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10 Hindrances to Prayer By Dr. David P. Craig

Just as we have a hard time communicating with someone we have hurt, or who has hurt us, oftentimes we sense that our prayers our bouncing off the ceiling and God is far away. When God seems distant and we are out of fellowship with Him it appears that our prayers are being hindered – because they are! The problem in this case is NEVER with God – it’s ALWAYS with us. God is perfect, transcendent and immanent [near, operating within] in His presence and activity. Therefore, when we feel that God is distant – it’s very important that we evaluate every possible hindrance to our prayers. Here are several passages of Scripture that elucidate hindrances to our effective communication and fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Take the time to prayerfully consider and evaluate your walk with Him. Remember that God is quick to forgive and wants to draw near to you as you draw near to Him.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8a

(1) Carnal motives – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

(2) Cherishing Sin“If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).

(3) Concealing Sin“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

(4) Domestic Disputing“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

(5) Hypocrisy“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:5).

(6) Ignoring God’s Law“If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).

(7) Pride  – “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14)

(8) Robbing God“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:8-10).

(9) Unbelief“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).

(10) Withholding Forgiveness“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12-15).

 

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Warren W. Wiersbe on How To Pray Effectively: 5 Principles from John 17

Today, May 3rd, 2012 is the National Day of Prayer. On this day I’m posting an excellent excerpt from a book on how to pray from Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe. He bases this book on the “real Lord’s prayer.” What we have traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 is the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray. However, in John 17 we get a glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus on His way to the cross and back to glory with the Father. The best way we can learn about prayer, is to do a careful study of John 17, and see firsthand how, what, and why Jesus prayed. Without further ado – enjoy Wiersbe’s observations about our Lord’s famous prayer from John chapter 17.

These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said. ’’Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.” John 17:1

“Lord, teach us to pray!”

This request from one of the disciples (Luke 11:1) gave evidence of real spiritual insight. We must learn how to pray. While praying is as natural to the Christian as breathing is to a mammal, even breathing must be studied and practiced if it is to be correct. Singers and public speakers work on their breathing so that they get the most out of their voice and don’t injure it. The fact that we have been praying since childhood is no guarantee that we really know how to pray effectively.

John 17:1 Gives us some Guidelines to Follow for Effective Praying:

(1) Posture is not important

Was our Lord kneeling or standing when he offered this prayer? We don’t know. All we do know is that He lifted up His eyes to heaven (see John 11:41). Most people bow their heads and close their eyes when they pray, but Jesus lifted His head and focused His eyes on heaven. Many people fold their hands when they pray, but I don’t find this practice anywhere in Scripture. In fact, the Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands, open to God, expecting to receive something! (Note 1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 28:2; and 1 Timothy 2:8.)

Many different prayer postures are recorded in the Bible, and all of them are acceptable. Some people bowed their knees when they prayed (Genesis 24:52; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Ephesians 3:14). When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He began by bowing His knees (Luke 22:41); He then fell on His face as He talked to the Father (Matthew 26:39). It was Daniel’s practice to kneel when he prayed (Daniel 6:10), but King David sat when he talked to God about the promised kingdom (2 Samuel 7:18). Abraham stood when he interceded for Sodom (Genesis 18:22). So there are many postures for prayer.

The important thing is the posture of the heart. It is much easier to bow the knees than to bow the heart in submission to God. While the outward posture can be evidence of the inward spiritual attitude, it is not always so. Again, the important thing is the posture of the heart.

(2) We Pray to the Father

The biblical pattern for prayer is to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Jesus addressed His Father six times in this prayer. (Some people say “Father” or “Lord” with every sentence that they pray. This is a bad habit that should be cured.) Four times He simply said “Father”; the other two times, He called Him “Holy Father” and “righteous Father” (verses 11 and 25). From this, I gather that it is not wrong for us to use suitable adjectives when we address our Father in heaven. However, we must be careful to mean what we say and not overdo it.

We address the Father, of course, because prayer is based on sonship. In what we traditionally call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father….” Jesus never prayed “Our Father.” We noted in chapter 1 that Jesus had a different relationship to the Father because He is the eternal Son of God. He said, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).

We hear people addressing their prayers to the Son and even to the Holy Spirit. Is this wrong? When Stephen gave his life for Christ, he saw Jesus in heaven and addressed his prayer to him: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59). I know of no prayer in the Bible addressed to the Holy Spirit. Since our prayers are addressed to God, and since Father and Son and Holy Spirit are all in the Godhead, technically we can address our prayers to each of them. However, the biblical pattern seems to be that we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, and through the power of the Spirit.

Nowhere in this prayer does our Lord mention the Holy Spirit. He had in His Upper Room discourse taught the disciples about the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-13). Jude 20 instructs us to pray “in the Holy Spirit,” which seems to relate to Romans 8:26, 27, verses that every serious prayer warrior should ponder. We cannot expect God to answer unless we pray in His will (1 John 5:14, 15). We discover the will of God primarily through the Word of God (Colossians 1:9, 10), and it is one of the ministries of the Spirit to teach us from the Word (John 16:13, 14).

The fact that prayer is based on sonship suggests that the Father is obligated to listen when His children call. In fact, it is more than an obligation: it is the Father’s delight when His children fellowship with Him and share their needs. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). The Father’s heart reaches out in love to His own, and He longs to share good things with them. And the better we know our Father, the easier it is to pray in His will.

(3) We must be Yielded to the Father’s Will

A storm passed over the Florida coast and left a great deal of wreckage behind. The next day, as the men were cleaning up their little town, one man said, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I prayed during that storm last night.” One of his friends replied, “Yes, I’m sure the Lord heard many new voices last night.”

Prayer is not like those little red boxes we see in buildings and occasionally on street corners, marked USE ONLY IN EMERGENCY. I enjoy sharing good things with my children, but if they only spoke to me when they were in trouble or in need of something, our relationship would quickly deteriorate. Unless we do the will of God, our living will negate our praying.

“Father, the hour has come….” What hour? The hour for which He had come into the world. The hour when He would die on the cross, be buried, rise again, and finish the great work of redemption. You may trace this “hour” in John’s Gospel.

John 2:4 - Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.

John 7:30 - They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

John 8:20 - These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.

John 12:23 - And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

John 13:1 - Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

John 17:1- Father, the hour has come….

I think it was Phillips Brooks who said, “The purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.” If we want to pray in the will of God, then we must live in the will of God. Prayer is not something that we do; it is something that we are. It is the highest and deepest expression of the inner person.

It is this profound relationship between practice and prayer that helps us understand such promises as Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” A superficial reading of this promise would lead you to believe that God is a doting Father who plays favorites with those who pamper Him. But that is not what this promise says. If we delight in the Lord, and seek to please Him in everything, then something is going to happen to our own desires. His desires become our desires. We start to say with our Lord, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Our praying, then, is simply the reflection of God’s desires in our own heart.

There is a price to pay when we sincerely pray in the will of God. Jesus was about to receive the cup from His Father’s hand (John 18:10, 11). The Father had prepared the cup, and the hour had come. But Jesus was not afraid. Peter tried to protect the Master, but Jesus rebuked him. “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). We need never fear the will of God; and, if we are in the will of God, we need never fear the answers He gives to our prayers. If a son asks for bread, will he receive a stone? If he asks for a fish, will his father give him a snake?

Living in the will of God makes it possible for us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This command obviously doesn’t mean that we are to go around mumbling prayers. Our real praying is expressed by the desires of our heart. If our lips frame requests that are different from the desires in our heart, then we are praying hypocritically. God does not hear words; He sees hearts. So, when we live in the will of God, the desires of our heart should become more and more godly; and these desires are really prayers that constantly ascend to the Lord.

Jesus lived on a divine timetable. When He told His disciples He was going back to Judea to help Mary and Martha and Lazarus, the disciples protested. “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” What was our Lord’s reply? “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:8, 9). He knew that He was safe in the Father’s will, and that they could not kill Him until His hour had come.

God in his mercy can and does answer “emergency prayers,” but He prefers that we be in constant communion with Him. (In fact, if we seek to live in His will, we will have fewer emergencies!) If prayer is an interruption to our lives, then something is wrong.

The fact that we sustain an attitude of prayer does not mean we avoid regular times of prayer. It is the regular occasion of prayer that makes possible the constant attitude of prayer. We do not enjoy Thanksgiving dinners or holiday feasts at every meal; but we are able to enjoy those special times because we have eaten our regular meals three times a day. We begin the day with prayer; we pray at mealtime; we lift prayers to God during the day as the Spirit prompts us; we close the day in prayer. Like our breathing, our praying becomes so much a part of our lives that we are often not conscious of it.

(4) The Glory of God should be our Primary Concern

“Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.”

The word glory is used in one form or another eight times in this prayer. What does it mean?

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “glory” means “weight, that which is important and honorable.” (Paul’s phrase “an eternal weight of glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:17 carries this idea.) In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “glory” means “opinion, fame.” Theologians tell us that the “glory of God” is the sum total of all that He is, the manifestation of His character. The glory of God is not an attribute of God, but rather is an attribute of all His attributes! He is glorious in wisdom and power, glorious in His mighty works, and glorious in the grace He bestows upon us.

You have probably noticed that “The Lord’s Prayer” teaches us to put God’s concerns before our own. We pray “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” before we bring up our own needs-daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from sin. When our praying centers on the glory of God, we see our needs and requests in proper perspective. Matters that seemed so important have a tendency to shrink to their proper size when measured by the glory of God.

Whatever we pray about, in the will of God and for the glory of God, will be granted by our heavenly Father. When we are available to bring glory to God “on the earth” (verse 4), then God is available to provide what we need.

Was Jesus praying selfishly when He said, “Glorify Thy Son”? No, he was not. To begin with, He had shared that glory with the Father “before the world was” (verse 5). When He came to earth in His body of flesh, He veiled that glory. Peter, James, and John saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration (John 1:14; Matthew 17:1-8), but it was not revealed to anyone else. When our Lord asked the Father to glorify Him, He was only requesting the return of that which was already His.

But something more is involved. The glorification of Jesus Christ meant the completion of the great work of salvation. In this prayer, Jesus spoke as though His work on the cross were already finished. “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (verse 4). If Jesus Christ had not been glorified, there could be no salvation for sinners today. The Holy Spirit would not have been given. There would be no church, no New Testament, no Christian life. While our Lord did pray for Himself, it was not a selfish prayer; for He also had us in mind.

And, after all, it cost Him His life on the cross for this prayer to be answered. By no stretch of the imagination could you call it selfish.

God answered the prayer of His Son. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…” (Acts 3:13). In Peter 1:21 we are told that the Father “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory….” There is a glorified Man in heaven today! In Jesus Christ, deity and humanity share glory. This assures us that one day we shall share God’s glory, for “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Jesus Christ has already given His church the glory (verse 22). The tense of the verb in Romans 8:30 has always astounded me: “…whom He justified, these He also glorified.” We are just as much glorified as we are justified, but the glory has not yet been revealed. All of creation, now travailing because of sin, is eagerly awaiting “the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19); for only then will creation be set free to enjoy “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

“If God answers this request,” we should ask ourselves, “will it bring Him glory? And what will this answer look like when Jesus comes again?” I have discovered that testing my prayers by the glory of God is a good way to detect requests that are selfish and short-sighted.

(5) We must Pray in Faith

Suppose the Master had looked at His situation through human eyes alone. Could He have prayed as He did? No; it would have been impossible.

Suppose He looked back on His years of ministry and evaluated that ministry from a human point of view. It would have looked like failure. He had very few followers, and His own nation had rejected Him. Humanly speaking, His work had failed. Yet He prayed, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (verse 4). By faith, He would be that “grain of wheat” planted in the ground, and He would produce much fruit (John 12:24).

Or, suppose He had looked around. What would He have seen? A small band of men, all of whom would fail Him in one way or another. Peter would deny Him three times. At that very hour, Judas was bargaining with the Jewish council and selling the Master like a common slave. Peter, James, and John would go to sleep in the Garden when they should be encouraging their Lord. And all of the men would forsake Him and flee.

Yet by faith, Jesus prayed, “I have been glorified in them” (verse 10). By faith, He prayed for them as they would be sent into the world to share the Gospel message. In spite of their past failures, these men would succeed! “I do not ask in behalf of these alone,” He said to the Father, “but for those also who believe in Me through their word” (verse 20). These weak men would invade a world that hated them and bring many to the feet of the Savior. Jesus saw all of this by faith.

If our Lord had looked ahead, He would have seen arrest, conviction, and death on a cross. Humanly speaking, it was defeat; but by faith, He saw it as it really was-victory! He said to Andrew and Philip, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Glorified! We would have said, crucified. But he looked beyond the cross to the glory that would come. “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

When we pray by faith, we start seeing things from the divine perspective. Faith enables us to see the invisible. Faith treats as present and accomplished that which God will do in the future. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

In my own prayer life, God is constantly seeking to bring me back to these fundamentals. It is easy for me to get detoured by some external thing, and my Father has to remind me that effective praying must come from the heart. I must repeatedly examine my relationship to the Father to make sure I am in His will, and that I want to be in His will. (“Doing the will of God from the heart,” Ephesians 6:6.) I must examine my motives: Am I praying so that the Father will be glorified or so that I might have my own comfortable way? Am I praying by faith, basing my requests on His Word?

Perhaps all of this seems to make praying appear very complex and difficult. Really, it is not. True prayer is the by-product of our personal “love relationship” with the Father.

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21).

About the Author: Warren W. Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Warren Wiersbe is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” The article above was adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe. Prayer: Basic Training. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988, 23-32.

 

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How the A-C-T-S Acronym Can Help Us In Balancing Prayer By Dr. R.C. Sproul

A helpful structure for personal prayer is provided by the acrostic A-C-T-S: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Adoration as the place where prayer must start. When we begin by adoring God and seeing him in his majesty and holiness, we naturally become aware of our sins. Thus, the next step in prayer is confession of sins.

We should always pray in a spirit of confession. Psalm 66:18 says that if we harbor unconfessed sins in our hearts, God will not hear us. Thus, we may never enter into a conversation with God while we are in a state of sin. Just as believers under the old covenant could only draw near to God by bringing a sacrifice, so we may not draw near without confessing our sins and approaching him through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the final sacrifice for sins. We are commanded to come boldly, but we must come contritely as well.

The third part of prayer is “supplication with thanksgiving.” We should begin with thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us and for what God has done in our lives. The attitude of thanksgiving is wanting in our lives. The traditional worship service of the church is called the Eucharist, from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” The idea of worship is thanksgiving to God. We tend to forget what God has done for us, which is why God set up memorials and rituals for Israel to remind them. We need to make the effort in our prayers to show that we have not forgotten God’s mercies.

Finally, we bring our petitions. The Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believers says that we need not go to an ordained clergyman for prayer, and we certainly don’t need to ask dead saints to do it. We can ask any believer.

The other side of this is that, just as we need to ask others to pray for us, so we need to pray for others. The tendency is for us to be self-centered in our petitions, to pray mostly for ourselves. We need to reverse this emphasis and exercise our priesthood properly. We need to be priests for others, and have them be priests for us.

Try this A-C-T-S prayer outline. If you find that you stammer, keep going. Prayer, like learning to talk to anyone else, takes both focused interest and practice. Ask God to help you learn to pray better. Open the psalms and use them to help guide your prayers and your thoughts.

Adapted from Dr. R.C. Sproul. Vol. 4Before the Face of God: Book 4: A daily guide for living from Ephesians, Hebrews, and James. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; Ligonier Ministries, 1994, 478-479.

One of the ways I like to use the A-C-T-S acronym is to write down on a sheet of paper or journal each letter; then a corresponding verse; and then write down a short prayer on each aspect of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication based on each verse or passage of Scripture that I am reading through. One of the ways this really helps you grow in the Christian walk is in the area of confession and repentance. It’s easy to say your sorry for a particular sin, but when you write it down and it stares you back in the face – it really forces you to deal with it. For example, if I write down I was short and curt with my wife – and I write down what I said specifically – it helps me not only confess it to God, but also to my spouse, and then ask her to forgive me as well, and then we can work together on how I can speak more kindly to her. Prayer doesn’t change God – He’s perfect and always acts perfectly in accordance with His sovereign plans, but prayer is a wonderful means to help us become more like Jesus, and therefore, prayer is a great medium for us to change and conform into the image of Christ. – Dr. David P. Craig

 

About the Author: Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk Magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books (including some of my all time favorites: THE HOLINESS OF GOD; CHOSEN BY GOD; KNOWING SCRIPTURE; WILLING TO BELIEVE; REASON TO BELIEVE; and PLEASING GOD) and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL.

 

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Are You Waiting For The Lord?

I don’t know that there is anything more difficult than being blind or in the dark about what God is doing in your life. What I do know is that God is sovereign and is working behind the scenes always working to bring about His purposes for the glory of Christ. One of my favorite Bible teachers is Warren Wiersbe – here is a helpful devotional on the subject of waiting on God based on Psalm 40:1-3 from his wonderful devotional book on the Psalms called Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, reprinted 2011. – Dr. David P. Craig

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear,and put their trust in the LORD.” - Psalm 40:1-3 (ESV)

“From Mire To Choir”

 By Warren W. Wiersbe

When we wait for the Lord and wait on Him, we aren’t being idle. In this Psalm David cries out to the Lord and asks for help. He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (v.2). Waiting on the Lord is worthwhile because of what He is going to do for us. It is not idleness, nor is it carelessness. And certainly isn’t complacency. Instead, waiting is that divine activity of expecting God to work. And He never disappoints us.

Figuratively, David had been down in a horrible pit. He was sinking in the mire. But he waited on the Lord. And God not only pulled him out of the pit, but He put him on a rock and established his footing. He said, “David, I’m going to take you out of the mire and put you in the choir.” “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (v.3).

Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you praying about something and asking, “O God, when are You going to do this? When are You going to work?” Remember, one of these days your praying will turn to singing. Your sinking will turn to standing. Your fear will turn security as He puts you on the rock. Just wait on the Lord. He’s patient with you. Why not be patient with Him and let Him work in His time?

Waiting for the Lord’s help sometimes forces you to your limits. But take comfort in knowing that while you wait on Him, God is working out His purposes in your life. Are you in a difficult situation, waiting for God to do something? Leave your burden with the Lord and trust Him to act. He never disappoints you when wait on Him.

About the Author: Warren W. Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Warren Wiersbe is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” Some of Wiersbe’s recent books include Your Next MiracleThe 20 Essential Qualities of a Child of GodThe Bumps are What You Climb OnClassic Sermons on the Fruit of the SpiritClassic Sermons on Jesus the ShepherdKey Words of the Christian LifeLonely PeopleA Gallery of GraceReal Peace: Freedom and Conscience in the Christian Life, and On Being a Leader for God.

 

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“Revival on God’s Terms” By Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

An Exposition of 2 Chronicles 7:14 by Dr. Walter Kaiser*

The verb to revive in our English Bibles is almost exclusively an Old Testament word. It occurs in the NIV only five times in the Old Testament (Pss. 80:18; 85:6; Isa. 57:15; and Hos. 6:2). The sole New Testament occurrences were found in the King James Version of Romans 7:9; 14:9. Thus we are mainly limited to the five passages mentioned in the Old Testament where the Hebrew verb hayah to live,” to recover,” or to revive appears.

The major reference to being revived, of course, is Psalm 85:6. But we must not think that all the references to revival in the Bible will mention this word, for, as we have found out, the Scriptures will refer to the concept of revival without using this word more frequently than it does with it.

Each of the sixteen revivals in the Bible had very distinctive characteristics. Most of them began as one or two individuals saw the need for a heavenly visitation. All of them were addressed in the first place to the body of believers. In fact, five out of seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation were told to repent and return to God. Therefore, revivals are definitely aimed at the believing church and not at the unsaved. The purpose of these revivals is to call the church back to a new hearing of and responding to the Word of God. It must involve a forsaking of sin, a confession of that sin, and a deep desire to reverse the pattern of spiritual declension and apostasy that has begun to typify that ministry, either locally, regionally, or nationally.

Most will agree that the divine response given to Solomon, when he prayed that great dedicatory prayer, after the completion of the temple of God, forms one of the great hallmarks in Scripture for expecting revival in any period of history. Solomon prayed that God would forgive the sins of Israel when they would confess their guilt, after being visited by some future drought, famine, or pestilence as a result of their sin (2 Chronicles 6:26-31).

God’s reply to Solomon’s petition in 2 Chronicles 7:12-16 was put in such formulaic terms that this response would serve forever after as the basis for true revival and renewal to any people in any nation at any time. The heart of this central text, in the gallery of revival texts, was verse 14: “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 will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Note that “my people” are identified by the appositional clause “who are called by my name.” Since this clause is used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament for all believers, the scope of this promise goes far beyond Israel to include any and all believers in all times.

The Promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14

Philip R. Newell noted three great facts about this remarkable promise, we will describe here:

(1) The promise is for us today;

(2) The promise is descriptive of current times; and

(3) The promise of deliverance is conditional

(1)  This Promise Is Intended for Us Today

This promise was originally given to the nation of Israel. However, the qualifying clause that immediately follows the references to my people is one that opens up this promise to more than the Jewish people—it was the clause that read, “who are called by my name.” That phraseology is used to describe everyone who has become part of the family of God and over whom God had put his protective name.

We also have assurance from Romans 15:4 that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures [which up to this point, was only the Old Testament] we might have hope.” Likewise, 1 Corinthians 10:11 exhorts, “These things happened to them [i.e.’ to the Old Testament saints] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”

It is incumbent on us to apply these same words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to our own times, nation, churches, and families, as did the ancient Israelites. The principles by which God operates his kingdom remain the same; we dare not assume less.

(2) The Promise Is Descriptive of Current Times

The conditions of 2 Chronicles 7:13 imply that when national disasters begin to afflict a nation, people, or group of believers, it is time to ask what it is that God is trying to say to them or to us. Naturally, one emergency or disaster cannot automatically be converted into the voice of God, for there are more factors at work in this world than reducing them all to a single factor; there is, however, that which is sinful and wicked. Ask Job about his experiences along this line. But when those tragedies start coming in a series, such as Amos 4:6-12 illustrated, then it is high time for the believer to sit up and take notice. Be sure that God is calling a nation away from unrighteousness and back to himself. In Amos’s case, God sent first famine (Amos 4:6), then drought (v.7-8), then locusts, blight, and mildew (v. 9), then plagues similar to the ones that hit Egypt (v. 10), and finally the defeat of some of their cities (v. 11); but in each case the sad refrain was, “yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD” (vv. 6b, 8b, 9b, 10b, 11b). Not one of the calamities of that day forced any of the people of God to turn back to Him.

And because the people had not returned to the Lord, there would not only be no revival; the nation would exist no longer as well: “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (v. 12). Many have taken this verse to be a salvation text, for one used to see it out in the countryside printed on large oval discs as one drove along: “Prepare to Meet Your God!” Unfortunately, that is not what the prophet of God meant here; he meant that since there was not repentance, or heeding to the national signs of disaster that were lovingly sent to those who had ignored the Word of God written and announced by his messengers, God would be obligated to send his wrath and judgment on that nation.

Likewise, God warned Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:13, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,” then it was time that Israel met the four conditions of the famous verse 14 in 2 Chronicles 7.

The question needs to be asked by every generation and culture: Have we yet reached the point described in verse 13? Only the Lord knows for sure, but one would hardly need the skills of a prophet to conclude that the current pace of evil in America has accelerated to such a rate that it is almost a foregone conclusion that God must intervene with unusual punishment soon, if an immediate repentance to God and a revival from God is to prevent such a judgment from falling on any one of the modern nations of our day.

It is not necessary to spiritualize the drought, famine, or pestilence of verse 13 in order to make the principle of this text applicable to our times, as Newell apparently decided to do. Those spiritual declensions follow the other forms of ethical, moral, and legislative deteriorations already mentioned: both are just as real and of equal importance to our Lord.

(3) The Promise of Deliverance Is Conditional

 It is all too easy in these days of stressing the love and grace of our Lord (which is correct and legitimate in and of itself, of course) to ignore the stipulated conditions attached to our participating in the blessings of God. The four conditions mentioned in this text were not of human origin, but divine. This was God’s word to Solomon but it is nonetheless his word to us as well.

Some will object: “But this is yet another form of legalism.” However, that would be wrong, for legalism is the attempt to earn our salvation by working for it—a form that is totally antithetical to Scripture. Salvation is God’s free gift; it cannot be earned in any shape or form.

But if we are talking about fellowship and communion with our Lord, then let it be noted that God cannot be present or work where sin is present. That is why revival is called for under such circumstances.

The conditionality of “If my people…will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways” is no more offensive than John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me”: or John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The conditions, then, were not for entrance into heaven or possessing eternal life, but for the maintenance of fellowship and communion, and for the enjoyment of life to its fullness in these mortal bodies.

The old hymn writer said it best: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” And if that is true of an individual, it is also true for a nation and church denominations as well.

The Four Conditions of 2 Chronicles 7:14

(1) “If My People Humble Themselves”

So large is the topic of humbling ourselves in the Old Testament that there are more than a dozen Hebrew words translating this single word humble, with over eighty references. The one used in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is ‘kana’, meaning to subdue,” as Gideon subdued Midian (Judges 8:28). The picture is one of bending the knee or bending the neck in deference to another.

God calls for his people to render to him complete and voluntary subjection. The precedent for doing this is to be found in the example of our Lord in Philippians 2:8, where Jesus humbled himself.” Those who follow our Lord must be willing to deny themselves and take up his or her cross and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24).

Humbling ourselves, then, is a voluntary denial of every impulse we have to exalt ourselves instead of following the pattern set by the world. We must go into spiritual bankruptcy (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”) if we are to have the mind-set and frame of thinking that was in our Lord Jesus (Phil. 2:5).

The two revivals in 2 Chronicles indicate that more is intended by this condition of humbling ourselves.” Both Rehoboam and Josiah had to come to the point of saying that if God did not extricate them from the trouble they were in, then no one or nothing else would be able to help them.

That is the point to which the modern church must also come. God dwells with those who are of a contrite and humble spirit, reviving their spirits and reviving the hearts of those who are contrite (Isaiah 57:15).

(2) “If My People Will Pray

There are ten different words for payer in the Hebrew text, but the one used here focuses on intercession. It is well illustrated by Samuel, who assures God’s people, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

S.D. Gordon, in his Quiet Talks on Prayer, combines the various forms of prayer into three groups: petition, communion, and intercession. Most Christians know how to petition God in prayer, for that is what we do best. Like little children, we are always asking—and the Lord does not rebuke us for doing so. Fewer believers have learned about staying in God’s presence in order to commune with him and to meditate on the things of God. The joy of worshipful adoration of the Most High God and Lord of lords often goes unclaimed by many who stay in prayer only for a passing minute or two.

But the work of entering into prayer as a ministry of intercession, praying for the world and its problems and needs, is a task that is rarely entered into by believers. In intercession we participate with God in the great conflict between God and our archenemy, the devil. True intercession takes the persons and places in the world where evil is assaulting the kingdom of God and pleads that the strong hand of God might defeat evil. It prays that the lost might see the glorious offer of grace given by our Lord Jesus and that they might come to trust him personally.

Just as Jehoshaphat was taught to stand still and pray for the defeat of the enemy, so too we need to prepare for the work we attempt to do in God’s name by means of intercessory prayer. When Moses’ hands were held high in prayer by Aaron and Hur, Amalek was vanquished, and forces fell back in defeat. But when Moses dropped his hands out of exhaustion, thereby relaxing in his prayer for Joshua and the troops engaged in the conflict on the valley floor, the enemy surged forward against the forces of good (Exod. 17:8-15). This is the lesson the church needs to learn in all our current skirmishes with evil. This does not mean that this is all we must do, for that could be an easy excuse to exempt us from getting our hands dirty in the various services for Christ. But if this is not the very atmosphere in which God’s work goes forward, then we must count on being soundly thrashed by the present world system in our families, our churches, our courts, and our nations. Mark it well: where intercession goes thin or ceases altogether, there the saints and the churches drift into spiritual lethargy, and the forces of evil have a field day in the culture.

The weapons our Lord gave for our warfare are only two: (1) “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” and (2) “all kinds of prayer and requests…praying for all the saints…” (Eph. 6:17-18). No other provisions are needed for us to successfully thwart the devil’s attacks.

Newell quoted from both Alexander Whyte and Andrew Murray on this matter of prayer. Cried Whyte,

My brethren, will nothing teach you to pray? Will all His examples, and all His promises, and all your needs, and cares, and distresses, not teach you to pray? Will you not tell your Savior what a dislike, even to downright antipathy, you have at secret prayer; how little you attempt it, and how soon you are weary of it? Only pray, O you prayerless people of His, and Heaven will soon open to you also, and you will hear your Father’s voice, and the Holy Ghost will descend like a dove upon you” (cited in Philip R. Newell, Revival on God’s Terms: A Consideration of Scriptural Conditions Which God Waits for His People to Fulfill. Chicago: Moody Press, 1959).

Andrew Murray, in the introduction to his book The Ministry of Intercession, urged us to consider the fact that our Lord attempted, in this connection, to get two main truths across to us:

[First] that Christ actually meant prayer to be the great power by which His Church should do its work, and that the neglect of prayer is the great reason the Church has not greater power over the masses in Christian and in heathen countries; [and second] that we have far too little conception of the place that intercession, as distinguished from prayer for ourselves, ought to have the Church and the Christian life (cited in Newell).

Murray continued to express amazement that in Israel’s day, God

Often had to wonder and complain that there was no intercessor, none to stir himself up to take hold of His strength. And He still waits and wonders in our day, that there are not more intercessors, that all His children do not give themselves to this highest and holiest work…Ministers of His gospel complain…that their duties do not allow them to find time for this, which He counts their first, their highest, their most delightful, their alone effective work…His sons and daughters, who have forsaken home and friends for His sake and the gospel’s, come…so short in what He meant to e their abiding strength—receiving day by day all they needed to impart to the…heathen. He wonders to find multitudes of His children who have hardly any conception of what intercession is. He wonders to find multitudes who have learned that it is their duty, and seek to obey it, but confess that they know but little of taking hold upon God or prevailing with Him (Cited in Newell).

Is it not clear that we ought to pray, and to pray in an intercessory way? What a wonderful discovery it would be if we should suddenly come to the end of all of our attempts to bypass this most inexorable condition, and if we concluded that the condition of praying was what we needed to meet for God to act in our day on our behalf! The world would be changed like it had never been changed in our lifetime.

(3) “If My People Will Seek My Face”

Some things we long for so much that we can almost taste them. But what of our desire to seek God’s face?

The “face” of God signifies not his literal face, for, as Scripture often reminds us, no one can see God’s face and still live (e.g., Exod. 33:20). What the “face” of God signifies is the joy and the benefits that come from experiencing his presence, his approval, and his communion with the likes of humanity.

So how can we go about seeking his presence, communion, and approval? By drawing near to him, advises James 4:8. That is how God is able to draw near to us.

But how can we draw near to God if we have unclean hands and an impure heart (Ps. 24:3-4)? We must forsake our wicked ways and our unrighteous thought (Isa. 55:7) and ask for the cleansing work of God’s forgiveness to take place (2 John 1:9).

Only as we abide in Christ are we able to bear fruit (John 15). So, if we are raised with Christ, we must seek those things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:1). That is where we will find fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11), for when we seek our Lord with all our heart, then he will be found, promised Jeremiah (29:13).

(4) “If My People Will Turn from Their Wicked Ways”

The fourth and final condition that would allow revival to take place, in the sovereign plan of God, is if God’s people would turn from their sin by repenting of the evil they have done. If there is no turning from evil, the genuineness of the confession of sin must be doubted. Newell quotes a bit of quaint verse from another century that admonished us about this very need for being authentic and genuine in our request for forgiveness.

‘Tis not to cry God mercy, or to sit

And droop, or to confess that thou hast failed;

‘Tis to bewail the sins thou didst commit –

And not commit those sins thou has bewailed.

He that bewails, and not forsakes them too,

Confesses rather what he means to do.

Jacob was told that he had to put away the idols that were in his household and to be clean if he wished to experience the blessing of God and his reviving power (Gen. 35:1-4). Likewise, Joshua commanded the nation of Israel that they also had to “throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:14). No less insistent was the prophet Isaiah when he also rebuked Israel by saying, “Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” (Isa. 1:16b-17a). And in the very same train of thought came John the Baptist declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near…Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:2a, 8). The whole case built by all of those we have mentioned can be summarized by the apostle Paul’s injunction, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Tim. 2:19c).

God wants us to be clean persons, channels through which his blessings, witness, and interventions in this sinful world can flow. But if we are to be clean, we must renounce all bitterness, wrath, malice, harshness, unforgiving spirits, filthiness, and immorality; in short, anything that would “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27) in our lives, in our churches, in our families, and in our nation.

If the constant and key cry of the prophets of the Old Testament was for the people to “turn,” and “return to the Lord,” can the constant cry of our hearts be any less than that in our day?

Conclusion

There is only one conclusion that we can draw from all these matters. We all agree that our nations and we are in desperate need of revival. We also agree that if God does not intervene we are headed for a time of divine judgment; probably, such as we have never seen before. So what is this one logical conclusion to which we believers must all come? It is the one found in John 13:17- “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

About the Author: Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website is www.walterckaiserjr.com. This article is adapted from the Epilogue is his outstanding book Revive Us Again, Nashville, B&H, 1999.

 

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14 Things To Pray For – By Dr. David P. Craig

(1) Pray for the glory of the LORD and that His glory may fill our land:

“Ascribe to the LORD, O clans of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name and worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness…Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land”  (1 Chronicles 16:28-29; Psalm 29:2; 85:9).

(2) Pray that God’s name would be made Holy:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).

(3) Pray that God’s kingdom will come:

“Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10a).

(4) Pray that God’s people would do God’s will on earth:

“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10b).

(5) Pray for God to meet your daily provision:

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

(6) Pray that God will forgive you of your sins:

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (Matthew 6:12 & 1 John 1:9).

(7) Pray that God will deliver you from doing evil:

“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

(8) Pray that God would open doors and empower believers to declare the gospel:

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak…and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel…that I may declare it boldly, as I ought” (Colossians 4:3-4 & Ephesians 6:19, 20b).

(9) Pray that all kinds of people (from rulers to servants) will be saved:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

(10) Pray for your enemies:

“But I [Jesus] say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44; see Stephen’s example in Acts 7:59-60; and Jesus’ example in Luke 23:34).

(11) Pray for sick believers to be healed:

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds…Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let him pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Psalm 147:3; James 5:14-15).

(12) Pray for one another’s sins:

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

(13) Pray for Israel:

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!” (Psalm 122:6)

(14) Pray for justice and deliverance for Christian martyrs:

“They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the land?” (Revelation 6:10)

 

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How To Pray Using the F-A-C-T-S Acronym By Hank Hanegraaff

“Your Father Knows”

 (*Article adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, The Prayer of Jesus, Nashville: Word, 2001, Chapter 3)

Over sixty years ago the famous fictional character named Jabez Stone hit the big time in the Academy Award winning movie The Devil and Daniel Webster. Stone wasn’t evil, but he appeared to be the unluckiest man in all of New Hampshire. Unlike men who have the Midas touch, everything he touched turned to gravel in his teeth. One day he couldn’t take it anymore. He had just broken his plowshare, his horse was sick, his children came down with the measles, his wife was ailing and he had just injured his hand. Although Stone was religious, that day he vowed he would sell his soul to the Devil for a shortcut to success in life.

The Devil obliged, and at the expense of his soul promised to prosper Stone for seven years. Outwardly, Stone’s life was immediately flooded with good fortune and all the trappings of success. Inwardly, however, his spirit had begun to shrivel up and die. He was about to gain the whole world but lose his very soul. As I watched the movie and read the famous story by Stephen Vincent Benet on which the movie is based, I could not help but think back to the haunting words of Jesus, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20).

Like Stone, all of us have been tempted to look for shortcuts to success. And nowhere is this truer than when it comes to our prayer lives. We desperately want good fortune. We want a formula that will open up the windows of heaven and rain down its blessings. If you want to get right down to it, our prayers often sound dangerously close to the pleas of pagans, who constantly worry, saying, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31)

Thus, before Jesus launches into the principles of prayer through the most beautiful, symmetrical, and majestic of all biblical prayers, he first warns his disciples against praying as pagans do. The last thing he wants his disciples to do is turn the prayer he is about to teach them into what the New King James version of the Bible describes as “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). So, says Jesus, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (vv. 7-8).

As the father of eight children, I can tell you that I sometimes know what my children need before they ask me. However, what I, as an earthly father, only sometimes know, our eternal Father always knows. There’s no need to pull out the prayer beads or attempt to wear God down by repeating the same prayers over and over. He already knows what you need before you ask him.

This statement by Christ inevitably leads to this question: Why bother praying if God knows what we need before we even ask him? I fear the very reason that this question is so often posed is that we have been conditioned to think that supplication is the sole sum and substance of prayer. The prayer of Jabez, now on the lips of multitudes, is an example of supplication.

It is great to ask God to “bless me indeed” so that I can be a blessing to others. It is glorious that God should ‘enlarge my border” so that I might reach more people for the kingdom. It is right to ask that God’s “hand might be with me” so that I might be led through the challenges of life by his sovereign control and not by chance. And it is proper to pray, “Keep me from harm that it man not pain me.” Prayer, however, is not merely a means of presenting requests, it is a means of pursuing a relationship with our heavenly Father.

As I write, the lyrics of a Country Western song, sung by Grammy Award-winning singer and song writer Paul Overstreet, wash through my mind.

‘How much do I owe you,” said the man to his Lord,

“For giving me this day, and all the days that’s gone before?

Shall I build a temple, shall I make a sacrifice?

Tell me Lord, and I will pay the price.

And the Lord said,

“I won’t take less than your love, sweet love.

No, I won’t take less than your love.

All the treasures of this world could never be enough,

And I won’t take less than your love (Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love,” Pegram, Tenn.: Scarlett Moon Records, 1999).

The point of the lyrics, which deal not only with the relationship of a man to his Lord but with the relationship to his wife and a mother to her son, is that relationships are cemented not just by giving and getting but love and communication.

The fact that I often know what my kids are going to ask before they open their mouths does not mean I don’t want them to ask. Rather, I long for them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. That’s how our relationship blossoms and grows. Likewise, if we are to nurture a strong bond with our Creator, we must continually communicate with him. And prayer is our primary way of doing just that. A memorable way of prioritizing the principles of such communication through prayer is found in the acronym F-A-C-T-S (F-A-C-T-S discussion adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997, 288-90; A-C-T-S used widely many years).

(F)AITH

Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Put another way, it is the object of faith that renders faith faithful. The secret is not in the phrases we utter but in the coming to know ever more fully the One to whom we pray. Since God is awesomely revealed in his Word, the prayer of faith must always be rooted in Scripture. Prayer becomes truly meaningful when we enter into a relationship with God through Christ. We can then build on that foundation by saturating ourselves with Scripture. As R.A. Torrey so wonderfully expressed it:

To pray the prayer of faith we must, first of all, study the Word of God, especially the promises of God, and find out what the will of God is…We cannot believe as that is not faith but credulity; it is “make believe.” The great warrant for intelligent faith is God’s Word. As Paul puts it in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981, 123-24).

Jesus summed up the prayer of faith with these words: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you” (John 15:7). 

(A)DORATION

Faith in God naturally leads to adoration. Prayer without adoration is like a body without a soul. It is not only incomplete, but it just doesn’t work. Through adoration we express our genuine, heartfelt love and longing for God. Adoration inevitably leads to praise and worship, as our thoughts are focused on God’s surpassing greatness. The Scriptures are a vast treasury overflowing with descriptions of God’s grandeur and glory. The Psalms, in particular, can be transformed into passionate prayers of adoration.

Come, let us worship and bow down;

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand. – Psalm 95:6-9 NASB

 (C)ONFESSION

Not only do the Psalms abound with illustrations of adoration, but they are replete with exclamations of confession as well. Those who are redeemed by the person and work of Jesus are positionally declared righteous before God. In practical terms, however, we are still sinners who sin every day. While unconfessed sin will not break our union with God, it will break our communion with God. Thus confession is a crucial aspect of daily prayer.

The concept of confession carries the acknowledgement that we stand guilty before God’s bar of justice. There’s no place for self-righteousness before God. We can only develop intimacy with the Lord through prayer when we confess our need for forgiveness and contritely seek his pardon. The Apostle John sums it up beautifully when he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 (T)HANKSGIVING

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more basic to prayer than thanksgiving. Scripture teaches us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Failure to do so is the stuff of pagan babblings and carnal Christianity. Pagans, says Paul, know about God, but “they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21).

Carnal Christians likewise fail to thank God regularly for his many blessings. They suffer from what might best be described as selective memories and live by their feelings rather than their faith. They are prone to forget the blessings of yesterday as they thanklessly barrage the throne of grace with new requests each day.

That, according to the Apostle Paul, is a far cry from how we should pray. Instead we ought to approach God “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7) as we devote ourselves “to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (4:2). Such thankfulness is an action that flows from the sure knowledge that our heavenly father knows exactly what we need and will supply it. Thus says Paul we are to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks on all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18; also Eph. 5:20).

(S)UPPLICATION

We began by noting that prayer begins with a humble faith in the love and resources of our heavenly Father. Thus prayer becomes a means through which we learn to lean more heavily upon him and less heavily upon ourselves. Such faith inevitably leads to adoration as we express our longing for an ever deeper and richer relationship with the One who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. The more we get to know him in the fullness of his majesty, the more we are inclined to confess our unworthiness and to thank him not only for his saving and sanctifying grace but also for his goodness in supplying all our needs.

It is in the contest of such a relationship that God desires that his children bring their requests before his throne of grace with praise and thanksgiving. After all it was Jesus himself who taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And as we do we must ever be mindful f the fact that the purpose of supplication is not to pressure God into providing us with provisions and pleasures, but rather to conform us to his purposes. As we read in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of him.”

SO, WHY ASK?

This brings us back to the question posed earlier: If God knows what we need before we even ask, why bother asking at all? My initial response was a reminder that supplication is not the sole sum and substance of our prayers. Fat from merely being a means of pursuing a dynamic relationship with him.

Furthermore, we should note that God ordains not only the ends but also the means. Thus, to ask, “Why pray if God knows what we need?” is akin to asking, “Why get dressed in the morning and go to work?” For that matter, if God is going to do what he’s going to do anyway, why bother doing anything? As C.S. Lewis once put it, “Why, then, do we not argue as the opponents of prayer argue, and say that if the intended result is good God will bring it to pass without your interference, and that if it is bad He will prevent it happening whatever you do? Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn’t they’ll remain dirty (as Lady Macbeth found – cf. Shakespeare, Macbeth V, I, 34-57) however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything? Lewis provides the answer as follows:

We know that we can act and thus that our actions produce results. Everyone who believes in God must therefore admit (quite apart from the question of prayer) that God has not chosen to write the whole of history with his own hand. Most of the events that go on in the universe are indeed out of our control, but not all. It is like a play in which the scene and the general outline of the story are fixed by the author, but certain minor details are left for the actors to improvise. It may be a mystery why He should have allowed us to cause them by praying than by any other method.

He gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different ways. He made the matter of the universe such that we can (in those limits) do things to it; that is why we can wash our own hands and feed or murder our fellow creatures. Similarly, he made His own plan or plot of history such that it admits a certain amount of free play and can be modified in response to our prayers (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, edited by William Hooper, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1979, 105).

Lewis goes on to explain that God has ordained that the work we do and the prayers we utter both produce results. If you pull out a weed, it will no longer be there. If you drink excessively, you will ruin your health. And if you waste planetary resources, you will shorten the lifeline of history. There is, however, a substantive difference between what happens as a result of our work and what happens as a result of our prayers. The result of pulling up a weed is “divinely guaranteed and therefore ruthless.” Thankfully, however, the result of prayer is not. God has left himself discretionary power to grant or refuse our requests, without which prayer would destroy us. Says Lewis,

It is not unreasonable for a headmaster to say, “Such and such things you may do according to the fixed rules of this school. But such and such other things are too dangerous to be left to general rules. If you want to do them you must come and make a request and talk over the whole matter with me in my study. And then—we’ll see” (Ibid, 107).

While our Father knows what we need before we even ask, our supplications are in and of themselves an acknowledgement of our dependence on him. And that alone is reason enough to pray without ceasing.

 

*Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute International. He is also host of “The Bible Answer Man” radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada as well as around the world through the Internet at http://www.equip.org.

Widely considered to be one of the world’s leading Christian apologists, Hanegraaff is deeply committed to equipping Christians to be so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, they recognize them instantaneously.Through his live call-in radio broadcast, Hanegraaff equips Christians to read the Bible for all it’s worth and answers questions on the basis of careful research and sound reasoning. Additionally, Hanegraaff regularly interviews today’s most significant leaders, apologists, and thinkers.

Hanegraaff is the author of award-winning best sellers, including The Prayer of Jesus, – from which the above article Chapter 3 “Your Father Knows” is derived, Christianity in Crisis, Resurrection and Has God Spoken? He has written many other acclaimed books as well, numbering in the dozens. He is a regular contributor to “Christian Research Journal” and “The Plain Truth” magazine. A popular conference speaker, he addresses churches, schools, and businesses worldwide. He is frequently invited to appear on national media programs to discuss a wide range of issues.

Hanegraaff and his wife, Kathy, live in North Carolina and are the parents of nine children–Michelle; Katie; David; John Mark; Hank, Jr.; Christina; Paul; Faith; and baby Grace–and the grandparents of five.

 

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Book Review Gospel: Recovering The Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear

 Wow! What a Fantastic Christ-Centered Book!

I never heard of J. D. Greear before reading this book; but after reading this one, I immediately purchased his only other published book called “Breaking the Islam Code” and can’t wait to get started on that one. I’m sure many more books from Greear will follow – because he is an exceptionally gifted theologian/pastor – he is astute, cogent, and practical in his biblical and cultural exposition of the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures.

I’ve been a Christian since I was six years old, but even as a so-called “professional” pastor for the past 25 years and yet I still feel like a baby in my understanding of the depths of the gospel. It has been exciting for me to see how pastors like Tim Keller and a new generation of young pastors have come along who are theologically astute and Christ centered and able to show the relevancy of Christ and the gospel and how it works not only in the past, and in the future, but especially in the NOW. We are the NOW generation, and the best way to live in the NOW is to apply the gospel daily.

It’s hard to improve on Tullian Tchvidjian’s description of the book from the inside cover:

“He [Greear] powerfully and probingly shows the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before because the gospel doesn’t simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and igsignificance. J. D. makes the clear case that when the word of the gospel—Christ’s love for us without strings attached—grips our hearts, it sets us free and changes everything.”

In three powerful sections in the book Greear shows how “the gospel can do what religion cannot”; how to daily live out the gospel (the longest section of the book – absolutely fantastic); and how to develop a gospel-centered understanding of life.

Get two copies of this book – one to read year after year – and another to give away. I hope this book receives a wide reading, reception of, and application of the “revolutionary” gospel!

 

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Book Review: Following Christ By R.C. Sproul

Four Great Books In One Place

If you can find this book it is a terrific buy. It contains four books by R.C. Sproul in one. The original four books were entitled “Who is Jesus?” (1983); “Ethics and the Christian” (1983); and “God’s Will and the Christian” and “Effective Prayer” – both issued in 1984. These books have been reworked by reformation Trust as individual titles again. However, if you want to get a better bang for your buck try to get a copy of this book. R C Sproul is a phenomenal communicator and writes clearly, articulately, theologically and practically.

The Way “Following Christ” is organized is as follows:

Part One: Who Is Jesus?

1) Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

2) The Titles of Jesus

3) The Life of Jesus

Does Prayer Change Things?

4) The Place of Prayer

5) The Purpose of Prayer

6) The Pattern of Prayer

7) The Practice of Prayer

8) The Prohibitions of Prayer

9) The Power of Prayer

How Can I Know God’s Will?

10) The Meaning of God’s Will

11) The Meaning of Man’s Will

12) God’s Will and Your Job

13) God’s Will in Marriage

How Should I Live in This World?

14) Ethics and Morals

15) Revealed Ethics

16) Legalism and Antinomianism

17) The Ethics of Materialism

18) The Ethics of Capital Punishment

19) The Ethics of War

20) The Ethics of Abortion

21) Ethics and Conscience

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – whether you get the four books in one, or individually as they have been reissued – either way – with Sproul it’s always a winner!

 

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