Luke 11:2-5 Our greatest need is to pray. When asked, Jesus gave his followers a simple manual consisting of three basic elements of prayer followed by these words: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”[vs 28]
First; begin at the beginning: Hallow the Father’s name for he is holy and abides in heaven: “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” [Ps 11:4]
Secondly; seek God’s forgiveness for sins of omission and commission so that you are able to forgive others. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” [1Jn 1:9]
Lastly; seek God’s protection and direction so that we remain faithful. Claim the promise that Jesus has “Disarm[ed] the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” [Col 2:15]
We ask then how should we pray? Pray shamelessly and with confidence: “let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.”[Heb 4:16] for “we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness” [Eph3 :12]
Prayer is how we remove the barriers that keep us from true fellowship with God so the question is: how does your prayer life measure up?
Zechariah 1 -2 When we read the prophets we come away with our minds swirling because in our 21st century we know we are reading a historical record with implications for our spiritual lives. A new administration under Cyrus allowed the exiles to return to rebuild the Temple. In that time Isaiah prophesied that this was His plan and even named Cyrus as ruler several years before his birth! (Isaiah 44:28)
Both Haggai and Zechariah would remind them that God wanted his people to learn. Learn and do not fall back into what your ancestors did not do. He had sent prophets but they did not pay any attention or listen to them. He offered hope to them if they turned from their evil wickedness but their words fell on deaf ears. Micah had reminded them God would turn and have compassion upon them and cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Now with this ringing in their ears, they listened and began to confess: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has indeed done what he said he would do to us, because of our sinful ways.” Words of repentance are a sweet balm to the Lord in heaven. He loves to hear of our words: I am sorry and I am willing to obey.
It is then that the floodgates of heaven swung open! “Sing out and be happy!” but also a simple reminder: “be silent in the Lord’s presence…”
Habakkuk How often have you heard: “God doesn’t answer prayer” or “I tried faith, but it didn’t work.” Beloved know this; those who say this won’t believe even if and when the evidence is presented to them. They are obstinately content to live and walk in darkness. As one of Jeremiah’s contemporaries, Habakkuk teaches us how to persevere. He sifted through the pretense of his own belief and gleaned something that shook him to the core. Even as a believer, he too, was saying: “I can’t believe this is happening!”
Habakkuk asked, “Why are you allowing this God?” He was brutally honest with God—he even accused God of not working! Yet Habakkuk didn’t walk away but persevered in his dialog with God. The refreshing thing to note is this: God loves us to be honest about how we feel. What other God would allow us to vent our feelings and our questions? And so unlike God’s silence with Job, God answered, “stand still and see me work.” Through his dialog with God, Habakkuk learned three principles:
Only the just will live by faith.
Someday God’s glory will fill the earth.
The Lord is still in his holy temple [Ps 73] and at work.
As Habakkuk’s world was swirling with ungodliness, he stood firm EVEN when he did not understand! Habakkuk determined to “remain stationed on the wall and keep watching so he could see what God says.”
Are you standing on the wall watching for God’s answer or wandering in the darkness?
Amos 7 to 9 God asks the sheepherder and agriculturist Amos: Can two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? It is a rhetorical question, of course. Later, as Amos walked the halls and fields of the northern kingdom, he “saw” or beheld God making locusts that would devour the crops, followed by fire to consume the fields. As Amos watched, his heart was broken. As we look about us, is our heart broken? Do we plead with God: Sovereign Lord, forgive Israel for they are too weak. God answered Amos: It will not happen. Never underestimate the power of a praying person. Know this truth: God hears the pleas of His children.
What does this mean to us today? It means you can be like Amos. God is listening to your petitions, and He will respond—sometimes He may even change his plan.
Never underestimate your praying power.
Just as Amos spoke to God on personal terms, so can we. Jesus said: I no longer call you servants; instead, I call you friends. A servant is told what to do and how but has no understanding of the why and does not question. In contrast, a friend converses and seeks to understand the motives and actions. Be like Abraham, Moses, and now Amos, who appealed to God for His mercy. God heard and relented of His decision. Never underestimate the power of prayer because the prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [James 5:16]
Daniel 7 to 9 Daniel has been in Babylon for a v-e-r-y long time. In that time, he has faithfully served the Babylonian kings as he reverently continues to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
It is as if Daniel has put on a pair of virtual-reality glasses. He sees the heavenly beings and the future. He saw God’s throne room and a river of fire proceeding from it and tens of thousands ministering to Him. He saw the saints of old who now are blessed to see the radiance of God’s glory! And then all of a sudden–Heaven’s glory is tainted with the beast with the arrogant words. While Daniel watched, God threw this arrogant beast into the lake of fire “prepared for the devil and his angels!” just as the Apostle John prophesied would happen.
The vision of heaven was so real that it broke Daniel’s heart, and he falls to his knees in prayer. “O Lord, great and awesome God!” You are faithful while we have been unfaithful. You are righteous, but we are unrighteous. You are exalted, but we have been humiliated. You were right to judge our sin.
Daniel has recorded all of this for us that we might join him in prayer.
Ezekiel 25 to 27 God chose Israel to carry His message of love and forgiveness to the world. However, she decided to allow the foreign gods to infiltrate her land and her worship of Yahweh. Know this truth: judgment begins at God’s house, but He also sees others’ contempt and in His righteousness will also judge them.
God patiently sent prophets and priests to warn Israel that He would discipline. First, the northern tribes were scattered to the north. God hoped that Judah would learn, but she did not. She became even more immoral, so God sent the Babylonians and sent them into exile. One would think that the nations to the east would see this and learn. Instead, they scoffed, aided the Babylonians, and rushed in to take Judah’s land, cities, and crops. In their pride, they fell for the lie that God would not discipline them. Our prisons today are an example of this thinking.
Ezekiel explained that it was because they rejected God and His children; they too would face God’s hand. Like a maid dries a plate, He wiped them clean from east to west, beginning with Ammon and ended with Tyre.
The lesson for us is that there is a day of reckoning for all that the world may know that He is God.
Jeremiah 33 In times of quiet, our hearts are more open to the “word of the Lord,” because the distractions are minimized. Jeremiah was shut up in the court of the guard, but walls or circumstances do not bind the Lord’s word. It is still true today. God is anywhere you are. You may be confined to a bed due to illness, or you may be restricted to a prison cell, or you may be confined due to the corona-virus restrictions. God knows where you are, and if your heart is prepared to hear Him, He will come to you, and He will give you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand.
The Lord came to Jeremiah, and He comes to His children today: call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. “God can do anything He wishes. There’s no prayer too hard for God to answer, no problem too big to solve, no person too lost to save, no promise too difficult to keep. Nothing lies outside the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.” [Adrian Rogers]
Have you heard the voice of the Lord in your quiet time?
What needs do you have that need prayer? May I pray for you this day?
Jeremiah 11/12 Is there ever a time when you stop praying for a person? We answer, no, but then we read Jeremiah and hear God say: “Do not pray for these people. Do not cry out to me or petition me on their behalf. Do not plead with me to save them. I will not listen to them…” [Jer 7:16]
How do you react to these words? We must remember that context is king, and Jeremiah had a particular message for specific people. Like Jeremiah, we ask “why” but behind the “why,” there is always a “because.” For Judah, the “why” is Judah’s national sin. The “because” is that God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher and have purposes we may not always understand. God could see the hearts, and these had no intention of turning back. How about us? Are we to stop praying? Remember, we don’t have the heart or the wisdom to know; therefore, we are to pray without ceasing. Who knows, but our prayers may be the very link to restoration.
God wanted Jeremiah to present this truth to his people: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us.” [Deut 29:29]
We are to be like Jeremiah and Habakkuk:
stand firm, present the gospel, pray and leave the results to God.
Isaiah 64 to 66 If you have ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle, you know that you must have patience as you search for that piece that seems to hide in the pile of pieces. God is a master at puzzles, and although we do not know where that persnickety piece is, God has no problem. He knows which piece fits and He patiently finds it and places it to complete the picture. Isaiah, as God’s prophet, has been faithfully piecing the puzzle pieces of Israel together. Although he will never see the birth and life of the Messiah, the Holy Spirit has graciously shown him the pieces needed to see the finished picture. He has faithfully written the words that the Holy Spirit has given to him. Some were harder than others, and some were praiseworthy.
In a particularly hard time, Isaiah pours out his heart and looks for that missing puzzle piece as to when the Lord will come to rescue them. But, God the Almighty tells Isaiah that He will not come “yet.” Their sins are like scarlet, and their so-called righteousness is as filthy rags. Their praises are not for Jehovah but for the idols they fashion. God had promised centuries before, and He will again: I will not abandon my children.
The patience of God is amazing. He will not leave his children even as sinful as they are. Peter answers the “why” question: He is not slow but is patient because he does not wish any to perish but for all to come to repentance. [2 Peter 3:9]
Isaiah 58-59 If there is one thing, both Isaiah and Jesus saw it was the fake responses of the religious leaders and the people. God hates or “abhors dishonest scales, but an accurate weight is his delight.” [Prov 11:1] It is easy for us to point fingers, but how often are we less than genuine when it comes to our devotion towards God? How often do we go through the rituals and traditions, but our heart is someplace else?
God’s prophet Isaiah was given these words to an unrepentant nation and the people. They were lamenting that God didn’t seem to notice – the God where are you syndrome. God answered back, you are only coming to me to get the satisfaction that I have heard you, but in reality, your heart is far from me. It is all for show. Here’s what I am looking for: you search for those who are oppressed and in need and reach out and touch them with My agape love. My ear is not too deaf to hear you. These are the same words that the seven churches in Revelation heard. “He who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says.” [Rev.2-3]
So how do we apply this to today? James asked: What good is it if you claim to have faith but do not have works to back that faith up? God is looking for authenticity not just in word but also in deed.