Prayer

Yahweh! (Psalm 16)

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1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 

This Psalm starts with a request that is so relevant to our lives today. God, would you please protect or preserve me! Do this God please because I take refuge in You alone because I have made You my security!

The request reveals some underlying beliefs;

  • David believes that God is able to preserve him
  • David believes that God knows him personally
  • David believes that God is a refuge worthy of trust
  • David believes that God rewards & responds to personal faith 

What we pray reveals what we believe. Prayer is not some cosmic game of darts or insurance scheme. Prayer is personal; prayer is powerful because God is personal, and God is omnipotent.

2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 

The HCSB translation translates vs2 in the following way; “I said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides You.”  David uses Israel’s name for God and appeals to the personal, covenantal relationship God has established as the foundation for his appeal in prayer. He says essentially, ‘Yahweh; You are my LORD! And all the good in my life I attribute to You!’

Yahweh is the source of every good thing in our lives because He is good and because He established a gracious, loving covenant with us who believe in Him.

David declares that there is, in fact, NOTHING GOOD that is in his life that did not come from God. Or said another way, there is no good outside of God.  

This declaration takes us back to the original sin. Adam and Eve believed the enemy when He tempted them with the insidious thought that God was not good – tempting them into thinking that there was something good, something better for their lives in disobedience rather than in obedience to God’s spoken word. 

Brothers and sisters, there is never any good outside of our God. Sin promised good to Adam and Eve outside of God; sin always promises some good, some fulfilment but Scripture declares here that there is no good outside of God.

Personal reflection: 

Is there any way in which at the moment the enemy is tempting me with something which might feel or look ‘good’ but is, in fact, just you looking for good outside of God and God’s will? See it for what it is, a lie and a trap. Declare today with David that there is no good outside of God and His will for your life.

4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. 

Since there is no good outside of God, for anyone to ‘run after’ anything other than Yahweh is futile.  

No other ‘gods’ or people or created things can deliver as they promise, can satiate our longings or be the sanctuary and refuge we need.

But note that sin isn’t just the absence of God. No sin is active; sin multiplies sorrow, and sadness! Sin results in multiplied sorrow since the good God had for you is forfeited plus, the path you chose outside of God and His revealed will for your life has no good in it anyway either (vs2). So to choose a lifestyle of sin and compromise only multiplies your sorrow and loss!

As a pastor for nearly 20yrs, I have seen the truth of this verse over and over and over again. Sin multiplies sorrow, don’t believe for a minute that you’ll be the exception.

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 

The better way to live is to resolve that God is our portion – He is enough for us. God ‘You hold my future’ the HCSB translation says.  

In His sovereignty and His love, God has determined the details of our lives, where we live, the arrangements of our lives (work, family, job, timing…) and contentment with that which God has ordained is good for us!

This Psalm doesn’t bluntly declare that all circumstances we encounter and endure are good or pleasant. Rather it expresses faith (‘inheritance’ is in the future), for when good can’t be seen or isn’t being experienced, God is all we need. More than that, trust is expressed here that God has our good in mind somehow in whatever we are facing in the present.

7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 

David knows what it’s like to need counsel in the night, to awake disturbed by worry but then to have God draw alongside us and settle us in our innermost being with His presence. Because God is our God, our everpresent Help in trouble, because God is always at our right hand, we can go back to sleep knowing; “I will not be shaken”!

Our fortitude is not in some stoic stand but founded on the firm foundation that God is with us always.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Exultation! Everything inside of us rejoices, peace comes upon us, because we know God is with us. We will never be abandoned even if we die. For even when we do die, God will resurrect us who have believed in Jesus to new and eternal life in God’s presence forever and ever – joy indescribable.

Personal Prayer:

Thank God that because you have believed in Jesus your eternal future is secure, that even in death you can be secure because you know that death is not a termination but a transition to eternal life with God forever and ever!

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What are you devoted to? (Colossians 4:2)

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What are you devoted to in your life? What things are you committed and dedicated to with your time? Is it prayer?

Perhaps your life is devoted to your job; you want to be successful and do your job well. Maybe it’s your family, or your goal is to excel at a specific sport. Though none of these things is wrong, be careful of being more devoted to them than the things that will draw you closer to Jesus.

I think many people pray in times of crisis and need, even those who don’t follow Jesus. That, however, is not being devoted to prayer. Being devoted to something is committing time and energy into it; giving it a place of prominence in your life.

Prayer isn’t always easy, sometimes it can feel like hard work, but remember who you get to speak to when you pray. Because of Jesus, we get to enter the throne room of the King of kings and talk to him, who made the universe. The most amazing part is that he loves you and cares for you and wants to hear what’s in your heart. Ponder that for a moment. It is a privilege.

Along with devoting ourselves to prayer, Paul encourages the Colossians to do so with an alert mind and a thankful heart. When I was thinking about this, I realized he is saying that because we have the tendency to become dull and unaware of influences around us and we are naturally selfish.

Reading your Bible and speaking to Jesus, letting him know what’s in your heart, will make you alert and thankful because you’ll be allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your heart. It’s also important to be alert to what’s happening in the world around you and your community so that you aren’t just aware of your own life and needs. So, read the news, and you’ll have many things to pray for, that aren’t self-centred. Paul was wise in saying we should have grateful hearts when we pray because prayer is way more than coming to God with a list of requests, or even demands.

Prayer is about recognizing who He is and being in awe of that; which will produce joy and hope in our hearts. It’s about asking him for what we need and trusting that he knows what’s best for us. It’s about yielding to him and believing that he has a plan for our lives which goes beyond our understanding.

I have found that reading the Psalms has helped me in prayer. It has helped me with what words to use to praise God. God wants to hear everything that’s in your heart; the good the bad and the ugly. He isn’t shocked by your prayers of anger; he knew you were thinking like that before you spoke the words. Be open with him and ask him to change and transform you as you yield yourself to his will.

So, are you devoting yourself to prayer? If you know the answer is no, then take decisive action. Join the church prayer meetings, set time aside to speak to Jesus and get into a habit of talking to him throughout the day. He welcomes you with a big smile and arms wide open.

Nadine is one of the elder’s wives at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.

Devoted to Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

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 1 Timothy 2 is a fairly controversial book in the bible (as we will see in the days ahead), and yet it starts out with a relatively simple purpose. Paul says that people that have been changed by the gospel should be characterized by prayer and faith in the god who saves. This section flows from verse one, so lets unpack this a little:

Paul starts by saying “First of all, then…” This means that Paul is referring to all that he said in chapter 1, especially the contrast in character between the false teachers and those whose lives have been radically changed by the gospel. We must bare this contrast in mind when reading chapter 2.

First of all, then, I urge that …” Just as in chapter one, Paul isn’t wasting time or mincing his words. Remember, this is wartime for the believers. The word ‘urge’ is the same Greek word that we find in 1 Tim 1:3 & 5. It is a command of urgency and importance. Furthermore, his use of the phrase “first of all” suggests that, whatever Paul is going to mention next, it is the most fundamental thing that we should focus on.

“First of all, then, I urge that “supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made…” The urgent command, of first importance to those who have put their faith in Jesus, is that they should pray. We must be a people of prayer. We should bend our knees and orientate our hearts to the one who gave us eternal life. Our lives should be characterized by our devotion to prayer. Paul’s purpose in mentioning different types of prayer is to highlight its importance and how often it should be a feature of our lives. At different times, as we are praying for different things or people, we should be praying different types of prayers.

I find this to be incredibly challenging, and I don’t think I am alone here! I think most of us will read about the importance and preeminence that prayer should have in our lives, and we will feel a sense of guilt or condemnation. We will say things like “I should be praying more” or “I should know what to pray for”, and too easily our prayers become about our performance rather than God’s grace. We can start to focus on our words rather than His glory. We forget that prayer is about experiencing the God who inclines His ear, and instead we try to strife and earn our way into the presence of God.

If this is you (which means you are like me!) then don’t miss the effect of prayer on the believer in 1 Timothy 2. Prayer should be an all-encompassing reality for the believer, but as we see in the passage, prayers from believers with a sincere faith will look a certain way. In verse two, we read that as we pray, we will be progressively transformed into quiet, peaceful, godly and dignified lives. In every way! So the cycle is that our prayers affect our lives, and our lives then affect our prayers. Our prayers will become peaceful – not condemning. Our prayers will become dignified – not self-deprecating. Our prayers focus on God and his marvelous grace – not our performance.

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. Why do you think that prayer is so important to Paul?  
  2. Who does Paul urgently instruct us to pray for?
  3. What parts of your life might you need to change to be obedient to God’s Word regarding prayer?

LEADERSHIP NOTE:

This section is especially important for leaders to consider and apply to their lives. Leaders can be so easily shaped by the performance culture that is all around us – rather than be transformed by the humbling habit of regular prayer. If leaders do not regularly bend their knees in private, they should not open their mouths in public.

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?

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!

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.