May the Lord strengthen your soul today!

“On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” (Ps 138:3)

The Lord hears the prayers of His saints. He is not a distant God. He is not asleep. We do not have to wake Him with shouts or sacrificial actions. His ears are attuned to the prayers of His people. He hears us in the morning, midday, and throughout the night. He is attentive to our needs.

Our prayers don’t go in one ear and out the other. He hears us and He answers us. To be sure, His answer doesn’t always match how we want Him to answer. But He answers our prayers. In the case of David, we learn that the Lord strengthened His soul. He did not immediately take away the difficulty he was experiencing. Instead, the Lord provided him strength so that he might continue to press on, worshipping and serving Him despite the difficulties.

May the Lord strengthen you as well. May He provide you what you need in order to keep on keeping on. In order to worship the Lord even when the world is pressing in on you. May you continue to be a witness to the Lord in the midst of a world that rejects His rightful rule over them.

May the Lord strengthen your soul today.

Through the difficulties of life, do you believe the Lord is there?

Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 118:4

God is a God of steadfast love. We can trust the Lord day in and day out. Because the Lord walks with us, carries us even, we can rejoice in the valley as well as on the mountain tops.

The Lord cares for those who are His. As the psalmist says in verse 27,

“The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.” – Ps 118:27a

Do you believe the Lord is shining on you day in and day out? Through the difficulties of life, do you believe the Lord is there? Do you believe the Lord is in the valley just as He is on the mountain top?

Our God is a God of steadfast love. He never leaves us despite the position in which we find ourselves. God is always there.

In Luke 12:22 Jesus provides these words of comfort to the anxious when He says,

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. – Luke 12:22

God knows our needs. He will provide for our needs. As we daily depend on Him to provide, we grow in our understanding of and in our trust and dependence on God. Life is not about us amassing so much wealth that we can live comfortable lives (see Luke 12:13-21). If God gives us with wealth and the ability to live without worry of money, that is a blessing. But a comfortable life is should not be our goal. That is the American dream, not God’s will for our life. Sometimes we must live uncomfortably, if we even know what that is as middle class Americans, to grow in our trust of God’s provision, care, and steadfast love.

Our God is a God of persistent love. When we recognize God’s persistent love and presence is our life through His day to day provision, we can and will give thanks to the Lord. We can say that He is good. We should praise and worship Him despite our circumstances.

11 Thing to Pray for a Deeper Prayer Life

Men, Lead Out In Prayer!

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Ti 2:8)

According to Paul, men are to put away petty differences and anger. Instead of fighting, they are to pray with one another. Paul gives this command to the men instead of the women because as one commentator says,

“As a general rule, men are more likely to agitate the church…they are critical and competitive. They tend to argue first and listen later. They would rather be right than be reconciled. They get angry when they don’t get their way. So the Bible reminds Christian men not to fight.”[1]

Competitive and Dominate

Men, you know this is true. Being competitive and dominate is what comes naturally. When we don’t win or come out on top, we are more likely to get angry and fight with one another. As Christian men, however, we aren’t supposed to fight and burst out in anger at one another. Instead, as Paul tells us, we are to be spiritual leaders, who lead out in prayer.

Freed by the Gospel

While being a spiritual leader who leads out in prayer might be difficult and unnatural, it’s possible because the gospel has changed us. It has freed us to love others more than ourselves, to forgive and let go, to lift others up and work alongside them.

What the Church and Country Needs

Honestly, prayer is what the church needs. It especially needs men who are willing to lead spiritually, and specifically, to lead in the area of prayer. Men, we can’t abdicate our responsibility any longer to the women in the church. We must lead as God has called us to lead.

I am sure other pastors in other times have said this but I am going to say it now in our time.

Men, if we want our country and community to change, if we want to see people come to Jesus, we have to be spiritual leaders who are leading out in prayer.

I am not just talking to Pastors, Deacons, and Sunday School teachers. I am talking to all men. All of us need to be spiritual leaders, who are leading out in prayer.

Challenge

With that in mind, then, let me issue a challenge to the men in the church. The next time you are with a group of men, your family, or your church family and the conversation turns to a discussion about what needs to change in this country, instead of joining into that discussion, I want you to stop and lead them in prayer. I want you to do that because just talking about what needs to change isn’t going to change anything, but you praying with others will.

Jeremiah Lanphier

If you aren’t convinced, consider the story of Jeremiah Lanphier. He lived in New York City in the 1850’s. New York City wasn’t much different then than it is today. It was a place full of sin. Corruption, gambling, greed, atheism, and apathy toward God ran rampant.

Instead of continuing to complain, Lanphier decided to do something. Believing in the power of prayer, he put an ad in the newspaper calling for a weekly prayer meeting. The first meeting began with six men praying that the Lord would do a work in their city and the world. As they continued to meet, something amazing happened. Within six months, over 10,000 people were gathering daily, instead of weekly, to pray over the lunch hour for their city and the country. Their prayers lit a fire of mass revival [2].

It all started with on man’s burden and an ad calling others to join him in prayer. You see, prayer is powerful. It changes things. So men, let’s be the spiritual leaders God has called us to be and lead out in prayer. The gospel has freed us to do that, so let’s do it.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you realize the gospel frees you to be a spiritual leader?
  2. Are you leading out in prayer in your family and church?

Resources

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[1]  Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Timothy, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Daniel M. Doriani, and Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 78.

[2] Adapted from this article: http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/577

Why Should We Pray for All Peoples, Including Our Leaders?

I have talked about prayer in my last two posts, specifically for whom we should pray and what it takes for us to be able to pray for all people. If you haven’t read those two posts, I encourage you to do so. Today I’m going to end the series by providing motivation to pray.

Why Should We Pray for All Peoples, Including Our Leaders?

Paul tells us in 1st Timothy 2 that we should pray for all people’s including our leaders in order:

“that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” (1 Ti 2:2–3)

In other words, Paul wants us to pray for all people’s including kings and all those who are in charge so that we can lead a life that is free from turbulence, uproars, and persecution.

Why this Type of Life?

The reason he wants us to lead that type of life is not just so we can be comfortable. Certainly being comfortable is a benefit. But if you know anything about Paul, you know he is all about the spread of the gospel. He knows that if we live in a persecution free society, the gospel will be spread more easily.

Our Experience

Think about America as opposed to North Korea or China. We are free to live out our faith and share the gospel with others. The worst thing we have to worry about is someone giving us a dirty look or saying something unkind, or maybe losing our job, but that is few and far between. We don’t, however, have to worry about the police showing up at our front door to arrest us, or being prosecuted and sentenced to death for our beliefs. We are free for the most part to share our faith.

What we are experiencing now is exactly what Paul longed to see — a society where Christians could live and share their faith freely, so that others would know the hope we have and come to faith in Christ. If you think about it, the freedom we have in the United States has led to many people coming to Christ.

So you can see why Paul tells us to pray for all peoples. It’s not just so we can be comfortable, but so the gospel can be freely advanced for the glory of God.

What We Should Want and Do

If you want to see the gospel advanced for the glory of God, and you should if you are a Christian, then pray for all peoples, including those in leadership. Pray God would work in their lives to change their heart so that they come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Pray also that they would see the benefit of living and directing society according to biblical principles.

The cultural war we are fighting in our country right now isn’t going to be won on Facebook or Twitter, it’s going to be won on our knees in prayer.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to influence our friends and family with arguments and reason, we should. We, however, must know that arguments, reason, and posts alone won’t do the job. Only the work of the Holy Spirit turning the hearts of man will. So pray and continue to pray for all peoples!

 

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you taking advantage of your freedom to share the gospel with others so that they might be saved?
  2. Are you continuing to pray for our leaders, so that our society remains free and the gospel is able to be freely spread?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon For Whom Should We Pray and Why?

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What Does It Take For Us To Be Able To Pray For All Peoples?

In my last post, I explored who should receive our prayers. Ultimately, we landed on the idea that we should pray for all peoples. No one, including our enemies, should be left out. We are to pray for all peoples regardless of how they treat us.

I don’t know about you, but for me, praying for all peoples can be difficult. Especially, if they have wronged me or aren’t governing in the way I believe they should govern. What, then, does it take for us to be able to pray for all peoples?

What Does It Take For Us To Be Able To Pray For All Peoples?

First, it takes a proper view of the gospel.

In 1 Timothy 2:3-4 Paul tells Timothy,

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Ti 2:3–4)

Essentially what Paul tells Timothy is that the gospel is for everyone. As one commentator says,

“The apostle’s meaning here is simply that no nation of the earth and no rank of society is excluded from salvation,”

In other words, Jesus did not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, ethnicity, or economic status, so neither should we. The gospel is for everyone. We should, then, pray for everyone to be saved and for God to work in everyone’s life. Whether we agree or disagree, whether they treat us fairly or not, we should pray for everyone.

We should specifically pray for their salvation because God’s salvation is exclusive.

In the same chapter, starting in verse 5 Paul says,

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Ti 2:5–6)

You see, there is only one way for us to be saved and that’s through trusting in Jesus as our Savior. There is no other way. Jesus is the only One who is able to serve as our Mediator — as the link between man and God. As well as Jesus is the only One who is able to serve as our ransom.

“Ransom” is a marketplace term indicating that something has been bought back; the price has been paid for its release. The One who pays the price for our release is Jesus. Through His death and resurrection, He ransoms us from God’s wrath and the power of sin over our lives.

We need Jesus to ransom us because we can’t pay the price for our own release. That’s because the price is a perfect sacrifice. We aren’t perfect. Instead, we are sinners who deserve God’s wrath. But not Jesus. He doesn’t deserve God’s wrath because He is perfect, He’s sinless. As the perfect God-man, He is able to pay the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

So we pray for God to save all peoples through Jesus because He is our only hope of salvation.

Second, it takes us being changed by the gospel.

Those who have experienced God’s forgiveness and love won’t hesitate to pray for everyone. That’s the power of the gospel. God’s love and forgiveness should change us from unloving, unforgiving people to loving and forgiving people who want what’s best for others because we have experienced what’s best for us.

The gospel should change us. It should warm our heart to others. It should cause us to be loving and forgiving people who want to see others changed. If you don’t desire that for others, you might not have been changed by the gospel yourself.

Third, it also takes a proper theology of authority.

There are a number of texts that provide a proper theology of authority, but the first part of Romans 13 seems to cover this idea well. We don’t have the time to go into detail, but let’s look at the highlights.

In verses 1 and 2 Paul tells us that:

Governing authorities are appointed by God; anyone who resists them resists God. 

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Ro 13:1–2)

Then in verses 3 and 4 we are told that:

Authorities are set in place to maintain order and justice.

“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Ro 13:3–4)

Moving right along, in verses 5-7, we are told that:

We are to live in subjection to the authorities God has placed over us.

That looks like us abiding by their laws, paying taxes, and giving them respect and honor, not just to avoid punishment but for the sake of conscience. In other words, living in subjection to the authorities God has placed over us is the right thing for Christians to do because it’s in accord with God’s command.

“Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Ro 13:5–7)

This, then, is how God wants us to think of governing authorities. Once we arrive at this type of thinking, we should be lead to pray for them.

Are you willing to pray?

In theory, praying for those who govern us might sound doable.

  • But what happens when your political party is not in charge?
  • Do you find that you still respect and honor the President God has placed over you, or do you defame his name, dragging it through the mud?
  • Do you pray for your President and elected leaders, even if they aren’t your political party?

That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s when a text like this becomes difficult and convicting. That’s why it’s necessary we have a proper view of the gospel and a proper theology of authority. If we don’t, we aren’t going to do what God calls us to do — To pray for all peoples.

Question for Reflection

  1. Does the gospel and a proper view of authority motivate you to pray for all peoples?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon For Whom Should We Pray and Why?

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Who Should Receive Our Prayers?

Prayer is something all Christians are called to do. We pray for a lot of different people, but have you ever thought about who should receive our prayers? Paul, writing to Timothy, answers that question for us. Let’s see what he has to say.

We Are to Pray for All People’s

At the end of verse 1, Paul tells Timothy that he, and we, are to pray for all people,

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” (1 Ti 2:1)

At first, praying for all people doesn’t sound too controversial. We are used to praying for a lot of different people. If your church is like mine, you hold a prayer service, where you pray for those in and out of the church. People in the community and those who live elsewhere. You probably ask the Lord to heal them, to give them wisdom, knowledge, comfort, and joy; to provide them with jobs, and so on and so forth. Nothing really controversial. We are usually happy to pray for others.

But when you really start to tease out what “all people” means, this idea gets a little more radical. What about those in the Middle East who hate us? What about ISIS and Boko Haram? What about them? Should we pray for them? According to Paul, we are supposed to pray for them as well.

For many, that’s difficult. These folks have done some horrible things. Thinking about those things can make it hard to pray for them. It may even lead us to be like Jonah who was reluctant to pray and preach because he wanted to see his enemies punished, not saved. If I’m honest, I know I’ve thought like Jonah. These groups are murdering innocent men, women, and children. They are cutting heads off Christians. So if I’m honest, I’ve certainly thought like Jonah.

But God, through Paul, tells us that we are to pray for all people, even our enemies.

As one commentator says,

“All needy sinners—without distinction of race, nationality, or social position—must receive our prayers” [1].

We Are to Pray for Our Governing Authorities

After telling us that we are to pray for all people’s, Paul drills down a bit further and specifically tells us that we are to pray…

“…for kings and all who are in high positions,” (1 Ti 2:2)

This may not sound like a radical idea, but in Paul’s day, and maybe soon in our day, this was a radical idea. Most commentators believe that when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, Nero was in charge of the Roman Empire.

If you remember from history class, Nero was a bad dude, a major persecutor of the church. One of the things he did was blame the fire that decimated a large portion of Rome in AD 64 on the Christians. A fire many believed he started. Having blamed this fire on the Christians, he rounded many of them up and punished them for a crime they didn’t commit. Another thing he did to the Christians in the empire was to impale them alive on large poles, and then light them on fire in order to provide light for his parties. There was more Nero did, but I think you get the idea — Nero was a bad dude.

Paul tells the church at Ephesus to pray for this guy! A guy they probably wished had never been born. A guy they most likely wanted God to punish. But Paul tells them to pray for him.

When it comes to our leaders, we are to do the same. We are to pray for our President, Congressmen and Congresswomen, our Supreme Court Justices, and our local leaders. We are to pray for all those in leadership over us, interceding on their behalf, asking God to work good in their life and save them, if He hasn’t already. We are to do this even if we are being persecuted by them, disagree with them, or believe they deserve God’s wrath.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you only pray for those you believe deserve it?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon For Whom Should We Pray and Why?

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[1] Thomas D. Lea, Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, New American Commentary, 87