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“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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Rick Praying

Years ago, an old saint shared with me twelve prayer principles from the life of Jesus Christ. It made such a difference in my personal prayer life. There are only 17 references to Jesus praying and most of them are in the book of Luke.

1.  The principle of ILLUMINATION.

Luke 3:21-22 says, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  And as He was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My Son whom I love.  With You I am well pleased.”  The setting here was Jesus’ baptism and this is the first recorded example of Jesus’ praying and we see in the book of Luke three results of His praying.

  • Heaven opened up.
  • The Holy Spirit came down.
  • The Father spoke.

These are three results when we make contact with God in our prayers. Symbolically, heaven opens up and we receive God’s blessing. The Holy Spirit fills our lives afresh. And the Father speaks to us. If you’d like to know the Spirit’s power in your life, if you’d like God to speak to you, you must practice the prayer life of Jesus.

2.  The principle of ISOLATION.

Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” “Often” means it was His habit. He did it in places where He was all by Himself. I believe this is absolutely essential. We need to spend time alone with God everyday. Jesus returned again and again to a lonely place. Find that place where you can get alone with God, where you can be isolated and pray aloud and let God speak to you.

3.  The principle of CONCENTRATION.

Luke 6:12 says, “In those days Jesus went out on the mountainside to pray and He spent the night praying to God.” Notice it says, “He spent the night…” Some of the greatest lessons of my prayer life have been nights that I have spent in prayer. My decision to marry my wife was made in a prayer meeting all night with one other person. Sometimes when I pray it takes just a few minutes for me to get my thoughts collected. Sometimes it takes a long time for me to even get in the mood. I’ve found that it’s important to spend extended blocks of time with God so that you can concentrate on what He wants you to do and His will for your life.

4.  The principle of INSULATION.

The Bible says, “Once when Jesus was praying in private, the disciples were with Him.” Notice that the disciples were with him but He still found time for personal prayer. This is an important principle because there’s not always time to get alone by yourself. There are times when you can’t be isolated. I think of this as kind of an incubator verse. Babies can be in the middle of a busy hospital but they can be incubated in a situation that protects them from the hustle and bustle around them. Sometimes I find as a pastor I just can’t get alone, but I can have an attitude of isolation or insulation and I can be silent even in the middle of a traffic jam. My prayer can overcome the interruptions when I put myself in an attitude of insulation.

5.  The principle of TRANSFORMATION.

We find this in Luke 9:28-29. “He took Peter, John and James with Him and went up on a mountain to prayer. As He was praying the appearance of His face changed and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening.” Prayer changes you. Do you think it’s possible to spend so much time with God that when you come away your face shows it?

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “We all with unveiled faces behold the glory of the Lord.” As we look on Him “We are transformed from one degree to another.” The word in that passage is the word  katoptrizo. It’s the only time that word is used in the entire Bible. It means, ”to seriously look at, to contemplate, to meditate, to gaze on like somebody gazing in a mirror.” As we gaze on the word, as we reflect on the word, like a mirror reflects, we become more and more like Christ. And we’re transformed.

6.  The principle of EXEMPLIFICATION.

Luke 11:1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place and when He finished one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’” Notice it does not say, “Teach us how to pray,” which is often misquoted. It says “Teach us to pray.” I would suggest that this is a dangerous prayer to pray. We should not pray this request unless we really mean it, because God will often use trials and hardships and difficulties to teach us to pray.

7.  The principle of PRESERVATION.

In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus says, “Simon, Simon. Satan has asked to sift you as wheat but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” This is a prayer of protection. We don’t just believe in prayer, we believe in God. Jesus not only saves you but He prays for you. Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies.” God is praying for us right now. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

8.  The principle of PREPARATION.

In Luke 22:42 Jesus prays “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will but Yours be done.” Notice the change in this prayer. First, He said, take it away from Me. Then He said, “Lord, leave it.” He prayed earnestly. Why? Because He knew He would be facing in the next few hours the greatest trial of His life and He didn’t want to approach it prayerlessly.

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Leslie Ludy

“If you don’t pray often, you won’t gain a love for praying. Prayer is work, and therefore it is not very appealing to our natural sensibilities. But the simple rule for prayer is this: Begin praying and your taste for prayer will increase. The more you pray, the more you will acquire the desire for prayer, the energy for prayer, and the sense of purpose in prayer.”
Leslie Ludy, Wrestling Prayer

“The best prayers have often more groans than words.”

 ~ John Bunyan

Dr. David Jeremiah How often have we prayed something like, “O Lord, be with cousin Billy now in a special way”? Have we stopped to consider what it is we’re requesting? Imagine that you are a parent who is preparing to leave your children with a babysitter. Would you dream of saying, “O Betsy, I ask you now that you would be with my children in a special way?” No way. You would say, “Betsy, the kids need to be in bed by 9 pm. They can have one snack before their baths, and please make sure they finish their homework. You can reach us at this number if there’s any problem. Any questions before we go?” We are very specific with our requests and instructions for our babysitters. We want them to know specifics. It should be no different with prayer.

~ David Jeremiah

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