To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Praying The News

I have a desire, most of which is wholesome to keep-up-to-date with the news. My habit, for better or worse, is to go to the BBC website for this.

I have recently pondered upon how much I just obtain news information for information and/or entertainment. There is nothing essentially harmful in that. However, I am left wondering about the issue of actually praying the news. Would it not be far more wholesome to use my acquired news information to pray to the Lord about those items. To pray:

  • For people in need.
  • For crisis situations around the world.
  • For the extension of the gospel in different parts of the world.
  • For many to be converted to the Lord in these situations mentioned in the news.

And as we pray we can weep and rejoice over the situations we observe.

I am going to seek to do this. I trust it will revolutionise my approach to the news and make following the news it a far more beneficial activity.

Praying For All The People

One of the calls of shepherding ministry is to give ourselves to prayer. We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word is what the apostles said in Acts 6:4 as they sought to resolve the issue of the disputation over the widows support.

So a priority for any elder and group of elders is to pray for the sheep that the Lord has placed under their care. We pray above all for their welfare in the Lord. To use the prayer of Paul for the Colossians as a model would be no bad thing:

Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:9-14).

This call to prayer is a delightful duty for all elders. To fail to pray for the people is an abrogation of responsibility. The people should know that as a part of our care for them; we pray for them.

Moreover, we should pray for all of them. Not just the ones we find encourage us or we find easy to get on with, but for all of them.

And as people are added into our congregations we should be diligent to pray for them. In fact I am led to ponder, that if we are not praying for all the ones that he has given our church connection with then why should He supply us with more? If we are failing to care for the ones given to us, and that must include praying for them, then why should He trust more of His dear sheep to us.

So if we are shepherds to God’s people we must pray. Otherwise we are actually displaying that we are not really shepherds, even though we may bear that title.

Phone Or Prayer

I was at the leisure centre recently at the counter seeking to pay for my swim. The receptionist said she had to nip away to do something; there was no problem with that. What I suddenly became aware of was my reaching into my inside coat pocket for my phone.

I subconsciously reckoned that I had a few moments to spend and would use them by consulting my phone and seeing if there were any messages or checking the news/sport. I had no pressing need to check my phone; I was not awaiting anything, but go for it I did.

But why not use that moment to pray Philip? Or why not stop and call to mind the issues of the Bible Study from the previous evening? Why did you have to go for your distraction devise; your phone?

I remember reading the book by Ronald Dunn “Don’t just stand there pray something” (see here). My recollections are that the book was valuable in assessing how we need to use our time well for the Lord and that means seizing opportunities to pray.

So I am faced with the question concerning my own use of time. When these unexpected opportunities arise to use periods of time, is my response to reach for my phone or to reach for prayer. Which P is it for you and me?

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.

 

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