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Prayer-The Puzzle Of Purpose

February 11, 2014 — 2 Comments

Prayer

Prayer is the framework that God uses to work His puzzle of purpose through our lives.

I have fond memories of my Grandmother. I loved staying  weekends at her home when I was growing up. I would be dropped off at her place on Friday evenings for the weekend. Saturday mornings were always the best. The smell of pancakes would draw me from the bed to kick off the day. I can still smell those pancakes with the nose in the memory of my mind. Another fond memory was working on puzzles with her. She often had a new puzzle waiting on her, and I to work on.

Puzzles are simple in concept but big on journey. A puzzle is an image that has been completed on a sturdy backing and then punched out with a press into random pieces that must be put back together. You open the box and pour out the content pieces and set the picture to the side for reference. You work to put the puzzle back to the original picture.

In John 4, Jesus said that His food was to do the will of Him that sent him and to accomplish that work. In other words, it’s as if Jesus were saying, “My life is His work and His work is my life. Jesus was sent to redeem humanity and the world that was once a picture called, “Good” in the garden but now broken and in need of being put back together. He was sent to bring the future picture of Revelation 21 to completion and we too are a part of that puzzle of purpose.

Jesus prayed. He prayed daily, and that connection with the Father brought power and direction into His life in order to put each piece of the puzzle that He was called to work, back into place. Our lives as Christ-followers are the same. We too must be people of the puzzle. Prayer is the framework God uses to work His puzzle of purpose through our lives.

We don’t untimely pray to gain favor with God. I’m favored in Him when I have plenty and when I have nothing. He is enough all on His own in my life and yours. We pray to reflex God to the world and to bring justice, peace and Righteousness into the broken puzzle of this world. Prayer is meaningful because it brings the message and mission of God into your life and into the world.

It’s been said, ““One way to ensure we keep God in our lives is to keep him in our days.” We do that by prayer. The Lord’s Prayer, or better yet-the disciple’s prayer is a great framework to keep God in our days and thus reflect Him to this world. The first part of the prayer starts with God and rightfully so to keep us from collapsing into self-centeredness. Take a look at the prayer with me.

Matthew 6:9-16 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

We are called together corporately as a family in the address, “Our Father.” Yes, we pray as individuals but as a family also. We are able to pray because He is, “hallowed” in our lives and prayers. He is set, not to the side but in the center of our lives. Our call to prayer is more of an invitation than a command. We are being asked to step into the heart of Jesus, and when we do, all self-centeredness must not enter.

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

We must become the answer to this prayer. Every time we exert the kingdom of heaven in this world God’s will (purpose) is felt by the world and another section of the puzzle is put into place.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,

The Lord meets daily provision of our needs. When we pray verse eleven we are developing an awareness of dependence.

12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

We owe a debt to God, and the good news is we don’t have to pay. The payment was paid on the cross. We must accept the forgiveness and walk in that forgives toward others. Another section of the puzzle gets placed into the world.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We are reminded with full awareness of the battle that we fight but when we watch and pray we find that God is greater in us than all that is in the world. N.T. Wright reminds us, “If we follow a crucified Messiah, we shouldn’t expect to be spared the darkness ourselves. But we must, and may, pray to be kept from its worst ravages, and to be delivered from evil, both in the abstract and in its personified form, ‘the evil one’.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Forgiveness is the greatest part of the puzzle. We are people of the future sent to bring forgiveness to a world shattered.

Pray through this prayer today and it will become the framework that God uses to work His puzzle of purpose through your life.

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Is it just me or is there anyone else that worries about not worrying about what God may or may not do? When I’m under pressure, I tend to overlook for answers in my own strength.

At times,  it manifest in running every scenario that could happen, or should happen to the point I can’t even sleep well at night. Time and time again living my faith in this manner proves to be a big waste of…well…FAITH.

After all the time wasted searching in my own power, I always end up with nothing! Then it happens. God reminds me that I can’t do anything with NOTHING but He can do anything and everything with NOTHING.

Suddenly, deep in my heart I can feel a groaning of the Spirit of God praying for me the perfect will of God and then it happens; peace consumes me. Sometimes, when you stop looking, and you stop trying to figure it all out, God moves for His glory in your life.

The searcher of hearts is always looking and listening for the groaning of the Spirit inside our hearts. God is always having conversations and communion in our hearts. When there are no more words to pray, the Spirit of God intercedes with groanings at the intersection of ruin and misery within the Christ Follower.

You must share in God’s sufferings to share in His glory. However, suffering when complete gives way to a beautiful witness of His glory and that is enough. God uses suffering, emptiness and troubled times of unanswered prayers to build His character in us, conforming us to Christ, and prepare us for final glory when heaven and earth become one.

You might not get what you thought you needed, but you will get what brings Him the most glory. Sometimes it takes getting nothing to get everything.

Romans 8:26-30 (NKJV)
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for uswith groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

unbelief

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Now that’s my kind of prayer! It’s my kind of prayer, and I venture to bet it’s your kind of prayer from time to time also. It’s not a faithless prayer. It’s a prayer that is mixed with trust and yet a hint of despair.

Despair is often the unwanted guest of an ongoing crisis. Despair somehow slips into our temple and pokes around causing us to doubt things will ever change.  Such is the case of the man in Mark 9.

His son is a demon-possessed, and he brings his son to the disciples of Jesus for deliverance. His steps of faith toward the men of God have ended in complete failure.  The disciples are not able to help his son.

The voice of despair grows stronger in his heart. He thinks to himself, “What now?” Suddenly, Jesus takes center stage. Jesus asks a few questions, and the man asks Jesus to do something. “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” I love the response of Jesus, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believers.”

Then we see the broken beauty of the moment. A man of flesh and blood has faith and yet unbelief mixed in his heart, but Jesus answers his prayer anyway. With tears, the father cries out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” It’s a prayer that bottles the request to remove the despair and fill up what is lacking in his trust.

He has seen the failure of the disciples, and it has only increased his  sense of despair and now what faith he has left seems to be quickly draining away. However, whereas the disciple didn’t have enough faith to accomplish the request, Jesus has unlimited power.

Jesus helps his unbelief and the miracle happens. Sometimes the greatest faith move you can make is to give your unbelief to Him in faith! The cries of this man’s heart have resonated with many that fight the same battle across the sands of time. He prays for relief just as he is, a doubter that needs a touch from God. Never forget; you can do the same.

pour

Trusting God to show up can be a bit of an enigma. You need God to meet a need in your life or ministry, so you pray He shows up, and yet on the other hand God is everywhere, so it’s impossible for Him to be absent. In other words, praying He shows up is almost redundant, yet we ask anyway because the Bible encourages us to ask. The Lord’s Prayer being just one example of many in scripture.

I think a better way to look at asking God to show up is to ask God to give us eyes to see where He is at work in the situation and pursue it. Pursuing God is the more proactive form of asking Him for help. When you know God is always present and at work, then it’s just a matter of pursuing. Asking is just the opening of your heart to see with your eyes of faith where He is already active.

Even when the Bible speaks of God at rest, it’s better stated that God is in control. When God is at rest in the Bible that doesn’t mean He is kicked back with His feet up doing nothing. That’s more of our definition of rest then God’s definition of rest. Rest for God is control. He is sovereign and in control, and there is nothing passive about either.

God’s invitation to ask of Him is a real command, but it must never be forgotten that it is for our benefit and not His.  Prayer is mostly about bringing ourselves into alignment with God’s heart.

I’m not sure what you need God to show up for right now, but there is one thing that I am sure of, and it’s this- Grace is accessible to you right now, and so there’s no reason to struggle and fight for an answer. He is the answer for right now because He is the ‘right now’ God working at all times. Trusting God to show up can be a bit of an enigma, but that is half the joy of pursuing Him.

The power of God’s grace is working in your life. And whatever amount you need, is being poured into your cup right now.  So, belly up to the grace of God and say, “Pour me another.”

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When you pray for someone, do you pray from guilt or heart? Before you answer that question, let me give you an example. Over the years,  I’ve received many prayer request by email. I would like to say I’ve prayed for all of them, but I’m human, and from time to time I would file them away to pray over them later in the day, and then forget. I guess that’s the cost of being human. I’m happy to say that is a pattern of the past.

Anyway, there was a time, many years ago that I would get a prayer request and then pray over them out of a sense of guilt. I thought first to myself, “If I don’t lift up a fast prayer, I’m a bad person.” I would then pray a very brief prayer without much thought and purpose. I would then go on with my day and the guilty feeling of praying a hurried prayer would soon fade away.

As you might expect, God wasn’t going to let me cheat myself and the other person out of the blessing and privilege of praying with a slow heart. We are not called to pray with a fast heart. We are called to pray with a slow heart. A quick praying heart is one that is usually grounded in guilt. On the other hand, a slow praying heart is grounded in caring more about others, than for yourself.

God helped me to see that when I pray fast, I’m missing the virtue of love. We are called to treat and care for others as we would like to be treated and cared for. Anything less is cheating everyone involved and most importantly missing the honor of God working through you. I’m happy to say that I now pray slowly, and it has changed my life. I take time to pray over the prayer need like it is my very own need.

Praying slowly for others is a great privilege. Take a moment and honestly think about that today. God is watching you as an audience of one, and when you pray slowly for others, you warm His heart. We have the greatest example of prayer if we just look to Jesus. Jesus looked beyond His own needs, suffering and pain on the cross and directed prayer over the crowd that day and beyond.

He abounded self-concern for the eternal consideration of others and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” How can we do anything less?

I ask you one finally time. Do you pray with a slow heart?

Can You Hear Me Now?

January 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

god_speaks

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Elijah described it as a still, small voice (I Kings 19:12).

One of the most personal gifts of the creator is the promise we (His children) can hear his voice. God has called you to an intimate relationship with Him that includes being able to hear Him speak into your life.

We are the height of His creation, and because of that we can and should be able to hear His voice and recognize it as Him. Demons hear God’s voice and they obey. Nature hears His voice and obeys. We too can hear His voice and obey. Hearing His voice is part of the eternal life package.

Let me give you a few thoughts to put in place in your life that will help you to hear the voice of God more consistently.

1. Being familiar with His written word begets being familiar with His voice

The more you read the Word of God, the better you will become at recognizing the voice of God when He speaks to your heart. As you daily read His word, ask God to teach you to hear His voice. I promise it’s a prayer He will answer.

2. Don’t disregard every thought that runs through your head as your own.

God often places a thought that is highlighted more vibrate than a normal passing thought. For me, this seems to happen as I’m driving. I almost never turn on the radio. I use my commute time to listen to my thoughts, and many times, God drops His thoughts into the water of my thoughts. A ripple takes places, and I know it’s Him speaking.

3. During my prayer time I sing worship songs and then stop for silent time.

When I praise Him through worship songs, I can feel my soul being cleansed. I feel God drawing me closer to Him.  Worship opens the ears of my heart to Hear Him more clearly.

God bless you as you listen for Him to speak.

Guilt And The Lap Of God

January 17, 2013 — 2 Comments

fatherreading

Have you ever had trouble staying awake during your prayer time? Many years ago I had a season in my life where I fell asleep more often than I would like to acknowledge. At first, it didn’t bother me much. I just excused it because I had been working a little more than usual.

However, guilt quickly set in, and it made me feel horrible.  Each time I fell  asleep it just increased the guilt. I was beginning to  feel shame, and I had thoughts of God being seriously disappointed in me. It’s distressing enough, I thought, to fall asleep during prayer but to feel like God was disappointed in me was worse.

No matter how hard I tried to stay awake during this period of my life, I would doze off. No one else knew but me, and of course God, but I was feeling like a spiritual failure. I was feeling like God was mad at me. I was trying hard to stay awake but getting nowhere. I heard the voice of guilt more than the voice of God.

Then it happened! One day I came home from work early, and my daughter who was about four at the time came running up to me and said, “Daddy, can you read me this book in your chair?” I smiled and said, “Of course I will.”

We settled into my favorite chair, and I lifted her up and into my lap. She turned her head slightly back and up and made eye contact with me, accompanied by a smile. I was feeling pretty good. I was having a perfect Father and Daughter moment.

As I was reading, she would look up and back at me asking questions and making comments. I was completely pleased with the moment. We were simply spending time together, and it felt incredible.

As I continued to read, her conversation and questions fell silent. She was getting tired. It wasn’t long until she fell asleep in my arms. I closed the book and just enjoyed the time we were having together. I was thankful she wanted to spend time with me at all.

Then it happened! God spoke and healed my guilt about falling asleep on Him. I could hear Him whisper to my heart. “Are you mad at her for falling asleep?” My heart whisper back to God was, “No Lord, I love just being with her.” His response back was, “I feel the same way about you.”

It was on that day God took my guilt away. His love for me was not based on effort and discipline, even though they are beneficial. His love for me is unconditional, and He is pleased even when I fall asleep in His lap with His arms wrapped around me.

repent

A turkey can’t repent and turn to Christ but you can.  I repented and turned to Christ August the 24, 1988 and I’ve been thankful ever since.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”

I have much to be thankful for. You have much to be thankful for. As Christ followers, we have much to be thankful for. However, the greatest thing to be thankful for is the gift of Christ for our salvation.

Jesus paid our sin debt, and through Him, we are rescued. Of all of God’s gifts, Jesus Christ is above them all. Through believing on Christ, we have forgiveness of our sins and can embrace the gift of eternal life.

I’m thankful today that this gift is available to anyone that will call on His name in true and sincere faith. God’s gift of salvation through His son Jesus, meets the deepest need of our lives, the need to be reconciled to Him.

Augustine once said, “Salvation is God’s way of making us real people.” We must always remember that without God it is impossible to be fully human the way He intended us to be.

Do you have a relationship with Christ? If not, you can make it right today. Right where you are, surrender your heart to Him, and invite Him to be the Lord of your life.

Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Salvation day if you accepted Christ

clocksad

Every now and again, I wake up in a bad mood, not wanting to face the day at all. I’m sure you have experienced the same thing in your life as well. I guess we all have those kinds of mornings. It is the human experience.

I’ve noticed if I don’t quickly turn my attitude around, it will be the filter for the whole day ahead of me, and that’s not a healthy thing.

We are blasted with news that is negative at almost every turn. There are times I take that negative to bed with me and sleep with it on my heart and mind. Not only does the night become a wrestling match, but I’m convinced that is part of the problem of waking up feeling bad, or in a bad mood.

All hope is not gone. You can turn your day around before you get to far down your daily walk.

Below are a few things I’ve found that help me.

1. Give it to God

If something negative is on my mind before going to bed, I take it to God. I give it to God before closes my eyes to sleep. The sunny day ahead is tied to going to bed with all my troubles placed into the hands of God.

2. See the sunrise of tomorrow

As I’m drifting off to sleep, I visualize the hope of the sunrise in the morning. It is going to be a new day and a good day. His mercies are new every morning. I speak that into my soul.

3. Pause before I start

When I first wake up, I sit on the edge of the bed for 5 minutes and think positive about my day. I think on good things. I focus my life and thoughts on Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

4. Stand up after the pause with a positive attitude

Now my first steps are positive steps. I can now fully walk in the promise of Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Prayer

There are times in my life that prayer gets so commonplace that it becomes more of a daily checklist than actually meeting with God in new and creative ways that are fresh.

 

If you’re like me, you could use a facelift on your prayer life. After all, God is fresh in the way He approaches us, and we need to keep it fresh in the way we approach Him.

Here are a few ways I give my prayer life a facelift

 1. A past reminder

Often, I like to go before God in prayer, and take a great memory from the past, and remember it with God again.  It helps me to remember God’s goodness, and faithfulness. I especially like to do this when I feel like I’m not hearing from God. It always refocuses me on the fact that God does hear me, and will answer me in His own beautiful timing.

2. Write a prayer

You would be amazed at what will flow out of you when you write a prayer. You can do it on paper, or a word processor. No matter which you choose, you will be blown away at how God uses this exercise to draw things out of you. There is something special about having to seriously think about what you are going to write or type. You think about the words more deeply.

3. Pray a Psalm

This one is one of my favorites. I love to go to the book of Psalms and choose a Psalm to pray through. You will be amazed at how when you are praying through a Psalm, God is working the Psalm through you. You begin to experience God at a deep level. When you pray the Word of God back to Him, you are praying God’s word, and God’s words are the most powerful words of all words.

I hope these tips help you. What are some other ways you have found that help? Leave a comment and share with others.

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