Day 21 – What Do I Want for You? (You Mean There’s More?)

Ephesians 3:17-19 — “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

God also wants us to be filled. Not just filled but filled to “all the fullness of God!” Just as it takes power for Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith, so too it takes power for us to be filled to fullness. But what are we filled with? These verses suggest that we are filled with something that we “grasp” that “surpasses knowledge.”

Have you ever been consumed by a thought? Sure you have…perhaps it is being consumed with sadness or grief, maybe it is being consumed with vengeance or lust, possibly been consumed by fear or doubt, insecurity, greed, desire, joy, happiness…you name it, we can be consumed by our thoughts, by what we “grasp,” understand or know (or think we know). God wants us to be filled with an overriding thought that overwhelms or drowns out all others. What is the thought? — Just how amazing the love of Jesus is. We are “rooted and established” in this love. It is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the greatest chasm, longer than the longest river, and deeper than the lowest depth. There is no where in heaven, in hell, on earth, in the entire universe that Christ’s love does not fill to the fullest! This love surpasses the knowledge of the smartest human being on the planet, it is greater than all of our intellectual ability to perceive…an yet, God’s desire is that a knowledge of this love fills us to all the fullness of God — so there is no other competing thought — only the love of Jesus.

But He doesn’t want us to know this privately. He wants us to know this “together with all the Lord’s holy people.” When we know this by ourselves, this thought is powerful. But when we all know it…it becomes more powerful than any other force in the universe! It can light up communities with a holy glow as love overwhelms hatred, discord and strife. It can work together to accomplish the purposes of love with a power that the natural world cannot fathom. It can change lives, heal wounds, raise the dead to life and renew the world with God’s power and peace. What if we truly knew this thought alone? What if it consumed our minds so that no other emotion or idea could compete in the slightest? What if we were filled to all the fullness of God by the love of Jesus? God wants this for you too.

God I want what You want. I pray what You prayed, that today I would be overwhelmed, consumed, filled to all the fullness that You have for me. May the love of Jesus be my only thought this day and every day as I learn to walk in this amazing power. Father, please don’t let me miss an opportunity to fill others with this thought, not just by my words but also by my actions and in truth. Thank You for this incredible gift of love and thank You for Your desire for me to know it even more and more every day. Help me breathe it, walk it, speak it and remember it even when the storms of life crash against me. Lord I am overwhelmed! Flood my soul with this knowledge and overflow to others with this beautiful peace and love!! How great You are God, how mighty and awesome are Your deeds in all the earth! There is none like You, Lord!! Holy, holy, holy are You God…I praise You and worship You! Hallelujah!! Amen.

Day 20 — What Do I Want for You?

Ephesians 3:16-17 — “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

The cool thing about Scripture is that even though men wrote it down, it is all “God breathed.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) That means that even though the writer is speaking, God is speaking as well (since He spoke it first)! So when Paul is writing his desire for the Ephesian believers, it is not just what Paul wants for them, but also what God wants for them. God wants them to be “strengthened with power.” And this Word is not just for the Ephesians but for us as well. God desires to give us gifts “out of his glorious riches.” And the first gift is the gift of power to strengthen us. This empowerment is achieved by the Holy Spirit that works in our “inner being.” And the end result is that our inner being is prepared for Christ to “dwell in our hearts.”

Faith requires power and strength. Life requires power and strength. We need power and strength! Without them we are power-less, unable to contend with the tasks of the day. Without them we are unable to sustain our faith, and our bodies become inhospitable as a dwelling place for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we are feeling powerless, weak, without strength…we can ask God for power and strength. Because He is not lacking in resources — He has glorious riches and He wants us to have power and strength!

The first discipline we must learn is to simply ask God for what we need. For He is the source of all good gifts (James 1:17) and He has these things in abundance and richness. The next discipline we must learn is to discover what God wants for us, and ask for the things that He wants to give us. For we can be assured that He will give us the things that He wants to give us if we will only ask! It is encouraging to know that God wants good things for His children.

God, today I ask for Your strength and power. Please let Your Spirit prepare my heart to receive Christ and may He dwell there always through faith. Strengthen my mind, my body, my heart. May power be something that people can see in me…not a power of my own, but may they recognize Your power at work within me. Thank You for Your promises. May I discover all of the many things You desire for me and may I never fail to ask You to give these gifts to me. Lord, may I also be generous in giving good gifts to others. Thank You for the many gifts You have already given. I love You and I praise You for Your mighty works and awesome strength. Amen.

Day 19 — Are You Praying Dangerous Prayers?

Psalm 139:23-24 — “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

As early as Aesop’s fables (c. 550 BC) we hear a line that has been echoed throughout the centuries, ”We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified” (The Old Man and Death). James Russell Lowell once wrote, “Granting our wish one of fate’s saddest jokes is.” Anatole France put it this way, “Beware my lord! Beware lest stern Heaven hate you enough to hear your prayers!” (The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, 1881, pt. II, ch. 4) And Oscar Wilde quipped, “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers” (An Ideal Husband, 1895, Act II)

In our day the saying is, “Be careful what you wish for.” Maybe it’s these cautionary quips or maybe it is just instinctive, or maybe it’s learned through painful experience…no matter the cause, in prayer — the truth is that we are often afraid to ask for what we really want. Maybe we are afraid that God will not answer and that our faith will be less as a result. Perhaps we really are unsure of what we want and if what we are asking for is good for us. The danger in asking God for what we want is that He may give you exactly what you ask for! Are we ready for that? If God answers your request for your husband’s salvation —are you prepared for the opportunity to share Christ with him when God provides it? If you ask God for financial freedom and to get out of debt, are you prepared for Him to expose your need to others so that they can help? Are you prepared to stop buying things you don’t need and take the difficult job he provides you with even if it is in another state? When you ask God for His will for your life and He seems to be indicating that you go back to school, or start a business, or become a missionary…will you heed His call?

David seems to throw caution to the wind when he prays, “Search me, God, and know my heart.” David knows that if he cherishes sin in his heart that God will not hear his prayers. He knows sin cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and must be eradicated/killed…nothing could be more dangerous than to ask this of God! Then he says “test me.” Put me to the test, Lord! This test is not graded on a curve — it is a pass/fail test! Are we praying dangerous prayers? Are we praying that God do everything, short of death, to bring our children into saving faith? Are we praying for God to use us however He sees fit? Are we willing to put God on the line in such a way, that if He doesn’t show up, we will absolutely fail and we have no other back-up plan? Are we asking God to search our hearts, to know our thoughts and to test us? These are dangerous times. And dangerous times call for dangerous prayers!

God, You alone are good and You alone are God. Today I want to put my faith in You in such a radical way that there is no other hope for me, in heaven or on earth. I am trusting You today, for every provision — financially, spiritually, and physically. I am listening for Your voice and today I commit — I promise — that when I hear Your voice, I will obey it…no matter what You ask me to do. Help me be faithful in the small steps You ask me to take as well as the giant leaps of faith. God, today I ask You to search me, know my heart, cleanse me of all unrighteous thoughts or activities, and allow me to experience victory in Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Day 13 — Can My Prayers Be Hindered?

1 Peter 3:7 — “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

I have often heard it said that “God always hears our prayers.” We hear Scriptures such as, 1 John 5:15 that says, “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” We may be tempted to immediately draw that conclusion. But as Jesus challenged Satan during his wilderness temptation with the simple retort, “It is also written” (Mat. 4:7), perhaps we should examine more of what Scripture has to say on the matter.

Our Scripture today from 1 Peter 3 would seem to indicate that our neglect of our spouses, lack of respect or lack of being considerate may indeed hinder our prayers. 1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” God apparently does listen attentively to those who are righteous (in right standing with God), but it seems as if He is set against, or deaf, to those who do evil. This echoes David who writes in the Psalms, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” (Ps. 66:18). David was a “man after God’s own heart,” if there was anyone who was righteous before God it was him…and yet, he laments that his own predilection to sin could keep his prayers from reaching God’s ears.

Now I’m not trying to scare you or bring condemnation or fear…all of our right actions are as filthy rags before Jesus (Isaiah 64:6; Rom. 3:10). We should be thankful to know that our righteousness (right standing) before God is not our doing. Faith in Jesus Christ alone is what gives us a right standing before God. And it keeps us right before Him (when we confess our sins — 1 John 1:9). But if you you feel like God is distant or not “hearing” you, you may want to take spiritual inventory. Is there any sin in your heart? Are you treating your spouse with respect? If so, the remedy is simple…confess your sins to God and you will find that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul. Amen. (Psalm 103)

Day 9 – Can God Hear Me?

Romans 10:13 — “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

When it comes to prayer, perhaps one of the greatest questions is: Does God hear me? What good is it to seek God, to speak to Him, to attempt to get His attention through fasting, if He is not listening? Surely, the assurance that God hears us is a necessity. The first prayer God hears from anyone is “Lord, save me.” God is always listening for the cry of the lost to be found, for the broken to be healed, for the sinner to be saved. The assurance is God’s own Word that declares it. God’s Word is never wrong. We can also be assured that God’s ear is attentive to the righteous, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;” (Psalm 34:15) The natural question should then be, “Who is righteous?”

The good news is that God has made all men righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ. But there is only one way to activate this righteousness personally…through faith in Jesus Christ. “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22) Faith is more than belief — it is belief, hope and trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross to pay for our sins. It is belief, hope and trust in Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead, so that we too will be raised to eternal life with God the Father. It is belief, hope and trust in Jesus Christ to complete the work of saving us not just from the penalty and consequence of sin, but also from the bondage and servitude to sin that we are all trapped in. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, a divine transaction occurs…our sin (past, present and future) is paid for in full. We are declared righteous by God the Father and we are brought from death to life!

This new declaration of our righteousness means God now hears all our prayers! Because His Word confirms that “His ears are attentive” to our cry. God hears you.

Father God, I thank You that You are always listening. Thank You for saving me from my sin. Thank You for declaring me righteous through Jesus Christ. Help my faith to rest on nothing else but Christ’s completed work on the Cross. Lord, today I ask You with confidence for my every need. I believe Your Word, that You hear me, and that You will answer. I praise You for Your awesome promises and for Your great love for me. Help me today to reach out to others that they may see and experience Your love and call upon Your Name and be saved. Amen.

Day 7 — When Do I Pray?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul answers this simple question with a most emphatic, “continually”! Always, without ceasing, never ending, never stopping — unbroken contact with God is our true need. Jesus allows us because of His work on the cross to have restored fellowship with God and be in constant contact with Him. That means that as we go about our daily lives, we live in an ever-present attitude of prayer. We give thanks in all circumstances, with a heart full of rejoicing, and so we remain aligned with His heart and intentions throughout the day.

Alright, let’s be honest — do we really experience this? Do we really find ourselves truly in this unhindered, uninterrupted state throughout the day? Some may answer “yes” — and I won’t fault you for it. Many will say “I do my best” and that “I experience something like this” — again I don’t question your honesty…But for those of you who struggle (I include myself in this category), can I just encourage you that the difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be, is often the experience that Christians relate to most profoundly. Circumstance is the chief enemy of this unhindered contact…and when it hits we are often ripped out of this pleasant state of thankfulness and rejoicing and plunged into a fury of things that act as an undertow that pulls us out into the depths of an ocean of despair.

How do we get out of the undertow? There is a “church answer” that we just pull ourselves out of it, or shake it off…pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps so-to-speak. But the Bible answer is that we learn to give thanks, in any and all circumstances. This is not easy at first, of course. We must discipline our hearts to understand God’s desire for our good no matter what. When we develop a grateful heart that begins to give thanks, even for life’s hardships, we are getting closer to God’s heart. We find it easier to joy and joy again (rejoice)…we are transformed in mind and body. We trust God’s heart that He works all things for our good and His glory. (Rom. 8:28) The avenue of “prayer at all times” opens as He transforms our minds and hearts into His. The more we pray continually, the more natural it becomes.

Father, sometimes it is hard for me to stay in tune with You. I get bowled over easily by the stresses and worries of the day. Please help me to stay connected to You through my day. Help me to remain in that state that Your Son knew of being perfectly aligned with You. I want to have Your joy constantly. Help me to joy and joy and joy and joy! Thank You for Your great patience and lovingkindness toward me. Thank You for my life and each breath that I have. Thank You for my family and friends, thank You for my church and for Your grace. You are amazing and I will remember that even in the hard times of life. Thank You for every moment, even the difficult ones, that You allow me to experience. I am grateful for Your great glory. Amen.

Day 4 – The How of Fasting?

Zechariah 7:5,11-13 — “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?…But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

The danger of fasting, and really any mode of physical denial or fleshly restraint, is that it may become the end in and of itself, rather than the means to an end that it was meant to be. The people in Zechariah’s day had engaged in the discipline of fasting for seventy years! But God asks them a cutting question, “Was it really for me?” Sometimes our service to God, our pious activities, or our religious observance can be self-serving more than God honoring and God seeking. In the end, God always knows our hearts, and if we are not listening…neither will He.

The specifics of fasting (as far as the how-to) in the Bible are sparse. While almost every example in the Bible refers to a fast from food (all foods, certain foods, etc.), it would not be out of line to call Sabbath observance a fast from work/activity. The purpose remains the same — mourning, weeping, confession, drawing closer to God.

Therefore, the how of fasting is very open. You can fast from one meal, devoting the time you would have spent eating on reading God’s Word or in prayer. You can fast from certain foods, maybe foods you ordinarily enjoy often (sweets, soda, sweet tea, pizza, burgers, bbq, etc.) You can fast for an entire day or several days in a row (please be sure to consult a physician to ensure you are able to do this). You may fast from certain activities, especially ones that consume much of your time (TV, golf, movies, cell phone, internet, hobbies, etc.)

Only be sure that you do not dilute yourself into thinking that because you forgot to eat, or didn’t have time for a certain activity that you are fasting. Fasting is purposeful and intentional, and therefore focusing your time on God during this denial of food or activity is crucial. Be sure that you are doing it for God.

God please forgive me when I have not engaged in fasting or prayer for the right reasons. I confess that my motives have often been selfish, and my intentions have not always been pure. Please help me engage in the discipline of disciplining my body. Help me to pull down the flesh so that I might be built up in the Spirit. Ultimately God, I want to know You more. Help me remove any distractions, inhibitions, or sin that stands in the way of that. Thank You for Jesus Christ who has paid my sin debt and given me the access to You through His blood. May I never take that lightly. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Day 3 – The How of Prayer?

Luke 11:1-4 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Basically, “Master, how do we pray?” Now that we know the why, the how is the natural next step. Jesus gives them a prayer — we often refer to it as The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is a rudimentary model of how to pray. If Jesus had given this to us in our day, He might have called it a sort of “Idiot’s Guide to Prayer,” or “Prayer for Dummies.” (Jesus may have even done a YouTube how-to video!) This was never meant to be the only way to pray, but simply a guide, a how-to, for children or amateurs. We teach our children, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Not because we wish for them to pray this exact prayer every night for the rest of their lives, but so that they learn to communicate to God in a simple way — they learn to see God as their Father in heaven who wants to hear from them. It is a starting point to communion with God. So, what is the how of prayer? Jesus says:

Remember Who you are talking to. “Our Father in heaven…” God is Holy. He dwells on High, in heaven. But He is also our Father, and a Good Father at that. We can converse with Him. We can ask of Him, we can talk with Him and He loves us.

Remind God that you want what He wants. “Your will be done…” If you really desire for God’s will to be done, then be a part of what He is doing. Before you tell Him what you want, ask Him what He wants. But be prepared for His wants to some times (or many times) be in conflict with your own desires…are you willing to let Him have His way?

Request what you need. “Give us each day…” Some people will tell you at this point to just ask for your needs not your wants. But the Bible teaches us that if we “Take delight in the LORD, then he will give us the desires of our heart.” (Psalm 37:4) If you want what He wants, then ask Him for anything you want! Let God distinguish between your wants and needs and be content with what He provides. God will bring our desires into conformity with His — in His time.

Reveal your sin and Release others from theirs. “Forgive us our sins…” This may seem hard on the surface, to expose our sins to God. However, upon closer inspection, it is really quite simple — God already sees and knows about our sin! We are really just agreeing with Him that our sin is wrong and promising to turn away from wrong doing. But, because God does not hold our sin against us, then neither can we hold others’ sins against them. We model God’s forgiveness, and in so doing, we become a true testimony of His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Repeat your requests until God says otherwise. “Ask…Seek…Knock…” (vv. 9-10) Ever meet someone for the first time and find it hard to converse? Conversation didn’t come easy or natural, it seemed forced and a little stiff. Then with time you became friends, because of persistence and deeper communication. Don’t give up just because you don’t get the answer you wanted…persist in prayer. Keep praying until it becomes like breathing…second nature, you don’t even think about it, it just happens naturally. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Revel in your status. “Suppose you have a friend…” (v.8) As God’s beloved, a friend of God and a child of the King the Jesus says we can come to the Father with “shameless audacity.” (Luke 11:8) When a child bursts into his father’s business meeting disrupting everyone else in the meeting (and everything on the agenda) simply because he can’t wait to tell his dad what he did at school that day…that’s shameless audacity! Your intimate relationship with God should make others blush! “The gall of that child!” “What impertinence!” “Doesn’t he know there are more important matters at hand?” We don’t know and we don’t care! We have to speak to daddy!…and He loves it.

Lastly, don’t forget to be thankful. Thankfulness has its own ability to transform our thoughts off of our circumstances and needs and reminding us of how good God always is. Jesus is still willing to teach us how to pray.

Oh Father! You are God alone, and there is no other like You. I want nothing more than Your will to be done in this world and in my life. Do whatever it takes to conform me to Your will and surrender my own. Forgive me when I fail in this. I confess that I am full of sin and my desires often take place over Yours. I’m sorry when that happens, please help me to allow Your desires to override my own. I have held others responsible for the hurts they have given me. I have kept them in debtors prison for their transgressions..forgive me. Today I will release them with Your help, and help me also to forget the pain and not bring it back to remembrance. Thank You for listening, for hearing, and for answering. But most of all, thank You for being my Daddy and for loving me so well. I love You, Dad. Amen.

Day 2 – The Why of Fasting?

1 Samuel 7:6 — “When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.”

I believe the why of fasting is equally important to the why of prayer. Just as Genesis 4:26 was the first mention of prayer (calling upon the LORD) in the Bible, so 1 Samuel 7:6 is the first mention of fasting in the Bible. And just as mankind, in the book of Genesis, lost fellowship with God through sin and they sought restoration of that fellowship through prayer — mankind, in the book of Samuel, lost God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant — a symbol of God’s presence) and they sought restoration through fasting and confession (prayer). While prayer is an activity of communicating to God, fasting — the deliberate denial of food to the body — is an activity that communicates to God the seriousness of our commitment. In this instance, the children of Israel had indulged their appetites by worshiping other foreign gods. They were no longer committed to serve God, but rather distracted by their own desires. The Ark was captured by the Philistines and “The Glory had departed from Israel, for the ark of God had been captured.” (1 Sam. 4:22) The why of fasting is this: we are distracted. There is a battle within us between our desire to do things our way and a desire to do things God’s way. The New Testament writer, James puts it this way, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) When we deny ourselves basic necessities like food, it weakens our worldly body…but it strengthens our spiritual body! (Mat. 4:2; Mat.16:24-26) It disciplines our flesh and we are more able to commune with God because we are less distracted by the desires/appetites of our bodies. We show God in a very tangible way that we are committed to Him more than to ourselves. (Job 11:13-19) We live on the spiritual food He gives us more than the earthly foods we crave. (Mat. 4:4; Deut. 8:3) God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10), and when we weaken our sinful bodies through self denial…we are strengthened by God’s power and God’s glory returns! We experience His presence in new ways and we recommit our hearts to what really matters. We refocus upon God and we forsake our distractions and hinderances, for the sake of sweet communion and fellowship with God. We fast because we are distracted.

God of grace and God of glory, forgive me for being distracted by my own sinful desires. Even now, talking about denying my body food there is a visceral reaction from my flesh…it is angry, and it desires to disobey. Help me to discipline my body through fasting. Not so that I am holier than anyone else, but because my body is in constant rebellion to Your ways. Let me use the things of this world — food, money, power, talents as if they do not have a hold on me. Let me not be controlled by any of them, but surrender them all to Your control. Help me to keep my commitments to You. Thank You for Your loving kindness and Your faithfulness even when I am unfaithful. Thank You for Your perfect power in my weakness —help me to truly embrace weakness, and fully trust in Your power and grace. All glory is Yours in heaven and on earth. Amen.

Day 1 — The Why of Prayer?

Genesis 4:26 — “Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.”

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Sometimes we launch into trying to teach people how to do something without helping them understand why they are doing it in the first place.  Then, often years later, the person wakes up realizing that they have been doing something simply because someone told them how to do it…but since they have never really understood its purpose, they often find it has meant very little to them or worse — what they are doing has become nothing but stale, dry ritual devoid of any meaning.  The why of prayer is this: we need God.  We need fellowship with Him, we need to hear from Him and to be heard by Him.  In Eden’s perfection, we had unhindered, unbroken fellowship with Him — man and woman “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Genesis 3:8)  But sin broke that fellowship and became the hindrance to our hearing from Him and and the also the hinderance to Him hearing from us.  Death entered the world through sin (Romans 5:12), and all the brokenness and consequence that sin brings came with it. Cain murders Able — dysfunction reigned in the very first family, not because God created it that way, but because sin (rebellion against God) is so devastating.  When sin has ravaged our lives, our families, and our communities —“men begin to call upon the name of the LORD.”  This is why we pray.  We long to communicate with God.  We need to reconnect with the Author of our story, the Creator of our world, the Father of us all.  We need the Author to tell us what happens next, to show us how to walk in this broken world.  For only the Creator can distinguish between what is broken and what is good and can tell us how to fix what is broken.  We need the Father to hear us when we cry, to wipe away every tear.  A Father to hear us when we are joyful and celebrate with us.  A Father to teach us what pleases Him, and what is best for us…because He knows what is best for His children.  We pray because we need God.

Heavenly Father, LORD of all creation and Author of my story, today I call upon You.  I need You to hear my cry, I am broken by sin.  I need You to rescue me from the consequences of sin in my life.  I need You to help me know right from wrong.  I need You to guide me in all my decisions and actions.  I also need to hear from You.  Please speak to me, through Your Word, through other people, through Your powerful Holy Spirit.  I promise that when I hear Your voice, and I know it is You, that I will do what You want me to do.  Please be patient with me when I fail, love me even when I forget Your ways, and bring me back when I walk away.  Thank You for loving me, I truly love You and I thank You for writing me into Your story.  Amen.