Lessons from the Prayer Life of Jesus

Are you married? Imagine for a moment what your marriage would be like if you and your spouse hardly ever talked to one another. What if the only conversation you had with your spouse involved just a few words that might be spoken over a meal or before you went to sleep?  What if your few words of conversation involved the same old dialogue (ex: “Thanks for dinner.” “Have you taken out the trash?” “What is on TV tonight?”)? What if these same old conversations never lasted for more than a minute or two?  What if days went by without either of you taking the time to speak to one another?

There is no way we would be able to tolerate this kind of communication (or lack thereof).  But if we would not accept this in our marriage, why would we accept it in our relationship with God?  Our relationship with God is supposed to be our most important relationship. Two thousand years ago God sent His Son Jesus to this earth to die on the cross. Through Jesus’ death, the penalty for sin was paid and those who come to God can pray freely to Him and trust He will both listen and respond (Romans 5:8-10; 1 Peter 3:12; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is an amazing privilege for the people of God. And yet, unfortunately so often it is neglected!

This is a problem with SIGNIFICANT spiritual consequences. A neglected prayer life leaves us     disconnected and separated from God. How do we fix this problem? Perhaps the best approach is to study the prayer life of Jesus.

  • Jesus prayed frequently. When we search the gospels we find numerous references to Jesus communicating with His Father. After miraculously feeding the five thousand, He prayed (Matthew 14:22-23). Early in the morning as He began His day, He prayed (Mark 1:35). As the news about His power began to spread throughout the world, He would often slip into the wilderness and pray (Luke 5:15-16). Before being transfigured on the mountain, He prayed (Luke 9:28-29). Before being arrested in the Garden, He prayed (Luke 22:39-44). Jesus teaches us that frequent prayer is absolutely necessary to nurture our relationship with God. It is an opportunity to pour out our hearts and share with God our inner most feelings (1 Peter 5:6-7). Next time we are wrestling with a big decision, problem, or have some good news to share let’s make it our first instinct to talk to God about the matter.
  • Jesus made prayer happen. Jesus had a pressing schedule. He traveled many places teaching God’s word. He frequently debated and confronted His enemies. He trained His disciples. He constantly performed miracles to confirm His identity. It was not easy for Jesus to find the time and solitude necessary for prayer. But He always did it (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12)! No doubt we also have very busy schedules. But like Jesus we need to make prayer happen. We need to turn off the television and the phone. We need to put down the tablet. We need to work out a time for our spouse to watch our young children for a few minutes. We need to tell our older kids we are praying and not to disturb us for a while. Like Jesus, we need to also find a place of solitude for prayer (bedroom, quiet place in the backyard, go for a walk in the park, etc). Doing these things will take our prayer lives to the next level!
  • Jesus prayed with variety. His prayers were not always the same. Sometimes they were lengthy and deep (Luke 6:12). Other times they were brief and addressed to one specific, immediate need (Luke 23:34). Like Jesus, our prayers also need to have variety. Sometimes our prayers can be short and specific (ex: praying for someone giving you a hard time on your job; praying to overcome a tempting situation you may be in; praying over your meal). Other times our prayers can be lengthy and focused (ex: your prayer when you wake up in the morning, or before you go to bed).

God gives us the privilege of prayer because He wants to be our friend. However, He does not force this relationship on us. We must decide that we want the friendship He offers. From Jesus we learn that how we prioritize prayer plays a huge factor in the decisions we make.

– Shawn Jeffries

An Extra Day

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Leap Day! Leap Year! An extra day! What would you do with an extra day?

Joshua’s prayer for an extra day is an amazing Bible account.

The prayer was a dynamic mixture of God’s determined will and mankind’s bold request. The result was a miracle.

“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies…So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel,” Joshua 10:12-14.

The Lord fought for Israel and protected her against her enemies, the Amorites. The Lord was with Joshua and the troops, He even rained hail down on the enemies (Joshua 10:11). The hail killed more Amorites than the sword!

That day was special. There has been no day like it. But what was more special than the sun stilled was the prayer prayed! There has never been another day where the Lord heeded the voice of a man like that.

Joshua wanted more time, an extra day, to fulfill the Lord’s determined will. The Lord fought for Israel and Joshua fought for the Lord. It’s exciting to see that when the Lord reveals His will, and His people are eager to obey, the only thing yet required is the time to do it. And God supplies the time!

For New Testament Christians, the apostles teach us to consider each day as time God has given to serve Him. Time is a valuable and limited resource. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” Ephesians 5:15-17.

It’s safe to say that Joshua understood what the will of the Lord was in his day (Joshua 10:8).

So, it’s not beyond Christians to understand what the will of the Lord is either. The Scriptures teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What remains for us to attain is an attitude of faith like Joshua. An attitude that says, “I will spend today serving God. I will not procrastinate but I will ask God to give me all the time necessary to accomplish His will. And if I get another day – even an extra day – I will use it in the same way: for the glory of God.”

Make the most of your leap day, make the most of every day!

By Andrew Roberts

A Good Day To Pray For The President

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An election year often produces more buzz over the next President than concern over the current President. Yet, the office of President produces the potential to make landmark, life altering, decisions every day. They don’t get weekends off and the buck stops with them. For instance, with the passing of Justice Scalia, President Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court will impact the nation for years to come.

This is a good day to pray for the President. But it is always a good day to pray for the President.

Whoever the President, whatever his party, however long he holds the office; it is the duty of saints to pray for him. Indeed, 2 Timothy 2:1-4 encourages saints to pray broadly for leaders and kings among men. Let’s remember that our brotherhood, Christ’s kingdom, crosses all national boundaries because the Lord Jesus rules in the hearts of men. In other words, there are Christians praying for their rulers in Democracies, Dictatorships, Monarchies, Communist States, and even Islamic States – all at the same time.

Whatever could all Christians ask that all national leaders could influence? Again, 2 Timothy 2:1-4 offers the answer:

  • Peace – “that we may all lead a quiet and peaceable life…”
  • Godliness – “…in all godliness…”
  • Dignity – “…and reverence…”
  • Salvation – “who desires all men to be saved…”
  • Proclamation of the gospel – “…and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

George Washington set a positive precedent by encouraging people to pray.

“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.” – George Washington, 1st President of the United States of America

Abraham Lincoln confessed that his work was too taxing not to pray for himself.

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America

National calls for prayer still come from our leaders, but often in the aftermath of some sort of tragedy. That’s not a criticism but an observation. Where else can we turn in dark hours? Yet, I can’t help but wonder, if our leaders entreated our prayers daily and we responded with daily prayer for them (and our neighbors) if some tragedies couldn’t be avoided altogether?

Today let’s not limit our prayers to thanksgivings for Washington and Lincoln. Let’s make supplications and intercessions for the President of the hour and the leaders of the world. The Bible teaches us what to say. And let’s remember to pray for them all again, tomorrow.

By Andrew Roberts

A Bold Confession of Despair

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I felt, with many believers, frustration and righteous indignation at the recent New York Daily News cover story. “Prayer” is disdained as mere platitudes and God (along with those who look to Him for guidance, comfort, and protection from evil) is mocked. The headline suggests that God is absent or aloof when people are “lying in pools of blood.” Ironically, those with the courage to publicly affirm their faith in God and call for prayer are denounced as cowards. These are the times when Christians have a lot of praying to do – especially for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” What an ideology. What a message. If hurting families are robbed of the spiritual solace and support of their neighbor’s prayers, what is left? If the sovereign, holy God will not right all wrongs on His Day of Reckoning, what is left? If all our hope and future rests solely on the shoulders of mere men – elected officials – and their proper governance, what is left?

Despair.

This incendiary message amounts to a bold public confession of despair. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Yet when we are overcome by evil, the result is despair.

  • If you begrudge prayers for victim’s families, you have despaired.
  • If you blame God for the evil actions of men, you have despaired. (This statement is in recognition that the God these politicians are invoking is not the same one that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook were serving with their assault rifles. The Muslim shooters were acting in accordance with the written decrees of their god and so he reasonably shares some culpability.)
  • If you conclude that the highest power in heaven and earth is mankind, well, how could you not despair? Evil has overcome you.

Evil will overcome us…

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with government. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” so the government better. The government can “end [the] gun scourge.” The government can fix everything, right? The government has omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, right? The government can save us, right? The Bible says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1; cf. Psalm 20:7). Ancient Israel made the mistake of looking to government (either their own or national allies) instead of God to deliver them from evil. The prophet encountered the-“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”-message in his day and made clear that impressive horses and chariots cannot overcome evil. Don’t put your trust there. Government cannot overcome evil. If this is the plan, then, “Hello, Despair.”
  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with another law. Obviously the answer to the murders in San Bernardino is another law restricting gun ownership. At least that’s where the New York Daily News seemed to be going with their piece. It’s just so logical: If law-abiding citizens can no longer purchase guns then law-breaking murderers will not possibly acquire them either.

My point here isn’t so much about gun control. A person can become a Christian, faithfully serve God, and go to Heaven whether their nation allows them the right to bear arms or not. My point is about law, in general. We are inviting despair if we think a stricter law or more laws will overcome evil – any laws. Law has never delivered people from evil. People break laws! Law would overcome evil only if it was kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11). Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ, only Jesus Christ has ever kept a law perfectly, none of the rest of us. Jesus Christ can overcome evil but another law in our justice system cannot. Of course we need law and order and government has a role ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). A law names and convicts evil. But if another law or a harsher law is our answer to overcome evil… “Hello, Despair.” Somebody will break the new law too, eventually.

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil without God. In Romans 1 we read of a society that knew God but rejected Him. They chose willful ignorance of the true God. What does that look like? “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…murder…deceit, evil-mindedness…haters of God, violent, proud…inventors of evil things…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:28-31). It looks like San Bernardino and a myriad of other reports on the evening News.

What do you think? Are parents talking about God to their children, so that they might “retain God in their knowledge”? Do the halls of Academia “retain God in their knowledge” as they present either science or the humanities to educate our populace? Do public officials or religious leaders “retain God in their knowledge” when they preach to the masses that all gods and religions are basically the same and thus shape public opinion and policy?

Surely it can’t be both ways. If we ignore, forget, or despise God then we cannot decry “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” We are overcome with evil. “Hello, Despair.”

Yet evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). Friend, there is no good without God (Matthew 19:16-17; James 1:16-17).

  • Evil is overcome with God by the gospel. Governments and laws won’t overcome evil but the gospel can. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel changes our state with God and justifies us by forgiving our sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11). A sinner dies to sin and gets a new life when they are baptized (immersed in water) and buried into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-14). Their heart is changed. Their mind is renewed. Their life is transformed from the world around them (Romans 12:1-2)… a world currently intent on forgetting God. Evil is overcome by God, not false religions, not governments, not laws, and not practical atheism. His plan to overcome evil by defeating Sin is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:27). Evil is overcome one soul at a time as they respond to the gospel.
  • Evil is overcome with God by prayer. I don’t know if I will vote for any of the men on the cover of this paper. I don’t know if any of them will even be on the ballot by the time elections roll around. But they got it right when they asked a nation to pray for neighbors and victims. Bible believers know to pray for the hurting, their leaders, pray for peace, pray for all the saints, pray for boldness, and pray for their enemies (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). They also know to keep praying during dark times (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Evil is overcome with God by love. God loves sinners and Jesus died to redeem them regardless of how they have sinned (John 3:16). You and I are no more sinless than Muslim terrorists or the editors at New York Daily News. We are all equally lost apart from God’s love and gracious salvation. Love is shown and known when it touches the despairing. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what people need to hear right now. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair. Let Christians hear it for what it is – an angry and rebellious child pushing away the only parent whose love can make things better. Aren’t our arms tired of pushing God away? Aren’t we ready to surrender our personal rebellions to God? We must come to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ who fixes us by His love and teaches us to love our neighbors also (Romans 13:8-10; Titus 2:11-14).

“Innocent Americans” are not “left lying in pools of blood” because there has been too much God in this society or too much prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair, especially when the truth is so obvious – only God can fix this. Only the gospel changes people. The Bible – God’s Word – has the answers. Who will share it with others? Who will listen and respond?

By Andrew Roberts

How to Make Good Use of our Time

              What is time? Time is one of the most valuable things we possess. It is a precious, fleeting commodity that must be used with wisdom. Each day we are blessed with 24 hours to do whatever we choose. That is 86,400 seconds! This means that unless we die, we are all given the same amount of time. But what are we doing with that allotted time?

            The Bible certainly speaks of the need we have to use our time wisely. In fact, Paul says we need to be constantly “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16). The word rendered “redeeming” implies that we must rescue our time from waste; we must use the time God gives us to accomplish important things. Unfortunately, we live in a world that constantly tempts us with bad ways to use our time. This is one of Satan’s tactics to draw us away from God. But, thankfully, through the Bible we learn of good and wise ways to use our time.

Here are some practical ways to make good use of our time.

  1. Make time to spend quiet moments with God. This means making time to do two things. First, it means making time to allow God to communicate with you through His word. It doesn’t matter if it first thing in the morning, on our lunch break, before we do our homework, or go to bed, we need to never neglect carving out a few minutes to read God’s word. The Bible is God’s final and complete revelation to mankind (Jude 3). Through the Bible God tells us about His love, nature, and how to live in such a way that will bring Him glory (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; John 3:16). Second, it also means we will communicate with God through prayer. God talks to us through His word, but we talk to Him through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Like many of us today, Jesus was also very busy in His life (Matthew 4:23-25). And yet, despite His extremely busy schedule, He always made time for prayer (Matthew 26:36; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12). Through prayer we are able to pour our hearts out to God, express thanksgiving, and demonstrate our total dependence upon God (1 Peter 5:6-7; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2). We can’t expect to have a healthy relationship with God if we don’t communicate with Him.
  2. Make time to invest in our children’s spiritual future. Our children are great blessings from God (Psalm 127:1-5). In return God expects us to do all we can to train and equip them in His ways (Ephesians 6:4). How can we accomplish this? By making time each day to do spiritual things with them. By carving out time to pray, read scripture, and discuss practical ways in which they can make good choices in their lives. So often, we can become so consumed in raising the next Lebron James or Peyton Manning that we neglect do our best to raise the next faithful Christian! Let’s not waste the limited time we have now to influence our children to serve God and go to heaven.
  1. Make time to serve others. So often, we can become absorbed in our wants and needs. We fail to take advantage of the multiple opportunities we have in a 24 hour period to make the lives of others better. It could be practicing hospitality, visiting an elderly person in the nursing home, sending a family member an encouraging text message, or offering an open ear to a friend who is discouraged. We can never go wrong when we make time to help others. In fact, Jesus says that a life dedicated to service leads to greatness in the eyes of God (Mark 10:42-45).
  1. Make time to get right with God. In the book of Acts we find people making time to obey the gospel through belief in Jesus, repentance, and baptism. The 3,000 on Pentecost, Cornelius, Lydia, and the Philippian jailer are great examples of this (Acts 2:36-37; 10:47-48; 16:14-15, 25-34). So often people can easily put off getting right with God to another time. That is never a good thing! Paul says, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

What will we do with the time we have been blessed with today? Will we redeem and make the most of it? Or, will we squander and blow opportunities to do important things that will please God?

Today will never come again. The clock is ticking. The choice is ours.

By Shawn Jeffries