Prayer

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January 15

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Have you ever been disappointed with God? I suspect all of us would speak to the affirmative of that statement. I must confess there have been times I have been. One of those times is now. After 10 months or pursuing me, Covid finally caught up with me. In spite of the mask, the hand sanitizing, the extra vitamins designed to ward off a virus or infection, I got it. A body that once weighed 223 and was pretty solid is now 30 pounds less in 3 weeks, lost a lot of muscle and is weak. (I hope this is not TMI): I have trouble keeping things down (or at least not feeling nauseated) and keeping things in. I’ve tried the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast) but that hasn’t worked. And besides, it is boring and sort of disgusting.  I’m not fond of bananas, white rice or white toast.  I’ve had people praying for me. I have prayed fervently for healing. All the tests so far have come back negative, or on the good side. After a night of solid sleep where the alarm woke me, I slept fitfully last night. This is not meant to be a “woe is me” devotion though. It is designed to ask a question:

Why am I disappointed with God?

I already know the answer: because He hasn’t answered my (and others) prayers for healing. My desire is to be completely healed from this mess. But then I think, “Who am I to expect that? Maybe God has a bigger plan in His big picture?”

One thing I do know is that I need to delight in God and then He will fulfill the desires of my heart, not the other way around, i.e. God will fulfill my dreams then I will delight in Him.  So I must keep in mind that disappointment is not unusual or even unexpected, but I must delight in Him no matter what. If He chooses to heal me, I will praise Him. If He has another plan, I will praise Him.

“So Father,  I will praise You even through my disappointment.”

November 26

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Remember to give thanks to the ONE who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and every material blessing we have. Take some time today to get away and be thankful.

November 25

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe I ought to restate that: tomorrow is the official holiday called Thanksgiving. For the Christ-follower everyday should be a day of thanksgiving. Since I’m not sure about posting tomorrow, I thought I would focus on thanksgiving today. I’m going to borrow some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll’s devotion book Good Morning, Lord…Can We Talk? In his November 22nd devotion he quoted I Thess.5:18- “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” He then gave 3 directions we can look. {Commentary following each is mine}

Look up. I use the word “awesome” only when it applies to God or something He has done. I am not awesome; you are not awesome (Sorry to burst your bubble there). Now God? HE IS AWESOME!! His grace, His love, His sovereign control, His majesty, His power…I could go on and on. Spend time simply praising Him for who He is.

Look around. I am a blessed man. I have a faithful wife of 47 1/2 years. I have two fantastic daughters. One phenomenal grandson (no prejudice there of course). I serve a church full of people I love. I live in a small town of nice people. I have friends, both in and out of the church, for whom I’m grateful.

Look within. I have the Holy Spirit living in me. Christ in me, the hope of glory. He has taken this ugly house and made it His home. He has give me real joy. Real peace. Real love.  New eyes to see and enjoy life. So much more.

So…what are you thankful for? Can you take these three directions and use them today?

“Father, all I want to say is thank you.”

November 23

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Before I start: my blogging friend, Diane, is having surgery today. I’d like to ask you to stop and say a prayer for her safety, the doctor’s steady hands, and a good and smooth recovery for her. Thanks.

I’m not much of a horticulturist. I’m not much of a gardener either. My thumbs are black. I decided I wanted a garden a few years ago…when I was much younger. I loved fresh tomatoes (especially the yellow ones) and green peppers-usually given to me by others. So I thought, “Why not? After all, how hard could it be?” Let’s just say that after 3 or 4 summers I again relied on others for those fresh veggies. I planted. I watered. I weeded (my least favorite thing of all). I had no clue about tilling and using cardboard or newspaper to keep down weeds. I also didn’t feed them plant food. The kicker, though, is I found it kept me from more important things-like riding my bike. Why work when you can have fun, you know? For three summers I also umpired softball so there went my free time.

I’ve seen many-myself included- treat their faith like that. We want to grow. We want to see fruit. But we don’t want to put in the “effort” to grow. I’m not talking about a works-oriented salvation. I’m talking about personal nutrition. You see, God calls us to Himself then wants us to grow in that faith. He provides what we need to grow but we need to utilize it. Reading the Word. Praying. Gathering with others to worship and encourage. Reaching for Him to help us get rid of the weeds. In spite of what some may think, this does not happen on its own. We don’t lay our head on our pillow with a Bible underneath and by osmosis have it soak into our brain. God has provided all we need for growth. Let’s not be stagnant. Let’s apply the nutrients of truth and grace to our fledgling “plant” and start growing. Fruit awaits if we do.  Take some time to read Galatians 6:7-9.

“Father, You want me to grow, not stagnate. Help me to allow Your Word, Your thruth and Your grace to water my life to bring forth fruit.”

November 16

Monday, November 16th, 2020

I am a terrible waiter.  No, I didn’t work at a restaurant and drop food or drink in a person’s lap. I could jokingly say, “When God was handing out qualities and said, ‘Patience?’ I thought I was going to be a doctor so I said I’ll take plenty.”  But I’m not a doctor and it’s not the same word. (I know. That’s bad).

I repeat: I am a terrible waiter. I’m not as bad I used to be, so I guess I can chalk it up to maturity. I remember one incident when I was at the first church I served. I commented about this new Bible I had seen at the bookstore. I went ahead a few days later and bought it. One day later, a man came to me with that same Bible as a gift. I missed out on being blessed and him having the joy of blessing me. That has happened so many times I can’t count. But I missed because I was spontaneous. I’ve run ahead of God way too many times.

I find myself waiting again. Last Thursday, the 5th, I was outside sitting across a picnic table talking to someone, for close to 1-2 hours.  The next day she lost her sense of smell and tested positive for ‘rona. I found out Monday afternoon. So, now I am quarantined until sometime this coming week (probably Thursday to be safe). I wait. Have I said I’m a terrible waiter?

When I don’t presume upon God and run ahead, He has often taken me on a slow path. However, while people will say, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” I’m not convinced that is always best. Some of my best time with God has been the slow churn. Or as I am fond of saying, “He took me ’round Robin Hood’s barn.” In other words, He took me the long way.

I’m learning to wait. I suspect I will also continue to learn. “And that is my prayer, Father. I need to learn to wait.”

November 6

Friday, November 6th, 2020

I’m going to make a confession to you and I hope you don’t think less of me. Seriously. That is not a ploy to get you read further, one more “juicy” tidbit to pass along. It is not a headline to grab your attention and then hit you with a sledgehammer. Nope. This is something I want to be honest about.

There are times when I pray that 1) I find my mind wandering; and 2) I find myself lying. Say what? It’s true on both counts. On the first I know I’m not alone. A wandering mind is not unusual. It’s not good, but it’s also not unusual. It’s the second which bothers me more, but I often find it a by-product of the first.

Let me explain (or is that excuse myself?). When my mind wanders and I come back to reality, I find I have been repeating  a phrase over and over. “Lord, let me be what you want me to be.” Of course, the real problem is not the wandering mind; it is the insincere words. Hence, the lying. But, I don’t stop there. “Lord, let me be what you want me to be.” “Let me say what you want me to say.”  “Let me do what you want me to do.”  “Let me feel…let me care…” You get the point. Is that what I really want? Am I being sincere in my prayer or is it just a thought of a wandering mind? Strangely enough, they are good prayers to pray if I am sincere. But not if I’m not. In fact, it could be downright dangerous if God took me up on it.

Okay, now is the time for more honesty. Do you find yourself in this same boat?

“Father, may my prayers be sincere as I speak them, not just empty words of a wandering mind.”

November 3

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

“It all depends on your perspective.” I’ve said it and probably so have you. Jo’s sister had a car that now sits at our place. Circumstances are such that she can’t drive anymore. Like never.  This car is a piece of junk. It has to be one of the worst cars Chevy ever made.  Anyway, Jo went out to start it yesterday to move it and not only was the battery dead, the key won’t come out. I am 6’5″ and I tried every contortion I could think of to try to get my body underneath the steering column to find out how to get that key out (supposed to use a screwdriver to push a button). I couldn’t do it.  I finally walked away….frustrated…disliking that car even more.

What I was doing, in essence, was looking for a different perspective. Here is another I want you to think about: “Prayer changes things.” First, I think it is missing the point. Jesus did not say in Mark 11:22 to have faith in prayer.  He said to “have faith in God.” I read recently about a blind professor in Chicago who once said, “I am whole even though I am blind.” But here is what struck me: He said, “I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power and presence of God, so I pray.”

I think that’s the key. Prayer doesn’t change things. God’s presence does. Dare I say that prayer is powerless if the power and presence of God are dismissed? No question it is a great privilege to pray, but it is not the prayer but the Presence behind the prayer that is important. God makes the difference. He changes things.

“Father, You are my All in All. It is You I need to look to and honor, not prayer. Help me not to lose sight of that perspective.”

October 26

Monday, October 26th, 2020

When you think about prayer, there are a lot of crazy ideas going around.  ‘Course there are the lies and false ones (bordering on heresy) that you can tell God what you want and He will do it, especially if you name it and claim it in the name of Jesus.  There are those who say, “Why should I pray when God already knows?” That is a somewhat fair question. There is also one that I don’t hear much of in my circle but I know it is out there. Here is an example:

Praying to God and asking for a job or for Him to move in your life and provide some money (for example), but then just sitting in your chair-expecting the job or the money to fall into your lap. You and I might think that is absurd but then again you may not. It might be seen in another way. Say perhaps you ask God to provide for someone and you have the ability to do so but fail to help. That would be an example of James 2, of faith without works.

When we pray for something we should either be willing to get busy if its for ourselves or if we prayed on behalf of someone else. That’s like the two boys who were late for school. One said, “Let’s go!” The other said, “Let’s stop and pray we won’t be late.” The other said, “You can stop and pray but I prefer to pray while I run.” I think he got it right. 🙂

Run. Pray. Then keep running as if your life depended on it. Pray. Trust. Then do all you can in looking or searching.

“Father, I can pray in Your will and know you will answer. But sitting around and doing nothing is not what I believe you want. Trust and obey.”

October 23

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Sadly there are many people today who call themselves “Christians” that have strange views. Some are whacked. Some are way out there. Some follow heresy (and often don’t know, which gives rise to a lack of Bible knowledge). Some follow men. Some are just ignorant. And some look for the easy way, an easy faith. It is this latter group I want to probe.

You see, some have the lame idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” You know…if I don’t see I don’t know. I don’t see so I’m not responsible. Take, for example, followers of Jesus in other countries (and even now in our own). We have no clue in many cases what others are going through. We think, “Oh that’s a Muslim country” or “That’s in a communist country” so we turn a blind eye and either deny it or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist. Every day multitudes of followers of Jesus are persecuted and executed for their faith. I have no clue what that is like. But whether I choose ignorance or disregard, it still goes on. All over the globe. Behind the bamboo curtain. Behind the Great Wall. Behind the sickle and stars. Behind the stars and stripes. People are living their faith and as a result are either imprisoned or executed for that faith. Plain and simple: being a follower of Christ in many places is truly an effort of faith and of taking one’s life in one’s own hands. It is one of the least popular things a person can do.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus really do stand in the presence (now) and will (in heaven) of some truly remarkable people. One author would call them world-changers. They may be little known but their light shines brightly.

“Father, I stand in the company of some ‘great’ people who shine your light in tough circumstances and places. Help me not to forget them.”

September 22

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

One of the things I read a lot about, especially during this pandemic, is worry. Worry about the virus. Worry about family and friends. Worry about a job. Worry about the future. Worry about money. Worry about how things will be on the other side of it. A pastor’s life is compounded by the sheer responsibility he feels for the people he pastors/shepherds. So multiply a family of four (for example) times 25 or 50 or more. Now you catch a glimpse of the magnitude.

So its easy to worry about things. Both big and small. Jesus speaks to that in Matthew 6: 26-27: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you be being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” His picturesque advice for His listeners in just as appropriate for His followers today. He is saying, “Bill (or whatever your name is) don’t worry. I got this and you will be taken care of.” Why should I be anxious? Why should I hoard for fear of the future? Why should I be concerned about where the next dime is going to come from? Jesus has promised He will take care of me. In spite of how easy it is to feel alone, forgotten, left hanging on a string, He has made a promise and will keep it.

Trust Him. He made another promise He keeps: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

“Father, those words are for me. May I not forget Your promise given in Matthew 6 and elsewhere.”