Prayer

I am poor and needy

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Faith persevering in trial, Psalm 40.

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Receiving Answers to Our Prayers

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In response to our prayers, the Lord uses His power to penetrate closed minds and hard hearts.  In that way, He brings people to salvation and transforms unrighteous lives.

We all want our petitions fulfilled, so it is important to understand God’s conditions for answered prayer.  Besides having a relationship with Him (John 3:3) and confessing all known sin, we must have faith that His Word is true and His promises reliable.  The Bible, which was divinely written by God through man, is without error.  In this amazing book, the Lord reveals His nature – holy, sovereign, and perfect – and presents His plan of salvation (Romans 10:9).  Because God’s promises are based on His perfect character, we can be certain He will do what He says; otherwise He would not be God.  And Jesus’ promises can be trusted because He always spoke the Father’s words (John 12:49).

Another condition is that we ask according to the Lord’s purposes.  We’re to pray for things that are in keeping with His divine plan and character.  God wants us to discern His will, to pray for it to be carried out, and to do whatever our part might be in its fulfillment (Matthew 6:9-10).  The Holy Spirit will help us know what to pray.  And as we consider which petitions to make, we should ask ourselves, Is my request based on God’s Word?  How will an answer to this prayer bring me or someone else closer to Him?

It takes an investment of time to meet God’s requirements for prayer.  But in response, He will provide answers beyond anything we could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

Commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch devotional, December 15, 2017.

Requirements for Answered Prayer

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Jesus taught many things about prayer and its central role in a believer’s life.  He also promised that our petitions will be answered when we meet certain requirements.

One condition is mentioned in John 14:14:  After receiving Christ as our personal Savior, we have the right to present requests in Jesus’ name, which means praying something that the Lord Himself might pray.  To exercise this privilege, we must come to the Father, depending not on our own good works or character but on the merits of Christ alone.  Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is the only basis for approaching God and being assured of receiving an answer to our petitions.

A second requirement is separation from all known sin.  Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”  This refers to ungodly behaviors and thought patterns that we know are wrong but refuse to give up.  Remember, God looks at our heart attitude.  If we struggle against our sinful ways, grieve over them, and ask for forgiveness, He will hear our cries and respond.  But when He sees a hard heart, He is not obligated to listen.

Next time you pray, start with words of praise to God for His sacrificial love and gratitude to Jesus for dying in your place (1 John 4:10).  Express that you understand why your prayers are heard – because you have a relationship with the Father through Christ, and not because of anything you have done.  Confess all known sin and ask for forgiveness.  Then present your requests to God with anticipation, and trust His answers.

(More on Friday this week.)

Commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch devotional, December 14, 2017.

Reliance

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Faith is not something tangible to be taken like medicine.  It is an attitude of trusting and believing.  But even our ability to believe is a gift from God.  No matter how much faith we have, we never reach the point of being self-sufficient.  Faith is not stored away like money in the bank.  Growing in faith is a constant process of daily renewing our trust in Jesus.

Jesus was telling the disciples that they would face difficult situations that could be resolved only through prayer.  Prayer is the key that unlocks faith in our lives.  Effective prayer needs both an attitude-complete dependence-and an action-asking.  Prayer demonstrates our reliance on God as we humbly invite God to fill us with faith and power.  There is no substitute for prayer, especially in circumstances that seem unconquerable.  

Commentary from The One Year NIV Devotional New Testament, (2003), Tyndale House Publishers, April 15.

Burden or Bridge

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What word would you use to describe adversity in your life?  To most people, it is a heavy, inescapable burden that wears them down, saps their joy, and hinders them from truly living.  Those that follow Jesus, however, have the opportunity to see adversity as a bridge leading to a glorious eternal future.

The determining factor in how a follower of Jesus views hardship is perspective.  If we focus only on the negative aspects of our earthly life, we’ll be drawn into despair and desperation-a common worldly perspective.  But if we look at problems from an eternal standpoint, our thinking and attitudes will be transformed in the following ways:

  1. Instead of letting difficulties wear us down, we won’t lose heart, because we know we’re being renewed from within (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).  As we respond in submission to whatever God is allowing in our life and trust in His good purposes, our character is shaped into Christlikeness and our hope is restored.
  2. The despair of feeling that our adversity is inescapable and never-ending will be replaced with strength to endure.  Paul said he was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and constantly threatened with death, yet he called it all “light and momentary” compared to eternity (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 17 NIV).
  3. Rather than seeing adversity as a thief of all joy and a hindrance to a good life, we should look beyond the present to what the trial is producing for us in heaven-“an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (v. 17).

Viewing troubles through an eternal lens is an act of faith, which pleases God.  It increases our trust in Him, gives us greater passion for our heavenly inheritance, and strengthens us to victoriously cross the bridge of adversity.

Portions of commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Devotional, November 7, 2017.

Known

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Sometimes is it difficult for us to think of ourselves as children.  When we see little ones running around, always needing something from us, we cannot imagine that we often look and act the same way, only in grown-up bodies.  Fortunately, we also have a Parent who already knows our needs.  

Don’t spend all of your prayer time repeating yourself or explaining everything in unnecessary detail for God.  He knows all of your needs.  He does want us to ask though, so that He might be honored when He gives.  Also, for a change, we can simply ask Him to speak to our listening hearts.  Remember, He’s already got the answer.  Give Him the opportunity to share it with you.

Portions of commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Devotional, November 14, 2016.