I love testimonies of people who receive an unexpected bill and then discover someone has slipped an envelope with the exact amount under their door while they were praying. I know people who, after praying for their resources to last until the next pay check, found a sack of groceries with an anonymous note in the back seat of their car. It is true God provides.
When something happens in your life do you immediately think call mom, twitter, or text a friend? When you need advice do you call your spouse, google, or go to Facebook? When you want prayer do you email the prayer chain or do you pray? If God isn’t your first contact, you can learn a lot from the Shunammite mother.
Often our kindness has unexpected rewards. Today’s passage tells a simple story reinforcing the biblical principle “Treat others the way you want to be treated”.
I recently watched the movie Suffragettes. I was shocked to realize a hundred years ago a father could give away his son with the boy’s mother having no recourse. She had no rights. A hundred years ago it was common for children to work to provide income for the family. So this widow’s problem is something many of us could have faced not so long ago. Regardless of our situation, all of us will become desperate facing something without the necessary resources.
I have always talked to God. However only recently have I realized these biblical truths concerning prayer.
None of the biblical examples of powerful prayer suggested that God ignored someone’s free will.
Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:3, 15-17 NIV)
- Moses didn’t say, “Change the people, God.” He prayed, “Please God, don’t leave us.”
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. (Isaiah 38:1-5 NIV)
- Hezekiah prayed that God would change His plan and extend his life.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:17-18 NIV)
- Elijah prayed for specific weather so that the people would recognize Jehovah as the only true God. He wasn’t concerned about his convenience.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)
- God didn’t say, “Pray that the wicked heathen would repent.” He said, “You need to repent, then I will forgive you.”
Often people who are angry with God pray, “God change them.”God is willing to restore marriages, overcome addiction, and guide our loved ones away from destruction. But:… Click To Tweet
There are no examples of anyone praying a specific series of words that caused the healing of numerous people.
Can you imagine the problems if we thought that if we said specific words in a specific way that God would be obligated to follow our request? That is not to imply we are not to ask for God to heal those suffering from physical, spiritual, emotional, or relational illness.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14 NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV emphasis is mine)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NIV emphasis is mine)
So even the sinner’s prayer people often repeat for salvation must focus on the heart instead of sentences. This change in belief will lead to prioritizing God.
Yes. pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Yes. make your requests of God (Philippians 4:6).
Yes. cast your cares upon Jesus (1 Peter 5:7).
But do not expect God to overrule someone’s free will, instead expect your heart to be changed and God to bless you because of it.
Can you give an example of people becoming superstitious about prayer?
I don’t enjoy reading about military strategy. I get the places, the soldier’s names confused, and weaponry confused. The story told in 2 Kings 3 is the exception. With the help of a map and commentary, I believe I understand. God doesn’t want me following anyone’s plan, but His. Although His plan is the most effective it will also require faith and obedience.
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:45)
Today we will see that when we mock God’s people, we are insulting God himself. He will defend His prophet (Deuteronomy 32:41).
Jericho’s water was so bad even the plant life couldn’t grow around it. Our lives are so cursed by sin that even our best efforts lead to condemnation. Fortunately, God heals the barren and hopeless.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.(2 Corinthians 10: 4, 5)
This post is the second in a series on renewing your mind. This week we are going to add to our weaponry. Notice in the passage above it says every thought, as we screen our thoughts continually, we will be more aware of Satan’s subtle attacks to our mind. Once we take those wrongful thoughts captive, we have to make them “obedient to Christ.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9)
Notice once again we are being reminded that guarding our hearts is the priority. To guard your heart, you must control your mind. Yes, there are many things that are true, but not admirable or praiseworthy. Making your thoughts obedient to Christ means focusing on Him instead of the problem. Jesus says in John 14:6 that He is Truth. So in other words, read God all the things on your paper from last week. Tell Him “I am letting go of the pain, the worry, the ugliness, and the fear. This is too big for me, I trust You, God, to heal me, free me, and protect me from my worries. I am grateful that you are always with me and I choose to focus on Your love, mercy, and grace.” As you continue to keep capturing the painful thoughts, handing them to Jesus and focusing on Him, God’s peace will surround you like a force field.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-12, 16,17)
Do you see that some of your weaponry protects your heart and mind? When Satan tries to penetrate your heart with pain, you are protected by faith and thanksgiving. Your helmet of salvation gives the knowledge of what is truly pure and lovely. As you practice with determination choosing where your mind focuses, Satan’s attacks become less and less effective. (All verses were from the New International Version)
Next week we will examine another way that satan attacks Christian’s minds. Learn the critical difference between the Holy Spirit’s conviction and satan’s crippling condemnation.
When Elijah was about to be taken to heaven, Elisha boldly asked for a double portion of his prophetic spirit (2 Kings 2:9). Perhaps you have boldly asked for God’s presence as well. Can you believe without seeing?