Prayer and Faith

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Probably our biggest struggle in our prayer life is our expectancy of how Abba Father should fulfill our requests. This expectancy often leads to disappointment and unfortunately when we become disappointed we often stop praying and believing God. Both of these are contrary to what we should do.

The Bible says that without faith it will not happen.[1] We need to believe but that belief should line up with scripture.  In other words, there is no scripture that says we will win the jackpot but there is a scripture that says He will take care of us.[2] The second aspect is that we need to continue to pray.[3] We have a wonderful example of this in the Old Testament, where Elijah continued to pray for rain.[4]

When our prayers are not answered in the manner we hope or expect, it is important not to let the enemy tempt us with the following lies:

  1. I am not doing it right
  2. God does not exist and this thing is a myth
  3. I am not good enough therefore Jesus won’t answer my prayer
  4. God is testing me – see also Blog http://wp.me/pWnbJ-4A
  5. God does not care
  6. God doesn’t like me
  7. I haven’t repented properly
  8. My sins are to big for God to forgive me

It is important to have the understanding and trust that Abba Father knows what will be the most beneficial outcome, what is needed and when it is needed. We need to believe that Abba Father has our best interests at heart. We need to believe that He is faithful and He will do what is right. This is vital for a successful prayer life.


[1] Matthew 9:29

[2] Hebrews 2:6

[3] Luke 18:1

[4] 1Kings 18:42-44

Attitudes in Prayer

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Someone once said, ‘our attitude determines our altitude’[1]. More importantly our attitude will always directly influence the results. If we do something with the wrong attitude we can seldom expect a positive result. The same goes for prayer.

People often use their prayers as a means of complaining about how unfairly they are being treated and how tough their life is. Prayer is not a process to inform God of issues we may think He is unaware of. He knows our struggles and is aware of all the injustices. He knows the number of hairs on our head[2] as well as what we are going to say even before we say it[3]. He knows who is hurting and who is hungry. Abba Father is also aware of the best solutions to every problem, which I have found is not always what I think He should do!

One of the difficulties of our relationship with God is due to our understanding of what He is capable of doing. We have all the examples in the scriptures of how Jesus did amazing miracles. Then He goes on to say that we can ask anything of Him[4] and it will be done. We are also told we can do even greater things than He did[5]. We are His children so why doesn’t it happen? Often we may think that anything we prayed for will happen without restriction. When it doesn’t happen we think God is not interested or is not listening which is not the truth. He is listening and He is interested. It is this apparent paradox that can often send us into a tailspin of confusion.

Most of us would want others to change, be nicer and stop behaving so despicably. More often He is more interested if we are willing to change. To be quite honest, how can we expect others to change if we are not willing to change first! We need to be fully aware that all prayer is based in an open and honest relationship. God cannot bless a lie and if we are lying to ourselves about our own faults then he is not readily going to intervene for our own personal comforts.

The solution to Abba Father answering our prayers lies in our attitude. I believe our prime attitude should be that Abba Father knows what is best and to trust Him in that[6]. The next is that we should first be willing to change before we can expect others to change.

I will share more about attitudes in prayer next time.


[1] Author unknown

[2] Matthew 10:30

[3] Psalm 139:4

[4] John 14:14

[5] John 14:12

[6] Matthew 6:10

The Fellowship of Prayer

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In my experience I have found that many people generally centre prayer on themselves and their needs. This in itself is not wrong but often they may become disillusioned when their prayers are not answered. Prayer is not entirely about ‘me’. When Jesus explained how we should pray[1] he specifically used words ‘our’ ‘us’ and ‘we’.  Jesus did not say we should pray ‘give me my daily bread’ or ‘given them their daily bread’. Rather it was the personal pronoun ‘us’.

Jesus is saying is that we are part of something bigger than our individuality. Western thinking tends to be very hedonistic, rationalistic and humanistic. Such thinking is all about ‘me’ getting ahead in this life. Middle eastern culture is centred more on the family, what the family needs, what is best for the family.

I believe that when Jesus used the words ‘our’ ‘us’ and ‘we’, He was thinking of us as a family. Later he prayed to the Father that we ‘be one’[2]. This ‘oneness’, this unity and concern for others is wonderfully demonstrated and recorded in the book of Acts where they sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need’[3].

So what should our attitude be when we are praying?

When we pray we should remember we are part of something much bigger that just ourselves. We need to have a ‘kingdom’ mentality because Jesus said that we should pray for the kingdom to come.[4]

So what is the kingdom that Jesus is talking about? It is a demonstrating of the goodness of the Father in all we do and say so that the world can see the love and concern we have for other people[5] and through our actions be drawn to wanting to know Him.

In conclusion, our prayers need to maintain a balance for the welfare of others and ourselves, that love, joy and peace[6] should be flowing though us. It should also focus on those aspects within our character that stops the kingdom being revealed. It should be less about the things I want because he already knows our needs[7] and even if we don’t get the ‘thing’ we want he has still promised to look after us.


[1] Matthew 6:9-13

[2] John 17:22

[3] Acts 2:45 quoted from ‘The World English Bible’

[4] Matthew 6:10

[5] John 13:35

[6] Romans 14:17

[7] Matthew 6:8


The Intimacy of Prayer

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Prayer under the New Covenant is relational. Even Jesus before the establishment of the New Covenant, told us that we should begin our prayers (conversation) with ‘Our Father’. He never ever told us to pray to God, which would indicate a servant type of relationship of trying to please a master. Abba Father is please with us because we are his children and he is our Abba Father.

Father, the Greek word ‘patér’, goes beyond the sense that he is the progenitor of all people. For us it also expresses a relationship with a person who nourishes, protects and sustains us. As New Covenant believers it goes even deeper because under the New Covenant he has also become ‘Abba’. The word ‘abba’ creates a sense of unreasoning trust as a baby has towards its parent. The baby is unable to do anything else other than rely on the parent. It equates to us saying ‘daddy’. The word ‘abba’, in ancient times was only reserved for family and slaves or servants were forbidden to use it in addressing their master.

Being able to call our Father in heaven ‘Abba’ means that we are not servants trying to please a master but that we are children with the rights of one born into the family. The right to live there, partake in family activities and the right to be protected, nurtured and loved.

So when we talk to Abba Father, we use both words together. We say ‘Abba’ because we have unreasoning trust in Him to love and care for us. But we also add ‘Father’ because it expresses our intelligent understanding of his position as head of the home. It also recognizes him as our final authority, who knows what is right and always has our best interest at heart. Because he is our Abba Father we can talk to him, reason with him and even at times disagree with him. But ultimately it is Abba Father loving us to the extent that our very deep inner need is perfectly met.

How to stop worrying

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One thing I dislike about a lot of preaching is that they tell us what to do but seldom how to do it. Last Sunday in church we were told to stop fretting (worry). Buy how do we stop rolling around in our beds at night thinking about what is troubling us? We may know God and all the promises but somehow that is not enough.

The key, I believe is what we focus on. If we are driving a car through a narrow space and we keep looking at the obstacles on the side, the chances that we will hit them are high. But if we focus on the space between them we will probably get through unscathed. There is an accepted concept in psychology that says, ‘what we focus on, we become’. The book of Proverbs in the Bible says we become trapped by our own naughtiness[1]. By implication, when we continually think negatively we become trapped by our thoughts.

Worry can be defined as ‘thoughts and images of a negative nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats’[2] Worry is thinking about a potential disaster in the future. Our problem is we can only live in the present and so if we are always thinking about what might happen tomorrow we will worry continually because tomorrow never comes.

We learn to worry when we have past experiences that have unpleasant consequences. We then project our fear of these experiences into the future. We need to come to terms with the fear of these experiences and realise that they are not valid today. Worry in essence is taking a past experience and projecting it into the future today.

Another problem with worry is that we focus so much on the issue that it has the potential to become out of perspective. This limits our way of thinking and prevents us finding practical solutions. For a moment let us imagine we are stating out on a long walk and we have a small stone in our shoe. By the time we have walked a mile the discomfort will be so great that it will occupy all our thoughts. If we do not stop and do something about it we will never reach our destination. There is a Swedish proverb that says, ‘Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.’

So, how do we stop worrying?

The first step to overcome worry is to ground ourselves in the present. We need to think about ‘now’. We need to think about the resources we have now. We need to reflect on our physical and mental abilities we have now. Jesus said that we should be focused on the present[3] because we cannot live tomorrow and when tomorrow comes the situation could be different.

The second step is to focus on something positive. This may be a Biblical promise, singing worship and praise songs or praying in ‘tongues’. The concept here is to repeat a positive focus until it overwhelms our thinking. This will require discipline, to keep drawing our mind back to the positive focus because our mind tends to wander back to the problem. We do this until the problem fades. This concept of positive focus needs to be re-enforced daily. We have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to help us achieve this and when we draw on Him through positive focus we not longer live though our own ability but we begin to live through His empowerment[4].

Finally, we need to take action. Avoiding an issue will not solve the problem. Because we are grounded in the present and we have a positive focus we will then be able to make clear-headed decisions. As Glenn Turner put it,

‘Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.’


[1] Proverbs 11:6

[2] Wikipedia

[3] Matthew 6:34

[4] Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:16

Does God need to test us?

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One of the comments I often hear is, ‘God is testing me’ or ‘why is He testing me?’ If we believe that everything is a test, then we are most likely living in a state of anxiety and of inferiority. While we have feelings of anxiety and inferiority it is difficult to make significant progress in life.

Let us deal with the question, ‘Does God test us?’

God does not have to test us, as He already knows all our weaknesses[1]. God is described as omniscient – all knowing. Nothing is hidden from Him[2]. God is totally aware of where we will succumb to the pressures of life and he is not ‘caught out’ when we blow it.

There is no scripture in the New Covenant that says God tests us. The scriptures says that our faith will be tested[3]. What happens is that the random events of life overtake us and when that happens we are faced with the dilemma of whether to believe God or try and sort it out on our own or in our own way. It is actually the enemy of our souls who is testing us by throwing circumstances at us in order to make us doubt God. It is our enemy who wants us to doubt the promises. The test is: are we going to believe God or the lies of the enemy?

We are encouraged to check out (test) if the things we are doing are of value[4]. We should do this because if we don’t, we can put a lot of time into something that is a waste of effort and could cause us hardship. We are also asked to test everything[5] when it comes to prophecy and to hold on to that which is going to benefit us.

If we feel God is testing us we have a wrong theology; we are then trying to prove we are good enough to be accepted by God. We are already acceptable to God because of Jesus. What the testing of our faith reveals is those inherent weaknesses in all of us. When these weaknesses are revealed we need to call on the Holy Spirit who was sent to help us[6], because we can’t make it on our own.

In conclusion, our heavenly Father is not testing us, neither is he mad at us. He has sent his Holy Spirit to empower us[7]in a world that can simply overwhelm us.


[1] 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Hebrews 4:15

[2] Hebrews 14:13

[3] James 1:3

[4] Galatians 6:4

[5] I Thessalonians 5:21

[6] Romans 8:26

[7] Ephesians 3:16

Dealing with anger towards God

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It is amazing how many people have anger towards God because they have experienced a sense of injustice, a feeling that God is unfair. At the same time we may also feel we should not be angry with God or even, it is wrong to be angry with God. This may lead to feelings of guilt.

The questions to ask are: ‘What did God do wrong?’ and ‘Why am I angry towards God?’

Anger, as we have discussed previously[1], is an emotion that tells us that a right has been violated. To resolve our anger we need to establish what right has been violated and is this right valid? Our anger towards God often relates to our expectations not being met. We may read in the Bible the promises but find that when we pray they don’t materialise. Also, we may look at the misery, poverty, famines, disasters and crimes against humanity and feel angry towards God because it appears that He is not doing anything about it. These are valid reasons to be angry, and so they should be, but is it directed towards the right source?

We need to remember that there are evil forces at work in this world. It is due to mankind’s own blunders that these evil forces have tried to get the upper hand. When God created the world he also created man to take care of it. As mankind experienced and came to know good and evil, this right to govern earth was stolen from him. It was only 2000 years ago that the right of those evil forces to govern the earth, was finally broken. But those evil farces are still at work today deceiving and lying. One of the biggest lies is that the misery in this world is all God’s fault. If we believe the lie then we will experience anger towards God. If we are not fooled into believing the lie, then we will direct our fight in the right direction.[2]

‘What did God do wrong?’ The correct answer is that He has come to rescue us from the mess the world is in. Because we are in the mess and because we are feeling the injustice of the world, it does not mean He has lost control or He is doing nothing. God is ultimately in control and justice will be done. When we have come out of the mess on the other side, we will understand more clearly.

What we also need to remember is that God is with us in the mess but at the same time does not interfere with our choice or the choices of others. What we think and believe will ultimately influence the extent to which we can experience Him in our mess. Also our wrong attitudes, our pride, our stubbornness, our unforgiveness and our judgments will also prevent us receiving the help that we are seeking from Him.

The saddest part of being angry with God is that while we are angry, we are unable to approach the only one who is truly able to help us here. He is not stopping us approaching Him but it is our own attitude that gets in the way.

The true significance of life

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We are about to celebrate the most remarkable, one-off event in the whole of the history of mankind – the crucifixion and the resurrection of a man who lived over two thousand years ago – a man from the Jewish tribe of Judah called Yeshua (Jesus).

As I have been pondering this event I came to a conclusion that this event is what gives life meaning. Without this event ultimately life would be meaningless. Francis Chan said it this way;

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

We may be succeeding in life, and to the world it may look like we are flourishing, but without this event, our successes are meaningless.

What a waste to go through this life with all its hardship, its traumas, its difficulties only to find that in the end all our struggles were for nothing. On the flip side, we may not succeed in life, we may be defeated by the random events of this world, but by understand the far reaching implications of this time, our life will not be wasted. Is it not strange that the true meaning of life is so pivotal on such a single event?

The world may wish to trivialise the importance of this occasion and divert our attention. Easter, eggs and bunnies have nothing to do with this occasion. The word Easter is derived from Eostre, who was the Great Mother goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe and the Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [1]. Let us be on our guard and not be diverted by the commercialism of the world from the true significance of the occasion.

For me it is a time to ponder once more on the huge amount of suffering Jesus had to endure and fully appreciate the moment; not that I have to become morbid and downcast. On the contrary, as I appreciate its significance I am more able to celebrate the experience with wonder, thankfulness and joy. It is a time for celebration that there is meaning to living life. For me it is a time of saying, ‘Wow! It is finished’; I no longer have to strive to try and make myself acceptable because of the new bargain between Jesus and our Father in heaven. Not only that but I also don’t have to face the difficulties of life without divine help. What a bargain!

To all my readers, I wish you great joy as we celebrate the significance of this event and of life together.

Living to please the Father’s heart,

Merril

God and our suffering

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There is noting in the Bible that tells us that God will prevent us experiencing pain and suffering. But there is a lot that tells us that He will be with us in our pain and suffering. God is not there to get us out of our mess so that we remain irresponsible and make the same mistakes again. What He wants is for us to grow and mature, become wise and responsible.

While we are in our mess, He is able to show us much about Himself, His character, His faithfulness and His love. Not only is He able to show us stuff about Himself, He is also able to show us stuff about ourselves, like bad attitudes, inappropriate behaviour and our unresolved hurts.

If we will not listen nor learn after He has shown us how to live, He will continue to allow us to experience the consequences of our actions. We cannot blame God if we choose not to listen nor learn from our experiences. This is what He calls His discipline (1). This discipline is not punishment but training towards maturity.

God wants us to become responsible and think through the consequence of our actions (2). If we don’t do this we cannot blame God for the consequences. God has given us an intelligent brain to think and intelligence enough to reason that we cannot out think Him. We need to learn that His plans are always better than our plans (3) even thought it might not be what we would like or that there may be some discomfort. We need to learn to call on Him, ask for His advice and commit our plans to him(4) before we do something. Most immature people do it the other way round: they plunge ahead with their plan and when it goes wrong, call on God to bail them out. He won’t bail us out (5) because if He does, we will never learn to rely and work with Him.

God wants us to be mature. If we are not He will teach us. If we don’t learn we will experience pain and suffering. But rest assured, He is with us in our mess even if it feels like He is not there (6).


1 Hebrews 12:7

2 Luke 14:28

3 Isaiah 55:9

4 Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Isaiah 50:11

6 Deuteronomy 31:6

God, where were you when things went wrong?

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In my previous blog we learnt that sickness is the result of how we live and it is our responsibility to live correctly. But, we may become confused when we pray to God to protect us and an accident happens. Or maybe we are asking for a successful medical operation and there are complications.

The question is: ‘God, why did you not prevent this?’

Most of us accept that God created the universe. He created the earth and he also created all the natural and scientific laws that govern the earth and our universe. Science is a wonderful thing. It tells us how stuff works, the deflection when two objects collide or the breaking strain of a material. When we know how and why, we can manage our lives appropriately. We know that if we place metal in salt water that corrosion will take place. We know that if we ingest chemicals that are poisonous we will get sick. We also know that if we fall badly we could break our bones. But we also know that if we reset the broken bones they will heal. These are the natural and scientific laws working as God intended them to.

I believe that God intended us to live in cooperation and in harmony with these laws. I don’t think that he intended that we should try to defy them. So when we get hurt defying scientific laws, we shouldn’t behave like petulant children, moaning or blaming Him for our own decisions. God wants us to be mature, act wisely and manage what he has given us to manage.

While Jesus was here on earth, he demonstrated that God is bigger than the natural and scientific laws of our time-space continuum. We know that Jesus healed the sick, changed substances, walked on water, multiplied food and moved through walls. What is even more amazing is that he said that we would also be able to do this stuff through the Holy Spirit (1). I believe there is a proviso. It will not happen while we remain immature, full of ego, pride or arrogance (2). We need to be wise, understand and live within the parameters of the scientific laws of universe while at the same time intervene through the direction of the Holy Spirit.

I know that God is intimately involved with each of us and interested in what we are doing. He will not intervene while our unwise actions will bring us to maturity, despite how painful that experience might be. We will never learn to aim carefully while hitting a nail with a hammer if we are immune to the pain of hitting our thumb. This is how we learn. This is how we mature. This is how we gain wisdom. All for the purpose of us one day being beneficiaries of the kingdom (3).

So, where was God when things went wrong?’ I believe He is there and making sure that things do not get so out of hand that something more than we can endure will happen to us (4).


1 John 14:12-16

2 I Corinthians 14:20, Colossians 4:12, Hebrews 5:14

3 Matthew 25:34, James 2:5

4 I Corinthians 10:30

 

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