Prayer in Heaven (40)

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Prayer Text for Today is Revelation 8:1-5

Forty days ago I downloaded Keith Roberts’ schedule of 40 Day Plan For Spiritual Power. I committed to write or invite others to write a post each day as we entered into a new year. On this last day of 2014 we reach the last post in this series. That’s a lot of writings about various aspects of prayer. I hope to have a .pdf document of them all for you sometime in the future.

The greatest challenge of prayer, as I see it, is to remember and know in our hearts that prayer is heard in heaven. No matter how excellent your prayer practices may be, if they are not heard in heaven then they are no better than positive affirmations and weary hopes.

In the last book of your New Testament there is a stunning picture painted to give us some idea of what happens in heaven. It begins with silence …

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God; seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel, with a gold incense burner, came and stood at the altar. ~ Revelation 8:1-3a

I can imagine a lot of things about heaven, but silence is not one of them. I think of heaven as a noisy and active place. Revelation tells us about some of that, but here in this moment a half hour of silence envelopes the presence of God. What is happening in this moment to bring about such reverent quiet?

[An angel] was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand. ~Revelation 8:3-4

God’s people around the globe at this moment are offering up prayers … sincere praises, requests, repentances, seeking the will of God in their lives. You and I could never hear such a noise, but God hears it all. And when you fall to your knees to pray, all heaven grows silent. Can you see how beautiful your prayers are to your Abba? Why does God continue to affirm throughout His word that He listens, hears and responds to prayer? Because we find it so hard to believe, living in a world that tears down our faith every day.

The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; there were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. ~Revelation 8:5

So listen … next time you’re struggling with prayer a bit … remember that all Heaven grows silent in honor of your prayer and the response is cast down to the earth. That answer is fire from the altar … always the signal of the presence and power of God. You may not see with your eyes the immediate response of God, but it has already been sent. Go ahead and thank Him for His answer knowing that He has, indeed, answered your prayer.

If you haven’t ordered Keith Robert’s book on prayer called Why God Waits for You to Pray … please do … the link is below. I promise you’ll be blessed.

As we close this series, let me pray for you…

God, just as I cannot always see your answers clearly, I cannot see everyone reading these posts. I don’t know what was needed through these posts, what was helpful, what was sent by You to someone who would hear and be blessed. But I believe it is so. Would You please look into the life of the one reading these words right now … see the broken places? See the heartache? See the sin? See the spark of desire to follow You with devotion and power? Fan it into flame, Father! Give them just what they need … overflow their life with Grace that is greater! Give them a new year filled with opportunities to lift up your name to the lost world. And when they pray, remind them that all Heaven grows silent when prayers arise from devoted hearts. Only through Jesus can we have this hope, and Only in Him do we pray, Amen.

Thanks again for joining me on this journey. If you subscribed to these posts only for the prayer series, I invite you to stick around. I’m honored that you spent this time with me in this way. God bless you richly.

Prayerfully, JD.
   

The Heart of Prayer (39)

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Prayer Text for Today is James 4:1-10

There is no end to conflict among races, tribes, countries, and political ideologies. Human beings have had millennia to live together on this planet and the best they can do to be at peace is to put up walls and make sure they are more heavily armed than the next most likely enemy. Unarmed people are gunned down and unsuspecting officers of the law are murdered. Even among Christians there is a character assassination and disdain for those who think differently than we. Suspicion, thinking the worst of one another, selfish demanding of our own rights…. now what was that you were thinking about unanswered prayer?

What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. ~James 1:1-3

When we are moved by selfish desires in our prayers we should be shamed into silence. Too often we try to manipulate situations so that we get what we want and then claim it was a matter of prayer. Christian, we dare not try to approach the Kingdom life by worldly standards. It is adultery … a pollution of the relationship we have with the Almighty God who redeemed us from a way of life we were supposed to leave behind.

Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?~James 1:4-5

God … Jealous? Yes … when we are so chummy with the ways of the world that we find more wisdom in fighting, hatred, division, and categorizing other believers in unkind ways. Is there anyone who hasn’t been guilty of these kinds of thoughts? No wonder we ‘ask and have not‘. God withholds the blessing from us because of His righteous jealousy that we are attracted to a world that hates us. Our goose is cooked, isn’t it? We’ve come too far down this road to look back.  Listen, don’t ever give up on God; God is never going to give up on you.

But He gives greater grace. ~James 1:6

Just bathe in that for a moment.

– He … our Heavenly Abba who sees our hearts as they are, nothing hidden.

– Gives … why would He give us anything? He is a giver by nature.

– Greater … the One who sees our heart naked and without pretense is not overcome by our sin. He is the One who overcomes our sin.

– Grace … Undeserved. Unfair. Unworldly. A worldly God would have us on the gallows. But to the Christian he gives the grace that is greater than our sin.

There’s the heart of prayer … He gives greater grace.

*So humble yourself before Him and receive grace, he resists the proud.

*So submit to Him, draw near to Him, He will come near.

*So resist the world … the Devil … clean up your act, repent, pursue purity and singleminded devotion.

 

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. ~James 1:10

You don’t deserve to be exalted or have your prayers answered or receive grace … but that’s the heart of prayer. When we stop trying to hack a path through the briars of life without Him and seek His way, we will find something new. He gives greater grace.

“Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
― Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace

As we enter a new year we are more dependent than ever upon the greater grace we receive from Him. Remember that grace empowers godliness, not rebellion. Let God exalt you as you bow obediently to His will.

Prayerfully, JD

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~ Just A Sinner Saved By Grace ~

Ceaseless Prayer (38)

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~ Guest Post by Les Ferguson, Jr. ~

Prayer Text for Today is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Life.

It’s full of ups and downs, joy and grief, and more things than we could list here.

Like you, I have known mountain top experiences and the valleys of despair. I’ve danced in the sun and limped under the clouds.

Like you, I have reveled in the moment and embraced a seemingly bright future.

And like you again, I have despaired at the moment and wondered how there could ever be a future of beauty and peace, happiness and joy.

Unfortunately, there are details of my life that are not secret. Some of them I have willingly shared in public rants and angry recriminations toward our God.

Even harder, my very worst, my biggest struggle, my greatest heartache, my most devastating circumstance, and my biggest loss have all been front-page news and the subject of TV talking heads.

I have known bitterness and gall.
I have contemplated suicide.
I have lost all hope.
I have not known where to go.

Like James Taylor once sang,

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus,
You’ve got to help me make a stand.
You’ve just got to see me through another day.
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
and I won’t make it any other way.
Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
but I always thought that I’d see you again.

Maybe you can relate.
Maybe you can empathize.
Maybe you can only sit back and question or judge.
It doesn’t really matter.
Because when it is all said and done, each of us share a common difficulty—at least at some point in our lives.

I know I run the risk of over generalizing, but unless you are the very rare odd bird, I feel quite confident I am going to nail one of your own failures or inadequacies…

Prayer is a source of angst and frustration!

Oh, we know we need to pray.
And most of us do.
We have times of focused prayer.
We have plans to stay connected by prayer.
We talk about prayer.
We ask for prayer.
We offer to pray.
And so we do.

At times it can be an afterthought or a last resort.
Often, prayer is about going before the “throne room of God” with our petitions, wants, needs, and desires.

And God help us, it’s often like we are pulling into the drive through lane at our favorite fast food joint to place an order—an order we expect God to answer/ fill within the exact parameters we have established. And like the occasional extra order of fries at no extra charge, if God does us one better, then that’s just lagniappe…

Unfortunately, that whole scenario is nothing more than the have it your way mentality of Burger King all dressed up in in theological neon!

Prayer.
It can be such a joy, but for many of us it is often a struggle far beyond a momentary frustration or angst.
And while you may already know my public struggles and heartache, I can and will confess a major difficulty—one I am quite sure I share with countless others and probably you too.
Prayer is not easy.
Prayer is difficult.
Prayer is a burden particularly when all I know how to do is beg, plead, and demand–and stomp my feet.

So for those who struggle, what do we do with this?

Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)

Or, as the King James Version says:

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Pray without ceasing?
Constant communication?
Always connected?

A long time ago in a life lived far away, a young man who is now a minister himself once said to me… I never say “Amen” until the very end of my day.

I remember being impressed at the time with what must have been an ongoing and ever active prayer life.

I wanted what he had and I have never quite known what he expressed.

Pray without ceasing.
Ceaseless prayer.

I wonder what my life would have been like—even through the fire and pain—if my connection to God was ongoing, ever present, and without end?

What would yours be like?

My prayer for this coming New Year is going to be repetitive:

Lord, please help me stay connected to you. Help me seek your presence every moment of every day. Help me to quit being self-sufficient while learning to trust the All Sufficient. Make my prayers be never ceasing. Amen.

I am praying for ceaseless prayer.

Les Ferguson, Jr. Prayer Neophyte Extraordinaire.

954614_10151387581821784_1888763379_nLes is the preaching minister for the Lake Harbour Church of Christ in Ridgeland, Mississippi. He and his beautiful wife Becky are raising a house full of boys. You can connect with him on Facebook HERE. Read his blog HERE. Connect with him on Twitter HERE. Les does some messages on grief, hope, recovery. Give him a call to have him come speak at your church soon.

Prayer For God’s Will (37)

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Prayer Text for Today is Colossians 1:9-14

Many people will begin new Bible reading plans next week. I’m one of them. I’ll be reading from the NRSV Daily Bible because I like the emphasis on prayer and contemplation after each daily section. (And I’m giving one away…see previous post HERE!) But whatever plan you choose, follow through with it – because Leviticus is going to totally tempt you to throw in the towel! It is so important that we spend daily time in the Word of God … and it is almost as neglected as prayer.

I love Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church in our text. What would it mean to you for an Apostle to say that he hasn’t ‘stopped praying for you.’ I encourage you to communicate your prayers to others. If you are praying for someone regularly, tell them. Many years ago an elder and friend told me, “John, you don’t know this, but I pray for you every single day.” I can tell you that many difficult days were made easier by this knowledge.

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. ~Colossians 1:9

More than just communicating that prayer is happening, Paul was detailed in the requests he was making for the Colossian church. Amazing prayer. We are often generic, but Paul is specific. The basis of his request here is the knowledge of the will of God.

We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding ~Colossians 1:9

Perhaps we can use this as a pattern for praying for either our own church or someone we know.

*Praying that they would walk worthy of the Lord. Not worthy as in deserving, but worthy as in attempting to live a life that glorifies God.

*Praying that they would be fully pleasing to God.

*Praying that they see great results from the good works they do.

*Praying that they would grow more and more in the knowledge of God.

*Praying for their strength during times that demand endurance and patience.

*Praying for them to rejoice in the spiritual realities of the Kingdom:

– Sharing in the inheritance of God.

– Celebrating rescue from the dominion of darkness.

– Grateful to have been placed into the Kingdom of God.

– Assured because His love moved him to pay a high price to save us.

– Relieved to have our sins forgiven.

When we think about God’s will we sometimes are distracted by trying to figure out what decisions God wants me to make next or which doctrines fit His word better than others. But I think being filled with the knowledge of God’s will in this text is more about realizing that our new life is calling us closer to His heart each day. This influences decisions and doctrines, but His will is beyond those.

“There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!”
― Corrie ten Boom

Praying to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will is asking to see our lives through Divine Glasses … that everything we are and do belongs to God.

We can pray this prayer for others, and we can pray it for ourselves.

Prayerfully, JD

Prayer for Spiritual Insight (36)

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Prayer Text for Today is Philippians 1:9-11

It is not easy to take a godly and spiritual view of life. We are, after all, terminal beings living in a temporal world. We really adopt an entirely different view of our existence when we yield ourselves to Christ. He always saw the world for what it was and He always saw the world for what He created it to be.

Why are we spending 40 days (and more) in prayer? Every day we seek God’s presence because we depend on His vision of the world. The enemy seeks to deceive us into cynicism and relying on our own wits. God knows there’s much much more and we can set our sights on superior thinking / living / faith. When our minds are set on the things of God we are moved toward godly living. Friend, when we’re captive to the flesh we are choosing at that moment to ignore the things that are superior. It’s our continual struggle.

And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. ~ Philippians 1:9-11

– We should join Paul in this prayer – 

*A prayer of increase. God help our love for You and Your will to increase.

*A prayer of insight. Give us insight to see through the tricks of the enemy and find You.

*A prayer of intellect. Help me to veer my thinking to that which is superior and pure.

*A prayer of inclination. Teach me to grow in my dependence upon You.

*A prayer of inflation. Fill my life with the fruit of righteousness.

*A prayer of intention. Focus my heart on giving you glory and praise.

May you abound in and be filled with the fruits of righteousness (of right standing with God and right doing) which come through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One), to the honor and praise of God [that His glory may be both manifested and recognized]. ~ Philippians 1:11, AMP

The Amplified Version above reminds me that the right doing and the right standing before God is not for me, but to glorify God. This is a spiritual perspective of life. As long as we desire to have the best life now, we will miss it because the best life cannot be had at our own hands. It comes when we find ourselves in sync with God’s Kingdom ways.

“If we are called to attention by God’s Life and Holy Spirit, then the ‘spiritual life’ is not a pleasant option we might like to pursue when we have space and time; it is that which is now creating its own space and time within us, and to neglect it is to lose ourselves.” ~ Luke Timothy Johnson, The Living Gospel

As we arrive in a new year I pray that we can be attuned to the call of God as we live in this world, but do our best not to be of it.

Prayerfully, JD.

Prayer for God’s Armor (35)

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~ Guest Post by Steve Hemphill ~

Prayer Text for Today is Ephesians 6:10-20

Spiritual armor is important. Ephesians 6 is famous for it, and we’ve all heard sermons on it. But here’s a question that most people can’t answer: once your dressed in all the items listed there, what does THAT CHAPTER say you should do? (Hint: if you know the answer, you know where the true POWER lies in the life of the Christian.) Most people DON’T know the answer. If you don’t, READ ON!

Wear truth like a belt. Let truth permeate every aspect of your life as you spread the aroma of Christ wherever you go. No sweat. We all remember that one. Truth is important. If you aren’t wearing truth—if it isn’t a part of your nature—then lies will deceive you.

Put on the shoes of peace. Let peace carry you through life’s many trials and problems. Otherwise war—the opposite of peace—will fill your waking hours. Nobody wants that.

Everybody remembers the shield of faith. Faith is the key. Baptism without faith is just getting wet. Works without faith are self-serving. Obedience without faith makes God a taskmaster, and nothing more. Faith changes all these things into worship, and ultimately, into a life filled with hope.

The helmet of salvation is important to protect your mind because that’s the part of you that makes daily decisions that either bring you closer to God or take you further away from Him. Be sure to make good ones.

The last piece of armor is the ONLY offensive one: the sword of truth, the Word of God. His Words are so powerful. He SPOKE the world and the planets and the stars into existence! There is NOTHING else like God’s Word. Value it. Learn it. Live by it.

Now what? Now that you’re all dressed up for the battle, what do you do? I’ve never heard a sermon that discussed that. Yet it’s right there in the last three verses of Ephesians 6: P- R-A-Y. Prayer IS the battle. Everyone can do that. You can do it if you’re 8 or 88 or 108. You can do it if you’re deaf, mute, and blind. Easy as pie. But be careful about the words you use, because you Christians are children of the living God, and YOUR words are powerful too! What you bind on earth is bound in heaven! What you loose on earth is loosed in heaven! What you say goes! (Assuming you are focused on GOD’S kingdom instead of your own!) Get-R-Done! You get the idea.

hemphillSteve Hemphill is the author of “My Search for the Real Heaven” & “My Search for Prayers Satan Hates”. Both are available on Amazon (see links below) or order an autographed copy from his web site: www.PrayerThoughts.com.  You can connect with Steve on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE. Steve is an engaging speaker and spends his time traveling to speak about prayer, spiritual warfare, and heaven. Contact him today to speak at your church or organization.