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Let us return to the basic things of the Word of God and prayer and soul winning and revival. Let us pray, “O God, send a revival. Let it begin in me.”

“I have learned to . . . season my prayers with the word of God. It’s a way of talking to God in his language—speaking his dialect, using his vernacular, employing his idioms. . . . This is not a matter simply of divine vocabulary. It’s a matter of power. When we bring God’s word directly into our praying, we are bringing God’s power into our praying.”

~ Donald Whitney, Praying the Bible.

No, I Shall Not Want

An Anthem for Everyday Anxieties

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

Every one of us wakes up each morning as a bundle of desires. Beneath even the most outwardly apathetic demeanor are loves, needs, and fears — each of them demanding our attention and obedience. Many of us move through our days largely unconscious of these basic emotions, even though they sit at the control panel of our hearts, pulling the levers that decide what we say and do.

A husband and father, for example, leaves work filled with a love for comfort. He obeys that love by coming home, not to his wife and kids, but to his couch and sports.

An employee walks into the office feeling a need for his peers’ approval. So he performs on the stage from nine to five, always listening for applause.

A young man, wounded from past relationships, fears the prospect of future pain. So he withdraws socially, insulating himself from anyone who might harm him.

Such loves, needs, and fears present themselves so persuasively, so forcefully, that we often fail to ask if they are feelings worth following. They can keep us from hearing another voice that has been speaking to us all the while, bidding us to walk a better path.

That Other Voice

God, in his mercy, makes us stop and listen. Behind the clamor of our desires, we hear the voice of a shepherd who invites us to green pastures and still waters. The trouble, however, is that his voice often leads in the opposite direction of our feelings. Our loves, needs, and fears push us toward one path; he calls us to another. To follow him, we must deny them.

In moments such as these, we encounter what C.S. Lewis calls “the real problem of the Christian life.” The decisions that define us as Christians often do not come with a flash and a bang. They come softly, almost noiselessly. They come, Lewis tells us,

the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. (Mere Christianity, 198)

And what does that other voice — that larger, stronger, quieter life — teach us to say to our rebel feelings? Four words: “I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

‘I Shall Not Want’

Imagine you wake up with an instinctive love for comfort. You just want to move from bed to office to couch to bed without interruptions. You can’t be bothered by other people today, especially the needy ones. You need more rest, more me time. That hard conversation can wait until tomorrow. But then you stop and listen to that other voice, which teaches you to say, “When I walk into discomfort, I shall not want.”

Or perhaps you wake up feeling a deep need for approval. You just want others to appreciate you, listen to you, love you. You wish you were better looking, less awkward. You’re ready to laugh at jokes that aren’t funny and say things you don’t believe. But then that other point of view wraps its arm around your shoulder, and helps you say, “I have one Master to please today. When others reject or ignore me, I shall not want.”

Or maybe you wake up with a vague fear of coming trials. You just want to hold what’s precious in your life out of God’s reach. A crowd of what ifs runs through your mind, and you answer by searching for something to distract you. But then that larger, stronger, quieter life comes flowing in, and you find yourself saying, “When trouble comes, I shall not want.”

The wild pack of loves, needs, and fears has rushed at you, but you have beaten them back with this four-word shove: I shall not want. You are ready to follow your shepherd wherever he leads. They may come back in the afternoon, or even ten minutes from now, but you know what to do. You plug your ears to their persuasions and remember, again and again, I shall not want.

And so on, all day.

‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’

Of course, the four words I shall not want possess no magical qualities. We cannot charm away temptation simply by saying them. Rather, they are powerful only insofar as we believe the words that come before them: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). How do we know with confidence that we shall not want, even when our loves, needs, and fears say just the opposite? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is our shepherd.

Jesus spilled his blood in Golgotha’s dust so we could lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2).

For the rest of the post…

Plans

Christian philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal (1623-62) wrote, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing … ” This article proposes that prayer has its reasons. Why we pray is important, as is prayer itself. What follows are twelve reasons to pray.

1. God’s Word Calls Us to Pray

One key reason to pray is because God has commanded us to pray. If we are to be obedient to His will, then prayer must be part of our life in Him. Where does the Bible call us to prayer? Several passages are relevant:

  • “Pray for those who persecute you” –Matthew 5:44 (NIV) [1]
  • “And when you pray …” –Matthew 6:5
  • “This, then, is how you should pray …” –Matthew 6:9
  • “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:12
  • “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6
  • “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” –Colossians 4:2
  • “Pray continually” -1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone …” -1 Timothy 2:1

Prayer is an act of obedience. God calls us to pray and we must respond.

2. Jesus Prayed Regularly

Why did Jesus pray? One reason he prayed was as an example so that we could learn from him. The Gospels are full of references to the prayers of Christ, including these examples:

  • “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” –Matthew 14:23
  • “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.'” –Matthew 26:36
  • “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” –Mark 1:35
  • “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” –Luke 5:16
  • “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” –Luke 6:12
  • “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” –Luke 18:1

3. Prayer is How We Communicate with God

Prayer allows us to worship and praise the Lord. It also allows us to offer confession of our sins, which should lead to our genuine repentance. Moreover, prayer grants us the opportunity to present our requests to God. All of these aspects of prayer involve communication with our Creator. He is personal, cares for us, and wants to commune with us through prayer.

  • ” … if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14
  • Isaiah wrote, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).
  • Hebrews 4:15-16 reads, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Prayer is not just about asking for God’s blessings – though we are welcome to do so – but it is about communication with the living God. Without communication, relationships fall apart. So, too, our relationship with God suffers when we do not communicate with Him.

4. Prayer Allows us to Participate in God’s Works

Does God need our help? No. He is all powerful and in control of everything in His creation. Why do we need to pray? Because prayer is the means God has ordained for some things to happen. Prayer, for instance, helps others know the love of Jesus. Prayer can clear human obstacles out of the way in order for God to work. It is not that God can’t work without our prayers, but that He has established prayer as part of His plan for accomplishing His will in this world.

5. Prayer Gives us Power Over Evil

Can physical strength help us overcome obstacles and challenges in the spiritual realm? No, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). But in prayer even the physically weak can become strong in the spiritual realm. As such, we can call upon God to grant us power over evil.

  • “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” -1 Timothy 4:8
  • “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

6. Prayer is Always Available

This point is covered separately in another article. But, in short, another reason to pray is because prayer is always available to us. Nothing can keep us from approaching God in prayer except our own choices (Psalm 139:7; Romans 8:38-39).

7. Prayer Keeps us Humble Before God

Humility is a virtue God desires in us (Proverbs 11:2; 22:4; Micah 6:8; Ephesians 4:2; James 4:10). Prayer reminds us that we are not in control, but God is, thus keeping us from pride.

  • “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:4

For the rest of the post…

Peter was in prison, and Herod had probably ordered his execution for the next day.

Sounds like an impossible situation, doesn’t it? Imagine being a brand-new, multiplying church with the entire Roman army against you, and 16 soldiers surrounding your leader-who happens also to be in chains.

How did this church in Acts 12 respond? They didn’t have any armies or weapons. They said, “We have an impossible situation. Our beloved leader, mightily used by God, is in prison. We will pray earnestly unto God specifically for His deliverance.”

There are several principles of prayer in this passage. First and foremost, the church prayed “to God.” They knew the One to whom they were praying-His power, His authority, His great compassion and love. But there’s also another principle they practiced that we can learn from: They prayed “earnestly” (Acts 12:5).

The word “earnestly” here is a compound word in Greek. It has two parts, the first part meaning “out” and the second part meaning “stretched.” It’s the idea behind our English word for tension. It’s translated in 1 Peter 1:22 as deeply or fervently, and it’s used in Luke 22:44 where Jesus prays “in anguish” and “more earnestly” in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The image given is of focused and passionate prayer-coming to God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and saying, “God, I mean business! I want what I’m asking of You; I’m not just going through the motions.”

Those of us who have children may remember a time when a little one’s temperature rose to 102, then to 103, and then to 104. You may remember how our prayers changed as the temperature went up. Have you ever sat there with a little baby who’s burning up? We don’t pray, “O Lord, we would really like, if it’s in Your will, according to Your sovereign plan, to bless this child according to Your purposes,” do we? We pray, “O God, save my child!”

That’s what this word “earnestly” is saying: We need to come to God like we mean it. We need to know Who we’re really talking to, and then earnestly-with our soul stretched out before God-to say, “God, hear our cry.”

Earnest Together

A crucial aspect of the church’s earnest prayer was its corporate nature. They were united in their earnestness. The early church believed that it was the most powerful force on this earth, so when the body of Christ gathered and approached Jesus and the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, they asked in unity.

For the rest of the post…

“The key to joy in God is God’s omnipotent, transforming grace, bought by his Son, applied by His Spirit, wakened by the Word, and laid hold of by faith through prayer”

~ John PiperWhen I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy138

John Piper Photo

“Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? I have preached my very heart out. I could not say any more than I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the Church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? Oh, dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer.”

~ C. H. Spurgeon

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