Prayer Is Not Counseling God!

-We Don’t Know What’s Best!

I’m afraid that many people treat prayer as their opportunity to counsel God on certain matters! We ought never pray like we’re trying to convince God that we know what’s best— As if the eternal all-wise God, who knows the end from the beginning & everything in between, needs our advice for anything! His eternal plans, for creation, were already laid out before the world began! The writer, of Acts, reminds us that  “The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things” Acts 17:24-27.

-God Doesn’t Need Our Counsel!

When it comes to prayer, let’s get one thing straight:  GOD DOESN’T NEED ANYTHING… INCLUDING OUR COUNSEL! He didn’t create us because of some deficiency, hoping that we could fix Him! There’s a clear, underlying message in Jesus’ response to His disciples question, “Lord, teach us to pray!” God doesn’t need us! We need Him! According to Jesus’ response, in Matthew 6, prayer is to be “GOD-CENTERED.” “Pray like this,” He says; and, He begins with the “Father.” Not with us! By the way He didn’t tell them to memorize it & repeat it mindlessly— “Our Father, who art in heaven…blah, blah, blah.” But, “…pray LIKE THIS…” He said. This is “how” we’re supposed to pray! It’s Jesus’ model prayer!

-Don’t Try Twisting God’s Arm!

Rather than making prayer our attempt to twist God’s arm over something we want Him to do, prayer should begin with a focus on God, the Father! Start your conversation, with the Creator of the universe, by honoring Him for His character! Praise Him for who He is! Don’t rush into His presence like your schedule is what matters— “Here’s my grocery list of needs, God! Will You go shopping for me?” Show Him reverence when you pray! You’re entering the throne room of Heaven! God transcends so far above anything on your agenda! There’s an order here! You’re kingdom 1st, Father! Our greatest desire should be that God’s name is hallowed, admired & cherished! And, He’s “our” Father too, Jesus says. Never get over that great Doctrine of Adoption— that God has birthed us into His family!

-We Become His Children!

Though we were born children of wrath, because of our sin, He adopts us into His family in Christ! We’re FAMILY! Depend on Him like He’s family because HE IS! We’re brothers, sisters, and joint-heirs with Jesus Himself! And, then, Jesus models prayer by moving from the Father’s  character to His “KINGDOM”— “YOUR kingdom come. YOUR will be done on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN” Matthew 6:10. So, pray like this, Jesus says— Pray for the Father’s KINGDOM & for His WILL!  If we’re praying like Jesus taught us to pray, our primary concern will be for the Father’s Glory! For the advancement of His kingdom! Our prayers will be “GOD-CENTERED.”  Take note of the things you pray for! Are your prayers motivated by your dreams & goals; or, by God’s eternal kingdom & His will & plans?  Mature believers pray for God’s will above their own!

 

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Lord, Teach Us To Pray!

-Bad Prayer Habits Abound!

I want to begin this series of posts, on the subject of prayer, by sharing, with you, the results of a survey of the “Top Ten Bad Prayer Habits.” Here they are:  #10—”My Prayers Are Just A Grocery List!” #9—”I Make My Grocery List During My Prayer Time!” #8—”I Only Pray By Myself!” #7—”I See Prayer Only As My Personal Wish List!” #6—”I Always Pray The Same Thing & Get Bored!” #5—”I Only Pray When I’m In A Crisis!” #4—”I Do All The Talking While I Pray!” #3—”I Can’t Stay Focused While I Pray!” #2—”I’m Just Too Busy To Start My Day With Prayer!” And, #1—”I Don’t Pray At All!” Can you identify with any of that? I can! I’m guessing we’ve all had; or, still do, have some bad prayer habits. Now, if you claim to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, you can see how that would be a bit problematic if you don’t pray at all, right?

-Praying Like Jesus!

There’s an amazing New Testament text, about prayer,  in Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus was praying; and, when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray!” Now, let me share my take on that scenario. I see it kind of like one of our typical church prayer meetings! Jesus and His disciples are all gathered in a circle praying; and, the disciples have their little prayer lists—  “God, keep us safe from the Romans… Help Zebedee catch lots of fish today… Help us not to get leprosy! That’s been going around… Oh, and bless the missionaries!” And, when they finish they look up & Jesus is still praying! Minutes pass by! Maybe an hour! We don’t know! The text doesn’t tell us. But, I get the idea that things begin to feel a bit awkward as the inadequacy of their own prayer lives becomes evident. Maybe they start whispering among themselves, as they often did:  “Hey, ask Him how to pray!” “I’m not gonna ask Him, that would be embarrassing! It’d be like admitting I don’t know how to pray!” However it actually worked out, one of them wrenches up the courage to ask him:  “Lord, teach US how to pray!” Not “ME”; but, “US”! So, Jesus tells them how to pray! We need to pay attention here, church! To summarize, He tells them never to pray like they’re counseling God!

-When You Pray!

He told them: “…you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one...” Matthew 6:9-13. If you were to underline or highlight any of Jesus’ words here, I’d go back to v.5 “…whenever you pray…”; v. 6 “..when you pray…”; v.7 “…when you pray…”; and, “…pray like this…” in v.9.   Over the next couple posts, we’ll dig deeper into Jesus’ instruction about prayer! And, spoiler alert, Jesus makes it clear that God doesn’t need us to tell Him what to do! That’s not prayer! Don’t hang out a shingle and try to be “God’s Counselor”! Jesus tells them that prayer is how we align ourselves with God’s Sovereign plans!

 

Honoring Jesus With Our Gender!

-The Culture Doesn’t Get It!

We honor Jesus in our hearts when we obey Him with our lifestyles! And, by our obedient lifestyle, we create curiosity! The answer the culture is giving, about our sexual identity, isn’t working! And, it never will! But, when we live, sexually, in obedience to God’s word, we earn the right to share it when the world gets curious— to share with them the Gospel and God’s purpose for gender. This is difficult subject matter! It’s layered with lots of abuse & painful injuries dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden; and, it’s just not easy to jump into without laying a foundation of understanding with empathy and love.

-Say It With Empathy & Love!

And, that is what the world needs from us— understanding, empathy and love! It’s simply not helpful when, instead, we offer them self-righteous judgment and vindictiveness! So, let me try and unpack some of the main points from the first 2 chapters of Genesis; especially, as it relates to gender & sexual identity. We need to take note of some of the implications it plays for our homes, our families, and, how it plays into our child rearing. Keep in mind,   from an interpretive standpoint of the text, that Genesis ch.1 presents the “Big Picture” of God’s creative act; and, ch. 2 fills in the “details.” Chapter 1 is like the Super Bowl headlines the day after—  “Patriots Win The Most Boring Super Bowl Ever”; and, ch.2 is like the story that fills in the details how the Patriots pummeled the Rams into submission.

-What Shapes Our Opinions?

Let’s also remember the most important detail as a Follower of Jesus Christ—  When determining our roles, as men and women, God’s Word must shape our opinions, not the culture! And, perhaps, the most significant point, of the text, is that God created humanity to reflect HIS IMAGE.  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth’” ch. 1:26.  God created humanity to function as His living image over the creation; and, I believe it’s correct to interpret “man” here as “mankind”; including, BOTH man & woman! I believe the next verse bears that out—  God created humanity to bear His image as MALE & FEMALE!

-God Created Maleness & Femaleness!

The text says, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female”  ch. 1:27. Our “maleness” and our “femaleness” are essential parts of being God’s image bearers! Somehow—and, I don’t want to get “weird” here—but, somehow it seems that God is saying that it was in the “complementing” or the “completing” of the man with the creation of woman, that humanity was created in the image of God. That image wasn’t clear or evident until woman complemented God’s creation of man. So, here’s my plea:  Men & Women! We need each other to correctly image God in His creation! When we grasp the significance of that we’ll begin to glory in both “MANHOOD” & “WOMANHOOD.” Together, we are God’s intentional design of human diversity!

 

God’s Glory Is A Big Deal!

-He Alone Deserves The Glory!

God deserves all glory because He alone has designed everything & His Name is ON everything! It’s His Name that adds value to humanity & to the rest of creation! So, when we speak about God’s Glory we define it as, “the essence & beauty of His Spirit.” We’re not referring to His material or aesthetic beauty—like we typically define human beauty—but, to the beauty of His Character—to all that He IS! John Piper defines God’s Glory as, “the manifest beauty of His Holiness.” Holiness points to His absolute “uniqueness.”

-One-Of-A-Kind God!

He is ONE-OF-A-KIND! He is in a totally separate “class” all by Himself! There is no other God like Him! “O nations of the world, recognize the Lord, recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong. Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor” 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 NLT. God’s Glory is a really big deal to God; and, it’s a big deal in the Holy Scriptures! The GOAL of ALL things is God’s Glory! And, I’m not overstating that one iota! Let’s not forget that there is GOD & there is “everything He created!” That’s it! There is nothing else! And, in the original creation—before SIN—God declared that all of creation was GOOD! Why? Because ALL of creation reflected God’s beauty;  so, it ALL brought Him… GLORY!

-Redirecting All Praise!

In similar fashion we say that an artist’s painting is a reflection of the artist & the artist’s work brings him a certain “glory”! God has blessed humanity with certain creative abilities; but, they’re all SMALL “c—creative” because ALL mankind’s creative abilities were received from the CAPITAL “C—CREATOR” God. So, every “artist”—who is a true disciple of Jesus—will redirect all praise received to CREATOR God! In part, that is one way that we bring God Glory—by redirecting all praise & compliments received to God who created us with those abilities! We acknowledge that whatever TALENT or ABILITY we have is ON LOAN from God! It ultimately belongs to Him! Our greatest preoccupation must be with God’s Glory because that’s our reason & purpose for existence!

-Mandated To Give God Glory!

Here’s an observation from the 1st Chronicles 16 text—“the writer, King David, was inspired by God’s Spirit to offer this MANDATE regarding God’s Glory.”  This is an imperative or a command to “…declare God’s Glory…” v.28.  When David became king, he determined to make worship a priority again in Israel! And, one of his 1st acts was to return the Ark of the Covenant, which had been neglected under King Saul, back to Jerusalem! And, in the process, David preaches this great message that is included as the inspired Word of God. That means it’s AUTHORITATIVE—NOT because David said it; but, because God INSPIRED him to say it! So, “…DECLARE God’s glory,” he says! Don’t just study it and keep it to yourself! We’re commanded to declare it; and, that’s a general statement that means to declare it EVERYWHERE to everyone!

 

The Glory Due His Name!

-But We Are Self-Focused!

Why do “resolutions” at the start of a new year rarely work? I recently did a GOOGLE search for “New Year’s Resolutions” and came up with 18,600,000 hits in 0.54 seconds. There are more than 18 million articles, blogs, posts, sites, and news stories dedicated to the subject of New Year Resolutions! What does that mean? Well, I’d say, among other things, it means that people are always longing for change! They’re looking for strategies and formulas to help them eat less, exercise more, quit smoking…yada, yada, yada! Can I make an observation? Full disclosure here—I am NOT against “New Years Resolutions”! I am not against “Self Improvement”! But, I’ve come to believe that the reason “New Years Resolutions” and other methods for “Self Improvement” aren’t very successful is because they’re all “SELF” focused!

-We Need A Savior!

And, as a Bible believer and disciple, of Jesus Christ, I agree with the doctrine of man’s fallenness! I see the depravity and brokenness in my own life! I’ve learned I can’t trust my fallen nature; so, I’m not surprised by my inability to keep promises & resolutions to myself! I need help! I need a Savior! Here’s what I’ve seen in my life and the lives of countless others through the years—when I quit focusing on myself; and, I focus my heart, my thoughts & my energy on Jesus Christ, CHANGE begins to happen! Personal change happens when I quit being all absorbed in myself & look at Jesus over and over again—MEDITATE on Him! MEMORIZE His words!

-Preoccupied With God!

For change to take place, our greatest preoccupation must be with God & His Glory! We exist for His Glory! So, if we don’t live our lives for His Glory we miss our purpose; or, our very reason for existence! We live a wasted life! I don’t like the sound of that; and, I’m sure you don’t either! Preaching on the doctrine of “God’s Glory” is difficult because it’s as deep as God’s character, which is eternal, inexhaustible and indefinable! It’s also difficult because it’s easily misunderstood—“Why is God so concerned about His Glory? He must be some kind of GLORY HOG!” And, then, it’s difficult to understand the part we play in bringing God glory! All of which means that we don’t really know how to define it adequately, do we?

-A Working Definition Of “Glory”!

Let me try and illustrate “glory” for you. While stopping at a store, in Hollywood, Christian music artist, LeCrae, pulled a very ordinary, plain, cotton T-shirt off a rack to check it’s price. Thinking it had to be mismarked, he pulled another one only to find the same price on the tag. Incredulous, he approached the sales clerk to question the exorbitant price of $640. He was told that was the “special” sales price! When he asked what could possibly make it so special, the clerk said, “It’s the designer’s name on it that adds value to it.” Get the illustration? The reason God alone deserves all glory is because He’s the DESIGNER of everything! His NAME is on everything! And, it’s His Name that adds value to it! So, when we speak about God’s Glory we define it as “the ESSENCE & BEAUTY of His Spirit”; or, the beauty of His Character!

 

Worship God Rightly!

-Not All Worship Is Truly Worship!

It’s been my experience that many, who claim to be followers of Jesus, do not worship God rightly! I’ve found many who claim to be worshipers; but, their worship fails to resemble what God commands worship to look like in Scripture.  A great example, of Biblical worship, can be found in King David’s Holy Spirit inspired message, to Israel, about proper worship. Just open your Bibles, to 1 Chronicles 16; and, you’ll see what I mean.

-Worship God With Offerings!

Among other things, David commands the congregation to worship God with their “offerings”—“…ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness” (v.29). Don’t come to worship God empty-handed! Remember that we are “stewards” and “managers” of God’s stuff, not OWNERS! God owns ALL of our stuff! We’ve been given the responsibility to manage a portion of “God’s ESTATE.” God is the owner of it all! And, worship has always included an offering!

-Worship God For His Creation!

David also led Israel to worship God for His creation—“…the world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is King!’ Let the sea and everything in it resound; let the fields and all that is in them exult. Then the trees of the forest will shout for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth”(v.30-33).  ALL of creation—the HEAVENS, the EARTH, the SEA & everything in it; the FIELDS and all that is in it; the TREES of the forest—ALL worship Yahweh, David says! At Jesus’ triumphal entry, into Jerusalem, when the Pharisees told Him to rebuke His disciples for giving Him honor as Messiah, Jesus told them that “…if they kept silent, the very ROCKS would cry out…”  We are called to worship God for the wonder of His creation AND for the wonder that all creation worships Him!

-Worship God Now!

And, then, David instructs Israel to worship God NOW because they’ll be worshiping God for all eternity—“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. And say: “Save us, God of our salvation; gather us and rescue us from the nations so that we may give thanks to Your holy name and rejoice in Your praise. May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting” (v.34). We don’t know a lot about heaven; but, worship will be part of it!

-Worship Beyond Imagination!

It’s a clear sign that a believer hasn’t spent a lot of time in prayer & the Word—seeking after God—when they express fear that an eternity in heaven may get boring!  After a BILLION years, we’ll still not know our God completely! But, I’m certain I will find Him more fascinating than all the Super Bowls & Star Trek reruns I’ve ever watched! As David finished his sermon, the text says that all the people said “Amen” and “Praise The Lord” (v.36).  And, there was great joy as God dwelt with His people. The disciples also had great joy as God, the Messiah, dwelt with them during his 3 1/2 year ministry leading up to the cross. And, in heaven, Revelation reveals that “God will dwell among us”; and, forever we’ll worship Him!

 

Worshipers Remember God’s Work!

-Don’t Forget What He’s Done!

Have you ever considered that a proper worship of God includes your “memories”? It’s not proper worship to be disengaged with our minds! King David tells Israel to worship God by remembering all that’s He’s done for them:  “Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced” 1 Chronicles 16:12.  In other words, give testimony to the work that God is doing; and, has done in your life! “Let the redeemed of the LORD proclaim that He has redeemed them from the hand of the foe” Psalm 107:2. We worship God when we stand, before our church faith community, and testify to the way God is working in our lives! The NIV actually translates Psalm 107:2 like this:  “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story…”

-God’s Working In You!

If you’re truly seeking after God, in your life, He will show you how busy He is in your life! Your life will be intentional and purposeful! You’ll have “stories” to tell of the wonderful ways that God is at work. Notice that David follows that up by telling Israel to worship God by remembering His covenants! I’m thinking we don’t do this enough—at least not in my church! We don’t remember enough & rehearse enough that God is a covenant-keeping God:  “Remember His covenant forever—the promise He ordained for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, swore to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob as a decree, and to Israel as an everlasting covenant” 1 Chronicles 16:14-22.

-Remember The New Covenant!

At the “Last Supper”—on the night that He was betrayed—Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” REMEMBER the New Covenant, He says! Here’s why we can be secure in our salvation—because God has made a covenant to save us when we put our faith in Christ’s work on the cross; and, He keeps us saved & seals us through that covenant confirmed by Jesus’ shed blood! And, then David turns his attention to the nations—”Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Proclaim His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples” 1 Chronicles 16:23.  Making disciples, of Christ, is worship!

-We Worship By Making Disciples!

The making of disciples is NOT just a New Testament “thing”!  It was never God’s plan, for Israel, to keep His salvation to themselves! David continues, “…all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens…”; “Ascribe to the Lord, families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” 1 Chronicles 16: 26,28. Israel, like the Church, was to be a peculiar people and a priesthood, of believers, to the world! It is the destiny, of future history, that one day, “…every TRIBE, every NATION & every PEOPLE GROUP will be gathered around the throne of God to WORSHIP Him…” Revelation 7:9.   Have you ever considered that it’s an act of worship when we make disciples? It honors Jesus’ commission! REMEMBER THAT!