1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Paul answers this simple question with a most emphatic, “continually”! Always, without ceasing, never ending, never stopping — unbroken contact with God is our true need. Jesus allows us because of His work on the cross to have restored fellowship with God and be in constant contact with Him. That means that as we go about our daily lives, we live in an ever-present attitude of prayer. We give thanks in all circumstances, with a heart full of rejoicing, and so we remain aligned with His heart and intentions throughout the day.
Alright, let’s be honest — do we really experience this? Do we really find ourselves truly in this unhindered, uninterrupted state throughout the day? Some may answer “yes” — and I won’t fault you for it. Many will say “I do my best” and that “I experience something like this” — again I don’t question your honesty…But for those of you who struggle (I include myself in this category), can I just encourage you that the difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be, is often the experience that Christians relate to most profoundly. Circumstance is the chief enemy of this unhindered contact…and when it hits we are often ripped out of this pleasant state of thankfulness and rejoicing and plunged into a fury of things that act as an undertow that pulls us out into the depths of an ocean of despair.
How do we get out of the undertow? There is a “church answer” that we just pull ourselves out of it, or shake it off…pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps so-to-speak. But the Bible answer is that we learn to give thanks, in any and all circumstances. This is not easy at first, of course. We must discipline our hearts to understand God’s desire for our good no matter what. When we develop a grateful heart that begins to give thanks, even for life’s hardships, we are getting closer to God’s heart. We find it easier to joy and joy again (rejoice)…we are transformed in mind and body. We trust God’s heart that He works all things for our good and His glory. (Rom. 8:28) The avenue of “prayer at all times” opens as He transforms our minds and hearts into His. The more we pray continually, the more natural it becomes.
Father, sometimes it is hard for me to stay in tune with You. I get bowled over easily by the stresses and worries of the day. Please help me to stay connected to You through my day. Help me to remain in that state that Your Son knew of being perfectly aligned with You. I want to have Your joy constantly. Help me to joy and joy and joy and joy! Thank You for Your great patience and lovingkindness toward me. Thank You for my life and each breath that I have. Thank You for my family and friends, thank You for my church and for Your grace. You are amazing and I will remember that even in the hard times of life. Thank You for every moment, even the difficult ones, that You allow me to experience. I am grateful for Your great glory. Amen.
Matthew 7:7 — “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
The depths of the Scriptures can elude us if we aren’t careful in our study of God’s Word. At first glance, this Scripture focused on prayer, is a simple directive to ask, seek, and knock. A closer look begins to uncover a depth of Jesus’ instructions that should serve as a constant reminder when we seek God in prayer. First, consider the 3 separate actions mentioned here: “ask”, “seek”, “knock”. All three of these steps act in unison in a healthy prayer life but all have a different part to play.
Sometimes it can be difficult to translate the depth of the original Biblical languages into English. In this verse for example we are instructed to ask, seek, and knock but the English would incorrectly lead us to believe this is a one-time action. I don’t often like to switch around to different translations to make a point, but the Holman Christian Standard translation gives us a much more accurate translation of this verse:
“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 HCSB)
Do you see it? There is a consistent approach in this verse that should invigorate our prayers. If you’re going to ask God, don’t stop asking in prayer until He has given you a clear answer. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is an example of how consistent we should be in prayer. (Luke 18:1-8)
What’s the deal with this? Is God hard of hearing? Is He so busy He needs a reminder? Do we have to beg? Certainly not. Consistency in prayer and seeking God’s face is not meant to change the heart of God, it is meant to change ours. As we keep asking, keep searching, and keep knocking the Holy Spirit will begin to change our hearts and bring us into God’s will for our lives.
Just a warning here and a reminder: sometimes God’s answer is no. If God’s answer is no, trust that He is still good and that His will for your life is perfect. Sometimes what we think we really need turns out to be the thing that will take us out of the will of God.
As you pray today, present your needs to God (knowing He already knows your needs – Matthew 6:8). Walk boldly into the throne room to find mercy and grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Seek God’s will along with presenting your desire for an answered prayer. Be prepared to say: “not my will be done, but Your Will God” (Luke 22:2). Lastly, urgently knock at the door until God answers. As you ask, seek, and knock, continue to trust God through the process. Remember this truth: even when it feels like Jesus is four days late, He is right on time. (John 11:38-43)
Lord in Jesus name we come asking, seeking, and knocking. Jesus we confess that without You our prayers would never make it past the celling. But because of you Lord we know that our prayers reach the Father. Help us not to give up hope. Some of us have been praying for weeks, months, or years and it seems like we’ve prayed in vain. Remind us that we never pray in vain Lord. Surround us with your presence and remind us that the God who spoke the universe into existence by the power of His Word hears our prayers and will move in ways we can’t understand. Lord help us in our spiritual exhaustion to continue diligently seeking Your will for our lives. Give us grace to sustain us, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Matthew 6:7-8 — “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
If you have kids, chances are you’ve heard the elaborate story that invariably leads up to a question. It goes something like this: “I had a great day at school today, I made an A on my history quiz and was really good. Abigail and I cleaned up our room and had our snack. The sun is shining, it’s currently 35 degrees Fahrenheit and the moon is going to be full tonight. Can we play Minecraft?” OK, I made that last part up about the sun shining and it is probably only 35 outside, but the point is… kids beat around the bush. We’ve all seen it whether it’s in business, at church, from our spouse or kids, sometimes people add in about 900 unaffiliated details that were not necessary. Do we sometimes do that same thing in prayer?
How about this tactic: “I know you’re probably going to say no, but I’ve had a really good week and I feel like I deserve it. You know everyone else has one, I’m the only kid in 6th grade without one. You said I’d get rewarded if I did a good job, I made honor roll again! I’ve been really good and respectful at home too… I know you already said no but if you just understand why I need it! Dad, I need a phone. Can I have a phone?”
I think what Jesus was talking about here was a bit different than the examples we just looked at, but I think the heart of His message is clear: get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t add in 900 additional words to your prayer to sound fancy, educated, or eloquent. Remember that when you come before God, He already knows what you need anyway. So when you come to Him be direct, be honest, be humble, and don’t “babble” on.
Thinking back to my children, although sometimes they tell me stories with many twists and turns, when they really need something, they just ask. When they are hungry, they ask for something to eat. When they are thirsty, they ask for something to drink. You know what I do in these times? After I drop a dad joke (“hey thirsty, I’m dad”), I get them a drink. Jesus calls us to be childlike (not childish) in our relationship with Him (Matthew 18:3). So what should we do when we are hungry and thirsty? Come to Jesus for Living Water and Living Bread.
I think at the heart of Jesus’ reminder is this truth: don’t let prayer become a ritual. Imagine for a moment if every time I spoke to my wife I said the same thing. Also imagine if I kept on endlessly babbling but never gave her the chance to respond. Jesus is not telling us not to continue praying about the same things, we are actually encouraged to do that in Scripture (Luke 18:1-8). He is telling us to be honest, direct, and remember Who we are speaking to.
So, when you get the urge to become a professional prayer ninja, resist that urge. Regardless of where or how you are praying, speak from your heart. Know that our Father in heaven knows our needs and will provide for them. Just as I will give my kids something to eat when they are hungry, when we ask we will be filled with what we really need (Matthew 7:9-11).
Father, forgive us when our prayers take detours and U-turns to get to the point. Help us consistently come before you in honest humility and ask for what we need. Lord help us not be discouraged when Your answer is no. Help us trust you. Help us remember You promise to meet our needs and give us wisdom to understand the difference between our desires and our true needs. Help us to trust that not only do You know our needs, but You can and will meet them. Forgive us when we think somehow the power in which we pray makes any difference in how You respond. It isn’t our power Father, it is your grace, love, faithfulness and mercy that renew and refresh us. Thank you for hearing our prayers, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Zechariah 7:5,11-13 — “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?…But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
The danger of fasting, and really any mode of physical denial or fleshly restraint, is that it may become the end in and of itself, rather than the means to an end that it was meant to be. The people in Zechariah’s day had engaged in the discipline of fasting for seventy years! But God asks them a cutting question, “Was it really for me?” Sometimes our service to God, our pious activities, or our religious observance can be self-serving more than God honoring and God seeking. In the end, God always knows our hearts, and if we are not listening…neither will He.
The specifics of fasting (as far as the how-to) in the Bible are sparse. While almost every example in the Bible refers to a fast from food (all foods, certain foods, etc.), it would not be out of line to call Sabbath observance a fast from work/activity. The purpose remains the same — mourning, weeping, confession, drawing closer to God.
Therefore, the how of fasting is very open. You can fast from one meal, devoting the time you would have spent eating on reading God’s Word or in prayer. You can fast from certain foods, maybe foods you ordinarily enjoy often (sweets, soda, sweet tea, pizza, burgers, bbq, etc.) You can fast for an entire day or several days in a row (please be sure to consult a physician to ensure you are able to do this). You may fast from certain activities, especially ones that consume much of your time (TV, golf, movies, cell phone, internet, hobbies, etc.)
Only be sure that you do not dilute yourself into thinking that because you forgot to eat, or didn’t have time for a certain activity that you are fasting. Fasting is purposeful and intentional, and therefore focusing your time on God during this denial of food or activity is crucial. Be sure that you are doing it for God.
God please forgive me when I have not engaged in fasting or prayer for the right reasons. I confess that my motives have often been selfish, and my intentions have not always been pure. Please help me engage in the discipline of disciplining my body. Help me to pull down the flesh so that I might be built up in the Spirit. Ultimately God, I want to know You more. Help me remove any distractions, inhibitions, or sin that stands in the way of that. Thank You for Jesus Christ who has paid my sin debt and given me the access to You through His blood. May I never take that lightly. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Luke 11:1-4 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”
The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Basically, “Master, how do we pray?” Now that we know the why, the how is the natural next step. Jesus gives them a prayer — we often refer to it as The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is a rudimentary model of how to pray. If Jesus had given this to us in our day, He might have called it a sort of “Idiot’s Guide to Prayer,” or “Prayer for Dummies.” (Jesus may have even done a YouTube how-to video!) This was never meant to be the only way to pray, but simply a guide, a how-to, for children or amateurs. We teach our children, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Not because we wish for them to pray this exact prayer every night for the rest of their lives, but so that they learn to communicate to God in a simple way — they learn to see God as their Father in heaven who wants to hear from them. It is a starting point to communion with God. So, what is the how of prayer? Jesus says:
Remember Who you are talking to. “Our Father in heaven…” God is Holy. He dwells on High, in heaven. But He is also our Father, and a Good Father at that. We can converse with Him. We can ask of Him, we can talk with Him and He loves us.
Remind God that you want what He wants. “Your will be done…” If you really desire for God’s will to be done, then be a part of what He is doing. Before you tell Him what you want, ask Him what He wants. But be prepared for His wants to some times (or many times) be in conflict with your own desires…are you willing to let Him have His way?
Request what you need. “Give us each day…” Some people will tell you at this point to just ask for your needs not your wants. But the Bible teaches us that if we “Take delight in the LORD, then he will give us the desires of our heart.” (Psalm 37:4) If you want what He wants, then ask Him for anything you want! Let God distinguish between your wants and needs and be content with what He provides. God will bring our desires into conformity with His — in His time.
Reveal your sin and Release others from theirs. “Forgive us our sins…” This may seem hard on the surface, to expose our sins to God. However, upon closer inspection, it is really quite simple — God already sees and knows about our sin! We are really just agreeing with Him that our sin is wrong and promising to turn away from wrong doing. But, because God does not hold our sin against us, then neither can we hold others’ sins against them. We model God’s forgiveness, and in so doing, we become a true testimony of His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Repeat your requests until God says otherwise. “Ask…Seek…Knock…” (vv. 9-10) Ever meet someone for the first time and find it hard to converse? Conversation didn’t come easy or natural, it seemed forced and a little stiff. Then with time you became friends, because of persistence and deeper communication. Don’t give up just because you don’t get the answer you wanted…persist in prayer. Keep praying until it becomes like breathing…second nature, you don’t even think about it, it just happens naturally. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Revel in your status. “Suppose you have a friend…” (v.8) As God’s beloved, a friend of God and a child of the King the Jesus says we can come to the Father with “shameless audacity.” (Luke 11:8) When a child bursts into his father’s business meeting disrupting everyone else in the meeting (and everything on the agenda) simply because he can’t wait to tell his dad what he did at school that day…that’s shameless audacity! Your intimate relationship with God should make others blush! “The gall of that child!” “What impertinence!” “Doesn’t he know there are more important matters at hand?” We don’t know and we don’t care! We have to speak to daddy!…and He loves it.
Lastly, don’t forget to be thankful. Thankfulness has its own ability to transform our thoughts off of our circumstances and needs and reminding us of how good God always is. Jesus is still willing to teach us how to pray.
Oh Father! You are God alone, and there is no other like You. I want nothing more than Your will to be done in this world and in my life. Do whatever it takes to conform me to Your will and surrender my own. Forgive me when I fail in this. I confess that I am full of sin and my desires often take place over Yours. I’m sorry when that happens, please help me to allow Your desires to override my own. I have held others responsible for the hurts they have given me. I have kept them in debtors prison for their transgressions..forgive me. Today I will release them with Your help, and help me also to forget the pain and not bring it back to remembrance. Thank You for listening, for hearing, and for answering. But most of all, thank You for being my Daddy and for loving me so well. I love You, Dad. Amen.
We are excited to announce we are currently accepting resumes for a full time Youth Pastor ministry role we are filling at the church.
Do you communicate via emojis? Do you type 38 WPM via text? Is your Instagram game strong? Above all, do you love children and want to see them transformed by the power of Jesus? This may be your calling.
To learn more and apply, please visit http://www.cometothecreek.com/youth-pastor/
1 Samuel 7:6 — “When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.”
I believe the why of fasting is equally important to the why of prayer. Just as Genesis 4:26 was the first mention of prayer (calling upon the LORD) in the Bible, so 1 Samuel 7:6 is the first mention of fasting in the Bible. And just as mankind, in the book of Genesis, lost fellowship with God through sin and they sought restoration of that fellowship through prayer — mankind, in the book of Samuel, lost God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant — a symbol of God’s presence) and they sought restoration through fasting and confession (prayer). While prayer is an activity of communicating to God, fasting — the deliberate denial of food to the body — is an activity that communicates to God the seriousness of our commitment. In this instance, the children of Israel had indulged their appetites by worshiping other foreign gods. They were no longer committed to serve God, but rather distracted by their own desires. The Ark was captured by the Philistines and “The Glory had departed from Israel, for the ark of God had been captured.” (1 Sam. 4:22) The why of fasting is this: we are distracted. There is a battle within us between our desire to do things our way and a desire to do things God’s way. The New Testament writer, James puts it this way, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) When we deny ourselves basic necessities like food, it weakens our worldly body…but it strengthens our spiritual body! (Mat. 4:2; Mat.16:24-26) It disciplines our flesh and we are more able to commune with God because we are less distracted by the desires/appetites of our bodies. We show God in a very tangible way that we are committed to Him more than to ourselves. (Job 11:13-19) We live on the spiritual food He gives us more than the earthly foods we crave. (Mat. 4:4; Deut. 8:3) God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10), and when we weaken our sinful bodies through self denial…we are strengthened by God’s power and God’s glory returns! We experience His presence in new ways and we recommit our hearts to what really matters. We refocus upon God and we forsake our distractions and hinderances, for the sake of sweet communion and fellowship with God. We fast because we are distracted.
God of grace and God of glory, forgive me for being distracted by my own sinful desires. Even now, talking about denying my body food there is a visceral reaction from my flesh…it is angry, and it desires to disobey. Help me to discipline my body through fasting. Not so that I am holier than anyone else, but because my body is in constant rebellion to Your ways. Let me use the things of this world — food, money, power, talents as if they do not have a hold on me. Let me not be controlled by any of them, but surrender them all to Your control. Help me to keep my commitments to You. Thank You for Your loving kindness and Your faithfulness even when I am unfaithful. Thank You for Your perfect power in my weakness —help me to truly embrace weakness, and fully trust in Your power and grace. All glory is Yours in heaven and on earth. Amen.
Genesis 4:26 — “Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.”
Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Sometimes we launch into trying to teach people how to do something without helping them understand why they are doing it in the first place. Then, often years later, the person wakes up realizing that they have been doing something simply because someone told them how to do it…but since they have never really understood its purpose, they often find it has meant very little to them or worse — what they are doing has become nothing but stale, dry ritual devoid of any meaning. The why of prayer is this: we need God. We need fellowship with Him, we need to hear from Him and to be heard by Him. In Eden’s perfection, we had unhindered, unbroken fellowship with Him — man and woman “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Genesis 3:8) But sin broke that fellowship and became the hindrance to our hearing from Him and and the also the hinderance to Him hearing from us. Death entered the world through sin (Romans 5:12), and all the brokenness and consequence that sin brings came with it. Cain murders Able — dysfunction reigned in the very first family, not because God created it that way, but because sin (rebellion against God) is so devastating. When sin has ravaged our lives, our families, and our communities —“men begin to call upon the name of the LORD.” This is why we pray. We long to communicate with God. We need to reconnect with the Author of our story, the Creator of our world, the Father of us all. We need the Author to tell us what happens next, to show us how to walk in this broken world. For only the Creator can distinguish between what is broken and what is good and can tell us how to fix what is broken. We need the Father to hear us when we cry, to wipe away every tear. A Father to hear us when we are joyful and celebrate with us. A Father to teach us what pleases Him, and what is best for us…because He knows what is best for His children. We pray because we need God.
Heavenly Father, LORD of all creation and Author of my story, today I call upon You. I need You to hear my cry, I am broken by sin. I need You to rescue me from the consequences of sin in my life. I need You to help me know right from wrong. I need You to guide me in all my decisions and actions. I also need to hear from You. Please speak to me, through Your Word, through other people, through Your powerful Holy Spirit. I promise that when I hear Your voice, and I know it is You, that I will do what You want me to do. Please be patient with me when I fail, love me even when I forget Your ways, and bring me back when I walk away. Thank You for loving me, I truly love You and I thank You for writing me into Your story. Amen.
We are standing on the edge of a mighty move of God. Can you feel it? Like a woman about to give birth, there is an expectancy, a vibrant hope of new life, and new adventure to come. It is not the first time (and most likely not the last) that we have been here. Certainly, God’s people have always lived on this edge of hope. Crossing the Jordan River into the promised land, expectantly searching for the long prophesied Messiah, awaiting the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost…God has relentlessly pursued His people, and relentlessly provided hope, light, life, and salvation — always in the nick of time!
But have we been so relentless in our pursuit of Him? Half-hearted at best and apathetic at worst, we have so many times forsaken the deep spiritual vaults that would yield their riches to us if we would but engage in the disciplines of prayer and fasting. Yet all too often we have exchanged learning about how to properly engage in these divine practices for empty and hollow platitudes and rigidly rehearsed rituals.
This devotion was written to look deeper into God’s vast storehouses and haul out exquisite treasures from God’s Word regarding prayer and fasting. For when God’s people have stood on the edge of hope in ages past — they have prayed, fasted and sought the Lord’s face and the God of all hope has renewed, revived and restored His people…again and again.
It is our hope that, during this season of Lent, you will discover (or re-discover) the relentless God who pursues His people and engages with His people through prayer and fasting. Please don’t let this season pass without renewing your love for the God who loves you with reckless abandon and (Re)Lent-less grace!
We are excited to announce a unique opportunity to be involved with the ministry of Shoal Creek. We are now accepting applications for an Executive Admin role.
Does this sound like you? Above all, you love the Lord and are passionate about seeing lives changed by the power of Jesus Christ. You are excited and passionate about people. You have a talent for managing multiple projects with excellence. You are professional, kind, compassionate, and able to maintain composure in stressful situations. If so, apply now!
To learn more about this role or apply now, please visit http://www.cometothecreek.com/executive-admin/