excel in serving Jesus according to our gifts and passions in order to further the ministry to those in need.
  6. Pray that our men would be encouraged to step up to their biblical role of leadership in their families, church, and community.  Pray especially for those who will be attending the No Regrets conference this Saturday.
  7. Pray for Team 56 as they hold a sleepover on Friday evening.  Pray for their leaders and youth to experience good fellowship and to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Please refer to the Prayer Request insert in Sunday’s bulletin and pray for those needs

Day #11 – Prayer, Coming To Jesus And Resting

Read Matthew 11:28-30

 Very simply stated, prayer is coming to Jesus.  An easy picture is to imagine a child who wants something from his dad or who has an exciting bit of information to tell him.  In order to make the request or to get his attention, he has to find his dad and then go to him.  Once he is in the presence of his dad, the communication begins.  This is the process of prayer, entering the presence of Jesus–coming to Jesus.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

The promise of this passage is that in the midst of the hardships and difficulties of life, we will find rest when we come to Jesus in prayer.  We live in a broken world, where bad things happen to good people, a world where dealing with pain often becomes a full-time job.  Evil seems to rule the day and the burdens of life weigh heavily on us.  Jesus says,  “Come to me…and I will give you rest.”

Notice that Jesus uses the figure of a yoke to describe how to enter his rest.  A yoke is a carefully crafted piece of wood that fits over the shoulders of a pair of oxen.  This yoke facilitates work, as two animals work together to pull a load that is attached to it.  The wood is custom-fitted to each animal, becoming like a broken-in leather glove that is stretched to fit our fingers, or a well-used leather carpenter’s belt, or a pliable baseball glove.  The yoke fits the oxen so well that it is easy to pull against and even seems light   on the animal.  It is important to know that a yoke is always designed for two animals.  Customarily, a farmer would join a seasoned animal with a rookie, with the seasoned one acting as a sort of tutor to the rookie.

I hope you are getting the picture.  Jesus says to come to him in prayer and in so doing submit to his will and learn from him as a rookie oxen would submit to the yoke and learn from the veteran.  This not a description of religion, which is attempting to accomplish work for Jesus. This is describing a living and vital relationship where we accomplish work with Jesus.  Rest in prayer is living alongside of Jesus, joined with him in the custom-fit plan designed specifically for you. 

So, as you enter your prayer time today, think about the difficulties and burdens that you are carrying.  I encourage you to go to Jesus in prayer and invite him to put his yoke on your shoulders.  This will not add to your burden.  Rather, it will ease your burden as Jesus takes control and masterfully guides you through your circumstance.

Pray through 1 Peter 5:6-9.  Express your desire to submit to God’s plan, specifically designed just for you.  Praise him that he is mighty and able to conquer any problem you are facing.  Ask for strength to wait for his timing.  Thank him that he loves you and cares for you.  Thank him that through the cross our enemy, Satan, is defeated.  Pray for confidence to stand firm in your faith and, by the authority of the conquering Jesus, command Satan to flee from your presence.  Thank God for the rest you enjoy in Jesus.

Specific prayer requests for this week include:

  1. Pray for the candidate that the Youth Pastor Search Team is recommending to the ELT.  Pray for continued guidance as this process continues.
  2. Thank God for the many ministries and dedicated ministry leaders of Harvest  (refer to the back cover of the Harvest Directory).
  3. Pray that we at Harvest would continue to grow in loving the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul.
  4. Pray that our leaders would lead with humility so that we would nurture unity within the body of Christ and experience a reciprocal spirit of submission, encouragement, and forgiveness.
  5. Pray that we would excel in serving Jesus according to our gifts and passions in order to further the ministry to those in need.
  6. Pray that our men would be encouraged to step up to their biblical role of leadership in their families, church, and community.  Pray especially for those who will be attending the No Regrets conference this Saturday.
  7. Pray for Team 56 as they hold a sleepover on Friday evening.  Pray for their leaders and youth to experience good fellowship and to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
  8. Please refer to the Prayer Request insert in Sunday’s bulletin and pray for those needs.

Day #10 – Fruitful Praying

Read John 15:7-8

Today I want to challenge us to pray that God would glorify himself (the theme of our thoughts from yesterday) by producing fruit in our lives, not just some fruit, not just much fruit, but fruit that lasts.  What does ‘fruit” mean?  It could refer to the graces of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.  It could mean leading others to faith in Jesus, as in reaping a harvest (Matthew 9:35-39).  Whatever it means, Jesus wants our lives to demonstrate characteristics of belonging to him.  He reminds us that we are like branches that, when connected to the vine, produce fruit, and like a wise farmer who strategically cares for his vines, he prunes us so that they will produce more and more fruit.  However, Jesus also reminds us that when the branches are not connected to the vine, they wither and die and are gathered up and burned.  The point is that when we produce fruit, we glorify God, and in order for us to glorify God the most, we need to stay connected to Jesus and submit to his strategic care.  Then he makes a startling statement:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.   John 15:7-8

It seems that Jesus is making a direct connection between producing fruit and prayer.  But I want us to notice a theme that we saw earlier this week.  Jesus says, …if you remain in me and my words remain in you…, then our prayers will result in producing fruit. Remaining in Jesus AND submitting to the truth of Scripture directly influences the fruit-bearing effectiveness of our prayers.  I am drawn to Psalm 1, which says this same thing.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.  (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)

So, let’s pray today that our lives would produce much fruit that lasts and so glorifies God, again by praying the words of Scripture.

  1. Pray the words of Romans 12:1-2.  “Lord, in view of your mercy, I offer myself to you as a living sacrifice, and by your grace I will not allow the world to squeeze me into its mold.  Rather, I will allow your word to renew and transform my mind so that I might follow your will more completely and produce fruit for your glory.
  2. Pray the words of 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, asking God to reveal any area that might be producing rotten fruit.  Then confess it and ask the Holy Spirit to help you honor God in your body.
  3. Pray Colossians 1:9-13.

Specific prayer requests for this week include:

  1. Pray for the candidate that the Youth Pastor Search Team is recommending to the ELT.  Pray for continued guidance as this process continues.
  2. Thank God for the many ministries and dedicated ministry leaders of Harvest  (refer to the back cover of the Harvest Directory).
  3. Pray that we at Harvest would continue to grow in loving the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul.
  4. Pray that our leaders would lead with humility so that we would nurture unity within the body of Christ and experience a reciprocal spirit of submission, encouragement, and forgiveness.
  5. Pray that we would excel in serving Jesus according to our gifts and passions in order to further the ministry to those in need.
  6. Pray that our men would be encouraged to step up to their biblical role of leadership in their families, church, and community.  Pray especially for those who will be attending the No Regrets conference this Saturday.
  7. Pray for the women who meet for Heart and Home on Wednesdays.  Pray this week for their small group discussion times.
  8. Pray for Team 56 as they hold a sleepover on Friday evening.  Pray for their leaders and youth to experience good fellowship and to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
  9. Please refer to the Prayer Request insert in Sunday’s bulletin and pray for those needs.

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