Exodus 20:7 — “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
The third commandment handed down at Mount Sinai — Do not misuse (or take in vain) the name of the Lord your God. As Daniel encouraged us to pray in Jesus’ Name, how do we keep from “misusing the name of the Lord?”
I remember Francis Chan saying one time that he had learned a prayer in Chinese that his family would say before every meal. It was kind of a sing-song prayer, much like the prayers we teach our children before bedtime (Now I lay me down to sleep…). He said that even as an adult and being away from home for years he found it very hard to not pray that same prayer because it had become so much a habit that he often could do it “without thinking.”
The danger of ending all our prayers with “in Jesus’ Name, amen,” is that it becomes a thoughtless tag line done out of ritual and tradition rather than out of conviction and faith. If you go back through the devotionals you will see that none of my prayers ended with this tagline…that was very much deliberate. It was to show you the same thing we find in the New Testament — none of the New Testament writers’ prayers ended with “in Jesus’ Name, amen.” Paul’s great prayer for the Ephesians (3:14-21) does not carry this tagline. Paul’s prayer in his letter to Jude (1:24-25) does not contain this line. Even when Jesus teaches the disciples to pray (the Lord’s prayer: Matthew 6:9-13) he does not conclude with “in My Name, amen!.”
Am I saying not to end your prayers this way, or that if you have you are wrong…absolutely not! I have ended many of my prayers this way and will most likely continue to. I simply present a loving but firm warning: a danger exists any time we turn something spiritual into a mindless, mechanical activity, we are in danger of misusing the Name of Jesus, our Lord. I am not wagging my finger, I am humbly asking you my brothers and sisters, to simply think about why and when you are using this precious phrase, “in Jesus’ Name, amen.” Because the second half of that verse should bring us a sobering reality: “the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
Father God, I thank You for giving us Your Name. I thank You that Your Name is powerful. I thank You that Your Name is awesome. I thank You that we can call upon Your Name and be saved. Please forgive us when we have misused Your Name. Please forgive us when we have mindlessly uttered prayers without believing that You are God and that You will answer. Today we commit to You that we will pray prayers that are in alignment with Your Word. We will trust the promises that You have given us. Today, in the Name of Jesus, we ask that You would help us to keep these commitments. Today, we say that we believe in You, but in the Name of Jesus, please help our unbelief. We love You Lord, and we give You thanks and praise for all Your many blessings. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” And all God’s people said: Amen.
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)
In yesterday’s devotion we took a hard look at false teachings that attack our Biblical understanding of prayer. One false teaching we looked at was the “name it and claim it” delusion. In this we discussed the fact that God isn’t some cosmic genie that responds to our every beckon and call. But there is one very real, powerful truth we should remember in prayer: there is power in the name of Jesus. Claiming the pure promises of Scripture is not only Biblical, it is a great way to drive away the lies of our enemy.
You’ve often heard it in church or as others pray, we end by praying in “Jesus’ name”. Why do we end our prayers this way? In short, it brings glory to God through His Son Jesus. Our prayers alone are not powerful. Reciting God’s promises alone don’t have a supernatural affect. Praying in faith, trusting God’s will, through Jesus, and claiming the promises of God shake the very gates of hell. Plainly, there is power in Jesus name and through our faith in Him every promise is “yes” and “amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
One important reminder is that if our prayers contradict God’s will and character, it doesn’t matter how many times we pray in Jesus name, we shouldn’t expect a move of God. Sometimes I wonder why this is such a deep struggle for followers of Christ to understand. I think at the very root of accepting false teaching to be real is a deep desire for God to conform to our desires instead of us conforming to His (2 Timothy 4:3). When we allow our desires about who we wish God was to supersede the facts about who God is, disaster is always near.
I’ve heard of so many shipwrecked faiths where people stopped believing in God because He didn’t act the way they thought He should. Recently my wife and I took our daughter Annabelle in for her four-month check-up. For those who don’t have children or if you’re children are older, the four-month check-up features multiple shots for some of her earliest vaccines. Guess what? Shots hurt. Even my defenseless, precious daughter knows that. Guess who got to hold her little shoulders and arms down so the nurse could give her those shots? That’s right, dear old dad. Because I allowed pain to come into her life, do I love her any less? Certainly not. I know that even greater pain would come without the shots.
As you prepare to pray today, I encourage you to pray the promises of God. Don’t just pray the promises of God as a tool to try to remind God of what He’s promised, trust me when I say He hasn’t forgotten. Praying His promises should remind us of His unfailing love and faithfulness. I encourage you to pray in Jesus’ name knowing there is power in His name. Through the prayer of every promise and by praying in Jesus’ name, don’t forget to surrender your will and desire to God’s. Lastly, as you enter into prayer don’t let suffering past, present, or future, deter you from trusting in a faithful, unfailing God.
Father, the very fact that you allow us to call you Father should serve as a loving reminder for us today. Father forgive us when we fail to fully grasp the depth of your love. Forgive us when we struggle in prayer and help dispel any false teaching that has infiltrated our hearts. Lord, let us see your Word with new eyes and hear Your voice with clear ears. Your sheep know Your voice, help us hear You speak. Lord, help us trust you even when it hurts. Remind us to set our eyes on You as the Author and Perfecter of our faith, everything else is temporary. Help us know and claim Your promises, in Jesus’ name, amen.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)
There is a poison that has infiltrated the church in the world masquerading as the “gospel”. Understanding this bad theology is important so we aren’t perplexed when God doesn’t appear to function in the way these false teachers claim. There are two flavors of the same false gospel known as the “prosperity gospel” and though it is hard for us to call out this false teaching, it is helpful as we consider prayer.
There are different degrees of this false teaching but at it’s core it goes something like this: God wants you to be happy, healthy, and wealthy… if you aren’t those things, it’ because you don’t have faith. The more faith, the more prosperity. The “name it and claim it” teaching goes along these same lines. If you “name it” in Jesus name, and “claim it” in faith, it’ll be yours… today’s Scripture destroys this entire false narrative. The God of the Scriptures isn’t concerned with your physical prosperity that is temporary and worldly, He is far more concerned with your spiritual prosperity since it has eternal consequences.
James writes that we have not because we ask not, but lest we be confused and tempted to think the “name it and claim it” teaching holds water, he follows up: when you do ask you don’t get what you’re asking for because you have impure motives. God cares about the heart of our prayers and thus the motives of our prayers matter. When we seek God in prayer above all else, we should seek His will. As it turns out, it may not be God’s will for you to have that brand-new house, that six figure salary, that healthy check-up, or that amazing new set of golf clubs. If we will remember that God isn’t some all-powerful, cosmic genie there to grant our hearts deepest desires, it will help build a proper foundation in prayer.
I recall Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane often and I think this prayer could serve as a stark reminder for us all. As Jesus spends his last night before the crucifixion with His disciples, he is desperately praying in the garden. On the other side of the sun rise Jesus knows He will face the mocking, the torture, the false accusations, the abandonment of His friends, and most cruelly He will face the cross to be put to a criminal’s death as He suffers for our sins. In His prayer He is almost overcome by emotion to the point of death and He prays: “Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from my hand. But not my will Father, Thy will be done.” God’s will was done and the cup did not pass from Jesus hand…
As you prepare to pray today, I wonder: are you holding on to some false sense of what prayer is all about? Do you keep hoping that God might answer a selfish prayer with impure motives? Chances are He won’t. As you pray today, what if the things you are asking are contrary to God’s will for your life? Are you prepared, even to the point of suffering, to trust Him and His refining work? Although it may be easier to believe a false teaching about prayer and God, it is far better for us to pray for faith to trust God in prayer and that we would always yield our will to Him.
Father, forgive any impure or selfish prayers we’ve prayed. As we come to you in Jesus’ name, help us to seek Your will for our lives. When we pray Father, reveal to us the true motives of our prayers. Help us grow in this area as we seek to dispel any false teaching concerning prayer or faith. Lord, teach us to be faithful as you were in seeking the Father’s will knowing it is far better to suffer in God’s will than to prosper out of it. Teach us to trust you even when things don’t make sense and remind us that our treasure is in heaven. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
“Answer me, O LORD! Answer me, so that this people will know that You, the LORD, are God, and that You have turned their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:38)
Because of our status through faith in Christ before God, we are His children (John 1:12), sometimes I think the “who” God is eludes us. As God beckons us to come boldly (with audacity) before His throne to find mercy and grace to help in our time of need, we forget that this same God also hung the moon and the stars. Though our Father is all powerful, all knowing, and the very manifestation of true love (1 John 4:8), sometimes for me at least I wonder if I forget all that when I come before Him.
Dr. James Dobson in his book “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” writes of something he calls the “betrayal barrier”. This is the barrier that so many of us feel when we think that God has let us down. When He could have kept us from pain or suffering, and didn’t. When we desperately prayed in faith that God would do something and He didn’t do what we asked. Dr. Dobson says that many Christians find their relationship inhibited by this betrayal barrier and some never fully recover. Do you feel like God has ever “betrayed” you in prayer?
If I’m being honest, I can remember several instances where I prayed to the God of heaven knowing He was fully capable of doing what I asked and yet He didn’t. Over and over again I have struggled with the thought: God is sovereign, all powerful, and fully in control… why didn’t He keep the wreck from happening? He could have prevented the wreck that stole my 4-year-old Brynleigh and claimed the life of my late wife Cassie, so why didn’t He? For some time, I felt betrayed, angry and hurt. It has only been God’s continued grace and loving kindness that has slowly helped me understand that He did have a purpose for the immense suffering in my life.
So, who is our God really? Elijah found out. In today’s focal Scripture we see Elijah (the last prophet of God) boldly standing against the false prophets that were numerous. Elijah prays a powerful prayer and God moves in a mighty way that leaves no doubt in the lives of those around him about who was the one true God of the universe. Instead of recounting the story with you, I encourage you to open God’s Word to 1 Kings chapter 18 and read the account for yourself. As you read it, remember this is the same God who loves you, knows you, and gave His only Son Jesus so you could be forgiven and free (John 3:16).
Elijah prays a powerful prayer in today’s focal Scripture. Notice the focus and hope of Elijah’s prayers: “Answer me, so that this people will know that You, the LORD, are God”. Elijah’s prayer is that God would reveal Himself as the one true God of the universe and that they would all know: “You have turned their hearts back again”. How does the betrayal barrier and Elijah’s prayer go together? Because God does not and will not answer prayers in the way we think He should. God is moving in ways outside of our understanding.
What was God’s purpose in taking my 4-year-old daughter Brynleigh? What was God’s purpose in allowing my late wife to lose her struggle and leave this life too? What good could have possibly came out of the suffering my son Kasen and I’ve done over the past three years? Looking back at each moment over my life, especially in the last three years, God has moved in an incalculable way. He has used the pain and suffering to help me pour out my heart to the nations praying He might turn “their hearts back again” to the only One who can save them.
Today I want to challenge you to remember the “who” you are praying to. The same God that spoke the universe into existence by the power of His Word loves you, knows you, and through Jesus hears your prayers. When He “Doesn’t Make Sense”, pray for strength to trust Him. When you are broken laying in a helpless mess on the ground, turn your heart towards Jesus, He will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). When you feel betrayed, you’re hurting and your Elijah moment never comes, be still and know Jesus is still “the LORD” and He alone is “God”.
Father, help us trust you even when Your way is not the way we would have chose. In Jesus’ name we ask that you would clear away the doubt, fear, pain, and any sense You’ve let us down so we could boldly trust You. Teach is Lord to seek Your will above our own. Teach us Lord to trust You even when it hurts. Lord give us just a glimpse of Your glorious plan and help us to understand that You are truly using all things for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. We pray that you would help us magnify the name of Jesus and lift Him up so that all men would come to know He alone is Lord. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Matthew 4:1-2 — “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”
You thought I forgot about fasting didn’t you? I know the last time we talked about it was day 4, and I’m sure that many of you were probably hoping that it was the last time we would! When we think of athletes facing incredible challenges, they go into training for big matches or tournaments. When they face these challenges they go into strict training, exercising, strength training, studying their opponents — their bodies are machines and what is the fuel for those machines? FOOD!!!
So Jesus, led by the Spirit into the wilderness for his greatest challenge to date — being tempted by, going toe-to-toe with the devil himself! His first move to prepare for this huge encounter…deprive His body of food. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, we know that Jesus is quite literally on the brink of starvation. Physically He is as low as you can get before death occurs. Why would Jesus put Himself in such a “weak” position?
Because our physical bodies cannot help us overcome a spiritual struggle.
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you–they are full of the Spirit and life.” John 6:63
“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Colossians 2:23
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Romans 8:6-7
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:17, 24
Jesus knew that to face Satan and his temptations with His body full of fleshly, worldly strength would be disaster. When our bodies are weakened through the denial of food, or comfort of any kind really (TV, wealth, sex or pornography — yes these can be used to comfort, gossip, entertainment, etc.), then our Spirit begins to have greater power and strength than our flesh. Jesus knew that fasting was a pathway to protection. When he stepped into the arena with Satan, He was physically at His weakest…but Spiritually at His strongest! When we pray, we are engaging in Spiritual warfare, not physical warfare (Ephesians 6:12). If you want greater protection, weaken your flesh that wars against you by fasting. Fasting brings protection.
Jesus, thank you for the reminder that I cannot win a spiritual battle through physical means. Help me to strategically and consistently weaken my flesh in order to obtain protection and power. Lord, I admit that this scares me. I fear that my body will react strongly, I may get sick, or it may hurt me. Help me to seek the aid of physicians who can help me do this correctly and safely. But please don’t let me talk myself out of this important discipline. Maybe forsaking food is too much for me, help me forsake other fleshly appetites that keep me from spiritual success. God I trust You. And I believe that You will help me to apply this appropriately and successfully in my spiritual walk. Thank You for hearing me and helping me. I love You. Amen.
Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. (2 Samuel 12:20)
Over the course of the last few devotions we’ve talked about being persistent in prayer and praying selflessly for others. Today, we are going to talk about a much more difficult topic: moving on in prayer. In today’s focal Scripture we see David, the same David the Scripture describes as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), getting up after God had answered a desperate plea. David’s son with Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah with whom David had an affair) had died. David had desperately prayed for his newborn son that God might spare his child and let him live, God’s answer came through David’s son’s death.
As the father of a child who has gone on to be with the Lord, I can tell you that the death of a child almost destroyed me. Losing Brynleigh Grace was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure. It is by the grace of God alone (the grace that she got her middle name from) that sustained me through her death. Unlike David, I didn’t have the opportunity to pray for her as she suffered in the pangs of death. As I look at David’s response as his son died, I am astonished at his faith and the faith filled actions.
If you go to 2 Samuel chapter 12 and read, you’ll find that the servants and those around David were almost perplexed by his response. The King had been praying, fasting, weeping for his son while his son fought for his life. He pleaded with God for mercy for his child and God said no. After the death of his son, David finished his prayer and fasting and he moved on. Don’t misunderstand what I’m getting ready to say, I am confident that David loved his child and losing the child was incredibly painful. But, David had learned what you and I need to learn: when God gives an answer for our prayer, it’s time to move on.
I almost moved on from this devotion without capturing one of the most stunning response we see from David who had just been pouring out his desperation for his child’s life before God. After God did not spare his son, David entered into the ‘house of the Lord’ and worshiped God! I can frankly and honestly say that my immediate response was not David’s response. After the death of my daughter I struggled for weeks, months, and years with her death. Know this: God has been faithfully patient, loving, and tender to me through every moment.
The truths of God’s Word are so precious and important for us to understand. I’ve called this out in our earlier devotions but the entire childish thought that God “never says no” is a spiritually immature perspective that won’t withstand reality. God does say no. When God says no, we could spend time pleading and beginning like a child who wants dessert or a toy at the store or we could trust Him even when the answer is difficult to accept.
As I sit here writing this devotion, I know what I’m sharing is difficult but I believe this is a Christ honoring way to pray. When God’s answer is “no”, instead of begging for Him to change His mind, how different would our lives be if we prayed for Him to give us grace to walk through that no. How different would it be if we asked for faith to trust Him. How different would it be if we prayed “Thy will be done”, and truly meant it? How different would our lives be if we not only knew that God is using all things for good (Romans 8:28), but that we trusted it?
As you prepare to pray today, remember that God is using all things for good. That doesn’t mean all things are good… it doesn’t mean they feel good or that the things themselves are even good, it means that God is using all things (even our most desperate pain and suffering) for good. As the Master Weaver of time, He is meticulously weaving every moment of time to work out His perfect will for creation. Ask yourself today: when has God’s reply been no? How did that affect your pray life? Is there some doubt or fear that God may say no again? If so, start today by confessing any struggle or doubt. Then trust Him, even in the “no”.
Father, today we confess Lord that as your children it’s hard to hear you say no. Lord, I confess the spiritual memory of some painful no answers to my prayers. Lord we know that you aren’t some cosmic genie who answers our every beckon and call. You are our Good Father and You know what we need, when we need it, and how we need it. Lord just as David did, teach us to move on with our lives when Your answer to our prayer is no. Teach is that we can trust you through every answered prayer, even when the answer isn’t what we hoped for or longed for. Sustain us in the midst of our pain and fear. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
1 Timothy 1:21 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—
Stop and think for a moment… when you pray, who are your prayers focused on? If I’m being honest, my prayers are heavily filled with prayers concerning myself, my wife, my children, and those who are close to me. Simply put, my prayers are very selfish or self-centered sometimes. Although I think what we pray for most reveals what (or who) is most important in our life, I think consistently selfish prayers can become robotic and cold.
I’ve asked the question before as I’ve taught: are you praying about it as much as your talking about it? In some circles one may even have to ask… are people praying about it as much as they are complaining about it, gossiping about it, or being hurt about it? Jesus says: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21) and I think this same premise might be applied to our prayer life to discover what’s really most important to us.
Are you like me? Sometimes can you be selfish in prayer? In today’s focal Scripture Paul urges us to pray for “all people”. There is a very real call for the people of God to go before Him and lift up others selflessly as we seek God’s intervention in the lives and affairs of mankind. I’ve said throughout this devotional series that prayer is not intended to change God’s heart; it is intended to change ours. While I wholeheartedly embrace that truth, I know that our prayers are precious to God and I do believe God moves powerfully to meet the needs and requests of His children. Knowing this, avoid the temptation to believe that when God’s will isn’t a “yes” answer to our prayers that our prayers didn’t matter, they still do.
It can be difficult to pray for those we don’t like or those we don’t agree with. Often I find this most evident in the polarized world of politics. I wonder how different some of our leaders may be if we united in prayer for them and consistently asked for God’s wisdom for them. Often we allow our dislike of someone to cut off any chance of praying for them. I wonder, what if that person you don’t really like who causes your life to be more difficult desperately needs your prayers? What if you are the only person praying for them? The husband you think will never change, what if God’s heart is moved to change him through your loving prayers? Remember: the prayers of a Christian in communion with God are powerful and effective (James 5:16).
Today as you begin to pray, I challenge you to ask God: Lord, who do you want me to pray for? Ask Him to put a face or name on your mind and then lift that person up to Him in prayer. You don’t have to know all the details, they may not have even asked for prayer, pray anyway. Ask God to show you how selfish your prayer life may have been up to this point and begin seeking His help to be a selfless servant, even in prayer. Don’t stop lifting up your own needs to God, simply begin making time to lift up others too.
Father, today we come seeking your grace and mercy in Jesus name. Lord we confess that sometimes our prayers can selfish and self-centered. Lord, help us to lift others, even those we may not like, up to you in prayer. Lord help us realize that prayer is intended to change our hearts, not Yours. Lord help us to know your heart concerning prayer and begin to understand the power of this conversation. Put someone on our heart right now that we need to pray for Lord. Help us to make time to pray for others and consistently seek Your will for their lives too. Thank you for hearing our prayers and we are so thankful You hear us, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Are you ready for Wednesday night Bible study? Tonight’s study, titled: Conformed or Transformed: Who Do I Resemble More? Is a study in Romans 12. You can now join in two unique ways.
To participate, you can join via Zoom at https://us04web.zoom.us/j/9204385457. Zoom is available on your laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone device. Joining via Zoom will enable you to speak live with Pastor Scott. There is no cost to join our meeting via Zoom.
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You can download the study guide for tonight’s Bible study at http://www.cometothecreek.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Conformed-or-Transformed-Study-Guide.pdf.
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. (Genesis 32:24)
Today’s focal Scripture takes us to a peculiar recounting in Scripture where Jacob, whose name would be changed to Israel, is wrestling with God. In this historic match we see a determined Jacob who is clinging to God and refusing to let go until he receives His blessing. In the end, God gave Jacob His blessing and changed His name to Israel.
I wonder… have you ever persistently sought God’s face and refused to “let Him go” in prayer until He answered you? In our earlier devotions I’ve mentioned the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). In both the parable Jesus spoke concerning the widow and the unjust judge and today’s Scripture, I think we see a principal of prayer that’s important: don’t stop praying. Don’t stop seeking God’s face. Don’t give up or turn away from seeking God’s intervention until He has given you a clear answer.
God could have easily overpowered Jacob (he gave him a lifelong limp to remember the wrestling match). But the God of the creation allowed this man who would further help fulfill God’s promises to Abraham to wrestle with Him. This epic show down didn’t change God or change God’s will, it helped change Jacob’s heart. Earlier in his life Jacob had stolen his father Isaac’s blessing by pretending to be his older brother. This time God asks him: “what’s your name” (verse 27) and this time Jacob replied honesty: “Jacob”.
I find it interesting that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel at this moment and blessed him. Jacob didn’t give up and refused to let God go until he received an answer for his request. Sometimes this type of “wrestling with God” in prayer is reserved for our most desperate pleas. We pray this way when we are seeking His mercy for someone’s life. We pray this way when tragedy strikes. We pray like this when a life changing set of circumstances appear on the horizon and we are powerless to stop them.
I think that God wants us to pray passionately and consistently all the time. Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I wonder how dramatically different our prayer life would be if we would seek God without ceasing and with passion and a fervent heart. As you prepare to pray today consider this: when is the last time you desperately prayed and sought God’s face? When was the last time you prayed continually until God gave an answer for a prayer? Simply put, when is the last time you sought God with all your heart? It’s time to do that today.
Don’t forget, prayer isn’t designed to change God’s heart but our heart. As we pray ceaselessly and wrestle with God in prayer, be prepared to accept His will. Let every prayer we pray be under-girded with the submission to God as we pray: “not my will but Thy will be done”.
Father we come before You in Jesus name seeking Your will for our lives. Lord forgive us for thinking that You are only concerned with the ‘big’ problems in our life. Help us ceaselessly seek You with passion about even decisions that appear small. Help us seek Your face consistently and be prepared to wrestle in prayer. Lord help us remember that the purpose of ceaselessly praying and wrestling in prayer is intended to change our hearts, not Yours. Thank You for being faithful and good. Help us trust You even when it feels like You are far away, because we know You don’t change. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13)
Scripture teaches us that God resists the proud but exalts those who humble themselves before Him (James 4:6). There is one danger in prayer that should give us pause every time we come before the throne: pride. Although the definition of pride has changed over the years and society now accepts pride as a good thing, the Bible has much to say about pride. One warning we should all heed before prayer is found in Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
One definition of pride is an inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable feeling of superiority as to one’s talents, beauty, wealth, rank, and so forth; disdainful behavior or treatment; insolence or arrogance of demeanor; haughty bearing. It’s easy to see why pride is such a problem, especially as we begin to see ourselves in light of God’s glory and grace. The “best” among us fall so far short of His glory that without God’s grace each of us would spend eternity separated from Him. Scripture reminds us in Romans 3:23: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
As pride begins to creep in to our lives and our prayers, slowly we begin to forget Who has blessed us, sustained us, gifted us, saved us, forgiven us, and given us what we could never obtain on our own. In today’s focal Scripture we see one of two men Jesus tells us about and the prayers they prayed. Firstly, the Pharisee. As a religious elite this man would have been someone who had the first five books of the Torah (the Old Testament) memorized, strictly followed hundreds of laws, tithed zealously, and often were very proud men of stature. This proud Pharisee comes before God and begins to pray a prayer filled with pride and self-focus.
Secondly, we see a tax collector. The most hated men in Jewish society, the very thought of comparing him to a Pharisee would have been almost laughable. This man was a sinner, the worst society had to offer, worse yet… he knew it. Not only did he know it, but it turns out he also understand who God was (he wouldn’t even look up to heaven). The tax collector prayers a simple, honest, desperate prayer from the heart. Can you see the difference between these two men? Guess which prayer God heard? Spoiler alert: the humble tax collectors prayer.
I don’t think as followers of Jesus we ever wake up thinking: “I’m going to be overly proud and haughty today”. It creeps in slowly, like a water leak it eventually floods our soul and turns our heart towards a selfish focus instead of being focused on God. We become resistant to the correction of God and eventually even though we have a powerful head knowledge of who He is, our hearts are far from Him. It is written in Scripture that: these people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. (Isaiah 29:13).
Have you ever struggled with pride in your own life? I can think of examples in my own life since I surrendered my life to Jesus where pride has crept in unaware. Slowly like a gas leak it built up and suddenly a small spark caused it to explode and everything came tumbling down. As you prepare to pray today, if you are currently or have ever struggled with pride, it’s time to lay it down. It’s time to remember that the only reason we can come before God is because of God. It is through faith in Jesus alone that we can come before the throne of God to find grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
It has been said that before the cross, the ground is level. Simply put, there are only two types of people in the world: sinners and sinners saved by grace.
Father, we come to You today in Jesus name and confess that is by the blood of Jesus alone that we can come to You. Forgive us if there has been or is any pride in our lives. Holy Spirit we ask that you would reveal it to us, that our hearts would continue to be tender before You. Mold us and shape us in Your will. Father help us not to look on others with pride and never let us forget that You are the author of our salvation. It is by Your hand that we grow as You mold us and shape us in the image of your Son Jesus. Lord we confess that if You didn’t finish the work You started it would never get done. Help us not to be spiritually blind as we seek you with our whole heart. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.