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Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to Pray God's Will

Praying according to God’s will is not always easy. I just received a prayer request concerning a young boy that suddenly became ill. The loving grandparent wrote, “We pray the Lord will help the doctors figure out what is wrong so they can treat it, or God can divinely heal him.” How do I pray? For the doctors to heal the boy, for God to heal the boy, or perhaps God has a greater plan.

When I have prayed prayers I thought were in God’s will and they were not answered my way, I felt discouraged. That happened to Ted Turner, the founder of the cable news network CNN , and it wreaked havoc with his faith. As a youngster he desired to be a missionary. When his little sister, Mary Jean, died of complications after being sick for five years from a rare form of lupus, he abandoned that idea. Turner recalled, “It just seemed so unfair, because she hadn't done anything wrong. Christianity couldn't give me any answers to that. So my faith got shaken."

I’m certain the apostle Paul also struggled in prayer. He prayed three times the “thorn in his flesh” be taken away. The Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s not the answer Paul pleaded for. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Often we feel incapable to of asking God specifically about securing this job or that job; or about moving here or there; or concerns related to our children, finances and vocational direction. We don’t see the big picture and God’s overall plan and purpose for our situation. God doesn’t answer a prayer the specific way we think He should, and we struggle with prayer.

That’s when Scripture encourages us not to quit praying!  “The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray” (Romans 8:26 NLT).

The powerful word helps occurs here and only one other place in the New Testament. Picture someone carrying a heavy load and another person comes alongside to take the other end and bear the burden with him or her. Imagine your helper being the Holy Spirit!

The other occurence of “help” is when Jesus goes to Mary and Martha’s home and they get in a tiff. Martha’s making all the preparations for dinner while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Martha bursts, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me.” Martha wanted Mary to help bear her burden.

One bible scholar puts it, “as we pray, the Spirit says, ‘let Me grab the other end. Let me help you by picking up your burden and taking it before the Father’s throne. I know what to pray for when you don’t.”

Therefore, the Holy Spirit takes part with us, not instead of us, and for us “with groaning that cannot be expressed in words…the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (Romans 8:27 NLT). Consequently, our weak prayers become effective.

Our requests and petitions of all kinds to the Father (1 Timothy 2:1), may have a different outcome from what we had prayed. Yet, remember, the Holy Spirit carries our needs and conveys our cares to our loving Father all in keeping with His good, intentional plan and design for us. (Romans 8:28-29) What an encouragement to keep praying!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Even Short, Spontaneous Prayers are Powerful!

In The Washington Post, an article told about a 15-year-old girl who sent and received 6,473  text messages in a month. Remarking about her constant communication with friends, she said, “I’d die without it.” The average teen sends 3,339 texts per month.
Digital conversation illustrates what prayer could and should be. Paul says, “[We] do not cease to pray for you” (Colossians 1:9) and “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Constantly praying had sounded impossible for me, but then I learned about missionary Frank Lauback’s prayer strategy. He used to “shoot” prayers all day long. He was “texting” God, in a sense, staying in constant communication with Him.
My neighbor, Judy, works to maintain her nursing career in addition to caring for her husband with Alzheimer’s disease. Judy shares that Mike’s needs for her help are increasing daily. She says, “The days I feel overwhelmed and all alone, I keep calling out, ‘Jesus, help!’ And His presence calms me.”

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Whine, Worry or Worship

“Tom suffered so terrible,” said one lady. “We had taken him to healing services and prayer groups all over the country. He seemed better for a while, and our hopes soared. Then the cancer returned and months of agony before he died. How could God be so inconsistent? I can’t believe it was His will that Tom die so young. He was a Christian and wanted to serve God. If God did this just to teach the rest of us a lesson, why did Tom have to suffer? I can’t believe I’m supposed to praise God for what has happened.”

This story sharply contrasts with Elaine’s.

I fell, bruised my ribs and both knees badly. Walking was very painful. I slept for three days in my recliner. (Thank God for the recliner because sleeping in a bed was silly due to all the pain!) I worshiped and had peace. Friends told me to go to the hospital since I could have had a stroke—one was a nurse. I worshiped and praised God as a sacrifice of praise.