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prayer

Diving Deeper into Prayer

Have you ever longed to pray more effectively and deeply for your friends and family? I pray regularly for my loved ones. I’ve noticed my prayers for them are often centered more around physical, earthly concerns than spiritual, heavenly issues. I long to pray deeper prayers for those I love, but I could sure use some help figuring out how to do it.

Not surprisingly, the Bible offers inspiring examples of prayer. One of them is Paul’s prayer for his friends at the church in Ephesus.

Paul prayed often for the Christians at Ephesus. He prayed earnestly for them, diving deeply into prayer by asking God to give his friends wisdom, revelation, knowledge, and vision. His prayer explodes with power, like fireworks in a summer sky, providing us with a roadmap to pray more effectively for ourselves and those we love.

Paul didn’t pray the Ephesians would receive physical health or a promotion at work. He didn’t pray for their marriages or parenting. Those things are important and it’s certainly appropriate to pray about them, but Paul is most concerned that the Ephesians know God. He prays God will give them, “…the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Paul prays his friends will not only know about God but will personally know Him through their own experiences.

Paul also prayed that the churches in Phillipi, Colossae, and Philemon’s home would know God better. Jesus prayed for His followers to know God: “…that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).

With so many Biblical prayers imploring God to enable his people to know Him better, shouldn’t we consider adding this request to prayers for our loved ones and our friends? Shouldn’t we pray this for ourselves?

When we pray to know God better, we are seeking Him first—before our health, jobs, or other earthly concerns. The Bible promises that if we seek God first, all other aspects of our lives fall into place.

Praying for a deeper knowledge of God invites His blessing not only our spiritual life, but our day-to-day life as well.

Will I continue to pray for the health, safety, and prosperity of my friends and family? Of course. God cares about every aspect of our lives. He is attentive to every prayer. But I will also dive deeper in prayer by asking God for a more important blessing—the blessing of knowing Him more each day.

Heavenly Father, it’s so easy for me to fall into a routine prayer for finances, health, or safety rather than praying for deeper spiritual needs. While I may not have prayed about it in the past, I truly want to know You better each day. Give me a deeper knowledge of You. Give my friends and family wisdom and revelation so their knowledge of You increases each day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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prayer

Shameless Persistence

Tempted to quit praying? Don’t!

“But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” (Luke 11:8)

Right after Jesus shared the Lord’s Prayer with his disciples, he followed up with a story teaching them more about prayer.

Jesus told of a man who went to a friend’s house at midnight and asked to borrow three loaves of bread because he had an unexpected visitor and had no bread to offer him. This was a serious problem. The honor of the man with the visitorthe honor of the entire villagerequired bread to be offered to the guest.

In spite of the urgent need, the friend hollered, “Leave me alone! We’re all in bed!”

Jesus knew his audience would be appalled at the friend’s answer. Regardless of the time of day, hospitality must be extended. The neighbor wouldn’t bring shame upon the man, himself, and their village by refusing to get up and get bread.

Jesus said if the friend wouldn’t get up and give the man bread because of their friendship, he would do it if the man was shamelessly persistent.

If a worldly, human friend would eventually answer the man’s request for bread, how much more will God answer our requests when we pray?

Because God loves us, we can feel confident praying about any need, any time, as often as we wish. We don’t need to think we are annoying God, or that God gets tired of hearing our petitions. On the contrary, God is never asleep, never without resources, and always listening to our prayers.

Luke 11:9 says, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” The answer we are seeking may not arrive on our preferred schedule, but it will arrive. While we wait, we are encouraged to keep bringing our needs to our Father in heaven, with persistence and without shame. Persistence in prayer is the result of having faith in the love and goodness of our Father.

Jesus finishes his teaching on prayer with this question: “You fathers—if your children ask you for a fish, do you give them a snake? If they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? (Luke 11:11).

Of course, we wouldn’t. We give our children the best food we can when they’re hungry. When they’re sad, we wrap our arms around them, and when they’re hurt, we bandage their wounds. And sometimes, if they ask us for a scorpion, we say no and give them an egg instead, because one will destroy them and the other will nourish them. How much more will our heavenly Father do the same for us?

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and forgiving me. Thank you for hearing me when I pray and loving me enough to give me the answer that is best for my life. Help me be shamelessly persistent in prayer. Build my faith daily. Make me more and more like you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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prayer

The Ingredients of Prayer

“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’” (Luke 11:1)

A few years ago, we started celebrating Fridays by making chocolate lava cakes every Friday night. We called them, “Friday Night Cakes,” and they were gooey and sweet and delicious. They were also surprisingly easy to make, only requiring five ingredients. We stirred up the ingredients, put it in the oven, and waited. Eventually, the oven turned those ingredients into a chocolate masterpiece.

We did our part by putting the ingredients together. The oven did its part by turning those ingredients into a cake.

In Luke 11, Jesus gave us the recipe for prayer. Like the Friday Night Cake, the recipe for prayer has five ingredients. When we pray, we put these ingredients together. Then we hand them over to God and we wait. God turns those ingredients into healing, deliverance, freedom, mended relationships, and so much more.

We do our part by putting the ingredients together in prayer. God does his part by turning those ingredients into transformation in our lives.

Interested in knowing the ingredients? They’re taken from the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11:1-4. Here they are:

  • Give God Praise and Adoration: “Your name is holy.” God is worthy of praise, regardless of our circumstances. When we exalt God even in the middle of our mess, we bring vision and order into our lives.
  • Seek God’s Will: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” For prayer to be effective, it has to line up with the will of God instead reflecting our own selfish desires. These two questions help us align our prayers with God’s will: “God, what do you want to do on earth? What do you want to do in my life?”
  • Put Your Needs in God’s Hands: “Give us day by day our daily bread.” God promises to meet all our needs. Whatever we’re facing, God has a promise for it. He cares about our needs and wants to carry our worries for us, but we have to put them in his hands.
  • Forgive: “For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Just like sugar sweetens a Friday Night Cake, forgiving others sweetens our lives. We may be super awesome, but we certainly aren’t perfect. We all need forgiveness, and we are all called to freely forgive others. There’s a sweet freedom to be found in forgiving.
  • Ask for Guidance: “Do not lead us into temptation.” Why depend on our own puny intellect when we have access to the infinite wisdom of an all-knowing God? Ask God for guidance, next steps, and direction. If we ask, he will give us the specific answer we need at the exact time we need it.

You have probably heard somebody say, “Prayer changes things,” and that’s true. But prayer doesn’t just change things; thankfully, prayer also changes people. Prayer changes us. Prayer connects us to God. As we continue in prayer, we grow to know God better and he continues to work in our lives. Through the power of prayer, we are gloriously transformed.

Father, I give you honor and praise. I long for your kingdom to come and your will to be done. What do you want to do in the world? What do you want to do in my life? Meet my needs and the needs of my family. Help me be forgiving and lead me in the way you want me to go. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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prayer

How’s Your View?

What picture comes into your mind when you think of God?

“If any want to boast they should boast that they know and understand me…” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Our understanding of God affects our actions, opinions, and decisions. It influences everything we do.

In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer discussed the significance of our view of God. “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He went on to use the foundation of a building to explain the importance of having a correct view of God: “Where [the foundation] is inadequate or out of plumb, the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.”

So, how do we view God? Many people view God as a genie, who exists to grant wishes. Others see him as a judge, ready to mete out wrath and punishment for any wrongdoing. Still another view is that God is a distant cosmic force who doesn’t get involved in day-to-day events.

Our view of God is particularly important when we pray. How we approach God in prayer is largely shaped by our view of him. In Luke 11:2, Jesus presented a new view of God. When he taught his followers (that includes us) to pray, he said to address God as “our father in heaven.”

This was a new paradigm, a new view of who God is.

People in the Old Testament couldn’t see God’s goodness clearly because their vision was blocked by their sin. They had to continuously offer sacrifices and observe rituals to stay OK with God, but the sinful nature of their hearts never changed.

Thank God, things are different now. Now, because of the cross, our hearts can be changed and our spiritual eyes opened. We are able to see God’s grace, mercy, and love clearly. We are blessed to see the truth, that God is a loving and kind father who works for what is best for his children.

God isn’t angry with us, filled with wrath, eagerly anticipating an opportunity to punish someone. His wrath was poured out on the cross. It was directed at the sin that separated him from his children, whom he dearly loves. A. W. Tozer said it like this: “The Cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuited God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.

John 3:16 tells us the story in just a few words: “For God loved this world so much that he gave his only son…” He did that for us, when we were covered in sin and transgressions. He did it because he loves us as a perfect father loves his children. Earthly fathers vary greatly on how well or how poorly they love their children. God’s love isn’t like that. He loves each of us perfectly.

When you pray, remember you’re praying to a God who loves you dearly. He wrote you a love letter on a cross 2,000 years ago. He treasures you. You can approach him in prayer with confidence, knowing you are praying to your heavenly father…and he loves you like crazy!

Our father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right. Do what’s best—as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the devil. You’re in charge. You can do anything you want. You’re ablaze in beauty. In Jesus’s name, amen.