Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. (2 Samuel 12:20)
Over the course of the last few devotions we’ve talked about being persistent in prayer and praying selflessly for others. Today, we are going to talk about a much more difficult topic: moving on in prayer. In today’s focal Scripture we see David, the same David the Scripture describes as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), getting up after God had answered a desperate plea. David’s son with Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah with whom David had an affair) had died. David had desperately prayed for his newborn son that God might spare his child and let him live, God’s answer came through David’s son’s death.
As the father of a child who has gone on to be with the Lord, I can tell you that the death of a child almost destroyed me. Losing Brynleigh Grace was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure. It is by the grace of God alone (the grace that she got her middle name from) that sustained me through her death. Unlike David, I didn’t have the opportunity to pray for her as she suffered in the pangs of death. As I look at David’s response as his son died, I am astonished at his faith and the faith filled actions.
If you go to 2 Samuel chapter 12 and read, you’ll find that the servants and those around David were almost perplexed by his response. The King had been praying, fasting, weeping for his son while his son fought for his life. He pleaded with God for mercy for his child and God said no. After the death of his son, David finished his prayer and fasting and he moved on. Don’t misunderstand what I’m getting ready to say, I am confident that David loved his child and losing the child was incredibly painful. But, David had learned what you and I need to learn: when God gives an answer for our prayer, it’s time to move on.
I almost moved on from this devotion without capturing one of the most stunning response we see from David who had just been pouring out his desperation for his child’s life before God. After God did not spare his son, David entered into the ‘house of the Lord’ and worshiped God! I can frankly and honestly say that my immediate response was not David’s response. After the death of my daughter I struggled for weeks, months, and years with her death. Know this: God has been faithfully patient, loving, and tender to me through every moment.
The truths of God’s Word are so precious and important for us to understand. I’ve called this out in our earlier devotions but the entire childish thought that God “never says no” is a spiritually immature perspective that won’t withstand reality. God does say no. When God says no, we could spend time pleading and beginning like a child who wants dessert or a toy at the store or we could trust Him even when the answer is difficult to accept.
As I sit here writing this devotion, I know what I’m sharing is difficult but I believe this is a Christ honoring way to pray. When God’s answer is “no”, instead of begging for Him to change His mind, how different would our lives be if we prayed for Him to give us grace to walk through that no. How different would it be if we asked for faith to trust Him. How different would it be if we prayed “Thy will be done”, and truly meant it? How different would our lives be if we not only knew that God is using all things for good (Romans 8:28), but that we trusted it?
As you prepare to pray today, remember that God is using all things for good. That doesn’t mean all things are good… it doesn’t mean they feel good or that the things themselves are even good, it means that God is using all things (even our most desperate pain and suffering) for good. As the Master Weaver of time, He is meticulously weaving every moment of time to work out His perfect will for creation. Ask yourself today: when has God’s reply been no? How did that affect your pray life? Is there some doubt or fear that God may say no again? If so, start today by confessing any struggle or doubt. Then trust Him, even in the “no”.
Father, today we confess Lord that as your children it’s hard to hear you say no. Lord, I confess the spiritual memory of some painful no answers to my prayers. Lord we know that you aren’t some cosmic genie who answers our every beckon and call. You are our Good Father and You know what we need, when we need it, and how we need it. Lord just as David did, teach us to move on with our lives when Your answer to our prayer is no. Teach is that we can trust you through every answered prayer, even when the answer isn’t what we hoped for or longed for. Sustain us in the midst of our pain and fear. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
1 Timothy 1:21 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—
Stop and think for a moment… when you pray, who are your prayers focused on? If I’m being honest, my prayers are heavily filled with prayers concerning myself, my wife, my children, and those who are close to me. Simply put, my prayers are very selfish or self-centered sometimes. Although I think what we pray for most reveals what (or who) is most important in our life, I think consistently selfish prayers can become robotic and cold.
I’ve asked the question before as I’ve taught: are you praying about it as much as your talking about it? In some circles one may even have to ask… are people praying about it as much as they are complaining about it, gossiping about it, or being hurt about it? Jesus says: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21) and I think this same premise might be applied to our prayer life to discover what’s really most important to us.
Are you like me? Sometimes can you be selfish in prayer? In today’s focal Scripture Paul urges us to pray for “all people”. There is a very real call for the people of God to go before Him and lift up others selflessly as we seek God’s intervention in the lives and affairs of mankind. I’ve said throughout this devotional series that prayer is not intended to change God’s heart; it is intended to change ours. While I wholeheartedly embrace that truth, I know that our prayers are precious to God and I do believe God moves powerfully to meet the needs and requests of His children. Knowing this, avoid the temptation to believe that when God’s will isn’t a “yes” answer to our prayers that our prayers didn’t matter, they still do.
It can be difficult to pray for those we don’t like or those we don’t agree with. Often I find this most evident in the polarized world of politics. I wonder how different some of our leaders may be if we united in prayer for them and consistently asked for God’s wisdom for them. Often we allow our dislike of someone to cut off any chance of praying for them. I wonder, what if that person you don’t really like who causes your life to be more difficult desperately needs your prayers? What if you are the only person praying for them? The husband you think will never change, what if God’s heart is moved to change him through your loving prayers? Remember: the prayers of a Christian in communion with God are powerful and effective (James 5:16).
Today as you begin to pray, I challenge you to ask God: Lord, who do you want me to pray for? Ask Him to put a face or name on your mind and then lift that person up to Him in prayer. You don’t have to know all the details, they may not have even asked for prayer, pray anyway. Ask God to show you how selfish your prayer life may have been up to this point and begin seeking His help to be a selfless servant, even in prayer. Don’t stop lifting up your own needs to God, simply begin making time to lift up others too.
Father, today we come seeking your grace and mercy in Jesus name. Lord we confess that sometimes our prayers can selfish and self-centered. Lord, help us to lift others, even those we may not like, up to you in prayer. Lord help us realize that prayer is intended to change our hearts, not Yours. Lord help us to know your heart concerning prayer and begin to understand the power of this conversation. Put someone on our heart right now that we need to pray for Lord. Help us to make time to pray for others and consistently seek Your will for their lives too. Thank you for hearing our prayers and we are so thankful You hear us, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Are you ready for Wednesday night Bible study? Tonight’s study, titled: Conformed or Transformed: Who Do I Resemble More? Is a study in Romans 12. You can now join in two unique ways.
To participate, you can join via Zoom at https://us04web.zoom.us/j/9204385457. Zoom is available on your laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone device. Joining via Zoom will enable you to speak live with Pastor Scott. There is no cost to join our meeting via Zoom.
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So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. (Genesis 32:24)
Today’s focal Scripture takes us to a peculiar recounting in Scripture where Jacob, whose name would be changed to Israel, is wrestling with God. In this historic match we see a determined Jacob who is clinging to God and refusing to let go until he receives His blessing. In the end, God gave Jacob His blessing and changed His name to Israel.
I wonder… have you ever persistently sought God’s face and refused to “let Him go” in prayer until He answered you? In our earlier devotions I’ve mentioned the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). In both the parable Jesus spoke concerning the widow and the unjust judge and today’s Scripture, I think we see a principal of prayer that’s important: don’t stop praying. Don’t stop seeking God’s face. Don’t give up or turn away from seeking God’s intervention until He has given you a clear answer.
God could have easily overpowered Jacob (he gave him a lifelong limp to remember the wrestling match). But the God of the creation allowed this man who would further help fulfill God’s promises to Abraham to wrestle with Him. This epic show down didn’t change God or change God’s will, it helped change Jacob’s heart. Earlier in his life Jacob had stolen his father Isaac’s blessing by pretending to be his older brother. This time God asks him: “what’s your name” (verse 27) and this time Jacob replied honesty: “Jacob”.
I find it interesting that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel at this moment and blessed him. Jacob didn’t give up and refused to let God go until he received an answer for his request. Sometimes this type of “wrestling with God” in prayer is reserved for our most desperate pleas. We pray this way when we are seeking His mercy for someone’s life. We pray this way when tragedy strikes. We pray like this when a life changing set of circumstances appear on the horizon and we are powerless to stop them.
I think that God wants us to pray passionately and consistently all the time. Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I wonder how dramatically different our prayer life would be if we would seek God without ceasing and with passion and a fervent heart. As you prepare to pray today consider this: when is the last time you desperately prayed and sought God’s face? When was the last time you prayed continually until God gave an answer for a prayer? Simply put, when is the last time you sought God with all your heart? It’s time to do that today.
Don’t forget, prayer isn’t designed to change God’s heart but our heart. As we pray ceaselessly and wrestle with God in prayer, be prepared to accept His will. Let every prayer we pray be under-girded with the submission to God as we pray: “not my will but Thy will be done”.
Father we come before You in Jesus name seeking Your will for our lives. Lord forgive us for thinking that You are only concerned with the ‘big’ problems in our life. Help us ceaselessly seek You with passion about even decisions that appear small. Help us seek Your face consistently and be prepared to wrestle in prayer. Lord help us remember that the purpose of ceaselessly praying and wrestling in prayer is intended to change our hearts, not Yours. Thank You for being faithful and good. Help us trust You even when it feels like You are far away, because we know You don’t change. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13)
Scripture teaches us that God resists the proud but exalts those who humble themselves before Him (James 4:6). There is one danger in prayer that should give us pause every time we come before the throne: pride. Although the definition of pride has changed over the years and society now accepts pride as a good thing, the Bible has much to say about pride. One warning we should all heed before prayer is found in Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
One definition of pride is an inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable feeling of superiority as to one’s talents, beauty, wealth, rank, and so forth; disdainful behavior or treatment; insolence or arrogance of demeanor; haughty bearing. It’s easy to see why pride is such a problem, especially as we begin to see ourselves in light of God’s glory and grace. The “best” among us fall so far short of His glory that without God’s grace each of us would spend eternity separated from Him. Scripture reminds us in Romans 3:23: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
As pride begins to creep in to our lives and our prayers, slowly we begin to forget Who has blessed us, sustained us, gifted us, saved us, forgiven us, and given us what we could never obtain on our own. In today’s focal Scripture we see one of two men Jesus tells us about and the prayers they prayed. Firstly, the Pharisee. As a religious elite this man would have been someone who had the first five books of the Torah (the Old Testament) memorized, strictly followed hundreds of laws, tithed zealously, and often were very proud men of stature. This proud Pharisee comes before God and begins to pray a prayer filled with pride and self-focus.
Secondly, we see a tax collector. The most hated men in Jewish society, the very thought of comparing him to a Pharisee would have been almost laughable. This man was a sinner, the worst society had to offer, worse yet… he knew it. Not only did he know it, but it turns out he also understand who God was (he wouldn’t even look up to heaven). The tax collector prayers a simple, honest, desperate prayer from the heart. Can you see the difference between these two men? Guess which prayer God heard? Spoiler alert: the humble tax collectors prayer.
I don’t think as followers of Jesus we ever wake up thinking: “I’m going to be overly proud and haughty today”. It creeps in slowly, like a water leak it eventually floods our soul and turns our heart towards a selfish focus instead of being focused on God. We become resistant to the correction of God and eventually even though we have a powerful head knowledge of who He is, our hearts are far from Him. It is written in Scripture that: these people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. (Isaiah 29:13).
Have you ever struggled with pride in your own life? I can think of examples in my own life since I surrendered my life to Jesus where pride has crept in unaware. Slowly like a gas leak it built up and suddenly a small spark caused it to explode and everything came tumbling down. As you prepare to pray today, if you are currently or have ever struggled with pride, it’s time to lay it down. It’s time to remember that the only reason we can come before God is because of God. It is through faith in Jesus alone that we can come before the throne of God to find grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
It has been said that before the cross, the ground is level. Simply put, there are only two types of people in the world: sinners and sinners saved by grace.
Father, we come to You today in Jesus name and confess that is by the blood of Jesus alone that we can come to You. Forgive us if there has been or is any pride in our lives. Holy Spirit we ask that you would reveal it to us, that our hearts would continue to be tender before You. Mold us and shape us in Your will. Father help us not to look on others with pride and never let us forget that You are the author of our salvation. It is by Your hand that we grow as You mold us and shape us in the image of your Son Jesus. Lord we confess that if You didn’t finish the work You started it would never get done. Help us not to be spiritually blind as we seek you with our whole heart. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
James 5:16 — Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
So we focused on one part of this verse in our devotion asking “Are My Prayers Effective?” But I could almost hear you thinking to yourself as you read that, “That’s great Scott, but the verse says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective…If I’m not a righteous person, can MY prayers be effective?” It’s a fair question that requires us to define what a righteous person is and who can be a righteous person.
A righteous person is a person who is in right standing, or right relationship with God. God cannot be in relationship with sin, Isaiah 59:1-2 says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Sin separates and breaks relationship. Sin in families brings about broken relationships, marriages end in divorce, children are alienated from their parents…sin separates. So as sinful people (because all of us sin), it is impossible for us to be in right relationship with God because only a sinless person could be in right standing/relationship with God. “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
Then who can be a righteous person? The good news is that Jesus was a perfect, sinless and therefore righteous person. As God’s Son, he came to earth and lived the perfect life we could not and became a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. When he paid the penalty of our sins on the cross, our sins were taken away and no longer are they held against us. “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.” (Psalm 103:11-12) So, who can be a righteous person? “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) The answer is simple: all who believe and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Anyone can be and is righteous (in right standing/relationship with God) that puts their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. How great to know that we cannot earn righteousness, it is accomplished by Jesus and given to us by God through faith in Jesus. Wow. Place your faith in Jesus and your prayers can be powerful and effective.
Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your death on the cross. Thank You for purchasing my salvation and giving me Your righteousness. Thank You for paying my sin debt and forgiving me for all my unrighteousness. Today, I place my faith in You alone for my hope of salvation, and I trust You to lead me in all my ways. I commit to study Your Word and seek Your will for my life. May my prayers be answered, not because of anything I have done, but because You have accomplished righteousness on my behalf. Teach me to pray, and may Your heart become my heart. I love You, and I am so grateful to be called Your friend. Amen.
James 5:16 — “ Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
We asked the question earlier (Day 9), “Does God Hear Me?” But that certainly doesn’t address all our uncertainty when it comes to prayer. In reality, beyond being listened to and being heard, what we ultimately want to know is, “Are my prayers accomplishing anything?” “Are they working?” “Are they doing anything at all?” “Are my prayers effective?”
James says that Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t. That’s pretty effective. He says that Elijah prayed that it would rain and it did. Again, that is pretty effective if you ask me.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to walk into a children’s hospital, pray for each child with a terminal illness or a lifelong disease and walk out of that hospital followed by children who were miraculously healed and no longer in need of the hospital’s services. I would love for every family member of mine to never struggle again with sin, or need of money, or shelter, or food. Effective prayer doesn’t mean you get everything you want. Please allow me to repeat that: Effective prayer doesn’t mean you get everything you want. Because effective prayer is not about you.
Let’s go back to Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 18. The point at which he prays for rain is in verses 41-46. But we have to look back at the first verse of chapter 18 for the reason Elijah’s prayer worked: “Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!’” Did you catch it? The Lord said “I will soon send rain!” Even though I’m sure he wanted rain to come and heal the land, Elijah wasn’t praying for what he wanted…he was praying for what God wanted! He was agreeing with God.
When we take the focus off of what we want in prayer and learn what God wants, we begin to pray powerful and effective prayers. Because when our prayers are in alignment with God and with His Word, we just simply ask God — as Jesus taught us to, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prepare to see your prayers become more powerful and effective than ever.
Father, please forgive me. Sometimes when I pray my heart runs to the things I need, the things I want, and to be honest I am often disappointed when I don’t see things happen the way I want…I become surprised when my prayers are ineffective. God, today I am ready to listen for what You want. I am ready to pray for what You want. I am ready to see my prayers be effective! So Lord, I submit my will to Yours. May my heart be Your heart. May my mind be Your mind. I want Your Kingdom to come and Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven! Bring Your Kingdom promises, Your Kingdom power, Your righteousness to the ends of the earth. Lord, restore, heal, provide, meet every need at Your move and in Your time. Have Your way in my life, and may I be astounded by the way You answer through Your Word and through answered prayers. Thank You Lord. Amen.
Hebrews 4:16 – 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.
Have you ever referred to God as the “big man upstairs” or know someone who does? It’s interesting that often people believe in a “god” of some kind, but struggle to ever take it to the next level and understand there is not only a God of the universe, but He is a very personal God who created them, knows them, loves them, and wants them to know Him. The reason this is important is because when we pray, we aren’t talking to some impersonal cosmic force somewhere roaming the cosmos, we are talking to the God whom we refer to as “Father”.
In today’s western culture it has been historically important that when we face trials or tough times in life that we pull ourselves up by our “bootstraps” and get to work finding a solution. This type of mentality can lead to a pride that is resistant to help, even help from God. It is interesting that somehow we think we can just work a bit harder to be a better person or fix a situation in our own power, only to fail miserably. When we try to pick ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
We need God. His grace and mercy are the only thing that can help us live a life of victory centered in Christ. It is by God’s grace that we overcome sin and temptation in our lives. It is His mercies that prevent destruction of unthinkable magnitudes in our lives. I’ve heard it said like this: grace is God giving us something we don’t deserve (eternal life, relationship, forgiveness, etc.) while mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve (death, judgment, punishment, etc.). In today’s focal Scripture we are encouraged to come to God in prayer in our time of need to find both mercy and grace!
It seemed like for the majority of 2019 and even moving in to the new year I find myself saying “I’m trying”… in fact that is my catch phrase. When I fail to be loving, kind, patient, joyful, and self-controlled (the fruits of the Spirit), I ask for forgiveness and assure everyone “I’m trying”. As I sit here writing this devotion, I can assure you that my every effort to “try” has come up short. When I try, absent God’s divine mercy and grace, I always fail to be the husband, dad, and servant He has called me to be. Honestly, no matter how many times I pull up my bootstraps, I fall back in the same trap when I don’t come to God first and continually.
As you enter into your time of prayer today, are you coming with empty hands and a need that only God can fill? Are you seeking His mercy and grace? The Scripture promises us that we can come seeking it… so why are we coming as if we don’t have a need? Every person who comes before God’s throne is in need of something only God can give them. Is it healing? Restoration? Are you asking for someone to be saved? Are you asking for your marriage to be healed? Are you asking for someone you love to be delivered from sickness or drugs? Whatever your need, before you “try”, come to God for mercy and grace so you can try with His power. As Philippians 1:6 says… Jesus will finish the good work He has started in you.
Father, we humbly come before you and confess how desperately we need your mercy and grace. We boldly come directly to your throne covered by the blood of Jesus and as your children, we ask for Your help. Father, please do what only you can do. We confess that we’ve tried it by ourselves before. We’ve promised to be a better person, to stop doing something or to start doing something but Lord apart from you we can do nothing. Help us abide in you Jesus so the fruits of your Holy Spirit will multiply and grow. We throw our pride down Lord because we know it has no place before you. We come with empty hands and expectant hearts knowing that You are capable of far beyond anything we can think or imagine. We love you and trust you, please shower us with mercy and grace, in Jesus’ name, amen.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
What does God want? Have you ever actually paused long enough to consider this question? When we come to God we find the Divine Creator of the universe who has absolutely everything He needs with-in Himself. He is fully self sufficient and humanity can neither add or detract from who He is. So what does God want from us since we have absolutely nothing to offer Him He doesn’t already have? Our heart. All of it.
When I begin to wrestle with this thought, it’s really hard to imagine the simple answer. Some try to answer this question with works thinking they can earn the love of God. Some give money or time or anything else they think might earn them God’s love. In the end though, none of this could ever put us in a place of deserving or earning God’s love or forgiveness.
Today’s focal Scripture reminds us that if we seek God with our whole heart, we will find Him. In the greatest commandment (love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength) we see the call to love God with our entire beings. Just as we are called to love God with everything we are and everything we have, we are also called to seek Him continually this way.
How often have we came seeking God in a half-hearted attempt that may be similar to looking for lost socks in the dryer. Yes, I’m looking, but am I really looking? The word “seek” is the Hebrew baw-kash’ and includes the indication of asking, begging, or beseeching. When we come seeking God in prayer we would do well to remember who we are calling on. The King of kings, the one true God of the universe, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Author of salvation and life, this is the one we come to “seek”.
God, in His amazing love, tells us to seek Him with our whole heart and promises we will find Him. Today, let us leave our half-hearted prayers at the door. Let us enter into our prayer rooms determined to seek God with every part of our being and let us cry out for Him. Let us continue seeking Him and crying out to Him in humility and expectation knowing that when we truly seek Him with our whole being, we will find Him.
Father, you are the Creator and Sustainer of our hearts. Forgive our half-hearted, distracted, self-focused, selfish prayers. We come seeking you with every part of who we are. We submit our whole selves in full submission to you and confess Lord that without You, we have no hope. Lord we come seeking Your face for our marriages, our children, our families, our lives, our church, and our nation. We need you. Your Word promises that if we seek You with our whole hearts, we will find You. Lord, please teach us to seek you out this way. We love you and ask all these things in Jesus’ name.
You are invited to join us tonight at 6:30PM for Wednesday night Bible study! Tonight’s Bible study: Fear or Faith. What do we do when the whole world has gone mad? Join us via Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/cometothecreek/live. Remember, no Facebook account is required to join.
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