Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Effective Prayer

Prayer is important to the life of a believer. It is our way of communicating with God and bringing our requests before Him. In order for our prayer to be effective, there are certain requirements or conditions that must be met. First, we must have a sincere faith. When the father of the demon-possessed boy came to Jesus asking that Jesus heal his son, Jesus told this man that all things are possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23). Jesus told his disciples that when they ask for something in prayer, they will receive it they believe (Mark 11:24). James 1:6-7 tells us that, when we ask God for something, we must not waver in our faith. If we have doubt, then we should not expect anything from God.

The next requirement for effective prayer is that we should pray with the authority of Jesus.  Jesus said that He will do whatever we ask in His name so that the Father will be glorified (John 14:13-14). Our prayers should be made in Jesus name. They must also be in line with His Word and His character. That brings us to the third requirement, which is that our prayers should be in line with God's will. Jesus told us that, when we pray, we should ask that God's will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). For more about praying for God's will, see my post for May 22, 2017, Thy Will Be Done.

The fourth requirement for effective prayer is that our lives must be aligned with God's will and His commands. We must be living according to God's Word if we expect Him to hear our prayers and answer them. 1 John 3:21-22 tells us that we may have confidence before God and will receive an answer to our prayers when we keep His commands and live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. As Jesus told us, when we seek God's kingdom and God's righteousness before anything else, then we will receive the things that we need (Matthew 6:33).

The last thing needed for prayer to be effective is persistence. We must persevere in prayer, never losing heart, as Jesus taught us in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-7). We should devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2). And we must persist in our belief that God hears us and He will answer our prayers.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thy Will Be Done

How often do we sit down to pray and simply look for God to listen and to hear, without asking Him to speak and to tell us what He wants to say? How often do our prayers become a laundry list of all the things that we need or want God to do in our lives or in the lives of family and friends? If you're like me, the answer is probably "far too often!"

When we go to God in prayer, it is important that we speak to Him and present our needs to Him. But it is equally, if not more important, to be still and listen for God's voice and to seek His will in the requests that we bring to Him. Jesus gave us an example of how we should pray in the prayer that we now call The Lord's Prayer. A part of that prayer is praying for God to let His will be done (Matthew 6:10).

Jesus modeled that example for us in the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed on the night before He died for us. Jesus prayed that night that God would take away the cup of suffering that He was about to bear. But, Jesus didn't make that request and then just leave it at that. He followed it by saying, "Not my will but yours be done." (Mark 14:36) Jesus understood that God's will is perfect and He was willing to submit to His will, even if it meant that He would suffer.

When we are presenting our needs before God, we should follow the example set by Jesus. We should present the need, but then tell God that we want His will to be done, even if it means that the answer we desire is not the answer that we get. When we seek God's will rather than our own, we can be confident that God hears our prayers and that we will receive the answer that is His will for us (1 John 5:14-15).

Jesus prayed for God to take away His cup of suffering, but He also prayed that God's will be done. It was God's will that Jesus face that suffering, but God gave Him the strength and the ability to endure it. God's will for us will never be something that will hurt us. His plans for us are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). So, we can be sure that, if God's will in the needs we present to Him does not bring the answer we hoped for, God will give us the ability to accept that will and strength and peace in our circumstances.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Let There Be Light

Have you ever found yourself in complete darkness? The darkness I'm talking about is where you can't even see your hand if you hold it in front of your face. Complete darkness can be quite unsettling. When you are in that kind of darkness, you may have no sense of where you are or where you are going. You cannot see who or what may be facing you. When you find yourself immersed in complete darkness, you long for a flashlight, a lantern, a candle, or any source of light.

Before creating the world in which we live, the earth was formless, empty, and surrounded in complete darkness (Genesis 1:2). So, God created light, then separated it from the darkness. Light was the first thing God created and the first thing that He said was good. Light is a part of God's divine nature. He wraps Himself in light (Psalm 104:2).

As children of God, and followers of Christ, we are also children of the light. But, this was not always so. Just as the earth was once surrounded in darkness, because of the evil of sin, we were also surrounded in darkness (Ephesians 5:8). But, because of His infinite love for us, God brought us out of the darkness through His Son, Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. When we choose to walk in His light, when we follow that light, we will never again walk in darkness (John 8:12). When we live by the truth of God's Word, we no longer live in darkness, but instead live in the light. And, when we live in the light, our lives will reflect the fruit of that light, which is goodness, righteousness, and truth (Ephesians 5:9).

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be more like Him. Jesus wants us to be the light of the world. He wants us to shine our light, of which He is the source, into all the world. When we do, then people will see the things that we do, the good that we do in Jesus' name, and God will be glorified (Matthew 5:14-15). This world is still surrounded by or filled with darkness, a spiritual darkness. Our calling is not to keep the light to ourselves, but to display it for all to see. Let your light shine so that, through you, others will be drawn to the source of that light, Jesus.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Be Fruitful and Multiply

"Be fruitful and multiply." This was God's instruction when He created mankind (Genesis 1:27-28). God's plan was for mankind to increase in number, so that the earth would be populated by the part of creation that bore His image. But due to man's disobedience to God, sin entered the world and mankind became corrupted. God saw that the heart of man was inclined toward evil, and it grieved Him so much that He decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth by sending a great flood. But, in His great mercy, God singled out one righteous man named Noah and saved him and his family from this destruction (Genesis 6:5-8).

God instructed Noah to build an ark, on which Noah, his sons and their wives would be protected from the flood, along with two of every kind of animal on earth. The rains came and flooded the earth, destroying the rest of mankind. When the rain ended and the floodwaters receded, God gave Noah and his family the same instruction He had given to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply." (Genesis 9:1) Once again, God's plan was for mankind to populate the earth. God also gave Noah a promise that He would never again send a flood to wipe mankind from the face of the earth (Genesis 9:11). Sadly, it was not long before sin once again took hold of man, but God had a different plan for dealing with man's sin this time. He would one day send His only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for the sin of mankind.

Fast forward through the centuries to the New Testament. God sent His Son, Jesus, who took all of our sin upon Him as He died on the cross, enabling us to be freed from sin's chains and the punishment that we deserved. Jesus died and then rose again, conquering sin and death. Before He ascended into heaven to take His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus gave His disciples instructions to go into the world and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Jesus was basically instructing them to be fruitful and multiply. Following the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they did just that. The number of people who believed and became disciples of Jesus grew by three thousand on that day alone!

Jesus desires for all of us to be fruitful and multiply. When we accept Jesus in our lives, believing that He died for us and making Him Lord of our lives, we receive the gift of salvation. Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we who are now in Christ are able to bear fruit. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. When we abide in Him, our lives become fruitful as we grow to be more like Him (John 15:5). When we become fruitful in Jesus, our lives will reflect Him and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to multiply, to bring others into the family of believers.

Be fruitful and multiply!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Faith is a Weapon of Spiritual Warfare

During the Passover meal on the night before He was crucified, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him that very night, not once but three times (Luke 22:34). Before predicting this, Jesus explained to Peter that Satan had asked God to allow him to sift all of the disciples like wheat (Luke 22:31). Satan's goal was to cause the disciples to stumble, to fall away from Jesus and from their faith. I'd like to take a bit of poetic license here and imagine the scene in which Satan approached God with his request.

The throne room was filled with the angels of God, each one assuming a posture of reverence and awe as they stood in the presence of the Lord. Suddenly, from the back of the room, there was a great commotion as a dark presence pushed through the angel assembly and made its way to the front of the room. Just before the presence reached the front of the room, its path was blocked by Michael, the archangel.

"Stop right there, evil one!" said Michael. "What are you doing here?"

"Peace, Michael," said a voice from the throne. "Let him through."

Michael stepped aside and let Satan approach the throne.

"Where have you come from, Satan?" asked the Lord.

Satan responded, "Oh, I've been roaming around the earth, just going back and forth, from here to there, looking for someone to--"

"What is it you want?" the Lord thundered.

"I was wondering if you would see fit to allow me to sift those followers of your Son's like wheat. I just know that they will turn against Him. I mean You, of all people, should know how fickle they are and--"

"Silence!" said the Lord. "Very well, do as you wish. But see to it that you don't lay a finger on any of them."

Satan grinned, then turned and left the presence of the Lord.

Satan did get his way. He placed doubt and fear in the hearts and minds of the disciples. As Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus three times that night. But that's not the end of the story. When Jesus told Peter of Satan's request, He also said that He had prayed for Peter. His prayer was that Peter's faith would not fail. And, although Jesus knew that Peter would fall away, He also knew that Peter would turn back. He instructed Peter that, when he did turn back, he was to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32).

Peter did turn back. What Satan intended for evil, God used for good (Genesis 50:20). In 1 Peter 5:8-9, Peter gives us some of the best advice for dealing with our enemy, the devil. Peter's experience with the schemes of Satan in his own life gave him the knowledge he needed to be able to tell us that, in order to resist Satan, we must be alert. Satan will do whatever he can to shatter our faith and destroy our salvation. We need to resist him, and we can do this by standing firm in our faith. We need to hold on to our faith in Christ because it has the power to quench the fiery darts that Satan sends our way. Our faith is a shield that will keep us safe from the enemy's attacks. (Ephesians 6:16).