Tag Archives: prayer

Intercession – A sympathetic God

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Mind the gapHaving come to the end of our series on prayer, let’s begin another journey into intercession. First question:

“What is the difference between prayer and intercession?

Much good material has been written on this. Most people would agree that it might be unhelpful to make too dogmatic a distinction as there are many overlaps and grey areas between the two. A person who prays much may also find himself in the place of intercession whether he knows it or not. Intercession is more of “a standing in the gap” on behalf of someone else, some situation or nation.

For me, intercession is the place where your own prayers take on flesh. After a prayer meeting, you can go home and forget the prayers you prayed and carry on with your life. An intercessory prayer will stick on your insides – it will not let you go, it becomes part of your life. Psalm 109:4 puts it well as it literally states:“…but I am prayer.”

Intercession is when you become your prayer. It goes beyond words into a lifestyle.

Isaiah 53, is a prophetic passage speaking of the crucifixion – the ultimate intercession where the innocent Lamb of God took our place and punishment for the guilt of sin.

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Ezekiel 22:30 also offers a good description of such intercession which stands on behalf of someone else.

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”

Great intercessors of the Old Testament can be found in Abraham’s prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah, Hannah’s prayer for a child, Nehemiah’s prayer for Jerusalem, Daniel’s spiritual warfare intercession to see the promises of God for his nation accomplished, Moses prayer on behalf of wayward Israel in the desert and many more.gap

Psalm 106:25 speaks in the same terms about Moses’ intercession:

“So he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.”

And Moses himself comments the event in Deuteronomy 9:25:

 “I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you.”

Jesus’ earthly life as well as Paul’s and the apostles’ were all about crying out to God and living on behalf of others:

 “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7

Jesus is still operating in this vital ministry of intercession which burst forth once and for all from the cross and resonates into our present day and circumstances:

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

Let me give you three major attributes of intercession.

1. Identification – Sympathéo

You cannot just say words. There is a taking up of a position of identification with the situation prayed for. A missionary paradigm enhances the power of intercession as languages are learned and cultures assimilated in an incarnational process. We have a God who identified with His creation:

 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise (sympathéo) with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

???????????????????????????????????????Pathos is the Greek word for suffering. Sympathéo – from where we get our English word sympathy, is much more than just a sad feeling for someone; it is an intentional taking on of their pain. Such identification may take the form of fasting, nights of prayer, sacrificial giving and service. It is important to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into such things as man’s good or guilty intentions will only end in failure and spiritual pride.

2. Suffering – Dolor

Identification will lead us to suffering. Jesus, the “man of sorrows”, knew all about this. We will all need to negotiate our own “via dolorosa” through life as we follow Jesus, carrying our own crosses.

Romans 8:18,26 opens by talking about such suffering, but rather than seeing it as some huge crushing curse, it goes on to show how the Holy Spirit can take our local suffering and give it global, intercessory significance. Who knows what caused David to cry out in his Psalm, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Hundreds of years later his local cry of pain became a cosmic redemption on the Son of God’s crucified lips. Who knows what glory and significance our own groans might carry?

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us… 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”

3. Authority – Exousia

After a cross there is always resurrection. The suffering endured on behalf of others gives a moral and spiritual authority to our lives and prayers. It puts substance into our faith and quality into our character. Each successive event and  place of intercession gained builds up our own personal curriculum vitae of credibility before God and men. Desmond Tutu, in his book “No Future without Forgiveness”, commenting about Nelson Mandela’s authority to plead for the reconciliation of a nation, writes the following:

“It would be easy to say that those twenty-seven years were utter shameful waste: just think of all he could have contributed to the good of South Africa and the world. I don’t think so. Those twenty-seven years and all the suffering they entailed were the fires of the furnace that tempered his steel, that removed the dross. Perhaps without that suffering he would have been less able to be as compassionate and as magnanimous as he turned out to be. And that suffering on behalf of others gave him an authority and credibility  that can be provided by nothing else in quite the same way. The true leader must at some point or other convince her or his followers that she or he is in this whole business not for self-aggrandisement but for the sake of others. Nothing is able to prove this quite as convincingly as suffering.”Mandela at Church

Jesus stood on a mountain before a discouraged band of disciples. Some worshiped when they saw him while others doubted. Doubt and worship form the beautiful vulnerability of the missionary context where the splendour of God and our own inability form a glorious – if not contradictory, alliance.

Jesus spoke these majestic words of authority encouraging a handful of ordinary people to take on the world:

“All authority (exousia) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:18-19

His authority was the fruit of His passion, the fruit of intercession.

May we rise to the challenge to bear such fruit in our own lives.

 

 

 

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Prayer quotations and summary

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Open Heaven whiteFor those who have followed our series on prayer, I have put a summary of the links at the end of this page which also includes some statements on prayer from the masters.

“Prayer agrees with God’s word, and the heart agrees with our lips.”  John Newton

“Prayer is the great bond of union of Christendom; and not only of Christendom, but all mankind. Prayer is the most tangible proof of the fact that the whole of mankind is seeking after God; or – to put it more correctly – that it is sought by God. Mankind at prayer is a proof of the universal revelation of God.”  Friedrich Heiler

“Prayer is not man’s work, or discovery or achievement; but God’s work in man.” Friedrich Heiler

“Without prayer faith remains a theoretical conviction, worship is only an external and formal act, moral action is without spiritual depth, man remains at a distance from god, an abyss yawns between the finite and the Infinite.” Friedrich Heiler

“Prayer draws the great God down into a small heart; it drives the hungry soul up to God in His fullness” Mechthild of Magdeburg

“In prayer the highest and the lowest come together, the lowliest heart and the most exalted God.”     
Johann Arndt

“As the mysterious linking of man with the Eternal, prayer is an incomprehensible wonder, a miracle of miracles which is daily brought to pass in the devout soul.” Friedrich Heiler

“There is nothing more powerful than prayer and there is nothing to be compared with it.” Chrysostom

“Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray.”
Edward Payson

“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer…He that has prayed well has studied well.” Luther

“No man can do a great and enduring work for God who is not a man of prayer, and no man can be a man of prayer who does not give much time to praying.” E.M. Bounds

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” John Wesley

“If there is one thing I think the Church needs to learn, it is that God intends prayer to have an answer, and that man has not yet fully conceived of what God will do for the child who believes that his prayer will be heard. God hears prayer.” Andrew Murray

“The chief thing we need for a life of unceasing prayer is to know that Jesus teaches us to pray…Jesus’ teaching takes us up into the fellowship of His own prayer-life before the Father.” Andrew Murray

“Prayer is but man uttering to God what is God’s will.” Watchman Nee

“True prayer uncovers the emptiness in the petitioner but the fullness in the Petitioned…The state of one’s prayer life cannot be too greatly disconnected from the condition of his daily walk…Prayer is work. The experiences of many children of god demonstrate that it accomplishes far more than does any other form of work. If a believer fails in prayer, he in fact fails in everything.”     Watchman Nee

“As crucifixion proceeds, intercession begins.” Norman Grubb

“Prayer proves the supremacy of God in missions.” J. Piper

“So we pray because we were made for prayer, and God draws us out by breathing Himself in…And it comes to this, that, as there are thoughts that seem to think themselves in us, so there are prayers that pray themselves in us. And, as those are the best thoughts, these are the best prayers. For it is Christ at prayer who lives in us, and we are conduits of the Eternal Intercession.”
Forsyth

“Prayer is the highest use to which speech can be put. It is the highest meaning that can be put into words…The chief failure of prayer is its cessation.” Forsyth

“True prayer is the supreme function of the personality which is the world’s supreme product…The praying personality has an eternal value for God as an end in itself.” Forsyth

“Prayer is like the air of certain ocean isles, which is so pure that there vermin cannot live. We should surround ourselves with this atmosphere, as the diver shuts himself into his bell ere he descends into the deep.” Vinet

“The theory of religion is really the philosophy of prayer; and the best theology is compressed prayer. The true theology is warm, and it steams upward into prayer…The greatest, deepest, truest thought of God is generated in prayer, where right thought has its essential condition in a right will…Bible searching and searching prayer go hand in hand.” Forsyth

“In life it is not ‘dogged that does it’ in the last resort, and it is not hard work; it is faculty, insight, gift, talent, genius. And what genius does in the natural world prayer does in the spiritual. Nothing can give us so much power and vision.” Forsyth

“Prayer, as our greatest work, breeds in us the flair for the greatest work of God, the instinct of His kingdom and sense of His track in time…The only answer to God’s eternity is an eternal attitude of prayer.” Forsyth

“God has old prayers of yours long maturing by Him. What wine you will drink with Him in his kingdom…So if you are averse to pray, pray the more…As appetite comes with eating, so prayer with praying. Our hearts learn the language of the lips.” Forsyth

“Private prayer, when it is real action, is the greatest forge of personality. It places a man in direct and effective contact with God the Creator, the source of originality, and especially with god the Redeemer as the source of the new creation.”  Forsyth

“Prayer is for the religious life what original research is for science – by it we get direct contact with reality.” Forsyth

“It is an art – this great and creative prayer – this intimate conversation with God. ‘Magna ars est conversari cum Deo,’  “
Thomas à Kempis

Teaching links

1) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/prayer-the-aunty-nelly-factor/

2) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/prayer-o-when-the-saints/

3) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/prayer-dont-you-worry-child/

4) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/prayer-one-thing-is-needed/

5) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/prayer-nations-people-and-revival/

6) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/prayer-protecting-the-promise/

7) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/prayer-wisdom-protects-the-promise/

8) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/prayer-god-really-is-good/

9) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/prayer-is-god-asleep/

10) https://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/prayer-is-god-unjust/

Prayer – Is God unjust?

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scalesWe are about to reach the end of our journey into prayer, with our final lesson again emphasising the necessity to overcome the lies and find a true perspective on God’s character.

Our third text begins in the same teaching style when Jesus begins by exposing the erroneous, sinful view of God. Luke 18: 1-8 is a story designed to encourage prayer.

” Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. “

What makes the majority of people give up on prayer ?

The idea that God is uncaring, unjust and harsh !

Many people have an unhealthy fear of God, seeing Him as an unfair judge. This paralyses their prayer and makes them give up easily. Jesus exposes this wrong view in his opening lines describing this awful man.

” In a certain town “ – he might even have said  ” In a certain mind-set ! “

” ..there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. “

Again this definition exposes the hidden lies that have wounded our perception of God. It couldn’t be further from the truth of a generous loving God who so cared for the world that He sent His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross.

The ultimate caring !

A widow’s prayer request is also mentioned.

” Grant me justice against my adversary. “

Her plea is the universal cry for justice which has risen from broken, bereaved hearts since the earliest ages. Literally she is saying  ” Give me justice against anti-justice. ”  As well as being the voice of humanity she is also the voice of a Church, perhaps not yet fully understanding her inheritance as a Bride, yet interceding for justice against the great adversary Satan.

Sometimes, in reading this story, it seems that the judge is more of a problem than the widow’s adversary. Sadly, many people in the world seem to spend more time blaming God for injustice and adversity than blaming their true adversary Satan. True evil hides behind perverted perceptions of God. Harsh-judge

Our ” judge God “ here is just as refusing as ” our asleep God “ in the last story.

” For some time he refused “

Refusing justice ! Unthinkable ! Even old Abraham knew better than that when he ” persisted “ in prayer to raise himself up to the level of God’s justice when he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah.

” Will not the Judge of all the earth do right ? “    Genesis 18 :25

Again, the whole passion of Christ is a potent statement to God’s utter lack of procrastination in bringing justice to the world.

So are we to vainly pray for justice like some poor widow woman. Is prayer just  about giving God a headache until he gives in ! Are we meant to simply wear God out with our superstitious mumblings and good works ! I remember hearing a famous preacher once say that many religious people he met seemed to be ” nicer than God ! “ Is our attendance at Church, added to our cultural morality, myriad masses and prayer chains designed to wear down God’s resistance until he finally gives in and answers !

” 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 ! “

Surely we can do better than this ! Jesus’ whole aim here is to expose our wrong legalistic perceptions and spur us on to faith. If an evil father can give food to his kids, and if an uncaring judge can finally give in, how much more, does God want to answer !

” 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 ? “

It is at this point that you have to think back to the pantomimes you saw at school… ” Oh yes it is!…Oh no it isn’t “. You get the idea?  The crowds around Jesus would be bursting to answer. ” No ! No !…Our loving God will not keep putting us  off ! Even if the Romans are here, bringing injustice with every step, we know that Yahweh is not an unjust judge. “ And Jesus, having got them to a point of faith continues:

” I tell you, he will see that they get justice – big cheer from the crowd !, and quickly – even bigger cheer from the crowd !”

And then he delivers us our ultimate, deeply challenging punch line:

” However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth ?  “

lambWill he find hearts freed from fear and unbelief, hearts which trust a loving Father who gives good gifts to those that ask. Will he find the faith that pushes through the apparent failures, lacks and contradictions of life, a faith that takes hold of Yahweh Jireh, God the Provider. Will he indeed find his chosen ones crying out in intercession, day and night, in full faith that their prayers for justice in the nations are being met and that deliverance is as quick and as sure as the rising dawn.

In reading these words and parables, the Holy spirit may have exposed deep wounds and lies that have distorted God’s generous beauty to your eyes. Allow these same words to gently encourage and heal and bring a fresh power and perspective on prayer and its certain answer !

Look to the cross, look to the heart of Christ and find total care, total Fatherhood,  total commitment, total grace, total intimacy, total action and total love !

Oh yes he is…..!

Prayer – Is God asleep?

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GodAs we continue our prayer journey towards finding the right perspective of God, let’s move on to Luke 11. Again, Jesus is teaching on prayer and comes up with another striking little story. Like our first story this one is designed to expose the hidden views we have concerning God’s character especially in relation to prayer. Essentially we have a man in need coming to “his friend”, to ask for three loaves of bread. He is the archetype of all who come to God with their needs. However, in spite of his being a friend he gets a rather shocking reception !

“Don’t bother me.”

Deep down, do we sometimes harbour the image of God being like some high-powered business executive, rushing around running the world with no real-time for my prayers and concerns and my three little loaves of life!

“The door is already locked,”

Do you sometimes think that a “no entry” sign has been put up specifically over heaven for you ? Have sin, rejection and unbelief put barricades before heaven’s generosity? Has someone told you that you’ve no right to pray, as that is only the job of priests, holy men and the super spiritual ?

“..and my children are with me in bed.”

Well, here we have it. God is asleep in bed while the world hungers for bread !

How many have not sometimes found themselves pondering such thoughts. Communists and humanists load their guns with such ammunition. The famous communist playwright, Bertolt Brecht, wrote:

“Food is the first thing, morals follow on!”

God seems strangely absent from the world scene. Often we may have cried out to God and felt, perhaps, His absence. An absence that may well have wounded us deeply and left the way open for Satan’s bitter lies.wecantgetup

“I can’t get up and give you anything.”

Is God really as pathetic as this !

Better find some rich businessman to get things done or some mafia warlord as God, it seems,  is powerless !

The above is the exact opposite of who God is and a direct antithesis to the whole ethic and promise of prayer !

If you’ve ever believed this lie about Him you almost deserve to be breadless ! Such a blasphemous view of God and prayer is a pretty serious sin that needs repenting of. Jesus gently rebuked the father of the demonized boy in Mark 9: 23, when he weakly said,

” If you can ? “

We need to remember that he was speaking to the all-powerful Son of God ! ” If you can ? “ is just not good enough ! Jesus reminded him of the level of faith filled asking he was looking for.

“If you can ?” said Jesus.

” Everything is possible for him who believes “

Let us repent deeply of all the wrong views of God that are exposed in Jesus’ simple story. Like our concerned father, struggling with past failure and demonic lies, let us cry out :

” I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief ! “

Let us persevere, and be bold enough to walk through apparent contradictions by faith. Learn to laugh at Satan’s lies and attacks and hold firm on God’s generous giving nature. This is the ” persistence “ mentioned in the text. A persistence for a right perspective of God, not a superstitious persistence in dead works of unbelief.

The “boldness” and perseverance here is not to change God’s mind or somehow win Him over through good works or penance. It is simply our own inner perseverance and boldness needed to overcome the lies of the enemy which continually blaspheme God’s character to us. We must daily and boldly overcome such persistent demonic propaganda!

The original Greek word used for “boldness” here is anaideia, which literally means  “without shame”. When we think of the strong hospitality and shame culture present in these times we also get the same unimaginable image that we found in the evil father giving a stone. In Jesus’ culture it would have been just as unthinkable and horrendously impossible for someone to show such a lack of mutual support and hospitality to an asking friend.

As much as you needJesus, having exposed the lie and blasphemy of the enemy within, takes us firmly back into the truth of prayer and promise.

“I tell you..”

“So I say to you..”

“..he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

“Ask and it will be given to you;”

In this world where God’s image is constantly being blasphemed by the enemy’s works of death and destruction, aided and abetted by the our own passivity and feeble prayer doctrine, we need a bold generation who will hold firm in prayer, striving daily to maintain their high view of God and getting answer from heaven to meet the needs of  mankind.

The prayer of faith will always meet God’s provision. God is longing to find faith that receives as much as we need and hearts that dare to ask.

So…..how much do you need ?

Prayer – God really is good

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is-god-goodThe ongoing ideology around us and overwhelming media coverage of death and suffering are constantly challenging the image of a good God. Like the proud beast in Revelation 13:6, Satan’s strategy is to constantly undermine the character and goodness of God.

“He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling-place and those who live in heaven.”

We are almost deafened by the cries – carried often on the wings of our own cruel suffering and loss,  that God is somehow nasty, asleep, unfair and uncaring.  We are constantly challenged to push against this prevailing blasphemy and find the true perspective of God’s love. This is the heart of spiritual warfare as we battle against a wrong perception and experience of who God really is. To pray successfully we need to be healed of this wrong perception and gain fresh revelation of God’s ultimate goodness and willingness to answer prayer on our behalf.

Satan’s strategy is to deform our perception of God, and slander Him to us thus destroying our faith and vitality.

From childhood authority figures, from teachers to parents to political and religious leaders, are sometimes abusive and mould deep within our beings a wrong conception of God.

Jesus himself recognised this truth in his own teaching on prayer, so let’s learn from the master. It is important to note that, as a good teacher, Jesus exposed the wrong conceptions in the hearts of his listeners before replacing them with the radical truth of God’s grace. Certain phrases are repeated over and over again in Christ’s teaching as he juxtaposes our erroneous conceptions with the truth concerning his Father. It is important to grasp these “leitmotifs” as they lead us on the path to a genuine vision of God’s greatness and love. Phrases like, “How much more”, “So I say to you”, and “And will not God”, open the texts up to comparisons between human and heavenly perspectives.

I’ll limit myself to three specific texts of Jesus concerning prayer but we could find many more as well as finding overlaps in the epistles. Jesus lays down a foundation for prayer in Matthew 7 :7-11, Luke 11 :1-13 and Luke 18 :1-8. We will study these passages in the next posts.generations

In Matthew, Jesus is giving his disciples the key to prayer. Thinking back perhaps to his own commissioning in Psalm 2 : 7,

“You are my Son; Today I have become your Father.”

where the element of “sonship” was so important.

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven…”   Matthew 6 :9

He hammers the message home even more strongly in chapter 7, and I imagine him being quite humorous in his style, using everyday family images which would touch a chord in each heart. His longing is to heal his hearers of a wrong concept of Fatherhood.

“Ask and it will be given to you.”is the wonderfully frank truth of scripture. However in a world of hard knocks the hearers minds are already putting up barriers and get out clauses in a wounded, knee jerk response to such a generous theology. Jesus, however, is already one step ahead of them.

“Which of you , if his son asks for bread , will give him a stone ?”

Little Johnny, hungrily expectant at the dinner table, is suddenly summoned to the garden by his Dad. Grabbing his son by the hair he pulls him forward and rams a dirt covered stone down his throat !

“Here son, chew on that ! It’ll do you good !”

Next Friday he’s there again at the table looking forward to a promise of fish and chips when suddenly he is summoned once again to the garden. ( Remember Jesus was speaking to a middle eastern audience who had much more exotic things in their gardens than slugs and lettuce !). There stands his Father with a nasty snake which he quickly puts to his son’s tender mouth. Poisonous fangs await to do their damage. Other options on the menu include scorpions with a vicious sting in the tail ! (See Luke 11:12)

“Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake ?” 

By now you can almost imagine Jesus’ audience, amused and yet slightly enraged at such an ungenerous Father, wanting to butt in and say something more positive about Fatherhood. Jesus, having gotten them thinking in the right direction, beats them to it:

“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!”

stoneHas our view of God been so warped that we think he will give us something hard like a stone ? Many, like the servant in the parable of the talents, think of God as being a “hard man”. Many of my Catholic friends here in France have a view of two ways to God. The hard way through God the stern Father, and the easy way via Mary.

Even in more evangelical circles there is often the hidden fear that God’s will for me will be something hard and horrible ! Deep down are we afraid of obeying God? Are we fearful of getting too involved in prayer, in case He might actually speak to us ? Do we think he has prepared something for us with a nasty sting in the tail ? The devil lies to us and perverts the truth of God’s love by filling us with fear.

Jesus goes to the heart of this fear and unbelief by gently bringing it to the surface in His example of the evil Father. He exposes such a concept for the demonic lie it is and unequivocally asserts the truth of God’s Fatherly care. His words carry the balm of healing and restore the image of God the Father in the hearts of His hearers.

Perfect love casts out fear ! Meditate on Christ’s words and enable Him to free you from your own deep-seated fears in order to be able to receive the faith to pray aright to a loving heavenly Father who longs to give good gifts to his children.

 

Prayer – Wisdom protects the promise

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bouncersAfter last week’s post we need to call in the second bouncer who protects the powerful promise of prayer for those in the 41414 club!

How do you build up prayer power? Jude gives us a possible option.

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Jude 1:20

But what is praying in the Holy Spirit for you? Is it being zapped by some charismatic gift from heaven? Is it praying from the Spirit inspired Scriptures or praying with holy,  sanctified character? While you’re deciding on an answer, here’s another question!

How did Solomon pray?

One day he had an amazing encounter with God who invited him to join the 41414 club.

“That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 2 Chronicles 1:7

What would you ask for? What do you want?

To coin a once popular phrase from Harry Enfield, you might ask for “Loadsamoney.” Number two on the list might be fame, and then a healthy long life, and protection from enemies. You could no doubt find various forms of such prayer aspirations on most pages of the glossy “How to be happy” Christian magazines, and their self-centred echo resonates in even the most orthodox prayer meetings.loadsamoney

We must stop putting the cart before the horses! Take five minutes to tame the fleshly prayers and listen to Solomon’s answer.

 “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” v.10

Like Solomon, we need to constantly call in Wisdom to our prayer lives.

Someone, disappointed, may then ask: “Does that mean I can’t ask for all the other stuff?” On the contrary, God is generous and loving, wanting to shower you with intelligent blessings. Once the wisdom is in place we are safe to receive the measure of “Shalom” appropriate for our growth and personal situation. Wisdom adds, like sonship, the necessary component of discipleship. The promise says “Yes.”

 “…therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honour, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” v.12

Practical James also sees the ongoing character building qualities of heavenly wisdom.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

So ask for wisdom:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

True wisdom is not simply “clever thoughts”, wisdom is a person. Wisdom shared the creative process with God and is always a source of inspiration and joy. Wisdom was born of Mary in a stable. Solomon used his lifelong revelation of wisdom to write Proverbs. The eighth proverb is an ode to wisdom and well worth a meditative read in our quest to be wise.

“Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” v.30-31

Not many of us could claim to be wise in the harsh judging eyes of the world. However, as we have seen, the source of true wisdom goes beyond intellectual capacity to the ability to receive a living relationship. God is constantly calling us to a living relationship with Christ, the true wisdom from heaven.

“…but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24

God's wisdomGod confounds the world’s wisdom, by making wisdom a gift, a person, to be received by the weak and humble in grace.

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” v.30

So, indeed, build yourself up in faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, praying for more intimacy with Christ, praying for wisdom.

 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

 

 

 

Prayer – Protecting the promise

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Two bouncersWe saw from last week’s post the incredible power in the prayer promise to those who find their identity in the 41414 Club.

This promise and power must be protected from wrong or immature use. This is why there are two major “bouncers” on the door to this promise club guarding the entrance.

The name of the first “protector” is “Sonship”.

The power of prayer is protected by the proven character of Jesus, the Son, modeled and built into our lives. Like a baby’s first cry as it leaves the womb, so our first Holy Spirit inspired prayer, which births us into the environment of faith, reveals the Son in us.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

Jesus underlined that this was the first requirement for learning to pray in answer to his disciples request  to teach them how to pray. He gave them the key to the prayer door.

“This, then is how you should pray: Our Father…” Matthew 6:9

Matthew 7:7 – another elite club – “club 77”, also emphasises the strong “sonship” element needed to seize the power filled promise of “Ask and it will be given to you.”

“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!” Matthew 7:11

God is working to create within us the character of His Son.

One way of doing this is to spend time remaining, abiding, in His presence. Spending many hours imbibing the character of the Son through His Word in the Bible is a vital part of this process of daily transformation.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:7BarMitzvah

Like Daniel in the Old Testament, we need to be able to fuel our prayer through a vital understanding of God’s prophetic word and purpose. ” In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” How long will the “desolation” of our churches last? At least until dutiful sons give themselves to prayer and understanding of the Word of God. We need a genuine Bar Mitzvah – we must become true sons and daughters of the commandment, entering into the maturity of ministry and prayer.

Flawed character leads to wrong motivation and a frustration of the whole prayer experience. The apostle James puts it very clearly:

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3

Hedonism and love for the world will take us out of the genuine prayer experience.

True intercessors are in the “word system” not the “world system”.

The road to sonship is paved with discipline and correction. Hebrews 12: 5-12 puts this very clearly.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Allow the painful experience of life to train us for prayer.

DisciplineThe apostle John never gave up on the prayer promise theme, and, even in his old age, he was constantly coming back to the theme. He emphasised that prayer was all about having the right character, the right heart. Being an obedient and pleasing son was far more important than having intellectual gifts or charismatic prosperity formulas.

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:21-22

And what then ultimately pleases God? What must I do to please Him and obey his commands?

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” v.23

Faith and love – Pistis and Agape. Two essential qualities of character which release the power of the prayer promise to us.

And the greatest of these is love…