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Posts Tagged ‘Praying’

For Aubrey

 

After a year and a half, I am back at the same story that began a stirring in me to pray for someone.  And once again this morning, the same story has stirred me.  I have learned some things since that initial stirring . . . and this morning, the things I have learned have been reinforced. 

 

The story is about a boy who had seizures.  He had had them all his life.  Naturally, the boy’s dad was encouraged when he heard about the healings that were taking place.  He did what any dad would do; he brought his boy out to those who were responsible in hopes of seeing his own son healed.

 

Well, they tried but no healing took place.  Isn’t that the way it often is?  Good things happen to others but not to us.  We hear of stories and would like to have one of our own but we don’t. 

 

Fortunately this dad didn’t give up.  He appealed to One who had more authority.  And again fortunately, this One with the more authority got this man and his son there own story. 

 

This One with more authority was a little perturbed at the others; His exact words to them . . .  “How long shall I put up with you?”   

 

I’m not sure what the others did exactly – or didn’t do exactly – but maybe they do a little like we do today.  In our churches, when people come who need healing, we pray right then and there for God to heal them.  Now I know we’re told to pray for the sick, and even in this story that Mark tells, this One with authority said, “This kind can only come out by prayer”. 

 

But notice that this One with authority didn’t come up like we do and start praying to God; He came up, having already prayed – having already secured this authority by praying – and commanded the evil spirit that was causing the boy to have seizures, to come out.

 

I am a builder.  I know how to build because I have done it.  I don’t hope I can build; I know I can build.  I have faith that I can build.  Spiritually, when we refer to having faith, we can think of it more in terms of hoping.  It would be like me 20 years ago, before I had ever built my first house, hoping that I could build one.  It would be like me saying, ‘If you just hope enough, you’ll be able to do it’.

 

Faith is more a knowing which comes with time as we learn.  This One with authority had learned in His praying time that He had authority.  He didn’t approach it hoping; He approached it knowing.

 

And so this morning, my knowing – my faith – has been moved a little further along.  And with this knowing – this faith – I approached the enemy and commanded.  Afterwards, I asked God to restore.  

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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 John 5:36 John quotes Jesus as saying, “the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me”. It made me wonder about myself; does the work I am doing for God have evidence which testifies that He has sent me – that He is with me?

He was talking with some Pharisees. Though they were very familiar with scripture, they did not recognize that the scripture they were so familiar with testified of Jesus. They were not raised on Him like we were, so it is at least understandable that they could miss Him. But we who have been raised on Him, though we may not be guilty of not recognizing Him, have we missed recognizing the truth of which He came to testify?

I know I have. Seven years ago when I decided to start over in my Christianity, it was this very thing that caused me to start over. What had I missed? My life didn’t reflect the type of life I read about in the scripture. There was far too little evidence that He was with me.

And so still, I am wrestling this out. In this series, which I am calling ‘A Journey of Faith’, this evidence – His testimony of my life – is my focus right now. He is good to confirm along the way that I am on the right track. This passage in John is confirmation.

Awhile back, in a comment from a fellow blogger, was part of a poem:

“Because my heart
Has thus agreed
My mind believes
It has obeyed”

I’m convinced that we are all guilty to some degree of being familiar with scripture and the Jesus of which it speaks, and have settled that that is enough. But I still say there is a wrestling we must do to really get it . . . and until we have God’s testimony on our lives, we haven’t yet got it.

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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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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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Ex 17:8-11
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.

This morning, Charles Stanley, at the close of his broadcasted message, issued a challenge for his congregation and his listening and viewing audience to join him in praying for our nation for 140 days. Like the nation of Israel, our nation is under attack. Are we as clear as they were on who our enemy is? On what the secret to our success is?

Joshua most likely chose men who knew how to fight, but their success was not based their ability alone. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.”

Moses praying alone would not have won the battle. Joshua’s fighting alone would not have won the battle. It took both fighting and praying. When both were being done they could physically see they were winning. When not, they could just as clearly see they were losing.

We need people in our government who will physically fight against the nonsense that is coming out of our current leaders. We need those who will pray that they might have good success.

But I believe there is a third element. In addition to the physical fighting and the spiritual praying is the spiritual fighting. It is different than the physical things we can do in our government. It is different than the praying we can do to God.

It is a spiritual fighting against our enemy. In our case, he is our real enemy. He is the one driving all the things that are trying to destroy us. The people are just the one’s he is using to accomplish it.

This happens to be true in our personal lives as well. We are frustrated that we do not see more answered prayers. We pray and pray and pray. I believe we must learn equally to fight and fight and fight. Whether for ourselves, others, or our nation, I believe this is true.

This is how Paul put it: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

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‘When You Pray’

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The request was not only ‘teach us what to pray’, but it was also, and maybe more importantly, ‘teach us how to pray it’.

He begins with the ‘what’ part of the question. “When you pray, say: . . .” and then gives them what we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. It is good framework for praying, but unless you know ‘how’ to pray it, it won’t do much good. And so next He gives them the ‘how’.

It was really the reason they asked to begin with. They had heard His teaching. They had seen His miracles. They had felt His compassion. They wanted to be like Him. They wanted to do the things He did. Yet in spite of all they had tried, so far they were not like Him; so far they could not do the things He did.

In the example that Jesus uses is one of whom it is said, “A friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him”. It fit them perfectly. All too fresh on their mind were those who had come to them, yet they had nothing to set before them. All too fresh on my mind lately are those who have come to me.

Is it not the cry of all who have spent time with Him to want be like Him – to want to do the things He did? I am reminded of something that Hudson Taylor once said, “God does not give us overcoming lives; He gives life to those who overcome”. In the same spirit of that quote, Jesus does not ‘give’ them what they are after; He shows them ‘how’ to get it.

It is simple, but it is not easy. It was not even ‘easy’ for Him. We, as He, are engaged in a battle. Satan and all his imps are against us. It takes perseverance. It takes a ‘stay with it till you get it’ mindset; an ‘I’ll not take no for an answer’ frame of mind.

It was not a ‘go out and claim anything you want’ ticket. We and those we know at times have desperate needs. In those situations, this is His prescribed way of handling them. It was Jesus’ version of what Paul would say later; “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

To do the things He did in public, we must first do the things He did in private. He was able to do the things He did because He first persevered in His praying. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy road. To have something to set before those who come to us, we must wrestle it out in our praying.

Fitting is a quote by James Gilmour, recently posted by a fellow blogger. “Do not we rest in our day too much on the arm of the flesh? Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth still to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him? Where is now the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.”

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