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Archive for July, 2015

Praying Through Our Worries

July 31st, 2015

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 2:6

Worry has always been a reality of human life since the fall of mankind. God did not create us originally with the intention that we should worry, that we should bother ourselves with things too great for us, that we should become obsessed over the future and the many bad scenarios that play in our heads. Worry is a foreign invader to our spirits, an alien concept that has come int our hearts to rob us of peace.

Worry feeds almost every evil thought and inspires us to every evil action. Before envy destroys our relationships and drives a wedge of suspicion and hatred between friendship, worry was already there, feeding our insecurities. Before hatred and animosity, came fear and worry. Before lust and pride surface in our hearts, worry showed up creating our personal feelings of insecurity, influencing us to grasp at worldy things to ward off the uncomfortable fears. Depression, doubt, anger, hardness of heart, meanness of spirit, cruelty – Worry came before all of these, and in some measure, whether great or small, worry helps lay the foundation of much evil in our heart and lives.

Of course, we must deal with reality, and in someway worry comes from living in today’s world. But the heart of worry and fear is the lack of confidence in God. It is one thing to deal with reality, to write down your responsibilities, to consider the results of inaction, and to prepare for bad scenarios. It is another thing to do this in a helpless spirit, without God and without prayer to support us.

The antidote for worry is faith, simple trust in God. It is when the steadfastness of God is absent from our hearts that worry sets in. If we can keep Him in the forefront, if we can, like a sheep, trust in our Shepherd we can have fearless souls and confidence in all of life. Christ said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Every time worry raises its ugly head in our lives, every time insecurity plants suspicion and doubt, focus on Christ. Think of Him and trust in Him.

Prayer is not only a means to bring our requests to God – and we can never lose this basic reality of prayer, for the word “prayer” literally means “to ask” – but prayer also is a therapeutic tool in God’s hand to minister to our souls. I am quick to say that prayer is not only a therapeutic tool, that it is a real communication with the living God, bringing our requests to Him. God listens and hears and invites us to come and ask of Him. And because it is genuine communication with our God, it also has therapeutic value for our hearts. We think better, we feel better, we live better when we pray much.

Praying through our worries means that we begin with confidence in God, to acknowledge Him as the Almighty Father, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator and Sustainer, our Redeemer and Savior, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, the Resurrection and the Life. Then we thank Him for what He has done. God, of course, knows what He has done for us, but we often forget, and thanksgiving is helpful to our souls because it reminds us of the truth that God is able to take care of us, that He has done so in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

Then take the matters on our hearts to Him in prayer. I have found that we often pray too shallowly, that we tend to ask only for what we think should be done, or what result we would like to see. For example, the doubter and worldling in us will ask for money, whereas the deeper work of God in our souls will lead us to ask God for contentment.

Many requests we make are for temporary deliverance from trouble or to meet a specific need – for healing from a disease, for rescue from a problem, for grace and favor in life. We should not abandon this type of praying for Christ taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). We on this earth always have the perspective of our here, of physical and material needs. God invites us to take these needs to Him in prayer. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2b).

But the greater need of our hearts and of our lives, even of our world and of our loved ones, is always for the new life in Christ to take root in our souls. Requests anchored to the material world go unanswered by God because we ask with evil intent in our hearts. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Christ taught us in the Model Prayer to not only ask for daily bread, or to even let those genuine physical needs to dominate our prayer. He placed the emphasis on spiritual needs, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:12-13). Two-thirds of the requests He taught us to make of God have to do with spiritual needs: receiving forgiveness from God, offering forgiveness to others, guide in life to make wise decisions – and this means a change of our hearts and perspectives – and deliverance from evil.

Take all of these requests. Do not merely pray for more money, but pray for the character and maturity you need to handle more money. Do not merely pray for healing, but pray also for fearlessness and faith in your soul and for the maturity to deserve more years of life on this earth to bear fruit for Christ. And we can also pray this way for our loved ones as well.

As a father I have sat nervously on edge through many of our children’s sporting events praying that they would have a good game, that they would make a good play, score a goal, stop the other team from scoring, etc. There is nothing wrong with these prayers because they were offered from a desire that our children would gain confidence in life. But there was something shallow about them. I have learned also to pray the deeper prayers – that our children will learn how to handle defeat, how to react to unfairness in life, that they will be unselfish in their play, and that they will be gracious in victory.

Take all of your requests to God – pray for the immediate felt needs as well as the deeper and more profound ones that you know are there. Then expect God to guard your heart. You have done your duty. You have taken the matter to God. Wait for His answer and obey Him in what He tells you to do. Leave the matter with Him and worry about it no more. Let Him answer it according to His knowledge and His will and His wisdom.Then God will give you His peace to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

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Prayer: Pouring Out the Heart

July 30th, 2015

Trust in the Lord at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Psalm 62:8

God created us with the capacity to feel, and this is because we are made in His image. Just as God felt love for the world, despite its sinfulness, and gave the Son as payment for our sin, so our hearts are also capable of great feelings – including love, compassion, and godly desire. But because sin has entered into the human race this trait has become warped and mis-shapened. We now feel fear and lust mixed with longings and ambitions.

Not all that we long for is wrong – many long for peace, harmony, enough to live on, happiness for our loved ones, success in life, justice for our cause, etc. – though much of it is. But sin has seemed to infiltrate and pervert to some degree even the best of our desires until longing is corrupted by fear instead of supported by faith.

The theme of Psalm 62 is a calm resolve to patiently wait on the Lord. “Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation” (Psa. 62:1), David wrote. Then he repeated the thought, strengthening his faith, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Psa. 62:5-6). Whenever we are tempted to panic, whenever we feel wrongly pushed to action that God has not ordained, we need to tell our souls to wait and trust in the Lord.

But what about all of these feelings inside us? What do we do with the thoughts of our hearts, for inside there are good desires mixed with fears. The solution is to pour them out before God, and this is a description of prayer, “pour out the heart.” Hannah used similar words as she described her praying for a child. As a childless young wife, in an age when to bear children was considered a woman’s duty and main significance, she longed for a child with all her heart. Due to the intensity of her praying she was suspected by the priest Eli of being drunk, and she replied:

No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.

The psalms are the primary scriptural guide for us on how to pray and they are filled with examples of people emptying out their hearts to God, expressing fears, longings, concerns, hopes, and hurts. There is nothing that we may not take to God in prayer. We can pour out to Him the thoughts that we are afraid to mention to another human. We may confess every sin and find forgiveness and cleansing. We can take every fear and find a loving Father who patiently listens to His child. And when worldly fear and godly longing are intermixed in our hearts, we can still bring these to Him and leave our requests before Him.

Prayer does not always consist of great emotional outpourings, nor need it be so. We often pray with calmness of heart and with unperturbed souls. But sometimes we feel differently, and in such circumstances we need to learn the discipline of taking these matters to Him.

And in our spiritual growth into Christlikeness, there comes a level of maturity where we do feel strongly for things of God, where it is righteousness that is our concern. Where we are not obsessed merely about our own problems, but sin and its effect on others has troubled our soul. We see the lostness of the world and the injustices of human society. We see needy children and sick people, the poor and abused, and our hearts hurt for others because of the evil in this world. Society seems to be running away from God, and our hearts are broken. So these are also feelings we need to pour out before the Lord.

Whatever is on your heart, take it to God and learn to trust in Him. Prayer is a ministry to others for it brings the world’s needs to God, and it is a ministry to our own souls as it unburdens our hearts.

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