Sticking at Prayer

We all face the temptation to give up praying for all sorts of reasons. Here, among a string of other things, Paul encourages us to never let up praying, especially when we face life’s difficulties:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. — Romans 12:9-13 (ESV)

If only prayer would become as natural and as constant as breathing. But how do we get there? A good start is to make prayer a habit by setting aside time devoted to prayer, morning, afternoon and evening. If we are stuck for something to say to our Loving Father, the Psalms lay out ready-made prayers, as does the Lord’s Prayer. Whatever hardships befall us in life, we need to meet them with prayer, not impatience, knowing that nothing can rob us of the eternal future we have to look forward to.

Father, make us eager to talk to You in our affliction, instead of being petulant, and may we never lose sight of the hope set aside for us by the blood of the Lamb. Help us embrace prayer as essential as each breath.

 

Will God Hear Us?

The following passage captures God’s response to the inaugural opening service for the temple, the symbol of His dwelling among His people Israel:

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. – 2 Chronicles 7:12-15 (ESV)

God requires four things of His children in order for Him to give heed to their prayers and stave off His judgment. As Christians, identified by His name, first, we must embrace our lowly position in regard to God. Sometimes we can think too highly of ourselves and our requests, wanting God to submit to our will, and so usurp the heavenly throne. We must submit to God’s rule if we expect Him to bend His ear to us.

Secondly, we must converse with God. Pour out the hopes and desires of your heart before Him. Sure, He already knows every word before it is on our lips but He likes to hear from us anyway. Reading God’s Word alone is to receive monologue, responding to it in prayer transforms it into dialogue.

Thirdly, we must bask in the radiance of God’s glory, not merely looking to what we might gain from His hand but desiring, as a priority, to gaze upon His face. Jesus gave God a face and I, for one, can’t wait to look upon our Saviour’s face, no longer inhibited by my sins which He has taken away. Which brings us to our fourth requirement. We must repent, forsaking our wickedness. Sin is a major hindrance to prayer. If together we enact these four requirements we can be assured that God will hear us.

Father, aid us by Your Spirit to humble ourselves, talk to You, seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways. Once You help us to do these things, have mercy on us in response to our prayers: forgive our wickedness and heal our land of drought, pests and viruses. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Peace In Tribulation

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Here is a perplexing phrase from Jesus, directed towards His closest companions. In this life they, and by extension we, can bank on suffering through trials, and all this on the planet which Jesus not only  brought into being but subsequently subdued after humanity’s rebellion made it unruly. Jesus triumphed over it by living a life of complete purity (despite being tempted in every way) and conquering it once and for all by His death and resurrection. And yet Jesus tells us that not even the cross undoes the trouble we experience presently, “In the world you will have tribulation.”

While tribulation is guaranteed (even for believers)—bushfires still devastate and Christians are still martyred—Jesus unlocks for us the means to meet it head on by making a deep-seated peace available to us in Himself and through what He taught.

Lord Jesus, equip us, by Your Word, so that we may mimic You, being courageous in the face of suffering and overcoming this world. Help us remain in You that we may know Your peace amidst this world’s tribulations.

Elusive Satisfaction

Everything in this world is volatile, its pleasures are fleeting. What the world has to offer is only ever temporary. We repetitively thirst and hunger, never quite attaining true and lasting satisfaction. We slake our thirst only to have our thirst return. Over and over again we eat, but no matter how much we may savour our food—or gorge ourselves—we eventually hanker for more. Music brings pleasure to our ears, with the ability to touch even the very soul, but only so long as the song lasts. I could go on but I think you catch my drift. We can be tantalised on the very verge of ecstasy yet always remain ultimately unfulfilled. Striking, then, is Jesus’ offer (in John 6:35):

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (ESV)

Lord Jesus, apart from You, reaching satisfaction for our deepest cravings escapes us. So we turn to You to fulfill our inner yearnings. Teach us that, when we have You, we have all that we need. We believe in You, the elixir, the staple of life.

God Took Him

When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. – Genesis 5:18-24

In the middle of Adam’s otherwise unremarkable lineage to Noah, we are briefly regaled by the account of Enoch. Enoch, significantly the seventh (God’s number, a symbol of perfection) generation from Adam, recovers shades of Eden when it is said he “walked with God.” Perhaps there was something about entering fatherhood that evoked this change? Enoch is one of only two people, recorded in the Old Testament (the other being Elijah), who had the privilege of being spared the taste of death since God procured them.

Father, help us keep in step with Your Spirit like Enoch, like Jesus, walking with You all of our days. We look ahead to those who will escape death when our risen Saviour returns.

Driven Out

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever-” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:20-24

With our propensity for doing the wrong thing, a part of Eve resides in all of us. Despite their disobedience the LORD extends Adam and Eve grace, fashioning clothing for them. Yet the LORD forbids them access to life, perhaps as a result of their stubborn unrepentance.

Father, forgive us for following in Eve’s footsteps; we are like You, knowing good and evil. Thank You for clothing us in Christ, that eating of Him we are granted eternal life.

Breath of Life

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up-for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground- then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:5-7

Without God’s expired air we would remain mere dust. While we share God’s “breath of life” with the animal kingdom (Gen 1:30), without God’s Spirit we forgo life.

Father, without water nothing grows, so without Your Spirit no one has true life. Thank You for breathing life into us by Your Spirit, at the cost of Jesus’ life.