1 Timothy 2:1 NIV
Prayer is simply communicating with God. And communication can be spoken or silent. It can even be expressed in song. Many of the Psalms are just prayers set to music. Prayer is connecting with God. Whether it’s confessing a sin, praising His name, pursuing His will, interceding for a friend, or petitioning for your own needs, your prayer must be God-centered, never self-centered. Sincere prayer comes from a heart that longs for God to reveal what He desires. So you must allow adequate time for listening and waiting intently before your heavenly Father. And prayer must be your first priority.
Paul instructs Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made” (v. 1 NIV). Note the words, “First of all.” Before you slide out of bed, before you take a shower, before you make your way to work, and before your first appointment, pray, pray, pray! Every afternoon at three o’clock, Peter and John went to the temple to pray. In the middle of the day, they interrupted their schedule to gather for one purpose: prayer.
So when your day is rolling along at its own pace and in its own direction, interrupt it with prayer. As your day builds toward a crisis, deliberately stop to pray. When your morning begins to go south, pull away for a few moments of solitude to seek God’s mind and ask for His instruction. When your attitude starts to sour, pause for an attitude adjustment prompted by prayer. Don’t wait – pray immediately.
Make prayer your first priority in all things and at all times. If you do, you’ll find that prayer changes your life for the better.
Soul food: 2 Ki 18:17-20:21; Mark 16:1-20; Ps 80:12-19; Prov 13:13-16
Philippians 3:8 CEV
When we’re facing a difficult time and can’t see how we’re going to get through it, there’s one thing we must try and do: turn to God. When Job lost everything and his whole world was turned upside down, he said: ‘He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread’ (Job 23:10-12 NIV).
Paul’s life wasn’t trouble-free either: ‘I have been in danger from rivers…from bandits…from my fellow Jews…from Gentiles; in danger in the city…in the country…at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and…often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and…often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches’ (2 Corinthians 11:26-28 NIVUK).
Reading that list can make us wonder how he managed to get through it. Paul knew the secret to making it through tough times – He allowed his troubles to drive him closer to God: ‘I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV). Let’s try to remember Job’s and Paul’s attitudes, and be inspired by them when we’re facing our own troubles.
2 Ki 16:1-18:16; Mark 15:33-47; Ps 80:1-11; Prov 13:11-12
Isaiah 55:12 NCV
God reveals His will to us in several ways. One of them is by giving us a sense of ‘peace’ that we are doing the right thing. Paul wrote, ‘Let the peace of God rule in your hearts’ (Colossians 3:15 NKJV), and ‘God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds In Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7 NCV).
Having peace means that we’re trusting God’s guidance. We don’t need all the answers to have peace about something, and having peace doesn’t mean things are going to be easy and comfortable. When Mary was visited by an angel who told her that she was going to have a baby, she must have had some worries, as being unmarried and pregnant put her in a very difficult situation in her culture. But she simply said: ‘I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!’ (Luke 1:38 NCV). She trusted God, accepted His plan, and had peace about it.
When we need peace, we should cry out to God. Before Jesus was crucified, even though He knew His part in God’s plan and why He had to die, He said, ‘If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me’ (Matthew 26:39 NLT). But then He continued, ‘Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ His peace came from trusting God and doing His will. Whenever we’re faced with a difficult situation or an important decision that could have lasting effects, we need to pray, trust God for guidance, ask Him for peace, act, and trust Him for the right result.
Rev 19-22; Mark 14:27-42; Ps 129; Prov 12:27-28
Acts 4:13 NIV
Being ‘under the influence’ of something means to be controlled by something or someone other than yourself. Our family and friends, the books we read, and the social media accounts we follow all have an influence on us and help shape who we are today. It works like this: the people who speak into our lives influence our thinking, our thinking influences our actions, our actions influence our character, and our character determines our destiny.
We can be influenced by others without being aware of their power over us – hopefully they’re having a good influence on us, but they could be having a bad influence – so it’s important that we’re mindful of who and what we’re surrounding ourselves with.
The best influencer we can have is Jesus. We need to allow Him to speak into our hearts and minds by reading the Bible and spending time in prayer. The more time we spend with Him, the more we’ll become like Him.
When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they were transformed to the extent that some people thought they were drunk. But Peter said: ‘These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people”‘ (Acts 2:15-17 NIV). Two chapters later, we read this: ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus’ (v.13 NIVUK).
And the Holy Spirit, who is simply the influence of Christ, can transform our lives too.
Acts 1:4-8; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Cor 12:1-13
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
Winston Churchill is attributed with saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Take a look at society today; the conditions that preceded the fall of many great civilizations are in place. You ask, “Can our nation be saved?”
Yes! God told Abraham if he could find as few as ten righteous people in the land, He would spare Sodom and Gomorrah from judgment. And a righteous minority can still save our nation. How? Through prayer! God said: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves…pray…seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven…forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Notice four important conditions mentioned in this Scripture: (a) “If my people, who are called by my name.” The future of our nation doesn’t rest in the hands of bankers, talking heads on TV, and politicians; it rests squarely in the hands of God’s redeemed people. (b) “Will humble themselves…pray and seek my face.” God, who needs nobody’s authorization or approval to act, promises to move when His people turn to Him and seek His face in prayer. (c) “And turn from their wicked ways.” Instead of complaining about what’s wrong with society, God commands His people to examine their own hearts to see what’s wrong and make it right. And when they do, He promises to: (d) “Hear from heaven…forgive their sin and…heal their land.”
The truth is, it’s up to us, not them! It’s not too late. Our nation can still be turned around if we’ll pray and seek God with all our hearts.
Soul food: Num 34-36; Mark 8:14-26; Ps 57; Prov 11:14