Prayer

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July 14

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

I made a phone call the other day and ended up angrily hanging up. No, I wasn’t mad at the person on the other end. I didn’t get into a heated argument and rather than say something I would regret I hung up. No, it was more like” “Thank you for calling __________. To continue in English, press 1. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it at any time. Press 2 for technical support. Press 3 for directory. Press 4 for_______.” On and on it goes until you hear the words: “To hear this menu again, Press *.”  G-r-r-r-r. Clang!

How about Press # if you give up? Automated customer service. I call that AWOL. I want to talk to a real live person!!

Imagine if you will: “Thank you for calling God.  To continue in English, press 1.  For salvation, press 2. For a prayer for wisdom, press 3. For a prayer for financial help, press 4.”  On and on. Talk about frustrating! All I want to do is to talk to God and all I get is this annoying number system.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t operate that way? I cannot even begin to tell you how frustrating that would be. I think I get upset with human customer service; I can’t imagine what it would be like with God’s unavailability. And there you have it-the dilemma. The crux of the matter. God says, “I’m here for you.” Psalm 121:4 tells us He neither sleeps nor slumbers. We are constantly being told about His Omniscience. He is everywhere…at all times…except when we need Him. Then we have to dial an automated prayer line. What kind of God is that? It’s called Absentee. It’s called AWOL. It’s called distant.

“Father, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with an automated call line for an automated God. Thanks for being there and thanks for listening.”

May 26

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

I was in the 4th grade when I started wearing glasses. Miss Kutzer (whom I was in love with) noticed I was squinting to see the chalkboard. Well, you know how that goes. I’m moved up closer to the front. She tells my mom. Mom takes me to see Dr. Braveman. Dr. B tells me I need glasses. I’m going to translate: “Bill, you’re blind-as-a-bat without your glasses. You are going to need them the rest of your life.” What he doesn’t tell me is my eyes are going to get worse every year until my glasses will look like coke bottles. Fortunately, they developed material that allowed the lenses to get thinner while still helping me see. But that’s another story.

I finally got my glasses and could actually see. Hmmm there was carpet before? It looked like the carpet was right up close to my eyes! It was so cool! Until the next day when I needed to wear them to school. I thought I looked stupid or a dork (if that word had been around those days), so I left them at home. Until Miss Kutzer (whom I was still in love despite her betrayal) said, “Bill, weren’t you supposed to get your glasses yesterday?” “Yes ma’m.”  “Where are they?” “At home.” “I’ll expect you to wear them tomorrow.” Then she betrayed me again by calling my mom!  (Amazing how love overlooks betrayal).

Down through the years my eyes got worse. I wore contacts for awhile; then back to glasses; then contacts again; then glasses for good. My eyes did get worse as I got older and last November at the age of 67 I got rid of glasses forever…except for reading. I had cataracts removed. It was a great two days!! 🙂

I remember my frames breaking; lenses falling out; wearing tape to hold my frames together; vision marred from sweat, dirt, chips and breaks. I remember elbows in basketball games that found my frames which split my eyelids and eyebrows wide open. I remember trying to play first base with only one lens in my broken glasses. It was fine until the first ball thrown to me hit my wrist  and not my glove because my perception was all out of whack.

It is easy to lose sight of the important. Psalm 141:8 says, “But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless.” We used to sing an old hymn: “Open my eyes that I might see/ Glimpses of truth Thou has for me.” (Sorry about the King James English there). With clear vision we need to be focused on God. With open eyes we need to be seeking God in His Word, praying for clear sight in our quest.

“Father, I do ask that my eyes will open and seeing clearly in my quest for a deeper relationship with You.  May my sight and my focus be on You.”

May 22

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Is there any of us who hasn’t struggled with prayer? I’m not talking about frequency, or seeing the necessity, or posture, or any of the varied ways to pray. I’m talking about believing God will answer our prayer. Or to put it another way: Is God even listening?

You know how it goes:

  • A dearly loved grandmother is diagnosed with dementia.
  • A much-loved child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • A husband or wife is only given weeks, maybe months, to live.
  • A job ends and days of unemployment turn into weeks then months.
  • A much prayed-for child goes AWOL and chooses a lifestyle we don’t approve of.
  • A pastor/youth pastor goes rogue and leaves everything to pursue lust.
  • A child we have prayed for and prayed over since before birth becomes a prodigal, abandoning their faith.

The list seems endless doesn’t it? Is God listening? Is He deaf? We are praying in faith believing, but it just doesn’t seem to be heard. The prayer hits the ceiling and slaps us in the face, laughing at us.

We may never know the “why” of God’s work. Least not at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. I honestly have no answer except to say, “Been there; done that; keep praying.” God is listening. It may not seem like it, but He is. Sometimes no matter the sincerity or the fervency or the heartache the prayer goes unanswered. That doesn’t mean God is not listening; it does mean our wish is not His command. God is not deaf. He is not out relieving Himself (as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal about their god).  God is heart-broken over your heart break. He is shedding tears with you as you shed tears before Him. He does care. He is listening.

“Father, in spite of long lag time, help me to trust, to believe You have things in Your sight.”

May 8/Weekend

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, “He is a man of few words”? We, of course, mean that he/she is speaking very little. We might also mean that he/she says only what is necessary.

Have you ever considered some of the Psalms? Take Psalm 117, for example. Two verses. That’s all! And all we have to do is go 2 chapters later and we find Psalm 119 weighing in at 176 verses. WOW! Two verses. That is all it took him to record his praise. That reminds me of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Just shy of 300 words. I’m told there was another speech that day by a great orator. I think I remember it going on for 2 hours. Ummmmm, who remembers one word of that speech?  Meanwhile, the Gettysburg Address has gone down as one of the greatest speeches in history.

There is a lesson here. I don’t think God is impressed with our superfluous, flowery words. I don’t think He is impressed by our many words. Some of the most sincere, meaningful prayers are the shortest. The “Help!” The “I need you.” The “I love you.” The “Great are you Lord!” For a good reference point, read Psalm 117.

“Father, may my words be few but sincere and heartfelt. From crying out to praise, may they be to the point.”

May 7

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

During my Quiet Time this year I’ve been reading One Perfect Life by John MacArthur. It takes the story of Jesus and puts it in chronological order. So related Scriptures are read together. My reading today was from Matthew 18 and Mark 9. It is, perhaps, one of my favorite passages/stories in the life of Jesus. It is the story of the father with an epileptic son.

The setting is critical. Jesus, Peter, James and John had just come down from the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration. A spiritual high for sure. They came down to a scene of pure chaos. The disciples were surrounded by a crowd and scribes arguing with them. A man had a son who had epileptic fits and a demon who controlled him. The father had asked for help and healing for his son from the disciples but it wasn’t happening. Jesus came on the scene of chaos, asked a question, and the father told him. About that time, the boy had one of his fits.

  • Jesus: How long has this been happening?
  • Father: From childhood. “If you can do anything.”
  • Jesus: “If I can? All things are possible for one who believes.”
  • Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
  • Jesus: Mute and deaf spirit come out.

A father’s faith is rewarded. Contrary to what today’s false teachers say, this father’s faith was not all that great. He asked Jesus to make his faith complete. My thought: On a scale of 1-10 the father’s faith was a 2 let’s say.  He asked Jesus to fill in the lack. There are times you and I don’t have “complete” faith. That unanswered prayer is not because of that, in spite of the hucksters who say, “Healing (or whatever) didn’t happen because you had doubt, you didn’t have enough faith.” If so, what do you do with this man’s experience? We take what little faith we have and we bring it to Jesus. If it is His will to answer that request,  He will. Actually, He always answers. Maybe not the way we want, but He does.

And that is where faith comes in! Bring your request; what little faith you may have; and trust Him to answer.

“Father, please give me the faith like a mustard seed-faith like this father- who trusted Jesus to answer. Let me bring what little faith I sometimes have and let you make it complete.”

April 17/Weekend

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“Here’s my heart Lord/Here’s my life Lord/Speak what is true.”

It’s Friday and I’m at home on my day off. I slept in today so I’m late to my Quiet Time. Jo just came out of the shower with her phone playing a song by Lauren Daigle. It was the song with the above lyrics. We sing this song during our worship time on Sunday morning from time to time.

But its more than just a song we sing on Sunday in a worship set. This morning it gripped my heart. I seriously want to be all in with Him but I find myself fighting the “collar.” I remember a saying I heard once: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.” They must have been using me as a test subject. I say, “Here I am” but a few days (maybe just hours) I take back control and do my own thing.

I know I’m not alone. And the funny thing is that I’m really not in control anyway. The way life has been upended the last month or so shows that.  But it hasn’t been just the recent past; it has been for the past umpteen years.

It has taught me one thing though. Through all of my ups and downs, fighting and surrendering, there has been one constant: God. Always there. Always faithful. Always loving. Always with open arms.

“Thank you Father, for Your faithfulness to me-even when I’m not. When I say those words, “Here’s my heart, Lord” let me speak them truthfully.”

Here is the song which started me thinking today only by a different artist.

April 6

Monday, April 6th, 2020

As I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning, I ran across these words in Psalm 18:

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?-the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the height…You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (18:31-33, 35)

It is a normal reaction, I think, when things get tough to hunker down. To close ranks. To set up a self-enclosed bunker. There could be various reasons for that. Fear of the enemy. Fear of showing weakness. Sort of like self-preservation mode. Fear of engagement.

There are several passages during the last week of Jesus where He talks or shows the value of faith. He speaks of telling a mountain to be moved and it will. He speaks and a fig tree withers. Then He tells His followers they have that same ability if they have faith.

We really have nothing to fear. When all things seem to be against us, God is for us. David expressed it in Psalm 18. Jesus expressed it often. When things seem to be against us, let’s sing the song of God’s faithfulness.

“Father, all that is Yours is mine. Your power is at my disposal. You set me on a solid rock and secure me on the heights. Help me to be a singer of your faithfulness as David was.”

March 27

Friday, March 27th, 2020

It is not uncommon to hear a husband or wife, a parent, or someone else lament the fact that the other person won’t change. I have heard both husbands and wives say, “I keep praying that he/she will change.” Now obviously, I’m not against change, especially when it’s a spiritual change.  Let’s look at it another way though.

I remember a little boy who was having one of those days. He was on his mom’s last nerve until she had had enough. “Go to your room.” A short time later he came out and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about what you said about my behavior and I said a little prayer.” Expecting an apology or at least an admission of guilt or sorrow she said, “And what is that prayer? Did you ask God to help make you good?”  The little boy didn’t miss a beat. “Nope. I didn’t ask Him to make me good. I asked Him to help you put up with me.”  (Please understand that is not a true story because I never got sent to my room). 🙂

Sometimes when God wants change it is not the other person who needs changed; it is us. God desires our hearts to change. For that to happen we have to heed the Scripture. In Psalm 51 we have David’s confession following the exposure and conviction of his adultery. He did not blame Bathsheba or his circumstances. He took the blame and prayed for his heart to be cleansed (v.10) and for joy to be returned (v.12).

It’s time to pray for change…in myself. Let’s start looking into our own hearts and putting God’s searchlight upon us.  “Father, may I change as you want me to change. Help me to look into my own heart and not expect others to change, but be the one who changes inside.”

 

March 16

Monday, March 16th, 2020

I read Denny’s blog each time it is released. He writes insightful and always thought-provoking posts. Considering all that is happening in the world today, I found this to be especially insightful and worthy to be passed on. Please enjoy and wonder at the amazing ways God’s works.

Banished from the public means of grace, we found grace nevertheless.

By Denny Burk on March 15, 2020 in Christianity, Devotion

Our church was scattered by the coronavirus this morning. We did not gather together as usual at the intersection of Southern Parkway and Third Street. No, today we were spread out all over the city of Louisville and beyond. Our college students were literally scattered across North America as many of them were compelled to go back to their hometowns after colleges and universities closed last week. Our church’s missionaries remain scattered all over the world. None of us could be together this morning.

If you know what it means to be the ekklesia of God, your heart ached like mine did. For this is not how it is supposed to be. Gathering together for the Lord’s Day is fundamental to our identity, and we were unable to do that this morning (Hebrews 10:24-25). We had a “virtual” service like so many others, but it really isn’t the same. Nor should it be.

But something really extraordinary happened as we all sat down before our scattered screens for worship. Jim Hamilton read the call to worship from a book of devotion by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, published in 1893.1 Below is the entry for March 15, and the words are nearly incredible:

MARCH 15

Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.”

Ezekiel 11:16

Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace behind the means of grace. The Lord who places his people where they feel like exiles will himself be with them. He will be to them all that they could have had at home in the place of their sacred assemblies. Take this promise as your own if you are called to wander!

God is to his people a place of refuge. They find sanctuary with him from every adversary. He is their place of worship too. He is with them as he was with Jacob when he slept in the open field and woke, saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place” (Gen. 28:16). To them he will also be a sanctuary of peace, like the Most Holy Place, which was the noiseless abode of the Eternal. They will be kept from fear of evil.

God himself, in Christ Jesus, is the sanctuary of mercy. The ark of the covenant is the Lord Jesus, and Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, the tables of the law are in Christ our sanctuary. In God we find the shrine of holiness and of communion. What more do we need?

Oh, Lord, fulfill this promise and always be to us like a little sanctuary!

In a book published 127 years ago, this was the entry for March 15. What a smiling providence. What an evidence of the Lord’s care for his people in a time of turmoil and trouble. He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5), and he proved it again this morning.

—————

1 Spurgeon’s devotional The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith was published in 1893 in America, but Crossway published an updated edition just last year. The text above is from the 2019 edition.

March 11

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

I’m pretty sure all of us have heard the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I once had a little book with that title. It’s subtitle was “It’s all small stuff.” I don’t know about the accuracy of that latter statement because there sure are some things that loom like mountains in our eyes.

At the same time, I am also being reassured by God’s Word that God sees the small stuff.  I have often been asked, “Pastor Bill, does God care about the little things? Is there anything too small for me to pray about? Does He really care about such-and-such?” There are a couple of thoughts that come to mind that I would say to these folks:

  1. There is nothing too small for God or to tell God. Take a look at Psalm 8:3-4. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him?” David sees man as something insignificant (small) in the grand scheme of things compared to creation and, yet, God cares about us.
  2. The widow who gave her mite (Mark 12:41-44) was small and insignificant in the eyes of the religious leaders. And she gave a really, really small amount of money when compared to others.  But it depends on whose eyes saw. The religious leaders would have ignored her (and did if they even saw her); Jesus saw her. They would have looked down on her small gift; Jesus applauded it.

Two examples of seemingly small things that caught God’s eye. How can we possibly think that our concerns are too small for Him?

“Father, thank you for seeing all and seeing the significance of each person, each gift, each request.”