Throughout the Scriptures, we are encouraged to pray. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His disciples to keep asking, seeking, and knocking while trusting the heavenly Father to give what is good to His children (Matt. 7:7-11). And in Philippians 4:6, Paul urges us to respond to anxiety by praying about everything. Therefore, it’s obvious that God wants us to come to Him with all our needs and concerns.
Today’s passage assures us that the Lord hears and answers our prayers. However, this promise is accompanied by one very important stipulation: We must ask according to His will. But how can we know whether our request is what He desires? Much of God’s will is clearly revealed in Scripture, but what are we to do when an issue is not directly addressed in the Bible?
Though we’d like to feel confident that the Lord will hear and answer, at times our prayers seem like shots in the dark because we have no idea whether they align with His will. If we dare to admit it, there are also times when we just want God to do what we ask, without regard to what He desires.
If we want to pray effectively, our goal should not be to offer up quick, thoughtless, or self-willed prayers in hopes of receiving speedy answers. Instead, we must learn to pray wisely and wait patiently. Along with voicing our concerns and requests to God, we should also offer ourselves up in submission to our Father, as Jesus did in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). When we are yielded and obedient to the Lord, His Spirit guides us and provides the wisdom we need in order to pray according to His will.
Bible in One Year: Daniel 1-2
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:11–21
Bible in a Year: Proverbs 13–15; 2 Corinthians 5
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.—2 Corinthians 5:19
Tham Dashu sensed something was missing in his life. So he started going to church—the same church his daughter attended. But they never went together. In earlier days, he had offended her, which drove a wedge between them. So, Tham would slip in when the singing started and leave promptly after the service ended.
Church members shared the gospel story with him, but Tham always politely rejected their invitation to put his faith in Jesus. Still, he kept coming to church.
One day Tham fell gravely ill. His daughter plucked up the courage and wrote him a letter. She shared how Christ had changed her life, and she sought reconciliation with her dad. That night, Tham put his faith in Jesus and the family was reconciled. A few days later, Tham died and entered into the presence of Jesus—at peace with God and his loved ones.
The apostle Paul wrote that we are to “try to persuade others” about the truth of God’s love and forgiveness (2 Cor. 5:11). He said that it is “Christ’s love [that] compels us” to carry out His work of reconciliation (v. 14).
Our willingness to forgive may help others realize that God desires to reconcile us to Himself (v. 19). Would you lean on God’s strength to show them His love today? —Poh Fang Chia
Is there someone you need to try to reconcile with? What practical first step can you take today?
Our willingness to seek reconciliation with others shows God’s heart to them.
INSIGHT: The “ministry of reconciliation” Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:18 is the story of the gospel. We were alienated from God, but in His mercy and grace He reached out to us. In sending Jesus, the Father extended the greatest offer of peace in human history—the Prince of Peace Himself.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This well-known quote from the 1st Baron Acton, or Lord Acton, was not a new insight when he penned those words in a letter to a colleague in the late 19th Century. In fact, other figures throughout history have identified the corrupting influence of power. The French republican poet and politician, Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine who witnessed the uprising of the French people against the ruling monarchy wrote:
“It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free… the master himself did not gain less in every point of view… for absolute power corrupts the best natures.”(1)
Perhaps he had in mind the ironic result of the French Revolution which replaced the Monarchy with an Emperor named Napoleon Bonaparte.
Sadly, it does seem that power and corruption walk hand in hand. The news media around the world document scandal and abuse by the powerful with the oppression of the weak and the vulnerable a daily reality. Perhaps more tragic is the reality that there are those who hold sacred power, religious leaders of all faiths, who use the authority entrusted to them for malicious and evil purposes. While clergy sexual abuse scandals continue to emerge, stories of “spiritual abuse” and “authoritarian” leadership abound in houses of worship of every denomination and creed.
One of the ways we can discern that we are truly trusting God, rather than merely trying to trust Him, is whether or not our souls are resting in God’s faithfulness. If I say I am trusting God, but I continue to carry the weight of the burden by worrying and being anxious, then I have not released the burden to the Lord. I may want to. I may be trying to. But I have not done it yet.
Understanding this has helped me to learn what real trust in God is. It is more than words—it is releasing the weight of my burden; a decisive action that brings rest to my soul (mind, will, emotions).
Just imagine that you are carrying a backpack filled with rocks everywhere you go. You take it to work, to the market, to church, and it is a heavy burden, but you continue to carry it. Now imagine that you decide to drop it—just think how much better you would feel and how much easier everything would be.
That’s the way it is when we worry and carry the weight of burdens with us instead of entrusting them to God. We continue functioning and doing what we need to do, but the weight of the burden places a great deal of stress on us and makes our life very difficult. You can decide to drop your burden today by trusting God, if you choose to, and you will be glad you did.
“You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord…And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when He died for her, to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word…
“Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. Honor your father and mother…
“And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord Himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice” (Ephesians 5:22,25-26; 6:1-4).
When a dear Christian friend came to me for counsel one day, he and I agreed that something was obviously wrong in his relationship with Christ.
“Do you know for sure that you are filled with the Holy Spirit?” I asked.
“Yes, I know all about the Holy Spirit and I know that I am filled.”
“Here’s a good test,” I suggested. Then I read him the above passage from Ephesians, whereupon the Holy Spirit helped him to realize, as he compared to this passage the daily reality of his walk with Christ, that he was not truly filled with the Holy Spirit. He was honest and confessed that he did not even begin to love his wife as Christ loved the church, nor did he have a good relationship with his children, but he wanted to measure up to the scriptural standard in both cases.
As we bowed together in prayer, by faith he claimed the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and God gave to him a joyful new relationship with Christ and with his wife and children, as well as with everybody else around him.
Bible Reading: Colossians 3:18-25
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will meditate on this passage from Ephesians 5. If these experiences are not real in my life, I will claim by faith the fullness and control of God’s Holy Spirit and ask Him to make them a reality in my daily relationship with the Lord, with my loved ones and with all others.
Our minds cannot be full of God at the same time they are full of fear! Don’t get lost in your troubles. Lift up your eyes! “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! (Isaiah 26:3 TLB).
Are you troubled, restless, sleepless? Then rejoice in the Lord’s Sovereignty. I dare you. I double-dog dare you—to expose your worries to an hour of worship. Your concerns will melt like ice on an August sidewalk!
Jeremiah draws a direct connection between faith and peace. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV).
Read more Anxious for Nothing
Anxious For Nothing by Max Lucado Cover Art
As Hurricane Irma bore down on my brother and his family over the weekend, I was watching television coverage of the storm nonstop. I heard a commentator reporting from Florida make the perceptive statement, “The worst in Mother Nature often brings out the best in human nature.”
He was right.
The damage from this historic disaster is continuing. As of this morning, at least forty-two people have died because of the storm. Jacksonville, Florida, has experienced record floods. A flash flood emergency has been declared in Charleston, South Carolina. About 6.5 million people in Florida are without power.
But there is remarkable good news in the news.
The New York Times is reporting on sacrificial ways Christians are serving each other and their communities after Hurricane Harvey. One example is Rabbi Michael Vowell, a Messianic Jew (a Jew who accepts Jesus as his Messiah). According to the Times, he came to faith in Christ as a young man “as part of his escape from drug abuse and dealing.”
How does he deal with faith questions related to Hurricane Harvey? “My theology is that if I can see God moving through people, neighbors helping neighbors, I can shelve the bigger question of why is this happening,” he said. “That there are still people caring for each other is evidence enough that God is in this world.”