Prayer

Devoted! (Acts 2:42-47)

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With the World Cup Soccer 2018 reaching fever pitch level on the excitement scale for many around the world, when I read this passage and read the word ‘devoted’, I am reminded of all those soccer fans colourfully arrayed in their teams colours.  Faces painted, hats on, scarves, socks, shirts, tattoos even themed underwear!!!

In moments like this words like devotion, passion are on display in technicolour.  In our passage today, Luke uses the Greek word that is translated into English as ‘devoted’.  The underlying word means to be earnest towards something, to persevere in something, to be constantly diligent in something, or to continue to adhere closely to something (like with teaching or instruction).

The converts from Peter’s first Gospel message joined the 120 disciples and together they formed the first church on the planet.  A church, a new community of faith that had previously not existed, people that did not know each other or even have much in common instantly became a family that together devoted themselves to some things.

  1. The apostle’s teaching (which is the Scriptures now for us)
  2. Fellowship/Community/Partnership
  3. Breaking Bread (Communion)
  4. Corporate Prayer

Now, we know what a devoted Brazilian, English, French…. soccer fan looks like, they are hard to miss really.  So what would a church community that’s DEVOTED to these things look like?  And, who doesn’t want to be part of a church like that?

Which reminds me of something Nicky Gumbel said; 

“Stop looking for a perfect church.  It does not exist.  Join an imperfect church and serve in everyday you can to make it nearer to perfection”.  

This church we have in Acts 2 is radically wonderful!  But don’t go looking for one, rather make the church you’re in like one, because you’re there and because you get it…

These brand new believers kept on meeting (vs44) with one another in the big meetings, all together in the temple and then also meeting in homes (small groups) (vs46), they ate meals together (vs46), they had their view of personal finance transformed by their faith.  

So much so, that these devoted Christ followers ensured that no one amongst the family of faith had any need because they provided for another through sacrificial giving to the church by liquidating assets and investments to provide in abundance (vs45) for God’s church.

This was a worshipping (vs47), glad, supernatural (vs43) community who were also in awe and reverence of God (vs43).  A church where reverence, wonder and amazement is dead will also have worship that is dead.  That’s because wonder, reverence and ‘strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship’. – John Piper

So, let’s believe God for churches like this saturating our cities and towns just like this church started to impact Jerusalem with its devotion as the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (vs47).

Pray: 

  • Pray that you would be freshly filled with the Holy Spirit like these believers were.
  • Pray that you would be full of awe, wonder, thanks and praise
  • And pray that you would be devoted to Scripture, Fellowship, Communion & Corporate Prayer like they were
  • Pray that your whole life would be transformed by the Gospel including your finances, your view of your time, resources, relationships…
  • Pray asking God to ‘do it again’, to cause churches like this one in Acts 2 to fill your city!

Act:

  • Don’t look for a church like this one, make one!  
  • Live the change you desire!
  • Be devoted!

Be Inspired (2 Kings 18-21)

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What do you want said at your funeral or written as an epitaph in your memory?  How about; “there was none like him among all…!” 

Hezekiah stands out in stark contrast to the many who went before and those who came after him the rest of verse 5 tells us.  And what was the secret to this glowing description of Hezekiah’s life and reign as king of Judah?

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…. he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. (2 Kings 18:5a,6-7)

Hezekiah believed God, and held on to his belief in God unswervingly.  He did not get into compromise and sin but kept God’s commandments and in response to his faith and obedience God was with him always and caused him to prosper.

Don’t for a moment think that Hezekiah had an easy time following God.  Hezekiah didn’t follow God or lead Judah in a time of ease or peace and security but rather did so in the presence of terrifying threats from the Assyrians!  The Assyrians had recently overthrown the northern tribes of Israel and had also overtaken all the towns around Jerusalem which was surrounded.

And yet Hezekiah trusted God, held fast to his God in the midst of great trials.  Hezekiah’s trust in God is expressed wonderfully in his prayer recorded in 2 Kings 19:15-19;

15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 

What a prayer of faith!  A prayer that’s real about the circumstances and yet more impressed with His God.  And what a response from God through the prophet Isaiah;

“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”  (2 Kings 20:32-34)

What an inspiration Hezekiah is!  Don’t you want to be like him?  How can you be?

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…. he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. (2 Kings 18:5a,6)

Let’s be like Hezekiah, let’s trust God, let’s hold fast to God when life is messy and confusing, let’s not depart from following God and keeping his commandments.  And then let’s see all that God will do in and through us.

Magnificent God (2 Kings 4)

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Elisha is the one true God’s representative. In a nation divided and filled with the worship of false gods, the call on Elisha is not just to bring messages for God but to reveal who God is through his everyday life, actions and interactions.

In this chapter we see God revealed in numerous ways through a collection of short stories which all put on display God’s nature as the one who sees, a personal God, involved in the intricate details of people’s lives, who is not indifferent to the cries and the pain that individual people endure. These stories reveal God as the one who is able to miraculously suspend or overturn the normal with His supernatural inbreakings of power at any time on people’s behalf.

Short story 1: Debt (2 Kings 4:1-7)
A poor widow in crisis is struggling with mounting debts and the ongoing challenge of providing for her two children as a single woman has the debt collectors at her door threatening to take away her children as slaves as payment for her debt! Crisis. She asks God by asking Elisha and God provides miraculously an abundance of olive oil which she sells and pays off all her debt and as able to live off the rest. God is the miracle working, prayer answering, need-seeing God who intervenes in remarkable ways for poor or rich people.

Short story 2: Deep Longings & Despair (2 Kings 4:8-39)
A wealthy woman is hospitable and honouring of God’s servant, she was rich but used her wealth to bless Elisha & Gehazi not to gain anything (vs13-14). Elisha discerns the true longing in her heart, one she is not even willing to express for fear of her longing being dashed again, and so promises her a child. She is so shocked she can’t receive this good news (vs16) but she does conceive and a son is given to her. Many years later the child falls suddenly ill and dies will in the fields with his father. She rushes straight to Elisha in deep despair, she would have rather not had a son than have one and then loose one like this! Elisha goes with her, and raises the son from the dead and gives him back to her alive. God knows the deepest longings in our hearts, even the ones we dare not speak of for fear of being hurt or disappointed again or opening up the wound… God is able to bring back to life people, marriages, finances – God is good and is so whether you are rich or poor.

Short story 3: Deadly Stew & Multiplication (2 Kings 4:38-44)
There is a famine in the land, Elisha is hosting around 100 of the prophets. He wants to cook for them, but Gehazi is a bad cook or one of the prophets is injudicious in his produce selection and the stew being cooked is bad, so bad it is like death warmed up. They complain. Elisha miraculously cures the pot with a little flour and the food becomes edible to them all. While they are all there, a man brings to Elisha some of his first fruits offering to supply food for Elisha. Elisha tells Gehazi to set it before the men to eat (but there is not enough – vs43). Elisha tells him to proceed and they all ate and yet there was excess and they had food to spare. God is hospitable, able to throw feasts of abundance in the midst of a famine, able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

Our God heals, answers long-lost longings, provides financially and materially. This all makes me think of the song we sung on Sunday;

You’re my author, my maker
My ransom, my Saviour
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope, in the shadows
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stand, by my side
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name…

So, cry out to him now!  Tell your Father in Heaven your deepest longings, know that He is good and when you can’t join all the dots of your confusing life, He can and He does and so having asked Him trust Him.

Pray & keep praying… (Colossians 4:2-5)

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Consider this for a moment.  Apart from a mother in the throws of child-birth or the patient receiving some excruciatingly painful physiotherapy – people do not normally need to be encouraged to keep breathing.  

That’s because Breathing is essential to life.  Any kid who has tried to hold out on their parents request or instruction by holding their breath – goes red fairly promptly and then gasps again for as they resume breathing again.  We breathe continually because it is essential for physical life.

And yet our connection with God our Father in prayer, or with the Holy Spirit for His enabling power in some situation is really as essential as breathing.  So;

  • We pray because we know we can call out to our Father & because we know He loves to answer (see Psalm 18)
  • We pray because we know that we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who is ever-present & ready to respond.  
  • We pray because we know Jesus ever lives to pray with us and on our behalf, making intercession to the Father for us
  • We pray because we know that we don’t have the resources, wisdom or capacity we need in any given scenario and we know that God does
  • We pray because, when we pray, we are humbled & helped and God is exalted as the all-sufficient, loving God.

“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.”  W. S. Bowd

Colossians 4:2-5 urges us strongly to be consistently diligent in prayer.  We are urged to saturate our prayers with thankfulness, to be watchful in prayer, to be alert and to keep awake, to be vigilant in our prayers and vigilant enough to pray.  So, be vigilant (to pray) remembering that you have an enemy who wants to stop you from praying wants to disconnect you from God.  Be also vigilant in your prayers, be consistent, don’t be caught off your guard having been prayer less, and lastly be alert regarding HOW you pray or even WHAT you pray for.

I urge you to take this opportunity to reflect on your life rhythms and patterns and ask yourself whether your prayer life can be described in this sort of way.  If so, then the encouragement of Scripture is to keep being consistent in this diligence.  And if not, then I urge you to make some changes in order to make constant communication with God your life-pattern.

Consider: what does ‘being watchful’ in prayer mean?

Lastly, note how prayer unlocks mission!  Prayer unlocks Gospel advance and kingdom breakthrough.  That is where this appeal from the apostle Paul comes from.  Make it a life-habit to not only pray about personal needs or those of close loved ones, but pray in ways that release mission and cause Gospel and Kingdom advance.  Your prayers unlock situations for churches and ministries, open doors and release things.  So pray, and keep being diligent in prayer.

In Reconciliation Road Church we have the following prayer meetings you could commit yourself to (apart from your own personal prayers times):

  • Men’s Prayer Meeting (Tues 5:45am-6:30am)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 10am-11am)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 5:30pm-6:30pm)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 8:20am-8:40am)
  • RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 4:45pm-17h10pm)

Join us!

How to pray for someone else… (Colossians 1:9-14)

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Paul’s letter reveals a wonderful outline of how you can pray for someone else;

  1. Pray for God to fill the person you’re praying for with the knowledge of God’s will for their life in this moment they are in (vs9)
  2. Pray that they would have not their own wisdom or the wisdom of the world but rather Holy Spirit inspired wisdom and understanding in their life circumstance (vs9)
  3. Pray the above SO THAT the one you’re praying for can walk in a way that honours God (vs10)
  4. SO THAT they may please God in every way by bearing fruit in all they do and (vs10)
  5. And SO THAT they may grow in their personal knowledge of God (vs10)
  6. Pray that they may be strengthened with God’s power in the midst of their current situation not that they just be ejected out of it, pray this SO THAT they may have great endurance & joy in the midst of their circumstances (vs11)
  7. Pray all of this SO THAT they may give thanks to God who qualified them to share in the inheritance He has for us, and give thanks to God who rescued us who believe from satan’s kingdom, and brought us into the Kingdom of Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who purchased our forgiveness…(vs12-13). Amen.

Who can you pray for right now using this passage as your prayer outline?

Let me tell you… (Psalm 34)

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This Psalm is just absolutely jam-packed with gems about God and how God interacts with us his people.  It is a psalm full of personal and experiential knowledge of God’s nature and character.

It’s almost like David is explaining in the rest of the Psalm why he says in verse 1; “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

David wants you and I to join him in magnifying the LORD with him, wants us to join in and exalt God’s name (God’s character and attributes) together.

My God answers prayer! (vs4-6,15,17)

David can testify that he called out for God, he enquired after God in threatening life situation after threatening life situation (David was a fugitive fearing for his life for 15yrs!) and he can testify that God answered when he called.  More than that God delivered him from all the threats that put fear into his heart.  ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles’ (vs6)!  And because of this testimony David can declare that the face of those who look to God for their help – their faces are radiant (vs5).

What are you facing today?  Call out to your God who answers, who delivers, who saves.  Put your trust in the trustworthy ONE, so that your face may radiate on the day that God delivers you.

Angelic Help (vs7)

Angels are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve and protect God’s children (Hebrews 1:14).  David can testify to angelic protection, a heavenly body-guard for those who fear God.  This reminds me of the moment in Israel’s history when Elisha’s servant feared because of the formidable Syrian army amassed around the city and the servant was afraid and Elisha prayed that God would show him the mighty heavenly host that was arrayed around them to protect them and declared to his servant; “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us (angels) are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:15-17).

Know this.  God the Holy Spirit is with you (Hebrews 13:5) and God has sent an angelic body-guard to encamp around you!  So, do not fear.

Taste and See (vs8)

We learn in lots of ways, from what we read or hear from others, through modelling etc but experiential learning is one of the most powerful sources of learning.  David urges you and I to do as he has done – do ‘taste and see’ that God is a faithful deliverer.  This is an invitation an exhortation to find out for ourselves to experience that God is good!

Such knowledge of God hewn out of the experience of everyday life is unshakable and precious!  There are no short cuts but this is the exhortation of Scripture for you and I to discover for ourselves what David has discovered – God is good.

Recounting, Praise & Prayer (Psalm 9)

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(vs1) Whole hearted thanks, gratitude expressed is the bone and marrow of the Christian life!  David declares that he will give thanks to God with his whole heart.  Gratitude expressed is a heart matter and a head matter in that it requires a decision of the will to express what one is grateful for.

(vs2) Gratitude is founded on remembering, recounting what has happened, recounting what God has done for you and for His people.  Again, David declares that he will recount, he decides to remember and as he does, recounting leads to feeling grateful and expressing it to God in prayer and in songs of thanks!

(vs3-9) David recounts God’s interventions for His people.

(vs10)  When God is thanked, God is honoured, we get perspective and our faith for the future is fortified.  In this verse David declares that those who know God put their trust in Him (because He is worthy of trust) and those who have put their trust in Him can testify that God does not forsake those who trust in Him.

(vs11) So it’s appropriate to praise Him with singing, for He alone is King of kings, it’s appropriate to ‘tell among the peoples His deeds’.

(vs13-20) Emboldened by his recounting and his praise, reminded of God’s faithfulness to him and to Israel, David transitions into confidently asking God for some things which is totally appropriate since his thanksgiving has reminded Him that God is worth praying to and bring your requests to.

Reflection:

  • Decide to recount what God has done for you, for us as a church.  I challenge you to write down no less than 25 things right now that you can thank and praise God for & then take some time to do just that.
  • (vs11) Why not decide to tell 1 person at least 1 of those 25 things you’ve just recounted in a way that honours God today, encourages you and them
  • Having recounted and thanked God, confidently bring your requests to your Father in Heaven.

Multi-tasking (Nehemiah 2:1-20)

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Nehemiah is a cupbearer for king Artaxerxes of Persia.  His job is to taste food and wine set before the king to ensure that he dies in the kings place if there is any attempt to assassinate him by poisoning.  As a foreigner in the court of the king he would not have had any position of power or influence, and would not have chatted to the king unless the king addressed him.

His job was to be happy, least they mistook sadness for poison-induced illness and quiet unless addressed.

But Nehemiah can’t hide what’s going on in his heart and in his mind, he is battling to keep up the facade of pleasantries all because his heart has been sensitised by God to the news of the ruinous state of Jerusalem.

The king can see something is wrong and so addresses Nehemiah his cupbearer; “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?” (vs2)

Nehemiah is terrified, what should he say?  This is the king of the marauding captors of Israel wants to know why Nehemiah is sad, but what he is sad about is the very fact that Babylon invaded and destroyed and took Israel captive!  Awkward!

Nehemiah courageously or foolishly tells king Artaxerxes the truth about what’s bugging him – probably fearing for his life as he does so.  Pause, nothing happens…

Then the king says; “What are you requesting?” (vs4)

Scripture records that Nehemiah multi-tasked at this point, way before Windows & iPhones and Android.

“So I prayed to the God of heaven.  And I said to the king…” (vs4-5)

Nehemiah knows how he responds now in this moment is crucial, he is still alive after being honest, maybe in this moment he might be granted some favour?  Sensing the moment he cries out to God under his breath, in his mind.  It might have just been; “HELP!” but Scripture indicates that this is happening as he is simultaneously replying to the kings question.

Nehemiah proceeds to converse with the king and make his bold requests known, he asks for time, for permission and for resources and for protection & favour.  And importantly vs8 reports;

“And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (vs8)

Scripture acknowledges the source of the favour extended to Nehemiah as being directly linked to Nehemiah’s multi-tasked prayer!

What I have found is that it is not the length or the might of your prayer or even the faith of your prayer that matters!  What really matters is the fact that you prayed, and who you prayed to!

What can you learn from this moment in Nehemiah’s life and Nehemiah’s prayer?

Learning from a great prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11)

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Do you know the feeling?  There is a moment when you know what you need to do is pray, there is some form of great need that exceeds your resources or decision that outstrips your wisdom…and yet as you get down to pray you feel at a loss for words.

I love considering the great prayers of Scripture, learning from them by observing how these men and women engaged God in moments of great significance.  Nehemiah hears a report of the state of Jerusalem, is reminded of the dire situation God’s people are in, under God’s judgement in a foreign nation, with the temple and the capital city in ruins.  Nehemiah has no real power or position to affect any change to the situation…

But Nehemiah is in a personal relationship with the ONE who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), and so he can call out to God.  As he prays we can listen in and learn from one of the greatest prayers of Scripture.

So what can we learn from this great prayer:

  1. Heart: great prayers come from the heart that has been moved! (vs4)
  2. Clarity: prayer that starts with a clear understanding of whom you’re praying to fills that prayer with faith and meaning.  After all there is no point praying to someone who can’t do anything about the thing you’re praying about! (vs4)
  3. Character: great prayers petition God on the basis of His unchanging character and the promises He has made (vs5)
  4. Repentance: in prayer we allow God to reveal what’s wrong in us and we turn to Him by turning from such sin. (vs6-7)
  5. Scripture: great prayers quote Scripture, the infallible word of God  (vs8-9)
  6. Requests: to pray is to make your requests known to God (vs11)
  7. Perspective: true prayer helps us to keep things in perspective (vs11) so that even powerful kings become just ‘this man’.
  8. Action: prayer is not passive, when we pray invariably God reveals next steps which we must take with faith & obedience (Nehemiah 2:1)

Meditate on this prayer of Nehemiah’s and then incorporate elements of his prayer into yours.

Prayers that criss-cross (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

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Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

The Apostolic gift lifts local eyes from considering only the local church and personal issues to see the broader need, and in so doing the worldwide mission of Jesus remains in focus always.  The apostle Paul has addressed local questions that the believers had amongst themselves, but now he calls them to join him in Jesus’ mission to the whole world.

Paul asked these young believers to pray that the gospel ‘would run and be glorified’. He is asking them to pray that the gospel would advance and that it would be honoured (3:1).  The gospel advances through local churches, through preaching, through the lives of all believers living out their transformation and sharing Jesus.

What do you pray about?  Only local, personal things or are you prayers about the gospel speeding ahead, spreading out all across the world.  I urge you from Scripture to widen the scope of your prayers if that’s needed, to care about church planting, and the gospel’s advance reaching to all unreached people of the world.

He also asked them to pray that people would respond wholeheartedly to the gospel, that lives would be transformed (as had happened in Thessalonica) by the gospel (3:1).

2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

In Paul’s mind, gospel advance was linked to danger and oppression.  So he asked them to pray that we may be delivered from wicked & evil men (3:2) and yet even as he is praying he knows, the Lord is faithful, he knows, he is confident that God will establish them and guard you against the evil one.

So he closes praying that the Lord would ‘direct their hearts’ (3:5).  Only God can lead and direct us at a heart-level so that we end up loving God more and becoming more and more robust/steadfast like Jesus.

This little section starts with Paul asking them to pray, and ends with Paul praying for them! May our prayers for one another criss-cross like this, us praying for others and others praying for us – partnering in prayer knowing that prayer is the power God’s given us to open and shut doors.

 

Praying for what really matters (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)

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What we pray for reveals what we value.  In 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 we get a little insight into some of Paul’s prayer time for the believers he had to leave behind in Thessalonica. Let’s do a quick survey of the things Paul and his team were praying for and see what we can learn from what it was they were praying for…

  1. Paul and his team gave thanks for the Thessalonians response to the Gospel (1:2-3)
  2. Prayed that God might enable his team to help the Thessalonians to grow up in their faith through good teaching and leadership (3:10)
  3. Prayed that God would make a way through the devil’s hindering (2:18) so that they could be re-united with the Thessalonians again for their mutual encouragement (3:11)
  4. Prayed that the Thessalonians love would abound towards one another in the church & also about for all people (3:12)
  5. Prayed that the Thessalonians might be blameless on the day of Jesus’ second coming (3:13)
    Prayed that they might become more and more like God (sanctified) and that they be kept blameless until the day Jesus returns (5:23-24)

In summary, incidentally through this letter we discover some of the things that really mattered to the apostle Paul when he prayed for others.

  1. He gave thanks to God!
  2. He prayed for enabling power to accomplish that which God had called him to do.
  3. He prayed for God’s breakthrough where things felt stuck/hindered
  4. He prayed for these believers to be like God, to be abounding in love
  5. He prayed that God would keep them safe through trials to the very end of the age.

Think about your prayers for a moment.

What things are your prayers typically characterised by if you were to do an audit?

How could you pray through some of these things that were the apostle’s prayer focus in your life and over the lives of others?

Partnership & Prayer (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10)

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Paul and his team eventually send Timothy to Thessalonica to establish and exhort the Thessalonians in their faith in Jesus so that ‘no one would be moved by these afflictions’. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)

On his return to Paul in Athens Timothy brought back a good report of the Thessalonians faith, love and also their warm friendship and longing to meet again (1 Thessalonians 3:6).

This report comforted Paul and his team and provoked them to thanksgiving and more fervent prayer (night & day) for the Thessalonians that their faith might be firmly established.

What can we learn from this?

The Gospel forms new relationships that didn’t previously exist (1 Peter 2:10)!

Paul is worried, eager to hear news, wanted to come visit, was hindered, prayed, sent Timothy, then was relieved and prayed day and night – all for a group of people he didn’t know prior to their salvation and whom he only spent a month with.  But in that time God joined their hearts and true spiritual friendship formed so that they really cared for each other.

God established a heart level partnership between Paul’s team and this church, these believers so that the church longed to see Paul and team again and they were eager to see them and hear from them and wanted to see them built up and encouraged in their faith.

God does this at an individual level when we get joined to individuals in our church who come alongside us or whom God uses us to come alongside to establish and encourage them in their faith.

God does this at a church level when we as a church have people that speak into the life of the church, pray for and care for a church that is not theirs but is a church community of faith that they care for and love.

Over the years, as Oasis, we have had many people like that who have prayed for, loved and cared for Oasis Church even though they have been from somewhere else and have only visited or been with us for a short time – God has joined them to us in partnership & prayer…

We thank God for every Frontier Year Project person who’s ever invested in the life of our church, we thank God for Craig & Shannon Botha and their investment in our church, for Ray & Sue Lowe who love Oasis, for Lois who has advocated for us for so many years and prayed continuously, for Gerry & Donna too for their love and generosity & the whole of Centre Street Church for their partnership, for Common Ground Church & GodFirst Rosebank for their exceeding generosity and the many other Advance churches that have partnered with Oasis Church, for local churches who have supported and prayed for Oasis, for the Waldron family who made us their home and carry us in their hearts………….  I know I have missed out on many but the point is made.

We have been joined together with others in partnership and prayer as a local church, it’s what we see in the New Testament and its been our experience.

May we partner with others!  As individuals, may God use us to exhort and establish and encourage others in the faith, may God join our hearts in prayer and partnership for their growth and benefit, and may God keep using us more and more as a local church to plant and strengthen other local churches all over South Africa!

So which is it?

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Are we to pray for God’s will or are we to pray asking God for what we want?

Is Jesus contradicting Himself?

Matthew 6:9-15 Jesus clearly teaches us to pray for His purposes for His will to be done and by implication, Jesus is teaching that prayer is about us aligning our will with God’s will. In prayer we are the one’s who are changed.
And yet in the very next chapter (Matthew 7:7-11), in the same sermon on the mount Jesus is teaching us to be proactive in prayer to ask our Father in heaven for He who is perfect in His love for us will respond willingly/generously when we call on Him in need or even when we desire something we don’t need.
Depending on our Christian tradition we will find either one of these statements regarding prayer as a naturally better ‘fit’ for us. For some prayer is not telling God what you want from Him but us asking God what He wants of us. For others prayer is about faith, which is born out of the confidence of knowing whom we are asking and knowing what our relationship to Him is!

Neither of these traditions is right, they both are half right – which is not right at all.

I love the paradox here, Jesus teaches two different truths held in tension and we are to hold onto both of them to understand His will for us in prayer.
We are to align our hearts our wills to His, in prayer we get tuned into His perspective and His desires and yet we are to know the freedom of little children before their Father who tend to ask things of their Father, not for a minute questioning His goodness or His love, and quite frankly not even often paying attention to His desires in that moment.

What a lovely picture of prayer!

It’s complex, dynamic, it’s about relationship and reflection, it’s appropriate to express raw desires with confidence knowing who we bring our requests to with faith.

The type of prayer Jesus speaks of refuses to be put into one box or another – it’s glorious and it’s our privilege. Amen.

Irony

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It’s been said that the more you learn the more you know how little you know!  Just this week if you might have been among those who were the first people ever to see close-up photo’s of the dwarf planet Pluto with the incredible photo’s being sent back by the New Horizons space probe across 3+billion miles of space.  We know, so little of so much…

Yet in our lives I/we often act as though we have a solid grasp on what’s happening and or what should be happening in any given situation.  Sometimes when I hear myself praying, it’s even as if I’ve slipped into ‘informing God mode’ telling my Father what He needs to know and needs to do…  Have you ever slipped into that mode?

On the Emmaus Road (Luke 24), at one point Jesus comes alongside the two disciples who have just left Jerusalem after 3 tumultuous days with Jesus’ arrest, trial, abuse, death on the cross, being buried and then on the 3rd day an empty tomb with stories of angelic encounters…

The two men are talking about all these things and Jesus asks them what they’re talking about to which Cleopas replies; “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

What irony!  Cleopas is amazed, thinking he knows what has been happening, he is amazed at how little Jesus Himself seemingly knows.  Without knowing it he is in ‘informing God mode’ and yet they are the ones who are about to have their eyes, their minds & their hearts opened to what is really true and real.  God is about to give them some perspective that is going to cause their hearts to burn with passion within them!

The contrast between God’s omniscience and our tiny grasp on reality is massive.  There is much in life which we don’t understand, much that we feel is out of our grasp or out of our control and yet we are in an eternal love relationship with Him who knows all things and works all things according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:11) and importantly knows us intimately, formed us in our mother’s wombs and knows every step of ours and even knows every thought (Psalm 139)…

I believe that our Father loves to hear what’s in our hearts, what’s on our minds and that we can tell Him anything we want, but let’s remember that in one sense we can’t tell Him anything and we definitely don’t need to remind Him of anything.

Prayer is not for God but for us, prayer doesn’t change God’s perspective but rather changes ours as we come into our heavenly Father’s presence.

Is there something you’re struggling with, perplexed by?

Take it to Father in prayer, remembering that He knows it already.  He doesn’t need a PA telling Him, reminding Him what to do today, but He wants to hear from your heart, He wants you to express yourself to Him and He wants to pour His love out into your heart, to cause your heart to burn within you, He wants to open your eyes, your mind and your heart so that you see Him more clearly, love and worship Him more passionately and so that you’ll be comforted by knowing who He is regardless of what circumstances you face.

“Father, you know everything in my heart today, you know my hopes, dreams, fears & questions, you know what I need and everything that those I serve need, today I still myself, quieten myself and resolve to simply know that you are God!” Amen.

Come…

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Jesus took the initiative and left heaven to come to us, in Luke 18 there is a set of five parables/encounters that are all about how we ought to come to Jesus…

Come with persistent faith in prayer

The widow (vs1-8) eventually gets the justice she has been pleading for from the unrighteous judge.  Jesus uses this to contrast how much more God who has chosen us in love (elected us) will give us justice (answer our prayers) speedily.  This is because of our relationship with God that was established by God when we believed (John 1:12).

Jesus urges us to be persistent like her and to have faith as we ask because we know who we are asking when we pray.  We are not coming to some unknown official in the sky, but to our Heavenly Father who loves us!

Come with humility acknowledging your brokenness 

Next (vs9-14) Jesus contrasts a self-centered (note the five “I”‘s in the text) self-righteous, proud Pharisee with a humble sinner who knows he has messed up.

These are like the two types of people in the world;

The one is trying to save themselves by human effort trusting in their morality and performance to save them and so asks for recognition and praise for their efforts…

The other knows there is no hope in self-salvation projects and rather humbly admits their moral failings, their brokenness and asks for mercy.

Here Jesus reveals that the only way to being justified is not performance but grace which is only accessed by humbling oneself before God and asking for mercy and grace.

Come believing as a child

Next (vs15-17) Jesus urges us to come ‘like a child’ for only such people shall enter His kingdom.  What does that mean?

Children are eager to believe, they are uninhibited in their believing and they are full of wonder and amazement and unrestrained in expressing joy…

Such a provocation for stuck up, cynical, staid, doubting, questioning adults…!  May I, may we be more like children in our coming to Jesus.

Come prepared to relinquish other loves, other idols

In the encounter with the rich ruler (vs18-30) Jesus refused to let the man put Jesus in the box he had in mind for Jesus!  He tried to call Jesus “good”, good teacher – someone you might learn from…  But Jesus wouldn’t let him do that.

‘I’m not good, I’m God’ Jesus basically says to the man.  ‘You want me to be good teacher but actually I am God and as God I call you to relinquish all other loves, all other things (idols) you have worshipped or put your trust into’…

Teachers don’t make demands, but God does.  Only God is worthy of our worship, our trust, our full attention.  Sadly, the man doesn’t want to let go of what he loves, let go of what he is trusting and holding on to in order to hold on to God alone.

We need to come to God, relinquishing other loves, other things we place our trust in, love Him with all our heart would, mind and strength, knowing that to relinquish all to get God is in fact to get more than all we ever had (vs29-30).

Come boldly with faith

Lastly in this little grouping is the blind beggar, who cried out loudly for Jesus to have mercy on him.  He pressed through etiquette, pressed through the opinions of others and boldly got his request before Jesus.

Jesus interpreted this boldness and this determined action as faith (vs42)!  Faith that Jesus was God and that Jesus could heal him was the fire that motivated him to call out so boldly.

Sometimes I/we come to Jesus in prayer that is so far removed from this man’s bold faith, we come apologetically masking often our lack of conviction that God is able or that God does want to answer with words hat are anything but bold.

Let’s come as God’s beloved children with faith when we pray.