November 29, 2020 — The Sign of the Savior

Truly, the LORD Himself will give to you a sign; Behold! A virgin will be pregnant, bear and conceive a Son — and His name will be called: “With us, God.” — Isaiah 7:14

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…” as the song goes, sung by the Five Man Electrical Band. In it they mostly espouse, in rather humorous and some unfortunate ways, the misleading nature of signs. We are accustomed to so many signs these days that their noise may seem, as they continue to sing, that it is “blocking out the scenery and breaking my mind.”

But to announce something as important as the Savior of the world, God knew we’d need a sign. Nothing misleading, or confusing…just something unmistakable. And so, He gave us a sign, Himself…something only He could accomplish. This sign would break the very laws of nature that He had created! A virgin, a woman who had never known a man intimately, would become pregnant — without the seed of a man — she would carry a child and conceive a Son. And this Son, would not be simply human…but fully human and fully God. For He would be called Immanu (with us) – el (God).

This God would not remain far off and untouchable, but as John would later remark, a God “whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1 NLT) This God will be with us and for us and in us! (Isaiah 7:14; Romans 8:31; John 14:17) God is approaching! Therefore, Hope is rising! Hallelujah!

Take a moment today and praise the “with us God!” Are you with Him the way He is with you? You can put your faith in Him today and trust His power to completely save you. Here’s your sign.

Day 46 – When Jesus Prays — Part 5

Luke 23:34-35 — Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

Jesus on the cross. God himself, clothed in human flesh, taking our place and paying the penalty for all the sins of humankind. What an amazing picture of God’s love for us. I am still amazed at this picture of God’s love today. Jesus, thank you.

As Jesus begins to labor for breath, every agonizing draw of air tearing more of his flesh, every slight move putting more pressure on the nails in his hands and feet — Jesus says an incredibly brief prayer for those present at this event of torture…“Father, forgive them.”

The crux of all Christianity is forgiveness. Divine forgiveness imparted to all mankind, yes, but more than that — the ability for human beings to forgive in the same way as our divine Father. Jesus, not after the pain has ended, not when he could process and find some perspective, right in the midst of the pain asked God to forgive his tormentors. While they still stood mocking, “Save yourself!” While they gambled for his clothes. Jesus forgave.

This puts to rest all our objections, “I can’t forgive them, the pain is still too much.” “I can forgive, but I certainly won’t forget!” “You don’t understand how much they hurt me and you want me to forgive them?” “Yes, but I’m not Jesus, I’m not God…how can I forgive like they did?” There is no easy answer for these questions, but they have all been answered by Jesus on the cross. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

Still think you can do this Christianity thing on your own? Think again. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it is impossible…in our own strength. But all things are possible for God! Nothing is too hard for Him! You must rely on the Holy Spirit and the power of God for everything in faith! The flesh counts for nothing! Love is the ultimate ethic of Christianity, but the outworking of that love is forgiveness. When Jesus prays he asks God to forgive the very people who were mocking, maligning and murdering him. Only a Savior like that can save us, because he chose not to save himself but to save the very ones that hated him — now that is Amazing Grace.

Jesus, thank You. Amen.

Day 45 – When Jesus Prays — Part 4

John 17:20-21 — “‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’”

Jesus has one more prayer request in John chapter 17, and this one is not for him or his disciples…it is for you. Or more specifically, “for all those who will believe in me through their message.” Jesus is praying for every believer throughout all time. For every follower of all time, Jesus is asking the Heavenly Father for one thing: that all of them may be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. The same unity that Jesus desired for his first disciples, is the same unity he desires for his last disciples…for all of his disciples.

Now to be sure, the purpose of this unity is similar to that which he asks for his disciples earlier…it is a unity in the Name of Jesus, and power and protection are the purpose. However, Jesus now discloses a further purpose or benefit of this unity: so that the world may believe. This unity of purpose, in the Name of Jesus, will be a tangible sign for all who do not believe that Jesus is truly “sent” from the Father…a testimony that He is who He claims to be. Many of us have not fully understood the tremendous testimony or witness that our unity in Christ can be. The converse is also true, many of us have not fully understood the horrible devastation our divided witness and testimony has unleashed upon the world. How much more important in our day, in this hour, will it be for unbelievers to see the witness of a united body of believers working together for the Kingdom of God! We must be one!

But this oneness is further spelled out in this passage as well…our oneness is not “in Name only” but we must be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. What does this mean? It means that just as the Father is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father…so we must be in them. Jesus said consistently, “I don’t speak on my own. I say only what the Father who sent me has told me to say.” (John 12:49 CEV) When the Father is in him, Jesus doesn’t say what he wants to say, but only what the Father tells him. How does he know what the Father has told him? Because he is in the Father! Jesus is the Word of God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) But how can we be one with Jesus and the Father?

In verse 23, it tells us, “I in them and you in me…” We can be in the Father, by being in the Son. And if Jesus is the Word, we can be in Jesus by being in His Word! Or more importantly, His Word in us! “I in them” (the Word in us) and “they in me” (through the Holy Spirit). Then how does this Spirit get in us? The people who heard the message (the Word) that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, were “cut to the heart” (convicted) and asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repent. Turn from your sin and turn to God. Be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ (there is power in the Name of Jesus!). And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God in you. You in God (in His Word and baptized into Jesus’ Name). There is no greater unity…until we are in unity together in Christ.

Because when we are one as Jesus and the Father, we surrender what we want to what God wants. When we are not surrendered or in disunity, we do as we please. When we are one as Jesus and the Father, we love one another, never daring to speak ill of our brother or sister in Christ. When we are not in unity we blast whoever we like with disparaging words or painful remarks. When we are in unity with Jesus and the Father and one another — we love like God loved us and we surrender our lives to show that love to the world. And when they see this unity, all people will be drawn to Father through His Son Jesus Christ. Amen!

Lord, forgive us for not being in unity. We are so desirous that all people come to You, and You tell us that happens — through our unity. Father make us one, as You and the Son are one. Help us in our infirmities, we are so weak in our flesh. Help us to be filled with Your Spirit and to walk as Jesus walked. Thank You for Your promises — that You will complete what You have started in us, and we will accomplish that with which You have tasked us to do, in Your power and strength. We love You Father, and we thank You for Your Son Jesus. Amen.

Day 43 – When Jesus Prays — Part 3

John 17:6,9,11 — “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world…I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours…Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

After Jesus asks the Father to glorify him so that the Father might be glorified, Jesus prays for his disciples. And when Jesus prays he asks, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name.” Jesus knows that he has been their protection up until this point in the narrative. “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” (v.12) Jesus does not want to leave them…because that would mean they are left unprotected. However, he must finish the work of the cross, in order that all mankind might be saved. Jesus has also promised that he would not leave the disciples alone, that he would send another counselor — the Holy Spirit — to be with them and to be in them. (John 14:16-17)

Aside from this Holy Spirit, Jesus also prays for God to protect them “by the power of your name, the name you gave me.” There is power in the Name of Jesus. Protective power that can keep followers (disciples) of Jesus from harm. This Name can make demons shudder and send them fleeing for safety (see James 2:19; Luke 8:31-32). There is everlasting life in the Name of Jesus (John 20:31). The gift of the Holy Spirit comes from repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). Healing comes in the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:6, 16). There is power in the Name of Jesus.

Ah, but Jesus also gives a reason for this protection, “protect them…so that they may be one as we are one.” The protective power of the Name of Jesus is ultimately for the purpose of his disciples uniting around the Name of Jesus. Picture one umbrella trying to protect 12 different men, each in different locations, from the thousands of raindrops falling on them…now picture each of those men running to that umbrella to seek shelter, protection from the storm. They huddle underneath the protection it provides. Each of the 12 hold on together as one man to the one stem of the umbrella to make sure it doesn’t get swept away by the strong winds. The Name of Jesus is the umbrella. Under the Name of Jesus they may look different, sound different, think different, understand different…but the Name of Jesus brings them together. They are bonded by common purpose and love. They call upon the same Lord, they worship the same God, they are one. When Jesus prays, he prays for protection, power, and unity.

Lord Jesus, thank You for praying for Your disciples. Thank You for providing protection and power. Thank You for asking the Father for unity…may we, as Your disciples, live out this unity of Spirit, truth and love. You are so very good to us. Help us in our frailty truly be one as you and the Father are one. Praise be to Your Name, both now and forevermore! Amen.

Day 42 – When Jesus Prays — Part 2

John 17:1 — After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”

The prayer in John 17 is often called the High Priestly prayer of Jesus. It is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Gospel accounts. Jesus is about to complete His sacrifice on the Cross for all humanity — this is a picture of what the High Priest did each year on the Day of Atonement, making an offering first for his own sins then the sins of the people. But, unlike the High Priest of the Old Testament, Jesus did not need sacrifice for his own sins…He was sinless, perfect. And he offered not an animal, but his own perfect life as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of all of our sins. Jesus completed the work of testifying about God his Father….by bringing Him glory and by making his sacrifice.

As Jesus prays he asks God to glorify him — “Glorify your Son.”

To glorify, means to “praise, extol, magnify, celebrate.” “To honor, make glorious, adorn with lustre, clothe with splendor.” “To make renowned, render illustrious, cause dignity and worth to become manifest and acknowledged.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I thought we were supposed to be humble, never seeking glory for ourselves, and certainly never taking any glory away from God. This statement may seem to be a little out of character for Jesus. But, Jesus shows his intention very quickly as he completes the thought, “Glorify your Son, (in order) that your Son may glorify you.” Jesus’ prayer for God to glorify him is not a selfish desire for his own glory, but so that all people that see him would glorify God!

This is in full alignment with the question that the Westminster Catechism asks, “What is the chief end (purpose) of man?” and the answer is: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” My life as a disciple of Jesus Christ is meant to glorify God. I want to be made known, acknowledged, rendered illustrious — glorified — in my life or death so that glory, all glory, will go to God my Father! “God, please put me on display publicly so that people will glorify Your Name!”

Before you get carried away with visions of glory, please understand the “glory” that came to Jesus from this request…Jesus was betrayed, arrested, beaten, spat upon, scourged, mocked, and crucified. He suffered the most humiliating and excruciating death possible…not exactly what we would call illustrious or honorable. However, millions have seen the beauty, splendor and glory of this death for over two thousand years. We celebrate it every year and live our lives to honor this death. We wear golden, lustrous, crosses around our necks and give glory to God through Jesus, His Son.

Are you ready to glorify and exalt God the Father by asking God to glorify you? Are you ready to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? When Jesus prays, He asks for glory…so that God may be glorified through him.

Father, You alone deserve all honor and power and praise and glory. Thank You for bringing glory to Your Son Jesus and thereby bringing glory to Yourself. Today Lord, I want to be bold like Jesus. Glorify me so that You may be glorified. If I may bring honor and glory to You, either by my life or by my death, Lord have Your way and maximize glory for You and Your Great Name! You are worthy of all my praise! You are high and exalted, glorious above all things…praise be to the Great God of heaven and earth! Please forgive me if I have ever stolen glory from You, or brought shame to Your Great Name. Please use me as You will, and I submit to every joy and happiness, as well as every pain and sorrow…no matter what, I will put my trust in You. Thank You, Father. Amen.

Day 41 – Is Prayer Important in Your Life?

Luke 10:41-42 – “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Is prayer important in your life? The default answer for most followers of Jesus would be: “yes”. But let me ask you to carefully and honestly consider this… is prayer important in your life? I’m not talking about just the type of prayer we pray when we are faced with difficult or challenging situations. Is daily communication with God an important part of our relationship with God or is it more of a ritual that we do out of “Christian duty”?

In today’s focal Scripture I see an important Biblical premise each of us should understand: nothing and no one should be more important in our lives than Jesus. Is prayer important? There is a quick test we could do to determine that. What is the one thing in your life that you just refuse to miss? Is it your favorite TV show? Is it your kids baseball game? Is it date night with your spouse? What is that one thing that you will rearrange your whole day for, cancel plans for, and make sure that you have time for? Chances are if we’re being honest, it isn’t prayer.

In my own life I can honestly say that prayer has intensified in challenging and difficult circumstances. I think this is natural and should be expected. But during times of prosperity it can be easy to forget the importance of prayer. In our focal Scripture today we see Martha, a woman on a mission to make sure everyone is served, her guest are comfortable, an amazing, gracious host I have no doubt. In the midst of her busyness, she finally gets overwhelmed and upset. Her sister Mary was far more concerned with hearing Jesus speak than stopping to help her sister with the serving. Although Martha had filled her day with many “good” things, she was missing out on the only thing that was truly needed: Jesus.

How about it then…  is prayer important to you? If I’m being honest, teaching and preaching are important to me. Updating the church’s website and social media are important to me. Writing this devotion has been important to me. Praying is important… but it certainly isn’t most important. How many words have I typed, how many lessons have I taught, how many times have I served and in the busyness of the moment, but I’ve missed God’s true intention.

As you prepare to pray today, I challenge you to truthfully consider the question: is prayer important to me? If prayer was important, wouldn’t you rearrange your day to make sure you never missed it? If prayer was important, wouldn’t you make and keep an appointment to seek God’s face? If you knew that every other part of your life was impacted through that prayerful appointment you kept with God, wouldn’t He then be the one thing you are seeking most? Let’s all be honest and today seek God’s grace to make real, intentional, Christ honoring change in our lives. Let’s humble ourselves and seek God’s face, then and only then will we see true healing in our land.

Father, I confess that I have traded so many good things for the most important thing: You. Lord, I ask for forgiveness for the times of busy distraction when I fill my days with service to You but don’t start by truly seeking You and Your will. Forgive me Lord for the times I have replaced the most important thing with all the other good distractions and have missed the most important thing. Please help me make and keep a devoted time of daily prayer with you. Help me put aside every good thing to seek You knowing that every area of my life will be blessed when I start with you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Day 40 – The Art of Real Time Prayer

Nehemiah 1:11 – “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

Nehemiah 2:4 – The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven

The scripture encourages us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but what does that really mean? Surely Paul can’t mean that the church at Thessalonica is supposed to always be praying.. can he? As it turns out, that’s exactly what he means. The Greek word used for “without ceasing” is adialeiptōs which Strong’s Concordance defines as “incessantly”. Don’t you love when the translation of a word is another word that requires a Google search for context? Maybe that’s just me. Incessantly is defined by “without interruption”. The Message simply translate 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray all the time”.

So why is today’s focal verse Nehemiah 1:11 and Nehemiah 2:4 if I’ve focused so much on 1 Thessalonians 5:17? Because this is a perfect, real example of this direction in action. The Art of Real Time Prayer simply refers to the behavior we learn as we mature in the Christian faith of praying and seeking God’s guidance throughout our day. Getting ready for an important meeting at work? Pray. Getting ready to wake the kids up for school? Pray. Having a heated moment of conversation with your spouse? Pray. Learning to seek God’s guidance and obeying Him when He speaks is important.

I once heard of a man who literally prayed over every decision of every day. What should he eat? What should he wear? Where should he sit in the restaurant? All decisions that have to be made but probably don’t require the type of prayer we are talking about. Burger King or McDonalds? Chances are likely God doesn’t care (not like my wife, He really doesn’t care). Should you share the Gospel with the restaurant employee who struck up a conversation with you? Pray (but the answer will almost always be a resounding “yes”).

In today’s focal Scripture we see Nehemiah who was in exile in Persia. The Jews had been taken into captivity and now lived in a foreign land because of their rebellion against God. Nehemiah was getting ready to have one of the most important conversations of his life, and with the earthly king of the Persian empire no less. Although Nehemiah had been praying for weeks, we see the Art of Real Time Prayer come in to play when Nehemiah says that he “prayed to the God of heaven”.

The challenge for today’s devotion is not only make specific, dedicated, daily prayer time where we seek God’s will for our lives but also praying real time. It isn’t either/or, but both and. We should be praying daily for our day and then throughout the day for God’s guidance. We must learn to seek God’s will throughout the day and obey Him when He speaks. Learning the Art of Real Time Prayer can help us be a more Christ honoring spouse, parent, friend, worker, and neighbor. As you prepare to pray today, I wonder: how many times are you seeking God’s will throughout the day? How many wrong choices could have been avoided if you’d spent just an extra moment to seek God’s will before you spoke or reacted? Confess that to Him today and ask Him to aide you in this learned behavior of “praying without ceasing”.

Father, we confess that sometimes we wait to seek Your will until it’s too late. Lord, we say or do things before asking for Your directive and it can end poorly. Help us to learn how to pray without ceasing. Help us learn the Art of Real Time Prayer in which we communicate with You throughout our day. Lord, we know our lives will be richer, more abundant when we seek and obey Your will throughout our day. Lord, please help us know when to pray, when to act, what to say, and how to react when You speak. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Day 39 – When Jesus Prays — Part 1

Mark 1:35 — Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

I am still amazed at the thought of Jesus praying.  As fully God, he has no unmet needs (see Devotion – Day 1…The Why of Prayer? — we need God).  But as fully human, he has the same needs that we do…food, water, shelter, rest, God…I guess it makes it all the more profound just how much this human flesh prevents connection with our holy Father God.  So when Jesus prays, it may be helpful to go about it the way that he does and to pray for the things he prays for.  

Today’s Scripture reading points out that Jesus got up very early (while it was still dark) in the morning to pray.  Oh, I can hear the great groan of the masses as they read that last line!!!  I know for many of you morning doesn’t start till 10am!! (Or certainly not before coffee!!)  And believe me, your body will object to this disturbance…but remember what we said about fasting…“our physical bodies cannot help us overcome a spiritual struggle.”  Many of you have told me (and I’ve said it too), “if I get up early to pray or read my Bible I just fall asleep.”  You’re in good company (or bad, depending on how you look at it), because when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is praying so intensely that sweat drops (like drops of blood) are falling off of him (and his disciples are supposed to be praying too) — But we find out,  “When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.  ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” (Luke 22:45-46)

I know it’s hard to pray early in the morning…believe me, I know.  Nevertheless, there is something quite powerful about starting your day with prayer.  It does several things:

It gives the First Fruit of your time to God. — Now some of you will say, “the morning hours are not the best part of me or my time.”  That may be true.  But it is certainly not the leftover of what you have either.  It is acknowledging God with the first words you have in the morning.  It is putting Him in mind as your very first thoughts.  It reminds you to not forget Him all day and then suddenly say, “Oh yes, I almost forgot! Maybe I should thank God for my food, or ask God to help me in this situation now that I’ve worked my way into trouble!” It also sets the stage for speaking to your wife, your children, your coworkers, your boss…whoever you come into contact with — you are ready to speak with a mouth sanctified by communication with a holy God.  It’s a lot harder to cuss at someone after you’ve just spoken with God (or it should be, at least).

It shows your body who’s boss. — Your body will fight back in innumerable ways, aches, pains, hunger, nausea, tiredness, weakness — and let’s be honest, most of the time it wins (it gets what it wants, sleep, food, medicine, etc.)…this is one way you can gain some victory over your body.  You tell your body, “I don’t care if you’re tired…man up/woman up!”  I’m calling the shots because the Holy Spirit has given me, not a Spirit of fear but a Spirit of Power and of Love and of Self-Control!  When you weaken the flesh, the Spirit increases!  When you deny the body sleep, it will be weaker and you will be tired — but your Spirit will be stronger and stronger!

It helps drown out distraction. — Distraction is the enemy.  Satan may not be able to steal everything from us, but if he can distract us he can steal our time.  If he can distract us, he can steal our focus.  If he can distract us, he can steal our joy.  Our verse says that Jesus went to a “solitary place.”  Away from kids, spouse, work, hobbies, tv, cell phone, computer…the list starts to get big doesn’t it?  Can you find solitude in the middle of the day? At the end? While you’re working? While you’re cleaning the house or fixing dinner? Maybe, and if you can great…but Jesus found solitude at the beginning of the day…before most anyone else was awake…while it was still dark.  Because it is hard to fight distraction in all its forms throughout a 24-hour day that never stops.  Sometimes you have to fight the fight on ground that already gives you an advantage.  At least the kids are asleep.  At least my phone is not ringing non-stop.  At least I don’t have to be at work in 10 minutes and I’m late and I’m in a hurry and I need to…get on high ground to fight this battle against distraction, where you have at least a couple of advantages to start with. Find a solitary place.

When Jesus prays, he does so very early in the morning, in a solitary place.

Father God, thank You for Your Son Jesus.  Thank You for the example He set for us in all things, but particularly in prayer.  Help us to be more like Him in all things and in all ways.  Help us to engage in prayer the way He did.  Help us to fight off the pull of our bodies — your Son understands just how hard it is to resist the pull of our bodies toward temptation and sin. Thank You that we have victory over sin, death, and our bodies through the blood of Jesus.  Thank You that we can be victorious over our sinful flesh…help us have more victories than defeats.  But even if we do not have more success than failure, help us rest in Your grace and mercy that covers our sin and defeats even our failures.  I love You, Father.  And I ask for a restoration (or a new beginning) of the solitude and fellowship of early morning prayer with You for each end every one of my brothers and sisters (and for myself as well) in the Name above all names, in the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Day 38 – Not Giving Up in Prayer

Luke 18:1 – Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

I have the cure for whatever your facing. Not really but pretend with me a minute. Is it some cruel disease like cancer? I have the cure. Are you trying to quit smoking or drinking? I have a solution that works 100% of the time. Is your marriage falling part? I have the advice that is going to change it all. Now that you know… are you going to come ask me to share it with you? Of course you are. What if I say no? No I won’t share it with you. Are you going to give up that easily? I didn’t think so.

Before we move on in today’s devotion, remember what we’ve already said: God is not some cosmic genie that responds to our every beckon and call. Sometimes God’s answer is no, even to our most desperate prayers. But the question for today is: do you give up in prayer too quickly? Do you pray half-hearted prayers never really believing that God would answer your request even know He could? Sometimes do you believe that God couldn’t even answer your prayer if He wanted to? Where is your persistence in prayer? Where is your faith?

In today’s focal Scripture we see that Jesus is telling His disciples a story. The purpose of His story is laid out in our verse: “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” I encourage you strongly to open your Bible to Luke chapter 18 and find this parable because it’s powerful. To summarize, we should persistently seek God in our prayers and not give up. Pray like your life depended on it. If God doesn’t answer right away… keep praying. Pray until God answers clearly and then trust Him through the answer.
I’ve said it before but prayer really changes our heart when we seek God’s will in it. I can remember for years praying about something I thought I desperately needed in my life. I prayed and prayed, ultimately God never answered that prayer in the way I thought He should. Fast forward and eventually the prayer I prayed had been answered in a very real and different way. Through the answer to my prayer when I finally had what I thought I desperately needed, I found that what I thought I needed was never really what God knew I needed.

Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees; have you ever experienced that? As you prepare to pray today, I encourage you to start by asking God to reveal to you your heart. Ask God to search you and reveal the truth about what you’re praying for (Psalm 139:23-24). As it turns out, the prayer I desperately prayed was because I had totally misunderstood (or resisted) what God’s Word had to say concerning who I was supposed to be as a husband. Meditate on these two thoughts as you prepare to pray today: are you giving up too easy in prayer? If God answered your prayer, would it really be game changer you think it would be? Ask Him to reveal the truth and change your heart through it.

Father, I confess sometimes I give up too easily in prayer. Through a mixture of doubt, frustration, despair, and hopelessness, I get discouraged and stop praying before You’ve ever answered. Lord, help me to persistently seek You and to continue seeking You until You give me a clear answer. Once You’ve answered Father, help me accept that Your way is always the best way. Please encourage me when I’m disheartened and discouraged. Please fill me with Your presence and strength, in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Day 37 – Praying Prayers of Anguish

1 Samuel 1:10 – In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.

Chances are likely that if you’ve been alive long, you’ve prayed prayers of “deep anguish”. It’s interesting that in times of intense hurt that both those who trust in Christ and those who don’t even believe in God both pray desperate prayers. As the old saying goes: there are no atheist in foxholes. Webster defines anguish as: extreme pain, distress, or anxiety. Have you ever prayed in “deep” anxiety or pain?

Sometimes in the midst of great grief or suffering, God can feel far away. Sometimes God can appear silent or even worse, apathetic or uncaring to our prayers. The enemy fills our heads with lies and questions God’s goodness, so we begin to wonder. If we are being honest, each one of us have had a crisis of faith or will have at some point during our life. But as David so beautifully observed: we can’t escape God’s love (Psalm 139:7-12). Sometimes for me personally, it can seem as if Satan is relentlessly trying to bring every truth of God’s Word into question. Time and time again God reminds me: His Word is true, even when it doesn’t “feel” like it.

Today we see a desperate prayer of Hannah. A barren woman who was loved by her husband but unable to conceive a child. This woman comes before God and prays, weeps, and pleads with God to intercede. I imagine her prayer in “dep anguish” didn’t just come out of one painful experience. She and her husband must have tried to conceive time and time again and she was unable to carry a child. Hannah knew what everyone of us will learn: God is the only one who can answer our most desperate prayers.

Perhaps you’re like Hannah and you’ve been praying in deep anguish. Maybe you’ve prayed for mercy and that God would spare someone’s life. Maybe you’ve prayed a child might be delivered from a drug addiction. Maybe you’ve prayed for a job. Maybe you’ve prayed for a better marriage. Whatever you’ve been pleading with God about, sometimes it can seem like He isn’t listening or even aware of your suffering. I promise He is. One thing I’ve learned over the course of the 9 years I’ve been following the Lord is: I can trust Him even when I don’t “feel” Him. He will keep His promises.

Today as you prepare to pray, I wonder: has the enemy convinced you that God doesn’t care? Has doubt began to creep in and the anguish has become deep? Is your heart heavy under the stress and pain with whatever your dealing with? Begin your prayer here today. Just as Hannah said concerning her prayer, let us seek to do today: “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15). Come before God in humble honesty and pour out your soul to Him. No matter what the enemy or anyone else has said let us: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1 NIV).

Father, help us come before you in total honesty and submission today. Lord, let us leave our religious views of prayer at the door and instead come seeking Your faithful love. Our hearts cry out before You knowing that You and You alone are the Author and Sustainer of our faith. Jesus our hearts cry out for Your promises to fill us with joy. We confess every moment of doubt, every painful heartache, and every fear that has crept into our minds. Lord, we know that you are faithful and we can come to You in our desperation, You alone will give us rest. We thank you for Your unfailing promises and the love that You show us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.