On several occasions Jesus remarked to His followers, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”(Luke 17:6) And there were several people who displayed that kind of faith. The woman who said if only I touch the hem of His robe I will be healed.(Mark 5:28) The Centurion who wouldn’t allow Jesus to come to his house but only asked Him to say the word to heal his servant.(Matthew 8:8) The Canaanite woman who said that she only needed a crumb of the Lord’s mercy to heal her daughter.(Matthew 15:27) I’m realizing something more and more, that I don’t even have that mustard seed faith apart from Him. With every prayer I pray, with every intercession I make for another, I am totally dependent upon His grace. I truly don’t know how to pray as I ought.(Romans 8:26) So prayer begin by kneeling before Jesus for His mercy, and trusting one’s self to His grace. Apart from this I have nothing.
Peter Jackson is the Hollywood director who did the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is now doing a documentary about the First World War, but doing it from a very human and personal perspective. He remarked, “I was interested in the food they ate, how they slept, and what they did on leave”. We are surrounded by so many big events – political figures in Washington, media personalities, the royal family in Britain, and so on. We can forget that they are people who eat, and sleep, and like to do certain things to relax. These same people have hopes and plans, needs and fear, just as you and I do. And they also have the need, whether they are aware of it or not, for the Lord to complete and satisfy the deepest part of their being. We may pity them, or complain about what they do, or just be fascinated by their lives. Maybe we would do better to realize that they really are humans like us, and offer a brief pray for God’s grace to reach fully into their lives.
A physical therapist my wife sees often is also a dear Christian sister with whom we share prayer requests. She told my wife of an incident in her neighborhood this past week. The mother of a young man who lives across the street was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The young man came over to our friend and asked “if she could do that prayer thing” for his mother. He had some vague concept of a god who some how hears our concerns, but probably likens him to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. There is a whole generation of young men and woman with the same background. Dear Christian friends we have work to do. I don’t ask you to go stand on a street corner and start preaching. That’s not my style either. But the Lord does give us opportunities each day to witness to our life in Jesus Christ. Look for them. Expect them. And be ready to do “that prayer thing” on the spot when it is needed. More will happen in a minute or two of sincere prayer, than many minutes of preaching. Put aside your self consciousness. Don’t worry about the right words. The Lord will give them. Let’s shine some light in the darkness of this generation.
Jesus told us that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart”.(Luke 18:1) Scientific studies have been done on prayer – with two control groups, etc. etc. It did show that the group prayed for did measurably better than the other. But then Jesus has been telling us that all the time. How dull and slow we are to learn! Our God does hear and care. He does respond. There is nothing we cannot take before Him. He desires and is working for our best good. Do pray, and not lose heart.
I wrote yesterday about “thoughts and prayers”. In this age of facing so much evil prayer is vital. It must be much more than a nice remark made to sooth a bad situation. Our prayers must be intentional. Jesus taught us to go into our prayer closet pouring our hearts out to the Lord. What we see in school shootings and other evils is not a matter of needing more gun control. Though that may be of some help. At the core we must realize that we are in a spiritual battle with the forces of evil. Satan is a very real enemy, and our true weapons are God’s Word and prayer. We need daily, intentional prayer for our young people that their hearts and minds would be turned to the Lord to be their strength and guide. Implore the Lord to deliver us, fighting our spiritual battles for us. (Psalm 35:1) Cry out for the presence of Christ who alone will overcome evil for all time. Thoughts are fine if they lead to some practical action. But prayer is essential. It is our weapon to stand against the forces of evil that seek to destroy us.
E-mail and the other forms of internet communication have made a revolution in getting information around. As with many things there are positive and negative sides, but I’m thinking about the positive side this morning. One of the uses we make of e-mail is for our prayer chain. Many churches have done this and it is a wonderful application. A need of one person in one area of the country can be brought before the Throne of Grace by hundreds of people across the nation in a very short time. We’ve gotten used to instant communication and we take it for granted, but prayer is also instant communication. When the two are put together God has give us a great tool for good. Don’t neglect those prayer request that come to your screen. You are joining your heart with many brothers and sisters to come into God’s grace for good.
We usually conclude our weekly Men’s Bible Study with a time of prayer, each man praying around in turn, and I conclude the prayer. This week’s was an especially good time of sharing in the presence of our Lord. When it came to my time I had noting further to add so I began singing the Doxology, and all joined in. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him all ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” This is a wonderful prayer in itself. There are times when we don’t know how we should pray.(Romans 8:26) This is certainly a wonderful way to set our attitude on the Lord and bring us into His presence.
English poet John Donne, writing in the 17th century, famously wrote that “no man is an island,” comparing people to countries, and arguing for the inter connectedness of all people with God. We need to think about this in light of the mass shooting that have occurred in recent weeks. What is displayed in these horrible events is the sin that resides in each human heart. I didn’t do the shooting. I don’t know the shooter or anyone involved. Yet I need to cry out to our Lord for forgiveness and mercy, because of what our fallen nature is capable of. I can’t just be glad that the shooter was killed, or a murderer is sentenced to death. (I’m not opposed to capital punishment, by the way.) But that, or more gun control, or stricter laws, doesn’t change the evil in man’s hearts. I believe we, as Christians, are called to implore the Lord for mercy, and for a heart change in all people. Read again the prayer in Daniel 9:3-19. Is this not what is truly needed?
Gracious Lord, be with me in this day. All of Scripture testifies that You are a God at hand and not far off. Thank You for the grace and mercy You have shown to me over many years. Thank You for my life in Jesus. I deserve nothing of the blessings You have poured upon me. I still resist You with my selfish will. Forgive me Good Lord. Work in my heart by the presence of Your Spirit to be able to yield my will to Yours. I thank You for Your great patience, and willingness to work with me as a Father with his child. I ask that You go before me this day. Give me the wisdom and courage to live and act in ways that bring You honor. I bow before You in humble worship for the love You have shown to me, and above all for the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ that brought me to You. To You be glory, honor, and praise now and always. In Jesus my Lord. Amen.
The Seminary I attended was in the middle of a Civil War battlefield. At the back of the property between the seminary and a farm field was a split rail fence I called my praying fence. It is where I would go when I was having a particularly difficult time. There was one day I remember going out to sit on my praying fence. It was winter, cold, gray, and all matching my mood for that day. I don’t even remember what the problem was at the time, but I sat on the fence praying, and probably complaining, to God about whatever it was. After a while I happened to look down on the frozen ground at the base of the fence. There was one tiny pink flower poking out of the otherwise barren ground. I had to break out laughing. “OK, Lord! If You can cause that little flower to break through the frozen ground, then you can see me through this day and the next.” And He did. And He has now for past fifty year. Not many things in life go exactly as we plan or would like to see them. Yet those little pink flowers keep popping through. God does not abandon us. He hears every prayer from our praying fences.