Day 3: Where Prayer Begins | In Jesus’ Name

Link to and my notes from Day 3 of the “In Jesus’ Name” devotional….

Where Prayer Begins | In Jesus’ Name.

My notes:

Prayer is wrapped in praise – should be bookend-ed in praise.

How do I answer the opening question?  “What do I think God is like?

I have all the right answers – but if my prayers – the way I pray – is an indicator of how I view God, then I really wonder I honestly view Him.

I find that many of my prayers are very “request” based for me and my family and to a lesser degree, other people.  There are not a lot of other topics besides my “list.”  This is worrisome.

I can honestly say that I don’t view God as a “genie in a bottle” so I wonder where this pattern comes from.  Is it just a rote habit I need to break?  Do I feel entitled?  Definitely something that will take some prayer and introspection.

Take Aways:

I started listening to Bill Johnson’s (Bethel Church) “2012: A Year of Promise” (highly recommend) where he casually mentioned during the course of a story that he reads the Psalms every night.  This is something that speaks to me and I can take a hold of.

  • Read Psalms before praying -> David knew how to always give thanks to God for who God is, for what God had done, and for what God promised to do.  Great model of thanksgiving and praise.  This will set my heart on His Goodness and remind me of his mercy.
  • Make a “God Provided/His Mercy” list – create and keep a running list of God’s mercies and provision in my life – answers to prayers, unexpected blessings, all the things that I so quickly forget when the attack is on.  Reminders of God’s faithfulness and character.

While I am to live a conversational life of prayer with God (See Day 1) – there needs to be a specific, set-apart time of prayer and meeting with Him.

This was a good devotional for me.

Running After Papa…

“Pray for all people”… even politicians?

I’m doing a devotional produced by our church and for the first four days, our memory verse has been 1 Timothy 2:1-2 from the New Living Translation: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” OK. That verse, by itself, is enough for this post… but I’ll continue.

I’m doing a devotional produced by our church and for the first four days, our memory verse has been 1 Timothy 2:1-2 from the New Living Translation:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

OK.  That verse, by itself, is enough for this post… but I’ll continue.

It’s election time here – the Republican primaries have begun and the every night there is some sort of “Live Breaking News” and some political pundit projects and declares a “winner” with 3% of precincts reporting – just to be first to declare a winner (and they don’t really even care if they’re correct)… I frankly hate the election season for exactly that reason.  Why don’t they just wait until it’s completely counted and tell us ONE TIME instead of hundreds of times a day… but I digress…

The point is this – regardless of my political point of view or my likes or dislikes of government officials and those running our country – God calls me to “…pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

Paul has laid out the foundation of our prayers for other people – God to help them; intercede for them; give thanks for them.

Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority…” – say what?  It’s easy to ask God to help our leaders.  It’s the last two ways that are the doozies.

“Intercede on their behalf…”  What does that mean? The Message translation puts it this way. “Pray every way you know how…” That implies some thought, preparation, work, commitment and time. That means the President, Vice-President, his Cabinet members, the Senate, the House, the Judges (all of them), my boss(es) at work, the principals at my kids schools, our city governments, our school leaderships, the coaches of my kids teams, their teachers, the police and other emergency responders, our military leaders, – ALL OF THEM.  “… pray this way for all people.”

give thanks for them,” seriously? Dude – that’s hard.  It’s easy to give thanks for the ones I agree with.  It’s hard to give thanks for the others – especially the ones I violently disagree with and would never support in any campaign or election.  But God calls me to give thanks for them.  Jesus died for them too and God is still bigger and stronger than any government or any country or any World Order.

This is the command of our Lord.  Our obedience to his commands will bring blessing and Paul doesn’t fail to tell us that that is.

“… that we can live peaceful and quiet lives…” – that’s something I can get on board with.   That’s an outward blessing and benefit God provides for us.

Obedience to God’s commands doesn’t just do something for us – it does something in us.  When we obey – when we do the hard things (and believe me, praying for ALL politicians the way described in this verse is HARD!) we become “…marked by godliness and dignity.”

God, help me to live out 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and to earnestly, honestly pray for everyone – especially in this time of heated debate and season when opinions and judgements are easily formed.  Help me to pray for our leaders – our current ones and our new ones as the elections continue this year.

…Running After Papa…

Day 2: “Our Prayer” | In Jesus’ Name

“Our Prayer” | In Jesus’ Name.

My notes:

The prayer Jesus modeled for the disciples (and us – including me).  I should consciously follow the model here.

“It is a powerful truth that should define how we (I) live in the present.”

All too often, my prayers start off with “Dear God, please …” and immediately go in request mode – usually for me and my family – on occasion, I pray for others… (just keeping it real here)  How often do I adore Him?  How often do I just focus on the fact that He is God and I’m actually speaking to THE creator of the universe?  Where is my reverence?  Where is the “fear of God” – which Proverbs says is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10, Ps 111:10)

If I paraphrase the model Jesus set forth for us – it looks like this:

  1. God is first
  2. I am to be about His business
  3. I can trust him to provide for me and my family
  4. I have been forgiven – therefore I forgive others (Eph 4:32)
  5. I do not want to be any part of ANYTHING against Him and His will.

Another area for me is not only “how” I’m praying, but “how often” I’m praying – or I should say, how often I’m NOT praying.  I need to re-read yesterday’s devotional.

God help me today to pray continually and in those prayers follow the model you gave us.  In Jesus’ name.

…Running After Papa

Day 1: First Things First | In Jesus’ Name

First Things First | In Jesus’ Name.

I’ve started the new Gateway Devotional (a little later than most…) but thought I’d share the resource and walk through it with any of you who are looking for a great way to start the year.  It’s 28 days and includes original worship songs, content, and memory verses.

A few points that really hit home from today’s devo:

  • Before I do anything… ANYTHING (else), I need to pray.

How often do I just run off and do?  This would imply that I should never react to the world around me, but respond to it only after I pray.  Good advice, or would that be God advice?

  • Prayer forms the foundation of the Christian Life

If prayer is the foundation of the Christian life, how solid (or shaky) is my foundation?  Back to the first point – if I am to pray first, then respond – that would be the correct way to “build” my life.  If I’m not in lifestyle of praying first, then what kind of foundation am I “building” my life on?

Am I on a firm and strong foundation or a weak and shaky foundation?

  • I am to live a lifestyle of prayer

To me that means I’m to LIVE IN CONVERSATION with God.  It’s not a requirement or works-mandated, pray 10 times-a-day, some dry and rote performance oriented repeated prayer.  It’s exactly how I live life with my wife and children – I talk, listen, share, think and interact “…without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) with the LORD.

Jesus help me pray continually so that I respond to the world around me and not react to it.  Help me to stay in conversation with you that my life is built on a firm foundation of prayer and becomes a lifestyle and character trait of who I am.

In Jesus Name,

Running After Papa….

Waves (James 1)

James 1:6 NIV “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

A few weeks ago, in the midst of some very big “asks” with the Lord, this verse stayed top of mind for a few weeks.  The New King James translates it as “… let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” and the root word for what the NIV calls “believe” and what the NKJV calls “faith” is pistisI’ve written about this word a few times, the most recent being Faith & Doubt (Mark 11) and Faith: What is it? so I won’t expound on it here.

I’ve really begun to look deeper into the example James uses.  What are the characteristics of waves and how do they apply here and to my life?  How do they describe the state of my being when I doubt?  Carrying the example out, how does believing make me less like a wave?

Waves Are Random

When I say “a wave”, what do you see when you close your eyes?  Most of us see some sort of wave on a body of water.  That’s about as much similarity as we can state.  Wikipedia has a fairly extensive discussion on the many types of waves and forms of waves across all types of mediums (water, sound, light, etc…)  You can read it hereLet’s keep the discussion of waves in context of waves on a body of water.  Even with that, there are no clear definitions of what a wave looks like.  They have a pseudo-form, but can vary greatly from a slight series of rings that ripple out from a small pebble tossed in a very still pond, to a 20-foot (or greater), life-threatening whitecaps out on the ocean.  Both are waves.  While I assume there is a technically a definite beginning and end of a wave, it is clearly not easy to accurately identify for the casual observer.  The one constant is that they freely move up and down, back and forth, in and out, and constantly change shapes – often times spilling out or falling over (as in a whitecap).

When I doubt, I am like a wave.  I am not clearly defined and morph and change with the pressures and obstacles of life.  But when I believe – when I ask in faith – I am fortified to stand firm – with definition of who I am in Christ and more importantly, who Christ is in me.

1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.”

2 Corinthians 1:21 NLT “It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ.”

When I believe – when I ask in faith – I am positioned and permanent to display Christ in me.

Waves Are Reactive

Waves exist because of a reaction to something else – some outside force – be that an object, the wind, a current, a shift in it’s foundation (i.e. an earthquake).  The height, shape, speed, spread, and intensity of the wave is determined by the force acted upon it.  Waves are a reaction to the world around it.

When I ask in faith – when I believe and not doubt – I am confident in God’s plan and not reactive to the world around me because I know who He is and that His heart is for me.

Jeremiah 2:11-12 NKJV “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”

When I believe – when I ask in faith – I am purposed and peaceful and not moved by the world around me.

Waves are Running

Waves are always moving from point to point – constantly moving and being moved by the forces around them.

When I doubt – I too am constantly seeking and constantly moving – looking for an answer, looking for relief, looking for some way out or away from whatever I’m reacting to.  This is not God’ s plan.  I’m to ask in faith.  I’m to learn to be confident and trust in His will for me.

Psalms 37:5-9  

5 Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
7 Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.
9 For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.

When I believe – when I ask in faith – I am planted in God’s peace and power and can rest in who He is

Ask in faith.  Do not doubt.

Running After Papa…

The God Express Button

We have a very complex microwave.  There are tons of different settings to cook almost anything you can imagine.  It has the ability to brown and bake using light while cooking the inside with microwaves. It can cook a batch of chocolate chip cookies in 7 minutes.  That 3-5 whole minutes faster than the oven!  It can cook biscuit in 6 minute.  Whatever you want to cook, it can cook and it can do it faster than the convection oven (which is faster than a conventional oven).

However, our microwave has two buttons that are used the most… far beyond any other buttons.  THE single most used button on the microwave is the “Microwave Express” button.  This button turns the microwave on for 30 seconds.  If you touch it while the microwave is on, it adds another 30 seconds.  So, if I want to cook something for 1 and 1/2 minutes, it’s 3 touches of the button.

The second most used button is the one just above it that turns the light on in the microwave, so I can see my food being nuclearized, because I just HAVE to see my coffee get reheated!

I’ve noticed that I’m just that same way with Father.  I want to push the “God Express” button in various areas of my life:

Prayer

How many times have I sent up A SINGLE prayer… a.k.a. the “flare prayer” to God?  “OK Lord, I’ve pushed my God Express button, answer this prayer please…

Ezra 10:1 Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly.
Neh 1:4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

When Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray… (Matt 26:36-46) Jesus prayed for an hour the first time…

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went on to pray for two more sessions.

Col 1:3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
1 Thess 5:18 Pray without ceasing

I’m not advocating that there are not appropriate times for quick prayers to the Lord for wisdom, for an immediate situation, whatever… but if that’s the ONLY kind of prayer I’m offering and I’m expecting immediate results, then I’m treating God more like a Genie in a Bottle than I am the Creator of the Universe.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, immediately after pushing my God Express button, I push the ‘light’ button, because I want to “see” what He’s going to do about it and how He’s going to handle it.

Transformation

To often I find myself with this same attitude in my own personal growth and tranformation.  “Gee, that was a great lesson Dad!  I’m so glad I journaled that,”  never to look at it again or continue working on, studying, or chewing on it.

Phil 2:12-13 (NKJV)
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure

“Work out” my salvation?  “Work out?”  That would imply that when I stop, I get weaker and less “in shape.”  Wow.  Great picture and application.  My spiritual walk needs to be exercised and strengthened daily.  There is no express button for instant muscles or instant fitness.  It is a daily, continual, diligent exercise and regiment.  So is my transformation.  Again, I’m not advocating a religious formula or legalistic “do & don’t” list.  It’s an attitude of the heart.  It’s  a process of discipleship based in a real, living, vibrant relationship with Jesus.

Guess what? The God Express Button and the Light button aren’t connected… in fact, they don’t even exist.  They are stickers that I have put on and a deception that I have believed.

Yes, Father lets us “see” our own progress sometimes.  He is a good dad.  He encourages us along the way.   But He wants me to grow.  He wants me to learn patience.

Prov 19:11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
Prov 25:15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
Eccles 7:8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.
Isa 7:13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?
Rom 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Rom 9:22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?
2 Cor 6:6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Col 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully
Col 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
1 Tim 1:16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
2 Tim 3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance,
2 Tim 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Heb 6:12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
James 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
2 Pet 3:15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.

Papa, I repent of believing the lie that there is a “God Express” button that I can push to make you respond in the time frame of MY choosing.  How selfish and prideful I was.  I ask your forgiveness and know that according to 1 John 1:9 You are faithful to forgive me because I have confessed.  Help me to be patient.  I ask for that fruit of your Spirit to manifest and find good soil to grow in my life.  Continue your work in my heart and in my life.  I want to be extinct so that You are all others see, hear and feel.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Off to the prayer gym…

Oswald Chamber’s devotional book My Utmost For His Highest may be one of my all time favorite devotional books. For some reason, I really dig the classic and turn of the century authors. Anyway, I happened onto today’s devotional on Intercessory Prayer.

I am not a natural intercessor. I admire those who can boldly enter the throne room of Papa and stay there for hours on behalf of others… I love being around those men and women who can – with authority and fervor – pray, pray, pray. I know those men and women who are spiritually gifted to intercede on behalf of other. I am not by nature.

From Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost For His Highest – Intercessory Prayer devotional today:

True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up…[with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

OK. I know I’m not an intercessor, but I do from time to time attempt to intercede on behalf of my family, my friends or some other specific situation God burdens me for. But I’m honest enough with myself to know that I don’t stay at it long enough until I have God’s perspective on the situation. My prayers are much more in the “flare prayer” category.

The verse this devotional is based on is Luke 18:1 “…men always ought to pray and not lose heart…” I do lose heart in my prayers. I’m not beating myself up about it, but I know its a spiritual discipline I need to shore up.

A few years ago, I could not read the Bible for more than about 1 chapter.  Now, I get engrossed in studying the word. I could spend hours in the Word. I wish I had a job that would pay me to spend time in the word and write. WOW! How awesome would that be! But it’s a discipline I have worked on. Scripture Memory is another spiritual discipline. Prayer is too. I just need some time in the prayer gym.

I Cor 9:24-27 (NLT) Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

It looks like I’ve found a new workout for my spiritual program. I’ve found some muscles I haven’t paid attention to. I can endure in many other disciplines, but I NEED to endure in this discipline so that I come away with God’s perspective on those things I intercede for.

Thank you Dad for this revelation. Thank you for this new workout. Help me be diligent in exercising and learning this discipline… this spiritual weapon that I need to wield.