Charles Stanley – Avoiding Obstacles to Effective Prayer

 

James 1:5-8

Some of King David’s prayers are recorded in the Psalms. There we read how he praised the Lord, confessed sin, and cried out about his troubles. He also asked God to hear his prayers and not be silent.

We all want to pray effectively like David. To do so, we must avoid certain hindrances, such as:

Wavering faith. Doubts about God’s character or dependability diminish our trust in Him. Therefore, we must not allow feelings to dictate what we believe.

Wrong motives (James 4:3). Petitions motivated by selfish desires won’t receive an affirmative answer. God wants us to pray for His will to be done—not ours.

Conflict in relationships. Being resentful or argumentative with others will affect communication with the Father.

Lack of generosity (Prov. 21:13). God is displeased when we ignore people’s needs or give begrudgingly to the church. He hears us asking for a blessing yet sees us refusing to obey Him in our giving (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

Indifference (Prov. 28:9). Apathy to the Scriptures is another stumbling block. God has given us the Bible so that we might know Him and serve Him wholeheartedly. Failure to read and apply His Word consistently will diminish our ability to maintain a godly lifestyle.

It takes effort and commitment to develop a strong prayer life, but the rewards are great. If your prayers have not been answered, consider which, if any, of the above issues may need correction. Then, start by personalizing the prayers you read in the Psalms or elsewhere in God’s Word.

Bible in One Year:Isaiah 4-7

Our Daily Bread — Miracle Material

 

Read: Isaiah 46:1-10

Bible in a Year: Psalms 33-34; Acts 24

To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal? —Isaiah 40:25

CNN calls a derivative of graphite a “miracle material” that could revolutionize our future. Only one atom thick, graphene is being hailed as a truly two-dimensional material in a 3-D world. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is harder than diamond, conducts electricity 1,000 times better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber.

In and of themselves, such technological advances are neither moral nor evil. But we are wise to remember the limitations of anything we make for ourselves.

Isaiah spoke to a generation who found themselves carrying into captivity gods they had made with their own hands. The prophet wanted the Israelites to see the irony of needing to care for the silver and gold idols they had crafted to inspire, help, comfort, and protect them.

What was true of Israel holds true for us as well. Nothing we have made or bought for ourselves can meet the needs of our heart. Only God, who has been carrying us “from the womb” (Isa. 46:3-4), can carry us into the future. —Mart DeHaan

Father, thank You for the miracle of relationship with You. Help us not to rely on our own efforts, strength, or possessions but instead sense Your loving care for us.

An idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place.

INSIGHT: Isaiah assured the discouraged Jewish nation in exile in Babylon that God would come to their rescue and punish their enemies (Isa. 40-55). The Babylonian conquerors and their gods (represented by their chief deity, Bel, and his son Nebo) would be defeated and destroyed (46:1-2). Unlike these false gods, who were crafted by human hands and were incapable of protecting or saving anyone (vv. 6-7), God asserted that He alone was God and there was none like Him (v. 9). He reminded His people that He had faithfully cared for them since birth (vv. 3-4) and He alone had the power to save them (v. 10).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Faith and the Whole Picture

 

I’ve been trying to avoid using the word ‘faith’ recently. It just doesn’t get the message across. ‘Faith’ is a word that’s now misused and twisted. ‘Faith’ today is what you try to use when the reasons are stacking up against what you think you ought to believe. Greg Koukl sums up the popular view of faith, “It’s religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. People of ‘faith’ believe the impossible. People of ‘faith’ believe that which is contrary to fact. People of ‘faith’ believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of ‘faith’ ignore reality.” It shouldn’t therefore come as a great surprise to us, that people raise their eyebrows when ‘faith’ in Christ is mentioned. Is it strange that they seem to prefer what seems like reason over insanity?

It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t overemphasize the individual elements of the whole picture of faith, like we so often do. But what does the Bible say about faith? Is it what Simon Peter demonstrates when he climbs out of the boat and walks over the water towards Jesus? Or is it what Thomas has after he has put his hand in Jesus’s side? Interestingly, biblical faith isn’t believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In fact, when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis], which means ‘to be persuaded.’ In those verses from Hebrews, we find the words, “hope,” “assurance,” “conviction” that is, confidence. Now, what gives us this confidence?

Christian faith is not belief in the absence of evidence. It is the proper response to the evidence. Koukl explains that, “Christian faith cares about the evidence…the facts matter. You can’t have assurance for something you don’t know you’re going to get. You can only hope for it. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance—if Jesus didn’t indeed rise from the dead in time/space history—then we are of most men to be pitied. This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere ‘faith’ resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling resurrection. Instead, it’s a belief in a real resurrection. If the real resurrection didn’t happen, then we’re in trouble. The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence. Rather, if the evidence doesn’t correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said.”

So in conclusion, faith is not a kind of religious hoping that you do in spite of the facts. In fact, faith is a kind of knowing that results in doing, a knowing that is so passionately and intelligently faithful to Jesus Christ that it will not submit to fideism, scientism, nor any other secularist attempt to divert and cauterize the human soul by hijacking knowledge.

Tom Price is an academic tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

Alistair Begg – One of Them?

 

You were like one of them. Obadiah 11

Brotherly kindness was due from Edom to Israel in the time of need, but instead of showing kindness, the men of Esau joined with Israel’s enemies. Special stress in the sentence before us is laid upon the word you, as when Caesar cried to Brutus, “and you, Brutus.” A bad action may be all the worse because of the person who has committed it.

When we sin, who are the chosen favorites of heaven, we sin with an emphasis; ours is a crying offense because we are so peculiarly indulged. If an angel should lay his hand upon us when we are doing evil, he need not use any other rebuke than the question, “What, you? What are you doing here?” Having been gloriously forgiven, delivered, instructed, enriched, blessed, do we dare give ourselves to evil? God forbid!

A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to you, gentle reader, this morning. Have you never been like the wicked? At an evening party certain men laughed at uncleanness, and the joke was not altogether offensive to your ear – even you were as one of them. When hard things were spoken concerning the ways of God, you were bashfully silent; and so, to onlookers, you were as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market and driving hard bargains, were you not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity without restraint, were you not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between you and them? Is there any difference?

Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with your own soul, and make sure that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk carefully in case anyone should again be able to say, “You also are one of them.”1 You would not desire to share their eternal doom. Why then be like them here? Do not enter into their secret, in case you enter into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God, and not with the world.

1) Luke 22:58

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • Judges 6
  • Acts 10

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Continental tour H4

 

Suggested Reading: Job 38:22-30

We went up the Mer de Glace on mules. I had the great satisfaction of hearing three or four avalanches come rolling down like thunder. In descending, I was alone and in front, I sat down and mused, but I soon sprang up, for I thought the avalanche was coming right on me, there was such a tremendous noise and rushing. We crossed many places where the snow, in rushing down from the top, had swept away every tree and every stone, and left nothing but the stumps of the trees, and a kind of slide from the top of the mountain to the very valley. What extraordinary works of God there are to be seen here! We have no idea of what God is. As I went among these valleys, I felt like a little creeping insect, wondering what the world could be, but having no idea of its greatness. I sank lower and lower, and growing smaller and smaller, while my soul kept crying out “Great God, how infinite art thou! What worthless worms are we!”

For meditation: (Spurgeon): If you cannot travel, remember this sweet verse:-

“But in his looks a glory stands,

The noblest labour of thine hands;”

Get a view of Christ, and you have seen more than mountains, cascades, and valleys, and seas can ever show you. Thunders may bring their sublimest uproar, and lightnings their awful glory; earth may give its beauty, and stars their brightness; but all these put together can never rival HIM;

“God in the person of his Son,

Has all his mightiest works outdone.”

Part of nos. 331-332

23 July

John MacArthur – God’s Motive for Your Inheritance

 

“According to His great mercy” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Every dimension of life, whether physical or spiritual, is a testimony to God’s mercy.

When God saved you and granted you an eternal inheritance, it wasn’t because you were special or more deserving of His love and grace than others. It was because He sovereignly chose to love you and extend His great mercy to you. That’s why Paul said, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). He “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5).

Because of His great mercy, God addresses the pitiful condition of mankind. Unregenerate people are totally depraved, dead in trespasses, enslaved to sin, cursed to eternal damnation, unable to help themselves, and in desperate need of someone to show them mercy and compassion. That’s the good news of the gospel: God loves sinners and extends mercy to anyone willing to trust in Him.

Mercy tempers God’s justice. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, “Mercy sweetens all God’s other attributes . . . . When the water was bitter, and Israel could not drink, Moses cast a tree into the waters, and then they were made sweet. How bitter and dreadful were the other attributes of God, did not mercy sweeten them! Mercy sets God’s power [at] work to help us; it makes his justice become our friend; it shall avenge our quarrels” (A Body of Divinity [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1978], p. 94).

The very fact that God permits us to live at all speaks of His mercy. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness” (KJV).

No matter what your situation is, God’s mercy is more than sufficient for you. It “is great above the heavens” (Ps. 108:4, KJV). So be encouraged and look to Him always.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His great mercy, for by it you have received eternal life and an eternal inheritance.

For Further Study

Read Mark 10:46-52. How did Jesus’ healing ministry demonstrate God’s mercy?

Joyce Meyer – Need Some Help?

 

Behold, God is my helper and ally; the Lord is my upholder and is with them who uphold my life.- Psalm 54:4

There are many people who have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord who will live their Christian lives and go to heaven without ever drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit available to them, never expe¬riencing the true success God intends for them. People can be on their way to heaven, yet not enjoying the trip.

We often look at people who have wealth, position, power, fame, and consider them to be totally successful. But many people who are viewed as successful still lack good relationships, peace, joy, content¬ment, and other true blessings that are available only in the context of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Self-sufficient people often think it is a sign of weakness to depend on God. But by drawing on the ability of the Holy Spirit, they could accomplish more in their lives than they could by working in their own strength.

There are countless things we struggle with when we could be receiving help from the Holy Spirit. Many people never find the right answers to their problems because they seek out the wrong sources for advice and counsel instead of asking the Divine Counselor who lives within them for guidance.

I encourage you to lean on God for everything, and that means little things as well as big things.

Love God Today: The only way to experience the success God intends for you is to become totally dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – We are His Friends

 

“And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of His Son, what a blessing He must have for us now that we are His friends, and He is living within us!” (Romans 5:10).

Marilyn had a very poor self-image. She hated the way she looked and felt that her personality was so bad that she could never expect to have true friends. She was concerned especially about marriage. How could she ever find a man to love her since she was so unattractive (in her thinking).

I was able to help her see how much God loved her, and how great was His blessing for her as a child of God. The supernatural life-style was available to her, and she was the one to determine whether or not she would measure up, as an act of the will by faith, to what God had called and enabled her to be. Her part was simply to trust and obey Him.

With God’s help, she determined to be that kind of person, the kind of person God created her to be.

We who are Christians can see ourselves as God sees us and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit become what we are in His sight. With the eyes of love, He sees us covered with the blood of Christ, which was shed on the cross for our sins, and, as expressed in Hebrews 10, He sees us as holy, righteous and totally forgiven. He holds nothing against us. The penalty for our sins has been paid – once and for all. There is nothing which we can add.

Now we have the privilege of becoming in our experience what we are already in God’s sight.

Bible Reading: Romans 5:11-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will begin to see myself as God sees me: loved, forgiven, holy, righteous, spiritually mature, aggressive and fruitful for the glory of God. Today I will live by faith the supernatural life which is my heritage in Christ.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Grub Gratitude

 

In his entertaining memoir Roughing It, writer Mark Twain described the meal he received while traveling by stagecoach through the old west. “The station-keeper upended a disk of last week’s bread…and carved some slabs from it which were as good as Nicholson pavement, and tenderer. He sliced off a piece of bacon for each man, but only the experienced old hands made out to eat it, for it was condemned army bacon which the United States would not feed to its soldiers in the forts…then he poured for us a beverage which he called ‘Slum gullion,’ and it is hard to think he was not inspired when he named it. It really pretended to be tea, but there was too much dish-rag, and sand, and old bacon-rind in it to deceive the intelligent traveler.”

He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.

Psalm 111:5

Though you may “say grace” before meals, it is easy to forget what a blessing it is to have plentiful and good food – a luxury far from certain in most of the world.

As you pray for America and celebrate your freedom today, take the time to express sincere and thoughtful gratitude to God for His generous and continuous provision in your life.

Recommended Reading: I Corinthians 10:23-33

Greg Laurie – God Is Looking for Intercessors

 

Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” —Exodus 32:9–10

Moses had many frustrations with the Israelites. He had complained to God on multiple occasions about them. But when God told Moses that He was going to wipe them out, Moses pleaded with God to relent.

God never was going to wipe these people out; He was testing Moses to see whether he would learn what it meant to be an intercessor. Would Moses stand in the gap and pray for the people, or would he throw them under the bus?

In John’s gospel we find someone who faced a similar test. A desperate father whose son was at death’s door heard about Jesus, humbled himself, and bowed before the Lord, asking Him to touch his dear son. Jesus answered, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48 NKJV).

What kind of thing is that to say to someone with a dying child? But just as God did with Moses, Jesus was testing this man. Really, He wasn’t directing the words to the child’s father at all. He was saying them to the fickle crowds who wanted to be impressed.

The man just stood there, patiently waiting for Jesus to finish His sermon. Then he came right back to Jesus and said, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” He was an intercessor praying for his son.

Jesus told him, “Go your way; your son lives.”

He stood in the gap. He pressed on.

God is still looking for intercessors today. Sometimes we will pray for something, and we won’t get an answer right away. So we think that God is obviously saying no. But maybe God wants you to step up your game. Maybe He wants you to pray a little bit more. Maybe He wants you to not give up so easily.

Max Lucado – God’s Project

 

Some years ago a Rottweiler attacked our golden retriever puppy at a kennel. The animal climbed out of its run and into Molly’s and nearly killed her. I wrote a letter to the dog’s owner, urging him to put the dog to sleep. But when I showed the letter to the kennel owner, she begged me to reconsider. “What the dog did was horrible, but I’m still training him. I’m not finished with him yet.”

God would say the same about the Rottweiler who attacked you. “What he did was unacceptable, inexcusable, but I’m not finished yet.” Your enemies still figure into God’s plan. Their pulse is proof. God hasn’t given up on them. They may be out of His will, but not out of His reach. You honor God when you see them, not as His failures, but as His projects!

From Facing Your Giants

Night Light for Couples – Persistent Prayer

 

“They should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1

When I was only eight years old, I began praying for my dysfunctional family while alone in my bedroom. It still brings tears to my eyes to think that Jesus Christ was listening to me—a little child from a poor family—in those quiet moments. I had no status or influence in the community—no particular skills or talent that the Lord needed. And yet He accepted and blessed me in the years that followed. Those early prayers for a loving family, and later for a Christian husband, were answered beyond my greatest hopes and dreams.

Some of you reading this tonight, however, have also prayed unceasingly for what you believe is God’s will—yet you’ve seen no evidence that He has even heard your prayers. I know of one husband and wife who have prayed for the salvation of their children for more than twenty‐five years, with no hint of change. To those in a similar situation: I understand your discouragement. I don’t know why the Lord chooses to grant some of our petitions more quickly than others—but I do know that He honors the prayers of His righteous followers, and that we should stay on our knees before Him.

Luke 18 records the parable Jesus told about the widow who approached a judge, day after day, asking for justice against her adversary. For some time the judge refused. Finally, however, he gave in, “so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” Jesus was telling us to not give up, but to pray persistently for the desires of our hearts.

I have based my life on my belief in the power and importance of prayer. That’s why I agreed to chair the National Day of Prayer Task Force. And it is why Jim and I have made prayer the cornerstone of our marriage. Consistent prayer can also undergird and sustain your marital relationship through the years. We encourage the two of you to bow before our great, loving God—tonight and every night.

Shirley M Dobson

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson