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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Prayer and Action

Nehemiah was a man of action. He was the primary instrument in the hand of God responsible for the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. What is so often ignored is the fact that he was a man of prayer.

Right from the beginning of the book with the Lord working in His heart to accomplish this mighty work for God he was given to prayer. When he hears of the bad state of the walls in Jerusalem his response is: As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Neh. 1:4). The rest of chapter 1 is his recounting to the Lord of the spiritual realities underlying their situation. We are reminded by this that any big work of God is founded in the true prayer of his broken people.

The setting in place of the plan to build the wall starts with Nehemiah’s conversation with his autocratic boss, Artaxerxes. Right here though, he is again showing his dependence upon the Lord. And so we read Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven (Neh. 2:4).

When Sanballat and Tobiah get going with their nefarious schemes to undermine the work of the Lord. Nehemiah’s immediate response is to draw near to God.

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders (Neh. 4:4-5). Prayer is always so much better than panic.

As we see the work drawing to an end the opposition seems to get more intense. Nehemiah’s response is to call on the Lord. It is recorded as follows: For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands (Neh. 6:9).

Through all this planning, preparing, building, problem solving and managing are all taking place. Prayer does not lead us to escape our responsibilities. Rather, it is the means through which we fulfil our responsibilities.

 

 

Open The Eyes Of My Heart

The song by Michael W Smith goes like this:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You

[Chorus]
To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy.

So we ask: is this a song that we should be singing? The four main themes of the song are:

  • Our inability.
  • A longing to know God.
  • A commitment to worship Him, for who He is.
  • A desire for His working in our lives.

These all seems to be eminently biblical themes. Here are some thoughts

The Need For the Lord to Open the Eyes of our Hearts:

Paul addresses this in his prayer In Ephesians 1:16-23, part of which reads:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph. 1:16-21).

Paul is clearly asking for the Ephesian believers that the eyes of their hearts be opened so as to see God’s purposes and workings. The song is in line with this desire.

To See the Lord High and Lifted Up

The main gist of the hymn goes on to link in with Isaiah 6. So we read

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple (see Is. 6:1).

Further scriptures in Isaiah lead us to see the Lord high and lifted up. So we read:

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted (Is. 52: 13).

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite (Is. 57:15).

How important it is for our spiritual welfare to see the Lord high and lifted up. This hymn helpfully leads us into that theme.

The “Holy, holy, holy” Cry 

This continues the Isaiah 6 experience of Isaiah who recounted

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:2-5).

As we enter God’s presence His magnificence leads us to cry out regarding the thrice holy God. Again the song brings us into this theme with the implied consequential knowledge of our own weakness.

The Longing To Know His Love and Power

Paul longed to know God and so should we. He wrote that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 1:10-11). 

We so easily settle for a detached God-distant Christianity, but Christianity is about us being brought into a close relationship with the eternal Lord God. And we can never know His power and love in our own strength and so we cry out to Him. Paul picked up something of this theme with the Thessalonians. He remarked that our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:5)

So this is a great hymn for us to sing to bring us into the Lord’s presence with the right appreciations and longings.

If there would be a couple of qualms it would be:

  • There is no mention of the saving work of Christ to bring us into the knowledge of God. But every hymn cannot say everything.
  • The danger of repetitive rehearsing of the verses. Repetition is not bad. The significant worship scene in Revelation 5 seems to have a degree of repetition so repetition cannot be wrong in itself. In fact it can be helpful to reinforce the themes of the Lord’s grace. The problem comes when the reputation is overdone and we need to be careful of that.

 

India (4)

One of the intriguing things about my preaching experience in Andhra Pradesh was the desire that the people would have that you pray for them. What I mean is that after services they would come up to me and ask for prayer. The expectancy, if I fully gathered what was going on, was that they wanted you to pray there and then.

Here are some thoughts:

  • In many ways this is beautiful and something to celebrate in the life of the church. How wonderful to be in a church where the people want to pray, where they realise the need to turn over issues in their lives to God in prayer.
  • I did feel though that it would be better for them to be praying with one another rather than asking me to pray for them.
  • One concern was the whole phenomenon of viewing me as “the priest” or “the man of God” (a term which was often used) because I had preached. any sense that I had some special access into the presence of God is one I would want to reject with my whole heart.
  • Also, I wondered whether there might be some residual colonial attitudes here. After all, I was the white man who would have to be deferred to. Again, this would be an attitude that I would want to squash with all my being.
  • Out of courtesy, wanting to encourage spiritual attitudes and wanting to bond with these great people I did very happily participate. Often it would be a general prayer (to just pray for them) or prayer for some practical need (such as health or education). But, my heart delighted when I heard them ask for prayer for their family to be saved or some similar spiritual desire.

I did feel at times like I was a purveyor of prayers and all trades of that ilk. However, what I privilege it was to pray for and be with these people, whom I came to love. And may it be that the Lord might yet move through those prayers.

Daily Bread

As part of the pattern prayer delivered to us by our Lord He instructed us to pray Give us this day our daily bread (Matt 6:11). There are two key principles underlying this petition and we do well to have them firmly implanted in our lives.

Necessity

We are called to ask for our daily bread. We are not called to ask for our daily chocolate biscuits or crisps or whatever. It is bread we are called to ask for. Bread was the staple of the diet at the time of our Lord’s ministry. Bread was necessary to survive physically. Accordingly, the Lord is saying that we should ask that the Lord would give us what is necessary for the maintaining of our lives.

What we are being taught is that it is not our wants or our whims that we should be praying for. It is our needs.

Physical food must be included here and so we can literally ask our Father for our daily bread. However, it also, no doubt, should also include other aspects of physical and practical necessities in our lives such as clothes and housing.

Moreover, when we think about necessities in our lives we are led to think of the words of our Lord who said quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4b). There is a more profound bread that we are in profound need of and that is the bread of the Word of Life. We need to be fed in our souls on the wholesome nourishing Word of the Lord. We should be praying that this should be the case everyday.

But let us never forget in our studying of that Word that the One who is the focus of that book is the Bread of Life. In John 6:35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.We need to ask everyday that we would be having our Lord Jesus, through the Word, nourishing our lives.

Dependence

The fact that we have to ask for “daily bread” and ask for it “this day” means that each day we have to come afresh. We are not bidden to ask for six months supply. But rather we are called to ask for a daily supply. Everyday I must come again and ask for His supply.

This applies in every realm of the necessary bread required for our lives. Even though I may have a freezer full of food. I should continually be aware that I cannot presume on tomorrow. Everyday I need to come and acknowledge the Lord as the giver.

Moreover with the spiritual food from the written Word I need to come every day for fresh supply from His store. Yesterday’s food was for yesterday. Now we need today’s food. Any food left-over from the previous day putrefied.

The experience of the nation of Israel in the provision of the manna was a clear example of this principle. To find out more read Exodus 16. Daily, except on the sabbath, they had to go and get their daily food. Any food left-over from the previous day putrefied. They had to learn to depend on God everyday.

We live in a society where we are encouraged to be self-dependent so that we might be self-made. The Lord’s prayer teaches us, in the request for daily bread petition, that we need to be God-dependant and God-made.

 

Prayer and Recovery

I write this pondering upon how I am immeasurably recovered from where I was five months ago. My mental and emotional state now is incomparable to how I was when in the depths of weakness and despair through depression. If you want to follow the issue of my depression please follow the “Depression (Again)” posts which start here

I write this wanting to thank all who have prayed to the Lord for me. I am grateful for all who have shown an interest in me. I am grateful for all who have encouraged me. But I am left, above all, pondering upon the issue of the power and impact of prayer to the Lord by different ones for me.

Paul says to Philemon about how, through prayer, he expected something to happen. He writes: At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you (Phile. 22).

I am left wondering about how much of my recovery is down to the fact that people, including possibly yourself, have prayed for me. God really does work through prayer.

I am reminded of what I wrote here from Jackie Hill Perry about how she believed her coming to Christ was bound up with prayer.

Which all leaves me pondering upon how much of Philippians 4:6-7 is being seen in my life. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Oh may you and me be encouraged to be praying for people and situations and believing God really does work through prayer.

Damage Merchant

Alas, how weak and foolish I am! An issue arose once again in my life today which left me somewhat exasperated. It is an issue that has arisen several times before. The scenario is pretty well the same each time. I get “at my wits end” about the issue and the other party involved also gets “at their wits end” and altogether, give or take a few clarifications, it does not go well.

Then it came to me later in the day that here is an issue I have never really prayed over with my Lord. An issue, which is a continuing running sore in my life, has not been brought into the presence of my Saviour. I am just shocked thinking about it all. An issue has effectively been left to rumble on with little progress, much agitation and some damage to relationships along the way.

Then I am led to think about some other issues of late, where I have left some damage, to a greater or lesser extent, in my wake. What might there be in common about all these issues? I suggest I have gone into them and engaged in them without really sincerely bringing the matter before the Lord. I can say I have acted with legitimacy in each of these situations, but what a fool I have been with my lack of prayer.

So I hear the Lord saying to me through the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is the word “everything” that hits me here. How much other stuff is in my life which is not been brought to God? And while I am at it, how much is there in your life that is not being brought to God? So perhaps over these next days, even particularly tomorrow on the Lord’s Day, take time to consider in the presence of God how much of your life is not been prayed over. It may be your work; it may be your computer use, it may be your dealing with your family, and it may be so many things.

So I write this a bit relieved. I am relieved that there is a way out of my recurring melt-downs and it is prayer. Philip, you can pray. Philip you must pray. and then i can believe the Lord working to progress my life. O Lord thank you

Prepared Prayers

One thing that I have started to ponder upon, consequent upon visiting several churches earlier in the year, is the issue of pre-written prayers.

I have to confess that this is something I have not previously given a lot of thought to. In leading from the front in prayer I have been of the school of thought, that you address your Father and God in an extempore fashion according to as you are inclined in heart and mind at that time. Without dwelling upon it, the assumption behind that approach is a belief in the Holy Spirit guiding you. And if you have been with the Lord during the week, then you will be led in an appropriate way to bring matters before the Lord.

The danger of this approach though, is that we can attribute our sloppiness and disorderliness to the Holy Spirit when it is simply us not having given ourselves to sufficient preparation. One critical aspect of that preparation is rightly the preparation which comes from ongoing fellowship with the Lord so that we are in the right heart frame.

However, should I not also be thinking about the content of my prayer? Is there anything about our God and His Son, our Saviour, we want to dwell upon? Are there any particular blessings to consider? And what specific issues can we be bringing before God?

We could write these out and there is no problem with that. We could have a list that prompts us or we could read them what we have previously prepared in a verbatim fashion. Alternatively, we could simply have things in our heads. Which ever way it is, I am challenged that more preparation is needed.

In all this though we need to be reminded from Matthew 6:1-7 how our Lord taught that we should neither do our praying for show nor just have vain repetition. And, dare I say, that can happen whether you have prepared prayers or extempore prayers.

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