A Night of Prayer

To what extent do you pray? How much time do you spend in prayer? When do you pray? What do you pray about? Is your prayer a one-way conversation, a listing of your wants? Or is your prayer a two-way conversation, including you listening for God’s answer?

If you are like me, your prayer life has its ups and downs. There are times when it is relatively good and times when it is not very good at all. There are times when I reach out in dire need and times when I sit and listen. There are times when it is only about my wants and times when I’m petitioning on behalf of others.

Our prayer life says a lot about how in tune we are with God. It also has a direct impact on how our lives go. When we spend less time in prayer, our lives can get out of control. We can find ourselves trying to do everything on our own. Our lives can become a tangle of events, stressful, anxiety ridden, and filled with frustration. We are far from peaceful.

On the other hand, when we spend time in prayer, we become calm and peaceful even in the midst of chaos. It may seem counterintuitive. How can we take time to pray when we have so much to do? Regardless of how it appears, it is exactly what we need to obtain clarity, set priorities, and achieve what God wants us to achieve.

Take the situation in today’s passage as an example. When Jesus knew He was going to choose the twelve Apostles, He spent an entire night in prayer. It is likely He didn’t just pray that He choose the right twelve, but likely also prayed over the ministry He was about to embark on. He likely prayed for wisdom, discernment, and guidance for every situation He would encounter in His ministry. But I’m sure He also prayed for each of the twelve He would choose, that they would also gain wisdom, discernment, and would listen for God’s guidance.

We may walk through dry times in prayer. When we recognize we are in one of those times, it is time to spend more time in prayer to get ourselves back on track. We may not spend an entire night, but we need to purposely choose to set aside time to be in conversation with God.

I pray we all choose to spend time with God in prayer. I pray we recognize the dry times and make a concerted effort to reach out to God. I pray each of us will go to God in all situations, with all our needs, and to listen. Recognize the dry times. Go to God in prayer. Spend time listening. Make it a two-way conversation. Find the peace you desire.

Luke 6:12-13 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

Love Life

Do you want to love life? Do you want to see good days? Would it be great to have many good days, so many that you absolutely love life? Do you know how to achieve it? Are you willing to do what is necessary?

Most of us would say we want good days. We would say we want to love life. Yet, we often aren’t willing to do what is necessary to truly have those good days and truly love life. The reason is simple…we have to give our old ways.

Peter says we are to keep our tongue from evil. I dare say most of us don’t think our tongue is evil. All the while we slander others, poke fun at them, use foul language, and make snide comments. Not only that, but we complain about everything.

We don’t think we are evil. Yet we drink like a sieve. We ogle over another person like they are a piece of meat. We purposely set others up to fail. We turn our backs on those in need. We horde worldly possessions like they are gold.

Peter says we are to do good and seek peace. Doing good is more than sending a few dollars to your favorite charity. It is getting out, going to those in need, speaking encouraging words, seeing each person as Jesus sees them, and following His commands.

Seeking peace is more than avoiding conflict. It is actively looking for ways to resolve conflict. It is asking God to grant you peace in a stressful situation. It is seeking that inner calm. It is learning at Jesus’ feet so as to be like Him.

I pray we all seek good days. I pray we long to love life. I pray each one of us seek to do good and seek the peace we need in our lives to live a life we love. Rid yourself of evil. Do good. Seek peace. Ask God to bless you with peace. Follow His plan for your life.

1 Peter 3:10-12 For,

“Whoever would love life

and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good;

they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Determined and Blessed

Do you want to be blessed far more than you can comprehend? Do you have any idea how you can be blessed in such a way? If you knew, would you do what was necessary? We often like to think we will, but will we really?

We all want to be blessed richly. We often ask God to bless us. God hears our prayers. He decides how and when to bless us. His timing is perfect. He also rewards those who are willing to follow His plan.

Most of us are unwilling to go through the tiring work required. That may sound odd. We hear that God blesses us when we ask. We hear that God is a loving God. And all that is true. Yet, we must remember that God is also a just God, which means He doesn’t bless us regardless of what we do.

Ruth is a prime example of how we can be blessed beyond our wildest dreams if we follow God’s plan for our lives. She dedicated herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi. She moved from her country to the home country of Naomi. She stayed by Naomi’s side regardless of what the consequences may have been for her. She followed the God of Naomi. God saw her dedication and blessed her for it.

Ruth ended up in the family tree of both King David and, ultimately, Jesus. She married Boaz because she was fending for Naomi and herself and she bore a son named Obed. She followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. She continued to go where God called her to go. This resulted in God blessing her in a way she could not have imagined.

I pray we all follow God’s plan for our lives. I pray we submit to God’s will, doing what He asks us to do. I pray each of us will seek God’s plan for our lives and are blessed beyond our wildest imagination. Seek God’s plan for your life. Follow God’s plan. Submit to His will. Be blessed in ways you cannot imagine.

Ruth 14:18, 21-22 This, then, is the family line of Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron, …

Salmon the father of Boaz,

Boaz the father of Obed,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of David.

God of Peace

Where does peace come from? How can we acquire peace? What comes with the peace that is given to us? Why is peace offered to us? Who is pleased with granting us the peace we desperately need and desire?

Whether we realize it or not, we desire peace and we need peace. By acquiring peace, we are relieved of anxiety and worry. We are given peace for a reason, but we do have to ask for it and honestly desire it. Wait…didn’t I just say we desire it?

In our inner core we do desire peace. Unfortunately, that inner core has multiple layers wrapped around it and often we choose the drama of the world rather than our true desire. Why? We want the attention that comes with it. Think about it. Do you know someone that has peace? If so, I’m sure you have noticed that person doesn’t need to be in the limelight nor requires much attention. They just quietly go about their business and don’t allow external happenings to affect their peace.

If we want that kind of peace, we can only get it from God who is a God of peace. It has been offered to us through the blood of Christ. God is so, so ready to grant us that peace. But we must be willing to part with the layers of drama we cling to that wrap around our inner core.

Notice that with the peace God is willing to grant us comes the equipping we need to do the good He has planned for us to do. We need His peace to be ready to carry out His work. Have you ever known an anxious person who was effective at carrying out God’s plan? Yet, when we carry out His plan, we please Him. Isn’t that what we want or should want to do?

I pray we all ask God to remove our outer layers of drama. I pray we seek the peace God wants to give us. I pray each one of us look toward carrying out God’s plan for our lives. Shed the drama. Rid yourself of anxiety. Accept the peace of God. Be equipped for good works. Carry out God’s plan for you. 

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray for Authorities

Do you want to live a peaceful life? Are you seeking to live quietly? Have you spent time praying for those in authority? Have you spent time petitioning God on behalf of those in leadership? Have you asked God to lead them to godliness?

As we seek to live lives that are peaceful and quiet, we often look for good jobs, nice neighborhoods, good friends, and maybe a church where we fit in. In other words, we look at external things, places, and people to provide us with the peace we seek.

The Apostle Paul tells his understudy, Timothy, to spend time in prayer. But not just any prayer. Prayer for those who are in authority and leadership. This may seem odd to us. We wonder how that would allow us to lead lives of peace and quiet. Yet, if we think about it a little while, we can see how that would affect our lives.

When we pray for our government leaders, God works in their lives. When we pray for leaders in our communities, God works in their lives. When we pray for leaders of our businesses, God works in their lives. When God works in people’s lives, they change for the better. As our leaders are changed for the better by God, our lives are changed for the better.

We may not be able to have a positive effect on our leaders directly, but we can indirectly through prayer. Prayer is power and effective (James 5:16), when we pray for God’s will to be done. Let’s all pray for those in authority and lead peaceful lives.

I pray we all spend time praying for our leaders. I pray we pray for God’s will to be done. I pray each of us will pray for our government and trust God to work out His will in all things. Spend time in prayer. Pray for authorities. Pray for leaders. Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray so that you will find peace and quiet.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Righteousness, Peace, and Joy

What are your squabbles over? What is it others do that offends you? What is it you do that offends others? Are those things really important? Why is it we allow the smallest things to set us off on a tirade or at least irritate us?

There are some things others do that can irritate us to no end. It may be their disorganization or the repetitive phrases they use when they talk or their taste in music or their lack of caring or their susceptibility to believe nearly everything they hear.

We all have our pet peeves. We all have triggers that cause us to roll our eyes, make snide remarks, or explode in anger or disgust. Too often, we write it off as “we are who we are.” Yet, what if we could control it? We can. It’s called self-control and it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, how do we get this fruit? By allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us and willingly give up ourselves.

Paul uses an example of a squabble within the church in Rome in today’s passage. There was a disagreement over what kinds of food to eat, and whether food sacrificed to idols was allowed. Paul tells the church the food doesn’t matter as long as we have asked God’s blessing over it. Paul is reminding the church that everything we have is provided by God, no matter what some may think or do with it.

He says that we are to pursue righteousness, peace, and joy. They come from the Holy Spirit. They are gifts from God…if we are willing to accept them. Just like any gift we may give or receive on any occasion, we have the option to accept them or reject them. We can have all of these and decide not to get upset by what goes on around us. It’s a choice of accepting God or continuing to live as everyone else in this world.

I pray we all decide to accept the gifts God is willing to give us. I pray we accept the Holy Spirit working in our lives. I pray each of us seek righteousness, peace, and joy through the Holy Spirit. Be free of your pet peeves. Accept the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to work in your life. Seek righteousness. Seek peace. Seek joy. Know that God will give them to you.

Romans 14:17-18 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peaceand joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Peace Through Jesus

Have you ever thought how peace is made? Do you think it is long hours of discussion, disagreement, and compromise? Have you thought it may be something that is already available to you, if you will only grasp it?

We often think of peace as the opposite of conflict. When war breaks out, we pray for peace. When we live in anger filled and disruptive households, we pray for peace. When our jobs include dissention within the ranks, we pray for peace.

But what if peace is far more than the absence of war, anger, dissention, and disruption? What if peace can be ours while enduring all the above? It can be ours. It is offered by God to us. We merely need to take hold of it. But that’s where the rub comes in, isn’t it?

To grasp the peace God offers, we must stop attempting to be in control. We must give up our anxiety to achieve it. We must accept that Jesus has paid the price already and stands ready to give us the peace that comes through His conquering of this world. We must quit wringing our hands and fold our hands in prayer instead.

The fullness of God dwelt in Christ. How is that possible? He is God. When we are reconciled through Him, we experience the peace He promised. When He shed His blood on the cross and rose again on the third day, He conquered this world. True, we will face trouble in this world, but we don’t have to face it alone nor be riddled with anxiety and worry by it. We can maintain an inner calm and peace by holding on to Christ.

I pray we all seek the inner peace God is willing to grant us. I pray we seek the peace that comes from Him, a peace that is beyond understanding. I pray each one of us give up our anxiety to experience the peace of Christ. Give up anxiety. Seek the peace of God. Seek the peace of Christ. Ask God for His peace. Accept His peace into your life. Jesus has conquered this world.

Colossians 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Faith-Works

How is your faith? Do you consider your faith to be strong? How do you prove it is? What are you doing with your faith? Are you putting it into action? Are you going about accomplishing the work God has planned for you?

We may or may not think of action or work as faith. If we do not, we need to take a closer look at what James says about faith and works. For our faith to be true faith, it must be put into action. Not just any action, but action that is pleasing to God.

Notice the example James gives in today’s passage. Feed the hungry. Clothe those who need clothing. Now, we must not think these are the only possibilities of putting our faith into action, but we must take notice of the category these fall in to. They are needs.

Fulfilling the needs of others is the key to pleasing God, doing the good works He has planned for us. We can add actions such as providing a ride to a medical appointment, helping with a utility bill, providing free dental care, providing a safe place to sleep, and taking care of the elderly.

Make no mistake about it, James is pointing to needs, not extravagances. God desires that we take care of and look out for one another, even if the person has made bad decisions. After all, we all make bad decisions that may put us in a vulnerable position, whether it is our health or financial well-being. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should continue to make bad decisions.

I pray we all put our faith into action. I pray we take up the work God has planned for us. I pray each one of us are willing to help those who are in need, providing what we can through the blessings God has bestowed on us. Put your faith into action. Help fulfill needs. Share your blessings with others. Put faith to work. Increase your faith through works.

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Stumbling Blocks

Have you faced stumbling blocks in your life? Have there been people who have gotten in the way of progress? Have you been a stumbling block to someone else? Has the stumbling block been due to a judgmental attitude?

We don’t often think of stumbling blocks. On the other hand, we do think about speed bumps or brick walls. They equate to being much the same. Both are meant to trip someone up or slow them down, much like a stumbling block as mentioned in Scripture.

Notice the Apostle Paul points out the genesis of being a stumbling block as passing judgment on someone else. If you are like me, you have never thought of it that way. Yet, it makes perfect sense. If we have determined a person should not be allowed to do something, we put stumbling blocks in their pathway.

Here is an example. Let’s assume someone we know wants to pursue a career that we don’t think they are suited to pursue. We may tell them horror stories we have heard from others in that career. Or we may lay out the multitude of requirements they must meet, attempting to make it sound insurmountable. In either case, we have judged they are not to pursue that career and are putting stumbling blocks in their path in hopes of changing their course.

How should we react? First, there is nothing wrong with laying out the requirements for the career if we also provide the positives. Making a list of pros and cons for any task we or another person is undertaking goes along with making wise decisions. The other key part to this is knowing whether the person wants our advice or not. In the case of our children, sometimes they think they know, but we have years of experience we can draw on to provide advice. Yet, if they truly won’t listen, we must allow them to learn on their own. We cannot be a stumbling block to their experiences. We cannot always keep them from making mistakes.

I pray we all stop judging one another. I pray we determine not to be a stumbling block. I pray each one of us are willing to provide wise advice, but only after we have spent time in prayer. Stop passing judgment. Do not be a stumbling block. Provide wise advice. Look at the pros and cons. Be prayerful. Trust God is at work.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Not An Orphan

Do you sometimes feel as though you are all alone? Does it seem as though you have been abandoned? Have you ever felt the divine presence of God in your midst? Do you realize Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to live within all His followers?

Feeling alone is not a good feeling. It can be gut wrenching. It can be horrifying. It can be depressing. Yet, all of us will feel that way at some point or another during our lives. It is at that very moment we are to reach out to God and ask Him to make Himself evident to us.

As part of our prayer when we feel alone, we should confirm we know that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. We should acknowledge He is with us, even if we cannot see Him. It is when we do this that we can ask Him to make His presence known to us.

Jesus told His Apostle’s, and us by extension, that He would send us a helper, advocate, comforter, the Spirt of truth. We can take comfort knowing Jesus has done exactly what He said He would do. We can be strong and courageous knowing the Holy Spirit is always there with us, and because He is God just as Jesus and the Father are God, we have God with us at all times.

We are not orphans left to fend for ourselves or beg for our dinner. We are children of God who are loved by Him more than we will know until we are with Him for eternity. The definitive question for each of us is, “Will I accept Jesus Christ and His promises for my life?” The answer cannot be flippant, off the cuff, half-hearted, nor based on peer pressure. It must be an honest answer that comes from the depths of our heart and be fully meant. God knows our heart and He knows whether we have fully committed or not.

I pray we all fully commit to God. I pray we accept Jesus and His promises. I pray each one of us ask God to reveal Himself to us, especially when we feel all alone. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Accept Jesus’ promises. Reach out to God when you feel lonely. Know that God is always with you. Commit yourself to God. Know that Jesus has not left you as an orphan. God loves you.

John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.