I started watching Downton Abby with Jen recently. This is funnier.
Sometimes prayer can feel like a waste of time. Surely I’m not the only one who feels like this. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do. I’ve got books that I need to read,sermons to prepare, kids to play with, diapers to change, and television to watch (Downton Abbey is a long series). When I’m praying it feels like I’m not doing anything. Like I’m just sitting around. Like nothing is happening. I need to get moving on my day and start getting things done.
But then I read quotes like the this one by Martin Luther:
Martin Luther, when once asked what his plans, for the following day were, answered: “Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
If anyone was busy, it was Martin Luther. That guy was leading a spiritual revolution! He was preaching, writing, pastoring, translating the Bible into German, being a dad, and being a husband. He was incredibly, overwhelmingly busy. His calendar was always full. And yet, in spite of his incredible workload, he found it absolutely necessary to pray. He had to meet with God before he met with the cares of the day. He would not dive into his day without first being refreshed by the Lord. He knew that he couldn’t serve the Lord well without first asking God for help.
Jesus was an even greater example of the necessity of prayer. Jesus was given the task of being our savior! He was constantly swamped with people and with ministry opportunities. He was constantly being pressed on every side by needy people. And yet he always carved out time to meet with his Father. He would pray through the night. He would set aside ministry opportunities so that he could spend more time seeking God’s face.
Prayer can be tough for me. I’m not a prayer warrior, or Jedi intercessor, or anything like that. I get easily distracted, and now that I have three little girls, my time is even more stretched. I have a lot of different things that need to be done. But I know that I need to pray. I need to meet with God, be strengthened by God, receive wisdom from God, cast my cares on God, and cling to God. If I’m going to serve my family well, I need to pray. If I’m going to serve my church well, I need to pray. If I’m going to serve my wife well, I need to pray.
The Bible seems to indicate that fruitful service to God flows out of consistent dependence on God. I want to be fruitful. I need to be dependent.
Some TV evangelists solicit money like they’re selling Slice-O-Dice-O-Matics or Incredible Dirt-Be-Gone-Ice-Cream-Maker-Diaper-Changers.
“Send your faith seed of $19.95 today and we’ll send you The Amazing Prayer Cloth! Yes, the Amazing Prayer Cloth, embroidered with “footprints in the sand,” is a handy 6” by 6” and fits perfectly inside your Bible. The Amazing Prayer Cloth not only will heal you, but is great for cleaning filthy conscience guilt buildup, as well as charcoal grills and computer screens. Call now, and we’ll send you a second Amazing Prayer Cloth absolutely FREE (just pay shipping and handling of $499)! But wait, there’s more…”
Because of all the manipulation on Christian TV, I’m hesitant at times to encourage people to give to God. But God unashamedly tells us to be generous and to expect him to bless us lavishly. We shouldn’t let the manipulators make us stingy.
God wants us to be generous like he is, the one who gave his only Son for us. Like Christ, who emptied himself to make us rich. Jesus says, “Give to everyone who asks of you.”
Obviously, we need to use discernment, but we should reflect our heavenly Father’s generosity. Here are three reasons:
Generosity honors God.
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)
Generosity brings thanks to God.
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)
Generosity focuses our hope on God.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…(1 Tim 6.17-18).
Generosity helps us set our hope on God, not money or things, which are here today and gone tomorrow. When we give generously we say, “Lord, I give my money away, because I believe you are generous and lavish and will richly provide anything that is good for me.”
God doesn’t owe us, but promises to bless us when we give. If we sow we’ll reap. And God gives us a measure of determination in how much we reap. Sow generously, reap generously. Not that we always reap exactly what we sow. Give a dollar, you might not get ten back. But Jesus will give you joy. And that’s better than money any day. And it’s way better than The Amazing Prayer Cloth.
It is possible to live the Christian life always straining for something more and always dissatisfied and guilty because you haven’t attained it.
It could be your own perception of your love for God, or gratitude for the gospel. Other people seem so much more deeply affected by God than you are – they even tear up when they talk about something they learned in their devotions. So you pray for more love and gratitude, but all the while a subterranean river of doubt gnaws at your soul. What’s wrong with me?
It could be your sense of worth or value to your church. You want to be used by God, so you look for opportunities to minister, to lead in discussion or prayer – and yet you never feel God’s pleasure in your actions, only a restless sense of dissatisfaction coupled with a fear of those more gifted than you and a constant analysis of your own performance. Am I doing well enough?
It could be your overall sanctification. You know you need to grow in humility when you’re corrected, or patience with your kids, or selflessness towards your wife. But instead of faith for the change process you simply feel overwhelmed with a spiritual to-do list. There is no joy in your relationship with God or spontaneous worship arising from your soul. If you dared to articulate your subconscious prayer to God, it would be something like this: Just give me a little longer and I’ll get this fixed.
All of these struggles have a common theme, a non-biblical but very descriptive word: insecurity. Security, according to one dictionary, is “the assurance that something of value will not be taken away.” Insecurity, by contrast, is a perpetual fear that you are about to lose something valuable or experience something negative. If we translate insecurity into biblical language, it is a false refuge or false savior in place of God. My performance is my refuge, not the sovereign, almighty Lord, and so I must perpetually prop up the crumbling walls of my performance castle. It’s a vicious cycle.
So what’s the solution? How do we get off the treadmill of insecurity? Two things: repent of the idolatry, and believe the promises of God. Let’s analyze the second one.
Insecurity always takes the promises and benefits of the gospel – joy in God, peace, forgiveness of sins – and makes them like apples high in the boughs of the tree which only the ladder of performance can reach. Yes, the gospel is good news – and if I could just make myself climb one step higher up this ladder I’d be able to enjoy it! But we never feel like we’re high enough on the ladder, so we’re perpetually insecure, never able to believe and enjoy the promises of God and the blessings of the gospel.
The glory of the gospel is that God brings the blessings to us, exactly where we’re at.
At some point our hearts must take refuge in this: though I will always be in process, God wants me to believe and enjoy the blessings of the gospel now. The happiness of the man whose sins aren’t counted against him (Romans 4:8) is meant for me right now, for this morning’s sin that I confessed but still feel guilty about.
Insecurity is a deadly way to live your life. It saps the energy, joy, and life out of your soul. Sometimes it feels godly when you’re insecure about spiritual things, but it’s not. It’s a sin. Believing the promises of God cuts the heart out of insecurity by placing our feet on a solid foundation – not our performance, but Christ’s – and an unshakeable refuge – the Lord Himself.
Are you perpetually insecure? Then repent and believe the gospel afresh!
“They will work spiritual revolutions through their mighty praying.” –E.M. Bounds
Three weeks ago, we encouraged everyone to join us in praying to God for a revolution in the world, our country and our localities. The first week our focus was to pray for God’s kingdom rule to come to the world; the second week our focus was the persecuted church. Last week we focused on praying for the United States and our own localities. This week we want to pray for our church.
Paul regularly interceded for churches. In almost every one of his letters he shares how he thanks and prays for each of the churches. For example in Ephesians 1 Paul prays:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. (Ephesians 1:16-19)
Paul prayed the Ephesians would know Christ more, have a deeper hope of seeing Jesus, realize that the saints are God’s inheritance and be assured of God’s infinite power toward his them.
Let’s pray for our local churches this week. Here are some suggested prayers:
Lord Jesus, thank you for the grace you’ve poured out upon our church. All glory goes to you for every good thing in our church, for you have accomplished it all.
Thank you for giving us love for you and for one another. Thank you for the grace of serving you’ve given our church. Thank you for all your care, protection and provision over the years. Thank you for leading us and guiding us into sound doctrine and giving us an understanding of the Gospel.
Please let us grow in the knowledge of you. Please open the eyes or hearts to see the height, width, breadth, and depth of your love for us, your incomparable power toward us, and the hope of our calling. Cause us to abound in thankfulness and love.
Please pour out your Holy Spirit on us, and give us gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. Let us all say every Sunday, “Surely the Lord is among us.”
Please cause us to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel and bear much fruit for you. Please help us to worship you wholeheartedly with our lives and our mouths. Please let us bring you glory, Jesus. Please use us to share the gospel with thousands and please bring thousands into the kingdom through us.
Please save every child, young and old, of every family in the church. Give every parent grace and wisdom. Bless the Children’s Ministry – every teacher and helper and child. Thank you for everyone who serves in this way.
Please bless the single adults, and college students in our church. Use them for your glory.
Please pour out healing on everyone in our church who is sick. Please provide our daily bread – provide jobs for all who need them.
Please deliver us from sin and temptation. Please keep us pure, holy and humble. Please cause our love and affection for one another to abound and overflow.
Please help, guide, anoint and protect our pastors and raise up many more laborers for the harvest, and leaders in our church. Please give us many more servants and children’s ministry teachers and workers.
Let’s pray for God to do great things for his own glory. He’s lavish and generous and does far more than week can think, ask or imagine.