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Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

I love the Psalms. They are written records of individuals pouring their heart out to God. Occasionally I find phrases that express more clearly than I have been able to, the cries and yearnings of my own heart and soul. They give me specific words that I can use myself as I pray.

One such verse is Psalm 74:11; “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of you garment and destroy them”.

Although I don’t have people I want destroyed, I have had situations I wanted to see destroyed. The image of God standing with His hand tucked in the folds of His robe, knowing it could come out at any moment, was a helpful image to have in mind as I prayed.

It was especially cool to see it finally come out. And now having seen it, I can pray another verse; but now with more feeling and meaning than ever before. It is so simple but it says so much. Psalm 118:7; “The Lord is with me; he is my helper”.

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In need of Your light Lord;
my life is such a mess.
Without it there’s no hope Lord;
of this I must confess.

Show me what to do Lord;
I’m ready to listen now.
My way didn’t work Lord;
would you please show me how?

Didn’t intend to forsake You Lord,
but I guess that’s what I’ve done;
one thing then another Lord,
till there’s little of the One.

Forgive me of my wrong Lord;
come and light my way.
Show me what to do Lord;
hear these words I pray.

Help me as I start Lord;
often please remind.
Show me everyday Lord;
life as You designed.

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My pastor started a series on the writings of Paul. Beginning with Romans 1, he pointed out that it was vs 17 that Martin Luther ‘wrestled out’ in the 1500’s. Because of that wrestling, we have the Protestant faith’s.

Before his wrestling, there was pressure to be ‘righteous’ – pressure to eliminate enough bad and add enough good to be ‘righteous’ like God. That’s a lot of pressure. For weeks he wrestled . . . and finally the breakthrough that changed his life and ours.

The point of this is not to remind of what the breakthrough was, but to mention the thought I had when I thought about it being a result of his wrestling.

What is that by wrestling out with the same energy, might we give birth to or otherwise discover or see take place? Does His kingdom suffer because so few of wrestle? What are we missing because we do not wrestle a thing through?

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Faith Knows

What is it that you do for a living or otherwise invest your life in? You do it day in and day out. You know it inside and out. You don’t hope you can do it, you know you can do it. You know how to keep things running smooth. You know what to do when they don’t. You know what to do to get things back on track. It doesn’t throw you. It doesn’t cause you to doubt whether or not you know what your doing . . . you know.

Faith is like that. Faith is not hoping; faith knows. Can you imagine someone who is unfamiliar with what you do coming in and trying to do what you do? They would be hoping they could do it – and in time maybe they could – but you already know.

In Mark 11 Jesus said this to His disciples; “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I’ve always looked at this passage as pressure on me to believe. I must huff and puff to keep my believing believing. But that is not it at all. Faith is knowing. It isn’t hoping . . . and if you can keep your hoping going it will work; it is just simply knowing.

A surgeon knows how to remove a kidney. He doesn’t hope he can do it. He knows. He not only knows he can do it, he knows what to do if things go wrong in the process. He knows how to get things back on track. He knows backwards and forwards what to do. He has faith that he can do it.

Until our faith can have this kind of knowing behind it, it is not faith. – hope maybe, but not faith. Hope is more easily thrown when things don’t go so well. Hope is up and down; but faith knows. Faith knows that no matter what, the matter will be seen through. Faith is sure.

Heb 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith knows.

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You expect to see results quickly when you bring a dozer in to move a pile of dirt. But what if you bring a shovel and wheelbarrow? The results will still come; they just come a little slower.

And so it is with our believing. If we’re not taking a dozer into a situation we are believing for – if we’re just taking a shovel and wheelbarrow – we can still have results . . . it will just take a little longer to see them and to get the job done.

In the story of the centurion servant who was suffering from seizures (the one that the disciples could not heal) Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, 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.”

We expect the mountain to move all at once, like it did for Jesus. But Jesus had faith the size of a dozer. We on the other hand come with a shovel and wheelbarrow? Our faith is small in comparison to His; but . . . we can still move the mountain if we stay with it. The evidence may be a little slower to come and a little harder to see, but nevertheless there will be evidence if we stay with it.

We need to see evidence when we pray. Evidence says ‘You are on the right track. Just stay with it.’ We are bad to quit when the whole mountain does not move at once. That is what the disciples did. They couldn’t drive the seizures out with one try so they quit. But faith, even if it is small, it can be sure. Faith, because it knows something, refuses to quit until there is evidence; and then once there is evidence, faith continues to press until the mountain is moved.

Prayer is work. And like with any work, we need to see that the effort of our labor is accomplishing something. It is no different with prayer. We need to see that the effort of our praying is accomplishing something. We need to see evidence. Lately I have seen just enough to know that I am on the right track and that if I will just stay with it – wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow – I will see this mountain moved.

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Jesus’ faith was like a wrecking ball. I had thought mine was at least like a sledgehammer, but I’ve recently decided it might only be as big as my wife’s picture hanging hammer. A slab of concrete will crumble with just one blow of a wrecking ball; several with the sledge; but a picture hanging hammer??? Oh my; that’s going to take some time.

How was it that Jesus could walk up to demon possessed person, and in one command make Satan come out? Or in the case of the centurion asking for his son who was suffering from seizures, how could He say, ‘I will go and heal him’? Not, ‘I will go and try to heal him’, but ‘I will go and heal him’. It’s a little different than how most of us today would approach it. We will try. We will ask and see if the Lord will do it for us and if not we move on. But really that doesn’t even constitute picking up the hammer.

Jesus knew something. Luke tells us in chapter 10 of his gospel that Jesus ‘saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven’. Satan was no match for Him, but . . . that was on Jesus’ turf. What about here? When Jesus came here, He was on Satan’s turf. Inevitably there would have to be a showdown. On the front end of Jesus beginning His ministry He went toe to toe for 40 days in the desert. And again, Jesus came out on top. Jesus showed him, ‘even here you will do what I tell you to do’.

I think each us must have a similar showdown. We must go toe to toe and not back down. Even if we just take into that showdown faith as small as a picture hanging hammer, we’re not to back down. That is what Jesus meant when He told the disciples ‘if you only have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can do the things I do’. ‘If you know that he has to leave and you don’t back down, you will win your battle.’

And so with my little hammer in hand, I stand for a young girl who has seizures. I command Satan to leave her alone – to quit troubling her. I’m not asking God to do it; He wants me to learn that I can do it. He wants me to know what He knows; that Satan has to leave.

In the story that this series stems from, where the disciples had been unable to heal the centurion’s son of his seizures, Jesus’ comment about faith was when the centurion told Him that he had men under him that did what they were told. That is the point Jesus was referring to when He said He had not seen such great faith in all of Israel. ‘I have not seen anyone that understands this – that they can command Satan and know that he has to obey’.

This is what Jesus knew. It is what He wants us to learn.

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Maybe the disciples had hoped that Jesus wouldn’t know that they had not been able to heal the boy of his seizures. Maybe they were a little like us, not understanding why, and just deciding to let it go.

Oh He knew. He didn’t say anything, but He knew. When the father of the boy spilled the beans, I can see the disciples head drop a little – maybe positioning themselves behind someone hoping to not be seen. Jesus is not happy; and after a little scolding, they finally ask Him what they have wondered to themselves, “Why couldn’t we drive it out”?

It is clear that Jesus expected them to be able to. He had told them to. I wonder when He stirs us to do the same – to believe for the same – if He doesn’t expect us to be able to. Somewhere along the line we have given in to the belief that He doesn’t. Surely Jesus wouldn’t say to us, “O unbelieving and perverse generation” – would He? . . . surely not! . . . would He?

We console ourselves by thinking He wouldn’t – by thinking it must not have been His will. I believe there is more to it than that. With the disciples, if it had not been His will, what reason would He have had to be frustrated with them? The reason He was frustrated is that they had the ability themselves and didn’t know it.

And so He makes the point; ‘Hey, I know you don’t know all that I know – that you are not as sure of things as I am; but even if you just understand it a little, you can do the same things that I do’. Because of all that He knows and understands, He walks up like a wrecking ball and says ‘Satan, hit the road’ . . . and he hits it. We tell him to hit the road and he just stands there with his arms crossed; ‘Make me’ he says.

And that’s the deal. It’s not so much praying and asking God, as it is telling Satan. When he stands with arms crossed, it’s standing right back at him. That’s what Jesus meant. ‘Even if you have faith the size of a sledgehammer, you can stand there delivering blow after repeated blow until he moves on.’

Faith is not hoping he will leave. It is not hoping God will make him leave. When God has initiated the faith, it is knowing and understanding that he has to leave. We have given in to him not leaving so long and his heals are dug in so deep that it will take quite a stand – a much needed stand – to drive him out. He really has no option . . . unless we give him one.

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‘Seek ye first’ had been on my top 10 list for over 30 years. How is it that we can do that? It wasn’t first; it was just in the mix. And yet somehow I had worked it out in my mind that it was.

Six years ago, after finally reaching a point where I just flat out admitted to myself that my version of Christianity didn’t match up to the Bible’s, there began a stirring in me to take a fresh look at the Bible’s version. After much review, a knee high stack of hand written journals and three books later, it is quite clear that my interpretation was more than a little off.

The process has conditioned me to wrestle things out afresh – to not apply the same compromising logic that is so easy and tempting to do. He said what He said. What did He mean?

Just this morning I read where a man approached Jesus on behalf of his son who suffered from seizures. “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him”. Jesus directs His attention to His disciples and says, “O unbelieving and perverse generation”. After Jesus healed the boy, the disciples asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out”?

Before, I would have just blown by this. I would have rationalized that it was something for Jesus’ day but not mine. I can’t do that any more. Instead, I am asking myself the same question; ‘why can’t I’? I’ve asked it before; but somehow this time, it is like so many other issues I have wrestled through during the past six years. I sense Him leading me to ask – drawing me to wrestle this out.

I don’t have all the answers yet, which is obvious because I am still asking the question, but I have learned some things about faith that makes the question approachable. Faith knows something. Jesus was frustrated with the disciples for not knowing it. Jesus knew it. He didn’t huff and puff to heal, drive out and raised from the dead; He knew something. He wants some of us to know it as well.

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When the Lord told Abraham that He would take him to a new land and that he would have a son, was Abraham to pray for it to happen when it seemed like it wasn’t going to, or was it for him pray that his faith – his believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? When Sarah became impatient and tried to help God out, did it help?

When God told Moses that He was going to deliver Israel from Egypt and take them to the promised land, was it for Moses and the children of Israel to pray for it to happen, or was it for them to pray that their faith – their believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? When they were caught between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, was God after their praying or their believing?

When God told Joseph that he would rule over his family, was it for him to pray for when he was sitting alone in prison, or was it for him to pray that his faith – his believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? Did he help matters when he took things into his own hands by asking the two prisoners to put in a good word for him?

When God anointed David to be king, was it for him to pray that the Lord would make it happen, or was it for him to pray that his faith – his believing – would stay in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looked so bleak? David surpassed them all. He could have taken things into his own hands several times to help God move things along, but he didn’t. His trust was in God to do what He said He would do.

In all cases, God in His timing, in spite of what these men did to ‘help God along’ (which in no case actually helped), did what He said He would do. And so these thoughts have changed the way I pray. I no longer pray for the Lord to provide because He told me early on that before it was too late He would, and He has. My praying now is that my faith – my believing – would remain in tack when the fulfillment of that promise looks bleak.

It says of the Israelites when they were backed against the Red Sea, that they were ‘terrified’. Can you imagine if some of them would have nudged the one standing beside them and said, ‘Watch this; this is going to be cool.’; or when Jesus was standing in front of Lazarus’ tomb; none of the disciples believed. Can you imagine if just one would have nudged a few of the others and said; ‘Watch this, this is going to be cool’. Can we, when our situation looks so bleak, believe enough to say, ‘Watch this; this is going to be cool’? I believe it would please God if we could.

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Does it ever seem like the more you pray, the worse things get?  It does to me.  Sometimes I can relate to how the disciples must have felt when in their storm they heard these words; “Where is your faith?”

Recently I read about another storm that Paul was in.  I saw something I had never noticed before.  Paul’s storm didn’t let up; in fact it got worse.  But there was never anything said about ‘his’ lack of faith.  I wondered why the difference.

If you look closely at both stories, it wasn’t so much about faith to calm the storm; as it was about faith to believe they would be okay in it.  In Paul’s story, even though the storm kept getting worse, he believed he was going to be okay. 

The disciples gave up before they ever started.  Luke describes it this way; “A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.  The disciples went and woke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown’.”

Paul didn’t give up quite that easy.  Listen to how his situation went down. Addressing a crew that has given up hope, he says, “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and who I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.  You must stand trial before Caesar: and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.  Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Paul’s faith didn’t calm the storm; but it did lead to a calming of all who were in it.  Even though the storm got worse – even though it caused them to ‘run aground on some island’, Paul’s faith held up.

It is natural to pray that the Lord would calm our storms.  Sometimes He does.  Paul was probably praying for the Lord to calm his storm when He heard the angel speak.  There is a phrase in there that I like; “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me”.  We can bear a lot when He stands beside us. 

I thought too that had Paul’s storm let up, he would have missed the island of Malta.  Sometimes when we pray and our storms continue to get worse, it may be that God wants to run us aground somewhere for some reason beyond what we have the ability to see.

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