Long Range Missiles – Jeremiah 23:23-24
Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.
On D-Day, the Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy in order to begin to re-take Europe from the Nazis. But they faced opposition. The Germans who were there did everything they could to stop the invasion and to fight the Allies. The troops went ashore but they couldn’t do everything themselves. They needed to be protected on their left and right and they needed firepower to be brought down on the enemy so they could advance. One of the ways this happened was with long-range artillery – and missiles from the boats. The artillery shells went over the heads of the Allied Forces and attacked the Nazis beyond them. This meant that the Nazis were neutralised, ran away or kept their heads down so the ground troops could land on the beaches and move forward.
When I’d left school, I applied to be an officer in the Royal Artillery. There were various things we did and training. One of the things we learned was about the use of artillery, of how things were targeted. This happens through laser guidance, GPS, eyes in the air (drones etc) and through people on the ground directing firepower.
When we pray, we are releasing God’s ‘firepower’. We release God’s ‘long range missiles.’ We can pray about anything nearby or close to us. We can also pray about things on the other side of the world. As J John says, ‘when we pray, coincidences happen; when we don’t, they don’t.” My small group at church took part in a 24/7 prayer session. During this some people stayed to pray and worship; others went onto the streets to pray for people and bring God’s love. They had amazing conversations and God touched many people. When some people came back, they thanked those who stayed behind to pray for them saying their prayers were ‘God’s long-range missiles.’ We can do the same for anyone, anywhere, any time. God uses us to release his power on earth. So pray and release God’s power!
Matthew 6.7 – Vain Repetitions
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (King James ye olde version)
In Matthew 6.7, we see the King James use the phrase ‘vain repetitions’ with Jesus telling his disciples not to pray in that way. Some preachers have said this means we shouldn’t use ‘set’ prayers or maybe ancient prayers that we read like in an Anglican or Catholic service. But that’s not what Jesus is saying. He isn’t saying ‘don’t repeat prayers’ because elsewhere the Bible tells us to pray all the time and to keep on going in prayer.
What we need to avoid is doing it pointlessly or without any life. If the words of something don’t come alive and we’re just praying them wihout any meaning then the prayer becomes pointless. And the key thing is not to pray to show off or to think that because we pray so brilliantly that somehow God will be impressed and answer our prayers more.
Sometimes preachers shout and are very loud when they speak – but in the same way, it’s not their ranting and raving that that changes people’s lives but the power of God. Jesus isn’t impressed by clever words but by people who know they need him and who believe God will answer their prayers. It’s God who answers our prayers because of Jesus – it’s not our speaking or rabbiting on that God answers!
Mark 8.23-24 – Stepping out in prayer
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Sometimes when we’re looking to go forward with God or see prayers answered, we have to take a step of faith and do something extra. We don’t do this to earn God’s favour or answers but because something happens when we take a step. In Hebrews 11 it says that God is pleased by faith and rewards those who live a life of faith. What is a life of faith? I believe it is simply believing what God says and who he is.
In Mark 8.32, the Bible tells us that Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. We don’t fully know why/ Maybe the village was busy – maybe people’s faith was stopping this man from being healed. But maybe Jesus just needed to move this man to a new place to do a new thing. Sometimes when we step out in faith and do something or when we pray, we should think about asking God if there’s something new he wants to do. Don’t let prayer become boring but let God show you how he wants you to pray. And get outside of any walls or ways that may be limiting. A man called Robbie Dawkins (who has seen many people healed, many miracles and people come to faith) says that if you really want to see God do things, get outside of the church walls! Just get out there and pray for people – be nice, don’t beat them round the head with things but show God’s love through prayer. Get outside of the village!
Psalm 6.9 – HR
“The Lord has heard my supplication (my plea); the Lord receives my prayer.“
Have you ever heard of ‘HR’? It’s a part of most companies and business called ‘Human Resources’ and it tends to deal with the management and employment of people in the company. One company describes the role of HR as being “building the people strategy;providing the framework of policies and procedures related to the employment of staff; providing the tools to do this effectively; providing guidance, support and advice on the effective implementation of the strategy, policies, procedures and tools.” (Source: purplelineconsulting, accessed 6 Sept 2015).
In Psalm 6, we see God’s “HR” process with us and for us. First of all, God “hears” what we pray and secondly the Lord “receives” our prayers. These two things are different. For example we can hear what someone says to us but not really receive what they say. So for example you may be sat in a boring lesson at school (not that this ever happens…!) You’re listening to the teacher but what they’re saying isn’t really going in. I know the feeling – I used to be the same!
But God isn’t like that. God hears us when we pray (even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like that). God always hears us – our thoughts are heard by God as well as the things we say and pray! But more than this, God receives what you pray. If you know someone has a gift for you, that’s great. But if you receive the gift then that’s even better than knowing. It means that the gift has transferred from one person (the giver) to the person receiving the gift. When we pray, God hears us and he accepts what we say. The Bible says in John that if we know that God hears us, we know we have what we’ve asked God for. Now this doesn’t always happen in the way or timing that we’d like. But it’s a promise we shouldn’t ever be afraid to remind God of and pray, whatever situation and whatever things look like. Trust got that he’s the best HR advisor out there – he guides, supports, advises and helps us in everything we do!
Always Pray – Luke 18.1
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”
Here’s an interesting verse in the Bible. The Bible says that Jesus told the disciples a parable (a story with a meaning) to show them that they should always pray and never give up. The story he told them was of a widow going to a judge for justice. In the end she got her justice but not because he was a good judge. She got justice because she kept on going! Many people would say the same thing today about getting justice – like the families of the Hillsborough Football disaster who waited years to get justice.
Jesus was telling his disciples that they would need to pray and keep on praying. There were two things Jesus was saying to them and to us today. First of all, he was saying to them – ‘look guys, there are some prayers that you will need to keep praying.’ This is so true. There have been times in my life and those around me where we have had to pray and pray for a long time about some issues before we say the answer to the prayer. God always answers our prayer but they can take time before we see the results of what God has been doing. If you have something that you need an answer to then keep on praying and pressing in to God. Keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. Jesus has told us to do this! How long do we keep going? Well, until you see an answer or until you sense that God has answered the prayer and you don’t need to pray it any more.
Secondly, Jesus was encouraging his disciples to keep on praying. So he probably realised there would come times that they didn’t feel like praying or when they wanted to give up. Sometimes satan lies to us and says that prayer is pointless. But it isn’t. We should never give up praying. We can pray long prayers, short prayer, cry out to God, shout, write prayers, draw prayers, think prayers. It doesn’t matter. Just keep on praying. Your prayers are always heard by God and they will make a difference in this world and you will see the impact of your prayers in this world and even more so when you get to heaven!
Fragrant Perfume – Exodus 30.36-38
“(The incense) shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the Lord. Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.”
Around this part of the Bible (Exodus), God was giving Moses instructions about how to live, how to behave and the kinds of standards that God expected and laid down to help the people of Israel. In Exodus 30, God talks about ‘incense’. This is like ‘perfume’ except this was a unique formula that God set apart for him. No-one else was to make a copy of this simply for their own pleasure. This was unique to God and for God. So what does this tell us today? Are there certain perfumes or aftershaves that God doesn’t want us to wear?! Well, possibly, but there’s much more…
The word ‘incense’ is also used for prayer in the Bible (we see in Revelation 8.3 the incense was the prayers of God’s people). So God sees prayer as very important and unique and he asks us to offer those prayers up to Him (and him alone!) There is something unique about prayer and it is holy and powerful (James 5.16 says “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”) The incense was also holy to the person offering it to God and the same is true with us. Prayer helps us grow spiritually, connects us with God and his heart, sees God’s power released, brings change in situations and people but also in us! And remember the prayer was only offered when the priest met with God in the Tent of Meeting but now we can pray at any time, any place, in any language and in the unique ways that God has given us – prayer meetings, praying while going to school, speaking God’s Word as prayer and in many other ways like ‘Healing On The Streets’. In the New Testament, Jesus told off the pharisees who liked to make a big show of how great their prayers were. But prayer is not for showing off! It is holy to and for the Lord God.
Pray the God-things that God reveals – John 16.23
John 16.23 – Jesus said, “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!”
Are there things that God has revealed to you? Things that God has spoken to you? Sometimes it’s hard to know if what you think you’ve heard is from God or from you! We all have that problem although as we get to know God and the Bible better, we get to understand more! One test that God has spoken to you is that we ask according to the will of Jesus and in keeping with the things that Jesus taught. So we need to know the things Jesus taught and the will of Jesus. The very best way is to know the written Word of God, the Bible. This is what Jesus told his disciples to do and as his disciples, he says the same thing to us.
Other times, if we are right with God (so that means we’re not deliberately doing things wrong) and we’re genuinely seeking God, his will is often the will in our hearts. Psalm 37.4 tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord and he will give us the desires of our heart. Why does this happen? Because as we delight ourselves in God, we change so that our desires and wants become God’s desires and wants. When that happens, we know that what we pray is God’s will. But we must always be careful not to want things that are against what God wants. I once heard about someone who felt God had told them to do something very clearly. The only trouble was that the result of their actions was great pain and break up in their family. Clearly this was not from God in any way because it went against the teaching of Jesus, the will of Jesus and the Bible – and it caused other people deep pain. So that is a lesson. God will speak to us, wants to speak to us. But we must listen with our spirit (our ‘God-part’) as then we will know that we’re in tune with God.
God receives your prayer – Psalm 6.9
“The Lord has heard my supplication (my cry for mercy); the Lord receives my prayer.”
If you ever send anything in the post, you’ll know that eventually (if everything works right!) the postal service will deliver what you sent to the person you sent it to. So if you send a birthday card to Aunt Mavis in Manchester, the postman in her area of Manchester will push the letter through her door and she will ‘receive’ the birthday card. Or another example… If you were visiting someone who was a Lord or a Lady (or even the Queen!) you would go to where they were (for example Buckingham Palace to see the Queen). When you got there, you’d show your invite, clear security and then be ‘received’ into the Palace and into the Queen’s presence. That means you’d get to see the Queen – she would ‘receive’ you. You’d be accepted.
A pastor once described prayer as a kind of targeted ‘missile’. When we pray, it isn’t like some random missile that some power-crazed dictator fires off that he hopes will hit the enemy. We don’t have to pray in a certain way in order for God to hear us. We shouldn’t even get worried that somehow our prayer will ‘miss’ God as if he’s trying to catch a ball we’ve thrown but our throw is so bad he can’t dive and catch it. No, when we pray, God hears us. It isn’t like a letter that a postman gets but doesn’t push through the door or put in the mailbox. God always receives our prayers – our prayers always get through to God. He always hears us. And he is always willing and ready to answer our prayers. So don’t let the devil lie to you – God hears your prayers, he receives your prayers and he does answer your prayers. Even when you don’t see it or understand, God has received your prayer. And it always makes a difference for the Kingdom of God, in other people’s lives and in your life!
Know God’s Word, know God’s heart – John 15.5-8
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
As we know from the quiet-time ‘Praying Has A Purpose’, often when we pray God has a higher purpose behind the prayers that we sometimes understand and sometimes don’t see! But how do we know that when we pray that we’re praying in the right way?
Jesus gives us some clear answers in John 15… Imagine this – you are in a loved-up relationship as boyfriend – girlfriend and you’re spending time together and getting to know each other. You enjoy each other’s company and are understanding what each other likes and doesn’t like. In a different kind of way, this is what our ‘relationship’ with God is like. How do we know God’s heart? Because we know God and know what he likes and doesn’t like (the Bible is the best way we know this as it’s all about God). But with God we also need to stay connected to him and be obedient to him. This isn’t about following religious laws as we’ve been set free from this nonsense but Jesus told his disciples and us today that we need to remain connected to God. If we remain in God and God’s Word remains in us, then we can ask whatever we wish and it will be done for us. So we know that our prayers are the right kinds of prayers when we’re close to God and we know God’s Word inside us. This isn’t religion (as if we have to ‘perform’ to gain God’s approval), it’s just that as we stay connected to Jesus, his love and his heart inspires our prayers. We will also know the kinds of prayers God doesn’t answer. So get and stay connected to Jesus!
Praying has a purpose – John 14.11-15
“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me, keep my commands…”
In John 14, Jesus makes an incredible promise – ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name… You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” Do you believe that God means what he says? Absolutely! The Bible is completely true and God’s promises are completely true. But sometimes God’s promises depend on certain things or have a ‘God-purpose’ that’s beyond the prayers that we pray. Here’s an example: You may be praying for some situation to change in your life. God wants to answer that prayer but his higher purpose may be to draw you closer to him through prayer so you get to know God better.
In John 14, Jesus made these promises to his disciples about praying in the name of Jesus (remember this was something they’d never done before). But Jesus was saying that if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus (and vice versa). We can see from verses 13 and 15 that Jesus was concerned about the Father getting all the fame and about the disciples honouring God through obeying what Jesus had taught them. This was the higher purpose of telling the disciples to pray in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t about them getting anything they wanted (nor is it for us). Instead, Jesus was telling them and us to pray in the name of Jesus because when they did this, they would be praying what God wanted. Jesus doesn’t say – pray whatever, just stick my name on the end and it’s yours! Instead, as we get closer to God, our desires become his desires and so we know that when we pray, they are prayers God will answer.
Praying ‘Old Testament’ prayers? 2 Chronicles 7.13-14
“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, 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Is it ‘right’ for us to pray Old Testament prayers? In the Old Testament, God spoke to his people (who were the nation of Israel), usually through prophets and in other signs and wonders. Jesus hadn’t yet come to earth as a man, died on the cross and paid the price for our sins; the Holy Spirit had not been put into the hearts of God’s people. It was a very different world to the ‘New Testament’ way (new ‘covenant’). Today (as the church) we relate to God in a very different way today because of Jesus and because the Holy Spirit has been put in our hearts if we believe in Jesus (see Ezekiel 36 for this change from old to new). So do we pray ‘Old Testament’ style prayers, like the one in 2 Chronicles 7.14? Many people seem to pray 2 Chronicles 7.14 today, or at least talk about it as if it’s still relevant, but is it?
The short answer is – yes it is, but not in the same way as God spoke it in 2 Chronicles. I believe God no longer sends ‘judgement’ like he did in the Old Testament to punish people (like fire, plagues etc we see in Exodus). Instead, Jesus will judge at the end of time. 2 Chronicles 7.14 is also talking about a situation where God sent judgement to call the nation of Israel back to him (see verse 13!) and doesn’t quite fit with us as the church in the new agreement that comes through Jesus. But – God is still speaking and alive today. He may well give us prayers like 2 Chronicles 7.14 to pray for our nation, or for the church. Very often God gives us Bible verses to pray and so we should do that whether it seems ‘right’ or ‘theological’ to do so. We should pray these prayers whether they are ‘New’ or ‘Old’ Testament prayers. God sees the heart of our prayers and the motivation behind them (see 1 Samuel 16.7). It’s even OK to pray slightly ‘incorrect’ prayers if the heart behind them is for God and for his ways! God loves for us to come to him in prayer! So come to God today and pray your heart out, tell God everything and be totally honest with him. God loves you, knows what you mean and he’ll answer every prayer in his way and time!
A prayer that God answers – Colossians 1.9-14
It is right to pray to God at all times with all kinds of prayers and requests – for you, your family, friends, neighbourhood, government, country etc. It is right to thank God all the time. It is also great to pray the Bible over all these things. When we pray the Bible (rightly!) we are praying the will of God. But how do we know which Bible verses to pray? Well, there are many outright promises in the Bible and there are things that God may speak directly to you from the Bible – then you can definitely pray those and know God will answer them. (It may take time!) But other times you may not quite know what to pray for people. If you believe that God can give you the gift of praying in unknown tongues (it’s like praying God’s will without always knowing exactly what you’re saying), then you can pray like this!
But if you just don’t quite know how to pray for yourself; friends; family; church; leaders etc then here’s an amazing prayer that Paul prayed. What you can do is to ‘personalise’ it. This just means that you exchange words like ‘you’ for your name, or someone else’s name. So here is an example of this, praying for yourself (and like verse 9 says, keeping on praying!) :
“Lord God, I continually ask you to fill me with the knowledge of your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that I may live a life worthy of you Lord and please you in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to your glorious might so that I may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified me to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Lord God, you have rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of the Son you love, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Amen.
Praying with boldness – Luke 11.8
“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (or ‘boldness’ or ‘shameless persistence and insistence’) he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
I was once coming back on a flight from the USA with a friend. Somehow, despite booking seats at the same time, our seats weren’t together on the flight. A bit frustrating I thought, but hey. My friend had a different spirit and they went across to the person sitting in the seat next to them and asked if they would mind swapping seats with me. They were travelling alone and so didn’t mind at all. We ended up having a laugh on the flight, sat next to the window looking out on an incredible sunrise as we got back to London.
In Luke 11, Jesus was encouraging his disciples and us, to have a kind of ‘holy’ boldness in the same way as my friend showed in finding a seat on the flight. Jesus gave the example of someone going to his friend at midnight to get some food for a visitor. The friend would end up giving some food because of the boldness and audacity of the person asking them. Jesus went on to tell us to ask, seek and knock. Sometimes we have to be bold in our prayers – asking God for our needs or on behalf of others. We can come confidently to God without fear, according to Hebrews 4.16 and get God’s help in our times of need. So today let’s pray big, bold, God-filled, God-glorifying, visionary, inspiring prayers. Let God inspire you to pray bigger, higher, wider, deeper and bolder than ever before. He loves to hear from you, longs to speak to you. So ask, seek, knock and don’t be discouraged. The football team Man United are known for scoring late goals, for attacking and not accepting they are beaten. Let’s show that same passion in prayer for God and for people!
Praying in a certain place – Luke 11.1
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’
Our prayer life, talking to God, is a 24/7 thing. The Bible encourages us to pray on all occasions, with all kinds of requests. This suggests a lifestyle of prayer, rather than seeing prayer as the traditional ‘prayer meeting’. I used to go to a weekly prayer meeting and it was incredibly powerful. Other times it was hard going but overall it was great and the group has seen incredible answers to prayer! So while it’s good to have a lifestyle of prayer and of thanking God, it’s also good to have specific prayer times.
Here in Luke 11, we find that ‘one day Jesus was praying in a certain place’. OK, not very specific, but that’s the awesome thing about this verse as it’s relevant for all people, places and times. Jesus found a specific place and time to pray. Sometimes it’s also good to have a place for us to pray. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus encourages his followers to pray in their rooms away from others. Time and time again, Jesus went up a mountain to pray. Like me, you may not have a mountain nearby (sadly!!) but you can find a place to pray – your room, on a walk or somewhere you like going.
One thing we see with Jesus praying is that when he finished praying, one of his disciples said to him, ‘teach us to pray’. Jesus obviously inspired his disciples to want to pray (who knows, he may have been praying for this!) There was something in the praying of Jesus that made the disciples want to pray and to be taught to pray by Jesus. This can be our prayer too – ‘Lord, teach me to pray’. So find a place, a time and make Jesus your focus and get inspired!!
Praying what God has done for us – Joshua 1.1-5
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates – all the Hittite country – to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
God had tasked Joshua and the people to go into the Promised Land, to keep his law and obey him. Then God would give the people every place their feet went (see also Deuteronomy 11). God had made the promise that if Israel obeyed him, they would defeat every enemy and gain the Promised Land. Now the people had crossed over, this was being put to the test. Someone once said that between where you are and the promises God has made, there is often a time of waiting or a test. Sometimes you need to take action. The people of Israel, led by Joshua had been given the Promised Land but they had to take action.
This is a lesson we can learn in prayer in our lives: If we believe in God, we need to know that Jesus had done it all and our ‘action’ is to believe and pray this in faith. On the cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” We know that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Galatians 3 tells us in verse 13-14 that Christ has broken the curse of the law over our lives so we are free in him and we inherit the promises made to Abraham. We also know from Galatians 5 that if we believe in Jesus, we have the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There are also promises made in places like 1 Peter 2.24 that in Christ we already have been healed. Many times in prayer we tell God what we need and this is absolutely right. But we also need to read the Bible, get the Bible inside of us and pray according to the promises God has already made and what he has already given us. How do we do this? We pray things like, “Lord I need your provision, so thank you that your Word says you have provided for all my needs according to your riches in Jesus, so thank you that you will meet my need.” (Philippians 4.19).
On-going prayer – Ephesians 6.18
Ephesians 6.18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
I was once having a chat with someone and told them that God had given me a really interesting idea which I explained. The person listened and then responded saying, ‘there are lots of good ideas, but the best thing is to pray, ask God for his idea and then do that.’ It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear! What they were saying was – pray and ask God for his ideas – and this is absolutely right. Very often we have an idea, but it’s not a God-idea. So let’s make sure that our ideas are inspired by God!
But this person missed the point! The point is that God tells us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. Our daily lives should be filled with ‘prayers’. These may just be saying ‘thank you Lord’ under our breath, or facing a test and saying, ‘Lord help me’, or seeing someone who looks upset and asking God to reveal his love to that person (he may get you to do something!) You see, we can pray all the time. This doesn’t mean 24/7 so we don’t sleep! It means we always have an attitude of talking, listening to and communicating with God throughout every day.
If we are constantly keeping the lines of communication open with God, then just as we get electricity when we ‘plug in’ something, so we get filled with God and his ideas as we pray throughout the day with all kinds of prayers and requests. It’s good and right to have set times of prayer, but very often because we’re chatting with God and seeking him, the ideas that pop into our head are from God. That’s the power of on-going prayer!
Simeon’s Prophecy – Luke 2.34-35
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon then made a prophecy about Jesus that many people may well find a bit shocking. Jesus later confirmed what Simeon had said by confirming one of the things he came to do was to bring a sword and not peace! A bit strange? “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Matthew 10.34-35)
Simeon had spoken to Mary and Joseph explaining that Jesus would cause people to rise and fall and to reveal what was in people’s hearts. Just imagine you’re in your youth group and people are all getting on really well. Suddenly a new person comes in. It’s a girl and she’s very pretty. The girls look at her and ask, ‘is she prettier than me?’ The lads think, ‘she’s pretty, I wonder if she’d like me?’ Her presence in the room shows something of what’s in people’s hearts.
Jesus did this but on a massive and spiritual way. By what Jesus said, did and who he was – his message brings out what’s in people’s hearts. Many people hate Jesus, hate the Bible and hate the message of Christianity. But simply because Jesus exists, this gets revealed. Other people love Jesus and follow him and the Bible (true Christians). Their heart for God is revealed because of Jesus! Sometimes people react badly to us – these people may be friendly at times. But when we say we’re a Christian, they get all hostile. Why? One reason is because Jesus is revealing what’s inside them – Jesus is the truth and he reveals truth! But once you know what’s in people, you can pray for people!!
Prayer and 2 Thessalonians
I don’t know how you pray or how you do prayer in your church (I hope you do pray as this is power that unlocks God to work in situations supernaturally!!) Anyways, our church does prayer very informally. People can pray out during the worship time or speak out prayer as God leads them. Other churches have ‘set’ or ‘written’ prayers. Every church responds to God differently, as he made us all different! What matters is the heart behind the prayer, that we do pray and allow God to lead our prayer. One way to pray is to use prayers in the Bible which has some amazing prayers. We’ll look at just two prayers in this quiet-time. These were prayers that Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. Consider praying these prayers for you friends, family and across your church:
2 Thessalonians 2.16-17: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
2 Thessalonians 3.16: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
When you pray these prayers, you know you’re praying prayers that God will answer because you’re praying prayers that are in his Word – which is from God himself. You’re praying God’s love, God’s help, encouragement, hope and strength over every good word and thing that people do. You’re then praying peace in everything and every way and that God would be with everyone. Can’t get better than that!
The Power of Prayer and Praise – Acts 16.25-26
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.
Imagine the headlines of the day – “singing blamed for prison breakout” or maybe a new show would be aired on Israel TV.. “Extreme Makeover: Prison Praise Edition.” Something extraordinary happened on this day when Paul and Silas started to praise God in prison with prayers and songs. A power rose up that was so incredible that it transformed the lives of many people in that prison and would have shaken the homeland security department of the day. For Paul and Silas, it should have been a dark night locked in a prison cell with all kinds of criminals. But instead, they chose to focus on Jesus and praise him despite their physical circumstances. They had a hope set in eternity, a knowledge of the power of God. In the darkness, Paul and Silas fixed their eyes on Jesus. They prayed and sung unashamedly, as the other prisoners looked on at their worship service.
But then something happened.. Suddenly there was a massive earthquake so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken. At once, all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose. Wow! Let’s trace the steps.. They were praying and worshipping God; others were listening as they confessed they were not ashamed of the Gospel. Then suddenly God moved – we know this was sudden as ‘at once’ the doors opened. The doors didn’t just open, they flew open. It wasn’t just one door, it was all the doors. It wasn’t just the chains on Paul and Silas that came off, it was everybody’s chains.. Praise blows open prison doors, it frees people and it breaks all the chains.
Today, despite anything you are going through, commit to pray to God, worship him with your guitar or favourite worship song and keep on doing it. Even in your darkest hour. The power of God is such that when we worship, God will break the chains in your life, he will bring freedom where you have felt trapped and will open doors you thought were shut. But keep on praising him, no matter what, until you see God move – then carry this on as a way of life! He will not only work in your life, but in the lives of others. But prayer and praise is the key.
Ezekiel 22.30-31 – The importance of prayer
In Ezekiel 22, we learn about the sins of Jerusalem. Jerusalem had done detestable (really evil and disgusting) things in the sight of God. Blood had been shed, Israel had worshipped idols, treated the father and mother with contempt, oppressed the alien (the immigrant / foreigner), ill-treated the fatherless and the widow, accepted bribes, done extortion and committed many other serious and often sexual sins. This set God against them as each of these are things that God hates because they are not holy and are against his character and Word. We must be so careful to check ourselves so that we are not doing things that are against what God wants. We do this by reading his Word (the Bible), doing what it says and letting it change us to be more like Him, and less like sin.
But when we look around our cities and nations, we see people committing the same kinds of sins. Sometimes, we even see evil things taking place within the church. In Ezekiel 22, God’s response to all the bad things was to look for someone to ‘build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would have to destroy it’. God’s response is the same today. He is looking for 2 things: people to build back up the walls and people to cry out to him on behalf of situations, people and nations. The result of this not happening is that God’s judgement has to come – destruction. God is a God of justice and injustice has to be punished.
So what does it mean to build back up the wall? A wall protects and divides. It is time to shout about God’s Word and make it known, to get back to the truth about God. It is time for restoration in the church and outside of the church – to put back into place that which the evil one has destroyed.. We need to fight to protect the minds of children, the oppressed, to see God’s ways put above the ways of secular and human thinking. Then, we have to stand in the gap before God. Wherever there is a piece of the wall missing, we have to cry out to God about that area of life – abuse, war, famine, injustice, pain, suffering, hate, terrorism, violence, corruption, false prophets.. Today, determine you will help rebuild the walls that have broken in the lives around you, and cry out to God for those people, for your city, for the church, for the nations.
1 Timothy 2.1-2 – A Biblical example of believing the Bible & prayer
It’s clear that now, more than ever, we need to be in prayer for our leaders, nations – and for the Middle East situation, as Paul says to Timothy 2.1. I saw a talk by ‘Lynne Hammond‘ on GOD TV exploring this verse. She said a practical application of this can be found in relation to King Cyrus of Persia (I believe Iran forms much of modern day Persia), who was a very evil King.
In Jeremiah 29.10, we read God talking to Israel:
“This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place..”
In Daniel 9.2-3 (and following), we find that Daniel took the Scriptures literally:
“in the first year (the) reign (of Darius), I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”
So, Daniel responded to the Word of God to Jeremiah and interceded for Israel, for God to restore Jerusalem as he had promised..
The practical application of this can be found in Ezra 1.1-4:
“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ ”
So, according to God’s Word, and through the prayer of just one of God’s people, we see that the evil King Cyrus was used by God to bring restoration to the temple in Jerusalem.
So this is our challenge: What is God doing through the current situation, what does the Bible say, and what is our response?
Praying for government
Let’s take a peek at 1 Timothy 2.1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
So many times our prayers are so selfish. We come before God with our shopping list and demand answers. Prayers are usually about us, our mates or family. Sometimes we may even pray for some other people, maybe even people we don’t know, but often we don’t. OK let’s break down what God says through Paul, writing to his mate Timothy.
The Bible urges that ‘first of all’ we need to come before God with requests (asking for stuff directly), prayers (for God to move in people’s lives), intercession (representing and ‘standing in the gap’ for people who don’t know God before God) and thanksgiving. Did you know that thanking God is a major way to come before God in prayer. (The Bible says the Lord lives in (inhabits) the praise of his people.) So we need to come before God to pray for other people outside of our circle and clique.
Also ‘first of all’ we learn we need to be praying for our rulers and leaders – this means for the government, the Royalty, local council leaders and other people who have authority. Why do we need to pray for these people? So that we can live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness. In non-churchy-bibly words what does this mean? Good government and good leadership is God’s will. To achieve good government we need to pray for those in government. If we don’t pray for government people we will not get good government. On the flip side, if we have bad government it is because we have not been praying. We need more than ever to be praying for our government. Don’t disrespect, pray.
Forget to pray for others?
Forget to pray for others? … Someone asks us to pray for them and we agree but then forget. Yet we need to be aware of Jesus’ words when he said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything else is sinful.” So we need to be careful.
So how can we avoid doing this? Have some ideas in place. First, if you get a prayer request by phone, email, text. whatever – make sure you pray immediately. Don’t put it off but pray. That way you will pray. If you’re at home have a list on the wall you can add this prayer too. If you have a diary or reminder on your smartphone, email programme, iPad, whatever – put it into that and remind yourself to pray again.
Ephesians 6.18 says, “…always pray for all all God’s people.” Galatians 6.10 says we should help others whenever we have the opportunity, but we should especially look out for other believers.’ There’s the commands from the Bible. Now go do it! And remember, letting your yes be yes and your no be no applies across your life. If you agree to do something, do it. If you say to someone, ‘we must meet up’ and mean it, arrange it then and there! If you can’t do something someone asks or don’t feel it’d right, don’t be afraid to say no and stick to it.
Is it selfish to pray for ourselves?
Is it selfish to pray for ourselves? … No. OK, so sometimes we spend too much time looking inwards at our own problems instead of focusing on Jesus, thanking God and looking at the needs of others (see Ephesians 6.18 which encourages us to pray for others). But God understands us and knows how we tick! However, if we just think about ourselves it’s a sure way of feeling unhappy! The way to really be satisfied is to put God and others first! OK, so back to praying…
In Matthew 6.32, Jesus does say that God knows our needs, we should put him first. That is absolutely true. But does this mean we should also pray for our own needs? Yes! Ephesians 6 tells us to pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers. Isaiah 62.6 (talking about praying for Jerusalem, but a good principle anyway) says, “You people who remind the Lord of your needs in prayer should never be quiet..” But we can do this in faith, thanking God. “Thank you Lord that you care for me and you want to sort out this situation…” etc.
In fact it often doesn’t matter how we pray as we’re all different and God sees our hearts! But it does matter that we do pray – and look outwards to the needs of others too. Our attitude should be praying on all occasions, thanking God, asking God for everything you and others need.
Imagine if you can that you are a soldier in the Roman army. They sure didn’t have the equipment of a modern day military force but had the cutting edge technology for their day. Still, it seems a bit primitive and naff to us today.
So, a Roman had a belt to hold together the uniform, a breastplate of armour to cover his chest and back, sandals for easy, long walking, an armoured helmet to protect his head (and neck), a shield to defend himself. This was his basic defence.
But the soldier also carried a couple other weapons for attack. One was his sword, the other was the scream and chant, the beat of the drum, as they went into battle. Today we may say – belt, kevlar body armour, army boots, kevlar helmet, riot shield, SA-80..
In Ephesians 6, we read about having the armour of God. For those reading the Bible at the time, they would have understood this kind of language. Today it’s different so I’ve tried to explain it to help. So, what are our weapons of attack today as we fight with spiritual armour against spiritual enemies? First the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). Second, we pray continually for all of God’s people. That’s prayer, a weapon of attack against our spiritual enemies.
‘WHEN YOU PRAY’
Read Matthew 6.5-15. In these verses Jesus says to the disciples, ‘when you pray’ 3 times. He’s saying the same thing to you. Are you praying..?
If you and your best mate just stopped talking to each other you’d lose contact and your friendship would be non-existent. That’s what it is like if you aren’t praying and talking to God. It’s not about feeling guilty, it’s about explaining to God you’re struggling and asking for his help.
The Bible tells us to pray all the time (1 Thessalonians 5.17 and Ephesians 6.18) – not just in church or on a Sunday. It’s not an excuse either – ‘Sorry I didn’t turn up for my GSCE exam sir, I was praying’ is not the way… It’s time to talk to God – get a regular time and pray when you can.
ARE MOUNTAIN MOVING PRAYERS POSSIBLE?
‘If you have faith in God and don’t doubt, you can tell this mountain to get up and jump into the sea, and it will. Everything you ask for in prayer will be yours if only you have faith.’ (Mark 11.23-24, CEV)
a. Matthew 5.14-15 says that if you forgive others for wrongs they do to you, God will forgive you. Do you need to forgive someone?
b. Do you need to say sorry to God for something? Perhaps you need to say sorry to a person for something you’ve done.
c. Is there anything in your character you would like to change or that needs changing? Ask God to change you
d. Anyone you want to pray for? Write down their names and pray for them
e. Are there any answered prayers you want to thank God for? Is there anything about God that you want to praise him for?
PRAYER CRAZY – Part 1
a. Get right with God. God isn’t going to listen to you so much if you’ve been a bad little lad or bad little lass. Say sorry for wrongs – 1 John 1.7-9. Remember to thank God and ‘big him up’ (praise him). See Colossians 4.2
b. Pray on your way to work, school or college (see Philippians 4.6-7). We should always be praying. Pray for mates, your day, anything and everyone!
c. Pray when you’re doing a boring job – washing-up (?), tidying up (??). But pray always (not out loud in High St – it might get you a few funny looks
d. Keep a prayer diary. It’s easy to forget that God answers so many of your prayers so encourage yourself and write ’em down! God listens (Psalm 34.7) and is interested in everything about you and your day.
e. Pray when you’re down. Tell God how you feel (1 Peter 5.7), resist Satan (James 4.7) and say ‘God you’ve won and paid a price for me. You’ve promised me loads in the Bible, so I believe in it and say yes! (See Psalm 91.15)
PRAYER CRAZY – Part 2
f. Pray with another person. Admit your sins to each other and pray with each other (James 5.16). When 2 of us meet doing the Master’s business, he’s right there! (Matthew 18.20). When two or more of us agree on something (within God’s will!) it will be done for us by God (Matthew 18.19).
g. Make time for prayer. If you’re like me, praying regularly is on the difficult side of difficult. But your prayer is your strength (Isaiah 40.29-31), your protection (Ephesians 6.10-17) and it’s essential! (Ephesians 6.18)
h. Pray by using the Bible or music. If you can’t think of a prayer, use one that’s been written (try Psalm 33). Or write a poem, a song or use a book.
i. Prayer isn’t gossip. ‘Oh of course Mel’s been sleeping around, we need to pray for her’ Don’t gossip, pray! Take a look at the Bible – Mark 11.25-26, Luke 6.37-38, 2 Timothy 2.16, Proverbs 25.9-10.
j. Impossible prayers. We’ve got one seriously awesome God and he can do whatever he needs to (Ephesians 3.20-21). If we believe and have faith we can move Mount Everest (Mark 11.23-24), uproot shrubbery and deposit it in the local pond (Luke 17.6) and more. Read John 14.12-14 for more
GOD WORKS MIRACLES – READ Joshua 10.6-14
Joshua had taken the people of Israel into the Promised Land – just as God had promised. When the people had obeyed God, they had won every battle meaning God’s power and Israel were feared across the land. One time 5 Kings had joined together to fight against Israel. This was going to be one serious fight but Israel won ‘cos something amazing happened.
Joshua prayed to God and the sun stopped in the sky and didn’t go down for a full day. The Bible says this never happened before or after this incident. A scientist recently said that there was a 12 hour time ‘missing’ from the history of Planet Earth – a time period that can only be made up by looking at this incident in the Bible.
God listens when his people pray, especially when you pray for what God wants. Your answer may not be so amazing but you never know