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“…prayer is the means that God has appointed for our receiving mercy, and obtaining grace to help in time of need.” 

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 15.

“If we then are to have fellowship with Jesus Christ in his present work, we must spend much time in prayer; we must give ourselves to earnest, constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer.” 

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 14.

“All the mighty men (and I will add women) have been men (and women) of prayer. They have differed from one another in many things, but in this they have been alike.”

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 11

“Why is it,” both ministers and churches are asking, “that the church of Christ makes so little headway against unbelief and error andn sin and worldliness?” Once more we hear God answering, “Neglect of prayer. You have not because you ask not.”

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 10.

“The secret of success in Christ’s Kingdom is the ability to pray.” 

~ E. M. Bounds

Paul Tautges

Paul Tautges

Lord of the Church,

As we anticipate gathering together as Your people for the purpose of worship, tomorrow morning, we pray Your name will be glorified and Your will accomplished in our hearts and the hearts of all those who worship You through Jesus Christ.

  • Lead us to the Rock, Redeemer, and Refuge. Lift our thoughts to the Rock so that we may trust in Your strength (Psalm 19:14). Touch the affections of our hearts so that we, the household of God, will grow in our love for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who is the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Hide us in the shelter of Your wings as we listen to Your promises (Psalm 61:1-4).
  • Make us responsive to the Holy Spirit as You seek worshipers to draw near in spirit and truth. May the Holy Spirit who indwells us stir us up in our inner person to praise You with every part of our being (Psalm 138:1). Lord, reveal our hidden sins or hypocrisy so that we may repent and worship in truth, purity, and faith (Psalm 24:3-6).
  • Fill the pastor-preacher with the Holy Spirit’s power. Lord, it is You who enables a mere man to preach with clarity, conviction, and boldness as the forces of Hell wage war against him (Ephesians 6:10-20). Fill his heart with love and compassion for those to whom he preaches so that his preaching will edify and equip believers with grace and truth, and plead with unbelievers to embrace Christ (Ephesians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

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“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.'”

~ Andrew Murray

“We know who we are praying to only if we learn it in the Bible. And we know how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible. None of this should be a surprise, since we see this basic dynamic played out in the development of every new human being.”

~ Timothy KellerPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God54-55.

 

Prayerlessness is the great enemy of true happiness. If we give up on prayer, or refuse to pray, we surrender our seat at the very source of the highest and fullest joy. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

But even those of us who do pray can find ourselves in danger of forfeiting prayer’s fullness as we fall into stale ruts of familiar words and repeated requests. We wake up each day, say the same prayers, and wonder why it doesn’t feel more real and life-changing.

As we walk through the valley of the shadow of rut, many of us just put our heads down and hope for better days. But the Bible speaks too often and too highly of prayer for us to stay here long. Yes, we may know the Lord’s Prayer by heart, but those five verses are not the only guide we have to help us pray. God has given us all kinds of routes out of daily ruts in prayer. Take Psalm 86, for example. Here are seven simple daily prayers drawn from David’s prayer.

1. Listen to my prayer.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. (Psalm 86:6)

David wrote an entire book of divinely inspired song-prayers to God, so you would think he might know that God hears all our prayers. But over and over again, he still pleads with God to listen (Psalm 4:1, 17:6, 27:7, 28:2, 30:10, and more). Do you ever ask God to hear your prayer — or do you just assume he will?

The ever-present help of God can make us prone to take him for granted. We hear, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you,” and quietly, even subconsciously, we begin to presume that God exists to meet our needs. That kind of entitlement, though, robs God’s promise of its power and empties our prayer-life of its wonder.

God Almighty, the sovereign and infinite Maker of heaven and earth, hears your prayers. Don’t ever, ever take God’s ear for granted. Know his holiness, and your sin, well enough not to presume he will listen, but for Jesus’s sake. Ask him to hear one more prayer.

2. Save me, and keep me.

Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you — you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. (Psalm 86:2–3)

In the face of all his enemies, David looked to our God for protection and deliverance. He was often surrounded on every side, threatened in every way imaginable. But he found hope and confidence in his sovereign, unchanging Father in heaven (Psalm 18:2).

We have an enemy far greater and more fearful than all of David’s enemies combined (1 Peter 5:8). He has planted his mercenaries at every turn (Ephesians 6:12). And we are helpless against his schemes without a warrior fighting for us (Ephesians 6:11).

You were saved, and you are being saved every day (1 Corinthians 15:2). You are being kept (1 Peter 1:5). But not without prayer (Ephesians 6:18). Each day is another new confident plea for protection and keeping:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24–25)

3. Make my heart happy in you.

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. (Psalm 86:4)

Humans were not created just to be rescued from sin, but to be flooded with joy in the Rescuer. Sin disrupted God’s ultimate plan for you; it didn’t create it. Jesus is not only a get-out-of-jail card, but a get-into-eternal-joy Savior and Treasure. God made you to demonstrate his worth by making you happy in him — not just by placing you in heaven, but by giving you himself.

God commands us to have that kind of joy in him (Psalm 32:11; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:4). But any of us who have tried know we cannot put on joy like we put on a pair of pants. Something supernatural has to happen in our hearts, and the supernatural only happens one way: with God’s help.

No matter what you’re going through or how far away happiness feels, never settle for anything less than joy in the Christian life, and never assume you’ll find it without asking God for it.

4. Teach me your ways.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. (Psalm 86:11)

Knowing the truth is not the end of God’s plans for everything you learn about him. He wants to see the truth come alive in you — in your priorities, in your relationships, and in your heart. A Christian is saved apart from our doing (Ephesians 2:8), but we are delivered into a life filled with doing, good works prepared specifically for us before we were even born (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:10).

But the dots between what we know and what it means for our daily lives are not always clear. The dots between the One we love and the way we should live can often be foggy at best.

As un-American as it may seem, God doesn’t expect us to just figure it out on our own. He wants us to ask him for wisdom and guidance — “God, teach me your way” — and he wants to do the work himself, by his Spirit, through our working. Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

5. Give me your strength.

Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant. (Psalm 86:16)

Some of us do not need to be convinced to work. We wake up ready to tackle our to-do list and take on the world. We just forget to ask for help, or to serve in anyone’s strength but our own. That kind of effort may work for a while, but eventually we are out of gas and left with small, short-lived returns. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil” (Psalm 127:2).

Along with our prayers for guidance and direction, we need the physical and spiritual resources to walk and work well. Nothing of any real, spiritual, lasting value happens in our strength. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

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March 22, 2016


Walk Away from the World to Pray

We’re straining to make “Holy Tuesday” special, aren’t we? On Palm Sunday we hail our King, on Maundy Thursday we relish in the obedience of Jesus, on Friday we commemorate his death, and on Sunday we celebrate new life and victory and the death of death.

But Tuesday? If we sit in this Tuesday for a moment, long enough for our ears to stop ringing from the celebration of Palm Sunday, Tuesday may grab us by the collar and give us something unexpected — something only Holy Tuesday can give.

Jesus is teaching theology in Jerusalem each day this week, and Tuesday is “Eschatology Day.” The temple will be destroyed (Luke 21:5–9), there will be many terrible apocalyptic events (Luke 21:10–24), Jerusalem will fall, the people will suffer twisted violence, families will be ripped apart. “There will be . . . people fainting with fear” (Luke 21:25–26).

Jesus breaks the fourth wall, reaches out of the pages of Scripture, grabs our jaw, and forces us to look at him: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life” (Luke 21:34).

Tuesday’s Odd Gift

And then. Tuesday gives us its peculiar gift,

Every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him. (Luke 21:37–38)

Jesus and the disciples were walking straight toward the jagged cleft of tragedy. They were running into trauma, into chaos, into sadness, into the hungry jaws of their cruel weekend. Certainly Jesus would be consumed with the busyness of his final week of life. But oddly, he chooses to commute to a place that is later said by Luke to be “a Sabbath day’s journey away” (Acts 1:12). Jesus didn’t get an apartment in the city. He didn’t room at the conference center. Even though he taught “early in the morning,” he chose to commute to do his common work from an inconvenient and an uncommon place. Why?

Jesus spent his Tuesday night on Olivet. Actually, Jesus went to Olivet every night. But it is in telling us about his Tuesday that Luke tells us his sleeping arrangements “at night.” Jesus elected this commute — even though it’s long enough, and even though he teaches early, and even though he faces certain death in a matter of days.

That Tuesday gives us three reels of lost footage on the life of Jesus.

Tuesday’s Pictured Hope

Imagine travelling back in time to June 5, 1944 — the day before the Invasion of Normandy Beach — and standing on the beach. Feel the sand in your toes. Look out over the Atlantic Ocean, at the sunset. Turn and look at the German armaments and weaponry behind you. Tomorrow, this is where it will happen. This is where history will turn, at the cost of thousands of lives. Today, it is just a protected beach. But tomorrow, it will change the course of history.

Olivet is the eschatological Normandy: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east. . . . Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him” (Zechariah 14:4–5). This is where Jesus chooses to overnight. You can envision Jesus, teary-eyed, looking into the stars. This is all worth it. One day, I’ll come from there, and I’ll have my beloved with me. Ah yes, my sheep, my holy ones, my bride.

It is remarkable what quietly happens here at Olivet. The “last thing” that Jesus did on his last day of earthly eschatology teaching (Tuesday) is fall asleep on the very mount to which one day he will return. And Luke, for reasons we can imagine, finds that important to include — Jesus camps on what will be God’s own epic conflict with Satan. He returns, night after night: “but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet” (Luke 21:37).

Tuesday’s Practiced Peace

Jesus must have drawn strength from Olivet. Luke later appeals to Jesus’s commute as the habit that spins him into prayer in Gethsemane,

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed. (Luke 22:39–41)

Olivet was the place to which Jesus retired to find hope in God. It was the place where it was all going to end.

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