Prayer

Fan into Flame the Gift of God

 
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          It was the thirtieth of May, in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred fifty-four. According to the Order of the Church, pastors and elders ordained and consecrated my father as a minister by the laying on of hands. I can only imagine his mother’s delight—my grandmother who watched many Billy Graham crusades on TV. As I now view the certificate of ordination, I recall precious memories of a faith passed down from generation to generation. 

          Born a preacher’s kid, I attended church every time the doors were open. Sundays and Wednesdays especially found us all at church, even when snow kept everyone else away. My Dad made sure of our presence. While my upbringing has instilled regular church attendance, it’s my dad’s faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I cherish most. What a blessing to grow up in a household that celebrated the gift of salvation through Jesus. To be taught how to grow in faith through Him. 

          But faith-building wasn’t always easy, especially when life appeared hopeless. Ironically, learning to trust God emerged out of our difficulties. Why does it seem we lean in and learn more when hardship hits or when death strikes? Living through adversity tends to shape our lives. Walking through tribulations with the Savior transforms life. 

          My dad’s death shook me to my core. How would I live without him? A broken relationship with my daughter brought me to my knees. I agonized over the discord and dissociation with her. I couldn’t dam up my tears. They flowed like rushing water. Despite the misery, God continually reminded me of the blessed assurance handed down by parents and grandparents. Eventually I held on to salvation in Jesus and experienced peace through the Holy Spirit. 

          Day by day I encountered this peace, but pain came alongside. It’s as if I walked in between railroad tracks with Jesus on one side and agony on the other—peace paralleled pain. Such a bittersweet existence. 

          Over time I became receptive to the revelation of other wounded people, especially mothers with prodigals. I believe God steered them in my direction. I identified with them—their tears were my tears, their heartache my heartache. Seeing them took my eyes off my own suffering. They needed to experience the peace I had discovered. But how would I tell them? What would I say? I felt so uneducated when sharing the gospel. 

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord,” Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 1:8). 

          Paul considered Timothy his true son in the faith, bonded by the blood of Jesus. Because he recognized Timothy’s youth and lack of confidence, Paul reminded him of the faith that lived in his mother and grandmother. And he prompted Timothy to recall the prophecies made over him at the time of his ordination (1 Timothy 1:18-19). 

          “Fan into flame the gift of God,” Paul said. “And know that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

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          Paul didn’t want Timothy to be afraid to share the gospel. He encouraged his spiritual son to join in his suffering, to fight the good fight, to guard the good deposit entrusted to him through the Holy Spirit. With honest eloquence, Paul motivated Timothy to keep the faith by saying, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20).

          God used Paul’s words to speak to me. Being afraid to share the gospel was not an option. I needed to stir up confidence and create a fire storm to burn the worldly knowledge clouding my thoughts and drawing my child away from the faith. With more strength than I could have imagined, God galvanized a fight within me, a fight of faith, the faith of my fathers (1 Timothy 6:12). He formed our group of mothers with prodigals and gave us a Scripture verse to sustain us (Isaiah 43:5-7). Together we resolved to intercede for our children, standing firm on God’s truth.     

          We refused to allow anxiety over choices made by our children to squelch the fire. The embers in our troubled hearts had been deposited by our Heavenly Father. The power of the Holy Spirit fanned them into flame. In unity but with distinct voices, we cried out to the True and Faithful One, Jesus Christ. And He strengthened us. 

          Timothy came from a line of faithful believers. I learned of faith from my parents and grandparents. Standing on a firm foundation, I’m compelled to fan into flame this precious gift of God, passing it on to my children and grandchildren. 

          With power, love, and sound minds, my prayer group and I will continue to keep the faith and share the gospel with a lost and hurting world. For the sake of our children. For the next generation. We yearn to set ablaze the gift of God. We believe our prayers will ignite the flame. 

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.
(1 Timothy 1:8). 

Oh the joy of future generations living in the truth.

When Clouds Gather, Approach His Throne

 

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

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          Six humble women confidently drew near the throne room of the King of the universe, interceding on behalf of others. Praise poured from our lips to honor our merciful Savior. As we began lifting up the needs of a fallen world, our hearts ached for the return of our prodigals. Emotion filled the room as our souls reached out to touch His scepter.

          It was a reuniting of minds, the prayers of mothers and grandmothers for wandering children in a lost world. We had allowed the things of life to get in the way of meeting regularly to pray. Now it seemed the world’s ungodliness intensified at a rapid rate. It felt as though clouds of destruction surrounded us. So we put aside any fear that threatened to paralyze us, reclaiming with sound minds the power and love of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:7). Our desire to stave off evil’s powerful influence over our families escalated with renewed potency. 

          Finally we sat face to face with each other, beginning a powerful hour of prayer. Tearfully we pleaded with our Heavenly Father for our families, our nation, and the world. We confidently approached His throne, believing we would receive His merciful grace in our time of need. Talking with Him through the authority of His Word equipped us to sense the presence of His Spirit (Matthew 18:20).   

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          We knew God understood the desires of our hearts, and yet we also knew He longed for us to commune with Him through prayer. In one accord but with distinct voices, each of us offered words of adoration, repentance, and supplication. As we interceded for our children, Jesus also interceded for us before our Heavenly Father. With humble confidence we desired to touch the hem of His garment that He might answer our prayers (Matthew 9:20-21).

          Earlier we had reviewed the example of Queen Esther as a way to approach God. Esther’s uncle Mordecai had warned her of a plot to annihilate the Jewish people—her people. As queen she held an invaluable position to possibly stop the plot. But she had to align herself with her people while knowing the king was unaware of her Jewish heritage. She also risked death by going uninvited to speak to the king. Still she and her uncle knew they would all die if she didn’t chance an encounter with the king. Mordecai supposed Esther had come to royal position for such a time as this.

          Understanding the severity of the situation, she requested that her uncle gather together all the Jews in the city of Susa for a three day fast as she and her maids also fasted. Fasting involved prayer and they needed to prepare for her encounter with the king by calling on Almighty God. Would the king show mercy and hear her request or would she be put to death? 

          As time drew near to enter the inner court of the king, Esther donned her royal robes. Covered in prayer, she approached the king with prestigious confidence and courage. When he caught sight of her standing in the court, he was pleased to see her and held out the royal scepter, his instrument of mercy. She moved forward and touched his scepter, accepting his gracious mercy. He prepared to hear her request (Esther 4-5).

          Just as Esther held the responsibility of her royal position, we too are royal priests who have a responsibility to identify with the rest of God’s people. We wear the royal robes of Jesus’ righteousness when we accept Him as our Savior. We need only to humbly bow before Him and receive His mercy and grace.

          When AMEN (meaning let it be so) was proclaimed within our circle of prayer, we stood up, sharing smiles and hugs. Anxiety had been transformed into relief. We had placed our situations into God’s trustworthy hands. Making plans to meet again, we went our separate ways holding fast to God’s faithfulness to each one of us.

          As we have approached His throne and reached out to receive His grace, we yearn for our families to do the same. To take hold of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. To receive His mercy and grace. To live abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. 

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          Have you reached out to touch the scepter of Jesus’ grace? Are you sharing the gospel and praying for future generations? It could be that you have been called for such a time as this. 

          Put on your royal robes and approach God’s throne with assurance. Reach out and receive His grace. The king granted Queen Esther’s request—her people were spared. The King of the universe waits to hear and answer your prayers. 


Have you been called…..FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS?

When Clouds Gather, Humble Yourself and Pray

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:10 (NIV)


Prayer expresses faith in an Almighty God. Earnest prayer connects us to our Heavenly Father where communication transpires with One more powerful than ourselves. It’s a liberating conversation. So why does it seem we seldom pray until trouble besieges us? Are our prayers only pleas for help? Is our communion with God merely requests for needs and wants?

At times our long lists of petitions trivialize prayer. Have you ever repeated the same prayer over and over again, as if babbling repetitively? Believe it or not, God already knows our needs. Scripture tells us He knows us by name (Isaiah 43:1) as well as the exact count of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). He even knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). 

Since God has full knowledge of you and me, we ought to take time to be still and get to know Him (Psalm 46:10). Instead of routine words expressed as prayers, humbly bow before Him with joyful expressions of thanks for who He is and what He’s already done for us.

God loves us more than a parent adores her own child. With sacrificial love, He surrendered His Son to die in our place in order for us to gain eternal life with Him (John 3:16). He yearns for a relationship with us like parents long for loving bonds with their offspring. 

Genuine, loving relationships are full of grace. However, imagine the sound of repetitious entreaties from a child to a parent. Yes, parents wish to please their children. But constant pleading? Sooner or later the demands sound like clanging cymbals. Being a parent myself, I understand the simple delight of being loved for who I am, not for what I can do for my child.

Years ago my family learned a valuable lesson about treasuring the person and not his handouts. My husband’s job required him to journey out of town every week for a year and a half except on Saturdays. Because of his travels, we decided I would be a stay-at-home mom for our two preschool children. Even though it was the best plan for us at the time, our family dynamics suffered because of stress. 

While he faithfully provided for us, my husband experienced extreme guilt because of his absence. He began bringing home gifts for our children to appease his conscience. Before long, they anticipated his presents to the point of neglecting him. His dejected countenance pained me. We knew immediately what must happen or not happen—no more goody bags filled with toys. Oh the tears and tantrums that materialized. Eventually our children forgot about what dad brought home and instead squealed with delight when he entered the door. Oh to be appreciated for who you are!

How often do we neglect adoration for our Savior and instead seek what He can give us? Are we as selfish as little children? Doesn’t the God of the universe also deserve to be loved and appreciated simply for who He is? Remember—His love is greater than that of a human parent. And He desires a loving relationship with each of us. Knowing of His sacrificial love for us should shift our prayers from self-serving to God-honoring. Pride out—humility in. 

Humility? How do we pray with humility? Does kneeling help? Or is it a heart issue? Jesus once said to a crowd on a mountainside, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” 

His statement is included in the list of blessings or beatitudes from His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). These beatitudes speak to the acceptable attitudes humbly displayed before a supreme being, and Jesus modeled them perfectly. So how do we follow Him?

While teaching His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about prayer, explaining the essence of pride and humility (Matthew 6:5-15). He detailed how people stand in the synagogues and street corners to pray. They desire to be seen. He told his audience to go where no one sees and then pray. Standing alone with a pliable heart before Almighty God dissolves self-absorption. It transforms a selfish human heart into a humble one. 

Do you have needs to bring before your Heavenly Father? Have you examined your heart before going to Him in prayer? Start with the perfect prayer modeled by His perfect Son, Jesus. He said, “This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”  Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Following Jesus’ example takes our eyes off of our issues and turns them toward God. Recognizing His power and authority exposes our inability to control anything in our lives. Simply gazing at the heavens He created should cause us to say with the psalmist, “Who am I that you are aware of me?” (Psalm 8:3-4). 

Truly understanding God’s majesty increases wisdom. Daily walking in that knowledge inevitably leads to humility. And God shows favor to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).








 
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If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.  Psalm 66:18-19 (NIV)
 
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Before we can pray “Thy kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My kingdom go.”
~Alan Redpath