How Do We Pray?

On Sunday morning before I prayed, I thought of the prayers of Daniel, Jehoshaphat and Solomon and what they had in common.  Before they made their petitions, they acknowledged who God was and what He had done. 

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He began with blessing God’s name.  He addressed Him as “Our Father” inferring an intimate and loving relationship with Him.  After blessing God’s name, Jesus stated that just as God’s will is done in Heaven it will be done on earth.  So, the sequence was a respectable adn loving salutation, blessing God’s name, pledging obedience to Him.  Then, the petitions followed–give us our daily bread, forgive us, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.

I remember learning the proper way to pray.  It was called ACTS–Acknowledgment, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.  Our petitions should be last although there are prayers that are just cries for help like the father whose son was possessed.  His prayer was, “”Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:24).  The thief on the cross prayed for grace, ” “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).  The publican’s prayer was a short but heartfelt prayer for God’s mercy, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). 

God prefers short, sincere prayers to long, repetitious and vain prayers.  Don’t pray to yourself like the Pharisee who spent his time talking about how thankful that he was not like the others and how often he fasted and how often he gave tithes.  This is not the kind of prayer that God wants to hear.  Prayer should be all about who God and why we go to Him in the first place.  God likes us to come to Him not only when we need something.  Prayer should not be only about asking.  Our prayers can be just prayers of thanksgiving or praise or even confession.  And it’s nice when we pray for others.


A Vision of Holiness

The first thing that struck me when I read chapter 6 of Isaiah was the fact that the prophet saw the Lord.  He saw Him sitting on a throne, high and lifted up and His train filled the temple (verse 1).  What a vision!  Immediately Isaiah was aware of his own sinful condition in the presence of One who is so holy that seraphims are around the throne saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory (verse 3).

Isaiah confessed that he was a sinner–a man of unclean lips.  He believed that he was undone because he had seen God, the King.  It reminded me of Peter when he said to Jesus, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).  One Bible commentator stated that Peter was in essence saying, “It was rather, Woe is me, Lord! How shall I abide this blaze of glory? A sinner such as I am is not fit company for Thee.”

Isaiah confessed with his mouth and one of the seraphims touched his mouth with a piece of hot coal and said, “ Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged” (verse 7).

When we confess our sins God says to us, “Your iniquity is taken away and your sin purged.”  We confess and we are forgiven.  God gives us a clean slate to work with.  And once He does that He calls us to service and we are ready and willing to serve Him (verses 8, 9).

The Miracles of Jesus

No matter how often I watch “The Miracles of Jesus”, the beautiful animated movie classic I am always touched.  We bought it for our toddler but his Daddy and I always seem more engrossed in it.  We watched it yesterday and tears came to my eyes as I watched the expressions and tears of joy on the faces of the people when Jesus met their deepest needs.  The lives of the woman with the issue of blood, the little boy with palsy, Jairus’ daughter, the man with the withered hand were all touched by Jesus who responded to their faith and the faith of their loved ones.

The two miracles which particularly moved me were of the blind man and the cripple by the pool.  I felt sorry for the cripple when I saw him crawl to his mat and lay down in resignation.  Suddenly a shadowy figure approached him and he looked up.  It was Jesus.  Jesus motioned to him to get up and he did.  When he was standing, first he looked down at his feet and then up at Jesus.  Tears ran down his cheeks and then he hugged Jesus.

Jesus rubbed the blind man’s eyes and for a moment the screen went blank and then Jesus’ face swam into focus.  The first face the man saw was Jesus’ smiling face.  What a beautiful sight!  All his life he had been blind and the first thing he saw was the face of the One who gave him his sight.  Tears of joy poured down the man’s face and he bowed down and worshipped Jesus.  Tears filled my eyes as I watched these two men respond to Jesus’ acts of love and compassion.  Jesus met their deepest and most urgent needs.  He revealed them that God’s grace is for everyone–the man who was born blind through not fault of his or his parents’ and the cripple who desired to be well (John 9:1-3; 5:6, 7).

The miracle of love came into these people’s lives and restored them to the kind of life Jesus wanted for them.  He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Jesus healed the brokenhearted and recovered sight to the blind (Luke 4:18).  He did the work His Father sent Him to do.  In doing so, He revealed the true character of God–a loving, merciful and compassionate Father who is not willing that anyone should suffer.


Break The Chains

I was reading Acts 12 and was struck by the trials the early church faced at the hands of Herod Agrippa.  He murdered James, John’s brother with a sword and when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he threw Peter into jail.  Herod was clearly more interested in pleasing people than doing what was right which would please God.

Herod seemed very determined to hold Peter.  He went to a lot of trouble make sure that there was no way he could escape or anyone could break him out.  He had Peter placed under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.  The night before Peter was supposed to go trial, he was fastened with two chains between two soldiers while others stood guard at the prison gate.  Herod thought that he had nothing to worry about but he did not take into account the fervent prayers of the believers and God’s response to those prayers.

It wasn’t by human power that Peter was released from the prison.  It was by the power of God.  God sent an angel to His servant.  The angel suddenly stood before Peter who thought the whole thing was a vision.  The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists.

The angel and Peter walked right past the guards until they were standing outside of the gate.  The gate opened by itself and they walked down the street.  Then the angel left Peter.  It was at that moment when Peter realized that he had not been dreaming.  “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”  Herod’s plot against Peter had failed.

Proverbs 19:21 states:  There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.  Herod had planned to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover but God had other plans.  At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter.  Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while (verses 18, 19).

Not long after, Herod met his end.  An angel of the Lord struck him with a sickness because he made the fatal mistake of accepting the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God.  He was consumed with worms and died.  What a horrible death!  In the meantime, the Gospel of God continued to spread and the number of believers grew.

God had broken the chains of darkness which threatened to interfere with His work.  Peter was released from prison and Herod received his due.  It is too bad that James died but Jesus had predicted that these kinds of things would happen.  There will come a time when believers will face the kinds of trials Peter and the other disciples faced.

Believers will be arrested, persecuted, flogged, brought to trial and some may even face death all for Christ’s sake.  They have broken the chains of the enemy who have tried to hinder them from bringing others to the same light they have received.  Though many Christians have lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel at the hands of pagan rulers and governments and in the Inquisitions, they, like their Savior have broken the chains of death and will one day be raised to see Him face to face.

When the time comes for you to face trials, don’t be discouraged.  Look upon these trials as great opportunities to give your testimonies.  And don’t worry.  You will not be alone.  Jesus promised that He would Our greatest occasions for testimony come when we are “on trial” before others, either in a formal or an informal sense. We can trust Jesus that He will do as He promised “give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:15).

Remember that there are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14).  In hour of our greatest need, God will send reinforcements.  He did it for His Son when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) and He did it for Peter when he was in prison.

And even if some of us may one day be in chains like Paul remember his words and be encouraged, “the word of God is not chained”.  Just as Herod could not chain the Word of God, no government or religious authorities, skeptics or scientists or philosophers or opposition has ever been able to stop the saving work of God’s Word.  Many of those who opposed God’s Word are deceased but the Gospel continues to be alive and well and reaching people all over the world even in the remote areas.  “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Unfortunately, some pastors have placed a chain around the Bible which needs to be broken.  They don’t preach its  life-changing and ultimately, life-saving truths for fear of offending their parishioners.  They hand out watered down sermons, failing to follow the same advice which Paul gave to the young pastor, Timothy which was, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

The Gospel is supposed to transform lives, produce good fruit and foster spiritual growth.  When Jesus charged pastors to feed His sheep, He meant for them to give them the kind of spiritual food that would help them to grow strong and healthy.  A watered down sermon is like food that has no nutritional value whatsoever.  As a result there is lack of growth or stagnancy in the believer’s spiritual life.

Pastors, break the chains of spiritual stagnation and the desire to please rather than preach the Word as you should and heed Paul’s advice:  “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  Remember that you are in the business of saving souls and pleasing God, your Savior.

Let us break the chains of whatever may be preventing us from carrying out Christ’s commission to take the Gospel to others and join Paul in proclaiming, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).


Defending God’s Grace

The Jewish Christians actually contended with Peter because they had heard about his visit to the Gentile Cornelius and how he and his household had received the Word of God.

It seems that the prejudice against the Gentiles was still there and the separation between them and the Jews.  Peter knew that the apostles and other believers would object to what he did so he rehearsed what he was going to say to them.  Verse 4 in the King James Bible version states:  But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them.

Peter recounted in great detail what happened in the city of Joppa and concluded with these words, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (verse 17).

His audience came to the same conclusion–that God did not play favorites and anyone whether Jew or Gentile who feared Him and did what was right in His sight was acceptable to Him.  So they glorified God saying, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (verse 18).

Are we guilty of exclusivity?  Do we contend with other church members when they go and associate with the unchurched for the sake of the Gospel?  Do we forget that God meant for His Word to be shared with everyone?  Do we forget that God wants everyone to be saved?  Do we forget that God sees the heart?  Cornelius’ heart was in the right place.  “He was walking in the strict accordance with all the light he had received” (Ellen G. White, Conflict and Courage, page 334).  God wanted this god-fearing man to receive greater light–the Light of the World, the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ so He sent Peter.

God used my soul-mate’s grandmother to lead him to Him and He used a close friend of mine to lead me.  Ellen G. White sums up the whole point of the story of Cornelius in these words, “God will lead everyone who is willing to be led.  He led Cornelius.”  As long as there are people in the world who want to be led to the light, it is our duty to let God use us as He used Peter.  We must set aside our prejudices and focus instead on winning more souls for Christ.  We should carry the banner of God which proclaims, “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).

The stories of Cornelius and Jonah drive home the fact that we don’t get to decide who gets saved–only God does.  And for this, I am very thankful.  I came across this wonderful quote which I think is God’s reminder for us–


Be Happy!

Our toddler said, “Be happy” one day and I have been thinking about it since then.  Does the Bible tell us what we need to do in order to be happy?  Yes, it does.  Here are some scriptures which outlines what true happiness is:

Job 5:17: “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.”

Psalm 144:15: Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

Psalm 146:5: Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God,

Proverbs 3:13: Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;

Proverbs 14:21: But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Proverbs 16:20: He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

We can only experience true happiness when we allow God to correct us.  In doing this He molds and shapes us into the people He wants us to be.  Correction is an expression of love.  God wants us to be the best we can be.  He wants us to be our full potential.  Happiness comes from knowing that we are pleasing to God.

True happiness comes from hoping and trusting in the Lord.  We trusted and hoped that the Lord would bless us with a son and He did.  Leah experienced happiness when God blessed her with children.  Hannah experienced happiness when the God she placed her hope and trust in, blessed her with the son she prayed for.


God’s Justice Prevails

Yesterday morning I was reading Psalm 10 and came across verse 4-11.  David was talking about the wicked.  In verse 11 he said, ‘He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved;  I shall never be in adversity.”’ Solomon said the same thing in Ecclesiastes 8:11:  “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

There are people in the world who think that they can get away with anything.  For years priests have molested children and their victims must have wondered, “How long?”  Some of these priests were not even convicted even after allegations were made against them.  Many of them were moved to other parishes.  Their crimes were covered up.  Some died without paying for their crimes.

What about the Israelites who spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt?  Many were born as slaves and died as slaves.  They never knew what it was like to be free.  During those years of toil, they wondered, “How long?”

It could be very discouraging for families who have lost loved ones to crimes and not see the perpetrators get the sentences they should because they made deals with the authorities.  But Solomon offers these words of encouragement:  “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him.  But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God” (verses 12, 13).  For now the wicked seem to be getting away with a lot of things but God is a God of justice and He will deal with them in His time and in His way.

Asaph sums this up in psalm 73.  At first, it seemed to him as if the wicked didn’t have troubles like other people or that they were not plagued with problems like everyone else.   This belief made him very discouraged until he went into God’s sanctuary.  It was there that he understood their end.    “Truly, you put them on a slippery path  and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.  In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors” (verses 18, 19, NLT).

Don’t be discouraged when it seems as if the wicked or unscrupulous people are getting off easy.  They are not.  Remember there is a God who sees everything and one day He will judge everyone according to their deeds.


A Close Call

Last night when our toddler and his Daddy went to the shopping mall, he had an accident.  He was walking and not looking where he was going and he walked right smack into a table with clothes on it and struck his face on a corner, several inches below his left eye.  His Daddy was shaken and tried to comfort him as best as he could.  Needless to say, they left the mall and headed straight home.

The mark didn’t bleed right away but when it did, Daddy washed and cleaned it with cold water.  When they got home, Daddy rubbed cocao butter on it.  When I saw the mark, I was struck by how stark and ugly it looked on his skin but then I told his Daddy that we can look at the mark as a sign of God’s grace. 

Our toddler was fine, thanks to God.  If the table had been any lower, the edge would have gone into his eye instead of underneath it.  I shudder to think of how close he came to injuring his eye.  Then, I remembered that God was watching over him as always and would not have allowed anything to happen to his eye.  Praise God for His goodness and mercy.

As a parent, always place your children in the Lord’s hands.  Always pray for their protection and safety.  The Lord will always protect and bless our children.  He will always answer the heartfelt prayers of a parent who fears Him.


Mark 4:15

On the Sabbath, my soul-mate and I read Mark 4:15 which says:  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. We wondered how the word sown in people’s hearts could have it taken away.

I decided that I would read it in the New Living Translation.  It made it clearer for me.  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. I find it interesting that it says that they heard the message but it doesn’t say that they received it.  It is like the message just sits there, not rooted and the enemy comes along and easily snatches it away.  One Bible commentator said, “Hard hearts must be ‘plowed up’ before they can receive the seed, and this can be a painful experience” (Wiersbe).

Another Bible commentary offers this explanation:  The great truth here taught is, that hearts all unbroken and hard are no fit soil for saving truth. They apprehend it not ( Mat 13:19 ) as God’s means of restoring them to Himself; it penetrates not, makes no impression, but lies loosely on the surface of the heart, till the wicked one–afraid of losing a victim by his “believing to salvation” ( Luk 8:12 ) –finds some frivolous subject by whose greater attractions to draw off the attention, and straightway it is gone. Of how many hearers of the word is this the graphic but painful history! (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown).

Luke wrote about these people in Luke 8:12:  The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. They hear the message but before it has time to sink in or take root so that they could believe and be saved, the enemy comes and takes it away.  They hear but they don’t really understand.

When Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” many of those who heard Him protested.  They argued, How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” (John 6:51, 52).

And when He declared, “This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” many of the  disciples said that this teaching was too hard for them and they stopped following them (John 6:58).  They heard the Word but before it had to time to really take any root, the enemy came and took it away.

As a result many turned away from the Light and the Truth.  The truth was too much for them to handle.  They could not understand that Jesus was offering them salvation–His flesh and His blood which would be sacrificed for them so that they could have everlasting life.  They were blinded to the spiritual things and allowed their carnal thoughts and feelings to cloud their judgment.

Mark 4:15 is not just for those who have not accepted God’s gift of salvation but for those of us who have.  Do we hear a message that God has for us but we let the enemy come and take away before we could apply it?  Are we hearers rather than doers of the Word?  These are the kind of people the enemy likes.  Do we hear the message but ignore it?  Do we make excuses?  Do we allow the worries and cares of the world to preoccupy our thoughts so that God’s word has no room to take root and produce any good fruit?  Or do we hear the message God has for us and we keep it and hold on to it until it bears good fruit?  The next time God has a message for you make sure you respond the right way.  Don’t let the enemy rob you of the blessings God wants to give you through His Word.


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