Prayer

Teach us to Pray

prayerMost Christians struggle with their prayer life. For some, prayer is a crisis hotline…kinda like the Batphone. We pick it up and dial God’s 911 when we’re in trouble or need something from him. Others struggle finding the right “formula” to prayer so their prayers will get pushed to the front of the line for God’s holy consideration. Some feel like the key to getting their prayers answered is to only used the big reverent words in their prayer.  Some feel like prayer is nothing more than a chore that’s required to do because you’re a Christian. Many struggle with praying out loud in a group of people. Do we kneel? Do we have to close our eyes? Sometimes we get so hung up on the “how to” that we forget that prayer is just a conversation with the God who created us and loves us.

How to pray isn’t our only struggle. If you’ve committed yourself to prayer, then you know that prayer can be hard work. We come to our prayer time, with our prayer lists and our carefully written out promises from the Bible next to each prayer and it doesn’t take long before we drift off to sleep or our mind begins to wonder. Then there is the part about waiting for God’s timing and trying to discern His will.

If prayer is something you feel inadequate in, you’re not alone. It’s very interesting that Jesus’ disciples worked alongside of Jesus and they only asked Him to teach them one thing. They didn’t ask for a crash course in feeding a large crowd with a boy’s small lunch. They didn’t sign up for Casting out Demons 101. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to heal the sick. The only time we see them asking Jesus something was, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1).

Do you ever stop to think what it must have been like to hear Jesus pray and then see miracles occur. The disciples wanted the same results in their prayers that Jesus got from His. Most of us would like to get results like Jesus did too. He loves for us to come to Him and ask Him to teach us something we are struggling with:

  • Father, teach me to love you more.
  • Father, teach me to praise you more.
  • Father, teach me to thank you more.
  • Father, teach me how to lead others to you.
  • Father, teach me how to know your will.
  • Father, teach me how to pray.

Jesus answered the disciples with a model for prayer. Probably one you’ve quoted (or at least heard) more than once in your life.

Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, they will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory
Forever, Amen.

The beginning of the model starts off with praise and adoration to a Holy God, acknowledging Him our heavenly father and giving reverence to His name. Often, our prayers tick off the long list of things we need God to for us without ever just stopping and taking the time to pause and worship Him for who He is: A God who is worthy of our praises. A God who is omnipotent, creator, holy, just, powerful, excellent in all His ways, good, faithful, true. A God who’s mercies are new every morning and who’s love is unfailing. A God who relentlessly pursues us, even in the times when we want nothing to do with Him. He is righteous. Our rock of ages. He is our teacher. He keeps His promises. He is our Savior and our Shepherd. He is a strong tower to which we can run for comfort and protection. He is Jehovah. He is our helper and our healer and He is victorious. How can we not give Him praise that is due Him? We take Him for granted and treat Him more like a genie in a bottle that we rub and He pops out to grant us our wishes. And when we don’t get an answer on our time table, we declare that prayer doesn’t work for us and we….quit praying.

When we don’t get an answer to prayer, it might be that we do just need to wait for God’s perfect timing. Or it might be that we didn’t pray for His will and He has something better in mind than what we think we want. Maybe His “no” is because even though we think we know what we need, God sees so much more than we do and He knows that what we’re asking Him for is not for our good. Instead of getting upset, trust Him for His perfect timing, His perfect answer, and His perfect will. Because we know He will do nothing that will bring us harm, we can love Him even when we don’t understand His answer or feel that He is not answering. We can trust Him that He is working all things out for our good, as any loving Father would do.

Try beginning your prayer time with worshiping God before you start on that long list of prayer requests. It will change the way you see prayer.

Next, take time to earnestly seek God’s will regarding the things you are praying about. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” We can’t know what God’s will is, if we do not take time to ask Him…so ask Him. Search His Word to determine His will. Ask a few close, trusted, Christian friends to pray with you to discover God’s will. He will let you know it.

Once you know His will, then you can take those promises from the Bible and begin to pray them back to Him. When you know His will, you can pray with confidence. When you know His will, you can move forward, even if it isn’t His will. There is something about seeking His will that if His will is different than ours, our will changes to match His as we begin to pray with a heart that truly wants His will.

Our prayer time also needs to include a time of confessing our sins to God and asking Him to forgive us. We also need to let go of the wrongs that people have done to us. How can we so righteously hold grudges against others when the King of Kings has lovingly forgiven us?

We can then pray for God’s protection over us as we go through the day and for his guidance. We can ask that Satan would not have any foothold into our lives. As we do, we can “put on the armor of God.” I like to do a visualization in my mind with each piece of armor as I pray. For example, “Lord, will put my helmet of salvation on my head, protecting my mind from thoughts and temptations that Satan may send my way.” I go through each piece of armor, acknowledge what it’s purpose is and ask God to put it on me.

Lastly, Jesus’ model prayer acknowledges the power and glory of God. He has the power to heal. He has the power to meet that financial need. He has the power to restore broken relationships. He has the power to bring a rebellious child back to Him. He has the power to help overcome an addiction. He has the power to help us get that job. He has the power to give us the strength to get through another day of an aging parent struggling with Alzheimer’s or cancer. He has the power to make that dream a reality. He has the power to enable you to do that impossible task He’s asked you to do. And when his power shows up, He is the one who will receive the glory.

There really is no “magic” method to prayer. When it comes down to it, prayer is nothing more than you communicating with a God who loves you. Just tell Him what’s on your heart, just as if you were talking with your best friend. He already knows anyway, so don’t worry about how eloquent your prayers are or being afraid of hurting His feelings. Just come as you are. Worship Him. Seek His will. Let your requests be known. Suit Up in your Armor. Acknowledge His glory. Trust that He has your very best ready for you.

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Prayer

What Do You Want Jesus to Do for You?

Matthew 20-32

How would you answer this question if Jesus was asking you? Maybe pay a bill or heal a disease or injury? Maybe to give you direction in a decision you need to make? Maybe you have no idea what you would ask Jesus to do for you.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. I have to wonder about their motivation in following Jesus. Were they really there to figure out who he was or were they just clamoring to see another great miracle? This is the last miracle recorded in the book of Matthew before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem that would lead him to the path of the cross.

Sitting beside the road, two blind men heard that Jesus would be passing by. Again, I have to wonder if they there already sitting there, or did they position themselves there after they heard Jesus was going that way? If so, then they positioned themselves to receive a miracle. Either way, as Jesus was getting close to them, they cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

The crowd, however, was too busy and too enthralled to worry with two blind men on the side of the road. Or maybe they were so caught up in what He was saying that they couldn’t hear him over the cries of the blind men. They warned the men to be quiet but instead the blind men cried out to Jesus even louder. That is when Jesus stopped and stood still. Over in the book of Mark where this same incident is recorded, Mark wrote that Jesus called the men to him and when he did, they threw off their outer coats so they would not be hindered in their haste to get to Jesus. They had his attention and they were not going to waste a moment of his time. This was their chance to be healed. There was no place for timidity or hesitation or doubt. They had to go all in now that they had His attention!

Jesus already knew what they wanted; just as he already knows the needs you have in your life. Yet still he asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Can you imagine the hush of the crowd as he stopped? All of them wondering if he would do yet another miracle? Jesus encouraged them to say what they wanted and by asking them, the crowd would be able hear their request and then be witness to Jesus granting the miracle, which could then increase their faith.

Jesus also knows the desires of our hearts. He wants us to come to Him and tell him our needs, longings, dreams, and heartaches. Jesus demonstrated his willingness and power to do anything for the blind men that they wanted and He still has the power today to answer the prayers of your heart.

The two blind men wanted to be able to see again and the moment they expressed their need, Jesus moved with compassion, touched their eyes and immediately they could see. The Bible then says that they followed Him.

When you pray, do you pray with the faith that would cause Jesus to stand still? Do you pray with such unrelenting force that the King of the universe stops everything he is doing to say, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Do you cry out to Him louder when the noise of doubt, depression, worry, anxiety, and fear try to threaten you into just being quiet? Do you call out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David?”

One way to pray is to search for promises in the Bible that pertain to the need you have and pray the promise back to God. These two blind men had to have heard about the miracles Jesus was doing. Those miracle had drawn a crowd. He was the talk of the town. There is no way they had not heard. Can you just imagine the conversation the two blind men might have had? Maybe it went something like:

“Hey I heard the miracle maker is on his way out of Jericho.”

“Yes. I think He’s heading to Jerusalem for the Passover.”

“Do you think it’s true that He does miracles?”

“It must be. He’s drawn a big crowd all watching and waiting for him to do another.”

“Do you think He’s the Messiah?”

“He has to be. Where else would he get the power to do these miracles?”

“If we can get to the road before He gets there, maybe he will heal us too?”

Together they make their way to the road and position themselves where they know Jesus will be passing by. I don’t know that it happened this way. We also know that because they were blind, they were beggars. It was just the way they earned money since they were not able to work a job. In Bible days, it was not uncommon for beggars to sit by the road and beg from people as they entered and left the city. So perhaps they were already there. Regardless, they recognized that this man who was doing miracles was someone special and important. When addressing him they called him, “O Lord, Son of David.”

There is a parallel we can draw from this story as well. Without Christ, we are spiritually blind. After Jesus healed them they followed Him. There is no such thing as following after Jesus blindly. For the two blind men, Jesus draws them to Him by giving them physical sight and by doing so, he also drew their hearts to Him. If you are spiritually blind, call out to Jesus and he will immediately give you spiritual sight and then you will be able to call him Lord also.

Jesus honors both faith and prayers. The problem we have is that too often after we ask a few times we assume God isn’t listening or doesn’t have time to answer us or that his answer is no and we give up. Or maybe once we get the attention of the Almighty, we hesitate in our fear or embarrassment and don’t ask. Or maybe we have a second thought and decide we can do for ourselves and don’t need God’s intervention. Every day, I learn a little bit more about how much I need God. Whenever I try to take things in my own hands, I only end up with one big mess and then call out to God to fix it! How much frustration and heartache could we save ourselves by calling out to Him first and trust him with the answer, then wait expectantly for it?

What if the next prayer is the one that brings the breakthrough and the answer rushing from Heaven to us? Do stop praying. Call out to Him. He will stop and ask, “What do you want me to do?” Whether the answer is immediate or not, He hears and He is already at work to bring about His perfect will. Trust Him!

Prayer

God hears our prayers

1 Peter 3-12

Did you know that every moment of every day you have God’s attention!? Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend that with all the billions of people on Earth that God knows every little detail of my life, every second of every day. I mean, after all not only does He have to keep up with every single person alive…but also every soul that has passed from this life to the next. And then there are all the angels as well as holding the galaxy together…yet I am important enough to Him that his eyes are always on me. I am continually under His notice and nothing escapes Him. I am always in the shadow of His wing and under His care.

Not only is he always watching over me, but his ear is ever open to my prayers…no matter how big or how small. In the Facing the Giants movie, one of the players asks Coach Grant if he thinks God cares about Football. Coach Grant replies, “I think he cares about your faith. He cares about where your heart is. If you can live your faith out on the football field, then yes God cares about football, because He cares about you.” As this team gets their motivation right, and the team begins to play to honor God both on the field and off, we see God answer the prayers of team and they become the champions. God cares about what is important to you too.

Prayer is not a means of getting whatever we want, the moment we want it. God is not a genie in a bottle, nor is he Santa. There is no magic words or ritual involved. However, we can have confidence that as a Christian, God does hear our prayers. Sometimes he answers just the way we want. Sometimes he answers, but within His own timing. Sometimes the answer is no, but we can know that His “no” means it’s for our best. In Numbers 22, we read the story about a man named Balaam. He was on his way to pronounce a curse on Israel for a price. But God halts his journey in a very unusual way. While riding his donkey, the donkey suddenly stops. This happens three times and when Balaam would have struck the donkey, the donkey talked! The donkey asks him, “Have I not always been faithful to you?” Then Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees what the donkey saw: an angel standing in the path. The angel says to Balaam, “I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have speared it.” Wow! The donkey saved Balaam’s life. We all hate detours. They can be both frustrating and confusing. But when God places a detour in our lives, we can trust Him for the different path He has for us. He loves us enough to get in our way to stop us from making reckless decisions and choices. But even in the detours, God hears our prayers. Just trust that if the answer isn’t coming or doesn’t come the way you want it to, that God has something even better in mind for you.

Not only does he hear our prayers, but because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, we have the liberty to go to God in prayer at any time. If I wanted to see the President of the United States, there would be many people I would have to get through…even if the President was willing to allow me a few minutes of his time. We do not have to go through anyone to get to God…and he always has time for us. There is no calling him up to be placed on hold until He gets to us. There’s no need to leave a message and hope our prayer doesn’t get lost amongst the billions of other prayers being sent at the same time. No, we have the freedom to go straight to God and pour our deepest cares and biggest longings. Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my request before you and wait expectantly.” David had a habit of praying every morning. We can pray any time. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). But David also prayed expectantly. He expected God to answer Him. You can expect God to answer your prayers also…even if the answer is different than what you wanted.

Prayer

Does Prayer Really Work?

by Brian Bruce

One thing that I often hear about prayer is “Oh, it can be great, but I don’t think it still works” or something along those lines. I’m here to say that’s a wrong way of thinking! Prayer works, and I can give many examples from my own life.

first date
Our 1st date at the Jacksonville Zoo

In 2004, I was seeking someone to spend my life with, so I wrote a list of the qualities that I was looking for in a wife. Then I prayed over that list daily. A few months later, I met Julie, who was exactly the woman I was looking for. Prayer works!

 

 

wedding
Our wedding with our children (oldest to youngest) James, Amber, Rayce and Katelyn.

A few months later, after turning down a few proposals, Julie prayed and told God “If Brian is the man that you want me to marry, he has to be transferred to the day shift at work.” I was unaware at the time she had prayed this, but when she asked me about the possibility of me moving to a day shift, I told her there was no way that would happen…but less than a week later, I was transferred to the day shift. We were married in October 2005. Prayer works!

In 2012, I suffered a diabetic ulcer (we’ll spare you that photo. YUCK!) on my left foot and was sent to a renowned wound care specialist who told me there was no pulse in my left leg. He told me “Go to Memorial Hospital E.R. and check in. You’re going to lose that leg.” As my daughter drove me to the E.R., I called Julie, who called my sister, Shari Martin. A prayer chain went literally around the world as people we knew called people they knew. The hospital staff was running tests and preparing me for amputation, which was scheduled for two days from then. As I lay on an exam table having one last test done…a doppler test on the leg..the technician heard a very slight pulse. She called the surgeon, who instead of amputating, performed surgery that saved the leg and included removing all the infected skin tissue. When they were done cutting away, the skin was removed from my heel all the way to the bone and what was left was a large gaping hole. I still have my leg today….and if you look at my foot where the ulcer used to be, you won’t even see a scar! Prayer works!

chewie
The furbaby, Chewbacca, recovering from his own foot wound.

In June 2017, our fur baby Chewie had a serious injury to his front right paw. Just like with me, the prognosis was amputation. He was stuck in the veterinary ER overnight with IV antibiotics and all we could do was pray. When we called in the morning to check on him, we were told he was walking on it normally. A month later…he still has four paws and you almost can’t tell it was ever injured. Even for a pet, prayer works!

The only prayer that won’t be answered is the one that isn’t prayed. Sometimes we don’t get what we prayed for in the way we hoped, or we don’t seem to get it at all. Maybe God just said no…or wait. He always answers the prayers of His children and gives the best answer for the moment, whether it’s yes…later…or no.

Prayer works!

PS 17 6

 

Prayer

Our Eyes Are Upon You

By Julie Bruce

“We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

–2 Chronicles 20:12

2 chron 20 12King Jehosaphat was facing an army much larger than his. They were on their way to wipe out his kingdom. As a king, he must have felt the weight of knowing every life in his kingdom was dependent on his ability to defend them….yet he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. So he went to the one person who has all power. He prayed to God. When he prayed, he admitted he didn’t know what to do about his problem. He was looking to God, expecting Him help him in his time of trouble.

We too face threats that are much bigger than us that sometimes leave us not knowing what to do. Maybe it’s a financial threat, an overwhelming illness, divorce, loss of a job, eviction, or not enough food in the house to get through the next payday. Maybe it’s a wayward child who is walking away from the faith you’ve raised them in. Maybe it’s a long awaited pregnancy that ends in miscarriage. Whatever is threatening you, you too can fix your eyes upon the one who can solve your problem.

It doesn’t mean that God instantly gives us everything we ask for. Sometimes, He grows our faith as we wait on Him. Sometimes it might seem He doesn’t answer at all. However, we can have the faith that God hears, sees, and knows what we are going through. He promises us that He will supply our needs, that he works all things out for our good, and that his plans for us are to prosper us and not to harm us. So whatever your need is and when you are at the place where you don’t know what to do, trust that God is at work. Don’t give up praying. Keep your eyes on Him…especially when you are at a place where you don’t know what to do.