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Posts tagged ‘Lord’s Prayer’

Thanks for Tomatoes.


Jay Sampson

If you will indulge me for a moment, I am about to be quite cliché by writing about giving thanks in the week prior to Thanksgiving. However, if you’ll hang with me, I hope to give us a take on giving thanks that doesn’t necessarily conjure images of Puritans.

As my children grow older, it is fun to think back with them to the funny, insightful, innocent things that they said as small children. When it comes to thanks, I am always reminded of a prayer that our little man offered when he was still parading around in underwear and a Mickey Mouse blanket-turned-cape as “Fooper Jack.”

It is our bedtime habit of saying prayers together and, as is often the case during those days before they learn “prayer-ese,” their conversations with God are brilliantly honest and innocent. One particular evening Jack was on a roll. He had already paraded through his gratitude for a thankfully still-small circle of every person with whom he currently had relations – mom, dad, sisters, extended family, friends, “that kid next door,” and several dearly loved stuffed animals.

Next on his list was thanks for several food groups. With culinary acumen beyond his years, he made his way through each of the day’s meals. When he came to dinner, he offered up this beautiful nugget: “And thank you for the vegetables… even though I don’t like tomatoes very much…” As I stifled a laugh that I tried to pass off as the spiritual grunt of agreement, the candor of his honesty led to a silent prayer on my behalf that God would preserve his infantile innocence. I asked our Father to please nurture Jack’s childlike faith to childlike maturity. I petitioned for a faith in my son that would grow from thanking God for under-appreciated parts of the food pyramid to a one that trusts Him enough to believe that the “all things” which work together for good are not always things we like.

Too often in my own life the things for which I give thanks are the things I perceive as blessings. Things that “went well” or moments of crisis averted. However, as I realize this, I am reminded of an admonition from the apostle Paul as he writes to the church in Ephesus, “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20). And I don’t believe that Paul is speaking idealistically or metaphorically. I believe he is calling the church to believe in the sovereign providence of their God who loves them more than they can comprehend. This trust is one that results in true gratitude in every circumstance that God is using all things to bring the fruit of His Spirit to harvest in your life.

We might call this “hard thanksgiving.” How do we express thanks in hard circumstances? Not simply accepting them, but rather being thankful for them? When my prayers seem to go unanswered, how do I give thanks? When I face a challenge from which I can see no way out, how am I to be grateful? I was challenged recently be a dear friend and prayer partner to seek to present my requests to God in the form of thanks. “Father, thank you that financial difficulty serves to remind me that YOU are my provider” … “Father, thank you that you are my identity rather than my effectiveness” … “Thank you, Lord, that Jesus is my complete righteousness and not my works or lack thereof” … “Father, thank you for difficult people who you are using to bring to bear the fruit of the Spirit in my life.” This is what it looks like to truly give thanks. This is gratitude for tomatoes…

My son had tomatoes on his plate. This was not an oversight by his parents nor was it a punishment. He may not have been a fan of the “fruit,” but his parents who loved him knew that they would be of more benefit to him than he realized. If you are in Christ, you are a child of the Almighty Creator of all things. He loves you with a love that eclipses the greatest love an earthly parent could ever muster. The things on our plate – both the enjoyable and the not-so-enjoyable – are there for a purpose. As you think during this season of the many blessings for which you are thankful, let me encourage you to take time to think on the challenges, disappointments and difficulties as well – and express your gratitude.

Publication date: November 22, 2013

The greatest ever…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
-James 1:19-20

The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, is my favorite text in the whole Bible. If I were a scholar of any part of the Bible, it would be the Sermon on the Mount. For years, I have spent time reading volumes of books on the subject, I’ve memorized it, I’ve translated it from Greek to English, I’ve examined it, I’ve bounced ideas off it, and it has completely formed the way I view ministry.

If you look back at all of the messages I’ve given, in probably four out of every five sermons, I touch on at least one point from the Sermon on the Mount. I’ll mention loving your enemies, turning the cheek. I’ll mention living honestly. I’ll mention the Lord’s Prayer. I’ll mention the Beatitudes.

All of these things are a part of this important message, which is the greatest sermon ever preached. The Sermon on the Mount was preached by Jesus so long ago, and yet, still abides today as the best way to direct people into Christian living.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, your word guides me, corrects me, and helps me to be a good person. Continue to direct me in the path down which I should travel. Amen.

Reflection: How does God’s word guide you every day?

Why God Doesn’t Do What You Think He Should.


elderly woman in a wheelchair

Maturity in Christ demands that we come to the place where we continue to trust God, even when His ways are difficult to understand.

Recently, a friend’s letter arrived that reminded me of the importance of resting our hearts on what we know to be true about God, especially when faced with circumstances that lead us to question His will.

He wrote: “As a family, God has been speaking to us recently through the death of my youngest sister, Freda, on August 31. We have no details yet. She sailed on September 18 of last year. … After 10 years’ patient waiting for the way to open.

“Many of our friends in their letters of sympathy speak of God’s mysterious ways, and I know there is an element of mystery. But I shrink from the suggestion that our Father has done anything which needs to be explained. What He has done is the best, because He has done it, and I pray that as a family we may not cast about for explanations of the mystery, but exult in the Holy Spirit, and say, ‘I thank Thee, Father….Even so, Father.’ It suggests a lack of confidence in Him if we find it necessary to try to understand all He does.

“Will it not bring Him greater joy to tell Him that we need no explanation because we know Him? But I doubt not there will be a fulfillment of John 12:24.” —Rev. Frank Houghton (China Inland Mission).

We Need No Explanation

Our hearts rejoice in that word for so great a matter. It is, indeed, the only perfect word. But perhaps sometimes in an incomparably lesser trial, the tempter has disturbed us, persuading us to look for an explanation. We find ourselves saying, “I wonder why.” Faith never wonders why.

Among our several hundred of all ages in the Dohnavur Fellowship family, who are being taught in the ways of prayer, there were many for whom this lesson was set when the answer to their prayers was turned to the contrary, just as they thought they had safely received it. For on a certain evening there was a special prayer for the healing touch for me. That night the pain was lulled, and natural sleep was given.

The blissfulness of the awakening next morning is still vivid and shining. I lay for a few minutes almost wondering if I were still on Earth. No night has been like that since. No sleep like that has come nor any such easeful wakening.

I knew something that morning of what it will be when He “shall look us out of pain.”

All the dear household rejoiced. Down to the tiniest child who could understand there was gladness and thanksgiving. Had they not asked for healing by the touch of God? Was this not that? So they accepted it with a reverent and lovely joy.

But my nurse was careful in her joy, and nothing was done, no carelessness occurred that could account for what followed. The pain returned and increased. The nights were as they had been. And some did, I know, find it very confusing and very disappointing. For was there not prayer? Indeed there was.

The loving care of those who led the prayer of our fellowship had divided the day into watches; there was never an unprayed-for hour. But the bars closed down once more. Was it strange that to some, who have not known Him long, there was the trial of wondering Why?

Trust His Heart 

“I am learning never to be disappointed, but to praise,” missionary Frederick Arnot of Central Africa wrote in his journal long ago. It was the word of peace to us then.

I think it must hurt the tender love of our Father when we press for reasons for His dealings with us, as though He were not love, as though not He but another chose our inheritance for us, and as though what He chose to allow could be less than the very best and dearest that Love Eternal had to give.

But on a day of more than a little trial, in His great compassion I was allowed to see—for as the ear is unsealed at times, so are the eyes opened—and I knew that the enemy had asked to be allowed to recover his power to oppress, and that leave had been granted to him, but within limits.

I was not shown what those limits were. I saw only the mercy that embraces us on every side. Was that moment of insight merely a pale reflection of an ancient familiar story? So some will understand it.

But the comfort that comes through such a moment never stays to argue about itself. It sinks deep into the heart and gives it rest.

Thereafter, not seeing, not hearing, not feeling, we walk by faith, finding our comfort not in the things seen or heard in that illuminated moment (though, indeed, that which was seen or heard does, with a sweetness peculiar to itself, continue to console), but in the Scriptures of truth: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. … And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (2 Tim. 1:12; Rom. 8:28, KJV).

With Him who assures us of this there is no variableness, neither shadow that is cast by turning. His word stands true. In that truth we abide satisfied.

And so I have come to this: our Lord is sovereign. He may heal, as He will, by an invisible touch or by blessing the means (His gifts) that are used.

He may “save the exhausted one,” as Rotherham renders James 5:15, or sustain with words him that is weary, as He did St. Paul, and use those words for the succor of others (2 Cor. 12:9).

The Secrets of the Lord 

“But you are not St. Paul.” I remember reading that in a book on healing, just after I had been given peace in acceptance of a certain “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12: 7). I had prayed more than three times that it might depart from me, but it had not departed.

“You are not St. Paul.” It was true, of course, but it seemed too facile to be a true answer to this riddle of the universe.

And now, the more I study life as well as books, the more sure I am that there is a darkness folded round that riddle into whose heart of light we are not meant to see. Perhaps that light would be too bright for our eyes now.

I have known lovers of our Lord who in their spiritual youth were sure beyond a doubt that healing would always follow the prayer of faith and the anointing of oil in the name of the Lord. But those same dear lovers, in their beautiful maturity, passed through illness, unrelieved by any healing.

When I looked in wonder, remembering all that they had held and taught in other years, I found them utterly at rest. The secret of their Lord was with them. He had said to them, their own beloved Lord had said it, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14: 27). So their hearts were not troubled or afraid, and their song was always of the lovingkindness of the Lord. “As for God, His way is perfect” (Ps. 18:30), they said. “We need no explanation.”

Today with this thought in mind I read the “Song of the Redeemed,” the ninth song of St. John, heard after a door was opened in heaven: “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Rev. 15:3).

Some of us cannot enter fully into even earthly music until it has become familiar. Perhaps our various experiences here are means by which we may learn the heavenly melody to which such words are set, so that when we hear the harpers harping on the harps of God we shall catch the thread of that melody, and follow it through its harmonies, moving among them with confidence and gladness, as on familiar ground.

“As for God, His way is perfect.” That is the substance of the words. And if His way be perfect, we need no explanation.

Read a companion devotional.

Amy Beatrice Carmichael (1867-1951) was a missionary and a prolific author of poetry and prose. She was born in Millisle, Northern Ireland, to Presbyterian parents, and from her youth was sensitive to the message of the gospel and the fate of those who did not know Christ.

In 1892, her application to the China Inland Mission was turned down because of concerns regarding her health. But in 1893, she was given the chance to serve briefly in Japan and Ceylon.

Finally, in October 1895, Amy arrived in India, where she would remain for the rest of her life. Her ministry, Dohnavur Fellowship, focused on rescuing children from threatening situations such as child marriage and temple prostitution. To those who became part of her family, Amy, who never married, became “Amma,”–a term derived from the Tamil word for mother.

In 1931, Amy suffered disabling injuries in a fall and never fully recovered. The final two decades of her life were spent confined to her quarters.

From her bed, she frequently wrote letters to her friends and staff. One collection of writings provided the content for her best-known book, Rose From Brier (Christian Literature Crusade).

Amy Carmichael died in 1951 and is buried on the grounds of the Dohnavur Fellowship. The ministry she began more than 100 years ago continues in operation.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE.

AMY CARMICHAEL

Putting “u” before “i”…


By Pastor Fred Gillett

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
-Hebrews 10:23

Of the telephone calls I receive for prayer, there are those asking me to ask God why they haven’t received an answer for something they prayed about. My first response is to ask them if they were looking for the answer they wanted or the answer God provided.

Jesus is recorded in John 14:13-14 as saying, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Making a promise like this leaves one a lot of leeway for asking for “stuff,” personal desires, instead of what God really wants. Since God is unable to make a promise that he would not fulfill, this verse seems confusing. One must remember that he is able to fulfill all of his promises, but in our mind, we want what we want and we want it now. We want to see the results in our timing and we want it as we imagine it. This is one of the failures in communication with God.

As you can see in the word “communication,” “i” is the very center. But “u” (God) comes before the “i.” When we pray, we desire to communicate with God and if we make “i” the very center of that communication, forgetting that “u” (God) comes first, we are not communicating. Instead, we are telling God what to do. Yet, his wisdom for our good is far beyond our own understanding.

Prayer: Dear God, how delightful to realize that my communication with you hinges on your faithfulness toward me, not my desire to get what I want. I need to put you first and realize you are fully faithful to me and already know what I really need. I place my trust in you. Amen.

Reflection: Do most often put the “u” or the “I” first when communicating with God?

Rescue Your Prayer Life.


  • Brian Hedges

What does the doctrine of the Trinity have to do with the practice of prayer? Well, the Trinity is something that all Christians believe, but often find difficult to understand, much less explain. And prayer is something that all Christians do, but rarely practice with the consistency and delight they know they should. In the realms of Christian doctrine, the Trinity ranks among the most difficult. Among the disciplines of Christian living, prayer tops the list as most challenging.

But there’s another connection between prayer and Trinitarian theology that helps us better understand the doctrine of the Trinity and make progress in our prayer lives. The connection is in many passages, but most succinctly in Ephesians 2:18 where Paul says, “For through him [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” This sentence is pregnant with significance for understanding who God is and how we can come to him.

But first, some definitions: What do Christians mean when they talk about the Trinity? Essentially, three things. You might think of these as three strong pillars on which the doctrine of the Trinity rests.

  • First, we mean that there is only one God. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
  • Second, this one God exists in three distinct persons, or personalities: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Third, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully, equally, and eternally God.

Deny one of those statements, and we get into trouble. If we deny the first and say that there are actually three gods, then we are tri-theists, rather than monotheists. More commonly, people say that there is one God who acts in three different modes, or manifests himself in three different ways, or wears three different hats: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (much as I myself am a son, a husband, and a father).  But this idea (formally known as modalism and condemned by both Protestants and Catholics), denies the second pillar, and dozens of texts, that affirm the distinct personalities of Father, Son, and Spirit.  Others, especially among the cults, teach that the Son and/or the Spirit are somehow inferior to the Father, being less than fully, equally, and eternally God.

But Scripture leads us to affirm all three pillars. There is one God, who exists in three Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these three are each fully, equally, and eternally God.

So, what does this have to do with prayer? Well, prayer is essentially talking with God. But communication with God requires access to his presence. And Ephesians 2:18 shows us that our access to God involves all three Persons of the Trinity.

  • We have “access…to the Father.”
  • But that access to the Father is “through him” – Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who reconciles us to the   Father (see Ephesians 2:11).
  • But notice further that our access to God is “in one Spirit”. This means that our prayers are enabled and empowered by the Spirit.

So, when we pray we come to Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. Prayer is communion with the Three-in-One God.

Now, how can this rescue your prayer life?

Sometimes we hesitate to pray, because of unbelief. We’re not sure God really cares about our needs. But this is to forget that we’re praying to our Father, who already knows our needs and invites us to come to him as little children.

At other times, we wrongly think we’ve got to manufacture certain feelings or emotions in order to pray. But Paul says that we have access to God in the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who enlivens our hearts and enables to us to pray.

All too often, we feel compelled to pray from a sense of duty. (Good Christians pray, therefore, if I want to be a good Christian, I should pray.) Or, we’re held back from prayer by a sense of guilt. (Only good Christians can really come to God. I haven’t been very good lately, so I’m not worthy enough for God to hear my prayers.) Worst of all, sometimes we can feel confident about prayer because we’ve been keeping our Christian noses clean!

But, don’t you see? This is self-reliance and legalism. This kind of thinking and praying, neglects the work of the Son in reconciling us to the Father. When we live and pray like this, we’re not coming through Jesus. We’re coming on the basis of our own merits. And there is no access to God that way. But when we remember that our access to God is through Christ alone, then we can come boldly to the throne of grace in the confidence that God will forgive our sins and hear our prayers, for Jesus’ sake.

Brian G. Hedges is the lead pastor for Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in Niles, Michigan. He has been married to Holly since 1996 and has three children: Stephen, Matthew, and Susannah. He has contributed articles to Heartcry! A Journal on Revival and Spiritual AwakeningPastor Connect, and The Banner of Truth magazine. He is the author of christ formed in you: the power of the gospel for personal change (Shepherd Press, 2010). And licensed to kill: a field manual for mortifying sin (Cruciform Press, 2011)

Brian blogs at light and heat. Follow him on Twitter @brianghedges

How to Develop Your Prayer Life.


How to Develop Your Prayer Life

I remember a poem in the Ladies Home Journal where a group of men argued around the cracker barrel about the best way to pray. Some said the best way to pray was standing up with eyes open to heaven. Others argued that it was best to pray with head bowed; others said prostrate, or kneeling, and so on. But then Jeff Brown, the well driller, spoke up. He told how he had been drilling a well over at the widow Jones’ property, and it had caved in, and he had fallen down the shaft. And he said, “The prayinest prayer I ever made, I was standing on my head.”

Now there is no doubt that God is not interested in the physical attitude of prayer. How did they pray in the Bible? I believe you can find nine different physical positions in the Bible. Jesus prayed with His eyes lifted to heaven; He prayed prostrate on the ground. Hezekiah prayed in bed with his face turned to the wall. But it doesn’t make any difference in what horizontal, vertical, or oblong direction your carcass happens to be; if your soul is not down before God, you are not praying. Your body can be in any condition, but if your soul is bold, upright, defiant against God, you know nothing about prayer.

Prayer is the growth of a soul as we come in contact with God. As the soul grows, the prayer life deepens.

First of all, chronologically, a prayer is nothing more than petition. When you were first taught to pray as children, your prayers were primarily to ask God for things. “Bless Papa and Mama, and make me a good little boy.” And then, “I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”

Some time ago, a school teacher in New York taught the Lord’s Prayer to her class, and they all learned it. Then one time she called up her pupils one by one and asked each one to repeat the Lord’s Prayer. One of the boys said, “Harold be Thy name” instead of “Hallowed be Thy name.” Another said, “Give us this day our jelly bread.” Another said, “Lead us not into Penn Station.” Another said, “Deliver us from eagles.”

Now this is understandable because little children do not know these words. And I’m quite sure that God is able, if the heart is right, to give us this day our jelly bread. It is possible to say things that are theologically wrong, and yet if the heart is right toward God, He can sort out the difficulties.

But this is baby prayer. When you’re asking for something, your praying is the lowest form of prayer. As your prayer life develops, it should go beyond this.

Now secondly, as a child develops a little, he’s taught to say “thank you,” and he’s taught not only to say it to his parents, but he’s taught to say to God, “Father, we thank Thee for this food.”

The child then learns about Thanksgiving Day in school. It’s associated with the image of a pumpkin with a cut-out face, or the picture of the Puritans hunting turkeys in the fields, or the Puritans bowing their heads in thanksgiving.

Third comes intercession. Intercession is where we stop asking for something just for ourselves and our little circle and begin to plead with God for blessings for others.

Many people have been taught that prayer is a cheap way to get anything. When they find themselves in desperate need they pray, and they do not get an answer. A boy prays, “Oh God, I want to pass that examination,” or a girl prays, “Oh God, don’t let me be the only girl who doesn’t get asked by a boy to the basketball game.” And if she happens to be the only one who doesn’t get the invitation, she may say in despair, “Oh, I don’t believe in prayer; it just doesn’t work.” As a result, her whole spiritual life may become a mess because she has not been taught the true nature of prayer. Prayer is not saying to a distant God, “Do this and that,” but prayer is basically getting to know God.

Much of the difficulty of spiritually growing up is the shifting of gears that takes a child out of spiritual childhood into a spiritual maturity. When we are children, we live largely on our parents’ faith. We say what they say; we have what they have, and we do what they do. But then comes the time when we have to shift gears, and we have to know God alone. For it is only when we know God that we begin to develop into the higher brackets, the higher attitudes of prayer.

The first three steps that I have spoken of — petition, thanksgiving, and intercession — can be entered into by almost anybody. In fact, even among the heathen there is this much knowledge about prayer.

When Mrs. Barnhouse and I were in Japan, we went to the great shrine of Ise, one of the most beautiful places in the world. And when we came to the inner sacred precincts we saw the specially robed priests. But what saddened us most of all was to see these people, with such agony and emptiness in their faces, bow in front of the shrine and then clap their hands as if to say, “God, wake up! Can’t you hear us?”

Well, much of our prayer is like this, too. There must come a time in our spiritual development when, beyond recognizing that God is the One Who can give us what we want, we learn to pray for the purpose of knowing Him better. In fact, there is no real prayer until we get beyond petition and pray for the purpose of knowing the Lord.

So the fourth step in prayer is worship. Worship, of course, comes from the old English word forworth-ship — the recognition of the worth of God, to look upon Him in wonder and see Who He really is. That is worship. To say with the men of the Old Testament, “There is none like unto thee, thou alone art our God” — that is worship (see Psalms 86:8Jeremiah 10:6-7). To recognize His sovereignty and His majesty, to long to know Him and to reach out to Him — that is worship. Jesus says in John 4:24-25, “The Father seeketh such to worship him.” There is no true prayer unless we worship Him in spirit, in the Holy Spirit, and in truth, and that means we must come through Him Who is truth, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I remember hearing a hymn in England written by Frederick Faber that brings out this meaning.1

My God, how wonderful Thou art, Thy majesty how bright!
How beautiful Thy mercy-seat, in depths of burning light!
Oh, how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest tenderest fears;
And worship Thee with trembling hope, and penitential tears.

Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art;
For Thou has stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart.
No earthly father loves like Thee, no mother half so mild
Bears and forbears, as Thou hast done with me, Thy sinful child.

Father of Jesus, love’s Reward! What rapture will it be,
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie, and gaze and gaze on Thee.

When Faber wrote that, I think he was spiritually coming to that place that a young man comes to when he’s fallen in love with a girl. No matter where he is, in what company, he just sits and gazes at her. Well, there is a phase in the Christian life when we begin to get to know the Lord that way.

There are two things left in the development of a prayer life. There is judgment in prayer, prayer when you know God well enough and know His holiness well enough that you can ask Him to curse something that is evil. One must advance in the Christian experience by a very long step before he has come to the place where he is directed by the Holy Spirit to partake in imprecatory prayer. Now the Psalms hold many such prayers: “Let them be confounded and put to shame who seek after my soul; let them be turned back and brought to confusion who devise my hurt” (see Psalms 35:4;Psalms 40:14Psalms 83:17). The more that you know of the holiness of God the more you can enter into this judgment and hatred of sin, and ask the Lord to confound those that are misleading the children of God.

As I know God better and as I come close to Him, there wells in my heart a great desire that that day will come when God Almighty will crush all of the things that would lead people into false doctrines, that would take them away from the simplicity that is in Jesus Christ. I believe that when you read of some great evil that has been done, you must take sides with God and say, “Oh, God, I’m not going to take the matter into my own hands. I don’t want to destroy the man who has done evil. I pray for him, and I leave this in Your hands, but, Oh God, I do thank You that the day will come when You will send out the angels, and they will pluck out of Your kingdom the things that offend and all people that offend.” Paul said to the Corinthians, regarding the fornicator among their membership, “Deliver such as one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

And now the last and most delightful part of prayer is what I call conversation. Mrs. Barnhouse and I probably have as abnormal a life as anybody in America. One summer we traveled for three months of preaching engagements all across the country. For three months, Mrs. Barnhouse and I were together no more than 25 feet apart at any moment day and night. We were together at night and in the morning as we went down to the church. She sat there while I preached, and then we went back to the coffee shop and then back in a motel room where I sat at my typewriter. I realize that such a life is abnormal, humanly speaking, and yet, it may be applied spiritually. With God this is normal. We live in closer contact with Him than being cooped up together in a motel room. When Mrs. Barnhouse and I are both concentrating on something, I may begin to say something, and if she is busy, she will respond, “Wait a minute.” When she’s through with what she’s doing, she then will ask, “What is it?” But with God things are quite different; He is never interrupted. God is always leaning toward us with both ears. He’s always intent for us; He’s ready to listen to us.

Now recently I was asked how much time a day I spent in prayer. So I began to analyze it. I would jot down on a memo pad the moments at the beginning of the day, the family worship, the times definitely spent in prayer. The times I pray for missions, for all the radio listeners, and for all the readers of my books and magazine. Then I realize that if you add up all of this time, it might not make too great a show in point of time spent in prayer. But yet to me the greatest amount of time spent with God is conversation.

Now this is the highest part of prayer, when you delight yourself in the Lord. You see, He’s always with you. Your body is His temple; your whole life is His. Any time you say, “Lord,” He’s there. Even when you hear a good joke, you laugh, and say, “Thank you, Lord, for a good sense of humor.” And all of these glories are joys.

When my sons were growing up, I first knew them as babies, and they knew me as their father who came and played with them. They got to know me better as they grew up, and there were times of struggles when their will was set against my will. This is the way I was in my growth with the Lord. As time went on and these boys grew into men and began to enter into maturity, a new relationship developed, so that I would rather sit down and talk with them on serious problems of theology, the Christian life, and the Bible than I would with even my closest friends. We have now come over the hump of all stresses and tensions that we knew when they were in their teens and have become the closest of friends.

This, you see, is the way we grow with God. God likes for us to come to Him and be chatty with Him, to talk over everything and look to Him and rejoice in Him. And when you begin to know God like this, you are going to discover that you are living a life of prayer that fulfills what the New Testament teaches: “Pray without ceasing.”

When you come to the place where you can know the Lord in an intimacy that He creates, you begin to really know how to pray. Soon you discover that your heart is so yielded to His that you want nothing but what He wants. And you learn to delight yourself in the Lord; then He gives you the desires of your heart. And as you talk with Him, your purpose is to know Him better. Then you will realize the true purpose of prayer: not that you get something at a discount but that you might know Him.

How to Pray

Most Christians put fences around their prayers to save face. Many Christians have offered so many prayers through a sense of duty, and without any thought of being answered, that they are astonished when an answer truly comes from God. Consider, as an example of this, an incident that occurred in the early church as recorded in the book of the Acts. It was the time of the fifth persecution recorded in that early history of the church. Herod was king and began a persecution in which James, the brother of John, was killed, and Peter was put in prison.

We read, “Peter, therefore, was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). The whole story gives us the picture of Peter in prison in one part of the town and a group of believers gathered together elsewhere praying for Peter. Then, suddenly, God intervened. Though Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and with guards in front of the prison door, an angel came and cast a sleep upon the guards and delivered Peter, who suddenly found himself in the street, alone.

Peter soon realized that he had been delivered by the power of God and made his way through the streets to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered together, praying. Peter knocked at the door of the gate, and a young woman, named Rhoda, came to the door to listen. Peter announced himself, and she was so confused with joy at the sound of his voice that she left him standing on the outside of the unopened gate and ran back into the house with the news of his deliverance. Now, if they had had any faith, they would have thanked God for the answer and taken it as a gift from God. But we read, “They said unto her, Thou art mad” (Acts 12:15). How sad that a group of Christians in a prayer meeting should think a person crazy who came to tell them that their prayers had been answered, but this is the fact. When the young girl constantly affirmed that it was true and that Peter was there, the leaders of the prayer meeting said, “It is his angel” (verse 15). This is a sad commentary of our slowness of heart to believe the promises and the power of God. “But Peter continued knocking” (Acts 12:16). There was no getting away from that noise at the gate, and the leaders went out and opened the gate. When they saw him, we read further that they were astonished. And even after this, it took some convincing by Peter before they really understood what had happened.

In the light of this we must not be too astonished that the church today is generally prayerless and spiritually careless. The average prayer meeting in the average church is a vain thing. In thousands of churches the prayer meetings have been eliminated, and where the mid-week service of prayer has gone by the board the Sunday evening service has generally followed. Whenever there is a true prayer meeting there is always a witnessing church, and a church with power. If anyone reading these words is looking around for a church, select one whose doctrinal creed is biblical and then look for an individual congregation whose prayer meeting is well attended, and where people are truly fervent in prayer. That is a church where there will be real spiritual life.

In seeking to learn to pray as we ought, we now come to the consideration of what it is to pray in the will of God. In John’s first epistle there is one of the greatest prayer promises in the Bible. There we read, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; And if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

The first thing that we must realize about this text is that it does not refer to everybody. If “we” ask anything . . . He hears “us.” Who are the “we” and the “us” in this text? The answer is in the context. It concerns only those who have been given life through Jesus Christ. It does not refer to Mohammedans or Buddhists. Nor does it refer to Protestants or Catholics who are Christians in name only. It is a promise that belongs exclusively to those who are the present possessors of eternal life. Listen to the preceding verses: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself . . . And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son. He that hath the Son hath life . . . These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:10-13). The prayer promise follows immediately. To be honest with the Word of God it must be admitted that the promise belongs only to those who have everlasting life and who know it.

In the light of our text we must read it: “This is the confidence that we [who are saved and know it] have in him, that if we [who are saved and know it] ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us [who are saved and know it.] And if we [who are saved and know it], know that he hear us [who are saved and know it], whatever we [who are saved and know it] ask, we [who are saved and know it] know that we [who are saved and know it] have the petitions that we [who are saved and know it] desired of him.”

With this established, we may now ask the second question that the text poses. What is it to ask according to the will of God? There is no one text that is going to furnish the complete answer to that question. The whole of the Bible must be studied to find out that which is the will of God. We may, perhaps, summarize it by saying the will of God for any human being is that which is in consistent accord with the nature of God’s attributes — His holiness, His justice, His righteousness, His love, His truth. The details are to be found by living under the dominance of the Holy Spirit within the sphere of the whole of the Bible. This is the heart meaning of, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Men who were unbelievers once asked the Lord Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29). We may further define our theme, therefore, by pointing out that the will of God always begins, centers, and ends in Jesus Christ. As far as we can discern from the whole biblical revelation, God has no thought or desire apart from the glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only prayer that an unsaved man could pray acceptably, therefore, is the thought contained in such a prayer as this: “Oh God, I deserve nothing from Thee but Thy just wrath; but Thou sayest that Thou didst love me and gave Jesus Christ to die for me. Now as best I know I stop trusting in anything that is of myself, and believe Thy word about Christ—that Thou art satisfied with His death instead of mine, and that in Him Thou doest give me life eternal.”

When such a prayer has been prayed God is already looking upon such a man in grace, and he may then come with great boldness to claim all of the promises which have been given to us in Christ. Thus our ignorance will be banished since our Lord said, “If any man will [determines to] do his will, he shall know of the doctrine [teaching], whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). Thus, the willingness, to do the will of God brings light upon the direction of the will of God for us in any set of circumstances.

When believers have reached this point they may pray with very great confidence. There are many prayers that we may offer to which we do not need to add the qualifying phrase, “if it be Thy will.” For example, when the Holy Spirit brings to our hearts a longing for deeper holiness of living, we may cry to God for it, expecting that He will answer. The ground of such expectation is in the Word, where we read, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). It is on this same foundation that the promise of Christ rests, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

In the light of this, let us consider, for a moment, the reasons why so many church prayer meetings are rather empty, and why, like the members of the early church, a true answer to prayer seems almost unbelievable. It is because the gathered believers are praying aimlessly without a true sense of the majesty of God and His righteousness, and with little thought of seeing wonders worked by the all-loving and all-powerful Father. The average prayer meeting lasts for an hour. The first ten or 15 minutes are spent in singing hymns, sometimes the fruit of true praise, and sometimes mere time-fillers. How many times have we heard such an announcement as this: “Now we will sing another hymn while the late-comers are arriving.” A hymn loses all the inwardness of praise in such circumstances, and it is not astonishing to see people whispering to each other, or looking around the room. Following this, the leader fills up a few more minutes with an introductory prayer, thanking God for the privilege of coming together to praise Him and asking Him to be with them that there might be true praise and a real sense of His presence among them. Then another hymn, perhaps, and then the announcements, and finally, the suggestion that prayer requests be presented. For a few minutes there are various suggestions—the name of the sick of the congregation are brought to mind, the missionaries, the various needs of the church, perhaps a request for the salvation of some loved one, and at last, comes the time to pray. The deacon with the longest memory usually starts and goes over the list of things that have been mentioned. Then another prayer will be offered for some of the things that have been omitted. A few more prayers, generally more and more brief, and by now, most of the praying men and women have spoken. Then comes a long silence, and finally the voice of the leader in the closing prayer. Then, for there are still some 20 minutes left, the hour is filled up by a sermonette, sometimes called Bible study. The hour draws to a close, a final hymn is sung, and the benediction is pronounced.

Believe me, this description has been given, not with any sense of irony, and certainly with no sense of criticism, but with a deep sense of grief that so many of the Lord’s people miss so much of the blessing that He is so eager to give. Too many believers are existing on ground meat which they did not mix themselves, and whose ingredients they often ignore, instead of having the finest cuts of the meat prepared as only God can feed us.

Let me suggest a program for an alternative meeting. Let the believers gather together and spend two minutes suggesting subjects of praise. Then sing a stirring hymn of praise. Then let someone mention some of the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow this with a hymn that exalts the wonders of His being and His work.

Following this, assign each person five chapters — different chapters — to read rapidly, silently, for one purpose, namely to discover some expression that shows what the will of the Lord is. When these chapters have been read, and the findings summarized on the blackboard, then spend 20 minutes in prayer for the things that have been found, and let not the words, “if it be Thy will,” be spoken even once. Let there be the tone of triumph that goes with the certain knowledge that a check is being presented that must be cashed because the bank has acknowledged that it is a certified check, and that you have been fully identified. Above all, eliminate such prayers as those faithless clichés, “We ask Thy presence with us tonight;” or, “Wilt Thou, in grace, be with us in this hour.” To pray such a prayer is like asking the host who had provided all the ingredients for a Christmas dinner, and who had set the table, and who had taken his place at the head of the board, if he would please come to dinner with the guests. He is already there. He has planned it for the sake of the larger fellowship.

How wonderful to begin a meeting of believers with the triumphant cry, “Thou art here, dear Heavenly Father! Thou art here, blessed Lord Jesus! Thou art here, Spirit of truth to guide us!” There are no ifsandsbuts, or maybes. There is the acknowledgment of a divinely revealed fact. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I” (Matthew 18:20). And remember He is not there because there is any place on this earth that is a sanctuary. Men call buildings churches, but in the beginning it was not so. The church is the group of believers, and it was others who began to call the buildings they ultimately began to meet in by the name of the believers who gathered there. The Lord is in a meeting because one believer, whose body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, walks into the presence of another believer on an arrangement to be gathered together in the name of the Lord. In the moment of their meeting, the Holy Spirit Who dwells in each believer, comes in the added power of the presence of Christ to give joy and blessing.

Prayer meetings that are ordered on these divine principles cannot fail to attract those who know the Lord in reality, and who are free to join with other believers at the time and place of the gathering.

In all such meetings there should be a portion of the time spent in praying for those things for which there is no clear light as to the will of God. It is God’s will to be with you in presence and in power; it is God’s will to make you holy; it is God’s will to forgive you from all sins that are confessed; it is God’s will to bless the going forth of His word to condemn or to save; it is God’s will to bless His people, to conform us to Christ, to teach us His will, and to bring us on in growth, performing His work in us unto the day of Jesus Christ. But we may have a portion of the meeting where we proceed very slowly. One man is sick. We certainly may not ask God with positiveness to raise the man up, for it may be the will of the Lord to take that one to Heaven. To such a prayer we must add, “if it be Thy will.” We may not ask God to protect us from accident, or loss, or disaster, for it may be His will to bring us into these things in order that we may learn that “in” all these things we are more than conquerors.

As time goes by we grow in spiritual life. At the outset of our experiences with Him we may pray ignorantly. The Heavenly Father will not look at us askance because of this. Sometimes — yes, many times—He answers us even when we ask ignorantly. He loves us more than we love our children.

One of my sons once wrote me two letters from college, both asking me for 50 dollars. The letters came about six weeks apart. One of them was several pages long and asked for the money with great details as to how it would be spent. It was hedged about with arguments to make the request plausible. In spite of this he did not get the money. The second letter was about seven lines long, but he got the money by return mail.

The first letter began by telling me that he was on the dean’s list. The second paragraph spoke of his friends. They, too, were honor roll students. He was laying the ground work for his request, and he was doing it by telling of his own attainments and by reminding me that he was a companion of good men. The letter then outlined the plan of the request; they were to leave Boston by car and drive out to Ohio, missing only their Friday and Saturday classes, and attend a social function in honor of the sister of one of the young men. My son’s part of the expenses would be about $50.00, including flowers, entertainment, and travel. The letter closed with the equivalent of a request — if it be thy will, dear earthly father — for 50 dollars. He did not get the 50 dollars.

A few weeks later there came a terse note: “Dear Daddy: There was an accident today in the chemistry lab, and another fellow broke a beaker of acid that spilled on my clothes. It burned a big hole in my coat and another hole about four by five inches across in my trousers. I have ordered another suit and must have 50 dollars at once. Your loving son, David.” He got the money by return mail. It was according to my will to send him that money. I am his father, and one of the obligations of parenthood is that a son be kept in pants.

None of this should cause us to think that we should go slowly in approaching our heavenly Father with our requests. “We know not how to pray as we ought,” but we are coming to our Father. In all matters where we know His will, we come with gladness and holy boldness. Wherever there is doubt we must tell Him that we are asking and not insisting, for we want nothing other than His will. He will never be angry with us, and He will always be patient with us. He is our Father. He loves us.

Notes
1. “My God, How Wonderful Thou Art.” Words: Frederick W. Faber. Jesus and Mary, 1849. Music: Azmon, Carl G. Glaser, 1828; arranged by Lowell Mason, Modern Psalmist

To finish reading “Prayer: What, Why, and How” please click here to receive the complete booklet.http://www.reformedresources.org/donald-barnhouse/prayer-why-what-and-how-booklet/


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Is it Okay to Pray, “If it Be Your Will, Lord?”.


Question: Is it Okay to Pray, “If it Be Your Will, Lord?”

A reader, Lynda writes:

A great Christian friend advised me that it is never okay to say, “If it be your will, Lord,” when praying. Do you have any insight on that comment with Bible verses to back it up? I truly do not see the harm, because I know that God will answer prayer based on his will for our lives. Sometimes the prayers that are not answered the way we would like, end up being the most life-changing, especially when we look back on our lives. Please help me understand.

Answer:

Is it Okay to Pray, “If it Be Your Will, Lord?”

Even Jesus prayed to the Father, “Your will be done,” in the Lord’s prayer:

This verse in Matthew 26 again shows Jesus praying in a similar way:Matthew 26:39 
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

(NLT)Some churches teach that God will only hear and answer our prayers if we pray with confidence and complete faith, according to his will. They base this teaching on the following verses of Scripture:1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

(NIV)Matthew 21:21-22 
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (NIV)

Yes, the Bible teaches us to pray specifically and without doubting when we know God’s will. What the above verses don’t say is that God only hears our prayers when we pray specifically, knowing his will. What they do reveal is that God won’t answer prayer contrary to his will. So, if you are praying for God to make you wealthy so you can give more money to missions, but he knows you will end up falling into temptationand sin as a result of that wealth, he may not grant your request.

How Should We Pray?

The problem of unanswered prayer is not God’s fault, nor is it due to our imperfect prayer techniques. The problem could be that we are asking for the wrong things, or not praying according to God’s will. The problem may simply be that we don’t know God’s will.In many instances, God’s will is clearly revealed to us. The more we know Scripture, the more we can be sure of God’s will when we pray. But the fact remains, we are human, imperfect, weak. We won’t always know God’s will. His infinite thoughts, ways, plans and purposes can’t always be understood by our finite, limited minds.

So, when we don’t know God’ will, there is nothing wrong with praying, “If it be your will, Lord.” Prayer is not about phrasing everything perfectly, or using the correct formula in the exact right way. Prayer is about communicating with God from our hearts, in an honest, loving relationship. Sometimes we get too concerned about technique and forget that God knows our hearts and understands our human imperfections.

We even have this promise of help from the Holy Spirit when we don’t know how to pray in Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (NIV)

It shows humility and trust in God to admit we don’t understand his perfect will. So, I often pray, “Lord, this is what my heart desires, but what I truly want is your will in this situation.” Other times I pray, “Lord, I am not certain of your will, but I trust you will do what is best.”

By , About.com Guide

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