How God Uses Prayer!

-To Show His Great Power!

A survey of God’s Word reveals how God uses prayer, in our lives, in a number of ways. In this post I want to ask you to consider how God will often answer your prayers, with a display of power, in order to strengthen your faith! In Acts, chapter 12, we find the Apostle Peter imprisoned by King Herod. So the text says that the church was earnestly praying for his release.  With great power, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, in the prison, where Peter was being held; and, released him from his chains & then escorted him out of the prison, safely passing 2 separate guard posts and out through an iron gate! From there, it says, “When he (Peter) realized this (that the Angel freed him), he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many had assembled and were praying. He knocked at the door in the gateway, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gateway.  ‘You’re crazy!’ they told her. But she kept insisting that it was true. Then they said, ‘It’s his angel!’ Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astounded. Motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he explained to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison” Acts 12:12-17.

-To Astound You!

They were astounded! I’ve often thought about Herod, and his guards, when reading this text! What a display of power was evidenced to release Peter from his chains and imprisonment! But, the same display of power God used to confront Herod & the Jews, with their helplessness to stop Him when He determines to do something according to His Sovereign plans, is the same power display that God uses to strengthen our faith! The same display of power that buckled & weakened the knees of unbelievers, strengthened the faith of believers! When you study the Gospels, you see that Jesus kept growing the faith of His disciples! For 3 1/2 years He kept convincing them that the work of God can never be done in the power of the flesh; or, by the world’s methods.; but, by the supernatural power of God alone. God wants to engage us in prayer so we see His power.

-To Build Your Faith!

God also intends to build our faith & belief , in Him, as He answers our prayers. Why do we see the supernatural work, of God, in the book of Acts? Chapter 2:42 says the believers, ““…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” The early church was birthed in prayer! It says they DEVOTED themselves to prayer!  James identified that prayer was a problem for some: “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires”  (ch. 4:3)  God doesn’t answer selfish prayers! He does, however, answer the prayers of helplessness & utter dependence on His power! Jesus taught His disciples that God answers prayers that are God-centered & God-focused! So, how might your prayers need to change?

 

Prayer That Views God As Sovereign!

-Why Do We Ask “Why”?

Whenever we experience something painful, it’s so typical for us to ask “WHY” isn’t it? Why me? Why do I have to go through this? Hannah’s story, in 1 Samuel, is particularly eye-opening! When she found herself unable to conceive & have children,  it would have been normal for her to ask, “Why am I unable to have a baby?” The Scripture addresses that “WHY” question:  “…the LORD had KEPT HER from conceiving…because the LORD had KEPT Hannah from conceiving…” 1 Samuel 1:5-6.  God takes credit for her inability to conceive! While doctors may have come up with a “medical reason” to explain it, God’s Sovereign control was actually behind the human “medical reason.”

-Praying In The LORD’S Presence!

Hannah responded to her condition by going to the source— “…she continued praying in the LORD’S presence” v.10,12.  Above all our human problems & conditions is God’s Sovereignty! Now, I know that many believers just don’t wanna credit God with that much Sovereignty. They’d rather say that God “ALLOWED” it; but, He’s not really the “CAUSE.” And, they believe they’re “protecting” God’s reputation in doing so! But, listen, if God is not Sovereign over every event & over everything else than you either have to believe that Satan is just as powerful as God; and, there really is a “BATTLE” going on between good & evil; and, God might not win! Or, you have to believe that man’s “FREE WILL” is Sovereign & trumps God’s will!

-Sovereign & Omnipotent!

I believe that the Scriptures tell us that God is both Sovereign and omnipotent! And, in Exodus 4:11, when God said to Moses, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?” that God was taking Sovereign credit for such things as blindness, deafness, and the inability to speak! In His absolute wisdom, He uses the pain & suffering, we endure in this world, for our good & for His glory! It was because Hannah saw her inability to bear children as part of God’s Sovereign plan, that she prayed with a motivation for God’s glory. She saw her negative circumstance as God’s opportunity to bring Himself glory!

-God’s Sovereign Plans For Your Kids!

All the years of barrenness helped Hannah realize something that many parents never comprehend— that children aren’t just for PARENTS! They are for the LORD! God has HIS design for your kids! And, they ultimately belong to HIM! Are you more into your plans for your kids; or, His plans? Hannah’s not bargaining with God, in her prayer! He doesn’t bargain with anyone! Out of her painful experience God had changed her. He had used her suffering to prepare her heart to give her child to God, Who gave it! “After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, I requested him from the Lord… though the boy was still young, she took him to the LORD’S house at Shiloh” vs. 20-24. Hannah saw it as her great privilege to give her son to the Lord for His purpose!

 

Created With Specific Tasks!

-Adam & Eve Created To Be A Team!

After creating Adam & Eve, God gave them specific duties as male & female. The text says, “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth” Genesis 1:28.  There were several things He outlined for them to do— be fruitful & multiply; and, fill the earth & subdue it; and, have dominion over all things! And, notice, it says that God blessed “THEM.” This was to be a “team” effort! God never intended for it to be a “MAN’S World.”

-Complementary Roles!

The woman complemented the man in fulfilling these duties! And, then we turn the page, of Scripture, to Genesis chapter 2, where we’re given the “details” of creation that had only been skimmed in chapter 1.  God gives them different “roles” or “duties” to fulfill— COMPLEMENTARY ROLES! They fit together by God’s creative design! He created man 1st to work the Garden— “The Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.   The Lord God planted a garden in Eden… The Lord God took the man & placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” ch. 2:7-8, 15.

-God’s Charge To Adam!

Interestingly, God also created man 1st with a charge to obey: “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” ch. 2:16-17.  So, God’s command NOT to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil was given to Adam, NOT Eve! Have you ever noticed that before?

-Where’s Adam?

The text details Eve’s arrival starting with v.18.  That’s significant! Which begs the question, “where was Adam”, when Satan shows up in chapter 3 and tempts Eve with the condemned fruit? Adam had received the instruction not to eat from the tree & he should have been Eve’s support to obey the command he’d been given! So, God declares, in v.18, the key to understanding God’s design for the sexes:  “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” Adam couldn’t carry out his duties without her!

-Adam Couldn’t Do It Without Her!

He couldn’t be fruitful & multiply without HER! He couldn’t fill the earth & subdue it without HER! In a very dramatic way God convinced Adam that it was impossible for him to make it on his own! By delaying His creation of Eve, Adam came to recognize how important she was! God created the sexes NOT for competition; but, for cooperation, to complement! It’s hopeless to make life work, on planet Earth, the one without the other! God designed us for interdependence— MEN, you can’t do what you were created to do without women; and, WOMEN, you can’t do what you were created to do without men! That’s not what the culture says! But, the culture is WRONG! The culture didn’t design men & women. Can you imagine how different, how perfect, this world would be if it still looked like it did in Genesis 1,2?

 

What Do You Love More Than God?

-Are There Competing Loves?

When Jesus told the rich young ruler to, “Go, sell your belongings and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” he confronted him with the one thing in his life that was competing for a relationship with God—his wealth! The text continues, “…but, when the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions” Mark 10:17-27.  Let’s be clear—Jesus didn’t tell everyone to sell all their possessions and give it to the poor. Only to those, who made their possessions an idol, does He tell to get rid of it!

-Do You Want To Be Rich?

And, it’s not just about HAVING riches! The Apostle Paul says, “…those who WANT to BE RICH fall into temptations, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction” 1 Timothy 6:9.  It’s not having riches, necessarily, that are the temptation and trap. It’s the WANTING to BE RICH! I’ve known people who were dirt poor and fell into this trap! It was the “lust” they had to BE RICH that ruled their life! It was the idol they bowed down to—WANTING to BE RICH! Those who love money, whether they have it or not, are easily deceived by it!

-The Root Of All Kinds Of Evil!

Paul continued his warning to Timothy, “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:10. In other words, it’s that covetous love for money that can give rise to all kinds of other deadly sins. When the “love of money” is your life’s ambition, you’ll sell out everything to get it—even your relationship with God! You’ll do whatever it takes to gain more money; and, to gain more stuff! But, you’ll never be content!

-Godliness With Contentment!

Paul told Timothy that it was “…godliness with contentment that is great gain”; and, “…if we have food and clothing we should be content with these” 1 Timothy 6:6,8.  Our greatest “return on investment” comes from a life that finds contentment in God alone! If we have God! If we know Him! If He is our treasure, than food and clothing is all we really need in this life! Paul tells Timothy that it’s possible to be content with those simple necessities of life because we have all that we really need in God! Do you believe that? Do you live that way? Are you content?

-Free From The Love For Money!

God inspired the writer of Hebrews to record these words: “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. For He has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5,6.  We can be FREE from the love of money! We can be content with what we have because God will never forsake us! He’ll never fail me! The stock market will fail me; but, God never will! So, how do you spend your money? Jesus said, “…where your heart is, there your treasure will be…” If you treasure stuff, that’s where your heart will follow! If you treasure God’s work, that’s where your heart will follow!

 

Do I Really Own My Stuff?

-Or, Am I A Manager?

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that question! If you don’t listen to the Word of God—when it comes to your finances & your stuff—you’ll forfeit something. God will oppose you as long as you live like an “owner” of YOUR stuff rather than a “steward” or a “manager” of HIS. The prophet, Malachi, was inspired by God’s Spirit to write: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed ME! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9.

-God Owns It All!

Clearly, God means for us to understand that our resources are not ours to use however we may wish! In my last post I challenged you with Scripture that makes it clear that God owns ALL of it! He doesn’t just get our tithe & offerings; and, the rest is ours to spend on ourselves! He owns it ALL—Deuteronomy 10:14; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:26. As stewards, we are responsible for managing the portion of HIS “estate”—that He has entrusted to us—the way that HE wants it to be managed! We don’t really have the freedom to do what we want with it! Our responsibility is to spend it the way He directs us! We have to get this right, Church! You’re the STEWARD of your stuff, not the OWNER! Repeat that our loud! You need to convince yourself of that!

-Do A Financial Audit!

Here’s what you need to do—you need to do an AUDIT of your finances! And, if God’s Spirit shows you that you’ve been living like an owner instead of a steward, you need to “repent.” Literally, to “repent” means to “change your mind” about something. If you’ve not been obedient, in this area, you need to repent & change your mind about the way you’ve been living! And, I would challenge you to make it a matter of prayer, every day, to release your stuff back to God! Talk to Him every day, about it, and, give it all back to Him. And, how will you know if you’re making progress? Well, you’ll begin to experience freedom from greed, first of all! When it’s part of your mindset that none of your stuff is really yours, you’ll also begin to experience a freedom from the anxiety that a love of money can bring. It’s all Gods anyway; and, He’s promised to take care of you! So, your dependence transfers from your IRA to God, right?

-Don’t Wander From The Faith!

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his son in the faith, with these words: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Catch the gravity of Paul’s warning to young Timothy? He tells him that the way he looks at his money & his stuff has a direct correlation to his relationship with God! And, if he gets it wrong he’s in danger of “financial apostasy”; or, wandering from the faith! Don’t do that!

 

That Tension Between Our Flesh & Spirit!

-Do You Feel It?

If you’re a genuine “born again” follower of Jesus Christ it’s a tension you live with every day! Your spirit longs to be rid of sin; and, you know, from Scripture & intuitively, that you’ve been set free from the “power” of sin! It doesn’t rule over you as it once did! You’ve experienced victory over many sins that once controlled you! At the same time, your broken, totally depraved flesh continues to lust after sin.  Sometimes that tension between doing what your flesh demands & what your spirit wants is such a burden that the weight, of it, overcomes you and you slip back, temporarily, into an old sin!

-That’s Not What I Want To Do!

The Apostle Paul nailed it when he confessed: “When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?” Romans 7:21-24. It’s in that tension—in the battle between our spirit & our flesh—that God progressively sanctifies, or, changes us. An “unchanged” believer is a contradiction in terms! If you’re not changed; and, being changed you’re not saved! You’re not a genuine believer; or, follower of Jesus. Jesus, Himself, said there will always be “fruit” to evidence genuine faith (Matthew 13).

-Putting Self Back On The Cross!

If our faith is real, God is moving us toward the completion of our faith! He’s moving us toward the Day of Glorification, when we become like Jesus permanently! Until that day, God will continue to transform us into the image of Christ by overcoming our remaining sin in the same way that Jesus overcome sin—on a CROSS! Jesus said we must die to self— “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” Luke 9:23. We have to continually put “SELF” back on the cross! EVERY DAY, Jesus said; or, it will rise up & wrestle back control from us.  And, THAT is how we grow spiritually! We ARE sanctified; and, we’re becoming MORE sanctified! We’re experiencing more & more freedom from the power of sin as we DENY & CRUCIFY self!

-Put The Flesh To Death!

The Apostle Paul followed up his dilemma, expressed in Romans 7, with these words from the very next chapter: “For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live “ Romans 8:13. The old King James Version said we must “…MORTIFY the deeds of the body…” A huge part of God’s sanctification work, in us, is to strengthen us in our efforts to “MORTIFY” or “put to death” the works of our flesh. The old Puritan, John Owen, made famous this quote about killing sin: “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  I like to say that spiritual growth is ultimately becoming more like JESUS; and, less like YOU! Do you look more like Jesus today than yesterday?

Handling Conflict In The Church!

-Tolerance Advocates Not Very Tolerant!

It amazes me how quickly the advocates of “tolerance” sound off & run off everyone who disagrees with them. Not very tolerant, are they? The Apostle Paul tells the Church of Rome to knock off that kind of behavior. He says that God intends to grow you spiritually as you learn to willingly put up with one another—“Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 15:2). We don’t join a faith community to please ourselves! The purpose, for becoming a church member, is to please our neighbor “…for his good, to build him up.” Or, to “edify” if you prefer to use the theological term!

-Be Other’s Focused!

It’s a matter of focus—our interaction, in the body, should be “other’s focused”, not “self-focused.” Like Jesus, we’re here to serve others; not, to be served! Only when we put up with each other; and, bear with the weaknesses of others, will God use us to help construct the spiritual lives of others! It’s having the mindset of a “discipler”—someone who helps others grow as a disciple of Jesus. There’s no better motivator than Jesus Himself. God will give us grace to put up with each other; and, to build up each other, as we look up to Jesus for our motivation!

-Fix Our Eyes On Jesus!

As we fix our eyes on Christ, we remember that He did not come to please Himself; but, He made Himself a servant (See Philippians 2:5-11).  Paul said:  “For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me” (Rom. 15:3).  He’s quoting Psalm 69:9 and referring to Jesus. He embraced the insults of mean-spirited, hateful people; and, on the cross He bore the reproach that we should have bore!

-How Jesus Loved!

We love like Jesus loved when we willingly endure each other’s “heat-of-the-moment” hasty words; and, rather than returning evil for evil, we seek to resolve the conflict & make peace! We extend grace! So, look again at the progression of Paul’s words in Romans 15—if we’re going to be strong enough, in our faith, to “put up” with weak or prickly people (v.1); and, “build them up” (v.2) when we’re tempted to smack them, we have to “look up” to Jesus (v.3); and, “grow up” in our faith (v.4).  We won’t get that kind of counsel from the world!

-Understand The Scriptures!

Paul tells the Church of Rome that we can only have that Christ-like mindset as we understand the Scriptures—or, those things which were “written in the past” (v.4). It’s only through the “instruction” and “encouragement” of the Word, he says, that we have any hope of enduring those difficult relationships in life. And, we will never “grow up” in our faith if we run away from every uncomfortable or difficult relationship in our faith community. We need to remain faithful to one another as a testimony to those outside the Church. In a band there are all kinds of different instruments & a variety of musicians playing them. But, bring them all together under the direction of a capable conductor & they can produce beautiful music together. That beautifully illustrates the Church when Jesus is doing the conducting!