Prayer and the Difference it Makes

Today I’m sharing from Focus on the Family.

Prayer
and the Difference it Makes

By Robert Velarde

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help.” –Psalm 39:12 (NIV)[i]

“Lord, teach us to pray.” –Luke 11:1

“After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed.” –John 17:1

“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” –Acts 1:14

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18

“Pray continually.” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Throughout the Bible, believers are called to pray. But what is prayer? What does it mean to “pray without ceasing?” And does prayer really make a difference? Before delving too deeply into the topic of prayer, it will be beneficial to first define the term, as well as the focus of our prayers—God.

Prayer and God’s Nature

Let’s start with the second part. In order to develop a clear idea of prayer, we must first have a clear idea of God. Biblically speaking, God is a personal being. This is critical to prayer because it means that God is a person we can interact with, that He has a will and that we are able to relate to Him on a meaningful level. If He were impersonal, then prayer would not be meaningful. If He were personal, but uncaring and distant, prayer wouldn’t serve a purpose.

Not only is God personal, He is also loving (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16). This is also important in relation to prayer. If God were personal, but uncaring or unkind, then prayer might do us more harm than good! But God is not only loving, He is all loving (omnibenevolent). In relation to prayer, this means that God always desires the best for us because He loves us.

God is also all powerful (omnipotent), meaning that no prayer is beyond His ability to answer, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). If God were less than all powerful, then we would have no assurance that He could answer or even hear our prayers.

The fact that God is all-knowing (omniscient) is also significant to the concept of prayer. If God were limited, then He would not know all that is happening in His creation. If this were the case, He might overlook our prayers because they might be beyond His knowledge. Fortunately, the Bible is clear that God knows everything (see, for instance, Psalm 139:2-4; 147: 4-5; Isaiah 46:10). In relation to God’s omniscience, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

God is also wise and holy. He knows what is best for us, as well as what will lead us to holiness rather than sin. He is also immanent, meaning that God is active in His creation in a personal way, not only directing greater matters of history, but also involved in the life of everyone. This means that no prayer is too great for Him, but also that no prayer is too small for Him.

While we cannot explore all of God’s attributes here, one final one to note, of utmost importance to prayer is God’s sovereignty. God is supremely in charge of everything that happens in His universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing happens in our lives without the knowledge of God, even though we may not always understand His actions: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

In hearing and responding to our prayers, then, we are assured that God will do so on the basis of His many attributes. His personal nature, love, power, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, immanence and sovereignty all play a role in how we relate to God in prayer and how He relates to us.

Read the rest here.

Pray While Waiting

Several months ago I shared the post below with the great news of how these precious twins were adopted by my son Alan and his wife Denise after a long wait. Many family and friends thankfully joined us in praying for adoption day to finally arrive. And since God never wastes anything, He used those prayers to teach all of us more about Him in the seemingly interminable waiting time.

My own prayer life was completely transformed in the process. One night while I was praying for this whole thing, I suddenly and inexplicably began to smile as I realized that God was filling me with the peaceful assurance that everything would work out just as He had already planned. As I prayed night after night about this—often in tears after a legal setback—those tears would turn into another smile as God continued to fill me with peace, faith, and trust in Him and His plan. And I couldn’t stop praising Him through this process.

This, then, is the account of how God uses waiting prayer to mold us into the kind of children He wants us to be: always trusting in Him, ever faithful to Him, and continuously living with His peace “which surpasses all understanding, [and] will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles,
they will run and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary.

─Isaiah 40:31

Waiting in Faith,
Trust and Hope

You may have noticed that I did not publish any blog posts last week. That’s because of some wonderful news I get to share with you today. Rick and I were in Phoenix because our family has officially increased by two precious babies.

Our journey with twins Austin and Alex began in June 2016 when they were just four months old. They were brought to Alan and Denise (my son and daughter-in-love) through the foster care system. Unsurprisingly we all immediately fell in love with them and have spent the last 33 months hoping, praying and waiting for everything to work out so that Alan and Denise could adopt these sweet little ones. Last week that long-awaited event happened and Rick and I were there at the adoption hearing, along with many family and friends.

I often write about faith, trust and hope. Over the past three years, all of us have been praying and praising God with faith, trust and hope during the waiting. Admittedly there were times when we all wondered if the adoption would ever happen. We repeatedly found ourselves high on the mountains of good news, only to be thrust down into valleys when those hopes were dashed. Still, we continued to rely on God for his comfort and peace while we waited.

Years ago, a fellow writer shared this gem with me about waiting. I have shared his wise words before and they never get old. It definitely applies to our situation:

Even though it was very hard at times to keep on trusting and believing that God was working out the details for the good of all of us, including the babies, we never gave up hope that adoption day would finally happen. The most important thing we learned from everything we went through is that God already had a plan in place, and last week we witnessed the fruition of that plan.

So here we are, almost three years later. Because of the anonymity and protection required for children in the foster care system, we haven’t been able to speak publicly about this … until now.

Oh, dear Lord, this Meemaw is utterly thankful to be able to finally tell how You walked with us through all that waiting. To You—our awesome and everlasting God—be the glory for allowing us to be part of such an amazing journey with these two precious children.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, 
the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
─1 Timothy 1:17

As I was writing this post, the song To God Be the Glory kept running through my head, so here is a video of Nicole C. Mullen singing My Tribute (To God be the Glory)/My Redeemer Lives:

Praying Palms Down

Ps4-1-HandsOpen-40--AMP

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

Ps17-6-PalmsDown-50--AMP

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]

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.

The Requirements of Victorious Praying

Sharing today from Decision Magazine.

The Requirements of Victorious Praying

By Adrian Rogers

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” — James 4:1-2, KJV

If there’s anything that I need to do—that you need to do, that we need to do, that everyone needs to do—it is to learn how to pray.

The man who can pray can do anything, for prayer can do anything that God can do, and God can do anything. Our desperate need in these days is to link our lives with the omnipotent God who has called on us and told us to pray.

You don’t have a sin in your life but what prayer could have prevented that sin. You don’t have a genuine need in your life that cannot be met through fervent, believing prayer. Oh, dear friend, how we need to learn how to pray! In the Book of James, we can see three distinctive prayer patterns. First, the presumption of unoffered prayer. Then, the problem of unacceptable prayer. Finally, there are the principles of undeniable prayer.

The Presumption of Unoffered Prayer

God wants to bless us. God wants to give us what we need, but we’re so presumptuous. We’re so proud. We’re so self-sufficient that we go about in our own strength, as James 4:1-2 tells us—fighting, warring, scheming, planning, hating, killing, conniving, striving—trying in our own way to get the things we think we need.

There is no problem that cannot be solved by prayer. There are no problems too big to solve, just people too small to solve them. When we begin to pray and to seek the face of God, then we’ll know peace, both domestically and in our hearts, as we seek the face of Almighty God. God wants to bless us, and God will bless us through prayer.

“More ships!” some cry. “More guns! More fighters in the air!” But wise is the king who calls for more prayer! It is prayer that links our lives with the omnipotent power of God.

Oh, friend, the presumption of unoffered prayer. Did you know that prayerlessness is a sin? John Bunyan wrote in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, and sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Are you praying? There is no substitute for prayer.

Read the rest here.

The Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the 20th Century

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

The Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the 20th Century:

An Interview with a Renowned Expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls

By Justin Taylor

Since 1991Weston W. Fields (PhD, Hebrew University) has been the executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation as well as the director of Dead Sea Scrolls Publications. Brill has published his 600-page monograph, The Dead Seas Scrolls: A Full History, along with his The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short HistorySince 1999 he has traveled throughout the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, interviewing all of the first generation of Dead Sea Scroll scholars who were then still alive, including those who discovered scrolls in the 1950s or were the first to examine and reconstruct them.

The following interview is adapted with permission from an article he wrote for the Dead Sea Scroll Foundation website.


How significant was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many to be the single most important archaeological manuscript find of the 20th century.

How many documents are we talking about?

They represent more than 1,400 original documents, some complete or nearly complete (such as the Great Isaiah Scroll), but many quite fragmentary. There are about 100,000 fragments in all.

How big did the scrolls get?

Some of the larger scrolls stretch as long as 30 feet. The Isaiah scroll is approximately seven meters long (23 feet) and is made up of 17 parchment sheets, sewn end to end.

Read the rest here.