God’s Bigger Purpose for Prayer

A godly man is a praying man. As soon as grace is poured in, prayer is poured out. Prayer is the soul’s traffic with Heaven; God comes down to us by His Spirit, and we go up to Him by prayer.” Watson

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1, Matthew 6:5-13) He used the phrase “when you pray” over and over.  Matthew 6:5-7 “When you pray...(6) “But you, when you pray…”And when you are praying.  He didn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray.  Prayer is to be a normal part of our life so much so that Paul said we are to never stop praying 1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing.  

Prayer is our ongoing means of encountering and communicating with God.  It is like oxygen to our inner man.  It is the continual breathing in of the life of the Living God. 

When Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer the first order of business was the glory of God and His purposes being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This was before specific daily needs and guidance.  The focus is on God’s greatness and His will.  It is the continual reminder that He is God and we are not.

A story that highlights this important truth 

The priority of God and His will is in contrast to the way many Christians learn to pray.  Their individual needs, will, and desires are often first and foremost. Here is a story that illustrates this.  Suppose there is life on another planet and the aliens found out that there are people on earth called Christians who have found the God of all creation.  If He is the God of all creation then our alien friends obviously want to find out what this God is all about.

They decided to send an envoy to observe Christians in both their habits and their interactions with God (prayer).  He was invisible so he was able to get an accurate account as he observed.  He watched and listened in on their communication with God.  He listened to their personal prayers.  Some hardly prayed at all while others prayed a little more frequently.  He also attended several varieties of Christians meeting together.  Most of the meetings had “prayer request times” or points in the gatherings where they prayed for each other.

Most of what he heard went something like this.

Pray for my second cousin Bill, he lost his dog and is heartbroken.  Pray that he will be comforted and find his dog.  Pray for me that I have the will power to lose some of those winter pounds so I can fit into my bathing suit for the cruise God helped me win in the drawing at work.  Pray that God would get the devil off my back, he has really been harassing me.  Pray that my daughter does well with her grades so she can get that scholarship to the school she really wants to attend.   Pray that my uncle Bob will feel better.  Pray that I find my favorite shoes I misplaced so I have something to match my new outfit.  I am feeling a little nervous about the challenges of the new job.  Pray that my cranky boss will either change his attitude about me or be removed and cause me to get a better boss.  How about making me the boss.

As the envoy not only observed the way Christians lived but listened to their prayers He was able to quickly determine what this Christian God is about.  He reported to those who sent him, “Christianity is all about the Christian God following His people around to be at their beckoned call.  He exists to give them the kind of life they want (fulfillment and personal happiness). He is always there to remove all obstacles to their happiness and make them feel better about their life and future.  The sum total of His existence is to serve them.  The response of the officials who sent him was both chilling and revealing,  “THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH OF A GOD TO ME.  IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE AND GOD IS THEIR SERVANT ”

Spurgeon, “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”  

Three things prayer brings to our life

We must understand that prayer has a much broader effect than simply coming to God and asking Him for things.  Scripture speaks of three broad roles that prayer plays in our lives that are critical to living for God.

  1. Prayer first affects our inner life, attitude, and outlook as we come under the force of His gaze.  Through prayer, we become more Christ-like and we become more inclined to do God’s will.  As we come under the force of His gaze (sight) we become softened towards repentance in the things that are hindering Him working in us.  We are also stimulated to do the things of God that may be dormant in our lives.  Through prayer, He works in us what is pleasing in His sight.  Heb 13:20-22…, even Jesus our Lord,  21  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.
  2. Prayer affects our revelation and understanding. By praying and seeking God He is able to influence our thinking and sharpen our grasp of His will.  “In His light, we see light” (Ps 36:9).
  3. Prayer intertwines us with God’s heart and we are influenced to live for His will.  The Bible never implies that we can manipulate God through prayer. It does emphasize that God purposely chooses to connect much of what He does with prayer. Our hearts also become intertwined with His causing us to progressively live more for “His sake” nor ours.

Through prayer, there is an important sense of partnership and co-labor with Christ in what He is doing.

If you want help in having a more Christ-centered and less self-centered prayer life here is a resource you can download called “The Theology of Apostolic Prayer.”  It lays out the understanding of praying for God’s will then gives us examples as a guide to every prayer in the New Testament that the writers prayed.  This will help get us on track in co-laboring with God according to His will in prayer.

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Keeping Alert in Relating with God

alert-prayerThe things that often cause God’s people to avoid or quit praying is dullness, sluggishness, and drowsiness. There is a great need for alertness in prayer.  Paul says we can do this with “thanksgiving,” and in the Bible, thanksgiving is often associated with shouting.

Shouting is an act God prescribes over and over in His word.  It is something often forgotten or undiscovered in many circles. Many Christians don’t realize how often it is mentioned in the Bible.  Shouting and lifting our voice is by far the most prescribed expression towards God.  Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud is mentioned 265 times in the Bible.

Psalms 95:1-2 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  (2)  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

This is in contrast to only about 11 times “silence” is mentioned (most of which are about meditating on things).  Only 3 mentions of silence are in terms of direct interaction with God.  These statistics are amazing when you see them in light of the other physical expressions God encourages His people to express in response to Him.

  • Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud 265 times
  • Playing music and instruments 58 times
  • Singing 29 times
  • Lifting our hands 14 times
  • Clapping our hands12 times
  • Bowing or kneeling 12 times
  • Dancing 9 times
  • Standing 7 times.

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” Harry Ironside

According to the Bible, shouting can break the power of fear, doubt, heaviness, barrenness, sluggishness, and grief. Circumstances and/or the devil often turn up the volume of the difficulty and hopelessness in our minds.  We must not be buried under these attacks but retaliate by lifting our voices in high praise.

Shouting and lifting voices are usually associated with Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition, but according to the Bible, it is associated with the Spirit’s activity in reminding us of our adoption by Christ.  The only two verses that speak about the Spirit reminding us we are adopted through Jesus are associated with shouting.

  • Rom 8:11-16...15  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father!”  16  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
  • Gal 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father

When the enemy comes to lie to us about God’s love and Fatherhood towards us we need to let the Spirit “cry out” through our lips with thanksgiving.

My wife has taught grammar for many years.  Exclamation marks should be used only when conveying extreme emotions or important points.  She says that they are way over used in emails and texts. Often it is used to try to get people to pay attention, but they were intended, according to the dictionary, “to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence.”  In the Bible, exclamation marks appear over and over, especially in the Psalms.  The reason, to elicit strong emotions.  I like how the Message Bible portrays these truths.

  •  Ps 47:1″Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!”
  • Ps 95:1 “Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!”
  • Ps 98:4 “Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!”

3 reasons shouting can help us in prayer and worship.

  1. Shouting awakens us to God’s great power and authority. Many times the voice of the enemy and our own doubts and fears have turned up the volume in our mind and emotions. Shouting turns up the God volume.  It can break off the power of fear, heaviness, and doubt.  Sometimes we need more than just silent prayers, we need to shout.
  2. Shouting is a means to break us out of barrenness into fruitfulness.  Isaiah 54:1-3 (Gal 4:27) Rejoice, O unfruitful one that never bore; break out a song and shout… For more are the sons of the desolate than the sons of the married woman…(2)  Make the place of your tent larger and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings. Do not spare, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes;  (3)  for you shall break out on the right hand and on the left. 
  3. Shouting can release victory. The story of the walls of Jericho is a good example.  God used the shout to bring them down (Josh 6:20).  God released a great earthquake through Paul and Silas’ late night praise that set them free from their chains and began a move of God that resulted in the planting of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:22-26).

Self-dignity and Self-consciousness leads to Spiritual Barrenness

Christians are often too embarrassed to lift their voice and shout. Some think it is embarrassing to be around others who do.  Unfortunately, this was the same attitude Michal had towards David when he danced, sang, and shouted wildly when bringing God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant) back to Jerusalem.  Scripture reveals the results; David was fruitful while Michal was barren for the rest of her life (2 Samuel 6:14-23 ).   

Some mistakenly think that shouting is a cultural or personal preference.  It is a Biblical preference!  Shouting is encouraged twice as many times as all other expressions combined, and over 4 times as much as the second most frequently mentioned expression (playing musical instruments mentioned 59 times).  Shouting is encouraged over 9 times as much as the third most frequently mentioned expression (singing mentioned 28 times).

Shouting saints are more like David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others, including those right now around the throne in heaven than those who choose the self-dignity route.  David was a shouter and even shouted while alone in his tent Ps 27:6 “I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”  We can do the same.

If you are dull, drowsy, sluggish, spiritually barren, or full of doubt and fear, don’t let it drive you from the place of prayer; shout your way past them into God’s presence Ps 47:1 Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.   

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Lights, Camera, God’s Presence

I read this comment on a report that caught my attention and made me consider some important issues regarding worship and connecting with God.

The sensory experience in many Charismatic churches is amazing.  Special lighting,
smoke, amazing sound and musicians, and video feed showing beautiful scenes accompanying our worship songs help our senses to focus on the Spiritual realms of God. These things help stimulate our emotions as well as endorphins in our brain that release pleasurable sensations.  Our emotions should be aimed at, and help us experience God.  Yet there can be a downside to this if we don’t equip people to connect with God beyond the meeting and the sensory help.

Understand that I am not an old naysayer who is advocating old or traditional ways of
worship from yesteryear. As a recently saved college student who was raised in a secular home (who attended my share of rock concerts), I helped lead a church into new expressions of charismatic worship.  I was a drummer, and we helped a church transition from singing traditional hymns from a songbook with one old piano, to a full-blown charismatic worship band leading great worship services.  I loved it and have never looked back.

That type of worship was rare in those days with only “new” churches experiencing it.  Now it seems as if everyone has jumped on the Charismatic worship style bandwagon. There is a wide proliferation of media and the arts being expressed in them which is wonderful.   If you want to be an “in church” you need to incorporate Charismatic worship styles, loud music, great lighting, video feeds, and trendy music.

Video feeds, smoke machines, special lighting, and loud music are helpful in connecting with God but they aren’t essential.

I love all those things but am also aware of a potential deficiency.  If those external sensory helps are the only way someone can experience the “tangible presence” of God then we are missing something important. Connecting with God in a real way must transcend all those external helps.  Worship and connecting with God is something that must go beyond the sensory and emotional sway of great music, lights, technology, and even coffee (Yikes!).  Emotions are emotions, but our connection with God and worship must be founded in Him alone.

Consider what the writer of Hebrews says about our connection with God

Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (16) Don’t forget to do good things for others and to share what you have with them. These are the kinds of sacrifices that please God.

Note the attributes of worship from this passage.

  • giving thanks from our lips in all circumstances
  • doing good things in serving others
  • sharing with those who have needs

This type of connection says nothing about our senses being stirred.  Of course, it doesn’t mention loud music, smoke machines, video feeds, or special lighting to help us “feel His tangible presence.”  While these things can be helpful, they aren’t essential.

We must realize that sometimes our emotions don’t tell the truth.

I love it when my emotions are on board with praising God and sensing His presence.  I love it when I am motivated to serve others and feel a sense of satisfaction in doing so. But sometimes my emotions are not on board with those things, and sometimes they are even against it.  If it happens occasionally on a Sunday morning, what about the rest of the week?  I can’t call for a couple of hundred people, a loud worship band, video feeds, and smoke machines to orient my senses to God.  My life of worship must be bigger than that.

Consider some of the Biblical heroes of faith and God’s “tangible presence” 

Abraham:  Abraham probably didn’t feel much of the “tangible presence of God” when he climbed the mountain as he contemplated sacrificing the promised son for whom he waited so long.  I am sure his emotions were all over the map, but he obeyed as an “act of worship” (Gen 22:5).

Great men and women of God were not guided by their emotions, instead THEY GUIDE THEIR EMOTIONS like David did.  “Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)

Job:  Job probably didn’t feel very tingly with God’s presence when he was sitting in the ash heap, scraping boils with pieces from a clay pot as he reflected on the children and possessions he had lost.  I am sure his emotions were running in different directions while rebutting his wife’s suggestions “are you still trying to hold onto what you believe, your integrity, your principles, curse God and die (Job 2:9).”  Yet Job trusted and obeyed as an act of worship with the mindset “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

Paul:  How about Paul when he was beaten 5 times with 39 lashes, spending a night and day in the ocean after being shipwrecked, or in all the “frequent dangers” (2 Cor 11:24-33)?  There was no worship team, special lighting, or loud music to help him “feel God.”  Yet he continued in faith, offered the fruit of worship both in giving thanks and living as a sacrifice.

Stephen:  Stephen had a view of heaven and saw Jesus (Acts 7:54-60), then was stoned to death. Did His vision cause him to avoid pain?  Did he still feel the stones?  Of course, but he still gave his life as worship.

Let us make sure we are pursuing a connection with, and worship of God that is not dependent on all the sensory help.   This includes pursuing a life of worship and prayer that goes way beyond an hour or two in a corporate gathering with all the external sensory help.  Cultivate and discipline yourself for that connection in your private prayer life with God.

Romans 12:1…because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.

PS:  There was a great sociological research study released by Katie E. Corcoran titled “God is like a drug” that describes the sensory phenomenon in a positive light.  It is worth a review.

 

 

 

 

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Restarting And Refreshing Our Internal Computer

I have the wonderful privilege of serving God with some great computer geniuses like Scott Parish.  On many occasions, I have had to, and continue to have to consult him about my issues, most of which or self-induced.  My computer skills are somewhat limited and trying to fix my own problems is sometimes like trying to climb Mt. Everest with no shoes or coat.  I appreciate Scott’s patience with me.

I often notice the problem when my computer freezes up or runs sluggishly.  It just begins to act weird!  It no longer works like it has in the past.

One piece of advice Scott almost always gives me at the beginning is, “have you restarted the computer?”  A second is, “have you hit the refresh button?”  Most of the time those simple steps takes care of the majority of my problems.

Prayer, praise, and worship are the way we zoom out of the emotional prisons and mental slumps we are in. 

There is a spiritual parallel in serving God.  Psalms 73 is a great example of going from spiritual and emotional breakdown to a restart and refresh. The psalmist’s emotions and perspective became bogged down and sluggish.  His emotional and spiritual operating system wasn’t working right.  We have all been there before.  We start to consider weird thoughts like the psalmist, “it would be easier not serving God…it is vain to serve Him…God doesn’t seem to notice or care about me.”  Like him we know deep down inside God is good but “as for me” we are not experiencing it right now, and wonder what the problem is.  This leads to considering very stupid ideas.

  • Psalms 73:1-28  Surely God is good to His people, To those who are pure in heart!  (2)  But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped.  (3)  For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  (4)  For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat.  (5)  They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind.  (6)  Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them.  (7)  Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot.  (8)  They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high.  (9)  They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth… (11)  They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?”  (12)  Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.  (13)  Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence;  (14)  For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.  (15)  If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.  (16)  When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 

Fortunately for him and us, we can restart and refresh our emotions and thoughts as we come into the presence of God.  Consider how he describes it.  He goes from, “it would be easier not serving God,” or “it is pointless to serve Him,” to “Your nearness is my good…nothing I desire on earth can be compared to You…You are the strength of my life.”  He saw his previous mental and emotional state as being “senseless and ignorant” (which is how we all feel after we come through similar challenges).  How did he hit the restart or refresh button, by spending focused time in the light and presence of God?

  • (17)  Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end… (21)  When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within,  (22)  Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.  (23)  Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.  (24)  With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.  (25)  Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  (26)  My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever..  (28)  But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

Example of Paul and Silas

Acts 16 records a similar experience of Paul and Silas  They had been overcome by an angry mob who tore off their clothes, beat them, and put them in prison  At midnight instead of lamenting we find them doing something different that was restarting and refreshing their physical, mental, and emotional state,  “praying and singing hymns of praise.”  This triggered an earthquake that led to their release from bondage (vs 25-26).

When we get into emotional slumps it is usually because we have zoomed in on a problem or a messed up feeling.  We have focused on something we don’t like about ourselves or our circumstances.  Prayer, praise, and worship are the way we zoom out of the emotional prisons and mental slumps we are in.

Never let what is wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.   

When we come into the presence of God with prayer, praise, and worship we zoom out of our emotional, spiritual, and circumstantial prisons and refocus on God’s big picture.  We see again the great thing that happened over 2000 years ago with Jesus that continues to bring life to us today and hope for the future.

Never let what is wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.  Prayer, praise, and worship are about turning your focus away from what is wrong with you and remembering what’s right with God.  It is like restarting and refreshing you mental and emotional computer.

  • Colossians 4:2  Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful.

 

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Prayer For Mission and Prayer On Mission

Prayer on Mission is like breathing. We inhale God’s presence as we pray, and we exhale His presence as we pray for others.

Every one of God’s people is called to His family mission to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:26-28, Jn 17:18, 20:21, Eph 1:22-23, 3:10-11).  God’s mission is not for a few “special Christians” with a “special call.”  Missions is everyone, everywhere, all the time, across the street, as well as across the ocean.

In our calling to engage in God’s mission we must remember that we can’t save anyone by our own efforts.  We are not called to save but to sow.  We are to sow seeds of God’s Kingdom.

A key to mission that seems too good to be true

What if there was a master key that would enable us to do the following?

  • Go straight to someone’s heart in an instant bypassing all the mental reasonings in a split second.
  • Communication Jesus to someone without people’s interruptions or deflective questions
  • Avoid the arguments of “my belief versus yours” while communicating Jesus
  • Hold the higher ground of influence above people’s resistance.
  • Giving “seeds” of God’s word with prophetic words, words of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment communicated (with wisdom) uninterrupted by the people you are giving them to.
  • Communicating and impacting people from other religious backgrounds.
  • See the power of God released upon people without resistance.

Is there a way to do these things or does it sound too good to be true?  Prayer for people is an often neglected key that will enable the previous things mentioned to happen.  In the accounts of Jesus sending the 12 and 70 on mission (Mt 9-11, Lk 9-10) His first order of business was to “pray to the Lord of the harvest”.  Then they were to pray for people as they, “give a blessing, heal the sick, and cast out demons?”

When you pray people yield their agenda and become somewhat passive.  As you pray you get free access to their hearts.  Most of the time offering to pray for someone about something is inoffensive and communicates care.

Of all the times I have offered to pray for someone both inside and outside the church only once have I been turned down.  I even offered to pray at a public intersection for an atheist who was protesting and holding a sign touting the great virtues of atheism.  I ask her if she would mind if I offered a prayer to the God that she doesn’t believe exist.  After all what harm would it do since she didn’t think anything was there.  To my amazement, she said she wouldn’t mind so I took her up on the offer right there on the street, in front of all her atheist friends.

God’s Spiritual Bee Sting

When we pray for people there is an instant connection to God, His presence, and His resources.  There is an immediate impact of God.  Prayer in this way is like getting stung by a bee.  You often know it is buzzing around but can’t see where it is until it stings you.  When you pray for someone you go directly past all their reluctance and like a bee sting it will make an impact.

As we are inquiring and entering into conversations with people about their family, health, work, or circumstances we will find out something we can pray for.  In that moment we can say, “would you mind if I pray for you about that?”   Then as we pray we bring them into direct contact with the all-powerful God of the universe.  It is an instant connection with God.

Prayer is a key, a door, and a bridge over which God’s power flows.  I remember an evangelist giving the following observations to encourage us to pray for people.   There is nothing that can’t be prayed for.

  • When you don’t know what to do, pray for them.
  • When you can’t speak the language prayer for them.
  • When you don’t have the time to speak a lot, pray for them.
  • When you know the issue is too big for you, pray for them
  • When you might not see them again, pray for them. 

As we go on mission in our everyday life we need to have confidence that we can lead people into an encounter with God.  We fear that people will just watch us pray for them instead of entering into God with us.  We can ask them to participate like close you eyes, bow your head, or extend your hands like you are receiving etc. Sometimes outward/natural steps can lead to an inward spiritual reality (1  Cor 15:46 “first the natural then the spiritual).

Most of the time prayer is a matter of calling people to focus their attention on Him.  You can also ask God to open their senses.  Paul prayed this way in Ephesians, “open the eyes of their heart to His great power towards us…the same power He exercised when He raised Jesus from the dead” (Eph 1:18-20).

God’s kingdom isn’t just a lot of words. It is power. 1 Cor 4:20

We must remember that God’s “Kingdom isn’t just words but power” (1 Cor 4:20).  We want to connect people with God’s supernatural power as they connect with the supernatural God.

I had the great privilege of watching this as an observer when I walked up behind my wife as she was asking a lady if she could pray for her.  The lady responded in a pleasantly surprised way, “I have never had anyone ask me that before…I guess so.”  I was looking over my wife’s shoulder into the lady’s face.  At first, she didn’t know what to do and her eyes started to blink then she shut them and her head went down.  When my wife was done with the short prayer the lady’s eyes opened with tears in them and she said, “that was great…I felt an amazing peace.”  Then to our surprise, she said, “That felt so wonderful I think people should have people pray for them more often.”  This opened a door to speak more about Jesus.

Don’t forget to use an important key that works in any situation…prayer!

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Prayer is Communication with the Author of the Book

Think about being given a book that contained a story about an author along with his design for living that would lead to the most incredible life anyone could live on this earth. A life full of freedom, joy, fulfillment, contentment, successful marriages and families, and successful relationships.  How about not just being given this incredible book, but having the author, who is the greatest person who has ever lived, willing to walk with you every day to show you how what he instructed in the book applies to various things in your daily life?   Sounds like it would be a great deal and a great privilege.  Who would refuse that?  This is the amazing design God has provided for His people.

I had the great privilege of meeting with a famous veteran of the Charismatic Renewal. He has spoken to great crowds throughout the world, helped provide a magazine for several years that impacted millions of people from all denominations, and worked with many famous leaders giving instruction and counsel.

There were about 14 of us around a table for several hours and I felt like the stories I had read in Eusieubus’ Early Church History about the Apostle John’s final days at Ephesus.  They would carry him out and sit him among groups of disciples and he would instruct them.

When our friend and hero began to talk we all pulled out our cell phones to catch the wisdom that was flowing from his lips.  He quickly began to cry and with passion in his voice he began to say, “It’s all relational.  The Kingdom, the church, Christianity is relational walking with Jesus and hearing His word.”

He went on to say that “we must have the ‘Word’ (Greek Logos which is what God has said and revealed through all of Scripture, Jn 1:1-14, Ps 119:89, 1 Pet 1:25), but also the ‘Word’ (Greek Rhema which is what He continues to say in speech and ongoing communication Mt 4:4, Lk 4:4).  If we only have Logos without Rhema it will lead to dead religion.  Logos can’t trump Rhema and Rhema can’t trump Logos.”

Back to what I said earlier, we must have the book and walk with the Author of the book who out of a living relationship will speak His specific word towards specific issues.  If we only walk with the Bible and not the Author of the Bible we can commit “Bible idolatry.”  This is what the religious leaders did and Jesus rebuked them for it.

John 5:38-40 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. (39) “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (40) and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” John Stott

Prayer, Logos, and Rhema

Prayer is essential to walk in the ongoing dialogue with Jesus where He speaks His Word to us.  Most of the time God speaks (Rhema) to us things from His Word (Logos) specifically directed towards our life and circumstances.

It works like learning a foreign language.  You learn words so you can enter into dialogue with people because the dialogue comes through the language you learned. God has “forever settled His word” (Logos Ps 119:89).  He continues to speak to us (Rhema) from His word in everyday life.  If the language isn’t in us we will have a hard time determining what He is saying.  This is why we must read and study His word.  We learn the language of God.

One of my friends used to say, “when you open the Bible you look into the face of Jesus.”  When we communicate with Him in prayer we hear His voice (Rhema) as He speaks from His word (Logos).

His voice is discerned from His word. If we don’t have the language from His word (Logos) we will tend to hear things that may not be Him.  They can be our emotions, fantasies, or preferences.  A good rule of thumb is “If what His is saying contradicts what He has said then it isn’t Him who is saying it.”  His Rhema word will never contradict His Logos word.

Prayer is the place where we learn to hear His word (Rhema) from His language (Logos).   It is where we get to learn and hear the voice from the Author of the book. Prayer is above all else communication with God and His word is to be in it.  There is a problem with people who don’t pray in order to hear His voice from His word, as well as those who don’t know His word which is the language by which He speaks.

Two extremes we must avoid.

  • Prayer and attempting to hear from God without His word (Logos) = Crazy Charismatic subjective hearers who are driven by their own fantasies or desires. This is inner subjectivism clothed in spirituality.
  • Having His word (Logos/Bible) without prayer and hearing His voice (Rhema) = Dry and dead intellectuals who twist and use the Bible to their own ends.  They use the Bible for themselves.  This is when the Bible becomes idolatry.  It is using His word without Him.

 

 

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