Praying Palms Down

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Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
—Psalm 4:1

Today I’d like to talk about prayer—specific prayer, that is. The kind of prayer about painful or stressful situations that brings us to our knees. We pray and we pray, and then we pray even more … waiting for an answer from God.

As we pray, we often lift up our hands up in a symbolic gesture as we give our problem to the Lord. I know what I’m talking about because I used to do this very thing.

One day, however, I had a realization that has completely changed my prayer life. It occurred to me that when I pray with my palms facing up—toward the ceiling (or sky)—I can quickly and easily close my fingers into a fist and mentally and emotionally take back that situation or trouble.

I have a tendency to do that, you know. I take back something I’ve been praying about and have supposedly handed over to the Lord, just because I might be able to somehow take care of it myself.

Does this sound anything like you?

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.  —Psalm 17:6

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Since I am a very visual person, I thought about praying for specific things palms down, with hands facing the floor so that I could mentally drop my prayer request at Jesus’ feet. To me, giving up that situation palms down tells me that once I’ve let go of it that way, it’s gone. There’s no chance for me to pull it back.

I’m not saying that everything I pray for in this way gets answered exactly as I would like, but what it does is enable me to allow God to do His work—not only in the particular situation for which I prayed but also on and through me. Sometimes I get in God’s way too much and don’t give Him enough room.

When I pray in this manner, I feel a real peace come over me. The kind of peace that lets me know that I don’t have to worry about the problem, because:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
—Luke 12:25

and

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
—Philippians 4:6

Beloved, this is my prayer for all of us: that we will always remember to pray palms down.

[Emphasis mine]

Why Should We Pray?

Why Should We Pray?

by Joni Eareckson Tada

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them
that they should always pray and not give up.
─Luke 18:1

You’re walking with a friend, who suddenly turns to you and says, “I don’t get it. If things will be as they are going to be anyway, why should I pray?” We’ve all wrestled with such questions. Do my little prayers have anything to do with shaping God’s will? If He’s the driver of everything, does that mean I’m just along for the ride?

The fact is, we pray because God Himself commands us to pray. God’s Word gives prayer a priority and urgency we simply can’t ignore. When He was among us, Jesus prayed. It was the heartbeat of His life. Whether or not we understand how prayer fits into God’s grand scheme of time and world events isn’t the point. If the One who is all-wise strongly calls us to seek Him in prayer, we can be sure it’s terribly important—for Him and for us.

Lord, sometimes I pray when worries and concerns weigh so heavy on my heart, and I try my best to leave those things at Your throne. But today I pray just because I love You and want to be close to You. You fill a place in the very center of my life that nothing or no one else can ever fill.


Taken from A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada. Copyright © 2016.
Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Thankful Prayer for God’s Love

This is another of my devotionals published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His love . . .

God’s love will continue forever.
—Psalm 52:1 NCV

This is what real love is: It is not our love for God;
it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be
the way to take away our sins.
—1 John 4:10 NCV 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
—Psalm 118:29

[Jesus said] God so loved the world that he gave
his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

We love Him because He first loved us.
—1 John 4:19 NKJV

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

I don’t get it, Lord—why You love me, that is. I look myself over, and frankly, I must not be seeing what You see. I can’t understand it. But I’ve decided that I don’t need to understand it. Why, even the nature and logic of love between human beings is seldom knowable. That’s why I’ve determined just to accept it, to let Your love cover me, change me, energize me, make me special.

I’ve read in the Bible that You love me so much that You allowed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to accept the punishment for my sins. I can’t imagine giving up one of my children for anyone—even You. I guess that’s why You’re God and I’m just a mortal human being created in Your image and loved for Your own reasons.

Thank You, Father, for Your great love for me . . . and I want You to know that Your love won’t be scorned. I love You in return. With all of my human strength, I love You. With all of my human determination, I pledge my love to You. I don’t deserve Your love, Father, but You do deserve mine. I give it freely.

Amen.

God does not love us because we are valuable.
We are valuable because God loves us.

—Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

Power Tool

Power Tool

By Pat Knight

If you were asked to identify the most precious, on-going blessings in your life, would prayer be the preeminent item on your list? Prayer is a spiritual gift that underpins all others. The ability to communicate with the Creator of the entire universe is an unprecedented privilege.

When Jesus lived on earth, people swarmed around Him constantly to listen to His astonishing messages and to observe miracles. To relax and refresh, Jesus spent time conversing with His heavenly Father. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus required the renewal and serenity inherent in prayer, how much more we need a sovereign boost of energy. Jesus teaches us the mental and physical benefits of relaxing as we seek the peace our Lord offers.

Conversation requires talking and listening. Such is the posture of prayer. Listening is an active art. To listen well, we must concentrate to eliminate distractions. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father, who is in heaven. And, there your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, 18). The emphasis is talking to God in private.

I am going into my closet to talk with you, God. Quite possibly that closet may be only as far as behind my eyelids, while scrubbing in the shower, or when driving distances alone in the vehicle. God is pleased when we choose a quiet, undisturbed place where we give Him our undivided attention. He desires to fellowship with us, to accept our praise and adoration, and to hear our needs and concerns. No matter is too small or too large to present to our Lord.

The Greek word for a closet probably indicates the storeroom, for it was the only room in ancient houses that had a door that could be closed, providing privacy. We are instructed to pray as Jesus did. Seek a quiet area where interruptions do not compromise our effort. Distractions easily dissuade us from focusing on God alone. Our human minds easily wander and soon we lose sight of our intent. Satan loves to confuse our prayer efforts; to minimize our devotion and worship of our Lord, the supreme listener.

Though audible, public prayer is appropriate, Jesus mainly instructed His disciples in silent, secret prayer, a one-on-one private conversation between only God and the Christian. In our technological world, there is precious little individual privacy still existing. But, our Lord always keeps our confidence. We can share with Him details of our lives, including emotions we would never dream of divulging to another human.

Beyond secrecy and silence, Jesus commands steadfastness. He requires loyalty, dependability, and unswerving devotion.

Prayer is a power tool entrusted to believers for the benefit of all.

Let us be responsible with the tools with which Jesus equips us, to boldly request God’s miraculous interventions. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). The most fantastic scenario our minds are able to contrive cannot equate to the splendiferous answers our Lord provides. Recall the marvelous answers He has furnished in the past and trust Him for the magnificent provisions He will provide to sustain you in the future.

Though God encourages us to request needs for ourselves and others, He is not a magician who jumps to do our bidding, giving us everything we want from a shopping list we present to Him. God’s priority is first of all a close relationship with Him predicated on the forgiveness of sins provided by His Son on the cross of Calvary. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice there was a wide chasm, an impasse between the Creator and the creature. When Jesus atoned for our sins, lavishing us with His redeeming grace, the abyss was closed forever, permitting communication with God the Father and God the Son.

At its most basic form, prayer is talking with God. We often complicate God’s commands with self-made rules when our heavenly Father wants us to follow the guideline established by Jesus. “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Although we are encouraged to pray with boldness and confidence, we are to extend reverence and awe when speaking to God.

Our Lord already knows the thoughts of our minds, but He desires that we personally express them to Him. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8b). Intercessory prayer is our privilege of presenting the needs of others to Jesus. We are commanded to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The willingness to help others with a selfless attitude is the hallmark of a Christian.

Christ is the conduit through whom our intercessions are made known to the Father. Prayer was conceived by God, made acceptable by the sacrifice of the pure Son of God, and is expressed for us by the Holy Spirit. All three personalities of the Deity participate in the important mechanism of prayer. The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s Word; the Son of God opens the pathway to prayer; God accepts our prayers in Christ’s behalf.

Prayer is a privilege; prayer is powerful; prayer is a problem-solver. The results of prayer are phenomenal! We converse with God in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word.

In the deepest of our being where our thoughts emerge, be open and frank, expressing doubts and worries. Dare to share dreams and aspirations. If our respectful minds form the words, then those thoughts are acceptable to God. It has been said that prayer is more an attitude of life than an action of the lips. Prayer is a healthy habit to develop. Soon, habits repeated transform to an integral part of one’s life.

We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). With the power tool of prayer in hand and praise in our hearts, let us prioritize walking the pathways of continual prayer. We will then be the beneficiaries of one of the most precious interactive gifts available anywhere on earth!

Four Ways to Pray When You Feel Like Giving Up

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

Four Ways to Pray
When You Feel Like Giving Up

By Colin Smith 

When we face situations of difficulty and danger we always have a choice: Should I stay or should I go? If someone is pointing a javelin at you, like Saul was at David, there’s a pretty good case for running to the hills! 

But we all know that there are times when change is appropriate. We face times when we know that God is calling us to persevere. What we need is the strength to do so. This psalm is for these times. It’s about how to pray when you feel like giving up.

Here are four ways to pray when you feel that nothing is coming of your effort, everyone is against you, and you need to find the strength to persevere.

1. Challenge the voice of fear and frustration.

How can you say to my soul “Flee like a bird to your mountain”? (Psalm 11:1) 

David received some well-meaning advice from his friends , which came out of fear and frustration.  But notice how David challenges these voices: “How can you say [these things] to my soul…?” 

In the Psalms, David not only challenges others’ voices but his own thoughts: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).  

David is speaking to himself. He is challenging himself. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5). He is challenging the disturbance within his own soul.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones often said, “One of our main problems in the Christian life is that we spend too much time listening to ourselves and not enough talking to ourselves.” 

We spend too much time listening to the voices of fear and frustration and complaining. We need to speak to ourselves–we sometimes call this “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” There is no better place to do that than when you come into the presence of God in prayer.

Come into the presence of the Father with Jesus Christ beside you. Tell him what you are feeling and what you are hearing. Bring your worst thoughts into the open, then take yourself in hand, and challenge the voice of fear and frustration right there in the presence of God. 

2. Recognize the hand of God in the testing. 

The LORD tests the righteous… (Psalm 11:5) 

His eyelids test the children of man… (Psalm 11:4) 

Remember, when the foundations are shaken, the hand of God is in the shaking. God says, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26). 

What is God doing when he shakes the things that are familiar in our lives? God gives us the reason: He shakes the foundations so that “the things that cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). 

Read the rest here.

Independence Day: One Nation Under God

Independence Day, also referred to simply as July 4th, is a federal holiday here in the United States. On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed, declaring our independence from Great Britain.

Today is typically celebrated with fireworks, picnics, barbecues and family get-togethers which commemorate probably the most important day in our country’s history. As a nation, the United States of America is very blessed because of the sacrifice of all those who have fought to procure and protect our freedoms.

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God,
then we will be a nation gone under.
—Ronald Reagan

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
—Psalm 33:11-12

Let us never forget that we are the United States of America—one nation under God —whose freedom is bought at a great price. We need to keep our country in prayer at all times. The following article was published a few years ago but is still relevant today.

Franklin Graham: How You Can Pray for America

As Americans celebrate July 4 and remember those who fought and died for our freedom, we need to take time to pray for our soldiers.

We should also pray for our national leaders. Regardless of whether we agree with our country’s policies, we have a biblical mandate to do this.

Read the rest here.

Seven Encouraging Reasons to Pray

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

Seven Encouraging Reasons to Pray

By Colin Smith

It may be in a hospital or at some other moment of crisis, but at some time most people feel that they want to pray. That is true of thousands and millions of people who would never darken the door of a church.

Here is something that the church has to offer. Christian people have something that at some point, most people in our community and in our country will feel that they need—to pray. Christians know how to pray, or at least we should.

But do we know why we pray? Here are seven reasons we pray which are meant to encourage you in your pursuit of Jesus Christ.

1. Pray, because Jesus is our great high priest.

We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God… (Hebrews 4:14)

If I have to engage in an important conversation, I am often grateful to have someone else with me. Is there someone who can come with me who knows the person I will be meeting better than I do?

Remember this is how Moses felt when God sent him to speak to Pharaoh. God sent Aaron with him. Aaron was the High Priest. Who will go with us when we go into the throne room, not of Pharaoh, but of Almighty God?

Hebrews says “we have a great high priest…” Think about this: Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he is there for us. When you pray, you ascend by faith into heavenly places, where Christ is.

Christ is next to the Father, and when you pray, you are next to Christ. He is there for you, and when you speak, he is there with you! He is there, endorsing what you’re saying, placing his name under what you’re asking.

You can come to the Father with Jesus beside you. He is there to support you in your prayer, to back you up in what you are saying, to agree with your prayer because it has already been his own.

2. Pray, because Jesus knows what life is like. 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) 

You can’t bring anything to Jesus that will shock him. Nothing that you face is surprising to Jesus. You don’t need to hide anything from him. Think about the humanity of Jesus: He worked in a shop. He grieved. He saw darkness unleashed like no one else ever has. 

3. Pray, because God invites us to his throne of grace. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. . . (Hebrews 4:16) 

Bunyan says, “God has more than one throne…” The throne of grace is very different from the throne of judgment. God invites you to come to the throne of grace! How often would you want to pray, if you knew you were coming before the throne of judgment? 

Read the rest here.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

Sharing today from Gospel Relevance.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

by 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the benefits of being a Christian. There are so many that I hardly know where to start. I can easily write about the gifts of justification, sanctification, or adoption (and many others similar to it). But in this post, I want to keep it simple. I want to focus on a blessing that we may sometimes overlook — the blessing of the gift of prayer.

Isn’t it amazing that the God of the Bible allows his people to communicate with him through prayer?

I think sometimes we take for granted this access we have to God. But if you pause and think about the various dimensions of prayer and just how beneficial this access to God is, it will bless your soul.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

When I think about prayer being a blessing, here are some things that come to mind:

We have 24/7 access to God.

There have been times when I couldn’t fall asleep because I felt restless. During these times, it’s almost impossible to cast your burdens on anyone else since they are likely asleep. And yet, even in the middle of the night when everyone else is unavailable, God is up, ready and willing to hear your prayer.

This is amazing. You might have close family, friends, mentors, and other such relationships where people are helpful to you in many ways. But they cannot always be there for you because they are not always available. But God is incessantly accessible.

The Lord doesn’t need sleep. He’s always awake. You can always go to him — at 2:00 am when your screaming baby can’t sleep, at 6:30 am when you’re anxious and scared about facing the day, at noon when the day isn’t going how you planned. This 24/7, 365 access to God we have in prayer is truly astounding.

We don’t need to use physical words when we pray.

I once led a small group with someone. I told this person I was praying for our group at work, to which the response I received was something like, “God loves cubicles prayers, too!”

It’s true: because God is omniscient (all-knowing), he can understand what you pray in your mind with 100% accuracy, every single time. Yes, using words and praying out loud is essential. Soundless prayers should not summarize the entirety of our prayer lives. But sometimes words aren’t possible, and God gets your thoughts.

Read the rest here.