Oct 24, 2013

Asking, Seeking, Knocking, Part 2

Prayer is not a 40 yard dash, it’s a marathon. 

 Prayer is a Pursuit
Matthew 7:1-11

“Ask, seek, knock.”  These are all active verbs denoting continuous action
We often treat prayer as a brief moment when we say something to God.  But prayer is not a moment, it’s a pursuit, Paul said “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

David said, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” Psalm 55:17

Prayer is not a moment, meeting, or a memo.  It is not a merely a point in the service, a good way to begin and end.  The church today as reduced to a have to and supposed to, not a get to…not a journey, a ministry, a pursuit.  Prayer is something that we so often throw in because…if we don’t then the puzzle won’t be complete.  We make dream, plan, organize and then finally we pray asking God to be in what’ve we’ve come up with and to bless it.  Like prayer is the final piece of the puzzle.  Prayer is not a piece of the puzzle, but it is the box that guides us to putting the pieces together.  Without it nothing that we attempt or do can happen!

I’m not sure that God is desiring just a moment of Prayer from us…but rather I think that what God desires is a movement of Prayer!

Billy Graham said “To get the nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees.” 

The pursuit is of prayer is what our nation needs and personally it is what we need!  Prayer is a pursuit, and adventure.  As in any journey and pursuit there are a few things you discover and learn along the way.

Through the pursuit of prayer we learn:

We learn about ourselves

As sinful people are seeking the face of a holy God, we realize who we are.  Through prayer God takes us from where we are to where he wants us to be.  Maybe this is why prayer is such a struggle for us, we want the need met, but we don’t want to be any different.
It’s like going to the doctor if you are hurting, sick, etc.  You have questions, you need answers, you have problems you need solutions.   Your job is to take yourself to the doctor.  The doctor’s job is to find out what the problem is.  So he examines you up and over, in and out.  He takes your temperature, blood pressure, he asks you all sorts of questions about our lifestyle and habits, he even weighs you (I hate it when they do this…I mean really?  What does my weight have to do with a sore throat??!!)  In the pursuit the doctor discovers and sees parts of you no one else has.  He’s going to find the problem and when he finds it he’s going to tell you what must be done about it.  Sometimes the solution is something he will do (medicine, surgery, etc).  Sometimes it’s something you must do (health, diet, exercise).
Prayer is somewhat like this.  We take our questions, problems, dreams, and dilemmas to the Great Physician and do you know what he does?  He examines us, up and over, in and out.  He takes the temperature of our attitude, the pressure of our activities, he asks us all sorts of questions about our lifestyle and habits, he even weighs our heart.  Our Heavenly Doctor knows and sees part of you no one else has…not even yourself.  He is going to find the problem and when he finds it he’s going to tell you what must be done about it.  Sometimes the solution is something he will do (healing, intervention, blessing, etc).  Sometimes it’s something you must do (confession, repentance, changes).

We learn about our God

Psalm 63 is a great example of this.  As David sought God he learned a great deal about the one whom he pursued.

We learn about our need

Have you ever prayed for some you need God do and then found yourself as you pursued God for an answer that your request for the need changes?

 As we embark on the pursuit of prayer our prayers often change

In Matthew 15:21-28 we see a great example of a woman who pursued Jesus asking for him to heal her daughter.  By the end of the pursuit we see that her prayer changed to “Lord, help me.”


 C.S. Lewis said this, “I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.  It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

Prayer is probably why we aren’t effective day.  When I look at the influence of the church in America today and especially in my community something is missing.  When I think of the power that is my life and the lives of many people I worship with weekly, something is missing.  We are weak, diminishing, and worn out.  Why?  Because we are in great need.  We need his power, his presence, we need God to do what we cannot do.   We need prayer! "Well, then let's throw a prayer meeting together" we often say.  Unfortunately, in my experience most prayer meetings that I've thrown together have not been well attended.  Throw a fall festival, have a concert, give something away and people show up in droves, but when a prayer meeting is organized there are plenty of available seats.  I think we are missing something.  We’ve reduced our prayer to a moment and meeting rather than a movement.  A necessary box to check rather than a lifestyle.  We are making a point before God, but we’ve not made a pursuit of God.  Now, don't get me wrong prayer meetings can be great, but only if they as they are part of our journey and pursuit of God in prayer.

Prayer is something we pursue and we don’t stop until He answers.  Treat your prayer life like a marathon, not a 40 yard dash.  Take a voyage with God through prayer, not just a quick trip around the corner.  Ask, seek, and knock...He will open the door, you will find Him, He will answer.

Oct 18, 2013

Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.  Amen.” 

Probably a prayer that you learned early in life if you grew up with church in your childhood.  We learn to pray at an early age and we teach our children to pray as soon as we can.  We said a prayer of confession, repentance, and faith as we began our relationship with Christ, the “sinner’s prayer” as we call it.  Prayer is the first spiritual discipline that we pick up on.  We’ve done it most of our lives, we believe in it, we know that we that should do it.  The concept isn’t hard to grasp, the practice isn’t hard to learn, yet a solid prayer life is so difficult to have.  Speaking honestly, I’ve struggled with prayer.  Part of my profession is praying for others…yet in no way do I believe that I’m a professional at it.  Sometimes I drift off and ramble in my prayer.  Sometimes I try to shape my prayers with exaggerated and eloquent speech.  Sometimes I have no idea what to pray.  And shamefully I admit that sometimes I don’t want to pray and just don’t pray. I’m hoping I’m not the only one!  I also don’t think that I’m the only one who wants a rich prayer life.  I want to see the Lord answer my prayer.  I want Him to be pleased with my prayer life.  I want prayer to be a serious and vital part of my life. 

Something Jesus said about prayer caught my eye recently and I want to share with you some things I thinks Jesus wants us to understand about this simple and powerful spiritual discipline.

Matthew 7:7-11
7) “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9) Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10) Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11) If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I’ll discuss some thoughts about this passage over the next couple weeks, but let’s start with this…

Prayer is Born Out of a Need

“ask, seek, and knock” 
The most basic reason that we pray is that we need something.  You ask for something you don’t have.  You seek for something because you don’t possess it. You knock on a door because you want what is on the other side of the door.  There are a lot of reasons we pray:  thanksgiving, praise, adoration. But the most basic reason is that we have needs.  There things in our lives that we cannot do on our own, otherwise we would not have to ask, seek, or knock

Prayer admits at least 3 basic things about our need:

·         It Admits Our Weakness – we usually pray because a need has risen in our lives that either too intense for us to bear with sanity or because the solution and answer is out of our power and hands, we cannot do it.

·         It Admits His Power – that He can supply what we need

·         It Admits His Control – things and matters are ultimately out of our control.  Prayer confesses that He is in control.

Some of you are facing a need in your life that you cannot handle on your own.  Your power is insufficient, you’ve done all you can, but it’s out of your control.  Prayer is the solution to your dilemma.

·         Here’s what I’ve often thought when I get to a dilemma where I tried everything I can, but realized things are out of my hands:  “Well, ya should have gone to him in the first place and maybe you wouldn’t be where you are!”…maybe this is true, but I’m not sure it matters to God as to how you got to him, but that you have finally brought it to him.

·         Prayer is transaction of the offering of your need to a God who can supply all your needs.

We have a need, and we have a God who can, who wants to, and who will meet that need if we ask, seek, and knock…

The Bible is full of examples of talented, faithful, mighty people who did incredible things for God but also deeply needed and used prayer.  Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, etc.  Great men with great needs, who at some point in their journey realized their weakness, his power and his control.

Bottom line is this:  we are people with lots of real needs.  Things that we can’t do, questions we don’t know the answers to, and necessities that we cannot get.  That’s why we pray, because we need him.  We are weak.   We need a powerful and able God to intervene in our chaos and mess.  We need his help.  We need what only he can give.  Things are spinning out of our control, but they are not out of his control.  He is in control.  So, ask, seek, and knock.  Jesus tells us to, he encourages us to, he want us to!

Oct 10, 2013

Fasting. What have I been missing?

(I write this blog not to boast in myself, but rather to share something I've experienced that I hope you will be encouraged by.)

Fasting from food is a spiritual discipline that I steered away from most of my life. l love to eat. I am not happy when I don't eat. I neglected fasting because I was lazy and afraid of not eating. I recently began to put fasting back into my walk with God on a more regular basis and I have been amazed at what I've been missing.

What I've learned from fasting

1. I deeply need the grace, mercy, and strength of Jesus Christ. I can't live without him, and I will never live a nanosecond in heaven without his salvation.

2. God is more important than even food

3. God can satisfy and fill me in ways that food cannot

4. Controlling the desires of my flesh is very similar to fasting from food. I've learned how to more effectively discipline my body and resist the temptations of my flesh and mind.

5. Prayer really works. God wants to answer my prayer and will answer my prayer. I've seen Him answer prayer in ways I've never experienced during a fast.

6. Man really doesn't live on bread alone and really does live by the Word of God.

7. Just like I fill my stomach with so many unhealthy foods daily that I don' t need, I also realized I fill my life and mind with so many unhealthy things daily that I don't need.

Here’s a few words of advice on fasting from personal experience.

1. Don’t broadcast your fast. Keep it a secret and only tell those that absolutely need to know (husband/wife, accountability partner). Make plans and appointments the days that you fast that will not involve food. Don't talk about your hunger, don't draw attention to yourself. Matthew 6:13-18

2. Have a purpose and plan for your fast. Fasting is the abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind. Fasting seeks to pursue God and to show yourself that He is greater than your desire for even food. It should draw you closer to him as you physically realize that He is all you really need. Plan a prayer plan for your fast. If you don’t have a specific purpose and reason for fasting then you will find yourself more tempted to quit. Write down what you plan to pray for during your fast. Take some time to prepare this plan

3. Don’t over commit yourself with your fast. Start out with a one day fast, progress to more. Don’t commit to a week or longer for your first fast. It’s not easy and you don’t want to quit and be discouraged. I did this. My first fast was in college, I attempted a week long fast and only made it 4 days and then quit. I was overcommitted, I was weak, immature, and didn't have a plan and purpose for my fast. I didn’t try another food fast for 13 more years. I had over committed and had gotten discouraged and I didn't see the point. As a result, I limited my fasting experience to fasting from other things and missed out on the benefits of fasting from food for 13 years because of my lack of preparation and immaturity.

4. Slow down your schedule during your fast. You will get a little tired throughout the fast and a little irritable especially at the beginning (I always get a few headaches and am short tempered at first). Day two and three are the hardest. You are hungry and your stomach is not used to discipline like this. Your stomach acts like a crying baby. You have to remind your stomach that it will be just fine. When my stomach growls and wines during a fast, I learned to just tell it to shut up. After day 2 or 3 it gets the message and the hunger pains will subside. Towards the end of a fast you are tired. Get rest, take it a little easier. Slow down your schedule and life a little. Pace of life is one of the reasons that we don’t hear from God like we do during fasts. During your fast you control your stomach, so put up the extra patience to control your temper and attitude during this time as well.

5. Do a food fast. The examples of fasting in the scripture always are with food. You can fast from TV, social media, internet, or other things. You can accomplish similar results with these other things. You will certainly realize your over dependence and obsession with these other things as you fast from them and you can grow closer to God by neglecting them. However, there is nothing quite like fasting from food, which is a basic necessity. I would even include these other things along with a food fast. Don’t be afraid to fast from food, you are missing out on an incredible journey.

6. Use the time you would normally eat a meal to focus on the Lord. I have a longer quiet times at breakfast time during a fast. I do an additional reading, prayer, and bible study at lunch, and do focused prayer at dinner when I have fasted.

7. Have a friend join you with your fast. I recently fasted with a friend and we met each evening at dinner to pray together. I always went to those prayer meetings really hungry, but when we left I was not hungry at all. I was greatly encouraged by his faith and prayer though our fast. Some of the greatest prayer times I’ve ever had were with that friend during our fast. During those prayer times we literally met with God and saw him answer prayer!

8. Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts. Insights from the scriptures you encounter during your fast. Write out your prayer requests and keep a copy of your prayer plan. Look back on it a few weeks after the fast and be amazed at the prayers God answered.

9. Don't be arrogant about your obedience in fasting. It's not about you. Fasting reminds us that we deeply need Jesus Christ. Fasting should lead you to greater humility and less boasting not arrogance. Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought. Don't draw attention to yourself before, during, or after your fast.

I encourage you to engage in a food fast. Have faith, walk in obedience. Enjoy the journey of fasting. Don't miss out on what God has waiting for you.