Saturday, August 27, 2011

Do You Treat Prayer Like God Is Your Genie in a Bottle?

Whenever I take the kids to school, they know the first thing we do in the truck is to pray. It helps to focus our attention on the things that matter and not on the drama that has just previously unfolded in our home. One morning, Pearce had a little difficulty. I had prayed for each one in my family, and Erin had prayed. There was a long pause, and Erin said, "Pearce, it's your turn." Pearce snarled back at her, "I KNOW, ERIN." His prayer didn't go much better. Pearce is known for thanking God for his momma and daddy and every dog that has come into his life, but he either manages to leave Erin off his prayer list or she comes AFTER the dogs. Today not only was she after the dogs, but his comment was, "And God, be with my miserable sister, Erin!" Before drama could unfold I reminded Erin that Pearce was having a conversation with God, and I think God could take him.

Sometimes we wonder why if feels like our prayers don't get past the ceiling, but if we were to examine our hearts and attitudes toward God and prayer and the subject matter, we might understand better. James 5:16 tells us to, "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." It's not the prayer that changes things. It's the heart of the person praying to an Almighty God. God is the One who changes things based on the person doing the praying.Lately, I've found myself praying all kinds of prayers. God has this way of teaching me a lesson before I teach it, so when someone asks me where do I get my material, I tell them, "God taught it to me."
While I was preparing this week, several quotes came across my path that I would like to share. Hopefully, they will provoke you to think about your own prayer life like they did mine.
  1. "What if you woke this morning with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?" Christine Williams
  2. When I think of prayer I think of…
  3. When I think of my prayer life I feel…
In a book I'm reading for seminary, I read, "Purpose of prayer is to get to know God while we worship and make our requests. Primary focus is on the relationship with God."
How often to you treat prayer as the lamp that holds your personal genie? Dear God, I really need __________. Dear God, I really want _____________. No, "hello." No, "How have you been?" No, "Thank you, God!" No, "God, you are so _______."
Have you ever had a friend or family member that the only time they call you is to ask for something? You are being that kind of person to God if the only time you pray is when you need or want something. How is your relationship with that needy person? Do you try to avoid their calls? Do you deny their requests? Just something to think about.

I like the fact that the author of this book encourages us to worship God first. Why is that? Because when we worship God first, it put our focus on Him. We will be seeking His will and His desires for us. When we start with worship, it reminds us of just how unworthy and unholy we are which leads us to a time of confession.Have you ever wondered why we are to confess our sins to God if we are already Christians? I have. Think of it like this. Have you ever had a friend or loved one do or say something that was egregious to you? Did it offend you? Were you hurt by it? Before your relationships could be restored, someone needed to apologize. When we confess our sins as God's children, we are restoring our relationship with our Father.

This week, I encourage you to praise and worship God first and foremost in your prayer time. It doesn't have to be singing. It can be just simply praising God for who He is to you. He is the Alpha and Omega! He is the lover of my soul! Praise Him. Worship Him. Confess to Him your sins, so your heart will be right with Him. Then make your petitions known to Him.I will also encourage you to journal your prayers. They are wonderful to go back and read at a later time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

When You Find Yourself Imprisoned or in a Pit…

When I asked my class to read Acts 5 and 12 and be ready to compare and contrast the prison breakouts, I wasn't really sure where God was going to take us. Acts is an exciting book in the Bible because it was an exciting time to be a Christian. The church was growing. God was doing amazing things, and Christians were being persecuted.

In Acts 5 the apostles were imprisoned because they were teaching God's Word, and laying the blame of Christ's death squarely on the shoulders of the Sanhedrin. The apostles were arrested and put into jail (something along the lines of our city jail – The court at this level could not sentence the apostles to death, but they could most certainly make life difficult). Then the angel of the Lord led them out of the prison past the soldiers and instructed them to teach in the courts the way of the Life. When the Sanhedrin met the next day and sent for the apostles, the door to the cell was locked from the outside. The guards were still in place, and yet no one was inside.

In Acts 12, Peter was imprisoned alone. Herod chained him between two soldiers and assigned four groups of four soldiers each to guard Peter. Apparently, Herod had heard about the prior escape. The night before Peter was to arrive in court and fight for his life, he was ASLEEP in prison. He was asleep chained between two soldiers in the pitch black of the cell. Herod's prison system could sentence people to death, and that is where Peter was headed the next day…to his death. In order for Peter to be able to sleep before a night like that at trial and being chained to two guards, he had to have had the peace that passes all understanding. As a matter of fact, he slept so well that the angel had to shake him to wake him. It was a sound, deep sleep. Lord, when I'm in my pit chained to the things that bind me and weigh me down, please give me that kind of peace.

The angel of light told Peter to put on his clothes, coat and shoes. It's important to realize that the cell was pitch dark. Peter could not have seen the hand in front of his face had it not been for the light of God exposing the clothes and items he needed. Peter got up, did as he was told and followed the angel.

In whatever prison (dark place) that you are sitting, are you expecting God to show up? Often times when we are in a pit, we are struggling and fighting so hard for what we think is ours that we miss God completely, and we are STRIVING FOR NOTHING! If we would just be still and listen, God shows up. He shows up in the way He chooses and when He chooses. He is never late, and He provides everything we could possibly need for what happens next. If we would just shut our traps long enough and look expectantly to God to handle the problem and to lead us out, our time in the pit chained to what binds us would be much shorter.

If you believe that God is in the future, if you believe that God is all-knowing, if you believe that God wants what is best for you – then why do you struggle against things that God hasn't led you to struggle against? TRUST. FAITH. Actually it is the lack of trust and the lack of faith in God – this is why we worry. This is why we become anxious. God is bigger than any person. God is bigger than any roadblock. God is bigger than any plan that a human being can come up with. God is bigger than any disease. God is bigger.

What would your faith look like if when you first found yourself in a pit if you would stop and wait on the Lord? What would your walk look like if when you found yourself chained to something you had no control over if you looked to see how God was going to work it out instead of your trying to bust the chains? What would your life be like if you exercised the peace that passes all understanding? Trust Him. Faith Him. Easy to say. Hard to do.