Do you ever feel like you pray and pray and God doesn’t listen? It may or may not be true.
Once when I was feeling really down and rudderless, I opened my Bible at random and found Isaiah 1. It contains this passage:
11The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Among their many treasures, Paul’s epistles contain a lot of prayers, which we can use as models and lessons on prayer. His shortest epistle, the one to Philemon, has a gem.
While in a Roman prison, Paul met a man named Onesimus, grew quite fond of him, and came to rely on him. Onesimus had come to Rome from Paul’s old missionary territory back in modern Turkey.
When Paul wrote letters, he couldn’t just put a stamp on them and expect the post office to deliver them. He had to enlist the help of trusted couriers. Who better than Onesimus to carry Ephesians and Colossians back to his home?… Read the rest
Faith can move a mountain. Scripture might not record any instances of moving a literal, geographic mountain, but it certainly shows astounding results of faith in action. Mountain-moving faith has four imperatives: believe, speak, act, and stand. The hardest part is the last part, to stand.
Consider Jairus, a synagogue official whose daughter was dying. Jesus healed her, but only after an awkward interruption. Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56 tell the story.
Synagogue officials, by definition Pharisees, often disapproved of Jesus. But not all of them. Jairus obviously believed Jesus would heal his daughter. What’s more, he must have believed that Jesus would agree to do so if asked.… Read the rest
Perhaps you have seen this object lesson: Before starting his sermon, a preacher asked for a volunteer from the congregation. He had a jar of beans and three ping-pong balls, and asked the volunteer to put the ping-pong balls into the jar. He couldn’t do it.
The preacher emptied the beans into a pitcher. The balls easily fit into the jar. Then the preacher asked the volunteer to see how many of the beans he could get into the jar. They all fit with some room to spare.
The ping-pong balls represented time with God. The beans represented all of the day’s activities.… Read the rest
Christians know that the Bible says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
In fact, those are the texts of two popular rounds that are probably going through your head right now.
We know what the Word says. That doesn’t make it easy for us to wrap our minds around what it really means or how to do it. Sometimes, life is so miserable that there doesn’t seem to be anything to rejoice about at all.
And yet Paul, the man who wrote those words, didn’t exactly have an easy life.… Read the rest
God is all-powerful, but when he chose to use his power to become a man, he also chose not to use power like other men. It is Satan who turns power into something coercive and egocentric.
It would be nice if we could say that Christians understand the situation and exercise power as Jesus did. Unfortunately, we can truthfully say no more than that some do, and they successfully imitate Christ maybe only some of the time.
“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls come a-tumblin’ down.” Then he and his people sinned. The next part of the story didn’t go as well for them. Joshua decided to attack the small town of Ai next. They chased his warriors out of town and killed some of them. What happened?
Most obviously, someone named Achan took some of the spoils and hid them in his tent. God didn’t appear to Joshua and tell him what had happened and what he thought about it. He hardly ever does.
I have written previously about Achan’s sin, how God revealed it to the people, and how they had to carry out his gracious judgment.… Read the rest
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you.” He did not say, “Ask and it will be given to you immediately.” He also did not say, “Ask and it will be given you exactly as you envision it.” When we ask and seem not to receive, it’s easy to fall into some kind of crisis of faith.
Ordinarily, Bible teachers deal with the questions of unanswered prayer by looking at the text in detail in order to point out conditions or the various ways we sabotage our own faith. Instead, let’s look at Joshua.
The 11th chapter of Joshua might not make the most fascinating reading, but it does summarize the accomplishments and answered prayers of one of the Old Testament’s most successful leaders.… Read the rest
Wait a minute! Daniel was in the Old Testament and Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament? What does Daniel have to do with that?
In many churches, maybe most churches, the congregation recites every Sunday. Everyone has it memorized from the familiar King James translation. It is one of the few parts of today’s services where the language hasn’t been updated. It takes less than a minute. How many people actually pray it? Daniel did, as recorded in Daniel 9.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew
Jesus gave the church a model prayer, not merely to be words to memorize.… Read the rest