God's Most Precious Wonders

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


How to Pray
By Insight for Living Pastoral Ministries

Prayer. The word draws a variety of mental images. A man with a shawl draped over his head hums Hebrew prayers from a tattered book. A minister in a tailored suit raises his arms and shouts his prayers before the congregation. A small child kneels beside her bed, reciting a nighttime prayer.

Whatever your perception of prayer, one common element remains true. Prayer is talking with God.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? However, prayer doesn't always come that naturally to us. We can feel awkward talking to someone we can't see or hear. How do we address God? What do we say? And what's the point, anyway? Does prayer really accomplish anything?

These are important questions. To answer them, let's first take a deeper look at the nature of prayer.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is making deliberate contact with God in word or thought. It is the voice of faith, whose whisper can be felt across the street or across the world. It is what pries us from our seats as spectators and places us as active participants with God. Prayer expresses itself in many ways:

* an outpouring of praise
* a confession of wrong
* a request for help
* a declaration of need
* a statement of thanks
* intercession for others

What Does the Bible Say about Prayer?

Through prayer, we draw near to God with confidence (Hebrews 4:16); ask, seek, and knock at the door of His generosity (Matthew 7:7-8); release anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7); and gain wisdom (James 1:5). Prayer is the discipline of mind that is always appropriate for our needs (Ephesians 6:18). And it is the way we align ourselves with the Lord to see as He sees and want what He wants.

Prayer is, in fact, such an invaluable discipline that we are urged to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This doesn't mean non-stop verbal praying-it means an attitude of prayer. As one student of Scripture put it, "It means rather to live with Christ in such a way that you can talk with Him, or listen to Him at any moment." There should be nothing between your soul and the Savior. Praying without ceasing is consciously living each moment in the presence of Christ.

Why Is Prayer Important?

First, prayer is important because it refocuses our perspective. Without prayer, we see only the visible; with prayer, God shows us the hidden dimensions of life.

Second, it quiets our fears and calms our nerves. We may come to prayer fearful and anxious, but when we give our worries to the Lord, we come away calmed and assured (Philippians 4:6-7).

Third, prayer transfers our burdens. It takes the big load we've been carrying and shifts it to the shoulders that can handle its weight (Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Peter 5:7).

Fourth prayer upholds others who are in need. It is the way we help bear one another's burdens and lift them to the One who knows best.

How Do I Pray?

It follows that Jesus, who is our spiritual guide, is the master of prayer. "Lord, teach us to pray," the disciples asked Him once when He returned from His prayers (Luke 11:1). Jesus taught them by using a model prayer . . . the Lord's Prayer, it has been called. Actually, it could be called The Disciple's Prayer, because it was meant as a teaching tool for learners like us.

Pray to the Heavenly Father. And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father . . . .'" (v. 2). Jesus doesn't tell us to call God, "Friend," as though we are equal with Him. Or "King," as though we were one of the masses. Our relationship is that of child to parent.

Pray with a Reverent Attitude. "'Father, hallowed be Thy name'" (v. 2). When we approach our heavenly Father, we are approaching a hallowed Person. We must keep in mind whom we're talking to-the Father, yes, but also the holy Sovereign of the universe, who has a glorious plan for His creation.

Pray with a Submissive Heart. "'Thy kingdom come'" (v. 2). Here we acknowledge that His plan for the world and for our lives surpasses our own plans. We come glorying His name and submitting ourselves to His agenda, not demanding our own.

Pray for Daily Needs. "'Give us each day our daily bread'" (v. 3). Jesus gives us permission to be practical. He invites us to pray for our physical necessities-food, clothing, shelter. The Father wants us to depend on Him each day for life's essentials.

Pray for Spiritual Cleansing. "'And forgive us our sins'" (v. 3). What food is to the body, forgiveness is to the soul. To receive cleansing of sins, simply ask.

Pray for Purity. "'Lead us not into temptation'" (v. 4). Jesus isn't implying that God tempts us. This is a prayer for God's protection from Satan's insidious traps. Each day, Jesus is saying, pray that the Lord will remind you of your vulnerable areas, guard your eyes, guide your thoughts, and keep you pure.

Does Prayer Work?

Does prayer really make a difference? If God is in control of all the events in the world, does it matter whether we pray?

Scripture consistently teaches us that prayer works. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much," James writes (James 5:16b). Prayer does change things-it certainly changes us!

Prayer is a tool that God uses to accomplish His will on earth. It has meaning because God gives it meaning-not because our efforts make it work. God does not need our prayers to accomplish His will. Yet He chooses to work through our prayers to accomplish His will, which begs the question: Why? Why would God, who has ultimate power over His creation, choose to work through our prayers?

The ultimate reason for prayer is relationship. As we pray, we get to know God in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. Through prayer, we slip our hand into God's hand as He moves mountains. Of course, He could have moved those mountains without us, but He wants us to feel a sense of partnership with Him. And that "togetherness" with God through prayer will change your life!

Further Suggestions. To get started, set aside a few minutes every day for focused prayer time. Record your prayers in a journal, where you can track God's answers. Meet with another believer regularly for prayer. And be sensitive to the prompting of God's Spirit. When He brings to mind someone in need, pray for that person.
For further examples of prayer in Scripture, please read the passages below. And may God bless you in your desire to draw closer to Him in prayer.

Worship: Psalm 92:5

Confession: Psalm 51:1-4

Dedication: 2 Chronicles 6:40-42

Intercession: 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Spiritual Warfare: Ephesians 6:12, 18

Fasting: Acts 14:23

Thanksgiving: Philippians 4:6

Healing: James 5:13-15
Resource for LivingInsights Archived IssuesOnline Help close window

Daily Inspiration
We can live several weeks without food, days without water, and only minutes without oxygen. But without hope-forget it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Call to Serve

This summer the Lord used many people to teach me about the importance of service. It began early in April when a few days after Chloe’s birthday party, my close friend and long-time mentor became ill. Nancy was told she had perhaps 4 weeks to live, so with that knowledge and a hope that the doctor’s were wrong, we set out praying for God to heal her. Being who I am, I have a hard time accepting negative truths, and somewhere in me I just knew things would be fine. After all, Nancy had been sick off and on for many years; she was extremely obese, diabetic and had already had 2 heart surgeries by this time. So, for her to be using the last of her supposed nine lives, just didn’t seem possible. I knew she would be fine, but still the reality of the doctors’ words made me nervous.

At this time, I knew about service and making sacrifices to help others, but to me, service was something you did when you had time, or when God gave you the opportunity. It didn’t mean dropping everything and pouring out your life to meet someone else’s needs. So while Nancy was ill, I spent the days I was able, sitting by her bed side and sharing life with her. Since I had childcare on Wednesday’s, this was my easy and obvious day for me to hang out with her and catch up on all her news and see if there was anything special I could do for her--something simple that didn't require a lot of sacrafice, like a special meal. Physical contact with her, hugs, foot rubs, etc. were difficult, since her condition required all visitors to wear head to toe gowns, masks and gloves. I even had to change my clothes before I could come home. Somehow, this barrier made it difficult for me to draw physically close to her and I was always cautiously aware of the risks of visiting her. With this in mind, imagine my surprise and guilt stained heart when a mutual friend of ours, April, would attend to her without any reservations in the slightest. It didn’t bother her to touch, hug, rub or kiss her (without even wearing the required physical protection). April’s openness began to convict my heart and I began to realize how withdrawn I had become.

After several months of April attending to Nancy’s every need, staying with her night and day and sleeping with her at the hospital every night, I began to see what true service was really all about. Then, by the grace of God, Nancy lived a few weeks longer than expected and long enough for James’ job to end for the summer. This extra time, allowed me to spend the last two days of Nancy’s life by her bedside, along with April and another mutual friend of all of ours, Patty. It was the night before Nancy was to pass away that Patty and I had the most wonderful spiritual conversation about service and providing for others, being the hands and feet of Jesus, if you will. I told her how touched and humbled I was to have witnessed April live out her faith and love for the Lord, by caring for Nancy so tenderly. We talked about the true meaning of Christianity and the fruits of our walk and I began to feel guilty that this sacrificial offering of myself didn’t come so easy. Sure, I was willing to provide, to serve, to love, but sacraficially? Could I have sat by her bed for so long and cared for her with such affection, clearly not, since I was having a difficult time attending to her physical needs during the short spurts I would visit. I knew I wanted to offer more of myself, but I wasn’t sure I could actually do it.

Then, another close friend of mine who had developed brain cancer, the same week that Nancy was first hospitalized, was growing increasingly worse. Less than 4 weeks after Nancy had passed away, Annie went to sleep in the Lord as well. This time, however, God gave me the grace to be the hands of feet of Jesus for Annie. No, not much of what I did came naturally. It was difficult for me to care for her hygiene without feeling awkward, but I had determined that I would not allow my feelings to step in the way of my service to her. I would care for her the way God had allowed April to care for Nancy. I felt a desperate need to love on her, as if it would somehow make up for the lack of care I provided Nancy. So, for more than a week, I stayed by her side, slept in her room, and tenderly cared for her as if she were the only person in the world. I gave my family into the care of their father, and stepped back from life and saw an amazing chain of service take place before my eyes. I witnessed how others were ministering to me, so I could spend my days with Annie. James sacrificially, and without reservation, gave me all the time I needed and wanted to be with Annie. It wasn’t until after Annie had died that I realized how much James had sacrificed for me. His sacrafices allowed me to spend as much time with Annie as I needed. Others served our family as well, allowing James and I the opportunity to spend time with her together. I felt a confidence and peace in knowing that I could call on others to assist me in this time of need. And, it was through the service of others, that I realized how desperately I wanted to live my faith in a tangible and meaningful way. I wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus and passionately wanted to serve His children.

As a final thought, I challenge you to remember that life has many seasons; times when we are full and maybe even overflowing, and times when we are weak or in need. God doesn’t always call us to serve in the same capacity, for some he uses our time, for others our talents, and still for others our finances, but God does desire for us to serve. Nonetheless, however, there will be times in your life when it is time to acknowledge your need to be served. And though it can be difficult to humble yourself and receive the care of others, I pray you would allow others to be the hands and feet of Jesus, for you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why am I conservative?

This is a great video with a lot of truth about this election and the differences between the candidates.

Saturday, November 1, 2008