Isaiah 37:14 NIV
Hezekiah, King of Israel, received a threatening letter from a much more powerful king – the King of Assyria. The Assyrian ruler demanded unconditional surrender, and told Hezekiah not to trust in God. The letter was pretty graphic (take a look at 2 Kings 18:27). If we’d received a letter like that, we’d probably have a few reactions. We might become fearful and give in, we might be frustrated and retaliate, we might gather all our trusted friends around us and talk about it without acting. But Hezekiah took it to God. He went to the temple ‘and spread it out before the LORD’. Then he prayed: ‘God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see’ (Isaiah 37:16-17 NIV). Hezekiah was basically saying, ‘Lord, please would You read this, then do something about it.’ And God did. ‘Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning – there were all the dead bodies!’ (Isaiah 37:36 NIV). We probably all have things that we need to take to God. It might be a relationship problem, a medical diagnosis, or even an angry email from someone at work. If it causes us to be stressed, it’s something that needs to be spread out before God through prayer. If it’s important to us, it’s important to Him. Whatever is stressing us out right now, let’s give it to God, trust Him, and watch how He works things out for us.
Rev 19-22; Mark 11:12-26; Ps 129; Prov 12:27-28
Matthew 6:5 MSG
Jesus said the Pharisees turned prayer into ‘a theatrical production’, and that God wasn’t moved by it. Author John Ortberg points out five things about them: ‘1) Their prayers had become a shallow exercise rather than a deep relationship-building one. 2) They were rituals, rather than authentic expressions of a loving heart. 3) They were long and wordy, designed to impress others. 4) They were filled with meaningless clichés. 5) They became a cause for pride rather than an opportunity to express humble reliance on God.’ When it comes to prayer, Jesus said: ‘Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply’ (vv.6-8 MSG). We can pray anywhere, at any time: in our cars, in the bathroom, lying in bed, while we’re exercising, or at work. God wants our prayer times to be spontaneous, personal, and honest. We shouldn’t be praying because we think we have to or because we think it will impress other people around us. Prayer should be something that we long to do so that we grow in our relationship with God. He wants us to pray from our hearts.
Rev 15-18; Mark 11:1-11; Ps 124; Prov 12:26
Philippians 4:6 NIV
Every day we have so many things to think about, decide, and do. As our busyness increases, our peace decreases. Things like anxiety, stress, and burn out are all becoming more common. So what can we do? The Bible gives us the answer: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). To feel God’s peace, we need to be handing everything over to Him. Everything we face, feel, and think can be handed over to Him through prayer. We have a God who is interested in every detail of our lives. 1 Peter 5:7 says: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (NIV). Nothing is too big, or too small, to bring to Him. He cares for us and wants to be involved in our lives. It’s also important to remember that the word ‘thanksgiving’ appears in these verses in Philippians. Being thankful to God for the blessings He has given us, and the things that are going well in our lives, can help us to deal with the anxiety and stress. Being intentionally grateful helps lift our eyes from the problems we’re facing. It helps us gain perspective and realise that God’s still good, no matter what else is going on. The Bible goes as far as to say: ‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). Handing everything over to God won’t necessarily mean that our situations change, although God’s always working, but He’ll give us His peace to keep us from being overwhelmed by our circumstances.
Rev 5-9; Mark 10:23-34; Ps 121; Prov 12:23-24
1 Corinthians 2:16 NKJV
The Bible says: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV). We shouldn’t limit ‘spiritual things’ to prayer, Bible reading, and church activities. God’s promise to reveal things to us in the Spirit applies to every area of our lives including our family, our finances, and our career. The Bible says, ‘We have the mind of Christ.’ That means when we face a problem, we can pray, ‘Lord, help me to see this the way You do.’ When we need to make an important decision we can pray, ‘Lord, reveal to me what I don’t know and teach me what I need to learn so that my decision is in line with Your will and what’s best for everyone concerned.’ Instead of restricting God to church and ‘spiritual activities’, we can ask for His help in every area of our lives. We can often think that we should be constantly on the move, constantly working, constantly doing something, and underestimate the importance of simply being still for a while. Psalm 46:10 says, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (NKJV). That means we must be still long enough for Him to put His thoughts into our mind. And when that happens – and it will – we’ll never want to think any other way. The Bible says: ‘If people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace’ (Romans 8:6 NCV). So let’s be people who let the Spirit guide our thinking.
Num 8-10; Mark 2:1-17; Ps 35; Prov 10:28-29
Exodus 33:12 NIVUK
Yesterday we started to look at how Moses could talk with God like a friend, saying what he truly felt and thought. That’s how God wanted it to be. When Moses said, ‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people”…You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favour with me”‘ (v.12), he was mirroring back to God what God had just said to him. He was reminding God of His own words. The truth is, God wants us to remember His promises and speak them in prayer. Not because He needs reminding, but because we do. All His promises will be fulfilled – even if it doesn’t seem like God’s doing anything, and even if the timing is different from what we expected. Joshua said to the Israelites: ‘You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed’ (Joshua 23:14 NIV). And we can say the same. God’s promises will not fail us. When we speak out God’s promises in prayer, we’re praying in His will. So when we’re facing challenging circumstances, we need to be memorising Scriptures that relate to our situations and feelings. Then we can include them in our prayer times. For example, we can pray, ‘Lord, You said whatever I ask for in prayer, believing that I have received it, You will do it for me’ (see Mark 11:24). That’s one of God’s promises, and by speaking it out we can increase our faith. The more we learn of God’s Word, the more our prayer time will line up with His will and the closer our friendship with Him will be.
Dan 3-4; Luke 22:39-46; Ps 130; Prov 10:12