Key Verse: 1 Peter 5:7 "Cast
all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
i. A Two-way Conversation
Prayer is so often misunderstood. Many believe it is our duty to pray to God and consider it as a one-way communication, filled with petitions and requests. As soon as that prayer is uttered, it's content is completely forgotten from the mind. Prayer to them is a bore. Notice how few attend prayer meetings. "Prayer, I don't have time for that!" Often people say their prayers as they climb into bed and fall asleep in the middle of a sentence.
However prayer is not a one-way communication and it is not reserved to petitions and requests. It is a two-way communication where we have the opportunity to develop our relationship with our Maker.
Imagine being married to a spouse who ignores you all day long. He/she refuses to talk to you, as he/she is too "busy". When it is time to go to bed, he/she turns to you and finally speaks to you. The words are not words of love, but requests, even commands:
"Honey, I need you to bring the car in for repairs tomorrow. Also please do not forget to pay the electricity bill. You wouldn't want us to be without electricity, would you? Also I will need my dinner by five tomorrow, as I have to go bowling with my friends. Remember to take Suzy to… Snorrr, Snorrr, Snorrr."
Would you be satisfied to be married to a spouse like that? Would you mind that he/she has only the time to talk to you at bed time? Would it bother you that he/she solely gives you commands and petitions or would you miss hearing some words of love and affection? Would you be concerned that you never can communicate with him/her? Would your marriage be a stable one or would it head towards a shipwreck?
God isn't different. He longs to have fellowship with us. However our one-way conversations with Him are far from satisfying His longings. In fact they estrange us from Him and we often end up wondering why God isn't listening to us. What could have been an intimate relationship ends up with a complete break-down in communication.
How should our prayers be? Find out by reading the following story:
A man's daughter had asked the local priest to come and pray with her father. When the priest arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.
"I guess you were expecting me," he said.
"No, who are you?"
"I'm the new associate at your parish," the priest replied. "When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."
"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. Would you mind closing the door?"
Puzzled, the priest shut the door.
"I've never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At the Sunday Mass I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, 'Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here's what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised, 'I'll be with you always.' Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now."
"So, Father, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."
The priest was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the rectory.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest that her daddy had died that afternoon.
"Did he seem to die in peace?" He asked.
"Yes, when I left the house around two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, Father. In fact, beyond strange - kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed."
Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.
Wit & Wisdom - November 30, 1998
Prayer is a two-way conversation. You have the opportunity to share your thoughts, talk about your day and ask for advice from your Forever friend named Jesus. He is always available to listen to you. You can open your heart to Him and not worry for Him to spread your secrets around town, as He values your Friendship and is looking out for your best interest.
However you will also need to listen for His response. At first you may not hear Him at all, as you are not used to hear Him yet. But as you persevere each day, you will eventually hear His sweet voice, faint at first, but filled with love. How different compared to the devil who likes to constantly accuse you (see Rev 12:10)!
Jesus will never contradict His written Word the Bible. He will always confirm it. In fact often He uses the Bible to give you His answer. He loves you and will respond to your pleas.
May we learn from the prophet Habakuk 2:1 "I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me…"
Our Lord did indeed reply to Him. He waited patiently for His response and He heard God's answer.
One of my ways to communicate with God is to talk with Him and share questions or concerns. When I ask for His advice, I know He will answer me. I ask Him to guide me when I open His Word the Bible and anticipate His response. As I read the text He has given to me, He reveals His response to me. It is true that sometimes I don't receive His answer immediately. This is when waiting for the Lord comes to play (see Psalms 37:7). As you wait for His answer, anticipating it, you will develop a deeper trust with your Maker. However you can be guaranteed that your answer is forthcoming!
Question 1: What exactly is prayer?
Question 2: How can you hear Jesus' response to your questions?
ii. Sharing your worries and Concerns
Prayer being a two-way conversation with God, He will anticipate you to ask for His help. Just like a daddy who loves it when his children comes to him for help, God hungers to hear you say: "Daddy (Abba) I need your help! I have no idea how to do this by myself."
However, too often we pray and ask for something specific and during the day, as we are too busy, we forget all about it, not even realizing that our request has been fulfilled in front of our eyes. It's just like a child asking for help to his/her mommy and before she can respond the child runs away and forgets all about his/her request. Not too flattering to the mommy, don't you think?
A great way to become more conscious of how Jesus answers our prayers is to write down our requests on paper and put a date beside each one of them. After prayer, anticipate God's answer throughout the day and watch for His answer. He will answer! Ps 38:15 "I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God."
Once you have your response, write it down next to your request, and date it as well. He will not always answer you the same day or even answer the way you would like for Him to answer your request. However you will soon realize that He always answers you in your best interest, preparing you for eternity with Him.
Don't ever give up on your request! Jesus tells us the following parable which encourages us to trust in the Lord and to persevere in asking when requests seem unfulfilled.
Luke 18:1-8 "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'
"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'"
And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
The same is true with earthly parents. We don't grant every whim of our children. Some of their requests we decide to answer at a later, time, like a birthday or Christmas. Other requests we ignore completely, as we know that it is not to their best interest. However we care for them and we always try to respond to them with love.
In fact Jesus makes this clear in Matt 7:9-12 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
He is faithful! The more you get to know Him, the more you will long to converse with Him. His friendship will become your number one priority, as you have never encountered anyone as much in love with you! You will constantly feel His presence, even during heavy trials. He will never give up on you! He is your Friend!
Question 3: How can you become more aware of God's responses to your requests?
Question 4: Should you ever give up waiting for God's answer? Why or why not?
Question 5: Can God handle your petitions?
iii. The Power of Prayer
"Why pray?" Someone may ask.
Prayer develops our relationship with our Maker.
"Is prayer effective?"
Absolutely! Not only does it permit for us to have fellowship with Jesus, but it gives us access to unbelievable power!
Eph 3:20 "To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…"
We are not the ones who can make it happen. Jesus is! He is the One who makes it possible to have our requests answered. And He is willing to do much more than we can conceivably ask or imagine!
However we should not pursue prayer for the gifts, but for the One who makes these gifts available to us.
"Why are my prayers not answered? Others ask and they seem to always receive an answer."
Let us see some important facts about how to ask God for help. We have already seen that prayer is pursued to develop a relationship with our Maker. We don't pray to receive things, but to get to know Jesus Himself. Just as in any relationship, we have the interest of the other at heart. Any relationship based on selfishness will end up shattered and broken up into pieces.
Matt 7:7-8 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
James 4:2 "You do not have, because you do not ask God."
First of all we need to ask. If we don't ask, we cannot receive.
Sometimes my son is frustrated with a concept in Math. Although I am aware of it, I can't really help him unless he asks for it. Why not? Because he will insist to try to solve it out first by himself. Only when he is really desperate, will he let me come to his rescue. Aren't we sometimes like that with our Heavenly Father?
b. "In my name"
John 14:12-14 "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
If we pursue prayer for selfish ambitions, our requests will not be fulfilled. It is impossible! How could a dad give something that will hurt his child?
"I want a million dollars God. Please! It would make me so happy!"
Are such requests asked in Jesus' name? Would Jesus utter such requests? What would Jesus do if He was in your place?
Would any reasonable dad grant the following request from his 8 year-old son: "Dad, may I please drive your car on the highway? It seems to be so much fun. Pleasssssse."
James 4:3 "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."
Jesus has our best interest at heart. To ask in Jesus' name is to ask according what is pleasing to Him, not to us. He wants to transform us so that we can experience "real life" and enjoy inner peace and true happiness.
John 10:10 "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." NKJV
John 15:7 "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."
Dependence on Jesus and in His Word instead of relying on ourselves will make a great difference in seeing our prayer being fulfilled.
Heb 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
"Without faith it is impossible to please God."
How would you feel if your spouse came up to you and asked you:
"I don't believe that you will really do what I will ask from you, in fact you rarely do. Anyway could you possibly walk the dog tonight?"
Would you feel honored by such a request?
"Oh I sure like your request my honey. Let me get it in writing, as I sure don't want to forget how much you love me!"
Would you really feel loved or would you feel there is something missing in your relationship?
Mark 11:24-25 "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Our prayers cannot be answered if we harbor anger and unforgiveness towards someone Jesus willingly died for.
"But she hurt me so bad. You won't believe it if I tell you how she has treated me…"
Jesus was hurt very bad as well, but He willingly died an atrocious death so that we could have an everlasting relationship with Him. He was mistreated because of our sins! However He never complained about it. Instead while dying on the cross, He pleaded for those who nailed Him: Luke 23:34 "Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Col 3:13 "Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Forgiving is fulfilling Jesus' request: John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
How can we be one with God (having a relationship with Him) if we are divided with His other children?
e. Loosening our hold on sin
Ps 66:18 "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened."
Sin is the reason why our relationship with our Heavenly Father has been broken. To cherish sin is to deliberately put a wedge in having fellowship with our Father. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sin by dying on the cross. He made it possible for us to reestablish our fellowship with our Father.
Rom 6:1-2 "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"
Phil 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
We are accosted by anxiety on a daily basis. Work problems, family problems, financial problems, world problems…. Will it ever end?
However it is our decision to be anxious or not. But why should we be anxious if we have a friend like Jesus who is willing to take care of our burdens?
Matt 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Only Jesus can give us inner peace. Instead of allowing ourselves to be filled with anxiety, let us come to Jesus "with thanksgiving". Let us thank Him for being willing to help us out and give us "rest" from our turmoils. Thanking Him before having received His answer is a real sign that we do indeed trust Him.
"Honey, I can't thank you enough for your willingness to take out the dog for a walk tonight."
A request like that would make anyone feel special. Your beloved one loves you indeed and trusts you as well!
g. Clear minded
1 Peter 4:7-8 "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray."
If we let circumstances overwhelm us we will be unable to pray. Our mind will be filled with confusion instead of resting on Jesus' inner peace. Instead let us trust in Jesus and believe that He will take care of our problems. Only then will we effectively enjoy inner peace.
h. Depend on God's Holy Spirit
The most crucial element of effective prayer is our dependence on God's Holy Spirit.
Rom 8:26-27 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
Question 6: Which of the conditions above do you have trouble with?
Question 7: Do you believe that Jesus can help you in this area?
Enjoy reading the following answers to prayers. Jesus is willing to do the same for you.
a. The Challenge (The Impossible made possible)
Luke 1:37 "Nothing is impossible with God."
The sun was already setting when I finally left work that summer day. I was tired, and as I drove towards the southern end of Tucson, I was looking forward to arriving at the cheery mobile home that my wife and I called home during that two-year period of our lives. I could already imagine my wife coming to greet me at the door. I would eat the supper she would have saved for me and sit down to relax in front of the T.V. . . I smiled at the thought. Just a few more minutes . . .
But I was doomed for disappointment. When I arrived at our lot, the mobile home was completely dark. Curious! My wife, who was a student at the University of Arizona, had exams the next day. Why wasn't she at home studying? "She probably fell asleep," I reasoned. After all, she HAD been burning the candle at both ends lately! But my room-to-room search of the mobile home didn't reveal a sleepy student. In fact, it didn't reveal anything at all! The place was empty!
I wasn't left wondering long, however. Just a few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. My mouth dropped open in surprise as I opened it and saw my wife standing there! What was SHE doing KNOCKING? Why didn't she just use her key and come in?
But before I could ask those questions, she burst into tears, and my mouth dropped even farther. It was completely unlike my wife to cry-unless she was totally frustrated and VERY angry-usually at herself!
"What's wrong?" I asked, reaching out to comfort her.
"I-I lost my keys!" She stumbled.
Lost keys may seem like a rather small thing to some, but I could understand her tears. She had obviously lost precious study time that she didn't know how she could make up, and knowing her, she would be quite angry with herself for doing what she would term as "stupid"! To say nothing about the fact that we didn't live in the best part of Tucson, and the fear of what could happen if those keys fell into the wrong hands was very real.
"I needed a break," she continued, as if needing to explain herself. "I took the dog for a run on the desert. I had the keys in my hand when I left, but when I got back, they were gone!"
As the story unfolded, I began to get the strange feeling in the pit of my stomach that if we asked God to help us, we would find those keys. This was totally unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I didn't know God at the time, and besides, I'M the one who usually panics about such things! When I opened my mouth, I didn't recognize the words that came out: "Don't worry. We'll find them!"
She shook her head, totally defeated. "I've been out with the neighbor and his metal detector. We retraced my entire route while it was still light. They are gone!"
Her words made logical sense, and I couldn't understand the peace I felt inside, and I had no idea why I then said, "Let's pray!"
"But . . .," she started to argue.
". . . And then we'll go out and have a look," I finished.
She looked at me as if I were crazy. "It's dark out there," she reminded me. "Remember, I was running out on the open dessert! No roads, no street lights! Only sand! There's no way we can find those keys in the dark. We couldn't even find them in the daytime with a metal detector!"
I couldn't have agreed more, yet something was pulling me to my knees anyway, and when my wife joined me, I stated simply: "God, help us find those keys!" Then I took her by the hand, grabbed a tiny flashlight and headed out onto the desert. My heart was strangely at peace. It was like I knew without any doubts that God would lead us to my wife's keys.
We had walked for about thirty minutes when my wife dropped behind. I was too intent on my search to pay attention to what she was doing, however, and a few moments later, I noticed a glitter in the sand. I bent over to have a closer look, but it was just my light shining off of a sand crystal. I was about to go on, when a voice said, "Put your hand into the sand!" I obeyed, and as I dug down about an inch, I felt something metallic: The missing keys! Completely buried by the sand!
Amazing isn't it? But it wasn't until later that I heard the truly amazing part of the story.
When my wife dropped behind me, she did so out of utter discouragement (can you blame her?). She later told me that just as she was mumbling to herself about how crazy and impossible this was, she heard a voice speaking into her heart: "You don't believe I can find the keys for you, do you?" Can anyone blame her that she shook her head and mumbled, "It's impossible!" But then she heard the voice in her heart again: "Ask and ye shall receive!" This time she stopped dead in her tracks and stared up at length into the starry night sky. Could it really be true? Then she nodded her head in determination. She had to try. "Yes, I believe you can find my keys!" She answered. At the exact moment that she looked back up from her short prayer, she saw me bend down and pull the keys out of the sand.
This may seem impossible to you. Even illogical. But God knew where those keys were, and that made all the difference in the world. As a result of this incident, we were both launched onto the road to discovering the amazing love of our God. We learned from personal, first-hand experience that everything is possible with God.
If you are having trouble believing in God, or believing that He cares about the everyday activities in your life, I would like to give you a little challenge. The next time you can't find something that is important to you, do a similar experiment. Stop in your tracks. Pray to God. Tell Him: "Dear God. I don't know if You exist or if You care, but I'm open to finding out. If You exist, if You DO really care, reveal Yourself to me! Show me where my ___ is. Guide me to it and I will believe. Thank You God. In Jesus' name. Amen."
Don't doubt. Give God an honest chance to prove Himself to you. You will be astonished. You WILL find what you are looking for! Why? Because God REALLY exists. He REALLY cares!
As God comes through for you (and He will!), would you do me the favor of emailing me your story?
"'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD." (Jer 29:13-14 )
b. Even in Control of
Morning would either bring an excited 9-year-old boy, or one that was very disappointed. It all hinged on a phone call. "Help them to call, Lord!" I prayed as I tucked the portable handset under my pillow. "Please help them to call!"
I don't know what spurred him on to become interested in joining our town's minor league basketball team, but it didn't matter. Since he is usually a sedentary child, and since I had been praying that he would become more active, the sudden interest in basketball was a real answer to prayer.
But just being "interested" isn't enough. We also had to "join"-a feat which proved rather challenging! Our first obstacle had been in finding information about the league. Then there was the tiny complication that we had missed the general registration. But the final obstacle was that the first meeting-the time the children would meet to be divided up into teams-was the only time my son couldn't be there!
"No problem," we were told. "He will be placed on a team, and someone will call you with any pertinent information!"
This sounded like a good compromise, and we decided to not worry about it. Until now that is. The first practice/game would most likely take place the next morning, and that all-important call had NOT come in! We didn't know when, and we weren't 100% certain if there would even BE a game!
Morning came, and the telephone remained completely silent. WHAT WAS I TO DO? Then it came to me. I knew where the teams played. What if we just "showed up"-say between 9:30 and 10:00? We would be taking a chance, but maybe, just maybe, it would work out. And so at 9:30, I ushered my son in the car and we drove to the gym. Just as I had hoped, his division was just starting their practice, and it didn't take too long for the coaches to place my son his team.
I was feeling pretty good for having had this "idea". In fact, I was starting to pat myself on the back. Then I asked the coach the fateful question: "How long are they playing?"
What I meant was really "What time do I pick him up," but the coach must have thought I was referring to how long the playing season would be, for he responded with, "Wait! Let me get you a schedule!"
A schedule? Why would I need a schedule? We come every week at 9:45 a.m., right? But when the schedule was placed into my hand, I stared at it in utter amazement. My son's team NEVER played at the same time two weeks in a row! Sometimes his team played at 8:30, sometimes at 11:15, and sometimes at 12:30! But today, they were playing from 9:45 to 11. I scanned the rest of the schedule, and it soon became apparent that today was the ONLY day they played at this hour!
I walked out of the gym deep in thought. Just how was it that I had the idea to show up at the gym at the VERY TIME they would be playing today? It seemed far more than a coincidence to me. I pondered this over the course of the next hour, and when I picked my son up at 11, I mentioned to him how lucky he had been to be able to play.
He smiled broadly. Too broadly. There was something more to the story. "What?" I asked. "Did you pray?"
"Yes!" He yelled excitedly. "I prayed last night that I would be able to play basketball today!"
Suddenly it all made sense. I had prayed for a specific solution that I thought God would use, and it hadn't happened. But my son had simply put the whole problem in God's hands, and God had responded by giving me the idea of just "showing up"-at the exact time they would be playing today! I had been praying for what I saw as the only solution, while my son remembered that God has MANY different ways of accomplishing things, and left the details to Him!
The next time you think that you know the solution to a problem and begin praying that solution, remember my son's prayers. Don't put God in a box, put the problem completely in His hands instead! You will be amazed at His answers!
Oh. And the next time you feel impressed to something as risky as "showing up" at a gym, remember, it might be of God in response to your child's prayers! Don't hesitate! Just GO!
c. Running on Fumes
Matt 16:8 "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?"
It was early on Wednesday, July 28th, 2004, when we hitched up our trailer and left our "home" of the past three days in L'Anse-aux-Meadows, at the northern-most tip of Newfoundland's northern peninsula. Our destination was Grand Falls-Windsor, found right in the center of the province. We didn't know exactly what awaited us there, but we did know what we were leaving behind: beautiful shorelines, whales, ice burgs, migrating birds, history, beautiful people with simple lives, and, I might add, some of the more desolate countryside we had ever visited.
As we pulled out of the campground, the gas gauge of our van was a hair above a quarter. In the past week and a half of towing, we had learned that this was enough to carry us approximately 60 kilometers, so when we passed a single gas pump in front of a convenience store in Griquet St. Lunaire (the biggest village in our immediate surroundings), we pulled in to fill up.
It wasn't until we had stopped at the pump that we noticed the price: 99.9 cents a litter! (equivalent to 3.50 U.S. per gallon) Wow! But then, what would you expect in such a desolate area? And besides, as my wife quickly pointed out, it was "full serve" only. The next decision was promptly made: We would go to the next gas station!
Little did we know that there would be no gas. About 30 kilometers out of Griquet St. Lunaire, my wife, who was driving, remembered seeing a sign over the next nearest gas pump that read: 130 kilometers to the next gas! She knew very well that we would have only had a hair of a chance of making it that far with so little gas WITHOUT the trailer; but with it, there was NO WAY! We were doomed to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, and since we didn't have any cell service in this remote area, there would be no hope of help. But she didn't say anything. It was too late to turn back anyway, and what good would it do to worry me about it? Besides, God was in control! So instead, she prayed. She began thanking Jesus for providing us with enough gas to reach the next gas station.
About 70 kilometers farther down the road, I noticed that the gas gauge was halfway between a quarter and empty: "Uhhhh . . . We don't have any gas!" I cried. It was pretty obvious there weren't any gas stations around, and naturally, I started to panic: "How far to the next gas station??? I don't think we are going to make it!"
"About 30 kilometers up ahead," my wife responded calmly. "But don't worry. We should have run out of gas about 40 kilometers ago."
"Uhhhh . . . Run out of gas?" I could feel my anxiety mounting.
"Yes," she answered. Then told me the above story, and added that from the time she had prayed to that very moment, over 60 kilometers of road, the gas gauge hadn't moved. I was amazed, and I joined in praising God. The gas gauge dropped steadily from that point on, and 30 kilometers later, when we pulled into the first gas bar in 130 kilometers, it dipped way down below empty. But we had made it. Thanks to Jesus!
Interestingly, this gas station was also "full serve", and the price was $1.00.9 a liter; but for some reason, we no longer minded paying that much for our gas. In our shoes, would you have cared?
We are constantly faced with potential disasters, and no matter what the problem, there are always two possible choices: 1) Worry ourselves into feeling miserable; or 2) Trust in Jesus and be happy. Jesus' disciples were faced with the same choices. When Jesus declared to them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, the immediately began to worry because they had forgotten to bring bread: Matt 16:7 "They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread."
Poor choice! (Would we have made a better one?) Immediately, Jesus rebuked them: Matt 16:8-11 "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread?"
How easily we let circumstances dictate the mood we will be in and how fast we forget the miraculous provisions Jesus has already made for us. Didn't he feed masses of people with just five loaves one time and seven loaves another time? With such a caring provider, why worry? Circumstances only will bog us down, while Jesus will always lift us up. What is your preference?
d. The Attractive Mud
Matt 13:52 He said, "Then you see how every student well-trained in God's kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it." (from THE MESSAGE)
This week my oldest son learned how to use the tractor to cut our 1 ½ acres of land. This is a major feat for an 11 year-old, as there are many parts of our property that are not easy to cut!
When he was finished, the only thing left was the drainage ditch, which, at the time, was full of mud. In order to not leave a job unfinished, I decided to go ahead and cut that small section of land. It only took me 5 minutes to get stuck! As you can see, I'm quite a specialist in the field of tractorology! But this was absolutely no problem. I would lift the tractor and move it out of the mud.
Or that's what I thought!
The tractor must have been attracted to the mud, because when I tried to lift it, it tried to return to the mud. It didn't take long for the tractor (and the mud!) To win the battle, and there it sat with one of its wheels completely covered buried. Yuck!
I finally realized it was beyond my skill, so I called in the troops (my two boys, ages 9 and 11!). We gathered around and together we tried to lift the tractor. But the affection of that mud for my tractor must have been profound. It refused to release its grip!
"Lord, what should I do?"
I had barely uttered this prayer that I saw a truck heading towards my house. We were expecting a carpet cleaner. Could it be him? If so, he was early!
The vehicle stopped at the side of the road and a man lowered his window. "Get a chain and I will pull you out" he said.
Guess it wasn't the carpet cleaner!
Now we don't own a chain, but my youngest son has a short rope he uses as a lasso, and the driver quickly knotted one end of it to the tractor.
"What kind of a knot is this?" One of my sons asked.
"He must be a sailor," I suggested.
The man just smiled, so did his friend.
They attached the other end of the rope to the hitch of their truck, and while we stood behind the tractor pushing, he slowly pulled the tractor out of the mud. The tractor was finally freed from the ditch!
We thanked the man profusely, but he just smiled and drove back down the road in the same direction he came from. Strange. It was like he had come down that road with his only purpose being to help me!
I was turning to start the tractor when my 9 year-old, who had been watching the truck drive away, shouted: "Papa, papa. That truck just disappeared."
I thought he meant the truck was out of sight--that it had driven behind the trees--and I proceeded to tell him so.
"No, no!" He insisted. "It just disappeared. They must have been angels sent from God!"
Needless to say, we stopped right there and thanked God for providing for us! In our darkest need, where humanly it was impossible to solve our dilemma, God had answered our plea.
I don't know if those two guys were angels or not, and I probably never will until I get to Heaven, but I am certain of one thing: God provided the help we needed!
Are you facing an impossible dilemma? Are you at your wits' end and do not know how to get out of your nightmare? Are you stuck in the middle of unreleasable yucky sins? Come to Jesus and ask for His help. He is faithful and will provide. Help is a prayer away. What are you waiting for?
e. A Chicken Laid our Bibles
My grandfather had an amazing memory. When other members of his family came to join him in rural Gansu province, he taught us about Christ from the fragments of verses he learned from a pastor.
In 1995 my grandfather gathered us all together. He said he had bad news. "I have taught you of Christ for over fifteen years from the memory of a pastor who died so I might have faith. But I have no more to teach you. I committed about five hundred verses of the Scripture to memory from that pastor, and I have expounded each of them to you a hundred ways since then. It is time for us to find the rest of the sacred texts."
We all looked at each other. This sounded impossible. We did not even know that what we were looking for was called a "Bible." For all we knew, there may have been thousands of different scriptures. In fact, that's what we assumed, since that's what the Daoists have.
We said to him, "But who will find us these texts?"
He replied, "God will; we must pray." We prayed... and prayed... and prayed. For two years we prayed. Nothing happened. But for the faith of my grandfather, I think some of us would have moved to another faith. He was firm: "God is testing us to see if we are really His. We must keep trusting and keep faithful."
One Sunday a few of us were praying, and a chicken came into our house. She clucked and made a great noise and then promptly laid an egg. We did not know where she had come from, so my grandfather tied some money to the leg of the chicken. It was only about 10 cents. The chicken strutted off with an injured air from the whole experience. We knew she would return to her owner.
Less than an hour later there was a loud cry on the street. Someone was yelling, "Who tied money to my chicken? Who tied money to my chicken?" The voice sounded angry, but my grandfather replied without hesitation, "It was me."
The man came into our little house. A well-dressed man who had soft hands and was very well groomed followed him. He said in a cultured voice, "I am a high ranking member of the Communist party in Beijing."
Our hearts sank. What was he going to do?
"I have never heard of such honesty in all my life," he said. "This is astonishing. I have just come from Beijing to visit my brother after being betrayed and deceived. I lost lots of money."
He turned to my grandfather and said, "My government desperately needs your spirit of scrupulous honesty. If only there were more like you in China. Tell me, what makes you so honest?"
My grandfather answered him in two words: "Jesus Christ!"
The Communist official seemed to smile to himself and then asked, "Can I do anything for you?"
My grandfather, with the boldness of a long life, said, "We would like to find the sacred texts of Christ!"
The official looked at him, puzzled. "What do you mean `sacred texts'? Don't you mean a Bible?"
It was the Communist official who told us what a Bible was.
Again the boldness of my grandfather staggered me. He asked the official, "Can you help us get a copy?"
The official smiled openly now. He made no promise, but merely said, "I will see what I can do."
The official went back to Beijing, but nothing happened. Months went by. We continued to pray. Then a young man appeared in the village, asking for us. He pulled out from his totebag seven brandnew Bibles.
We asked him, "How did you know to come here to us?"
He said, "I am part of a network of house churches, and one of our leaders was arrested in Beijing last year. While he was in jail, he was visited by a highranking public official, who said, `If I let you go, will you promise to deliver a Bible to an old man and his family in Gansu?' Our leader said he would see to it. The next day he was released and given a piece of paper with your grandfather's address on it."
That's why we say, "A chicken laid our Bibles!"
Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 116,118.
Prayer is indeed a conversation with God. The following stories will illustrate this fact.
a. Lord, Help Me to Follow in Your Steps
What a day. Someone criticized me for trying to help a lady in need. His words stung like daggers in an open wound, ripping through my soul, grinding into dust what tiny bit of self-confidence I might have possessed. I was angry, I was hurt, and as the day progressed, I slipped deeper and deeper into depression. I knew that relief would only come by turning my feelings over to God. I even tried to do so once or twice during the day, but some vicious part of me refused to let go. After all, I had a right to feel angry and hurt. What he did to me was wrong! My motives were nothing but the purest! I didn’t deserve to be treated this way! And on through the day I went, wallowing ever deeper in the mire of anger and hurt, knowing I should forgive and forget, but somehow not wanting to.
It was evening before I finally realized I needed help. In the quietness of the house, after the family had gone to bed, I got out my journal and began to write: “Dearest Lord Jesus, I’m in a terrible state. I am allowing the evils of self-pity, hurt, depression, and rejection to play havoc with me. I know what I must do, but some cruel part of me won’t let go. I know You can and will help me, but somehow I am turning my back on Your help. Satan knows exactly how to push my buttons, and he’s pushed them! All of them! And I’m letting him do it. Lord, I don’t want to do this anymore! I want You in charge! Lord, You must sit in the driver’s seat! You must be my guiding force, for without You, I am a helpless creature.”
As I was writing, the sweet voice of my Lord and Savior—the same one that had been trying to reach me all day—called out: “My child, look away from yourself. Look up!”
I did, and there was Jesus, carrying His cross to Calvary. I watched, transfixed in horror as he humbly lay down upon that cross. I saw them drive those brutal nails in his outstretched hands. And over the sound of the hammer, I could hear a woman crying out: “What they’re doing is wrong.” My gaze shifted to the speaker, a woman. Was it Mary? I couldn’t tell. “His motives were nothing but the purest!” she called as they forced the heavy cross into the ground. The guards were gambling for his clothing when the voice cried, “He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way!” Then Jesus, with agonizing effort, turned and looked directly at me: “I’m doing this for you,” he said. “Go and sin no more!”
Then the scene was gone, and instead of the tormented whisper of my Lord and Savior, I could hear the evil voices that had been a part of me all day, “Jesus has no idea just how badly you have been hurt. He’s the one who deserves to be punished, not you. You didn’t do anything wrong!”
And, as if in response, the quiet voice of my Lord spoke in the back of my mind, “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because [I] suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in [my] steps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21).
Tears formed in my eyes as I whispered the words aloud: “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God . . . because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
Slowly, ever so slowly, the loud voices that had been taunting me all day, faded into nothingness. The weight that I had been carrying slipped away, and in its place reigned peace and joy. For the first time all day, I smiled! !
By Lyn Chaffart
b. Power Walk with my Forever Friend
Ex 15:13 "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling."
Today, January 2nd, 2004, I went to the doctor for my yearly physical. My appointment was at 10:00. My wife had her physical at 11:00 and we agreed I would wait for her to arrive to the doctor's office, so I could take our kids home. Well, my physical was over in 15 minutes (I feel like I went to Pennzoil for a personal oil change!). I was on the verge of calling my wife when God's voice prompted me to go for a power walk with Him instead. How could I resist such an invitation? So off I went, down the pier with my best friend. What a great time I had! I never regret my walks with God! They are so powerful!
As I was walking on the pier, I was reminded of an episode in my life when I was 16 years old. I felt myself transposed in my home country of Belgium. The weather at this time period of this year is identical as the one in Belgium, foggy, wet and grey. 30 years ago, around the same time period, I was walking up and down the streets of Oostende for hours on end. Why? I hoped to see a glimpse of a girl I liked that I had met at church. She was visiting her grandparents and was from the Netherlands. Whenever I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of her, my day was made. I was quite shy at that time, and I couldn't even imagine myself talking to a girl! Can you imagine walking hours and hours only to catch a brief glimpse someone?
But why was I reminded of this episode of my life? My Heavenly Father revealed to me then a powerful illustration: "This is how I am in pursuit with the people of this planet. I am looking for someone to have fellowship with me. I will not relent in my pursuit."
Wow! He then revealed to me the following. Many people treat their relationship with their spouse, in the following ways:
1. There are the ones who only look out for themselves. Once married, their spouses usually are left feeling neglected. These people don't really know their spouse. They are too preoccupied with themselves!
The same is true with Christians who are too preoccupied for themselves. 2 Tim 3:4 "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God!" They see God as a Santa who has to give to them everything they want. They have no relationship with God. They see God merely as a dog who has to obey them, and they often complain that God does not care for them.
2. There are those who work themselves to death to provide the most comfortable environment for their families. Their spouses usually don't know them at all because they are never home. They are too busy working for the good for the family. When they finally notice that something may be wrong with their relationship with their spouses, they resort in lavishing them in an abundance of presents, but still their spouses feel very very lonely.
These are the Christians who work and work to please the Lord! They are never satisfied because they always fall short of the glory of God. They believe their works will make them inherit the promised land. However when asked if they are saved, they respond "I sure hope so!" In reality, they are unsure of the outcome of their salvation. They don't have a personal relationship with the Father. Eph 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."
3. Then there are those who take the time to have a personal relationship with their spouses. They will go out for a dinner, be there when their spouses are in trouble and always are available when their spouses need a listening ear. Their spouses are the ones who feels fulfilled. They feel they are important in their mates' eyes.
Those are the Christians who are at the center of God's will. They are where God is. They join God where God is at work. They have a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father, just like Jesus did: John 5:19-20 "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does."
I asked myself in which category I belonged, and I was made aware that time spend in the ministry is important, but not as important as time spend with God. A ministry can become like the ones belonging to category 2. A healthy balance is needed.
"But how can I accomplish that?" I asked.
"Nothing you do on your own will accomplish this." Was His answer.
Then out of nowhere, I felt wind caress my cheeks and realized that I needed to depend solely on God's Spirit to have that healthy balance.
While I was praising God for this revelation, I was made to notice several boats covered with blue tarps. The tarps would protect them from the upcoming harshness of winter. So God, as long as I let Him be my shelter, will protect me from the harshness of this world. In His shelter a proper balance will be obtained. Ps 31:20 "In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe."
I made my choice and decided not to let time rule over me any longer. I decided to give glory to God in all things 1 Cor 10:31 "So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the honor and glory of God." AMP and depend on Him for direction. I decided not to be so busy, so that I couldn't notice where God was at work, but to join my Heavenly Father wherever He is at work. My priority has become to have a personal relationship with the One who is pursuing me.
You have a choice to make as well my friend. Which choice will you make? Maybe it's time for a power walk with your Forever Friend. You won't regret it. I sure didn't!
Assignment: “Make today an experiment in Simple Prayer. Seek to keep a secret, inner conversation running with God throughout your day. Continually let him know what you are thinking, hoping, fearing, desiring. Don't try to sanitize these conversations or make them "sound" prayerful. Just share whatever is on your mind. When you discover that your mind has drifted, don't feel guilty. Simply bring your attention back to his presence.
• When you wake up, greet the Lord to begin your day. Invite him to be a part of all you do.
• When you feel joy through the day, offer thanks.
• Use anxiety as a cue for prayer. Don't try to stop worrying; simply express your concerns to God.
• Offer "flash prayers" for each person you meet. As you outwardly converse with people, inwardly pray for God's blessing on their lives.
• When you catch yourself dwelling on something evil-lust, greed, pride, etc. -don't t isolate it from God. (He knows it anyway!) Talk to him about what you know is displeasing him.
• When you face problems or confusion, ask God for wisdom.
• When you feel frustration or disappointment, honestly communicate that to God. Don't censor your feelings.
Observe how this time goes. Was it easy or difficult to engage in this kind of prayer? Were there times when you thought, "T can't say that to God?" Were you able to talk to him even in the midst of a sinful moment? Did you notice anything different happening in your relationship with God as you prayed this way?”
Ortberg, John; Laurie Pederson and Judson Poling. Growth, Trying vs. Trying. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000 p. 63.
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